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Does "mountain red" mean anything specific?

I was watching an old Julia Child episode on DVD, and she recommended "a nice California mountain red" with one dish. The name Almaden immediately came to mind, but I had always figured "mountain" was part of the producer's name, rather than a specific type of wine.

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  1. Back in the late 60's-70's we drank a jug wine called Red Mountain", but I can't imagine Julia going for it. Some insist it was fake wine at that, but it came in a gallon jug, and was around $2-3:00.

    4 Replies
    1. re: Mrs M

      At one point, Gallow was forced to stamp "100% Grape Wine" on the jugs of Red Mountain, and when they all the already-bottled wiens were gone, Gallo discontinued the label and replaced it with Carlo Rossi.

      1. re: zin1953


        Whether a typo or intentional, that's a hoot!

        1. re: carswell

          Yeah, it was a typo, but there are times when I type "Wine Speculator" too . . .


          1. re: zin1953

            I find myself typing Wine Expectorator at times.

    2. "MOUNTAIN: Labels carrying this term are often attached to wines of lowly jug-wine quality. Most come from grapes grown in the flattest and hottest areas of California, where mountains are seen only on clear days." -*The New Connoisseur's Handbook of California Wines* (2nd edition)

      1. Mountain has no specific meaning in the wine world, but there is a definite flavor to wines grown at higher elevations. To prove the point, there is the Medocino Ridge appellation which are several mountain peaks above 1200'. because of this 1200' qualification, it is the only non contiguous appellation in the country.

        Hess is up there on Mt Veeder. Outpost on Howell Mtn is great, and Reverie and Diamond Mountain are good Diamond Mtn wines.

        2 Replies
        1. re: NY Wine Guy

          And don't forget Santa Cruz Mountain wines - like Montebello vyd. from Ridge. BTY, the tasting room at Ridge has an incredible view of Silicon valley far below.


          1. re: NY Wine Guy

            There are several AVAs with the word "Mountain" as a part of the name. As Ed Dibble quite rightly points out, there is the Santa Cruz Mountains AVA -- the first "mountain" AVA approved by the ATF. In addition, there is the Ben Lomond Mtn sub-appellation of the SC Mtns. AVA.

            Within the larger Napa Valley AVA are several sub-AVAs that include the term "mountain." In addtion to the Mount Veeder, Howell Mountain, and Diamond Mountain District AVAs, there is also the Spring Mountain District AVA and the Atlas Peak AVA.

            Within Sonoma County is the Sonoma Mountain AVA. Mount Harlan AVA is within San Benito Co., York Mountain AVA is in SLO, and of course the Sierra Foothills AVA includes a wide range of elevations, with some vineyards as high as 3,500'.

            And that only covers California -- and not all of California at that.

            To get really confusing, there actually is a Red Mountain AVA in WAshington State!


          2. After a similar reference, on my first tour of Burgundy, I kept looking for something with "Hearty" in its name... No, not really.

            In the stated instance, I'd wager that she was talking about a "rustic" red. Most of the Zins of her day and many of the Cabs were of a "rustic" nature, in lieu of some of the more refined reds, of say the old Inglenook, BV and a few others.

            If you are trying to replicate a recipe from her, and from her time, I'd look to maybe an IT Primativo (most say the same grape as Zin, but who knows which is the father and which is the proginy).

            Pure speculation, on my part,

            1. A tale of two wines:

              "Almadén California Mountain Red Burgundy" and "Louis M. Martini California Mountain Burgundy" -- what's the difference?

              It depends upon punctuation -- or, in this case, upon which line the word "Mountain" appears:

              Brand Name: Almadén
              Appellation: California
              Wine Name: Mountain Red Burgundy

              Brand Name: Louis M. Martini
              Appellation: California Mountain
              Wine Name: Burgundy

              In the former case, "Mountain" was a meaningless designation, a part of the wine name; in the latter case, the word "Mountain" meant the grapes came from vineyards NOT on the valley floor, but higher in elevation.

              There is no doubt than "mountain" vineyards produce distinctively different grapes, and thus wines, than those same grape varieties when planted on the valley floor -- this is true for the Napa Valley as well as the Central Valley.

              Louis M. Martini had vineyards in the Mayacamas Mountains that straddled the county line between Napa and Sonoma, and therefore produced wines like Cabernet Sauvignon and Zinfandel with a "California Mountain" appellation.

              Almadén's Mountain Red Brugundy (along with their Mountain Claret, Mountain White Chablis, Mountain Rhine, Mountain Grenache Rosé, and Mountain Nectar Rosé) came from Central Valley and Santa Crlara Valley grapes -- nothing "mountain" about their origin at all.

