Chateau Montelena Vertical Tasting back to 1996

Thursday, August 23, 2018 - 07:30 PM

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"It wasn't always like this. Before Paris, people didn't drink our wine. I mean, my friends did. But you could hardly consider their palates discerning..." Bo Barrett - Bottle Shock 


Montelena is one of the legends of Napa Valley and we just got a vertical of 10 vintages back to the epic 1996 vintage... guess what?  Were going to drink them with our "Wine Drinking People".



A tasting of the current releases to start out the evening.

Image result for Chateau Montelena Riesling Potter Valley

2014 Chateau Montelena Riesling Potter Valley
Price: $24.75       Sale $21.78

Riesling is incredibly versatile and, while our take on it certainly rewards some bottle age and culinary experimentation, we’re still amazed at how easy it is to finish the bottle for no good reason at all.  Nose Fresh rose and violet followed by orange blossom and honeysuckle.  Mango, peach, and ripe apricot slowly come into focus after a few patient minutes.  Palate Ripe melon and lemon curd are the stars of the show here but quickly yield to fresh pineapple, quince jam, and clove.   Finish The acidity and viscosity of the wine are quite complementary and usher in a subtle sweetness highlighted by fresh fig and honey.

Image result for 2015 Chateau Montelena Chardonnay Napa

2015 Chateau Montelena Chardonnay Napa
Price: $57.00    Your Price: $50.16

The ripeness of the vintage is readily apparent as pineapple and stone fruit burst from the glass during the first pour. Fresh melon, along with cinnamon, nutmeg and myriad baking spices follow suit as the wine begins to warm and its aromatic opulence comes into focus. While the toasty barrel character sets the stage for richness and depth, take the time to enjoy the beautiful interplay between the crisp, fresh orange zest and ginger notes and how they interact with the creaminess and texture from sur lees aging. The texture of the midpalate seamlessly overlays the dense, concentrated finish, punctuated by baked apple, vanilla, and a hint of white pepper.

Image result for 2015 Chateau Montelena Cabernet Sauvignon Napa

2015 Chateau Montelena Cabernet Sauvignon Napa
Price: $58.50       Sale $51.48

Nose Ripe plum, raspberry, and strawberry jam co-mingle with a touch of vanilla and star anise.  Palate Rich concentration and viscosity punctuated with blueberry and blackberry notes woven into chewy, ripe tannins.  Finish The rich acid backbone ties the palate together and aids the seamless transition into a finish layered with ripe cherries, baking spices, and cocoa.

Image result for 2012 Chateau Montelena Petite Sirah Napa

2012 Chateau Montelena Petite Sirah Napa
Price: $36.50       Sale $32.12

Petite Sirah can truly be a diamond in the rough from some of California’s best producers.  Rich, velvety, dense, and – at Montelena at least- ageable, the wines are typically an excellent value.  Our dry-farmed Petite Sirah comes from 100 year old vines on the south-west side of Calistoga.  As is the case in the vineyard–where ignoring the temptation for over-ripeness is paramount–in the cellar we grapple with the seemingly ubiquitous tendency to over-extract, and instead aim for balance, structure, and nuance, the cornerstones of great wine.   

Nose Get ready for an endless parade of red and dark fruit as the wine opens with blackberry, strawberry jam, and dried fig in quick succession. These yield quickly to softer notes of cocoa and anise which become more pronounced with time in the glass.  Palate The acidity and tannins of this wine are an immediate one-two punch but are complemented by undertones of dried plum, allspice, and hazelnut, all wrapped in a finely-knit texture that will need time to open up.  Finish There’s a hint of Earl Grey tea on the finish as the mouthfeel transitions from somewhat coarse and angular to smooth and viscous. The black pepper notes are unmistakable as are the hints of cedar and cloves.  

Image result for 2014 Chateau Montelena Zinfandel Napa

2014 Chateau Montelena Zinfandel Napa
Price: $38.25       Sale $33.66

Nose In the glass, the nose is dominated by cocoa, tobacco, and dried cherry.  The woodsy, briary character of old vine Zinfandel is quite prominent but with time unmasks beautiful notes of lavender, cassis, and fresh mint.  Palate Fresh cranberry, a hallmark of the Primitivo in the blend, mingles with roasted walnut notes and subtle hints of cinnamon and clove.  The supple tannins are present throughout and amble between earthiness and minerality.  Finish The transition to the finish is decidedly old world in style, with dark chocolate, cigar box, and a garrigue character that’s rare for American wine.  Chefs take note.


