by Fred McMillin
for October 20, 1997

The Best of the Course

The Course: We studied 60 wines in our last S.F. State (College of Extended Learning) course, 24 whites and 36 reds. A red was voted Best of the Course.

The Vineyard: The winner's grapes came from Sonoma Valley, an 8 by 25 mile wine district in the southeastern corner of Sonoma County. They grow in a 90-year-old vineyard owned by the Samsel family. Critic James Halliday points out that the region produces Zinfandel "of great distinction and power."

The Winemaker: Twenty five years ago veterinarian Kent Rosenblum was devoted to the well-being of cats and dogs on the east side of the San Francisco Bay. Today, he is devoted to the well-being of the Zinfandel grape, still on the east side of the bay (at Alameda). His specialty is small lots from specific vineyards, so like Rogers and Astaire, Samsel and Rosenblum make a perfect pair. The result is a truly memorable Zinfandel...jammy, wild raspberry and blackberry, black pepper...and a finish that's forever.

The Wine:
1995 Sonoma Valley Zinfandel, Samsel Vineyard
Rosenblum Cellars
2900 Main St., Alameda, S.F. Bay Area
Limit—Three bottles per person
90 points in the Wine Advocate

Postscript: There are three Sonomas that should be distinguished.

Sonoma County—One of California's original 25 counties...twice the size of Napa County.

Sonoma, The Town—General Mariano Vallejo organized it about 1835, with a central plaza surrounded by a church, residences, and business buildings. It grew very slowly.

Sonoma Valley—The Pomo Indians tribe called it "The Valley of the Moon," its 6000+ acres are located in the southeastern corner of the county.

To summarize, the town of Sonoma is located in the valley of Sonoma, which is in the county of Sonoma.

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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