              In the 1970s, Louis M. Martini filed a complaint with the ATF (the governement agency regulating wine labeling) about Alamdén's use of the term "Mountain," claiming they were debasing a meaningful geographic term. Long story short: ATF ruled in Almadén's favor -- and they could still use the word "Mountain" on they labels for Central Valley wine, while Louis M. Martini, who was using grapes grown in mountain vineyards, had to remove the term from all of their labels . . .

              1. Carlo Rossi Red Mountain wines

                A salesman from day one, Charles "Carlo" Rossi started working for E. & J. Gallo Winery in 1953 alongside family friend Ernest Gallo. In 1962, Carlo Rossi Red Mountain wines were introduced and quickly became one of the winery's top sellers.

                By the time 1975 rolled around, "Red Mountain" was removed (but is still in use on some labels) and Carlo had become the face and voice of his popular, eponymous jug wine. He starred in the TV and radio spots, taking to the airwaves to talk about his good, honest wines that he made for real people to enjoy.

                His simple, straightforward approach to wine was reflected in these commercials, where he was known to coin memorable "Carlo-isms," including the now famous "I like to talk about wine, but I'd rather drink it."

                Information taken from the Carlo Rossi site...

                2 Replies
                1. re: okoldfield

                  I bet the website did not talk about having to add a notation "100% grape wine" to the labels…

                  1. re: okoldfield

                    I don't think Carlo Rossi wines were sold on the East Coast until the 70s.

                  2. Child said, "something like a California mountain red or a Beaujolais." I take the "a" to show that she thought of it as a type rather than a specific wine.


                    Interesting question what specific wine(s) she might have had in mind. That's from the first season, 1963, so there were only a couple of dozen California wineries making decent dry unfortified table wines, and of those only a handful would have been available in Boston.

                    "Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Volume Two" uses the phrase a lot and seems a bit confused about what kind of wine it is, at one point saying "a rather light red like Beaujolais or Mountain Red" and at another a "full, strong, young, red wine (Mâcon, Beaujolais, California Mountain Red)."

                    1. Usually it means cheap-ass plonk.

                      1. When I see or hear "mountain red" I think of very large poorly capped glass jugs, and for some reason I seem to smell marijuana. Yes, I was exposed to these wines in the late 60s and early 70s period.

                        1. We need to remember that most of these wonderful old Julia episodes were made quite a long time ago, before most Americans thought about quality American wines, and before those were widely available.

                          Julia had to refer to wines folks could find in stores near them across the USA, and "mountain red" was one of those types.

                          I think that's one of the reasons she was so instrumental in founding the American Institute of Wine and Food (AIWF) www.aiwf.com She was passionate about American food and quality wines, and wanted to spread the good news.

                          7 Replies
                          1. re: ChefJune

                            The episode in question was as I noted above taped in 1963.

                            Child seemed to think that mountain red was a type, but it had no legal definition. Were the wines with that word on the label similar?

                            Larry Walker's "The Wines of the Napa Valley" says that Martini's Mountain Red was wine that didn't make the cut for its top-of-the-line bottlings.

                            1. re: Robert Lauriston

                              wish I knew the answer to that!

                              In 1963 I was drinking all the usual plonk, and as yet unaware of the joys of real wine...

                              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                >>> Larry Walker's "The Wines of the Napa Valley" says that Martini's Mountain Red was wine that didn't make the cut for its top-of-the-line bottlings. <<<


                                At the time in question, Louis M. Martini bottled four different red semi-generic (3) and generic wines (1), and . The three semi-Generic reds -- Burgundy, Claret, and Chianti -- all carried the *appellation* "California Mountain." (That is to say, the NAME of the wines were "Burgundy," "Claret," and "Chianti"; the APPELLATION for each was "California Mountain.") The generic wine was labeled "Mountain Red," and the appellation was simply "California."

                                Similarly, they produced two semi-generic and one generic white wines. The semi-generics were labeled "Chablis" and "Rhine Wine," and both carried the appellation "California Mountain." The generic was "Mountain White," and the appellation was, again, simply "California."

                                That is a key distinction.

                                With regards to the Carlo Rossi/Gallo bottling, regardless of whether the wine inside the jug was "Burgundy," "Chianti," "Chablis," or "Rhine," the BRAND name was always "Red Mountain" (just as the brand name was always Louis M. Martini).

                                After the mandate to add that rubber stamp to the labels, the brand "Red Mountain" was phased out and the brand "Carlo Rossi" was phased in. That is, the labels began to say "Carro Rossi's Red Mountain," and then after a bit, just "Carlo Rossi."

                                All five semi-generics were "Produced and Bottled By Louis M. Martini Winery." The two generics were labeled "Vinted and Bottled By . . . ."

                                1. re: zin1953

                                  I seem to recall Almaden being in this arena back then too. Could they have been selling one if these reds? I'm remembering jugs on the bottom shelf at the supermarket.

                                    1. re: zin1953

                                      That short-term memory thing is killer.

                                      1. re: Midlife

                                        Yup. I know the feeling . . . ;^)