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Napa didn't grow the famed grapes

Helen Bacigalupi, who's grown wine grapes off Westside Road with her husband, Charles, for four decades, won't picket "Bottle Shock" showings or demand a correction.

But Helen, 82, would like to set the record straight.

The new film on the earth-shaking victory of a Napa Valley chardonnay over France's best whites in 1976 leaves the impression the triumphant grapes were grown at Calistoga's Chateau Montelena.

Au contraire.

"The Napa people never wanted anyone to know that the chardonnay came from Sonoma County," Helen said.

Years ago, she said, her granddaughter contacted journalist George Taber, whose book, "Judgment of Paris," inspired the movie. She urged him to get it right about the origin of the 1973 chardonnay that alerted the world that California wines had arrived.

Taber did tell it straight.

He wrote that in '73, Chateau Montelena bought "just over 40 tons of chardonnay from local growers" -- about 20 tons from Henry Dick in Alexander Valley, 14 tons from the Bacigalupis in Russian River Valley and the remaining 5 tons from Napa Valley growers John Hanna and Lee Paschich.

So 80-plus percent of the grapes whose wine brought Napa global acclaim in '76 came from Sonoma. The film doesn't mention that.

Helen said the 4 acres of chardonnay vines that produced the grapes she and Charles sold to Montelena 35 years ago still bear fruit, though less each year.

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