The SOMM Journal

April / May 2016

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58 { THE SOMM JOURNAL } APRIL/MAY 2016 { cover story } a book only about a tasting, it would be done in an hour and half, so I decided to travel around the world and find out the impact." Barrett, who said he was "just a sol - dier crushing grapes" for $3.15 per hour in 1976, called it a "remarkable ripple effect" that affected regions around the world. "I don't think there's any doubt that the biggest transformation was the idea that California wine could be even considered nearly as good as French wine," he said. "The fine-wine industry that exists today in California . . . was transformed by the idea that you could make high-quality wine in other viticultural regions. We went from an aristocratic world to a meritocracy." This was a significant achievement, not just as a matter of reputation, but also for what it did to combat the devastating effects of Prohibition on the American wine industr y. Consequently before the Paris Tasting, California wines were known only locally with limited sales elsewhere in the U.S. After Paris, East Coast retailers opened their shelves to California producers, where, for the first time, they shared space with the best wines from Europe. But, Barrett noted, beating the French 40 years ago isn't enough. He pointed to the pressures of maintaining the quality. "I think that Napa Valley is a major-league player in the world; the demand is there, but I think we can make better wines in the future," he said. "It's so much more difficult to remain at that competitive level than it was in 1973." The Path to Sustainability and Authenticity Another result of the Paris Tasting was to crown California with a leadership role, which Barrett says includes an insistence on best sustainable agricultural practices. "I think the rest of the world is following us because we make better wines of higher quality—sustainably, responsibly and with managed farming," Barrett said, speaking for both his estate and his home state. "We won that day, but in the next 40 years we continued to set the bar for quality and farm responsibly, and that's where our leadership is now," Barrett said. Chateau Montelena established a far-reaching sus - tainability program as part of the Napa Green Certified Land program, which pro- tects and enhances the regional watershed and natural habitat; the program includes natural compost and healthy cover crops to ensure vine health and stability, installing LED lighting and planting micro gardens around the estate, using almost exclusively solar power and providing visitors with electric car chargers. The 1973 vintage was just the second vintage year of wine produced by the Barrett family after their purchase of Chateau Montelena in 1972. The Barretts produced Chardonnay at first as a means to bring in revenue before the release of the winery's Estate Cabernet Sauvignon. With the incredible attention that resulted from the Judgment of Paris, Chardonnay became an integral part of the winery's offerings. Consistency of style is one of the hallmarks of Chateau Montelena Chardonnay. The winery also sells a six-year vertical of Chardonnay that demonstrates the incredible nuance and age-ability of these Chardonnays. —David Gadd CHARDONNAY 2007 Napa Valley Chardonnay Aromas of orange blossom, citrus rind and stone fruits of white peach and apricot; on the palate, layers of tropical fruit, white melon, green apple and citrus. Eight to nine months in French oak. 2008 Napa Valley Chardonnay Pear tart, tropical passion fruit and lychee on the nose with wet gravel; fleshy, round, juicy peach and big citrus notes of pink grapefruit and honey tangerine. Ten months in French oak. 2009 Napa Valley Chardonnay A clas - sic Chardonnay hue of pale golden straw with white peach, orange blossoms and toasted almonds aromas; bright citrus tones of sweet mandarin and Meyer lemon with tropical notes of guava and pineapple on the palate. Ten months in French oak. 2010 Napa Valley Chardonnay Opens with intense aromas of lemon, lime leaf and honey; citrus continues on the palate with firm acidity and star fruit with a subtle marzipan finish. Ten months in French oak. 2011 Napa Valley Chardonnay A rich gold color in the glass with clean aro - mas of pear and crisp green apple; a full and creamy palate with a rich display of nectarine, white peach and lychee. Ten months in French oak. CHATEAU MONTELENA TASTING NOTES Notes courtesy of Chateau Montelena. PHOTO: BELLA SPURRIER

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