by Fred McMillin
for October 15, 1997

What's the Take on Winery Lake?


  • 1881—Horticulture Professor George Husmann, one of America's foremost viticulture authorities, leaves the University of Missouri to become manager of the Talcoa Vineyard in the Carneros district of the southern Napa Valley.

  • 1960—Professor Albert Winkler, one of America's foremost viticulture authorities (U.C.-Davis), is calling for a return to winegrowing in the Carneros. Heeding the call, art collector Rene di Rosa buys a 400-acre Carneros ranch and discovers it contains the remains of the Talcoa Vineyard. He soon starts planting vines in his pioneering Winery Lake Vineyard.

  • 1986—Sterling buys the Winery Lake Vineyard from Rene di Rosa, who until than had been selling his prized grapes to a number of producers. Sterling now has them all.

  • 1990—Critic James Laube: "Exciting Carneros-grown Chardonnays are distinguished by their bracing acidity and rich, intense tropical fruit flavors. Leading pure Carneros Chardonnays include Sterling Winery Lake."
The Rest of the Story: It looks like the professors know a good grape region when they see it. Today there are over 5,000 acres of Chardonnay in the Carneros (with nearly an equal amount of Pinot Noir). If you want to taste what all the excitement is about, try the 1995 Winery Lake...a huge mouthful, that made me pause and thank the profs.

The Wine:
1995 Winery Lake Chardonnay, Carneros, Napa Valley
Sterling Vineyards Winery
Calistoga, CA
Contact—Angela Freire, (707) 255-7667
Price—$18 range

Postscript: Carneros is a land of gently rolling hills, not really lake country. So why the name Winery Lake? Well, Rene di Rosa's purchase DID include a lake...sizeable and ringed with palm trees, as you will see on the label.

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.

Read more articles by Fred McMillin in the eGGsf

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