by Fred McMillin
for July 8, 1997
The Leap, From Bordeaux to Stags
Prologue: After practical training at a Bordeaux chateau, Bernard finished his formal education at the French winemaking schools of Toulouse and Montpellier. Now he was ready to make wine, but where?
The Rest of the Story: Someone else in Bordeaux was wondering where to make wine, too. His name was John Goelet, a direct descendant of the Guestier branch of the venerable Barton and Guestier wine house. He wanted to find some other place in the world to make wine the equal of Bordeaux's. It was a dream come true when John asked Bernard Portet to accompany him on a world-wide search for the ideal wine site. That was 1970.
In 1972 they selected the Stags Leap District on the east side of the Napa Valley and produced their first Cabernet Sauvignon, from purchased grapes. In 1976 that first Cab finished eighth in the legendary Spurrier Paris tasting of the best French and California bottles. Ten years later there was a rematch, and the winery, Clos du Val, this time won FIRST place! Clearly, John and Bernard had succeeded in finding the right location to make Cabernets the equal of those of Bordeaux. Mission completed.
Postscript: About that hands-on training Bernard received at a Bordeaux chateau...the trainer was Bernard's father, who was head of winegrowing for two decades. The chateau made what critic Oz Clark called "probably the most famous red wine in the world." It was Chateau Lafite-Rothschild!
Read more articles by Fred McMillin in the eGGsf
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