Mead On Wine

© 1996 JDM Enterprises
All Rights Reserved
Vol. I No. 12


by Jerry D. Mead

By JERRY D. MEAD It was just about 10 years ago that Bruce Cohn brought me the first B.R. Cohn wines and made me the first wine scribe to review the wines of the then fledgling winery. It was just about ten years before that when Cohn bought the Sonoma estate on which the grapes were grown (he sold the grapes to other wineries before building his own), and five years before that when fortune smiled upon him to provide the wherewithal to buy a vineyard and establish a winery.

Just out of college and working behind the scenes at a small tv station, Cohn became interested in recording engineering and met a group of musicians he would help to become the world famous Doobie Brothers. Cohn has been described as the "non-performing" Doobie and has been, and still is, the group's manager.

In the decade since I met him, his estate Cabernet Sauvignon has developed an almost cult following, two of his winemakers have developed star-quality images and gone on to do their own things, more acreage has been planted and Cohn has started an olive oil business as well.

Did I recognize the potential of that first Cabernet, way back when? Does a one-legged duck swim in circles?

Cohn's wines are currently being made by Mike Guylash and legendary consulting winemaker Merry Edwards. Edwards' deft hand at Chardonnay has already evidenced itself. The current releases have to be Cohn's best Chardonnays ever.

B.R. Cohn 1995 "Sonoma Valley" Chardonnay ($15) Toasty nose; nicely oaked apple fruit; toasty vanilla after-flavors. Good wine; good value. Rating: 88/88

B.R. Cohn 1995 "Carneros Reserve-Joseph Hermann Vineyard" Chardonnay ($24) Roasty, toasty, smoky, butterscotch on apple fruit. Much more (and newer) French oak on this very complex wine. Very long, complex, smoky aftertaste. Exceptional. Rating: 94/86

B.R. Cohn 1994 "Olive Hill Estate" ($34) Forgive the cliche, but this truly is "the iron fist in the velvet glove." It is one of those beautifully structured, silky, supple wines that is great for drinking now if you don't mind youthful flavors, but that you know has the potential to improve for 10-15 years. Deep black cherry, currant and bittersweet chocolate are the flavors and they last and last and last. Contrary to current fashion, the wine is not is 100 percent Cabernet Sauvignon. Rating: 96/85


B.R. Cohn 1994 "North Coast" ($15) Very young and a little grapey, but with mostly blackberry and black cherry fruit. Plenty of spine but no harshness. Pleasant touch of green olive bitterness in the finish. Rating: 88/90

B.R. Cohn wines are available in most national markets, but production of the estate Cabernet is extremely limited. The Sonoma Chardonnay and the North Coast Cabernet are much more available. To track down nearest retail outlet contact: B.R. Cohn Winery, 15140 Sonoma Hwy., Glen Ellen, CA 95442 (707) 938-4064.


If you had trouble finding that $10 Indigo Hills Chardonnay that I told you was named "Best New World Chardonnay," I have good news and bad. The bad news is no one bothered to tell me it isn't even being shipped until April 2. The good news is you may find it for $9 or even less when it finally hits the wine shops.

Two goofs in one column? The wine I said won "Best New World Meritage Red" honors is from Merryvale, it is from the 1993 vintage and it does sell for $48. It is not labeled "Meritage" as I said, but has the proprietary name of "Profile." (We'll blame this one on a faulty computer print-out.) It is expensive, but it's really, really special.


Let me remind you that you can order the official awards book of the New World International Wine Competition, which contains each and every medal winner, for every class and type of wine made in the "New World." Send $6 (includes postage) to: NWIWC 97, Box 1598, Carson City, NV 89702.


This year's winner of the Cucamonga Peak Trophy for Best Traditional Dessert Wine is a super bargain and should be widely available in wine shops and supermarkets. It's The Christian Brother Tawny Port at only $6 the bottle. It's an old style California wood port that's smooth and velvety and not too sticky sweet. The trophy is sponsored by the Cucamonga Valley Growers Association, from that historic Southern California region where many wines of this style evolved.

Cucamonga is also providing much of the fruit that is going into Rhone-style red wines being made by wineries with fancy addresses in Napa, Sonoma and elsewhere, from grapes such as Mourvedre, Cinsault, Carignane, Alicante and Grenache, which explains why the growers there are also sponsoring the Cucamonga Valley Vintners Trophy for Best New World Rhone-Style Red. There was no requirement that the winner be from Cucamonga fruit, but it was: Thornton 1995 "South Coast" Carignane ($16) is a return to a California style that was popular 20 years ago and that had almost disappeared.


The Australians in general, and the Rosemount Winery in particular, were pioneers in making white wine blended from Chardonnay and Semillon. And so it is appropriate Rosemount sponsor the trophy for Best New World Semillon-Chardonnay, and that if it had to be won by a California winery rather than an Australian one, that at least the winemaker be from Australia: Venezia 1995 "Stella Bianco" ($20) was made by Daryl Groom, former winemaker at Penfolds in Australia and winemaster at Geyser Peak, Canyon Road and Venezia in Sonoma County. It's barrel-fermented and quite complex.

Wines are scored using a unique 100 point system. First number rates quality; second number rates value.


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Latest Update: April 27, 1997