In France, such wines are known as “premier crus” or “first growths.”
They are the wines of Bordeaux that are considered the creme de la creme – the best of the best.
You know the names: Latour… Lafite… Rothschild… Margaux… Haut-Brion.
In the United States, no such classification system exists – perhaps thankfully so. But a handful of California estates share that “premier cru” stature as the acknowledged superstars of American winemaking.
One is Chateau Montelena. James P. “Bo” Barrett has been crafting Montelena’s wines since 1982, and each harvest season he says his goal is to “bring the vintage and the vineyard to your table in a wine that is elegant, balanced and enjoyable.”
His philosophy is even more succinct: “Make the best. Period.”
At Montelena, the word “winemaking” seldom is uttered.
“Winemaking here is regarded as a continuous process that begins in the vineyard,” Barrett explains. “That’s why we use the term ‘winegrowing.’ Exceptional wine can only be made with exceptional grapes.”