by Fred McMillin
for October 10, 1997

Winery of the Week

Wheeler, the Scene Stealer


    William Wheeler Chardonnay
    1981—"Complex. Beautifully made." (Anthony Dias Blue)
    1992—"Complex, rich, focused." (Wine Spectator)

    William Wheeler Cabernet Sauvignon
    1980—"Richly varietal, superbly structured." (Anthony Dias Blue)
    1991—"Dense, rich, flavorful." (Prof. John Baxevanis)

The Rest of the Story: There's a reason those wines were good both in the 1980's and in the 1990's; Julia Iantosca made them all. William and Ingrid Wheeler hired her when they founded their Dry Creek Valley winery nearly two decades ago. Later the ownership changed, but the winemaker didn't. The venerable French firm of Jean Claude Boisset purchased Wheeler, but the dynamic, new president of Boisset USA, Jean CHARLES Boisset, kept Julia on the job. Jean Charles is the son of Jean Claude. Born in Burgundy, Jean Charles grew up in the family's ivy-covered stone home. His room had a great nose. You see, beneath his room were the aging wine barrels and just outside were the wine vats. All that exposure is showing here in California. Since Jean Charles arrived five years ago, Boisset sales have grown nearly 20% each year. A good part of that is due to the quality of Julia's fine Wheeler wines.

Just The Facts

Name Wheeler Winery
Location Five miles northwest of Healdsburg, Sonoma County, CA
Founders Former Foreign Service officer William Wheeler and wife Ingrid
Current Owner Boisset USA, San Francisco, CA, Phone (415)979-0630
Capacity 20,000 case range
Recommended Wines In addition to the Cab and Chardonnay, my panel has given high marks to the Fume Blanc, the new Sangiovese and a Merlot made from French and California grapes.
Price Range Good values. Chardonnay and Cab in the $10—$12 range. Other Boisset Brands—Joliesse, Lyeth, Christophe, Boissett Vineyards

POSTSCRIPT: The Wheeler family was living happily in San Francisco when in 1970 they made a fateful move. They bought a 175-acre tract in Sonoma's Dry Creek Valley. By remote control they raised and sold Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes. Was it any fun? So much so that ultimately they took the kids out of school, sold their home, and became hands-on Dry Creek vintners.

Note: For more about Boisset (bwah-say), see March 17,1997 WineDay.

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. 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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