These Bacigalupi grapes, you recall, accounted for 40% of the bottling in the winning white – the Chateau Montelena 1973 Chardonnay.
The burnt red Volkswagen truck used to transport those winning grapes was on the premises, a testament to the valor of Sonoma County fruit.
Helen Bacigalupi, now 90, used the truck to make 5 trips over Hwy. 128 during the harvest of 1973. She transported roughly 3 tons of grapes each trip to Chateau Montelena in Calistoga.
For the uninitiated, the Paris Tasting of 1976 shifted the tectonic plates of the wine world. It shocked the masses when the judges — all French — unwittingly chose California wines as the champions. When the line-up was unbagged, both the Chateau Montelena 1973 Chardonnay and the Stag’s Leap 1973 Cabernet Sauvignon were revealed as the winners.
To revisit this historic tasting, sommelier Chris Sawyer led a group through a tasting of six wines, four from California and two from France. The line-up of wines were:
2014 Edge Hill Chardonnay, Bacigalupi Vineyards
2013 Domaine Latour – Giraud Mersault
2012 Joseph Swan, Ritchie Vineyards
2011 Chateau Montelena
2012 Puligny, Montrachet 1st Cru
Sawyer, as the moderator, led a discussion with a group of experts on Sonoma County, past and present, highlighting the diversity of the region’s grapes. The panelists included winemaker of Rudd Wines, Frederick Ammons; winemaker of Swan Vineyards Rod Berglund; founder of Duke of Bourbon-Canoga Park, David Breitstein; and publisher of the online newsletter Prince of Pinot, Rusty Gaffney.
Nearly 100 people came to sip and savor history, first at the tasting and then at the barbecue that followed. It is also the 60th anniversary of the initial purchase of Russian River land – 121 acres — that began the grape growing and now winemaking venture of the Bacigalupi clan that spans three generations.
Katie Bacigalupi, 33, a third generation family member, came up with the brilliant idea to have Sawyer and his panelists seated on the bed of a black Peterbilt truck. During harvest the truck hauls fruit, but on Saturday it was the backdrop for the festivities.
The image of white tablecloths and glassware propped on the 20 foot bed of the truck brought home the earthiness of Sonoma County.
Lee Hodo, who helped organize the event, put it best when she said: “You’re on sacred ground.”
Hodo tapped into both sentiment and humor when she made it clear that the roots are deep for the Bacigalupis, with three generations involved in its wine operation and the fourth in daycare.
To view a photo gallery from the event, click here.