by Fred McMillin
for October 16, 1997

The Courteous Grape from Italy


  • 1870—"Cortese is the white vine variety...esteemed for the excellence of its product, produced initially for the fish restaurants of Genoa." P. Demaria, Italian ampelographer.

    ...by Daniel Thomases in "The Oxford Companion to Wine"

  • 1988—"Cortese (cor-teh-zeh) is an Italian white- wine grape of superior quality yielding a fresh, light, eminently agreeable...million cases a year. Cortese means 'courteous' in Italian."

    ...The Schoonmaker Encylopedia of Wine

  • 1994—"Mount Palomar is the first American winery to bottle the fine Italian varietal Cortese. The grapes were harvested from our own vineyard. The wine is crisp and delicate with subtle tropical fruit and mineral qualities."

    ...Peter Poole, General Manager of Mt. Palomar Winery

The Rest of the Story: The Piedmont vintners of Italy made this wine for fish in Genoa and Mt. Palomar has now made it for fish in America. Winemaker Etienne Paul Cowper, who trained under both Andre Tchelistcheff and Jed Steele, adds a tad of oak for character. Does it work? Well, his 1994 picked up 11 medals in major competitions including a Gold—Best of Class and a Gold—Best White of Show. The 1995 is now available and should score just as well...a good wine and a great conversation piece.

The Wine
1995 Castelletto Cortese, Temecula, Southern California
Mt. Palomar Winery
Contact—(909)676-5047 or (800)854-5177

Postscript: About the brand name Castelletto: Mt. Palomar has added two Italian varietals to its vineyards, the Cortese in 1992 and the red Sangiovese in 1989. Both carry the Castelletto name on the label. Peter Poole's mother's maiden name is deReya. Castelletto was a title bestowed on the deReya family in Italy in 1735.

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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