Mead On Wine
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© 1998 JDM Enterprises
All Rights Reserved


by Jerry D. Mead

A few weeks back we reported on a tasting of a dozen wines or so from El Dorado County, told you how to get there, how to get a really great free color brochure with a map and listing of all the wineries, and noted that I had more wines to taste and review later. It is now later.

First off, El Dorado County is between the San Francisco Bay Area and Reno, Nevada, south and east of Auburn and Interstate 80. The city name in El Dorado with which you are most likely to be familiar is Placerville, which at one time in its Gold Rush history was known as "Hangtown." It is perfectly safe, these days.

El Dorado County is a great day trip, or overnighter, from almost anywhere in Northern California or Northern Nevada, with lots to see in the beautiful Sierra Foothills besides wineries. This was "Gold Country," after all, before it was wine country, and there's still much in the area to remind you of that history. And there's also many antique stores and bed & breakfast inns.

For the Internet crowd, there's some information at: There's a decent collection of B&Bs, but the restaurant listings are very weak.

A toll free phone call to El Dorado Winery Association at (800) 306-3956 will still bring you a free copy of the winery brochure and map, or contact information for particular wineries mentioned in today's report.

Regarding the reviews to follow, remember that many of these wineries are very small and in some instances the wines have limited retail availability outside the winery.

Oakstone 1997 Sauvignon Blanc ($8) Soft, round, pleasantly herbaceous and with a nearly dry perception. Good food companion. Rating: 86/84 Windwalker 1997 Sauvignon Blanc ($7.50) Really aggressive fruit with pleasant alfalfa like grassiness and finishes with an implication of sweetness. Rating: 88/86

Perry Creek 1997 Viognier ($15) There's a hint of peach skin in aroma and flavor. If you can imagine a Chardonnay blended to a bit of Riesling or Muscat...this would be a good example. Rating: 86/85

Sierra Vista 1997 Viognier ($20) Brighter, tighter and more Chardonnay- like, with a decidedly drier perception. There's less peach skin quality, which for me makes the wine more food compatible. Pricey. Rating: 88/81

Charles Mitchell Cote Du Consumnes ($9) A youthful, but soft, round and very ready to drink Rhone-style red. Flavors are mostly very ripe plum and it should work with Cajun seasoning, rabbit and game birds. Rating: 86/90

Venezio 1995 Zinfandel ($10) Made from grapes grown in neighboring Amador County. Ripe, spicy and perfumey, with black raspberry fruit, lush and not quite overripe. Rating: 87/90

Sierra Vista 1996 "Herbert Vineyard" Zinfandel ($15) Big, bold, spicy raspberry fruit that should please the "Monster Zin" fans. Moderately astringent finish. Drink it with barbecue or Cajun prime rib. Rating: 88/85

Single Leaf 1995 "Reserve" Zinfandel ($12.50) Spicy ripe plum; delicious fruitiness. There is a bit of awareness of the nearly 15 percent alcohol, but fans of the "big ones" won't mind a bit and it's totally masked in the company of food. Rating: 89/88

Perry Creek 1996 Sangiovese ($15) Full, ripe and round. The kind of red wine that will please the novice because of its approachability, while pleasing the connoisseur for complexity. Flavors of plum and anise. Rating: 89/86

Latcham 1996 Cabernet Franc ($14) Really intense! One of the boldest wines of this variety in the state...almost concentrated. Really ripe, earthy plum fruit with wood complexity in the aftertaste. There is a bit of unresolved tannin in the finish. Rating: 89/86

Granite Springs 1996 Petite Sirah ($16) Big, ripe plum leaning to raisin or prune. Attractive aroma and flavor overall, but there are some really tough tannins in the finish. It needs cellaring Rating: 84/82

Charles Mitchell 1996 "Grand Reserve" ($30) This is a very tasty Meritage type red (Cabernet blend), with ripe berry, plum and cassis flavors. Mature and complex in style, it seems older than it is, with a finish that should be described as silky and supple. Rating: 90/84


One of the most dramatically improved wineries of the past decade has been sold by the Trione family of Sonoma County to Fortune Brands, a consumer products company which also owns Jim Beam Bourbon and DeKuyper cordials, for roughly $100 million.

Included in the sale were two wineries, the wine business and brands (Geyser Peak, Fox Ridge, Venezia and Canyon Road) and 140 acres of vineyard.

The good news for wine lovers is that star winemaker Daryl Groom has signed a contract to stay on and the Trione family has contracted their extensive vineyard holdings to the new ownership on a long term basis.


In a single week we've heard/read three stories on rumors of proposals to FAA or congress to ban the drinking of wine, beer and spirits on commercial airline flights. Where there's that much smoke, there's almost certainly some fire, no doubt being generated by the very strong and fanatical anti-alcohol lobby.

Can you imagine having to eat one of those dry airline meals with no wine or beer to wash it down? We'll warn you, of course, if the threat becomes more than rumor.


Gabbiano 1995 Chianti ($7.50) What a deal! Earthy, truffley complexity with plum and berry fruit. Amazing body and flavor for this price point. Case purchases highly recommended if you can track it down. Rating: 88/94

Wines are scored using a unique 100 point system. First number rates quality; second number rates value. For assistance tracking down wines reviewed here, call (800) 845-9463.


Geyser Peak 1995 "Reserve Alexandre" ($25) This one has been in my notebook for a couple of months and I just never got around reviewing it. I wish I would have been quicker, as it's going to be tough to find now. It was voted best blended red wine at the International Wine & Spirits Competition in London and has been getting a ton of publicity. It's a tremendous mouthful of blackberry and cassis flavors. At once bold and mouthfilling, but also round, supple and sexy. Will compete with wines selling for twice and thrice the price. Rating: 95/90

Wines are scored using a unique 100 point system. First number rates quality; second number rates value.

© 1998 JDM Enterprises. All Rights Reserved
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