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

When a Chateau Montelena Chardonnay won the infamous 1972 Paris, California wine could stand as tall its old-world counterparts. Today the winery continues to craft classic Chardonnay that stands out among the best in the world. Sourced from a small vineyard in the relatively cool Oak Knoll District, the wine 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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¥15,400 (incl. tax)
CH. MONTELENA Chardonnay Napa Valley (1.5L)
CH. MONTELENA Zinfandel Estate Napa Valley

With the 2018 vintage, Chateau Montelena’s Estate Zinfandel has returned. Due to extensive replanting in 2012, subsequent vintages combined estate fruit with that from nearby vineyards to produce the wine they called Calistoga Zinfandel. However, the replanted blocks now produce enough fruit to make a wine sourced entirely from the estate's holdings of young and old vines. What's new, though, is that those blocks were replanted to Primitivo, the Zin clone with origins in Italy. While Primitivo and Zinfandel are genetically identical (and can be used synonymously 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. No need for aging! Enjoy now!

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¥8,580 (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 Estate Napa Valley

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, you wouldn’t regret owning several bottles for special occasions or just to savor once every few years. 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 approaching their sixth decade. 2018 was one of those perfect Napa Valley vintages that began with bountiful spring rains and followed with a summer of warm days and unusually cool nights. The result is a sensory delight, from the complex aromatic interplay of fruit, spice and earth to the rich flavors framed inside Chateau Montelena’s recognizable minerality and structure. A few years of aging are recommended, or be sure to decant and allow the wine some time to open up.

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¥26,400 (incl. tax)
CH. MONTELENA Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley (1.5L)