Mead On Wine
Last Week98 Indexsubscribearchive

© 1998 JDM Enterprises
All Rights Reserved


by Jerry D. Mead

It really isn't fair to call Canyon Road a second label of Geyser Peak. It's true they share the same ownership, and are overseen by the same winemaster, but we're talking actual different winemaking facilities and different hands-on winemakers.

The "second label" image probably sticks because Canyon Road wines are priced several dollars below most Geyser Peak selections.

Canyon Road 1997 Sauvignon Blanc ($7) One of the most successful wines of its type in America. Perhaps the medal-winningest Sauvignon Blanc of the past decade. Combines ripe grapefruit with a golden herbaceousness like straw or hay. Soft finish represents threshold levels of residual sweetness. Not for oysters, but dandy with most swim-fishes, especially with buttery sauces. Rating: 90/95

Canyon Road 1997 Chardonnay ($8) Pleasant, mostly melon flavors. Soft, drinkable style. Little oak presence (more oak would equal a better score). Rating: 84/85

Canyon Road 1996 Cabernet Sauvignon ($8) Mostly berry with a little cranberry. Medium bodied. A good companion to beef and lamb and a very good value. Pleasant berry-tart finish. Rating: 85/88


Canyon Road 1997 Merlot ($8) Berry and deep cherry flavors. Does not seem as young as the vintage would indicate. Very, very tasty for the price range. It is frankly what Merlot drinkers want and expect...a full fruited, easy to drink red with no harsh tannins. Case purchases highly recommended. Rating: 86/92

Canyon Road wines are widely available in wine shops, supermarkets and discount stores nationally.


You may have read in the business pages of this newspaper, financial periodicals such as Wall Street Journal or Forbes, or in most of the wine magazines, about the controversy over interstate shipping of wine by small farm wineries and Internet sales companies.

As a result of laws placed on the books at the Repeal of Prohibition, most states ban direct shipments of wine (and other adult beverages) to their citizens, or even the personal transportation of so much as a single bottle from one state to another. As you can imagine, it is a widely ignored and broken set of rules.

Chances are if you've visited a winery in a state other than the one in which you live and brought a souvenir bottle home with you, you have broken the law. In some states you can actually be charged with a felony and do more time than if you had committed a violent crime.

Same deal if you liked that bottle of wine and it happened to come from one of the more than a thousand small farm wineries in the U.S. which lack the clout to attract a wholesaler in most states. Catch 22! The wine wholesalers are just about the only monopoly left in the U.S. Without a wholesaler, a winery can't sell in most states, and if it sells direct to the consumer both may be charged with felonies in states like Florida, Georgia, Kentucky and Indiana. But only a serious misdemeanor in California (a bill to permit wine shipping into the wine state shamefully failed in the 1998 legislature...blocked by the wholesalers) and most other states.

Consumers in Indiana, supported by the Coalition for Free Trade in Licensed Beverages (CFT), are challenging Indiana's new law making wine shipping to consumers from out of state a felony, and they're using the good old U.S. Constitution, specifically the Commerce Clauses, as the basis for the suit.

Among the key litigants, all consumers, are well known Midwest wine writer Russ Bridenbaugh, Garfield (the cat) creator Jim Davis and numerous others.

Winning this suit should be a no-brainer in the opinion of most wine lovers. After all, you can buy licensed drugs and pharmaceuticals by mail and Internet. You can buy steaks from Omaha, onions from Vidalia, pecans and peaches from Georgia and grapefruit from Florida and Texas, so why can't you buy a bottle of fermented grape juice from a farmer in Rhode Island, New Mexico or Wisconsin? Or a bottle of Muscadine wine from the Southeast?, a wine represented by no West Coast dealer.

For more information on CFT or this legal action call (916) 849-0522.


Smith & Hook 1995 "Santa Lucia Highlands" Cabernet Sauvignon ($18) I knew from this winery's very first vintage in 1979 that the Cabernet was going to be special. That's the year wine from this one vineyard won gold medals for four different wineries. Now, if they'll just listen to me and do single vineyard wine called "Upper Smith" (the very best spot at the highest elevation), there'll be a really great Cabernet! This one is awfully good and it is a wine for the cellar that will get better for years to come. It's serious Cabernet, very much in the Bordeaux style, structure-wise. It is lean with a good acid and tannin backbone but no harsh astringency. Flavors are mostly boysenberry rich with some notes of anise and green olive and a bit of chocolate. Rating: 92/88

For information on Smith & Hook wines and their availability call (831) 678-2132.


Starting in early November and running through the first week in February, the wonderful Ahwahnee Hotel at Yosemite will host its annual vintner and chef's celebrations of food and wine.

Each event is hosted by a celebrity moderator, after which you'll be entertained for two or three days by either a half dozen vintners or a series of chefs demonstrating their talents. And yes, there's food at the wine series, and wine at the food series. Call (209) 252-4848 for a brochure and complete program.


Smith & Hook 1997 "Arroyo Seco" Viognier ($18) I am not one this grape's biggest fans, but this is an especially well made example of the variety. Typical peach-skin and slightly permumey aroma and flavor. Bone dry, but extremely fruity, with flavors carrying through from first taste until long after you swallow. Oaked but not oaky. A lovely aperitif or companion to spicy Asian cuisine. Rating: 92/84

Subscription Information

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

© 1998 JDM Enterprises. All Rights Reserved
The Mead On Wine WebSite is designed, maintained and hosted by Wines on the Internet.