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by Fred McMillin
for November 14, 2000

 

A Tale of Two Coups

Coup #1
April 1999, N.Y.C.—John Brecher of The Wall Street Journal walks into a little wine shop at 90th St. And Columbus Ave. In his own words: "Wow. Here's an excellent and hard-to-find wine that's usually [much] more expensive. How did it get here?"

The wine was the 1993 Staglin Cabernet Sauvignon for $32.89.

Shari & Garen Staglin

"Founders Shari & Garen Staglin
with some fellow named
Arnie Palmer"

Coup #2
1965—Today there are well over 10,000 acres of Cabernet Sauvignon in the Napa Valley. But, in 1965 there were only about 500. The incomparable André Tchelistcheff convinced Beaulieu to plant more Cab. on the fabulous Rutherford Bench. The effort was a complete success and the grapes soon were part of America's best red wine, the Beaulien Private Reserve.

Coup #2?
In 1985 Shari and Garen Staglin managed to buy about 50 acres of those vineyards. We won't even guess what the value of the vineyards is today, but it's many millions.


How Good Are The Cabs?

Let's see what the critics have said about these Rutherford reds.

  • Vintage 1993—The Wall Street Journal said it was so good it was "almost indescribable...airy chocolate-covered blackberry...intense, but no hard edges."
  • Vintage 1994—Critic James Laube: Outstanding, with black cherry and earthy currant flavors [the renowned "Rutherford dust" character].
  • Vintage 1995—Robert Parker Jr. rated it over 90!
  • Vintage 1996—In WineDay, Sept. 21, 1999 we reported that in our blind tasting the 1996 beat 59 competing table wines.
  • Vintage 1997— It just happened again. The 1997 just whipped 59 competing table wines, so this is...


Our Wine of the Day

1997 Staglin Family Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon
Rutherford District, Napa Valley
Very Important Folks Not Yet Mentioned: Winemaker Celia Welch Masyczek and Vineyard Manager David Abreu
Tasting Notes—My panel was almost speechless.
Comments: "Wow!" "Yeh!" "Classic." They rated it EXCELLENT. Thanksgiving is coming. I'd savor it with a plate of cheeses after the turkey.
The Name Rutherford—George Yount planted the Napa Valley's first wine vines in 1838. One of his granddaughters married Thomas L. Rutherford. In the 188O's the town of Rutherford was named for him.
Contact—Phone (707) 963-7768, FAX (707) 963-8786.
Price—$65


Postscript

Coup #3—In my classes twice in recent years I've served a $600 bottle of Chateau d'Yquem, the remains of which are still in one of my refrigerators. How I obtained them is Coup #3.

In 1972 the Shah of Iran asked me to evaluate the suitability of building an oil refinery at a site he felt he could defend well. It was Kharg Island in the Persian Gulf. The day after arriving I was waiting for the surveillance helicopter and strolled into the commissary. There on a dusty lower shelf were these two bottles, a 1959 and a 1961 d'Yquem. The price was $7 each. Sold!

 

About the Writer

Fred McMillin, a veteran wine writer, has taught wine history for 30 years on three continents. In 1995, the Academy of Wine Communications honored Fred with one of only 22 Certificates of Commendation awarded to American wine writers. For information about the wine courses he teaches every month at either San Francisco State University or San Francisco City College (Fort Mason Division), please fax him at (415) 567-4468.

 
 


 
 

This page created November 2000

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