Implications In The Wine Industry
Although Spurrier had invited many reporters to the original 1976 tasting, the only reporter to attend was George M. Taber from Time, who promptly revealed the results to the world. The horrified and enraged leaders of the French wine industry then banned Spurrier from the nation’s prestigious wine-tasting tour for a year, apparently as punishment for the damage his tasting had done to its former image of superiority. The tasting was not covered by the French press, who almost ignored the story. After nearly three months, Le Figaro published an article titled “Did the war of the cru take place?” describing the results as “laughable”, and said they “cannot be taken seriously”. Six months after the tasting, Le Monde wrote a similarly toned article.
The 40th Anniversary Of The Judgement Of Paris
For those who cant remember or simply werent born, the original Judgement of Paris pitted several Californian Cabernet Sauvignons and Chardonnays against Bordeaux aristocracy such as Ch Margaux, Lafite and Mouton Rothschild and Burgundy elite including Puligny Montrachet and Meursault. Supposedly to avoid any preconceived prejudices from playing a role it was decided that the completely French panel should taste the wines blind. To their everlasting chagrin they voted Stags Leap Wine Cellars 1973 Cabernet Sauvignon and Chateau Montelena 1973 Chardonnay best of the selection. This event, hosted by Steven Spurrier, then owner of Les Caves de Madeleine in Paris, has been described as one of the most influential wine tastings ever held for it had a profoundly revolutionary and positive effect on the production and prestige of New World wines around the world. And naturally it pushed California and Napa Valley in particular under the spotlight. Napa Valley becoming, in 1981, Californias first AVA .
For the 40th anniversary event, IMW brought together the current winemakers: Marcus Notaro of Stags Leap Wine Cellars and Matt Crafton of Chateau Montelena. They each presented five vintages of their wines, giving inside information about the philosophy of their respective wineries including the changes they have undergone over the decades.
Bacigalupi Paris Tasting Block
The 1976 Judgment of Paris tasting forever changed the way the world viewed California wines. At thislegendary blind tasting, a panel of nine French judges overwhelmingly selected a California Chardonnay wineover their own. The Bacigalupi family continues to farm one of the original vineyards that comprised the 1973Chateau Montelena Chardonnay that won this esteemed tasting.
Charles Bacigalupi was a successful dentist in Healdsburg who first heard about Chardonnay during the1960s. He had acquired the 121-acre Goddard Ranch on a bench on Westside Road in 1956. Bob Sisson, theUniversity of California farm adviser for Sonoma County at the time advised Russian River Valley growersincluding Charles to plant Chardonnay. Charles obtained budwood for his Chardonnay plantings from KarlWentes Livermore plantings and planted 6 acres on St. George rootstock just off Westside Road at GoddardRanch in 1964.
The original weight tag from 1973 that is currently displayed in the Bacigalupis tasting room:
The 1973 Chateau Montelena Chardonnay that Grgich crafted was included in a 2014 Smithsonian exhibition101 Objects That Made America, along side Abraham Lincolns hat, Alexander Graham Bells Telephone, andNeil Armstrongs space suit.
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Its Not Just White Wine Either
While Chardonnay first brought the spotlight to Chateau Montelena, these days, Cabernet Sauvignon reigns supreme, as it does through most of Napa Valley. The companys Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, from vines situated on gentle slopes composed mostly of alluvial soils, produces wines prized for their balance and elegance.
Life Lessons With Bo Barrett Of Chateau Montelena
Words byAdam Lechmere
Bo Barrett uses the word fun a lot. As in, if I sold the winery, what would I do for fun?, or flying a helicopter is way more fun than a plane or my dad and me, we had a ton of fun. If you didnt know anything about the 67-year-old owner and chief executive of Napas Chateau Montelena, you might think he was a bit of a dilettante.
He was portrayed as such by Chris Pine in the memorable 2008 film Bottle Shock, about the 1976 Judgment of Paris, the actor taking the concept of unruly and irresponsible California surfer dude to its most ludicrous extreme. Barrett liked Pines performance, even though it had nothing to do with reality. No, the truth is I had quit surfing and moved to Utah to ski. And theres nothing unruly about that. Powder skiing is a discipline you have to be up at 5am to be the first on the mountain. I was always very disciplined if I was into the work.
