Jim Barrett and the Irish Order of the Wine Geese

Jim Barrett, who purchased Chateau Montelena in Napa Valley in 1972, died yesterday at the age of 86 (see bio). Chateau Montelena burst on to the international stage just a few years after Barrett purchased the property when its chardonnay outpaced other whites to win the Paris Tasting of 1976. This was captured (with a degree of artistic license) in the film Bottle Shock a few years ago. Bo Barrett, Jim’s son who took over the title of winemaker at Montelena in 1982 (which he yielded to Cam Perry in 2008), told me once that the film generated a huge amount of interest in visiting the property and sent tasting room sales soaring. The wines continue to be very good including restrained versions of both Zinfandel and Chardonnay as well as cellar-worthy cabernets.

In the press release about Jim Barrett’s death, one of his affiliations caught my eye: he was a member of the Irish Order of Wine Geese. What? That’s a new one to me. Thankfully, Senior Irish Wine Correspondent and now Master of Wine Mary Gorman-McAdams wrote a piece about it over at thekitchn.com. It turns out to be a loose collection of those with Irish heritage in the wine industry worldwide. Bordeaux famously had the Barton and Lynch families among others, Australia has Jim Barry as well as the Horgan family of Leeuwin Estate, and there are several in the US, including Concannon and Montelena.

So that gives a few wine options if you want to raise a glass of something other than green beer on St. Patrick’s Day. I’m sure Jim Barrett would approve.

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7 Responses to “Jim Barrett and the Irish Order of the Wine Geese”

  1. God bless him. He was one of the great pioneers in the Valley and in the history of American wine. Our thoughts and prayers go out to Bo and the family.

  2. To give credit where credit is due Cameron Parry has been the wine maker since 2008.

  3. Hey Wine Guy – Indeed, you are right and Cam Perry deserves the credit. I adjusted the post above. Oddly, on the Montelena site it says Bo assumed the winemaker title in 1982 but never says he relinquished it; yet on Cam’s page, Cam is the winemaker and Bo is called the “Master Winemaker.”

  4. I remember there never was an announcement that Bo had quit being the wine maker, but Cam Perry was called the wine maker! Very Confusing.

  5. The guy who made the “chardonnay [that] outpaced other whites to win the Paris Tasting of 1976” is Mike Grgich, now of Grgich Hills Estate, and he turns 90 on April 1st.

  6. Cy – Thanks for stopping by. Your comment is true enough–too bad Mike Grgich wasn’t depicted in the movie Bottle Shock.

  7. Grgich did have a cameo (an actor in a beret) in the famous water hose scene. Apparently he refused to be a part of the film but was very happy to string a banner across the entrance of his winery announcing his role in the production of the Chardonnay once the film met with commercial success….


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