James L. Barrett Dies: Wine Legend, Winner Of 'The Judgement of Paris' Passes Away At 86 [REPORT]

By iScience Times Staff Reporter on March 19, 2013 7:38 PM EDT

james l barrett
James L. Barrett died at the age of 86. The cause of his death is unknown. James L. Barrett will be remembered as the man who single-handedly put California wine on the map by introducint the Chateau Montelena Chardonnay at "The Judgement Of Paris" in 1976. (Photo: commons.wikimedia.org)

James L. Barrett Dies At 86: California Wine Legend Passes Away In San Francisco

James L Barrett, one of the most influential people to ever step foot in Napa Valley, California, has died at the age of 86. James L. Barrett is known for many triumphs in the wine-making community in California, but more than anything, James L. Barrett will be remembered for putting American wine on the map when the Chateau Montelena Chardonnay that he created won a prestigious award in Paris in 1976.

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James L. Barrett reportedly died in San Francisco among family and friend. The cause of his death is still unclear. James L. Barrett is remembered by family and friends for his unwavering passion of California's Napa Valley and his dedication to his wine-making craft. Many members of the Napa Valley community remember James L. Barrett recall his kindness and thoughtfulness.

In 1993, James L. Barrett sent a bottle of his famous Chardonnay to Piero Selvaggio according to a report from the Los Angeles Times. On the bottle, Selvaggio's face had been etched into the side. Sadly, the bottle was lost in an earthquake in 1994 when the cellar of Valentino's Restaurant was destroyed. Selvaggio was heartbroken when he lsot the bottle, and he crafted a long not to James L. Barrett about how devastated he was. "Two weeks later, he received another bottle with his faced etched onto it, exactly like the original except for the words at the bottom, 'earthquake edition,'" reports S. Irene Virbila.

The wine that James L. Barrett is most famous for making is called Chateau Montelena. It was first introduced to the world in 1976 at a famous tasting called "The Judgement of Paris." American wines were pit against French wines in an event set up by British wine merchant Steven Spurrier who was keen on celebrating America's bicentennial. Little did he know that the Chateau Montelena would steal the show.

The growing popularity of Chateau Montelena helped lift California wine to the global scale and, in many ways, it helped develop the entire California wine industry. Reports indicate that James L. Barrett and his family never expected the win of "The Judgment of Paris" to have a lasting effect, but, of course, as we now all know, California's wine industry was never the same.

Slate's Mike Steinberger suggests that France never quite recuperated from the beat down at "The Judgment of Paris." "So they are. Thirty years after the Judgment of Paris, shrewdly marketed brands like Australia's Yellow Tail are winning over budget-minded drinkers around the world while a bloated, inefficient French wine industry grapples with millions of liters of unwanted wine and a growing army of destitute vintners," writes Steinberger. "The French can't say they weren't warned."

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