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Bacigalupi Paris Tasting Block

The 1976 Judgment of Paris tasting forever changed the way the world viewed California wines. At this legendary blind tasting, a panel of nine French judges overwhelmingly selected a California Chardonnay wine over their own. The Bacigalupi family continues to farm one of the original vineyards that comprised the 1973 Chateau Montelena Chardonnay that won this esteemed tasting.

Charles Bacigalupi was a successful dentist in Healdsburg who first heard about Chardonnay during the 1960s. He had acquired the 121-acre Goddard Ranch on a bench on Westside Road in 1956. Bob Sisson, the University of California farm adviser for Sonoma County at the time advised Russian River Valley growers including Charles to plant Chardonnay. Charles obtained budwood for his Chardonnay plantings from Karl Wente’s Livermore plantings and planted 6 acres on St. George rootstock just off Westside Road at Goddard Ranch in 1964.

In 1973, the Bacigalupis sold their Chardonnay to Chateau Montelena, a winery in Napa Valley. Winemaker Miljenko “Mike” Grgich made 1,800 cases of the 1973 Chardonnay, crafted from 40 tons of Chardonnay grapes from growers in the Russian River Valley, Alexander Valley and Napa Valley. 14 of the tons were from the Bacigalupi vineyard in the Russian River Valley, about 20 tons from grower Henry Dick in Alexander Valley, and the remaining 5 tons from Napa Valley growers John Hanna and Lee Paschich. The wine was fermented slowly and spent 6 months in French oak barrels before bottling. The wine label attributed the grape source to “Napa and Alexander Valley,” in an attempt to downgrade the contribution of Napa’s rival, Sonoma County.

The original weight tag from 1973 that is currently displayed in the Bacigalupi’s tasting room:

The 1973 Chateau Montelena Chardonnay that Grgich crafted was included in a 2014 Smithsonian exhibition “101 Objects That Made America,” along side Abraham Lincoln’s hat, Alexander Graham Bell’s Telephone, and Neil Armstrong’s space suit.

The 3-acre historical Paris Tasting Block of Chardonnay on the Bacigalupi ranch still exists untouched today. The family has vowed to keep the vineyard the same until it has pushed out its last grape. Currently, the fruit is sold exclusively to Rudd Winery in Oakville, where it is bottled under the Edge Hill label.

Established in 1867, Edge Hill was the first significant gravity-fed winery built in Napa Valley, and by 1880, was one of the four wineries responsible for over half of Napa Valley’s wine production. In 1999, this legacy inspired Edge Hill’s new steward, Leslie Rudd, to begin the historic restoration of the estate. Wines bottled under the Edge Hill label pay homage to California’s historic vineyards and the rich history of California viticulture. In my opinion, the Edge Hill Chardonnay is one of the top Chardonnays produced in California.

Our group drank the 2012 Edge Hill Bacigalupi Vineyard Russian River Valley Chardonnay in the vineyard with the current caretakers, John and Pam Bacigalupi. The photo of me grinning below is taken in front of one of the original Paris Tasting Block Chardonnay vines with the Edge Hill Chardonnay in hand.

In the Bacigalupi Tasting Room, the group was all smiles as we sampled Bacigalupi’s outstanding 2014 Pinot Noir Rosé, 2012 Chardonnay and one of the new unreleased 2013 block-designated Pinot Noirs (left to right): Harry Peterson-Nedry, John Bacigalupi, the Prince, Patti Gaffney, and Pam Bacigalupi.

2012 Edge Hill Bacigalupi Vineyard Russian River Valley Chardonnay

14.3% alc., 414 cases, $115. Allocated to mailing list members. Fermented and aged in French oak barrels. · Light golden yellow color in the glass. This is a sensual wine with a perfume of cut yellow apple, honey, lemon oil and toasty oak. Round and polished on the palate, the uplifting flavors of lemon, white peach, apple are embellished with oak seasoning. Impeccably balanced, and thoroughly satisfying, previously hidden nuances seem to appear with each sip. Even better the following day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle. I believe this is easily a 15-year wine. Score: 97

The group capped off the night with dinner at Valette Restaurant in Healdsburg. Chef Dustin Valette, originally from Sonoma County, honed his craft at Aqua in San Francisco, Bouchon in Napa Valley and Dry Creek Kitchen in Healdsburg. His forte is pairing his cuisine with Sonoma County wine. We dined on Chef Vallete’s “Trust Me” tasting menu of four courses. He presented three different options for each course so everyone could sample other wine matches. Combined with wines from heritage Sonoma County vineyards, this was an absolutely wonderful dining experience

The dinner wines:

2012 Merry Edwards Russian River Valley Sauvignon Blanc Magnum (40% of the grapes come from vines planted in 1979 at Martinelli Home Ranch, the remainder from Shone Farm 1985, Marino 1997, Meredith Estate 2004, and Dutton-Jewell 2005)

2008 Benovia Cohn Vineyard Sonoma County Pinot Noir

2010 Benovia Cohn Vineyard Sonoma County Pinot Noir

1997 Martinelli Jackass Hill Vineyard Russian River Valley Zinfandel (vines planted on St. George rootstock in 1887 by Guiseppe Martinelli in Forestville; the steepest non-terraced vineyard in Sonoma County with a 60-degree slope)

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