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A Capital Taste : A Creston Manor Wine Fit for the President Is a Candidate for All

LARRY AND Stephanie Rosenbloom, owners of Creston Manor Vineyard and Winery, have made great strides since buying cattle-grazing land a few miles inland from San Luis Obispo in 1980.

At the Bush Inaugural in Washington in January, Creston Manor winery was among the select group of American wineries pouring their finest.

The Creston Manor wine that was served was the winery’s newest. The 1988 Presidential Cuvee ($9) is a classical blending of 85% Semillon with 15% Sauvignon Blanc. On the label of this limited release is a portrait of President Bush by James-Paul Brown that was commissioned for the Inaugural.

The Semillon is fermented in stainless steel to preserve its fresh fruitiness, and the Sauvignon Blanc is barrel-fermented in French oak, with nine months on the yeast lees. This young wine, which has refreshing hints of lemon, shows an inviting complexity that makes it a chilled aperitif of considerable distinction.

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Even more recently, the winery added to its reputation when its 1987 San Luis Obispo Chardonnay ($12) fared better in a blind tasting than the more well-known and slightly more expensive Sterling Vineyard 1987 Napa Valley Chardonnay. The tasting was conducted by Rod Smith of the San Francisco Chronicle. Of the six wines they sampled, the tasters, who included a wine market analyst, a wine buyer and a chef, voted Creston Manor No. 1. Its wine, the panel said, was “a beautifully balanced, tightly structured Chardonnay in the French style.”

Not bad for Larry Rosenbloom, a Beverly Hills insurance agent turned vintner in 1982. Creston Manor received its first gold medals for its Sauvignon Blanc that year and has continued to win for every vintage edition that wine maker Vic Roberts produces. The 1987 San Luis Obispo Sauvignon Blanc ($8.25), fermented and aged in Nevers and Limousin oak, with “taming” additions of Semillon, is one of California’s best, not to be missed.

The winery’s companion to its 1987 Chardonnay, which won the taste test, is its 1985 Cabernet Sauvignon-Winemaker’s Selection ($16.50). Composed of 90% Cabernet Sauvignon and 10% Merlot, and aged in the barrel for 27 months before bottling, the wine is ready to enjoy now. It has a satin smoothness and harmonious finish.

Like a great number of California wineries, Creston Manor also makes Beaujolais Nouveau, but it became the first in the state to use the elegant Pinot Noir grapes instead of the traditional California variants of Gamay. The bouquet of the Creston Manor nouveau is almost floral, and the taste suggests that of rose petals.

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Roberts’ stylish original, while forsaking the traditional Gamay, submitted the Pinot Noir grapes to the classic carbonic maceration method in which whole clusters are placed in open fermenters. This procedure produces a wine of intense jewel color, but with no tannic bitterness.

Upon completion, the wine is cold-settled, racked, gently filtered, bottled and labeled. It is ready for the market within 60 days of harvest--in time for the nouveau madness. Although Creston Manor 1988 Petit d’Noir ($8) is ready to drink right after it is bottled, it will develop gracefully for two to three years, unlike other nouveaus.


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