Chateau Montelena Barrels image courtesy of MasonCooper via Flickr/CC
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