by Fred McMillin
for December 2, 1997

Old Versus New

Prologue: "The McMillins' wine and food course is so successful that the next series filled before it could be officially announced."

- New York Times, March 11, 1971

The Rest of the Story: I began selecting wines for these courses some 30 years ago. Regarding red wines, it soon became apparent that new winedrinkers preferred the newer wines with lots of cherry-berry flavors while the connoisseurs favored older wines in which the fruit had morphed into less-identifiable, velvety complexity.

Consequently, I knew my latest class of " S.F.City College Fort Mason" beginners would choose the 1993 Renaissance Cab over the 1986. WRONG! When the votes were tabulated, the '93 was rated GOOD, but the older wine received FORTY ONE percent more votes, and won BEST OF TASTING against 18 other competitors.

The reason was clear. The 1986 was velvety as expected, but it also still had lots of rich cherry flavors, which was NOT expected. Little wonder that the Wine Spectator's Matt Kramer called the '86 "a stunning, long-lived Cab," and also praised the 1993. He felt Renaissance is "California's best-kept secret" of ageable Cabernet Sauvignon. Case closed.

The Wine:
1986 Cabernet Sauvignon, North Yuba
Renaissance Vineyard & Winery
Availability—If you can't get the '86, try one of the other older Cabs. Joseph Granados' team will help you at (916) 692-2222.

Postscript: Renaissance has created California's most spectacular, terraced vineyard. To learn more about it, see the May 6, 1997 WineDay. titled "A 365-Acre Adventure."

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.

Read more articles by Fred McMillin in the eGGsf

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