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Wine Report from the Fort
Affordable California reds: Is paying $5 more worth it?
By Fred McMillin

At the Fort, we matched 20 wines averaging about $13 with another 20 averaging about $18, such as a $13 2003 Pinot Noir with an $18 rival.
Here are the results:
Sure enough! The more expensive wines won two out of every three matches! But wait. The differences between the more expensive and less expensive was very small – the extra $5 added only about two points to the rating, such as going from 83 to 85.
Conclusion: Most of my students decided to buy the less expensive wine, but a few bought the more expensive in hopes of getting the very best.
Postscript: Here are the six good wines under $15:

• 6th Kenwood Sonoma County Zinfandel 2005
• 5th Napa Ridge Napa Valley Merlot 2004
• 4th Napa Ridge Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2004
• 3rd Montevina Sonoma County Syrah 2005
• 2nd Sobon Amador County Zinfandel Old Vine 2006
• 1st Shenandoah Amador Cou-nty Zinfandel 2004

And here are three very good more expensive wines:

• 3rd Lockwood Monterey Cou-nty Cabernet Sauvignon 2004
• 2nd Steele Lake County Zinfandel 2005
• 1st Barefoot Dry Creek Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2001

World’s greatest wine warehouse?
I was in a rural Spanish winery learning how they made sherry. The friendly vintner also kept insisting that I go out back and look at his warehouse. It seemed like a waste of time, but finally we stepped out of the blending room and entered the warehouse. Astounding! It was a steel stairway to the stars … constructed by Gustave Eiffel, who also built something in Paris in 1889.

Quick – what does “vinted” mean?
Northside San Francisco reader Nora Dalapit asked what vinted means on the back label of a wine bottle. Vinted means that the winery bought the wine in bulk and then bottled it. Such wines are usually inexpensive, but can be quite good. Here are the best four we tasted in my Fort classes recently:

• 4th Deaver Vineyards Amador County Deaver's Blend NV, $15
• 3rd Miraflores El Dorado County Zinfandel 2004, $20
• 2nd Bogle Vineyards California Petite Sirah 2005, $11
• 1st Harlow Ridge Winery Lodi Cabernet Sauvignon 2003, $10

School is cool: Take an Ed-Fred wine class
I (Fred) select the wines and report the results. Edgar Vogt conducts the class. How’s he doing? Student Kitty Quinn-Friel writes that his wine knowledge is “encyclopedic and [he’s] a wonderful teacher.” To check us out, here’s the schedule:

• Oct. 4: Sonoma vs. Napa – A careful comparison of Sonoma’s wines with Napa’s.
• Oct. 18: California vs. the World – California wines versus those from the rest of the world (France,
Australia and more).
To enroll or wait-list, phone San Francisco City College at 415-561-1840, or visit Continuing Education.

Everything is coming up rosés
“Rosés are wines meant to drink purely for pleasure, without any esoteric folderol.”
Russ Parsons, Los Angeles Times

At the Fort recently, we’ve sipped two pinks from name varietals that were so good they even inspired a little folderol:
• Steele Wines Lake County Cabernet Franc Rosé 2006, $16
• Valley of the Moon Sonoma County Rosato di Sangiovese 2007, $16


Who sells the most during the holidaze?
Want to pour a wine for your holiday party that was one of the most popular in the United States last year?
Here are the top brands, with their sales volume in millions:
• 5th Beringer, $9.8
• 4th Sutter Home, $10.8
• 3rd Kendall-Jackson, $12.2
• 2nd Yellow Tail, $12.3
• 1st Korbel, $14.1


Whence the name “Napa”?
In 1823 Spanish friars named it after the American Indian tribe that had “previously inhabited the area.” (There are rival theories.)
Source: California Place Names, Erwin G. Gudde


A wine smile … almost
Many vintages ago, I managed to get behind the Communist Iron Curtain. I flew into Budapest to see the vineyards in Tokay, which for centuries have produced one of the world’s greatest dessert wines, Tokaji aszu. Alas, I found the only way to get there was by taxi, and the fare would be $100. I gulped, paid it, and had a fine trip. Back in my hotel room, I heard a knock on the door. Who was there but my taxi driver? Behind him were two very large soldiers with even larger guns. My driver announced that the fare was $100 each way! I looked at the three grim faces … and paid the additional fare.

Credits: Tasting – Edgar Vogt; Statistics – Ophelia Mercado

Fred McMillin was voted one of the best wine writers in the United States by the Academy of Wine Communications. Phone him with questions at 415-563-5712, or fax him at 415-567-4468.

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