2019 Chateau Montelena Chardonnay Napa Valley
Out of Stock. ETA: Feb'23
Region: Napa Valley
Bright gold in color and incredibly aromatic, the ripeness of the vintage is most pronounced initially; melon, perfume, and orange blossom slowly give way to fresh peach, honeysuckle and apricot. There’s very little overt oak influence on the nose, although it comes across subtly in the background as pie crust and toast.
It’s the suppleness and silky mouthfeel that strike first, although there’s abundant mango and citrus with Meyer lemon here as well. The minerality is chalky and distinct, a beautiful contrast that layers in with the acid adding both complexity and depth.
There’s slightly more wood on the transition to the finish, surfacing as baking spice and crème brûlée. However, they’re handily overwhelmed by notes of Asian pear, mango and pineapple—absolutely delicious. In time, expect hazelnut and almond to appear.
Chateau Montelena’s history is one of the deepest and most storied in the Napa Valley and California. Founded just north of Calistoga by a senator and San Francisco entrepreneur in 1882 at the turn of the century, it was one of the largest wineries in the state. Prohibition put an end to Montelena’s winemaking, and the next major era began in 1968, when Jim Barrett purchased the estate. Jim fell in love with this exceptional property, blessed with a complex mix of soils, slopes and biodiversity of wildlife and fauna. He had a dream of creating wine at the level of the great First Growths of Bordeaux, and set about replanting the vineyard, outfitting the winery with modern equipment, and studying the processes necessary for farming and winemaking at the highest quality level.
In 1976 Chateau Montelena put California at the forefront of the wine world. That year a who’s-who of the French wine and food establishment gathered for a grand tasting at the Inter-Continental Hotel in Paris. Four white Burgundies were tasted against six California Chardonnays. When the scores were tallied, the French Judges were convinced that the top-ranking white wine was one of their own. In fact, it was Chateau Montelena’s 1973 Chardonnay, rated above all other wines. This seminal event has been memorialized in the book "The Judgment of Paris," by George Taber, as well as in the 2008 feature film Bottle Shock.
Today Chateau Montelena’s distinct 19th century stone structure stands as a quality icon in Napa Valley, consistently producing some of the finest wines in California. Master Winemaker Bo Barrett, Jim’s son, now runs the estate with the help of Winemaker Matt Crafton and Vineyard Manager Dave Vella.
I remember standing at the press as the first squeeze from our first lot of Chardonnay in 2019 began to trickle into the pan . . . and thinking WOW. Even at 6am and at that stage—cold juice scarcely 2 hours removed from the vine it was clear that the potential for an e ̋usive, rich, complex wine was there. ̃e excitement lasted scarcely 10 seconds before it was time to get to work; time to envision, time to make (irreversible) decisions, and time to act. Seeing the potential, the mosaic in our minds, is one thing. Being naturally curious and receptive to new, creative ideas is another. But it’s in the translation, the execution, and the eventual realization of what’s finally in the glass that’s the greatest challenge yet ultimately the most gratifying.