After Montelena shot to fame as a result of the Paris tasting , and the then Montelena winemaker Mike Grgich had seized the opportunity to start up on his own, taking his entire crew with him, Jim Barrett had to find another winemaker and cellar team. The call was put out to his eldest son Bo, who had worked many harvests and was seen as a reliable and enthusiastic cellar hand .
What exercise do you do?I do heaps of exercises including walking every day, bike riding, swimming, stand-up paddleboarding, TRX workouts. I have to keep moving all the time.
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How Much Does A Montelena Wine Tasting Cost
A Taste of Montelena celebrates our current release wines, and the unique qualities within each bottle. Enjoy this tasting at a stand up bar or table at our historical Chateau. Monday-Thursday $45 per person, Friday-Sunday $55 per person.* 45 minute duration. The Library Tasting is a testament to the ageability of Montelena wine.
What is the Montelena estate collection?
The Montelena Estate Collection showcases the exceptional character, quality and ageability of our flagship wine, the Estate Cabernet Sauvignon. This semi-private seated experience will begin with a library Chardonnay followed by a comparative tasting of four Estate Cabernet Sauvignon vintages.
Winemaker Matt Crafton Talks
The 1976 Judgement of Paris in which California wines outscored French wines at a blind tasting, judged largely by French judges, put California wine on the global map. The top white wine out of the ten in the tasting was the 1973 Chateau Montelena, out scoring four top Burgundies. With that victory, Chateau Montelena became a global household name.
The winery exists under the same ownership today, although a younger generation has taken the reins. The wine maker since 2014 has been Matt Crafton, a University of California, Davis viticulture and enology graduate who started making wine in his native Virginia before moving to California. I recently had the opportunity to interview him and catch up with what the winery is doing now.
AC: Chateau Montelena is defined by the victory of its Chardonnay at the Judgement of Paris . Obviously, that was made by someone else but I am sure that you have been fortunate enough to taste the wines of that era. How does the Chardonnay that you make today differ from those?
AC: What about Chateau Montelena chardonnay stylistically, relative to other California chardonnays?
Matt Crafton: Our style is not scalable. There is a very small area of Napa Valley that can grow chardonnay with the characteristics we need and that constrains how much we can produce. There is vintage variation of course but an enduring practice is that I pick before letting the grapes get too ripe.
AC: Lets come back to vine stress. How much is needed?
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In The Cellar: How The Wine Was Made
Editing for Decanter.com by Chris Mercer
Why Chateau Montelena 1973 Is A Wine Legend
It came top out of the 10 French and Californian Chardonnays poured blind at the event. Six of the nine French judges awarded Montelena their highest score.
Montelena 1973 also made from young vines, confounding the French conviction that vines need to be mature to deliver top-class wine.
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Cant Keep Em Down On The Farm After Theyve Seen Puhree
In 1976, an Englishman who owned a wine shop in Paris hit upon the idea of holding a blind tasting pitting ten of Frances and Californias best producers against one another. He enlisted nine French wine experts as judges the French wines included the 1970 Haut-Brion, the 1970 Mouton Rothschild, and the 1973 Domaine Leflaive Puligny-Montrachet Les Pucelles.
The famous tasting has come to be known as The Judgement of Paris. No one expected the upstart Yanks to really put up a fight against the French heavyweights. However, when the votes were tallied, the judges were shocked to discover they had awarded the top prize for the red to the 1973 Stags Leap Wine Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon, and top prize for the white to Chateau Montelena Chardonnay, both from Napa Valley. It was the shock heard round the world, and legitimized California as a world-class wine-making region.
Chateau Montelena has seen three cycles of family stewardship. The winery was founded in 1882 by Alfred L. Tubbs, a European immigrant and entrepreneur. The original property was 254 acres of rugged, stony, and loose land just two miles north of Calistoga at the base of Mount Saint Helena. By 1896 Tubbs winery was the seventh largest in the Napa Valley.
