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.
This bottle was not decanted although in retrospect an hour or two in the decanter would make sense. I opted for the classic Summer pairing with steaks off the grill.
Ruby red in color. 14% ABV. Breathtaking nose of red fruits, leather, pencil shavings and cedar. Old school, rustic Cabernet Sauvignon. Powerful, lean and somewhat tannic. Concentrated and chewy. Dried cherries, currants, cassis and minerals on the palate. The finish is exceptionally long with a shroud of gritty tannins. This wine is the complete package. An iconic vintage for Montelena that rivals some of their classics from that era including the ’87, ’91 and ’94. This will surely cruise to 30 years of age and I will keep the few bottles I have left to verify this.
My rating: 98 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.