POSTED ON November 7, 2008 | IN Wine News | BY Joe Becerra

Chateau Montelena
Here is a bottle shocker. In July Jim Barrett announced that he had sold Chateau Montelena for better than 100 million dollars to a French wine company. Apparently, something went terribly awry and the deal is over, finished. Jim Barrett announced that he plans to keep the winery and make all the revamps needed to restore the winery to its former glory. This struck us as an amazing turn. Just a couple of days ago our latest Wine Spectator arrived and, in it, an article detailing how the new owners planned to revitalize Chateau Montelena. This apparently caught everybody off guard. Could this be a “Bottle Shock II” movie in the making?

Fewer Visitors to Napa Valley?
We are in the Napa Valley for a few days and the local Yountville Sun has an article about the recently released report on the economic impact of the Napa Valley Wine industry. The wine industry contributed a whopping 10.9 billion dollars to the Valley. This is based on 2006 data. You would never know it judging by the tasting rooms we have visited in the Napa Valley the last couple of days. We were the only visitors at Goosecross, William Hill, Havens, and Hopper Creek wineries. There was one other couple in Rutherford Hill, brought there by a van service that picks up tourists at the Napa hotels. The driver told us that business is down and the tour company is looking for new ways to drum up business. We asked at each tasting room how the economy was affecting visitor traffic. The answers were all the same. There are fewer visitors and they are buying less wine.

Rutherford Barrel Tasting
Could this be another sign of the sour economy? We just got a press release providing details on a first time “Roll Out the Barrels” passport weekend for the Rutherford Appellation wineries. The two-day event on December 6 and 7 will feature barrel tasting and wine and food pairings at several Rutherford wineries. We are just not used to seeing this type of event in the Napa Valley.

Gordon’s Cafe to Reopen Soon?
Leslie Rudd of Rudd Winery and also the owner of both Dean & DeLucca and Oakville Grocery purchased the cafe from Sally Gordon two years ago. The news was that the Gordon’s would be open shortly after the sale but mysteriously that did not occur. Here we are two years later and now rumor has it that suddenly work is going on at a fever pitch and that this café will open within a couple of months. We hope it does open soon and that it will have the same character and feel of the old Gordon’s, a popular spot for locals and tourists alike.


  1. Katie says

    Hi Joe,

    I wanted to let your readers know that this is actually the third Rutherford Passport Weekend event, but the first time that the participating wineries are featuring barrel tastings. We have hosted wine and food tasting weekends in the past, and thought it would be fun to expose visitors to our future wines. So this is an ongoing series of weekends, not a special event planned in response to the economy. The Rutherford Appellation Wineries is an arm of the Rutherford Dust Society that aims to educate visitors about the wineries in the renowned appellation and welcome guests into their tasting rooms.

    Guests can look forward to Rutherford Passport Weekends every May and December.

    We hope to see you in December!


  2. David Topper says

    Joe –

    I guess I take an optimistic approach. Every time I hear that 7% of the country is unemployed, I really hear that 93% of the country workforce is employed.

    We do have many visiting from overseas and, until recently, we were unable to ship wine to them (at least not affordably). Then we joined a special shipping program to accommodate and we’re ready to ship just about anywhere worldwide.

    We have felt the ripple effect through reduced tourism but, we are selling more to those that visit with us so, overall our sales are up.

    So, does this mean that; we’re lucky, not yet feeling the pinch of the economy (and possibly living in a temporary bubble that will burst), or do we have a better and more interested buyer visiting Napa than the droves that visited the Valley in the past? I don’t know, possibly all of the above and possibly a few more permutations.

    We are committed to working hard and smart for our customers benefit.

    All in all, I feel that we supply an excellent product with superior service and will continue to attract enough of the right consumers to get us by in the toughest of times.

    David Topper
    Goosecross Cellars

    PS – This is not to suggest that we don’t have empathy and compassion for those that are unemployed or facing strife based on the current state of affairs. We hope for a speedy recovery for all in our great nation.

  3. Joe says

    Glad to hear that you are selling more wine. The guy that served us mentioned that you are getting visitors from Canada and Japan and that these folks tend not to buy much wine because of travel constraints. I’m thinking that the unemployment data (worst in 14 years) will have a ripple effect on the Napa Valley.