Mar 16, 2013

Posted by in Featured, In The Glass | 4 Comments

In The Glass: Chateau Montelena 2001 Cabernet Sauvignon

IMG_5366Lucky me! A friend who owns a local winery here in the southern Willamette Valley, Christian Fox of Patchwork Cellars, decided to share this beauty of a Cabernet Sauvignon from the famed Chateau Montelena – one that most certainly put a smile on my face.

Located in Napa Valley, California, Chateau Montelena is not just known for making incredible wine, but in 1976, when Napa Valley was not-yet known for wine, their 1973 vintage Chardonnay won against the thought-to-be-unbeatable French wines in a blind tasting that took place in Paris. The 2008 comedy-drama film Bottle Shock is based on this incredible story, and if you haven’t seen this movie yet, it’s a must-see for wine enthusiasts.

Taken from Wikipedia:

Sommelier and wine shop owner Steven Spurrier (Alan Rickman), a British expatriate living in Paris, is concerned how to save his business in his daily conversation with Maurice (Dennis Farina), a wine lover from Milwaukee who is Spurrier’s regular (sometimes only) customer. He concocts a plan to hold a blind taste-test intended to introduce Parisians to the quality wines coming from elsewhere in the world.

bottle shock posterSpurrier travels to the not-yet-famous Napa Valley in search of contestants for his Judgment of Paris taste test, where a chance meeting introduces him to floundering vintner Jim Barrett (Bill Pullman) of Chateau Montelena. Barrett wants no part in the competition, believing it to be a set-up designed by the French to humiliate New World wine producers. Barrett’s son, Bo (Chris Pine), secretly passes Spurrier a couple of bottles of the Chateau’s chardonnay for the competition.

Due to a variation of bottle-shock, the chardonnay has turned brown in the bottles, causing Barrett Sr. to call for the whole vintage to be carted away for dumping. But Bo discovers the brown color is only temporary and manages to recover the vintage, thanks to the help of local bar owner Joe (Eliza Dushku) who had intercepted the bottles on the way to the dump.

Bo is asked to travel to Paris to represent the Napa Valley vintners at the contest. After tallying the scores from the eight Parisian judges, Spurrier is shocked to find that Montelena has won the chardonnay competition.

BottleShock TruckThe report is featured in an article of Time; restaurants and wine shops all around America are asked continuously for the wine (Chateau Montelena Chardonnay 1973) and forced to admit that they do not have it. This twist of fate and the resultant oenological epiphany forever changes the fortunes of Napa Valley wineries and the global wine industry as a whole, as it is revealed that French wines are in fact not unbeatable.

In the end, the futures of the characters are revealed: Jim Barrett continues to make wine in his 80s, although Bo now runs the winery. A bottle of Montelena Chardonnay 1973 and the red wine, Stags Leap cabernet sauvignon 1973, also from California, that had won the same competition were given a display case at the Smithsonian Institution. In 2006, thirty years after the first competition, Steven Spurrier hosted another contest, this time with full confidence that French wine would win. California won again.

The 2001 Chateau Montelena Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon had gorgeous aromas and flavors of blackberries, black currants, vanilla and mocha. Full bodied and perfectly balanced, the mouthfeel is round and velvety. The finish showed solid, yet very smooth tannins. This wine was 100 percent stellar – I absolutely loved it!!

I have a confession: I have never been to Napa Valley. There, I said it. Come this summer, however, that is going to change. And I know where I’ll be heading as soon as I arrive – directly to Chateau Montelena.

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Jim Barrett: 11/8/1926 – 3/14/2013

  • I have wanted to try that wine since seeing Bottle Shock. Stags Leap was owned by Carl Doumani at the time, brother to Chef and Restaurateur Lisa Doumani.

    • It was really delicious, and has aged incredibly well! I loved the movie Bottle Shock – what an awesome story to retell.

  • A great story and a fun movie to watch. Sad to learn of Jim’s passing on Thursday but my, what a legacy!

    • It is a fun movie to watch! And I can’t agree more – what a legacy!