by Fred McMillin
for September 22, 1998


A Top Hat Muscat


Muscat has had a certain allure since the Middle Ages, when the popes who resided at Avignon in the 14th century developed a taste for it. So much so that Pope Clement VI bought a vineyard in 1348. In the area, it is still called "the nectar of the popes."

...New York Times, Dec. 18, 1988

1851—Former Hungarian Minister of War General Lazar Meszaros sends a bundle of vines to his old comrade in San Francisco, Col. Agoston Haraszthy, who will later be declared by Congress "The Father of California Wine." Included were cuttings of the Muscat of Alexandria from Malaga, Spain. Today, wine historians regard this introduction of the Alexandria as a major contribution to California viticulture, since it founded the State's raisin industry.

...by T. Schoenman, Agoston Haraszthy.

The Rest of the Story

MitchellWhile the Popes didn't use the Alexandria variety of the Muscat, today it can make a "nectar" that surely would please them. For example, the Charles Mitchell Muscat of Alexandria dessert wine just whipped 14 more expensive competitors in my last blind tasting. Since it is only $9, one can afford to use it generously in desserts as well.

That N.Y. Times articles mention:
1) Add it to whipped cream.
2) Marinate melon in it, and serve the melon chilled.
3) Poach peaches it the wine.
4) Add it to an herbed marinade for chicken the day before cooking.

The Wine

Non-Vintage Muscat of Alexandria, Sierra Foothills, CA.
Charles B. Mitchell Vineyards
Stoney Creek Road, Somerset, CA.
Phone—(916) 620-3467
Rating—EXCELLENT (light dessert wine)
Price—$9 range

Hats Off to Haraszthy

Charles Mitchell and Col. Haraszthy had more in common than appreciation of the Muscat of Alexandria...they also appreciated hats. The Philadelphia Inquirer said Charles was "an eccentric world traveler that collected Russian icons, motorcycles, and HATS." A 1906 Historical Society report about Agoston said his "likeable eccentricities" included giving orders to foreign-born workmen in several languages, always carrying a cane and wearing a stovepipe HAT.

Note—For much more about the winery, see the Dec. 5, 1997 WineDay titled,"Mitchell's Magic Spell".


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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