2015 Ch. Montelena Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon


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.


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 2015, the weather remained consistently warm but rarely hot throughout the growing and harvest season. On the other hand, the effects of a multi-year drought reduced berry size at harvest as well as overall yields. What the winery lost in quantity, it made up in quality. This is Cabernet that allures as well as charms, delivering a nose of red and black fruit, earthy and floral notes and a palate that’s dense, layered and chewy. The bright, refreshing acidity makes it the perfect partner for a range of dishes - not only grilled or roast meats but lighter dishes, too.


Following fermentation in stainless steel tanks, the wine aged 16 months in (26% new)  French and East European oak.

Tasting notes

92  points - Vinous. Aromas of cassis, strawberry jam, and violets dance with notes of cocoa, tobacco, spice and leather. The palate is dense with layers of dark fruit, mint, vanilla and black pepper. The finish is elegant with acidity lingering with the fruit and fine-grained tannins.


Calistoga (Napa)


91% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Merlot, 1% Cabernet Franc