by Fred McMillin
for September 26, 1997

Winery of the Week

Meanwhile, Back at the Villa

Director of Enology,
Jed Steele
Winemaker, Mike McGrath

  • Villa Mt. Eden's Cabernet Sauvignon shows intense varietal character...Robert Lawrence Balzer

  • Villa Mt. Eden Grand Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon is an outstanding wine with dark cherry/raspberry fruit...James Halliday

  • The Villa Mt. Eden Grand Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon (vintage 1990) is an elegant and flavorful wine...James Laube.

  • So, there's little doubt about the quality of the winery's Cabs. Let's see how they got that way.
Villa Mt. Eden Milestones:

1881—The new, wooden-frame winery gets off to a wet start. Thirteen inches of rain falls in the Napa Valley in one day. The main bridge over the Napa River is under two feet of water.

1940—Napa Valley receives national attention when the Carole Lombard movie, "They Knew What They Wanted," is filmed on the estate.

1969—The granddaughter of A. P. Giannini, founder of the Bank of America, Anne McWilliams and her financier husband Jim McWilliams, purchase the winery, replace the old vines with a model 80-acre vineyard, and in 1974 produce a Cabernet that causes a sensation in the valley.

1986—Stimson Lane, Woodinville, Washington, buys the winery and subsequently initiates further upgrading, including adding wine-whiz Jed Steele to the winemaking team. His partner is All-American cross-country runner, Mike McGrath, whose Villa wines have won awards for over 10 vintages in a row.

1997—Stimson Lane makes another major investment, $8 million, in new leased vineyards...237 acres in the Napa Valley and 192 in Monterey. Cabernet and Merlot is being planted in Napa, Chardonnay in Monterey.

As for the Villa Mt. Eden's latest Grand Reserve Cab, the 1994, it's loaded with typical Villa berry intensity. So loaded in fact, that against 19 competitors in my last tasting, it won Best of Tasting. I told you McGrath and Steele know what they're doing.

Just The Facts

Name Villa Mt. Eden
Location Just east of Oakville in the central Napa Valley
Founded 1881
Winemaker Mike McGrath, since 1982.
Director of Enology   Jed Steele, since 1991.
Contact Benjamin Myers, (425) 488-1133, Fax (425)488-4657

Postscript: Villa Mt. Eden does not live by Cab alone. They make a very snappy Pinot Blanc, plus quality Merlot and Zinfandel. However, their other biggie is Chardonnay. In this year's Bordeaux competition of 4,822 wines, only one American wine won both a Gold Medal and the "Trophee" exceptional-quality award. It was the 1995 Grand Reserve Chardonnay of Villa Mt. Eden!

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.

Read more articles by Fred McMillin in the eGGsf

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