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.

Wine Maker

Bo Barrett





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Wines from this Winery

CH. MONTELENA Riesling Potter Valley

It’s well-known that Chateau Montelena made history with its Chardonnay and wins frequent accolades for Cabernet Sauvignon. But the winery also produces a tasty Riesling with fruit from the organic McFadden Farm in Mendocino’s Potter Valley. Cool summer nights in the high-elevation vineyard allow Riesling grapes to ripen slowly, developing lovely aromas and rich flavors while maintaining excellent acidity. While 2021 was a warm and dry year, due to a prolonged drought, the wine is a surprise for its balance, finesse, and freshness. The fresh palate with only a whisper of sweetness makes this a versatile wine you can enjoy with lunch, dinner, or a friendly afternoon with family and friends. The floral notes and stone fruit aromas induce pleasure while the wine’s subtle balance of sweetness and acidity stands up to not only spicy Asian dishes but salads, blue or goat cheeses, sausages, or pork, turning any meal into an elegant event.

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¥7,700 (incl. tax)
CH. MONTELENA Chardonnay Napa Valley

Chateau Montelena’s top-notch Chardonnay remains as delicate and distinctive as it was when it won the infamous Paris tasting. The exceptional character of this wine starts in the small vineyard in the Oak Knoll District but then emerges in the winery. Unlike many California Chardonnay producers, Chateau Montelena uses little new French oak and no malolactic fermentation. Natural yeast fermentation and aging on the lees result in a wine that is zesty and energetic, mouth-filling and structured with minerality and fresh acidity. 2021 saw a return to “normal” winemaking after the traumatic wildfires of 2020. A continuing drought reduced yields, but the quality of the fruit was exceptional, producing wine with aromatics of green apple, peach, and floral notes and flavors of melon, lemon curd, and crème brûlée. This is a food-friendly wine that will pair with a variety of dishes, especially fresh seafood, shellfish or poultry. The creaminess of a crab salad or lobster roll will cut through the acidity and citrus notes of the wine beautifully. 

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¥16,500 (incl. tax)
CH. MONTELENA Chardonnay Napa Valley (1.5L)

For large family gatherings or parties with special friends, Chateau Montelena Chardonnay in magnum looks great and ensures that everyone gets a glass of this delicious and special wine. Sourced from a small vineyard in the relatively cool Oak Knoll District, this is Chardonnay that enchants with a perfume of green apple, honeysuckle, and orange blossom and a supple palate of Asian pear, pineapple, and chalky minerality.  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 mouth-filling without butter notes. 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. 

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¥33,000 (incl. tax)
CH. MONTELENA Zinfandel Estate Napa Valley

Chateau Montelena’s Estate Zinfandel is sourced entirely from the estate's holdings of mature heritage Zinfandel and recently planted Primitivo, the Zin clone with origins in Italy. While Primitivo and Zinfandel are genetically identical (and interchangeable on wine labels), the clones do produce wines with subtle yet distinct differences. As the winery puts it, “Classic, heritage Zinfandel is a match for Calistoga: slightly rustic, occasionally briary, but rich and full-bodied when ripe. Primitivo, conversely, leans toward the red side of the flavor spectrum with ample acidity and incredible freshness.” Like all Chateau Montelena wines, this Zin is made in an elegant style with moderate (14.2%) alcohol. Delicious now - but a few years in the cellar wouldn’t hurt!

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¥10,780 (incl. tax)
CH. MONTELENA Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley

Like Chateau Montelena’s Estate wines, the Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon is sourced from vineyards located around Calistoga, at the northern end of the Napa Valley. While this is a warmer part of the valley, the wine remains a model of restraint in every vintage, expressing balance and freshness instead of power. The secret to Chateau Montelena’s style lies in the vineyards, which all share a distinct alluvium soil profile that can produce earthy, complex and concentrated Cabernet Sauvignon. Restraint guides the winemaking, too, with less new oak and less time spent in oak than most high-end Napa cabs. In 2019, the blend consists of 91% Cabernet Sauvignon and 9% Merlot. The taste is classic Montelena: aromas of dark fruit and baking spices, a dense and chewy palate layered with a plethora of flavor, and a focused finish of savory notes that linger longer than one expects. Moderate alcohol (13.8% ABV) makes this wine the perfect partner for a range of dishes - not only grilled or roast meats but lighter dishes, too.

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¥15,950 (incl. tax)
CH. MONTELENA Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley (1.5L)
CH. MONTELENA Cabernet Sauvignon Estate Napa Valley