WineSpeed | Crocker & Starr

Weekly insights from veteran wine writer Karen MacNeil.

BY Karen Macneil | Life | Mar 12, 2018

CROCKER & STARR | Cabernet Franc 2015

(St. Helena, Napa Valley, CA) $90

Cabernet franc—rare and desirable—is now one of the most expensive and sought-after grape varieties in the Napa Valley. But some producers like Crocker & Starr have been working with franc for 19 years. The experience and fine-tuning shows in this dark, mysterious, spicy wine that has a flavor as primordial, bold and earthy as single malt scotch. Lest you think of cabernet franc as somehow “lesser” or “lighter” than cabernet sauvignon, this dramatic wine will cure you of the illusion. (14.4% abv)

92 points KM

Limited quantity. To purchase, mention “WineSpeed” at:

When did Château Mouton Rothschild become a First Growth?

A. 1925

B.  1855

C. 1973

D. 1880

Scroll down for the answer!

“What we hear when we eat and drink—even the noises of food preparation, the rattling sounds of product packaging, or loud background music—plays a much more important role [in flavor perception] than any of us realizes. Sound is the forgotten flavor sense.”

–Charles Spence, Gastrophysics: The New Science of Eating

 “Some wine literature says that the yield (production per acre or hectare) is higher for white grapes than for red grapes. What’s the reason for this difference?”

Morten S., Coppet, Switzerland

Hello Morten. My guess is that white grapes are often grown at high yields NOT because they have to be, but because they are intentionally being grown to make an inexpensive wine—pinot grigio in Italy for example or any number of simple whites in central Spain and Portugal. OR, it might also be that whites are grown at very high yields when they are meant to be simple neutral distilling material—ugni blanc in France, chenin blanc in South Africa, and palomino in Spain for example. The latter sometimes reaches 20 tons per acre (~300 hectoliters per hectare).


Have a wine question for me? Great. I love questions, and I’ll do my best to get you the right answer. Send your question to

Regarding our Fascinating Fact on winery dogs last week, Ron W. from Sonoma wrote to say: “I certainly hope that winery dogs don’t eat many grapes. Grapes are very toxic to dogs, which may explain why they make lousy wine judges.”

We tapped our resident expert Dr. Kevin Sheehy, DVM in Santa Rosa who commented: “Grapes are not toxic to all dogs and we aren’t sure the exact reason they cause kidney failure in some dogs. Some vineyard dogs eat lots of grapes with no problems while other dogs go into kidney failure. The exact mechanism of toxicity is not known but we suggest not proactively feeding dogs any grapes.”

C. Originally (in the 1855 Classification) only four Bordeaux châteaux made it into the rank of First Growth:  Château Lafite Rothschild, Château Latour, Château Margaux, and Château Haut-Brion. In 1855, Château Mouton Rothschild was designated a Second Growth. The owner of Mouton Rothschild, Baron Philippe de Rothschild, protested vehemently and launched a decades-long campaign to get Mouton Rothschild elevated to First Growth status. Although the 1855 Classification was considered sacrosanct and its classifications final, Rothschild eventually prevailed and in 1973 Mouton Rothschild was moved up and became a First Growth.



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