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Looking for Melodious Names

November 09, 1989|DAN BERGER | TIMES WINE WRITER

Chateau De Baun, the Sonoma County Winery that specializes in wine made from the Symphony grape variety, is releasing the new vintage of its two sparkling wines and putting the finishing touches on a 6,000-square-foot tasting room, yet is facing a dilemma.

The winery has produced an excellent white table wine blended from Chardonnay and Symphony and aged in oak barrels. The wine has the spice of the Muscat-heritage Symphony grape and the complexity and richness of barrel-fermented Chardonnay.

The wine, intended to sell for about $5 a bottle, is a superb substitute for similarly priced Chardonnays that often are thin and lackluster. The winery intends to call this wine Reserve White. It is 35% Chardonnay aged in Vosges oak and 65% Symphony.

However, because of Chateau De Baun's commitment to a grape that evokes thoughts of music, the winery is thinking of naming each vintage of the Reserve White for a different composer. Or orchestra conductor. Or some other musical term or entity. (Other wines in the De Baun Symphony line include Prelude, Overture, Theme and so forth.)

So the winery is asking for consumer suggestions on what to name the wine. Send suggestions to Chateau De Baun, P.O. Box 11483, Santa Rosa, Calif. 95406.

For the record, wine maker Roland Shackelford's two new sparkling wines ($12 each) are exceptional. The 1987 Romance is quite spicy floral and the 1987 Rhapsody, with 6% Pinot Noir for color and richness, is more traditional, richer and fuller bodied.

De Baun's new tasting room, located just off Highway 101 at the north edge of Santa Rosa, is large enough to accommodate weddings and other large parties. The French-styled building sits adjacent to the winery's 88-acre Symphony vineyard. The winery also has 34 acres of Pinot Noir and 24 acres of Chardonnay. Shackelford liked the Pinot Noir so much he has made a small amount of it as a test of the wine's potential.

The 1989 harvest was so rainy in some areas of California that numerous wine makers resorted to adding a sweetening element to their fermenting grape juice to boost the alcohol content of the wines.

The practice of adding sugar, which is so common in many of the fine-wine regions of France, is called chaptalization. The addition of cane or beet sugar to fermenting grape juice typically boosts the alcohol of a wine from 11% to 12.5% and often makes the difference between a wine that has a thin, lean feel to one with roundness and richness.

Chaptalization is used routinely in France; it is claimed by some authorities that in nine vintages out of 10 in the cooler growing regions of France, the wine makers add sugar.

Curiously, 1989 was one of the few vintages throughout France where the grapes reached such maturity that few wine makers chaptalized.

But in California, after three rainstorms hit the north coast of the state between Sept. 15 and Sept. 30, dropping more than three inches of rain, development of the grapes in many vineyards suffered. And when grapes were harvested, some growers wound up with low natural sugar readings, which would yield low-alcohol wines that are awkward and out of balance, and they were forced to add something to boost the alcohol content.

However, because California law prohibits the addition of sugar to make table wine, most wine makers resorted to the use of grape concentrate, which is legal.

In some cases, wineries bought their concentrate in the commercial market. But in other cases, wine makers took their own grape juice and had it converted to concentrate, which retains the same basic flavor profile.

In one case, I heard of a wine maker who sent 600 gallons of his Chenin Blanc to a company that makes concentrate and the following day received back 60 gallons of the same juice that had been concentrated.

Robert Mondavi was awarded the Torch of Liberty Award from the Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith. A past recipient of the award was Brother Timothy of the Christian Brothers.

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