The Tubbs family sold the winery in 1958 to Yort and Jeanie Frank, who were looking for a peaceful spot to retire. The setting inspired Frank to excavate a lake and add landscaping to reflect the Chinese gardens of his homeland.
Montelena Cabernet Sauvignon 2015
Dark ruby in color, this wine offers rich, complex aromas of fresh raspberries, strawberry jam, vanilla and black pepper. In the mouth, this wine makes a full soft round entry, after which the acid builds nicely, supporting the dominant flavor of dark stone fruit. Plenty of fine-grain tannin completes the mouthfeel, followed by a tremendous long finish.
Pair this Cabernet with beef in wine on skewers, grilled pork New Orleans, or leg of lamb in balsamic vinegar.
For a review of two earlier vintages of these wines, see:
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Is Chateau Montelena A Good Wine
For more than four decades, the Barrett family has made wine at Chateau Montelena, garnering accolades for wines that combine intensity and power with lush, rich texturewines that express the unique characteristics of the land they came from, rather than techniques used in the cellar.
Who owns Chateau Montelena now?
In July 2008 it was announced that Michel Reybier, owner of Bordeaux winery Cos dEstournel, had purchased Chateau Montelena from Jim and Bo Barrett for an undisclosed sum, a transaction which at the time of announcement Robert Parker described as one of the biggest stories in my 30 years in the wine field.
Todays Wine: 1995 Chardonnay
100% Chardonnay 13.5% ABVThe 1995 Chardonnay is deep gold in color, beautifully radiant in the glass. The aromas are of pronounced intensity, leaping from the glass in an incredibly complex nose of golden apple, ripe pear, pineapple, orange marmalade, dried apricot, flint, honeysuckle, white truffle, wet stone, a hint of butter, raw almond, and dried vanilla. Flavors are also of pronounced intensity, as the palate offers up similar and equally complex notes of crisp yellow apple, pear, charred pineapple, apricot, tropical citrus, dill, white truffle, white pepper, crushed rock, almond, and a touch of brioche. This dry white is medium- to full-bodied with still-lively medium acidity, medium alcohol, and a long finish that goes on for almost a minute. Absolutely outstanding.Price: $90 for 750ml or $180 for this magnum direct from the winery. This is my second time reviewing this wine , though I thought this bottle showed so incredibly well Im writing about it again. Im left speechless here, as this is remarkably intense, deep, complex, balanced, and long. Truly on par with some of the greatest white Burgundy Ive enjoyed, and while my last bottle was incredible this takes it even higher. Insane value here, if you can find an immaculate bottle.
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Did Chateau Montelena Turn Brown
While at Chateau Montelena, Brambila worked closely with Mike Grgich who, although not depicted in the film, was the winemaker behind the 1973 Montelena Chardonnay that won in Paris. In the film, the prize-winning chardonnay turns brown for 24 hours after bottling.
What winery is Bottle Shock?
Chateau Montelena WineryWINERY: Bottle Shock was shown recently at Chateau Montelena Winery in Napa Valley.
Who Purchased Chateau Montelena In 1968
The winery is being recognized for two periods of significance between 1888-1920, when San Francisco entrepreneur Alfred Tubbs built and operated the 18,000-square-foot stone winery and 1968-1976 after Jim Barrett purchased the property, and the winery, along with Warren Winiarskis Stags Leap Wine Cellars.
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Is Chateau Montelena Still Open
Chateau Montelena is located at the top of Napa Valley in Calistoga. Please allow at least 45 minutes from downtown Napa and two hours from San Francisco. The winery is open Thursday through Monday by appointment only 9:30am to 4pm, with the exception of select dates.
Where is the Chateau Montelena located?
Chateau Montelena is located at the top of Napa Valley in Calistoga. Please allow at least 45 minutes from downtown Napa and two hours from San Francisco. The winery is open by appointment only 9:30am to 4pm, with the exception of select dates.
