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by Fred McMillin
for June 30, 2000

 

Winery of the Week

Eden Is Leadin'


Prologue

The St. Helena Star newspaper, September, 1887:
"The Mt. Eden Vineyards owned by G.S. Meyers, and lying east of Rutherford, consist of 108 acres, and are this year yielding a fine crop...which is being made up in the commodious cellar belonging to the fine estate."


The Rest of the Story

Mike McGrath

Mike McGrath

 
Jed Steele

Jed Steele

It's 113 years later, and Villa Mt. Eden Winemaker Mike McGrath is handling "fine crops from the fine estate." He started in 1982, and was so successful that in time demand outgrew grape supply. So, in 1992 they added to the staff a...


Grape Super Sleuth

He was Jed Steele, who knows in detail the vineyards from Mendocino in the north to Santa Barbara in the south. It turned into a terrific team. Last time I checked they were up to about 130,000 cases a year. Purchased grapes sometimes come from prestigious Carneros, regularly from the underrated Santa Maria Valley, etc. Mike turns out these three tiers of wines.

Coastal - This is the bargain, $10 tier. Gaiter and Brecher, Wall St. Journal, comment of the Cab: "Huge forward fruit. Utterly drinkable."

Grand Reserve—$20 tier. My tasters give these wines very high marks. Critic James Halliday: "The Grand Reserve Cab is outstanding with dark cherry fruit and soft tannins."

Signature Series - Quality galore. $30 plus prices. Production usually less than 1,000 cases. Expert James Laube gives the Santa Maria Valley Chardonnay his highest rating, FIVE STARS.


Importance of "Villa"

"Villa" means "town" in Spanish. As you saw, the Napa winery originally had no "Villa" in the name. However, while there were some ownership changes going on in the 1970's, south of San Francisco in the Santa Cruz Mountains, a Mount Eden Vineyards Winery was formed (1972). So, the Napa operation is VILLA Mt. Eden.


Where's California's Mt. Eden?

There isn't one! The name appeared in California about the time of the Gold Rush, when a group of farmers formed the "Mount Eden Company."


Just the Facts

Name—Villa Mt. Eden
St. Helena, Napa Valley
Vineyards Owned—879 acres (Napa Valley and Monterey)
Past Owners—The Bank of America was founded by A.P. Giannini. His granddaughter, Anne McWilliams, once was an owner.
More Name Dropping—The estate provided the setting for the film "They Knew What They Wanted" in 1940 starring Carole Lombard.
Contact Today—Office of Communications Manager Dana Samu,(425)415-3257, FAX (425)415-3331
Overall Evaluation—The wines are VERY competitive and as long as Mike and Jed are there, they'll stay that way.

Postscript—Hunks

Mike was an All-American cross-country runner and Jed was an All-Conference basketball center.

 
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 June 2000

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