Then, we sit down to dinner to enjoy the 10 vintages of Chateau Montelena Estate Cabernet Sauvignon back to 1996.  The fee for the tasting and dinner is $195 + tax, for reservations call 954-523-9463 or e-mail


Chateau Montelena 10 Vertical Tasting back to 1996 Vintage
Thursday, August 23, 2018
7:30 PM

1996 Chateau Montelena Estate Cabernet Sauvignon Napa

(93 points) Medium garnet-brick colored, the 1996 Cabernet Sauvignon Estate features notions of cassis, warm blackberries and eucalypt with touches of mocha, smoked meats and sandalwood plus a waft of pencil lead. Medium to full-bodied, the palate is packed with rich, savory flavors, with a chewy frame and just enough vivacity, finishing long and meaty. (LPB) (2/2018) Robert Parker's Wine Advocate

1997 Chateau Montelena Estate Cabernet Sauvignon Napa

(98 Points) There are 10,200 cases of the remarkable 1997 Cabernet Sauvignon Estate. Opaque purple-colored with a dense, chewy, full-bodied personality, it displays abundant cassis, mineral, and earth notes. This brilliantly made, super-concentrated, pure, blockbuster possesses sweet tannin as well as a terrific finish. Having added additional weight since last year, this sumptuous, multilayered, profoundly concentrated Cabernet contains 14% alcohol. It is a candidate for 25-30 years of longevity. Robert Parker's Wine Advocate

1998 Chateau Montelena Estate Cabernet Sauvignon Napa

(93 points) The 1998 Cabernet Sauvignon Estate (13,000 cases) will disprove all the naysayers about how bad the vintage was in the North Coast. It possesses an opaque ruby/purple color, a gorgeous perfume of loamy soil, new saddle leather, chocolate, and black cherry and black currant fruit, full body, and ripe tannin in the finish. As it sits in the glass, notes of cedar and spice box also emerge. (RP) (8/2002) Robert Parker's Wine Advocate

1999 Chateau Montelena Estate Cabernet Sauvignon Napa

(95 points) The 1999 Cabernet Sauvignon Estate (an 8,600-case cuvee made from yields of 1.98 tons of fruit per acre) is considered by Bo Barrett to be a 'great' year. The wine boasts a saturated inky/purple color as well as extraordinary density of fruit and cassis, and huge tannin, body, and extract. It is a substantial, palate-staining, long, muscular Cabernet that should only be purchased by connoisseurs with cold cellars as well as patience. Anticipated maturity: 2006-2030...The Estate Cabernet Sauvignon remains one of California's most remarkable Cabernets. I have been following it since the early seventies, and even the most difficult vintages are still drinking beautifully. The home vineyard is so consistent that even in vintages such as 1989 and 1998, this wine is far better than its competition. (RP) (8/2002)  Robert Parker's Wine Advocate

2000 Chateau Montelena Estate Cabernet Sauvignon Napa

(90 points) The dense purple-colored 2000 Cabernet Sauvignon Estate (97% Cabernet Sauvignon and 3% Cabernet Franc) reveals a sweet perfume of black currants, an expansive, full-bodied palate, surprising elegance as well as accessibility, excellent purity, and a long, layered finish. It is a successful 2000 Cabernet to drink now and over the next 12-15 years. (RP) (12/2003) Robert Parker's Wine Advocate

2001 Chateau Montelena Estate Cabernet Sauvignon Napa

This is one of the most controversial wines in terms of ratings initially scoring (96 Points) from the Wine Advocate and scoring (69 Points) in the Wine Spectator upon release.  We have shown this vintage at several tastings in the past and it has always been more like (96 Points) to us but that's why we conduct these tastings.  Were doing scientific reserch with wine!

2002 Chateau Montelena Estate Cabernet Sauvignon Napa

(96 points) This appears to be one of the great efforts from Chateau Montelena, something I think I was correct about when I gave it an 'in the bottle' rating in 2006 of 95+. It is still an amazingly young wine that came from old vines on the famous St. George rootstock that did not require replanting because of the phylloxera epidemic that swept through Napa in the late 1980's and 1990's. Despite its lofty 14.4% alcohol (high by Montelena standards) and the overall flamboyance of the 2002 vintage, it needs another 4-6 years of cellaring. This young, classic Cabernet Sauvignon represents the quintessential traditional school of Napa Cabernet Sauvignon. It possesses an inky/blue/purple color in addition to a tight, but promising nose of black currants, crushed rocks, earth and spice. Rich, full-bodied, pure and brilliantly executed, with perfect harmony, this is a sensational yet forebodingly backward, youthful Cabernet Sauvignon that needs 4-6 years of cellaring and should keep another quarter of a century. (RP) 96+ (6/2012) Robert Parker's Wine Advocate

