2015 Ch. Montelena Napa Valley Chardonnay


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.


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 2015, mild  and dry weather prevailed and everything came early - from budbreak to harvest. Unlike many California Chardonnay producers, Chateau Montelena prefers to avoid both new 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. Like great burgundy, the wine needs time in the glass for the fruit to emerge and become truly opulent. This vintage offers plenty of pineapple and pear along with lovely spice notes. Try it with fresh cracked crab or shellfish. 


Fermentation in stainless steel tanks followed by 10-month’s aging in 100% French oak (10% new barrels).

Tasting notes

Aromas of ripe pineapple, apples, notes of honey and cloves precede a zesty mouthful of fresh melon and citrus, sandalwood and minerality. Sur lie aging and just enough oak to give the wine texture, richness and depth that lingers on through the finish.


Napa Valley