White Wines Of The 1976 Tasting
- Chateau Montelena 1973, Napa Valley/Calistoga
- Meursault-Charmes 1973, Roulot
- Chalone Vineyards 1974, Monterey County/Soledad
- Spring Mountain 1973, Napa Valley/Spring Mountain
- Beaune Clos des Mouches 1973, Joseph Drouhin
- Freemark Abbey 1972, Napa Valley/Rutherford
- Batard-Montrachet 1973, Ramonet-Prudhon
- Puligny-Montrachet 1972, Les Pucelles, Domaine Leflaive
- Veedercrest 1972, Napa Valley/Mt. Veeder
- David Bruce 1973, Santa Cruz Mts.
- Wine Shop
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What The Critics Said
Only one note from the 1976 Judgement tasting survives.
Christian Vannequé, head sommelier at the Tour dArgent in Paris, wrote: A very agreeable wine, which will blossom pleasantly and has a good equilibrium. To be followed.
The owner of the celebrated restaurant would later rebuke Vannequé for having participated.
columnist Michael Broadbent wrote in 1980. It is certainly my idea of a fine California Chardonnay broad, slightly sweet, fully developed positive but not excessive dryish, more body than a Sauzet Puligny-Montrachet, but not heavy. Fine, rich, a touch of meatiness. Very good acidity. Perfect.
Chateau Montelena: An Icon In Napa Valley
Swans gracefully glide by. Ducks splash and play as they swim past the red lacquered pavilion and under the weeping willow trees. Standing on a bridge over the lake, you see vineyards in the distance scaling the side of the mountain. Above, a 100-year old stone winery, modeled after a French chateau, produces some of the finest wines in the area. The atmosphere is serene and joyful at the same time. Where are you?
If youre a wine fanatic, or in the trade, youll know exactly the place Im describing. If not, maybe the movie Bottle Shock was your introduction. Or maybe, like me, you got lucky and someone took you to Chateau Montelena.
The story of Chateau Montelena is just the kind of story that Hollywood loves. In fact, Bottle Shock, released in 2008, tells the story of how the 1973 Chateau Chardonnay won the 1976 Paris tasting, scoring higher than six other California Chardonnays and four distinguished white Burgundies, in a blind tastingin Paris much to the dismay of the French.
In that moment in 1976, the world of wine changed on a global scale. Napa Valley became a world-recognized region for viticulture and all because of the vision of Jim Barrett and winemaker Mike Grgich, who wanted to make wine in the old world style.
Read more about Mike Grgich
Tasting room, Chateau Montelena, Calistoga
Chateau Montelena is open daily from 9:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. For details visit chateaumontelena.com
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History: Winemaker Mike Grgich And Montelena
Miljenko Mike Grgich was a Croatian who in 1958 emigrated to California. There he worked with many of the existing wineries from the late 1960s, including Souverain, Christian Brothers, Beaulieu and Mondavi. In 1972 he was offered a job at Chateau Montelena, founded in 1882, but owned since 1969 by lawyer Jim Barrett and his partners. Grgichs wines met with an enthusiastic receptionand he remained at Montelena until 1975, when he left after some acrimonious disputes to found his own winery.
The 1976 Paris Tasting
The 1976 Paris tasting, or Judgment of Paris as it became known, had a revolutionary effect, like a vinous shot heard round the world. Barbara Ensrud, Wall Street Journal
The Judgment Of Paris
On May 24, 1976, a wine tasting took place in Paris that changed the worlds view of California wines forever. The tasting was the brainchild of Steven Spurrier, an English wine merchant who owned an innovative wine shop and adjacent wine school in the center of Paris. Having been recently introduced to California wines, and curious to see how these newcomers would fare against French wines made from the same kind of grapes, he arranged a blind wine tasting in celebration of the American Bicentennial activities in Paris. The French tasters chosen for the event had impeccable professional credentials. Spurrier chose French wines that were first and other classified-growth red Bordeaux and white Burgundies to be matched against California Cabernet Sauvignons and Chardonnays. The tasting was blind, with the identities of the wines concealed and the labels revealed only after the jury of nine tasters had voted its order of preference.
The unthinkable happened. The 1973 Stags Leap Wine Cellars S.L.V. Cabernet Sauvignon was judged the best. The Napa Cabernet had bested four top-ranked Bordeaux, including first-growths Château Mouton-Rothschild and Château Haut-Brion. The 1973 Chateau Montelena Chardonnay from California bested its French counterparts.
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