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Golden Jubilee

Bacigalupi celebrates 50 years of Chardonnay

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There's a reason a wizened block of Chardonnay grapevines south of Healdsburg has been spared the ripper blade: these vines contributed a good portion of grapes to Chateau Montelena's 1973 Chardonnay, the highest-scoring entrant in a small, 1976 wine competition made famous by journalist George M. Taber's light-hearted blurb in Time magazine.

Recently, the Bacigalupi family celebrated the 50th anniversary of the planting of that "Paris Tasting" block at Goddard Ranch, which Charles and Helen Bacigalupi purchased in 1956. In a brief ceremony among the vines, Rod Berglund (winemaker at Joseph Swan) read notes prepared by wine writer Rusty Gaffney, reminding us that in the 1960s, Chardonnay was considered exotic, and a local winery told Charles the grape harvest would have to wait—they were too busy processing prunes to be bothered. After self-described No. 1 Bacigalupi wine fan Lars Schmitt gave a blessing to the vineyard, the third generation's Nicole Bacigalupi offered up one bottle of wine, sprinkled on the hallowed ground.

Then 15 wineries poured vineyard designate Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Zinfandel and Petite Sirah from 125 acres of Bacigalupi vineyards. The contrast between the bright, cherry-fruited Williams Selyem 2011 Bacigalupi Vineyard Zinfandel and the brooding brambleberry-fest of the family's own 2012 Zinfandel may be due to the radically different vintages, says Bacigalupi's winemaker Ashley Herzberg. But the Chardonnay shows its fair character across vintages and producers, from boutique Beau Vigne's one barrel to big-name brand Gary Farrell's version. Easy-going about their renown, the Bacigalupis will even sell small lots to home winemakers.

There's one more chance before next year's fourth annual tasting to sample a flight of wines from this historic vineyard. Courtney Humiston, new wine director at Hotel Healdsburg, has created a series of vineyard-designate winetastings held on the first Sunday of each month. Following a walk-around tasting, Dry Creek Kitchen restaurant offers a four-course dinner paired with some of the wines prepared by chef Dustin Valette. Paris it ain't, but it's not bad for the sticks.

Bacigalupi tasting room (formerly John Tyler Wines), 4353 Westside Road, Healdsburg. Daily, 11am–5pm. $15. 707.473.0115. "Les Clos" walk-around tasting of Bacigalupi vineyard designates, July 6, 3:30pm. Dry Creek Kitchen, 317 Healdsburg Ave., Healdsburg. Tasting, $60; $150 includes four-course dinner paired with wines. Hirsch tasting, Aug. 3; Durrell, Sept. 7; Gap's Crown, Oct. 5. 707.922.5398.

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