by Fred McMillin
for December 5, 1997

Winery of the Week

Mitchell's Magic Spell

Prologue: "My property contains the first post-Prohibition vineyards planted in the area. Recommendations for the original vineyard [in El Dorado County] were made by the University of California at Davis Viticulture and Enology Department as a result of groundbreaking experiments conducted there."

...Owner/Winemaker Charles B. Mitchell

The Rest of the Story: That experimental mode continues today. If you visit the Mitchell Winery, Charles will offer wines made with various designer yeasts, wines fermented at different peak temperatures, wines fermented in various percentages of new oak, etc., etc. Does all this effort pay off?

Well, not too long ago Mitchell wines were entered in a competition for the first time. Eight of the nine wines won medals including two golds. I noticed next on the awards list was a veteran winery that had submitted 11 wines and won only one silver. Clearly, Charles and consulting enologist Mark Foster know what they are doing.

Just the Facts

Name   Charles B. Mitchell Vineyards
Location   8221 Stoney Creek Road, Somerset, CA
The Owner   The Philadelphia Inquirer described Charles as a rougish, newcomer winemaker who also is a ski bum and a collector of Russian icons, motorcycles and hats!
Founding Date   1994
Property   The 107-acre estate includes the Barkley Historic Homestead, site of memorable Mitchell winemaker dinners.
Vineyards   About 40 acres planted with 10 varietals.
Wines   At last count there were TWENTY TWO releases under the Mitchell and the Argonaut labels. Critic Robert Finigan recently gave the Mitchell '96 Sauvignon Blanc very high marks, rating it over nine well-known competitors, all bearing higher prices than Charles' $8.50.
Phone   (916) 620-3467

Postscript: About the Gold County's El Dorado (Spanish—"gilt") County, it was one of the original 27 that were established February 15,1850. The chairman of the legislative committee that created them was none other than northern California's first commercial vintner, General Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo.

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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