Thursday, April 24, 2003

Freely Rooster wine

We were tasting some Frei Brothers 2001 reserve Chardonnay and Pinot Noir this week. They were both pretty good. Affordable too.

I wasn't familiar with the winery. A quick look at the label - established 1890; Healdsburg, CA. Hmmm... I've got to say, I know the Alexander, Russian River and Dry Creek Valley appellations pretty well. We used to buy our grapes, for the home-made hooch, from Johnson's Alexander Valley Vineyards. Strange not to have heard of such an old winery - and one that made decent wines, at reasonable prices.

The Frei Brothers website revealed all. The illustration of the vineyard looked familiar. Head up Hwy 101, past Healdsburg. On the west side of the highway, you'll soon see some seriously terra-formed, young, mega-vineyards. Everyone knows, this is Gallo's Sonoma holdings. Mystery solved: Frei is Gallo all right.

I don't know if this should bother me, or not. The marketing scheme, that is. The terra-forming does bug me...real bad. Plenty of French, Italian & Australian vintners bottle second, third, fourth, even fifth label wines. They sell the lessor stuff, under different labels, to protect the pedigree, the prestige and quality of their premium wine.

Gallo doesn't do that. They have all these 'premium' boutique wines, that almost masquerade as little independents. You won't find any mention of Gallo on the Frei Brothers label, for example.

Does it matter? It's not like they've duped me into buying a bad wine. But they did successfully trick me into buying Gallo - something I normally would not do. The terra-forming vineyards is one reason. The cheap jug wines and fortified wines they sell for nothing other than fortifying the poor lost souls around 6th and Mission, is another. It's been a while since we were boycotting grapes, but I sure do remember the Gallo Boys were fighting rooster mad about that action.

Like I said, I actually liked these wines. I also like another of their posuer labels - Rancho Zabaco (but I've had Zinnier Zins!).

But, sigh...yeah, it does matter they duped me. Once bitten twice shy.

Closing on an up note - we're tasting Stag's Leap, plus 9 more wineries, this Saturday at Wineglobe! 4pm. Stop by and say hi.


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