There was the sublime fall day when Mike Grgich called inquiring if I had time to speak with him. Resisting the urge to reply, “Is the Pope Catholic?” of course, I was delighted to speak with the legend and principal of Grgich Hills Estate Winery, who had called to thank me for mentioning the fact that he made the top-winning white wine, a 1973 Chateau Montelena chardonnay that triumphed over top-ranked French wines in the now famous 1976 Paris Wine Tasting.
This tasting forever changed the world’s perception of California wines. Mr. Grgich was in the vanguard of this shift in perception. Writing a weekly wine column has many perks, and among the best is the opportunity to forge friendships with wine rock stars like Mr. Grgich, who turned 90 April 1. Visit Grgich Hill’s website to send him an electronic birthday greeting.
On a sad note, Jim Barrett, the founder of Chateau Montelena, died March 14. Son Bo Barrett and other family members will continue to run Chateau Montelena. The movie “Bottle Shock” was loosely based on Chateau Montelena and the Barrett family.
Perhaps the most interesting wine story of the past year was news that Robert Parker, the world’s foremost wine critic, sold most of his interest in The Wine Advocate, a publication he founded 35 years ago, to Singapore investors.
Parker is credited with starting the practice of awarding wines a numerical score.
Parker stepped down as editor-in-chief. This move was accompanied by news the magazine would be opening a second Singapore office from which the newly appointed editor-in-chief, Lisa Perrotti-Brown, would run the magazine.
Another perk of writing a wine column is the opportunity to sample an array of wines in all price ranges including, on occasion, rare or extraordinary wines that I could not ordinarily afford.
Those who regularly read Uncorked know I find pinot noir difficult to love. I harbored my usual pinot skepticism when a wine rep poured a tasting sample of Belle Glos Pinot made by the famous Wagner family of Caymus Vineyards.
Surprisingly this was a pinot of substance sourced from the Santa Maria Valley that’s dark garnet in color with concentrated aromas of brambleberries and Bing cherries with a velvety mouth feel, nicely integrated tannins and a smooth finish.
I loved this wine and thought I had made a pinot breakthrough until an Atlanta wine importer friend who loves Oregon and Burgundy pinots informed me that Belle Glos is viewed as the Dolly Parton of pinots — big, bold and full of personality, but not the real stuff.
I like Dolly Parton and I like wines with personality. Belle Glos 2011 Clark and Telephone Vineyard fits the bill and is available at Tyson Fine Wines and Things in Golden Springs for $29.
I recently had the opportunity to taste two spectacular wines, a 96 Parker-rated 2009 Domaine Grand Veneur “Vieilles Vignes” Châteauneuf-du-Pape in the $80 price range previously reviewed in Uncorked, and the rare and pricey 97 Parker-rated, $200 per bottle 2009 Ornellaia. Both provided rare, transcendent wine moments. These wines are not available locally, but can be secured from online sources.
Ornellaia (aw-nel-li-ya) is an Italian wine from Tuscany and is classified as a Super Tuscan, a wine made from traditional Bordeaux varietals of cabernet, merlot, cabernet franc and petit verdot. Grapes for this wine are hand picked and sorted.
Each varietal and vineyard block is fermented separately and then aged in oak barrels. When the blend is established, it is returned to barrel for additional aging.
After bottling it ages an additional 12 months. Ready to drink upon release, but also has great longevity.
Contact Pat Kettles at email@example.com.