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Cinnabar Wine

Geologic Wine Labels


Cinnabar wine is named to honor the historic mercury mining district of central California. (more below)
A name of unusual poetry
Photo (c) 2001 Andrew Alden, licensed to About.com (fair use policy), Inc.
Cinnabar is a red mineral, known since the most ancient times as a pigment and as a source of quicksilver, or mercury metal. More than a curiosity used in thermometers, mercury has many uses in modern industry and for centuries was the best way to extract precious metals from their ore. Quicksilver was also prized by the medieval alchemists as a fundamental element, embodying various ill-defined spiritual qualities. The same can be said of wine, of course.

When Spanish prospectors discovered rich cinnabar deposits in central California near San Jose, they named the site after the famous mines of Almadén, in Spain. The ready availability of New Almaden mercury was a crucial ingredient in the California gold rush.

Today the New Almaden mines are closed, and the area is a county park, but in nearby Saratoga the name of Cinnabar Vineyards recalls the quicksilver boom. This excellent wine is from a mixture of Bordeaux varietals, vinified with the typical California attention to clarity of fruit flavors. A slight pruny element reflects the daytime heat high in the dry Santa Cruz Mountains where the vines grow—no doubt the name "mercury rising" does the same. But to me the name also evokes the quiet predawn darkness of harvest time when the planet Mercury appears low in the east, signaling the approach of day as the grape pickers begin work.

Read more about the the geology of mercury here. Or learn about the planet Mercury instead.

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