July 22, 2008
Bottle Shock

"If you can't beat 'em, join 'em," the French seem to be saying with word this morning that the renowned Bordeaux chateau Cos d'Estournel is buying one of Napa Valley's more historic estates, Chateau Montelena.

Though Chateau Montelena has been around since 1882, it shot to celebrity in the spring of 1976 when its 1973 chardonnay was judged the best take on the varietal in a blind Paris tasting involving comparable French wines and French wine judges.

Speculation about the potential sale of Chateau Montelena surfaced last month when the magazine Wine Spectator reported that the father-and-son team of Jim and Bo Barrett had put the property on the market for a minimum $100 million, though the Barretts wouldn't confirm the rumors.

Today, the British wine magazine Decanter reported that Cos d'Estournel is purchasing Chateau Montelena, quoting Michel Reybier, the owner of the Bordeaux estate, as its source. No sales price was disclosed, though Decanter speculated that $110 million was being paid for the Napa Valley property.

Jeff Adams, media representative for Chateau Montelena, said a formal announcement concerning the status of Chateau Montelena would be made later today.

If the sale of Chateau Montelena is completed, it will come almost exactly one year after the Warren Winiarski family sold its Napa Valley estate Stag's Leap Wine Cellars, which had won the cabernet-sauvignon portion of the 1976 Paris tasting. Stag's Leap sold to Ste. Michelle Wine Estates in Washington state and Marchese Piero Antinori of Italy for $185 million.

On Aug. 6, a movie, "Bottle Shock," a romanticized and truncated version of the Paris tasting that focuses almost exclusively on Chateau Montelena, is to debut in American cinemas.

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