“American Wine” by Anthony Dias Blue, 1985

thirstybottles2I found an interesting book at the Napa Valley Goodwill today: Anthony Dias Blue’s “American Wine,” which was published in 1985. Although the information in the book has become a bit stale (to say the least), for two dollars, it remains an interesting time capsule. The book lists prices, features wine ratings, and tells the history and vital statistics for hundreds of wineries throughout the United States. Here are some interesting tidbits from 1985:

• The 1980 vintage of Kistler Dutton Ranch Chardonnay is given zero stars, and is noted as seriously flawed. The following vintage, which was only $15, is given four stars, the book’s highest possible mark. According to many, Kistler has not made a bad Chardonnay since.

• Diamond Creek Cabernets, often regarded as the Napa Valley’s first cult wines, were earning very strong reviews, including a four-star rating for the 1982 Volcanic Hill Cabernet Sauvignon. The Diamond Creek wines retailed for $20, but the current releases are now $175 (if you can find them).

• A 1983 Joseph Phelps Insignia was $25, although the 2003 release of the same proprietary blend now sells for $200. The book also lists Phelps as a part owner of the Oakville Grocery (which is now owned by Dean & DeLuca).

• Gary Farrel was once the winemaker for Rochioli, and he crafted their inaugural 1982 Rochioli Pinot Noir up the road at Davis Bynum (it sold for $13.50). The book predates the founding of Farrel’s own eponymous winery, which he no longer owns. Davis Bynum, meanwhile, no longer exists.

• Gallo’s non-vintage Hearty Burgundy, priced at $1.75, earned a two-star rating. The notes: “A classic — herbal, clean, fresh and deep. Amazing.” Say what?

• Ridge, for $5.75 per bottle, released a White Zinfandel in 1983 and 1984. Not sure how long they kept that up, but they certainly weren’t alone.

• Spring Mountain Vineyard released a non-vintage “Falcon Crest” Cabernet, which was a blend of the 1981 and 1982 vintages, for $9.50 (the winery was featured prominently in the show’s opening credits). Utterly shameless.

• Once a popular varietal, Johannesburg Riesling figures prominently throughout the text, with 14 wines earning four stars (and a handful of those being late-harvest wines).

• Joseph Phelps made a late-harvest Schuerebe (a Riesling hybrid sometimes used in German TBA wines) that earned four stars in 1982 and 1983. Given the fact that these are late-harvest wines, could they possibly still be drinking well today?

• California Cooler actually has an entry as a winery. Although the Stockton address is already priceless enough, I particularly enjoy the vital statistics: production, 7 million cases; acreage, none. Adjusting for inflation, the $100M paid for California Cooler in 1984 is slightly better than the $185M paid for Stag’s Leap Cellars in 2007.

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