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

Country

USA

Region

California


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Wines from this Winery


2019 Ch. Montelena Potter Valley Riesling

In 2018, smoke from the fires that so damaged large swathes of Napa, Sonoma and Mendocino counties, led Chateau Montelena to scrap making a Riesling for the first time since 1972, likely an agonizing decision but an honest one. However, lovers of this dear favorite need not fret as it has returned -and in fine form, too! As usual, Montelena’s Riesling is sourced from the organic McFadden Farm in Mendocino’s Potter Valley, where cool summer nights at high elevations allow Riesling grapes to ripen  slowly, developing lovely aromas and rich flavors while maintaining excellent acidity. Conditions in 2019 produced ripe fruit, resulting in a wine slightly richer and more voluptuous than in other vintages. Lush yet lively, this is a versatile wine you can enjoy with lunch, dinner or appetizers in the early evening. The floral notes and tropical 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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¥6,380 (incl. tax)
2020 Ch. Montelena Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc

Produced in limited quantities, this Sauvignon Blanc stands out with lively citrus, refreshing minerality, complex aromatics, and exciting texture. The vineyard, in cool Oak Knoll, was planted over 40 years ago to heritage and newer clones of Sauvignon Blanc as well as a few rows of Semillon. As in Bordeaux, the inclusion of Semillion adds roundness, density, and honeyed richness to the zesty Sauvignon Blanc. The 2020 vintage looked to be a promising one, until devastating fires wreaked havoc throughout the upper valley. Fortunately, the fruit for this wine was safely in tank before the fires started. Enjoy this gem from the Napa Valley as an aperitif or with white fish, shellfish, sushi, or chicken braised in a white wine sauce.

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¥6,930 (incl. tax)
2017 Ch. Montelena Calistoga Zinfandel

The Calistoga Zinfandel features a historic label, highlighting the winery’s (and the Napa Valley’s) long association with this most Californian of grapes. Lighter in both color and heft than most contemporary expressions of Zinfandel, the wine, too, seems to recall an earlier era of winemaking. While the 2017 vintage played out with a few hot spells, Zinfandel vines are robust and seem to thrive in the heat. Produced from the estate’s newer plantings of Primitivo as well as old vine Zinfandel from vineyards in the region, the wine delights with red cherry and raspberry as well as cinammon, cloves, black pepper, and dark roasted coffee. The structure suggests many years of enjoyment lie ahead.

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¥7,040 (incl. tax)
2018 Ch. Montelena Napa Valley Chardonnay

In 1972, Chateau Montelena, still a relative newcomer, came out on top in the historic blind tasting known as “the judgement of Paris,” thereby precipitating an identity crisis in the French wine industry but also waking the world up to the rising excellence of California wine. This Chardonnay is sourced from a small vineyard in the Oak Knoll District, a cooler region known for elegant Chardonnay just to the north of the city of Napa. 2018 was a classic Napa Valley vintage of moderate temperatures that made for a slow harvest that extended through September. But as winemaker Matt Crafton notes, in great vintages, “the challenge becomes how to artfully craft the mosaic, that beautiful composition of the disparate parts of each vineyard block into something truly captivating and nuanced, amidst so much uniformity.” Unlike many California Chardonnay producers, Chateau Montelena prefers to limit new oak and avoid malolactic fermentation. Natural yeast fermentation and aging on the lees result in a wine that is fresh, vibrant, and mouthfilling but without buttery or sticky tropical notes. Like great burgundy, the wine needs time in the glass for the fruit to emerge and become truly opulent.

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¥10,450 (incl. tax)
2018 Ch. Montelena Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

Despite growing in a warmer part of the Napa Valley, where big, bold, and ripe rule the day, Chateau Montelena’s Cabs are surprisingly restrained, expressing freshness and balance instead of power. It’s a style that might not stand out in competitions, but one that will enhance your dining pleasure – whether this weekend or for decades to come. The Calistoga vineyards from which this wine is sourced all share a distinct alluvium soil profile that can produce earthy, complex and concentrated Cabernet Sauvignon. 2018 saw a cool spring and warm summer without heat spikes or, thankfully, wildfires. The harvest was bountiful and proceeded slowly through the early autumn months. A complex nose of fresh berries and savory spices, layers of flavor, focused acidity and dense structure make this wine the perfect partner for a range of dishes - not only grilled or roast meats but lighter dishes, too.

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¥12,980 (incl. tax)
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2017 Ch. Montelena Estate Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

As high-end Napa cabs soar ever higher in ripeness, power, and price, Montelena’s flagship wine remains true to itself as a wine that combines the intense flavor of Napa fruit with Bordeaux-like savoriness, structure, tannin, and acidity, and capacity for aging. Like a great Bordeaux, it’s a wine that rewards revisiting every few years and savoring 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. 2017 was a challenging vintage that included both heat spikes and terrible fires. On the other hand, Chateau Montelena, among several other wineries, reported that their Cabernet fruit came in with a broad palette of unusually vibrant flavors.  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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¥23,100 (incl. tax)
2018 Ch. Montelena Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon (1.5L)