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California Wineries Showing Strong at Bordeaux Fair

June 25, 1987

PARIS (AP) _ When California wine-maker Joy Sterling lies in bed at night, she dreams of introducing a new wine to the French palate and a new word into the French vocabulary: ″le sparkling.″

That dream has partially come true for her and many other California wine- growers promoting their products in Bordeaux at Vinexpo, a weeklong wine trade fair ending June 27.

Held every two years in the sprawling exhibition park on the edge of Bordeaux, one of France’s most prestigious wine capitals, Vinexpo is a must for wine professionals.

Organizers expect this year’s market, featuring 1,000 wines from 450 vineyards in 25 countries, to break the 1985 attendance record of 25,000.

″It’s a chance to meet, taste each other’s wines, make deals, trade secrets and keep up with the latest vinification techniques,″ Christian Bizot, president of Bollinger Champagne, said at a recent lunch featuring a tasting of sparkling and red wines from Ms. Sterling’s Iron Horse vinyard in Sonoma-Green Valley.

Similar wines in France are called vins mousseux, Ms. Sterling hopes hers will bring an American addition to the French vocabulary.

″Sometimes I lay awake at night fantasizing about coming to France one day and hearing people ask for ″le sparkling,″ she said.

Two years ago, Robert Mondavi was the only California wine-grower at Vinexpo. This year, there are a total of 19, exhibiting together in a special pavilion.

″We’re a curiosity,″ said Margrit Biever-Mondavi, the wife of Robert Mondavi and vice-president of the company that bears his name.

″This is the first time the French, and professionals from all over the world, can taste so many different California wines. We’re surrounded and deluged by people who want to taste,″ she said in a telephone interview.

Some say the California pavilion is the center-piece of the fair. The booths from such wineries as Mondavi, Iron Horse, Caymus and Chalone are decorated with photographs of sun-drenched vinyards. Gaily festooned with plants and flowers, they are also equipped with spitoons - empty champgagne buckets where the professionals spit out the 1 and 1-2 ounces of wine they taste.

A California-style restaurant in the pavilion has people waiting in line for California goat cheese and delicate salads made from greens flown in daily from the States.

Bruce Macumber, who with Paul Masson is one of two Americans importing California wine to France, says the wines are ready for the big leagues.

He said many of France’s finest restaurants including Taillevent in Paris and the Trois Gros in Lyons were picking some California wines for their pricey wine lists. French chef Roger Verge, owner of Le Moulin de Mougins on the Riviera, has featured California wines for three years.

″The wines I’ve tasted are pleasant, with a nice long lingering aftertaste,″ said Jean-Jacques Bouffard, the president of Besserat de Bellefon Champagnes. ″Not liking American wines is just snobbery.″

California wines currently benefit from the rising popularity of American food in France. Marshall’s, a chic eatery off the Champs Elysees, sells California wines that cost Parisians about 175 francs a bottle, or nearly $30.

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