Ch. Montelena

Make the best. Period.

Founded in the 1880s, Chateau Montelena was named for Mt. Saint Helena, the imposing peak that looks over the upper Napa Valley where the winery is located. For decades one of the valley’s top quality wine producers, the estate struggled in the years after prohibition and even ceased making wine from its grapes. That all changed in the late 1960s, when a group of partners led by Jim Barret revived the estate, restoring the iconic chateau-like winery building, the Chinese-themed gardens, and, most of all, the vineyards. In no time, Chateau Montelena was making wine that, along with other pioneers of that era, vaulted the Napa Valley into the major leagues of premium wine production. Indeed, by 1976 Chateau Montelena not only emerged as one of Napa Valley’s premier wineries, but awakened the entire world to the quality of California wine, when its 1973 Alexander Valley Chardonnay won first place in the infamous Paris Tasting, in which some of France’s greatest wine critics rated the Chateau Montelena above some of the most illustrious of white burgundies. Since 1981, Bo Barret, son of the founder, has overseen the winemaking at Chateau Montelena, pursuing the goal of making flavorful but elegant, complex and age-worthy wines in the French style. Unlike many of its peers, Chateau Montelena’s wines do not undergo barrel fermentation, malolactic fermentation or even aging in exclusively new oak barrels in order to emphasize the nuances of the terroir and the natural flavors of the grapes. The 98-acre Montelena Estate vineyards, spanning flatlands and hillsides north of the winery alongside the Napa River, features a rich mix of alluvial, sedimentary and volcanic soils as well as an intriguing variety of microclimates. Primarily planted to Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc, the estate also includes several blocs of Zinfandel. Vines planted in these rocky soils are naturally low-yielding, and such techniques as organic pest control, dry farming, and crop thinning bring yields down even further. The results of such low yields are evidenced in the consistent quality of the “Estate” wines: full-bodied, intense and flavorful - though somewhat tannic in their youth - elegant, complex and age-worthy. In addition to the “Estate” wines, Chateau Montelena also produces Cabernet Sauvignon from vineyards elsewhere in the Napa Valley, Chardonnay from both the Napa and Alexander valleys and a small amount of Riesling from the Potter Valley in Mendicino County.

Wines from this Winery

2015 Ch. Montelena Potter Valley Riesling

2015 Ch. Montelena Potter Valley Riesling

“Drink more Riesling!” the somms and sundry wine experts tell us. And Chateau Montelena’s Riesling shows us why: tantalizing aromatics, rich flavors, structure, texture and minerality make it a versatile, food-friendly wine that could accompany a fiery Thai salad or curry as well as a pork chop. The winery has long produced delicious Riesling from the McFadden Farm, an organic grower in Mendocino’s Potter Valley. The valley’s high elevation and signature cool summer nights allow Riesling grapes to ripen ever so slowly and develop vibrant aromatics and excellent acidity. The McFadden’s approach to canopy management also manages to encourage a small amount of botrytis every year, which gives the wine a richer, honeyed character. In 2015, warmer nights and dry conditions led the grapes to develop excellent flavors at lower levels of potential alcohol. And excellent choice for an Asian meal, when one wine is needed to match a wide variety of spices, meats, seafoods and heat. 

Details
¥ 4,300
2015 Ch. Montelena Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc

2015 Ch. Montelena Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc

Chateau Montelena’s Sauvignon Blanc is a limited edition that usually requires a trip to the tasting room to purchase. The fruit is sourced from a vineyard in Oak Knoll, a cooler district south of Yountville that produces wonderfully aromatic white wines. 2015 will be remembered as a drought year, when harvest came early and yields were down. On the other hand, careful tending of the vineyard canopy kept the grapes in shade, allowing them to develop flavor and retain acidity. This is a lively Sauvignon Blanc that appeals with floral notes and a crisp mouthful of bright fruit. 

