gruner-veltlinerI recently went to a wedding reception and was handed a glass of Chateau Montelena 1988 Chardonnay, a tribute to the bride’s birth year.

Naturally I was curious about the wine, knowing that its sibling — the 1973 Chateau Montelena Chardonnay — is in the Smithsonian. You recall this great white shocked French judges in the Paris Tasting of 1776, who deemed it the best of the white Burgundies. When it was unbagged, the California upstart shook the wine world to its core. The judges had been certain it was a French wine. A fictionalized version of Chateau Montelena’s historic win was featured in the 2008 film Bottle Shock.

So how did the 1988 fare? It was — in a word  –  delicious. It aged beautifully, with complex flavors of apple, pear, toast and crème brulee. It was lush and decadent.  It isn’t often that I prefer white to red but on that night I refused to switch allegiances. I was a one-woman wine that night.

The father of the bride was happy to hear the chardonnay’s great reviews because wine, after all, is a living substance and it’s as unpredictable as Mother Nature. But the wine clearly evolved beautifully right alongside the bride.

As for the chatter, the Paris Tasting was all the talk and it made me commit to a wine adventure. The next time I’m in Washington D.C., I’m going to go to the Smithsonian to get a glimpse of the 1973 Chateau Montelena, that chardonnay that rocked the wine world.

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