Bottle Notes, Cabernet Sauvignon

1987 Chateau Montelena Cabernet Sauvignon – Bottle Notes

The 1987 Chateau Montelena was the winning bottle in the January installment of Pick My Next Bottle. I purchased this bottle at the winery in the early nineties at the winery and the wine has been cellared at 55 degrees ever since. I decanted the wine for 30 minutes and served it with grilled flank steak.

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.

Purple in color with some lightness on the edge of the glass. 14% ABV. Intoxicating aromas of cedar, graphite, leather and cherries. Elegant, rich and still somewhat tannic. Cherry, cranberry, tobacco and pencil on the palate. The finish is endless. It is truly hard to believe this wine is 27 years old. California Cabernet is simply not made like this anymore. Exceptional now but I think this wine will continue to drink well for another decade. In the conversation for best Montelena Cabernet ever with the ’91, ’94 and ’97.

My rating: 97 points.

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.

Current vintages are readily available at retail and can also be purchased at the winery. Expect to pay $100-$125 per bottle.

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