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It Can Be a Very Small Wine World

Photo by: Greg Gorman

Posted: Mar 16, 2007 12:56pm ET

This week took on a personality of its own, as weeks sometimes do. There’s no way I could have predicted some of the coincidences, which triggered several flashbacks, some good memories, and the sense that this is a very small world indeed.

Many friends reflected on Belle Rhodes’ passing, as well as her role in developing Napa Valley wine and gracious living. Her husband, Barney, who I haven't seen in years, sent word that he'd like me to visit and look through his cellar for any bottles I might be interested in for research. I can't wait to see him.

Later that day, Mark Tchelistcheff, who I'd never heard of, called to say he is working on a documentary about his late great uncle, André Tchelistcheff, who was one of the most important and influential winemakers in history.

“I’m looking at a great project, and I’m aiming at making something great for the big screen,” Mark said. He is in Napa Valley doing some preliminary research. Mark, who is based in New York, owns Openfilms.net and coproduced the 2005 movie Conversations With Other Women.

Next, my girlfriend from second grade—who I haven't seen for 25 years—found me while she was surfing the net, and happily told me that she now lives in an official American Viticultural Area, Snake River Valley, Idaho, which is home to several wineries.

Finally, an old friend, Greg Upton, gets a mention in the wine column of today’s Wall Street Journal (along with Tchelistcheff for his 1969 BV Private Reserve). His friends in Napa opened a special bottle that he’d made in 1995, and then I ran into his wife, Tracey, another old friend, at the gym.

My editor colleague Dana Nigro thinks I better check my astrological charts to figure out what’s going on, and I’m going to do just that.

Troy Peterson
Burbank, CA —  March 16, 2007 7:50pm ET
Astrology has nothing to do with it James, just good living. You're an honest man, and good things have to happen to someone. It might as well be you....

Have a great weekend. Open a great bottle and tell us all about it next week.

All My Best,

Troy Peterson
Claude Pope
Raleigh, NC —  March 16, 2007 7:56pm ET
Well James, by coincidence, I read about YOU today but not at a WS site! Another blog was sympathetic towards your auctioning your lunch hour to the highest bidder(for a worthy cause I might add) - they were afraid that the winning bid would be some winemaker that you'd given a low score to over the past 20 years so they were trying to drum up a rescue plan for you. I'm strongly considering bidding on the lunch - which I could afford. However, it's the flight, hotel and tee time at Pebble while on the left coast would set me back a bit. Come to think of it, I could send you the plane ticket instead to fly to Raleigh and we'd both come out ahead! We could discuss Andre Tchelistcheff's legacy over a bottle of 1973 BV GDL Private Reserve. Could it be in the stars?
James Laube
Napa, CA —  March 16, 2007 8:33pm ET
Claude, I'm open...I'm never tired of talking about Andre and met with Mark today to give him some of my files and interview notes. As for the donation to St. Helena's schools, writers want to make sure they have a next generation of readers, so I'm happy to contribute whatever I can; last time I had a wonderful lunch with an old friend who bid on the lot, Robert Pecota. We dined at Julia's Kitchen, with some great wines.
Troy Peterson
Burbank, CA —  March 17, 2007 1:38am ET
How cool is that? Someday maybe I'll have the right bottle to offer and I'll be a lucky dawg like Mr. Pope. You'll both have to let us know how the '73 drank....
Mr Tom A Hughes
Keller, Tx —  March 19, 2007 2:23pm ET
James, when you mentioned the 1969 BV Private Reserve I checked to my cellar and I still have 4 bottles left from a case I purchased at auction some years ago. The 1969's have never failed to impress me, even though they are not as famous as the highly regarded 1970 vintage. These are the oldest wines in my cellar, from the year I graduated high school. I was also surprised that one bottle still has a price sticker on it, $6.95.
John Skupny
St. Helena —  March 20, 2007 7:57pm ET
Just wonder who Cesar might have met up with had he made it to one day after the Ides of March! cheers
James Laube
Napa, CA —  March 20, 2007 8:32pm ET
Tom, I'm double checking, but my notes on the 1969 PR indicate it never went through a full malolactic fermentation, indeed, a curious occurence...that would account for its youthful vibrancy and that's the way the wine has typically shown when I've tasted it.

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