A Calistoga Classic

Belated notes from a Chateau Montelena Dinner

 


Last year I was lucky to have suffered from an excess of riches, but my travel schedule pushed reporting on many events to the bottom of my pile. I'm only now catching up with all of my notes, so while these notes are delayed, they certainly warrant publication. Chateau Montelena Cabernet Sauvignon is considered one of the blue chip Napa Valley Cabernets, with a long history of producing distinctive wines that age like few others.

Chateau Montelena Barrels image courtesy of MasonCooper via Flickr/CC
Originally founded in 1882 and operated through Prohibition, Chateau Montelena was shuttered as a winery until 1968, when new owners began the arduous process of bringing the property back to life. Mike Grgich was hired in 1972 to oversee the first modern vintage of the winery. As luck would have it, and of course skill and expertise, Chateau Montelena's Chardonnay from its second vintage, 1973, figured prominently in the famed judgement in Paris, capturing first place among the Chardonnays tasted.

The rest, as they say, is history. Blessed with an excellent vineyard site in the Calistoga AVA, Chateau Montelena has continued to produce benchmark Napa Valley Cabernets that are typical of the region. For Calistoga, a decidedly warm part of the valley, that means wines that are opulent and intense. The estate vineyards offer a diversity of soils as they move away from the Napa River and into the edges of rolling hills that slope up towards Howell Mountain. The blend of volcanic, alluvial and sedimentary soils afford the winemakers at Chateau Montelena with base wines that can be blended to support the classic fruit that their site expresses so well.

Winemaking and oak aging at Chateau Montelena are all designed to leave a gentle imprint on the wines. These are neither particularly extracted, nor heavily oaked wines; they represent a rather powerful expression of Napa Valley Cabernet, trading some elegance for power, and sheer intensity of fruit for complexity. Certainly among the top wines produced in Napa Valley, they truly are a benchmark for classic Napa Valley Cabernet. I was fortunate to have been able to taste nearly two decades of their Estate Cabernet, a wine that has consistently shown a fine ability to age gracefully.

1978 Chateau Montelena Cabernet Sauvignon

Lots of coffee greets the nose along with noticeable VA that adds some lift to the smoked chili and tar accents here. A bit lean in the mouth, this still has plenty of fine tannins giving the big cherry-filled mid-palate a bit of a chewy texture. Tactile and rich, this seems fairly extracted, with layers of herb, earth and blue fruits on the moderately long finish. Powerful if a bit rustic. 89 points


1 2 3 next

Chateau Montelena Cabernet Tasting

1.
Chateau Montelena Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley the Montelena Estate (1978)
List It
2.
Chateau Montelena Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley the Montelena Estate (1980)
List It
3.
Château Montelena Estate Cab la Costa Wine Co (1983)
List It
4.
Château Montelena Estate Cabernet Sauvignon Faded Bin-Soiled Label Depressed Cork (1984)
List It
5.
Chateau Montelena Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley the Montelena Estate (1985)
List It
6.
Chateau Montelena Chardonnay Napa Valley (1987)
List It
7.
Chateau Montelena Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley the Montelena Estate (1989)
List It
8.
Chateau Montelena Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley the Montelena Estate (1990)
List It
9.
Chateau Montelena Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley the Montelena Estate (1991)
List It
10.
Chateau Montelena Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley the Montelena Estate (1992)
List It
11.
Chateau Montelena Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley the Montelena Estate (1994)
List It

Mentioned in this article

Comments

  • Snooth User: Richard Foxall
    Hand of Snooth
    262583 3,012

    I've hedged my bets for my kids' birth year bottles: Each one has a Dunn Howell Mountain and a Montelena Estate. Both are 90+ vintages, so I figure that odds are good that if the Dunn isn't ready yet, the Montelena won't have faded, and if the Montelena has faded, the Dunn will be entering its drinking window. Oldest Montelena I have had to date was 10 years and it was singing.

    May 14, 2013 at 4:32 PM


  • Snooth User: EMark
    Hand of Snooth
    847804 6,156

    Wow, what an evening that was. Thank your for the excellent report. I wish I had even a single one of Montelena's Estate bottlings in my cellar. I guess there is a way to fix that.

    May 14, 2013 at 4:49 PM


  • Snooth User: Richard Foxall
    Hand of Snooth
    262583 3,012

    Emark, I bought an extra of each from BPWine. If they are out, let me know. We do intend to drink one of each before the kids turn 21. I understand there's a Nascar race here every year and you might be in town... perhaps that sampling could be timed to give you a chance to taste them.

    May 15, 2013 at 12:11 AM


  • Snooth User: EMark
    Hand of Snooth
    847804 6,156

    That's very gracious of you, Fox. I do plan on continuing to visit Sonoma for NASCAR. The weekend of June 21-23 is the next event. Don't forget, though, some time back you also promised to let me try some of your awesome sounding Zinfandel treasure. I certainly have not forgotten. :-)

    May 15, 2013 at 1:31 PM


Add a Comment

Search Articles


Best Wine Deals

See More Deals »

Daily Wine WisdomMore Wine Tips








Snooth Media Network