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.
Crimson in color. 13.9% ABV. Old World nose of red fruits, cedar, leather and menthol. Light to medium body with light acidity and fading fruit. Plums, currants and cherries on the palate. Medium length on the finish. Somewhat charming on a warm Summer night in Seattle but nowhere near what you expect from Montelena in a good vintage. Drink soon.
My rating: 87 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. That being said, poor vintages like 2000 should be consumed on the younger side.
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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