10 Questions for Jim Barrett of Chateau Montelena Winery, Calistoga
10 Questions for Jim Barrett of Chateau Montelena Winery, Calistoga

When Jim Barrett came to the Napa Valley in 1972, he probably could have had his pick of wineries. But discovering the empty stone chateau and the dilapidated vineyards of Chateau Montelena, near Calistoga, Barrett found himself charmed by the “beauty and unique location and the grace of the Chateau,” he said.

The World War II veteran and attorney set out to restore most of the original vineyards. Eventually, Barrett completely refurbished the facilities, completing the “rebirth” of Chateau Montelena.

Barrett was the general manager and part owner of the winery during the groundbreaking 1976 “Judgment of Paris,” when a Chateau Montelena chardonnay was awarded the top prize at the now legendary tasting.    

What three people would you most like to have dinner with?  

The Marx Brothers.

What job would you like to try/not like to try?  

Try: Chair umpire at Wimbledon.

Not try: Window washing on the Empire State Building.

What was your first job?

Newspaper boy selling the Los Angeles evening paper to motorists in Los Angeles, corner of Western Avenue and Beverly Boulevard, 1936.  

What’s the worst job you ever had?

Digging ditches in 110 degree heat when Shasta Dam was being built.  

How did you get into this business?

I used to be a lawyer putting frowns on people’s faces so I decided to put smiles (on their faces) instead. You know what? It worked out.

Who do you most admire in the business world?  

In the wine business — Bob Mondavi — such a dedication to the profession.

What is one thing you hope to accomplish in your lifetime that you haven’t yet?

So far so good, nothing comes to mind.

If you could be anywhere right now, where would you be?  

Right here in the Napa Valley.

What was your childhood ambition?

I had no searing childhood ambitions. I was just a kid, going to school and church and growing up, playing sports and getting into mischief with my chums.

What other business person(s) would you like to see featured in “10 Questions?”

Calistoga winemaker Bob Pecota.

More on Jim Barrett and Chateau Montelena.

 A little bit of Hollywood recently came to Chateau Montelena as a team of producers create the independent film “Bottle Shock,” which is based on the 1976 Judgment of Paris event.  

Portraying Barrett on the big screen is actor Bill Pullman, who Barrett said that he met and liked, calling him a “manly man.”

The film, shot on location at Chateau Montelena in August, also features Alan Rickman as Paris tasting organizer Steven Spurrier, Freddy Rodriguez as winemaking assistant Gustavo Brambila, and Chris Pine as Barrett’s son, Bo.  

According to the movie Web site imdb.com, Danny DeVito will portray Mike Grgich. It is reported to be a brief, non-speaking role. Imdb.com lists Dennis Farina, Bradley Whitford and Rachael Taylor as other actors in the film.

The movie is currently being edited.

To suggest a candidate for “10 Questions” e-mail: jhuffman@napanews.com

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