Wine pioneer Barrett of Chateau Montelena dies

2013-03-15T21:00:00Z 2013-04-02T20:02:32Z Wine pioneer Barrett of Chateau Montelena diesStaff report Napa Valley Register
March 15, 2013 9:00 pm  • 

James L. Barrett, Napa Valley wine pioneer and owner of Chateau Montelena when it won the famous Paris Tasting in 1976, died Thursday at age 86.

In 1972, Barrett, who had practiced law, came to Calistoga with his family with the goal of starting a world-class winery. “I wanted to do something to make people happy,” he often said.

He purchased Chateau Montelena, then an empty stone building with dilapidated vineyards in Calistoga. He replanted most of the original vineyards to cabernet sauvignon and completely refurbished the winery. While waiting for the cabernet sauvignon vines to mature, the winery produced chardonnay.  

In 1976, under Barrett’s leadership, Chateau Montelena helped put California at the forefront of world-class winemaking when its 1973 chardonnay was selected as the top-rated wine over the other entries, including four white Burgundies and six California chardonnays at the famous Paris Tasting.

Asked about the victory, Barrett simply replied, “Not bad for kids from the sticks.”

His son, Bo Barrett, said the winery would remain in the Barrett family, with Bo Barrett remaining as master winemaker and CEO.

A public memorial service will be in Barrett’s honor at 11 a.m., April 2 at the Meritage Resort & Spa in Napa.

Donations can be made in his memory to the Napa Valley Community Foundation (

Copyright 2015 Napa Valley Register. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(6) Comments

  1. funnyme
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    funnyme - March 15, 2013 3:37 pm
    RIP Great Icon!
  2. sandi belcher
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    sandi belcher - March 15, 2013 4:47 pm
    Jim was a great man and will always be, a great man. he had a great sense of humor, loved his family and friends and loved what he did. Hugs to the family. He will be sorely missed.
  3. bowlerhat
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    bowlerhat - March 15, 2013 6:30 pm
    A gentle soul. My condolences to Bo and Family.
  4. artist
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    artist - March 16, 2013 4:06 am
    My condolences to Bo and Heidi and the family, and my thanks to them all for all they have done for Calistoga.
  5. glenroy
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    glenroy - March 16, 2013 8:07 am
    Heck of a nice man...
  6. Jeff Beck
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    Jeff Beck - March 17, 2013 4:45 pm
    We are all enriched by a man like Jim and his devotion not only to his profession and craft, but the community to which he gave so much. We lost a good one, but his legacy will live on through Bo and Heidi.
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