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by Fred McMillin
for May 22, 2000

 

Clever Fetzer


Prologue

Sign at local wine shop..

    In God we trust.
    All others must pay cash!

The Rest of the Story

OK, already. If I must pay cash, I want a bargain. The bargain is going to be the BEST BUY from my last tasting (conducted by my partner, Edgar Vogt). The wine and I go back together quite a way. Here's my July 2, 1991 comment about it in the San Francisco Independent: Best Buy: Chardonnay by Bel Arbors, Cask 89, $4.30. A good wine at a great price...etc. Before we consider the 1998 vintage, let's check the wine's origins.

Fetzer Oak

Fetzer Oak.


The Fighters

Twenty years ago California began producing low-cost, cork-finished wines named after the grape. They were called "fighting varietals." For $5, instead of a "Chablis" you could get a much more prestigious "Chardonnay." Always a leader in the good-value field, Fetzer brought out a new line in 1981-1982.

The name of the lane in front of the winery was Bel Arbres, "beautiful arbor" in Italian. So, the Fetzer fighters' label was Bel Arbres. Too difficult to pronounce, so in my 1991 column it had become Bel Arbors, which later was further shortened to today's Bel Arbor.

But while the name has changed, the label's reputation hasn't. Authors Dan Berger, Charles Sullivan, and Robert Parker Jr. all list Bel Arbor among California's best wine values...Thus, here's today's Fetzer fighter.


Wine of the Day

'98 Bel Arbor Chardonnay (by Fetzer)
Appellation—California
Winemaking—I haven't checked the details on this vintage, but the policy has been a) include a gentle touch of oak and b) add a small portion of lively, floral Muscat and Riesling.
Tasting Notes—More tart apple than melon; touch of clove.
Rating—If you drink Chardonnays costing less than $10, you MUST try a bottle, In this price range, my men gave it a RECOMMENDED, The eleven ladies enjoyed it even more, giving it a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
Contact—Office of Sara Moore Cummings, (415) 444-7426, FAX (415) 444-7483
Price—$6


Postscript

The public likes Fetzer wines! A good index is how much equipment it takes to satisfy the demand. Stainless steel tanks—7.7 million gallons, warehouse storage—600,000 cases, Bel Arbor Chardonnay production—122,000 cases.

 
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

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