2014 Ch. Montelena Estate 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.


This iconic Napa Valley wine delivers the intensity we expect from a Napa Cab while showing the restraint, structure, tannin and acidity of an age-worthy Bordeaux. And like great Bordeaux, it’s a wine to revisit every few years and savor its slow, evolution in the bottle. 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. 2014 may not stand out in the way that 2013 does; nevertheless, the weather was ideal throughout the growing season and Napa Valley wines are excellent. This iteration of the Estate Cab is a sensory delight that seems soft at first but gets dense and deep as the tannins and acidity come into play. The aromas of dark fruit and notes of vanilla, spice and earth are a dazzling opener to a wine with rich flavors, minerality and structure. A few years of aging are recommended, or be sure to decant and allow the wine some time to open up.


Fermented in stainless steel tanks, followed by 22 month's aging in French oak barrels (35% new oak).

Tasting notes

92 points – Wine & Spirits .  Aromas of blackberry, cassis, sage and cedar swirl with notes of lavender, licorice and vanilla. On the palate, the wine is fresh with ripe raspberry, espresso and leathery notes that extend into a long finish of slate and licorice. It’s a full-bodied wine with tannins that are velvety but soft. 


Calistoga (Napa)


97% Cabernet Sauvignon, 2% Cabernet Franc, 1% Petit Verdot