Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Celebrating the 35th Anniversary of the Paris Tasting: Grgich, Chateau Montelena AND Muir Hanna Vineyard

The original Paris Tasting took place May 24, 1976.
Chateau Montelena

The winning bottle
By now the story of the famous Paris tasting of 1976 is well known. A panel of French judges in a blind tasting rated Napa wines more highly than their own countrymen's. 

A young Napa Valley winery, Chateau Montelena, is part of the tale. Its entry into the famous contest was a 1973 Chardonnay, made by then winemaker Mike Grgich

Grgich will be celebrating (I'll be there, too) on May 28 and 29th, with a Saturday night dinner and a Sunday tour at his biodynamic winery Grgich Hills Estate.

Everyone knows these parts of the story, but has anyone ever celebrated the vineyards where these grapes came from? Some of the grapes came from the Muir-Hanna Vineyard at the south of the Napa Valley, just a few blocks off Highway 29. I drove there several months ago, just to see the spot.

It seems that vineyards that aren't owned by wineries rank a great deal lower on the status scale than vineyards owned by wineries.

For instance, Stag's Leap Wine Cellars and the S. L. V. vineyard where the winning Cab was made are hallowed ground for Napa tourists, while Muir-Hanna remains obscure.

If you want to find it, it's searchable on Google Maps. A real piece of history. By the way, in those days, all of the wines in the competition, like all Napa vineyards, were dry farmed. 

Last year one of the last remaining bottles of the winning chardonnay was sold at auction to a British collector who designs software to make sports cars. UK software engineer Jason Corcoran bought the 1973 Montelena Chard for $11,325. It was the last bottle he needed to round out his collection of all 20 of the original Tasting of Paris wines.

He got the idea to collect all of them after seeing the movie Bottle Shock

You can get your own (current vintage) bottle of Chardonnay from Chateau Montelena for $50 (made in part with Muir-Hanna grapes) or a biodynamically grown, estate Chardonnay from Mike Grgich for $42. The Grgich wine is made with indigenous yeast and sees 10 months in 40% new French oak. The Montelena Chard is aged 11% in new French oak.

Sadly, Hollywood's Bottle Shock movie wrote Grgich out of the story, but history won't. Let's be sure to pay homage to the terroir - Napa's river valley lands, and Muir-Hanna Vineyard - too.

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