by Fred McMillin
for September 1, 1998


The Cosumnes...From Grizzlies to Grapes


1845—Grizzly bears were the principal inhabitants of the land near the South Fork of the Cosumnes River in a remote portion of El Dorado County.

1854—The Volcano Weekly Ledger reports that Mr. Tibbits has settled beside the Cosumnes River planting vines on his 20-acre ranch. "The grapes bid fair to produce well...a wonder off here in this hilly out-of-the-way section."

1990—Perry Creek Vineyards plants their first vineyards along the top of a ridge above the middle fork of the Cosumnes River in south El Dorado County.

1998—Perry Creek Director of Operations Jack Zasowski reports that "we continue to push forward with our Rhone varieties."

The Rest of the Story

That "push forward" included planting in 1992 the best white varietal of the Rhone, Viognier (vee-oh-nyay...rhymes with "hay"). The vines just yielded 400 fine cases of vintage 1997. Just like Mr. Tibbits' vines, Perry Creek is also a "wonder out here in this hilly out-of-the-way section."

The Wine

1997 Viognier, El Dorado County Perry Creek Vineyards
Founder/Owner—Men's apparel executive Michael Chazen who purchased the 155-acre ranch 45 miles east of Sacramento in 1988.
Tasting Notes—Crisp; intense; grape character not obscured by excess oak, thanks to the first female winemaker in El Dorado County, Nancy Steel.
Food Affinities—Excellent companion for Chef Donna Savitsky's "Shrimp Enchiladas with Avocado Salsa," Cafe Marimba, Marina District of San Francisco, (415) 776-1506.
Contact—Jack Zasowski, (800) 880-4026
Price—$15 range


El Dorado County holds an important place in Gold Country wine history. The Mother Lode's first vineyard was planted there by one Mr. Stevens in 1849. Ten years later it had the most vines of any Sierra Foothills county. Data for 1890 show El Dorado produced more wine than Somoma and Napa counties combined. Credit: Prof. T. Pinney, Prof. J. Baxevanis, and particularly E. Costa's book, Old Vines.

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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