Visiting the tasting room at Bacigalupi Vineyards may not seem like a step back in time, but the contemporary, attractive little bungalow is situated at the foot of a landmark of Sonoma County wine history, indeed: the so-called Paris Tasting Block.
We are reminded of the legendary 1976 Paris Tasting often these days, but most of all in years that are multiples of five or ten. Marking the fortieth anniversary of that event, where (as reported in Time magazine) a panel of French judges deemed Chateau Montelena’s California Chardonnay the better of a bevy of white Burgundies, 2016 is no exception.
Napa’s Chateau Montelena garnered much of the glory, but as the Bacigalupi family will tell you, a big portion of the Chardonnay grapes for that wine came from their own vineyard on Westside Road.
With a name like Bacigalupi, you might assume that the family has been growing grapes here for over 100 years, similar to a lot of the Italian families in the area. In fact, that’s getting it only half right: a bit more than half a century ago, Santa Rosa dentist Charles Bacigalupi bought some country property up in Healdsburg. One of his clients, whose family happened to own Korbel Champagne Cellars, suggested that he plant Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, and the Paris Tasting block took root in 1964.
Today, twin sisters Katey Bacigalupi Row and Nicole Bacigalupi Dericco take care of sales and marketing, while father John Bacigalupi farms the vineyards.
You’re likely to meet the family at this tasting room, although they recently hired a member of the Rochioli family that the Bacigalupi twins used to babysit! It’s a small neighborhood, after all: Joe Rochioli budded the vines here in 1964 and 1965, and as fans of Russian River Valley wine may know, Williams Selyem Winery famously sources Pinot Noir from Rochioli Vineyards as well as old vine Zinfandel from Bacigalupi.
Made by winemaker Ashley Herzberg, the Bacigalupi 2014 Russian River Valley Chardonnay ($56) shows some none-too-showy oak and vanilla over crisp, citrus and apple acidity. The delectable 2014 Frost Ranch Pinot Noir ($70), named for a Bacigalupi property that was purchased and developed after the “Paris” block, typifies the Russian River Valley with cherry cola and big, brambleberry fruit, while the 2014 Goddard Ranch Pinot Noir ($70) treats the nose to more subdued aromas of red licorice, red plum and a hint of mushroom.
Wine Geek, Meet Classics Geek
Bonus points awarded to the wine and/or classic literature enthusiast who can say with confidence—and that means without googling—what ancient fable Time’s clever headline for journalist George M. Taber’s pithy brief on the “Judgment of Paris” refers to. An extra glass of golden Chardonnay—at your own expense—if you can name the author that Taber cheekily referenced in saying that California wines defeated “all Gaul.” Hint: Sorry, there is no third part to this challenge.
Hit the Road
From here in the “Middle Reach” of the Russian River Valley, you can head north to the restaurants and hotels of Healdsburg, or south to the resorts and restaurants of the Guerneville area on River Road—it’s just a few miles farther.
4353 Westside Road, Healdsburg, CA 95448. Daily, 11am–5pm. Tasting fee, $15. 707.473.0115.