Northside SF  

October '09

Wine Report from the Fort
‘Northside San Francisco’ 1835 edition – Charles Darwin reports
New Zealand vineyards flourishing

By Fred McMillin

Northside San Francisco 1835 edition: In 1642, Dutch Captain Abel Janszoon Tasman is the first to sight “a large, high-lying land,” which today we call New Zealand, named for the Zeeland province of Holland. Tasman reports two double canoes approach, “paddled at considerable speed” and manned by large, fierce-looking Maoris, each wearing a large white feather in his hair. A small boat is sent out to make friends. One of the canoes rams it, killing the four Dutchmen. The canoe then flees, as does Captain Tasman, who decides “not to linger long on this inhospitable shore.” No explorer returns for nearly two centuries.

Then in 1814, a very brave missionary, Samuel Marsden, brings his faith and vines to be tended by some of those 400,000 Maoris. Against all odds he succeeded.

Now in 1835, in his journey around the world in H.M.S. Beagle, Charles Darwin reports to Northside San Francisco that the native Maoris are taking good care of the vineyards that were established by the British missionaries from Australia.

Northside San Francisco 1910 edition: According to 1895 travelers’ records, the French had come to New Zealand and were producing “a good red wine.” Their vineyards have now disappeared, however, because of a mildew attack on the vines.

Northside San Francisco 1997 edition: New Zealand is now the southernmost serious winemaking region in the world, with enormous, cool-climate, pollution-free potential. The United States is not unaware of all this; our imports this year have shot up 170 percent over 1996. Fasten your seat belts.

The New York Times reports that New Zealand vintages are big in Europe and the United States. It is producing the world’s best Sauvignon Blanc.

Northside San Francisco 2010 edition: New Zealand is growing 13 different varietals. The most popular are Sauvignon Blanc (about 10,000 acres), Chardonnay (about 8,000 acres), and Pinot Noir (about 6,000 acres).

At the Fort, these New Zealand Blancs have all scored very well in their price range:
•  Monkey Bay Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2008, $7
•  Silver Birch Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2009, $24 (3L)
• St. Clair Cellar (Winesellers) Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2006, $14
• Te Kairanga Winery Sauvignon Blanc 2006, $18

Why is Marilyn Merlot
always released on
June 1?

“Marilyn, my Marilyn”
Why is Napa Valley’s Marilyn Merlot always released on June 1? That was Marilyn’s birthdate. It’s a great wine, conversation piece and gift.
• Marilyn Napa Valley Merlot 2008, $29

Seating is limited, learning is not
Take a San Francisco City College wine class at Fort Mason, Saturdays, 1 p.m., 20 wines.
• Aug. 28 and Sept. 25: Basics for Beginners – Learn the five basic types of wines and how they are made in careful comparisons between important varietals.
• Oct. 9 and Oct. 23: Taste the Terms – Taste wines that illustrate the 100-plus terms used to describe wine. Many people take Taste the Terms over again because the wines and terms are different each time.

To enroll or wait-list, phone San Francisco City College at 415-561-1840 or visit Register one week before classes begin to receive a $10 discount.

Chiantis and Sangioveses worth collecting

For a long time a bottle of Chianti was better suited to candle-holding than collecting. However, the Italian government changed the rules a few years ago, eliminating the requirement of using some cheap white grapes, permitting adding to the traditional Sangiovese, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, etc., up to 20 percent. The wines proved much better.

                                                                                                                     – Lettie Teague
                                                                                                                     Wall Street Journal

At our wine classes at the Fort, we recently tasted “much better” Chiantis including:
• Villa Nozzole Chianti Classico DOCG Tuscany 2007, $24
• Marchesi di Frescobaldi Nipozzano Chianti Riserva DOCG Tuscany 2006, $24
We also tasted some fine Sangioveses including:
• Tiamo Marche Sangiovese 2008, $12
• Deaver Vineyards Amador County Sangiovese 2006, $20
• Bonny Doon Vineyards San Benito County “Ca’ del Solo” Sangiovese 2006, $12

Don’t be afraid of the dark
Many, many vintages ago I was afraid of the dark, but no more. Today, my favorite wines include:
• Deaver Vineyards Amador County Black Muscat Port NV, $26
(375 ml.)
• Little Black Dress California Sauvignon Blanc 2009, $11

A final wine smile
Northside reader Charlotte Maeck writes that the amount of information in this column is “wine-boggling.”

Credits: Edgar Vogt (Tastings); Ophelia Mercado and Rubella Dequis (Statistics)

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.

Browse Column Archive

Bookmark and Share Print Page

September 2011 Issue


Horse Shoe Tavern Amici's East Coast Pizzeria


Alfreds Alfred's Steakhouse

Bobos Bobo's

Franciscan The Franciscan


Getting to know the Reillys June Top Picks

Copyright © 2005 - 2008 NorthSide San Francisco