Chateau Montelena is one of the original “blue-chip” estates in the Napa Valley with an illustrious history dating back to 1882, when Alfred Tubbs purchased 254 acres of land at the base of Mount St. Helena, two miles north of Calistoga in the north of the Napa. Jim Barrett took over in 1972 and transformed the winery into what it is today. Jim sadly died very recently and so the winery is now run by his son Bo.
Chateau Montelena shot to fame in 1976 with the Judgement of Paris tasting when it won first place for its 1973 Napa Valley Chardonnay. The tasting was lead by UK wine journalist Steven Spurrier who at the time was living and working in Paris in the wine shop Les Caves de la Madeleine. His idea was to pit the best Californian Chardonnays against the best Burgundies and then the best red Bordeaux against the best Californian Cabernets. What happened next was to shock the wine trade all over the world – California won first place in both the white and red categories. What was more astonishing was that most of the judges were in fact French. California and Montelena were put firmly on the map. The film Bottle Shock was released in 2008 and dramatises the events leading up to this monumental 1976 tasting.
“Not bad for kids from the sticks” - Jim Barrett’s reaction to winning the Judgement of Paris Tasting
Size: 103 ha
Montelena has now been making top class wine for over 30 years and the continuing top-ranking results are testimony to the efforts of Jim’s son Bo, who has been the master winemaker since 1982. Chateau Montelena pride themselves on their sustainability making special efforts to be environmentally friendly. They converted 100% to solar power in 2007.
“No other winery I know of has such an unbroken track record for making world class wines year after year” Robert Parker, Wine Advocate
The Napa Chardonnay is one of the few from California that behaves like a grand cru Chablis, with aromas of pear tart, tropical passion fruit and lychee, along with subtle oak spiciness. The palate has flavours of juicy peach and mouth-watering, big, citrus notes of pink grapefruit and honey tangerine, which segues into an interesting long and spicy finish.
The Napa Cabernet is silky with aromas of ripe plum, black cherries, dried blackcurrant and rich cocoa, with mellow barrel tones. The wine is rich with good persistence and depth culminating in a spicy, ripe fruit finish.
The iconic Estate Cabernet has an incredibly intense nose with layer upon layer of spice, cedar, earth, and tobacco – all over a rich base of ripe black cherry, cassis, and blueberry jam. The palate delivers black and red fruits with subtle tones of butterscotch; anise and sweet oak complement the fruit beautifully.
Both the Riesling and Zinfandel are made in tiny quantities but are both elegant examples of their type. The Riesling is arguably one of the best Rieslings coming out of California –incredibly fine and pure with orange blossom and petrol aromas, a vivid acidity that carries citrus and honey notes onto a long, persistent finish.The Zinfandel offers lively rhubarb fruit, vanilla bean spiciness, with an elegant and very refined palate.
Estate Cabernet 2009- “… wraps around the palate with serious depth. Even with all of its intensity, the 2009 has a silkiness that makes it incredibly delicious at this early stage. Red berries, flowers, tobacco and sweet herbs all flesh out on the generous, radiant finish…” 93+ Points, Outstanding, eRobertParke.com