Domestic Selection: Meritage, 1989. Konocti

The Konocti Winery is located in Lake County, to the north and east of Napa, Sonoma and Mendo­cino Counties. It lies on an ancient volcanic plateau dominated by Cal­ifornia’s largest natural lake, Clear Lake, and the 4,200 foot extinct volcano, Mt. Konocti, from which it derives its name.

Lake County’s vineyards date back to the 1870s. They suffered abandonment in the 1920s, having fallen victim to Prohibition. Pears and walnuts remained the county’s mainstay crops until the 1960s when a few pioneering grape growers began to devote sections of their orchards to premium grape varieties. In 1974, these farmers established a winemaking partner­ship and completed construction of a small winery facility in 1979.

Konocti enjoys what is basical­ly a unique position in the Califor­nia wine industry; it is a wine co­op. The winemaking co-operative concept, while quite unusual in America, is quite prevalent in Eu­rope. Italy, France and Germany all have many co-ops. Konocti is owned and operated by 18 inde­pendent grape growers and 3 in­vestor-partners. By pooling crops, man-power, knowledge and re­sources, they are successfully dis­pelling the notion that only show­case wineries can produce wines of exceptional quality.

As an example, Konocti’s 1989 Fumé Blanc (Sauvignon Blanc) took 7 Gold Medals, a Best of Show and a Sweepstakes.

The Meritage Association regu­lations stipulate that a member Cal­ifornia winery may only apply the designation “Meritage” to its fore­most, top-of-the-line wine. The wine must also be crafted exclu­sively from classic French Bor­deaux grape varieties. Our selec­tion is so labeled, indicating that Konocti considers this lot of 1989 Sauvignon Blanc (containing 5% Semillon, another officially sanc­tioned Bordeaux transplant), to be their best. We agree.

The wine shows a lovely gold/ chartreuse hue. The nose is full of fruit with hints of grass and vanil­la. Very smooth, medium-full­bodied with fig and herb flavors mingling. Ideal balance of fruit and acid leaves this wine more on the dry side, with distinct sweet vanil­la nuances reflecting extensive ex­posure to oak. Fig flavors linger on in the finish.

Serve nicely chilled. A better choice than most Chardonnays to accompany herb-roasted chicken, or pasta-based sea offerings swimming in creamy sauces.

Cellaring Notes: Approaching peak. Drink now through 1994.

Reviewed by Larry Tepper

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