Mead On Wine

© 1996 JDM Enterprises
All Rights Reserved
Vol. I No. 2


by Jerry D. Mead

There was a time this wine scribe felt obligated to write about big, full bodied reds in winter, and restrict reviews of fruity whites and fun roses and blushes to spring and summertime. And there was some validity to that. People actually changed their drinking habits somewhat with the season.

Well, this ain't your daddy's (or your mama's) wine market. People have learned to drink what they like, anytime, and convention and rules be hanged.

At my family holiday dinner, there were those drinking big, bold red wines with roast turkey. I was one of them, but then I tend to drink red wine with just about everything except oysters, caviar and filet of sole. But we also had family members enjoying dry white dinner wines like Chardonnay and friendly, fruity wines like Riesling and White Zinfandel with the very same meal.

What's great about this relatively new wine drinking freedom, as far as I'm concerned, is I can write about any kind of wine any time of year.


This small estate winery in the Santa Cruz Mountain appellation in San Mateo County, is most famous for a Gewurztraminer it has produced for a number of years from Ventana Vineyards in Monterey County. Owned by a famous heart surgeon and operated day-to-day by his namesake son, the winery also produces estate bottled Chardonnay and Pinot Noir that is rather vintage sensitive. Some years they are very good; others exceptional.

Thomas Fogarty 1995 "Willamette Valley, Oregon" Gewurztraminer ($12.50) California grapes are in short supply, Oregon has a good reputation for Gewurz, so Fogarty decided to give it a go in 1995. It's not a bad wine, but it's not the "Monterey" version mentioned above. The varietal aroma is pleasant and intense, and the entry flavors are o.k., but it also has a slightly bitter and astringent finish. At the same price as the Monterey, pass it by. Rating: 80/82

Thomas Fogarty 1995 "Monterey" Gewurztraminer ($12.50) Alas! The winery is already sold out for three's really good, the supply is limited and it has such a track record for excellence that it is very popular with knowing Gewurz fans. There is still a good chance of finding it at fine wine shops with good selections. Spicy, perfumey Gewurztraminer fruit, with a hint of soft grapefruit, more than a hint of lichee and a basically dry finish that avoids even a hint of bitterness. That spicy Gewurz fruit lingers throughout the aftertaste making it a perfect foil for spicy Asian cuisines. It's a "Best Buy." Rating: 94/90

Thomas Fogarty 1995 "Santa Cruz Estate" Chardonnay ($18) Big, sweetish (but not sweet) style with ripe apple fruit and a pleasant touch of toasty oak. Some awareness of alcohol. Rating: 85/82

Thomas Fogarty 1994 "Santa Cruz Estate" Pinot Noir ($25) Youthful, but very promising...has really started to come together in the last 3-4 months. Another couple of years bottle age should work wonders. Intense Pinot flavors, with some cranberry, blueberry, black cherry, and faded rose. Earthy complexity just beginning to show. Rating: 89/84

Thomas Fogarty 1994 "Napa Valley" Cabernet Sauvignon ($18.50) Where Fogarty is located at the north end of the Santa Cruz Mountain appellation, it's way too cool to ripen Cabernet Sauvignon in most years, so Fogarty sources that grape from Napa. Amazingly round and supple considering it is only two years old, this medium bodied wine has mostly black cherry and currant fruit with an interesting touch of anise. An earthy, black truffle quality completes the complexity picture. Rating: 87/84

Should have mentioned that Fogarty can be visited by appointment and that its striking view looking out over San Francisco Bay is spectacular. It is designed to accommodate catered dinners, weddings and small business meetings. Queries about visits or retail availability of the wines: Thomas Fogarty Winery, 5937 Alpine Rd., Portola Valley, CA 94028 (415) 851-1946.


"J" champagne is a bit of arrogance. I mean, who names a product with nothing but a single initial and expects people to recognize and remember the brand? On top of which, early releases of the wine were only o.k. at best.

The answer to the question above is...the arrogant folks at Jordan Winery, already famous for Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay, wanting to make a totally separate statement for its sparkling wine business. What better way than with a single initial for a name and a striking, custom-designed bottle that features an even more striking giant embossed gold "J" as it's label?

What better way? Well, making a wine the equal of the arrogance of the marketing statement...which "J" began to do with the spectacular 1990 vintage. That wine won two or three sweepstakes awards, the American Airlines Trophy for Grand Champion wine of the year and numerous gold medals (you may still find some magnum size bottles of this goody around) and scores in the 90s from almost every critic. The currently available 1991 vintage is living up to the standard created by its predecessor.

Now "J" has bought a separate winery for making its bubbly, and with it more than 100 acres of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes in what is arguably the best champagne growing region in America...the Russian River Valley of Sonoma County. "J" already owned and sourced its grapes from the same appellation.

"J" has completed a deal to buy the vineyards and winery formerly known as Piper Sonoma at Windsor, where "J" will also begin to produce Pinot Noir table wine. The new "J" facility will eventually be open to the public but not until after extensive refurbishing and until "we can offer a truly 'J' experience." How's that for an arrogant statement? But I betcha they'll back it up!

The "Wine of the Week" will be back next week. Wines are scored using a unique 100 point system. First number rates quality; second number rates value.


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Latest Update: February 3, 1997