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.