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© 1999 JDM Enterprises
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by Jerry D. Mead

    If asked you to name the largest wine company in the U.S., you shouldn't have any trouble naming the folks at Ernest & Julio Gallo and their many brands. They also happen to be number one in the world.

    But how would you fare if asked to name the second largest wine company in the U.S.? Well, if you're thinking of any company based in California, you're wrong.

    America's number two is the Canandaigua Wine Co., of the town of the same name in upstate New York. Never heard of them? Quite possibly not, unless you're a New Yorker, and then still maybe not.

    But you're probably familiar with some of its many brands, including Manischewitz, Great Western, Taylor of New York, the notorious MD 20-20, Gold Seal and several other Eastern brands.

    Coming out West the roster seems endless. Canandaigua owns: Cook's, Paul Masson, Taylor California Cellars, Deer Valley, Cribari, Inglenook, Almaden, Le Domaine, Jacques Bonet, Italian Swiss Colony, Via Firenze and Mystic Cliffs.

    They also import and market Mateus from Portugal, Santa Carolina from Chile, Marcus James from Brazil and Argentina and a number of other foreign brands.

    And they just made a move on the super-premium market in recent weeks with the purchase of Simi, Mt. Veeder, Estancia and Franciscan Oakville Estates.

    One other brand in the Canandaigua portfolio is a winery in Ukiah, Mendocino County, that dates back to 1946 when it was a bulk winery for the Mendocino County Co-op. It was then purchased by the now defunct Guild Wineries, eventually being converted to the facility for its flagship brand, Cresta Blanca, which had started life in Livermore Valley decades before.

    Before Guild sold out to Canandaigua in 1991, it started producing a label called Dunnewood, which has been continued by the current owners and recently upgraded.

    Having read through a business story and a history lesson, earns you the right to read the following Dunnewood tasting notes:

    Dunnewood 1997 "North Coast" Sauvignon Blanc ($7) Pleasantly herbaceous notes on a grapefruit citrus base. Modestly oaked; dry finish; dandy food companion. Rating: 85/92

    Dry Silk 1997 "Carneros Reserve" Chardonnay ($12) The label still says Dunnewood somewhere in small type, but "Dry Silk" is like the upscale Dunnewood. I don't understand why they don't just make Dry Silk the brand. This is a barrel-fermented style with pleasant toasty aromatics and flavor complexities on a base of ripe apple fruit. It's dry, but there's an implication of sweetness from the oak extraction. Rating: 88/85

    Dunnewood 1996 "North Coast" Cabernet Sauvignon ($8) Blackberry and cassis; some definite wood influence; very complex for the price point. Enough tannin to cut through rich food flavors, but not so much as to be offensively astringent. Rating: 87/92

    Dry Silk 1996 "Napa Valley" Cabernet Sauvignon ($12) What a steal! The name here should not be "silk" but "velvet." Black cherry, cassis, with some earthy-smoky complexities in the after-flavors. Case purchases highly recommended. Rating: 90/96


    Dunnewood 1997 "North Coast" Chardonnay ($8 or less) Really pleasant, oak-tinged bouquet; rich, melon and apple fruit flavors; dry finish. Match it with halibut, Dungeness crab or grilled swordfish. Rating: 87/94


    Dunnewood 1996 "Mendocino" Zinfandel ($8) All the way back to the Cresta Blanca days, this facility has been noted for its Zinfandel production. Mostly berry fruit with some ripe plum underpinnings. Tasty, zesty, a dandy medium-bodied red for summer cook-outs, yet it will benefit from a couple of years bottle aging. Exceptional value. Rating: 89/95

    Dunnewood wines have broad national distribution, with the Dry Silk label a little more difficult to find. For assistance tracking down specific retail outlets, contact the winery directly at (707) 462-2985.



  High in the hills to the east of Sonoma Valley is the property known as Carmenet. It's part of the Chalone Group of wineries and its focus has always been on Bordeaux style wines, while so many of Chalone's properties are devoted to Burgundian varieties, like Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.

    The intensity of the red wines must in no small part be credited to the mountain grown fruit, but it is also part of the winemaking style.     Grapes for the white Bordeaux style wine are purchased from highly regarded Edna Valley Vineyard in San Luis Obispo County.

    Carmenet 1997 "Edna Valley" Sauvignon Blanc-Semillon ($16) This is not your typical Sauvignon Blanc! There's no grassiness and the structure is more like that of a Reserve Chardonnay. Very ripe and highly oaked, with fruit of ripe apple, fresh fig and an bit of lime. Rating: 90/86

    Carmenet 1995 "Estate Reserve" Moon Mountain Meritage ($40) A blend of 79 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, 19 percent Cabernet Franc and 2 percent Petit Verdot. This wine is strictly for the collector crowd. It really wants to be cellared for a minimum five years and will no doubt benefit from ten. Really big, concentrated, highly extracted mountain fruit. Blackberry and black currant with a dollop of bittersweet chocolate. Rating: 92/84

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