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Copyright © 2015
Forkmedia LLC

by Fred McMillin
for May 16, 2000


A Large Lab...
4.5 Million Square Feet


Dear Fred,

More than 100 acres [about 4.5 million square feet] of the Byron Estate vineyard in the cradle of the Santa Maria Valley are dedicated to research in clone selection, rootstock selection, trellis types and spacing of vines....[As a result] character and concentration of the wine is increasing.

Byron "Ken" Brown

The Rest of the Story

Let's consider one of the experiments, vine spacing. Ken points out that California has used wide spacing to make harvesting grapes easier. However, planting vines closer together forces competition for nourishment, fewer and smaller grapes, and more explosive aromas and flavors in the wine. Ken has Pinot Noir plots with three to five times more vines per acre than is common in California.

Can We Ordinary Folks Taste the Results?

The students study 40 wines in each course Edgar Vogt and I teach at S.F. City College, Ft. Mason Campus. They always select a Best of Course bottle, which usually is a Cabernet Sauvignon from Sonoma or Napa. But this last time, Ken's Pinot Noir won. Over half of its grapes came from the "high-vine-density lab!" Clearly, the students could taste the results of the research. We believe you can, too. So, try our...

Wine of the Day

Byron Vineyard 1996 Byron Vineyard Pinot Noir
Byron Vineyard & Winery
Appellation—Santa Maria Valley
Composition—100% Pinot Noir
Tasting—Jeff Cox in the Wine Journal has the right words for this wine. "When all the conditions are just right, California coast Pinot Noir can pay off with the loveliest, most sensuous, luscious and elegant wines IN THE WORLD."
Food Suggestions—Rack of lamb, rack of lamb, rack of lamb!
Contacts: The Winery—(805) 937-7288, FAX (805) 937-1246
Public Relations—Mary Ann Vangrin, (707) 251-4483, FAX (707) 251-4386
Price—$40 range

Postscript —Gently, Gently

The Byron policy is to not rough up the wine by mechanical filtering, minimum pumping, etc. The winery achieved a new level of tender, loving care with this 1996 vintage. That was the year they inaugurated their new Gravity-Flow winery. The grapes are sorted by hand at the top level, and ultimately the wine emerges from the bottom level, rarely having to face a hostile pump.

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.


This page created May 2000