Tuesday, March 26, 2013

The Black Banners Are Out at Chateau Montelena: Honoring Jim Barrett's Death

Chateau Montelena owner and vintner Jim Barrett passed away March 14, at the age of 86.
Barrett in the 70s
The irony of his life: He hadn't wanted to make Chardonnay, but became famous around the world for the one he created in 1972, with Mike Grigch as winemaker, for Chateau Montelena, that won the Judgment of Paris in 1976. They were buying time - making a product to sell, while waiting for their red wine vines to grow.

Barrett went on to make excellent Cabernets, as well as wonderful Chardonnays.

The movie Bottleshock was loosely (very loosely) based on Barrett's story.

Just a month before Barrett's death, the winery itself achieved a piece of immortality - it was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

I visited the winery Friday on the Napa County Historical Society's first historic wines tour, devoted to the heritage wineries built by Hamden McIntyre (in the 1880s).

By the front door and over the central doors, black banners were hung in honor of Barrett's passing.

A public memorial service for Barrett will be held April 2 in Napa. Donations can be made in his memory to the Napa Valley Community Foundation at www.napavalleycf.org.

Note: Although the winery will tell you they have no organically grown wines, their Riesling is, in fact, made (solely) from certified organic grapes grown by Guinness McFadden up in Potter Valley whom they graciously mention in their literature and on the bottle.

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