2003 Chateau Montelena Estate Cabernet Sauvignon Napa

(94 points) A big wine from the Barrett family (14.2% alcohol), this 2003 exhibits earthy black currant fruit, the restrained but intense Montelena style, full body, good richness and impeccable balance, purity and density. The color is a healthy dark ruby/purple and the wine shows lots of cassis. In spite of the restrained aromatics, the palate is rich, full-bodied, substantial and persuasive. This 2003 is approachable now, but it will be even more gorgeous 15, 20 and 25 years from now. This is a heritage wine from this great estate in northern Napa Valley. (RP) 94+ (6/2013)  Robert Parker's Wine Advocate

2005 Chateau Montelena Estate Cabernet Sauvignon Napa

(95 points) Deep garnet in color, the 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon Estate leaps from the glass with notes of crushed blackberries, black cherries and Bing cherries with hints of raspberry leaves, bay leaves and underbrush plus a waft of pencil shavings. Medium-bodied, nicely poised, very fresh and beautifully elegant, it has a solid frame of very fine-grained tannins and a very long, berry-laced finish. Still incredibly youthful. (LPB) (2/2018) Robert Parker's Wine Advocate

2006 Chateau Montelena Estate Cabernet Sauvignon Napa

(92 points) Revealing sweeter tannin and a softer, riper, fuller-bodied style, the 2006 Chateau Montelena Cabernet Sauvignon Estate is a beautiful, classic wine with loads of berry fruit, an earthy character, and a spicy, pure, rich finish. The silkiness of the tannins suggests this 2006 will be drinkable in several years. It is another candidate for nearly two decades of aging. (12/2008) Robert Parker's Wine Advocate

Charcuterie and Cheese Selection
Wild Mushroom and Heirloom Tomato tartar with Fresh Basil Aioli and Livernano Balsamic drizzle
Cabernet Braised Beef Shortrib Wellington with Foie Gras Chestnut Pate
Chocolate Bacon Raspberry Creme Brulee

The fee for this wine tasting/dinner is $195 + tax for reservations call 954-523-9463 or e-mail



A bit of info about Chateau Montelena:

Chateau Montelena is nestled in the foothills of Mt. St. Helena in the northern end of the Napa Valley. Founded in 1882, the winery was built in the "chateau" fashion by a French architect. The entire facade shown on the label is made of beautiful imported stone. Montelena's reputation was unsurpassed in the glorious golden era of California wine during the 1880's, but the entire facility fell into sleepy desuetude during Prohibition. The Yort Franks, a Chinese couple who longed for their ancestral home in Northern China, moved into the estate in 1958 and decided to evoke a slice of Chinese nostalgia in the Napa Valley. Behind the winery they created Jade Lake, a peaceful, charming, small body of water complete with weeping willows, arched bridges, geese and ducks, and an authentic Chinese junk beached on the shore. Then in 1972 the winery was purchased by James Barrett and several partners, visionaries with a dream of reviving the great name of Chateau Montelena.

One of the winery's first wines, a 1973 Chardonnay crafted from Napa and Sonoma grapes, propelled Chateau Montelena to overnight stardom and a permanent place in the history of modern California wine. In 1976, a blind tasting was organized in Paris to illustrate the coming of age of American wines. The "who's who" of the French wine world was invited to preside. The participants judged six California Chardonnays and four top White Burgundies as well as a second flight of six California Cabernets and four of the best classified French Bordeaux. An unknown California winery, Stag's Leap Wine Cellars, walked with top honors in the red wine judging. In the white wine judging, it was a rout with Chateau Montelena garnering six of nine first place votes!

Over the years Chateau Montelena has produced as many as three Chardonnays, but in the 1980's the winery narrowed its focus to two bottlings - a Napa (begun in 1975) and an Alexander (begun in 1981). The Alexander Chardonnay which came from almost entirely from the famous Gauer Ranch and exhibited a riper, lusher style. Most interesting has been the fact that Chateau Montelena owns only a small amount of chardonnay acreage; almost its entire chardonnay production comes from high quality growers in Napa.  Montelena was not a flash in the pan and since that first famous Chardonnay from the 1973 vintage, Chateau Montelena answered the critics the next decade with a slew of great Chardonnays; in 1975, 1979, and 1983 the Napa bottling was a strong contender for the wine of the vintage; in 1985 the Alexander bottling was one of the top wines. The original winemaker, Mike Grgich, did not believe in any of the current practices employed by many of California's top Chardonnay houses - techniques such as lees stirring and aging, malolactic fermentation, and barrel fermentation. Montelena still employs many of the techniques first used by Grgich. Additionally, the wines are fermented in stainless steel and then aged in mostly five year old barrels that impart relatively neutral flavors. In an age when new oak is ubiquitous, Chateau Montelena is a curiosity. We are unsure if Montelena's steadfast clinging to the old ways is leaving the winery behind the current pacesetters in Chardonnay; but, since the outstanding 1988's, the Montelena Chardonnay offerings have not been among the very best. Although little known, the winery also makes an excellent Zinfandel and a small amount of very good Riesling.

