Giant Encounters on the Wine Trail

As magnificent as rows of vineyards can be in California, Burgundy, Bordeaux and Tuscany, there is nothing to compare with the looming majesty of immense redwoods.

I’ve always been fascinated by these giants and how humbling it can be just to be in their presence. They are living things but, unlike grape vines, they are silent and quite indifferent to human endeavors.

I recently went on a trek to Northern California to visit wineries but also to see the largest redwoods of all. In Humboldt County in northern California is a small coastal town called Orick, a short drive from great Mendocino wineries, and itself a little-known paradise for wine and nature lovers. As you drive up to Orick you pass the “Avenue of the Giants,” where grove after grove of enormous redwoods loom large by the roadsideā€”and in it: You can drive your car right through some of the trunks. These trees grow to heights
of over 350 feet, and the trunks are the size of houses. And their average life span is 500 to 700 years, but some live as long as 2,000 years. The trees I was admiring were alive during the reign of the Caesars.

Once in Orick, I went for a run. Soon I found myself with the crashing waves of the Pacific on one side of me while towering above me on my right were redwoods. I was enchanted and overwhelmed. The trees were so massive that I became dizzy trying to see their topmost branches.

You never know what will happen when you venture forth on a wine trail vacation. On your way up to Orick is the town of Eureka, where the restaurant in the magnificent Victorian-era hotel, The Carter House, has a wine cellar that makes you want to exclaim “Eureka!” It includes many cult wines and such depth in first-growth Bordeaux that you can arrange a vertical tasting from vintages dating back 50 years or more. The charming and witty innkeeper, Mark Carter, is only too glad to greet wine enthusiasts. A taste of his own Napa-based Carter Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon (93 points) is available for curious guests.

Point your car in any direction in this great country and an enthralling vineyard experience awaits you. In this issue we try to point the way, especially if you’re planning your summer vacation with wine in mind. This August, we present Wine Trails Across America, in which we give a number of excellent wine writers a chance to write about something near and dear: home. We explore the wine trails of Pennsylvania, Virginia, Michigan, Ohio and many other states, where people pour their hearts and souls into their wine and receive scant national recognition. They do it simply for the love of wine.

In this issue, we’re proud to provide ratings and reviews of Rieslings made outside Germany. In our March issue, we lauded Germany’s 2001 vintage, particularly its Rieslings, and we were eager to look at the fine Rieslings being crafted in California, the Pacific Northwest, Australia, New Zealand, upstate New York and other regions. Summer is, of course, an excellent time to enjoy a glass of Riesling.

Also in this issue, Michael Schachner profiles some of the men who pioneered the introduction of fine Spanish wines into this country, and who continue to search out quality-conscious winemakers and promising regions. The article is a fine introduction to some of the grape varieties, wine styles and regions of Spain.

You can’t pair wine with salad? Well, that may have been true in the era of iceberg lettuce, unripe tomato and Ranch dressing, but no longer, and wines are a great accompaniment. See our Pairings department for some recipes and wine pairing hints. And in Proof Positive, Paul Pacult takes a look at gin and the new styles of this classic spirit. Gin is undergoing a bit of a change,with intrepid distillers experimenting with new styles that leave its timeless character intact.

Wherever your vacation plans take you, I hope you can stop by a winery for a great learning experience, a chance to meet some new people and sample a new wine. Now that there is a winery in each of the 50 states, that is a very real, and pleasant, possibility.


Published on August 1, 2003

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