A Look at the “Paris Block” Chardonnay


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Joe Becerra

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A few blog posts ago, we mentioned that nearly all the grapes that produced the 1973 Chateau Montelena Chardonnay, the wine that won the “Judgment of Paris,” came from Sonoma County and not the Napa Valley. We found all this out at the Family Winemaker Event from Katie Bacigalupi. Her grandfather, Charles Bacigalupi, sold a portion of those grapes to Chateau Montelena. Those grapes are still there on the Bacigalupi Vineyards in the Russian River Valley. So when Katie offered to show us the vineyard, we took her up on the invitation.

These vines are up above Westside Road in the Russian River Valley AVA. This area sits just above the Russian River and receives a hefty dose of morning fog during the summer months.

The Chardonnay is a Wente clone selection and was planted in the mid 1960’s. The vines all reminded us of old vine Zinfandel. They are knarly and thick, with branches reaching out in all directions. The vines are getting a little old and tired looking and we saw a few dead vines scattered throughout the vineyard. Who knows how long those vines will continue to produce their famous fruit? There are about 4 acres of the “Paris Block” and a majority of these grapes are sold to Rudd Vineyards and Winery in the Napa Valley. We went to the Rudd web site and found this description about their current release, the 2005 Bacigalupi Chardonnay. “The 2005 vintage exhibits classic fruit with mineral and toast aromas, a rich mid-palate and a long finish, typical characteristics of this old Chardonnay vineyard.” Suggested price is $65 for this 100% Chardonnay.

The “Paris Block” Chardonnay

The Bacigalupis have 140 acres of vineyards and sell about 90% of their grapes to 20 wineries. In 2002, in a joint venture with Tyler Heck, the Bacigalupis established the John Tyler label. The John is for John Bacigalupi and the Tyler for Tyler Heck of the Heck family and Korbel fame. Both of their fathers and families became great friends during the early days of winemaking. The John Tyler label produces 1200 cases of wine, some of the best vineyard blocks on the Bacigalupi vineyards.

On the Vineyards with Katie and her Dad, John Bacigalupi

You can taste the John Tyler wines at “A Dozen Vintners” tasting room in St. Helena. The plan is to have a tasting room built on Westside Road in Healdsburg by mid 2009. Katie pointed out a grove of oak trees where the tasting room will eventually be built. The beautiful oaks and the vineyard views across the road should make for a lovely tasting room atmosphere.

  • Joe Becerra

    Joe Becerra has been traveling to wine country and enjoying wine since 1965. He is a retired educator, and now have the time the opportunity to share his wine travel experiences through this Website.