by Fred McMillin
for September 18, 1997

How Soda Canyon Won


  • "Soda Canyon Vineyards is a 12-acre, family-owned and operated estate located along the southern portion of the Silverado Trail in the [southeastern] Napa Valley."

    ...owner, vineyard manager, winemaker John Furtado

  • "Soda Canyon Vineyards is known for good, sound, barrel-fermented Chardonnay."

    ...Prof. John Baxevanis in "Wine Regions of America"

The Rest of the Story: The management and staff of the winery and vineyard located in Soda Canyon consists of John and Catherine Furtado...period. The two of them planted their Chardonnay in 1979. By now, the vines are almost part of the family. In fact, there age appears on each label. For example, the 1990 Soda Canyon label includes the words "12th Leaf." That was the age of their vines at harvest time. Vine age on a label is unusual; so is the winemaking. The cool Soda Canyon yields very high-acid tart grapes. John could soften the wine promptly with malolactic fermentation. That changes sour malic acid to blander, buttery lactic acid (found in milk). Instead, he reduces acid mostly by the more expensive route of aging in the bottle for 16 to 20 months. This reduces tartness without adding those malolactic flavors. My tasters tried the 1990 (no malo) and loved the unusually full Chardonnay flavors with just a touch of spicy French oak. The $25 1990 is hard to find, but the Furtados have more recent vintages available below $15. Serious Chardonnay fans certainly will want to try this unusual version of California's most popular white wine grape.

1990 Chardonnay, 12th Leaf, Napa Valley
Soda Canyon Vineyards
4130 Silverado Trail, Napa, CA 94558
Phone—(415) 589-0231
Price—$25 (more recent vintages are under $15)

About the Writer

Fred McMillin, a veteran wine writer, has taught wine history for 30 years on three continents. He currently teaches wine courses at San Francisco State and San Francisco City College and is Northern California Editor for American Wine on the Web. In 1995, the Academy of Wine Communications honored Fred with one of only 22 Certificates of Commendation awarded to American wine writers.

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