Although Chardonnay was the wine that made Chateau Montelena famous, from the outset the Barretts have concentrated on making Chateau Montelena a Cabernet powerhouse. The winery's first great Cabernet was the 1974 - that was the first vintage and a legendary one from Napa Valley of which the best wines are still drinking fabulously.  Then there was the 1977, that was the year that the winery's own estate vineyard in the Calistoga area started coming into full production. The microclimate of this particular region is known among wine cognoscenti as a "power district" in that it produces massively fruited wines with big tannins. In an area such as Calistoga the winemaker becomes a very important ingredient in the making of great Cabernet - it takes a great deal of skill to add finesse and balance to these heavily extracted Cabernets. Chateau Montelena has had the good fortune of having three extremely talented winemakers - until 1977, the legendary Mike Grgich (now the owner/winemaker of Grgich Hills); Jerry Luper (who took the winery to even greater heights than Grgich); and since January 1982, Bo Barrett, the son of the founder of the winery. The Cabernets produced at Chateau Montelena from 1984 through 1987 have been quite possibly the best in their style produced in California. The 1988 and 1989 - reflecting the vagaries of the vintage - were several notches down in quality...but still good. Beginning with the 1991 vintage, the winery launched a second, less expensive Cabernet called the Calistoga Cuvée. Some fruit from the estate as well as carefully selected additional lots from other local sources were blended to create a wine intended to expresses the character of the Calistoga district.

From the 1990 vintage onward, the Chateau Montelena Cabernets began to undergo what we believe to be a profound change in style to a more accessible, supple, and elegant wine. In January of 1995, we participated in a rare twenty-year vertical of every Chateau Montelena Cabernet produced from 1973 to 1992. Winemaker Bo Barrett explained that winemaking changes instituted in 1990 were responsible for these positive developments at Montelena. The vintages of 1990, 1991, and 1992 were the best wines in the twenty-year vertical retrospective. Although the winery's Cabernets have received high praise for over a decade, we believe that Montelena (beginning with 1990) is making the best wines in its history.

In addition to producing one of the most famous wines in the history of California, the 1973 Chateau Montelena Chardonnay, the wine that won the Paris Tasting in 1976. More recently they have produced one of the most controversial wines when the 2001 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon scoring (69 Points) in the Wine Spectator and then receiving (96 Points) in the Wine Advocate. We love the wines and the drama created with this vintage and would have to agree with Parker in this case, the 2001 Estate wine is closer to (96 points) or on our rating scale it would receive- Most Excellent!

Other wines from Chateau Montelena available:

Chateau Montelena Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2014
Price: $157.50    Sale $138.60

Chateau Montelena Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 (375ml)
Price: $83.25 Sale $73.26

(95 points)  A total knock-out, the 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon Estate captures all the potential of this great site. Powerful, voluptuous and structured, yet very much within the context of classicism that has defined these wines for several decades. Dark red cherry, stone fruits, smoke, licorice and scorched earth, along with beams of tannin, wrap around the palate. Deep, virile and explosive, the 2014 is a must have. Don't miss it! (AG) 95+ (12/2016) Vinous

Chateau Montelena Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2013
Price: $155.25    Sale $136.62

(96 Points) Deep garnet-purple colored, the 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon Estate opens with profound black and red currant cordial notes over an undercurrent of Indian spices, chargrill, scorched earth and bay leaves. Medium-bodied with wonderful intensity and depth in the mouth, it has a firm frame of grainy tannins and compelling freshness, finishing long and layered.  Robert Parker's Wine Advocate

2003 Chateau Montelena Cabernet Sauvignon Library Release
Price: $192.00    Sale $168.96

2005 Chateau Montelena Cabernet Sauvignon Library Release 
Price: $192.00    Sale $168.96

2007 Chateau Montelena Cabernet Sauvignon Library Release
Price: $192.00    Sale $168.96

2006 Chateau Montelena Estate Cabernet Library Magnum
Price: $360.00    Sale $316.80

2007 Chateau Montelena Estate Cabernet Library Magnum
Price: $360.00    Sale $316.80

2015 Chateau Montelena Cabernet Sauvignon Magnum
Price: $140.00    Sale $123.20

2015 Chateau Montelena Chardonnay Napa Magnum
Price: $123.75    Sale $108.90