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07.22.2008

Breaking Wine News: Bordeaux's Cos d'Estournel Buys Napa's Chateau Montelena

To those of you in the wine world paying attention to the dollar's stomach churning lows against the Euro, this news may come as little or no surprise. This morning, Chateau Cos d'Estournel announced it's purchase of the historic Chateau Montelena in Napa. While not the first bit of investment from Bordeaux in the Napa Valley, it is certainly a significant one, given both the landmark historical status of Chateau Montelena as well as the prestige and success of Cos d'Estournel, whose star has certainly been rising in Bordeaux over the past decade.

Exact details of the transaction aren't available, but speculation of amounts nearing $110 million dollars have been thrown about on various web sites, including Decanter. The speculation about the price, however, doesn't begin to touch the wild imaginings of the eRobertParker.Com bulletin boards over the last 18 hours after Robert Parker posted a tantalizing message yesterday announcing what he described as "one of the biggest stories in his three decades in the wine industry" with no further details.

While I certainly don't think this event merits the description Parker used, it's certainly an interesting development, and if the economy continues the way it has recently, probably not the last time a prime Napa property will be snapped up by European investors of one kind or another.

Chateau Montelena was founded in 1882 and fell into disuse through Prohibition before being purchased and revived by Jim Barrett in the early 1970's. Known for its production of high quality Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay, Montelena became a world famous winery after its 1973 Chardonnay beat out French competitors in the famous 1976 Judgement of Paris.

Cos d'Estournel is known as one of Bordeaux's "Super Seconds" -- a Second Growth estate that punches above its weight consistently. It is owned by Michel Reybier, who made his fortune in a French meats company and now runs French petroleum giant Pebercan.

The 2008 vintage for Montelena will be overseen by Cos d'Estournel's director and winemaker, and the speculation has already begun as to whether the price will be going up. I'd definitely put Euros on that.

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