2014 Ch. Montelena Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

Winery

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.

Wine

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 2014, hints of a worsening drought were becoming clear, yet the vines produced a hefty crop that matured slowly under consistently moderate temperatures. This is the first vintage to be entirely made by Matt Crafton, who had been assistant winemaker since 2008. Recognizably Napa Valley, the wine’s first impression is one of rich and ripe dark fruit and spice, after which old world elegance emerges on the mid palate with earthy minerality, tannins and acidity, giving the wine structure and, one imagines, years of life. Allow the wine to open up in the glass or be sure to decant. 

Winemaking

Following fermentation in stainless steel tanks, the wine aged 16 months in (27% new)  French and East European oak.

Tasting notes

92  points - Wine & Spirits. Aromas of blackberries, cassis, and cocoa are accompanied by notes of violets and tobacco. The palate is dense with layers of raspberry and red plums that ease toward tea and mint and velvet tannins in the finish. 

Appellation

Calistoga (Napa)

Varietal

86% Cabernet Sauvignon, 13% Merlot, 1% Cabernet Franc

Size

750ml

Closure

Cork

Alcohol

14.2%

UPC

733555251329