by Fred McMillin
for October 29, 1999

 

Winery of the Week

Trick and Treat

 

Since Halloween is next Sunday, here's our Trick and Treat for the weekend.


The Trick

Things were not going well for the two sons of a Liverpool wine merchant. Dad had sent them to Portugal in 1678 to buy inexpensive wine and ship it back to England. But the wine was not good, so they took a few days off and trecked to the breathtaking valley of the Upper Douro River. Visiting a monestary, they were astonished to taste a wine far superior to anything they had been sending to Liverpool. So, they immediately bought all that was available. But how to get it to their father in good shape? THE TRICK--They added a modest amount of brandy.


The Treat

The two young men unwittingly had created Port, which would become arguably the best wine of the 18th century. The pioneering cargo was the equivalent of 20,000 cases! While it would take time to develop the best Port, it didn't take time for the English to realize they had a fine new TREAT. Just 15 years later the equivalent of 650,000 cases left Oporto for England.

Baywood Cellars So our Winery of the Week must make Port. That rules out most California wineries...but wait! Here's one with Portuguese ancestors (the Cotta family), wood from Portugal for aging, five Portuguese grape varieties grown in a region with Duoro similarities...about the same latitude and temperature profile (as Lodi)...both about 80 miles from an ocean coast. My panel gave it a strong RECOMMENDED. It's garnered a BEST OF CLASS, a Gold, and four Silvers so far. Not bad for $18...BAYWOOD CELLARS' PRIVATE RESERVE 1996 Vintage Port. They make nine other wines, too.


Our Winery of the Week

Baywood Cellars
Tasting Room—381 Cannery Row, Monterey, CA. (pictured),
Winery—Woodbridge Road, Lodi, CA.
Winemaker—John Cotta
Vineyard Manager—James Cotta
Vineyards—Lots of experience with lots of vines. Joe Cotta Sr. founded Cotta Properties in the Central Valley in 1925. Soon after Repeal the grapegrowing began in earnest, reaching TWO THOUSAND acres. Today, they also own 200 acres of vineyards in Monterey.
Wine Quality—U.C.-Davis-trained John Cotta's wines won BEST OF REGION at the huge California State Fair competition three years running. Case closed! (John's dessert wines won some of my tastings 10 years ago.)
Winery Contact—Phone (209) 334-0445, FX (209) 334-0137


Postscript

The British not only created Port, but also Halloween. Before the Romans reached Britian, the Druids had a fall holiday in which they gathered around large bonfires at night and told of their scary encounters with ghosts and witches.

 
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. In 1995, the Academy of Wine Communications honored Fred with one of only 22 Certificates of Commendation awarded to American wine writers.

 
 

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