Details
¥ 4,600
2013 Ch. Montelena Calistoga Zinfandel

2013 Ch. Montelena Calistoga Zinfandel

Fans of Chateau Montelena will notice not only that the 2013 Zinfandel sports a new label that recalls an earlier era but that it is not an Estate wine. Apparently, replanting the estate vineyard had reached a point where 43% of the fruit had to be sourced from another old-vine vineyard in Calistoga, the Tofanelli Ranch. The rest consists of Ch. Montelena’s more recent plantings of Primitivo, the Zinfandel clone that evolved over thousands of years in southern Italy. (By contrast, the origins of most California Zinfandel can be traced directly to the ancestor of all Zinfandel, the Crljenak Kastelanski of Croatia). Just as Pinot Noir producers may plant a host of Dijon and Pommard clones to craft more complexity in their wines, Ch. Montelena believes traditional Zin and Primitivo gives them a wider palate of flavors and textures to draw on. The 2013 Zin balances mouthwatering freshness with density and richness, a nose of dark fruit and earthy aromas, and chewy tannins on the finish. So fire up the summer barbecue and enjoy this Zin with grilled meats and vegetables.  

Details
¥ 6,400
2014 Ch. Montelena Napa Valley Chardonnay

2014 Ch. Montelena Napa Valley Chardonnay

A Chateau Montelena Chardonnay won the infamous 1972 Paris tasting that woke the world up to California wine. Today the winery continues to craft Chardonnay in a uniquely elegant style that pays homage to the great white burgundies while staying true to its California roots. In 2014, while the winter rains were light, summer temperatures were never too hot; hence, the Chardonnay fruit was able to ripen slowly through to early September. Unlike many California Chardonnay producers, Chateau Montelena prefers to avoid both French oak and malolactic fermentation. Natural yeast fermentation and aging on the lees result in a wine that is fresh, vibrant, and mouthfilling but without any buttery heaviness. Try this wine wine with fresh cracked crab or shellfish.

Details
¥ 8,100
2013 Ch. Montelena Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

2013 Ch. Montelena Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

Like Chateau Montelena’s Estate wines, the Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon comes from vineyards located around Calistoga, at the northern end of the Napa Valley. These vineyards all share a distinct alluvium soil profile that can produce earthy, complex and concentrated Cabernet Sauvignon. In 2013, a summer of consistently warm (but rarely hot) days and cool nights produced a wine that balances ripe berry flavors with the acidity and structure we expect from this winery. A wine that drinks well now, it will also age. Antonio Galloni described this wine as “one of the more approachable wines of the vintage… a real beauty.” 

Details
¥ 8,100
2014 Ch. Montelena Calistoga Zinfandel (1.5L)

2014 Ch. Montelena Calistoga Zinfandel (1.5L)

As in 2013, this wine combines fruit from recent plantings of Primitivo in Montelena’s estate vineyard with that from old vines planted at the Tofanelli Ranch in Calistoga. Each of these Zinfandel clones comes with a unique profile, with Primitivo providing more red fruit and spicy flavors and the Zin adding the darker briar fruit, cassis and lavender notes. One difference from 2013 lay in the cooperage: the winery managed to procure some oak barrels from Ireland - marking the first time in a century that a California wine has been aged in Irish oak, which adds a rustic character to this hearty wine. This wine has it all: enticing aromatics, layers of flavor and nuance, and a finish that’s old world in style with dark chocolate, cigar box and wild Provençal herbs.  

Details
¥ 14,000
2012 Ch. Montelena Estate Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

2012 Ch. Montelena Estate Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

If you are looking for a California wine worthy of laying down for the day a son or daughter comes of age, the Montelena Estate Cabernet Sauvignon may fit that bill better than most. Over the decades, the wine has earned a reputation for having the intensity we expect in a great Napa Cab as well as the restraint, structure, tannin and acidity of an age-worthy Bordeaux. The Montelena Estate features mature, low-yielding vines planted in stony alluvial and volcanic soils. Because the vineyard avoided the Phylloxera that wiped out many vineyards in the early 1990s, these "old vines" are well into their fifth decade. Following two cool, difficult vintages, 2012 was a blessing: the vineyards enjoyed temperate weather throughout a long growing season, and the fruit ripened with excellent ripeness and acidity. In addition to a complex flavor profile of black and red fruit, spice, leather, slate and cedar, the wine is a textural delgith, full of body, richness and impeccable balance, purity and density.

Details
¥ 15,300