Chateau Montelena dates back to 1882 when Albert Tubbs bought 254 acres of property just north of Calistoga. Tubbs planted vines and by 1896 Montelena was the 7th largest winery in California. Winemaking came to an end with the onset of Prohibition.
The current iteration of Montelena can be traced to 1968, when Jim Barrett was brought on as a partner in the winery. Wine production began again in 1972, with Mike Grgich employed as winemaker. Four years later, the Chateau Montelena 1973 Alexander Valley Chardonnay won first place among the Chardonnays and White Burgundies entered in the “Judgment of Paris” wine competition. This was later chronicled in the popular wine movie Bottle Shock.
The 1995 Chateau Montelena Cabernet Sauvignon Estate was the overwhelming favorite in my latest Pick My Next Bottle poll, with 48% of the vote against ’95 Cabs from Dalla Valle and Dunn.
The wine is ruby red in color. Intense, heady aromas of graphite and leather. Classic Montelena flavors of cassis, currants, plum, tobacco, iodine, cedar and just a hint of white pepper. The finish on this wine just lasts forever. The tannins on this wine are definitely present, although they appear to be resolving. Could you age this wine longer? Absolutely, but rest assured it drinks beautifully right now.
Chateau Montelena is truly a throwback to a bygone era. These are wines meant to be cellared, providing less pleasure on release than they will after 10 or more years of aging.
The wine is readily available at retail and can also be purchased at the winery.
My rating: 94 points