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.
Magenta in color with some bricking at the edge of the glass. 13.5% ABV. Stunning nose of plums, leather, cigar box and cedar. Delicious fruits on a wine with notable concentration and structure. You can sense the age on the wine but at the same time there is an ever present youthfulness here. Currants, cassis, tobacco and earth on the palate. Exceptional length on the finish with prominent tannins. Classic old school Cabernet Sauvignon that is only still made like this by a handful of producers in Napa Valley. I’ll drink my last bottle of this vintage at 30 years of age in 2026.
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 available at retail and can also be purchased at the winery. Expect to pay around $175 per bottle. Back vintages are often available on WineBid for closer to $125.