Chateau Montelena Winery: A California Icon

By Kori ~ November 21st, 2011.

Chateau Montelena Winery, located in the Calistoga District in California’s Napa Valley, propelled onto the world stage during the famous 1976 Judgment of Paris. At the competition in Paris, four white Burgundies were tasted against six California Chardonnays. The French judges awarded the top honor to Chateau Montelena’s 1973 Chardonnay. It was a remarkable triumph and showed the world that California wines had come of age. The story of the competition was depicted in the 2008 film Bottle Shock, some of which was filmed at Chateau Montelena.

Founded in 1882 by Alfred Tubbs, Chateau Montelena was non-operational from the early 1900’s until 1972 when Jim Barrett purchased it. Barrett restored most of the original vineyards and completely refurbished the winery. At the time of the purchase, Jim’s son, Bo, had just graduated from high school. He has been involved ever since and was named winemaker in 1982. Today, his official title is Master Winemaker. Cameron Parry joined the winemaking team at Chateau Montelena in 2004 and was named winemaker in 2008. Cam now manages all of the winemaking operations under Bo’s direction. Chateau Montelena produces 35,000 cases annually.

Recently, we had the opportunity to taste the current release of their 2008 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon in a blind samples tasting. It is excellent and indicative of the quality wines that Chateau Montelena continues to produce.

2008 Chateau Montelena Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa Valley, California): 86% Cabernet Sauvignon, 12% Merlot, and 2% Cabernet Franc. Deep red in color. Nice nose with blackcurrant and oak aromas. Blackcurrant, black cherry, oak, and leather come through on the palate. Full-bodied with lively acidity and medium to high, chewy tannins. Well-balanced with a long finish.
Quality: 4 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 5 bangs for your buck (out of 5)
Where to buy: Received as sample, suggested retail $49; Available elsewhere, $35 to $50

Filed under: American Wine, Cabernet Sauvignon, California Wine, Five-Bangs For Your Buck Wines, Red Wine, Wines Over $25

Reader's Comments

  1. Michael Good | November 21st, 2011 at 10:44 pm

    The link above is to allow for readers to get acquainted with the winemaker of the 1973 Chateau Montelena Chardonnay that “blew away” the judges. Miljenko “Mike” Grgich went on to found Grgich-Hills winery which still produces very good to great Chardonnays in the valley. His first break was with Sourverain Cellars. Before he went on to Montelena he worked with Beaulieu Vineyards and Robert Mondovi. Let us also not forget that Stags Leap blew the French away with it’s Cab. Sauv. at the same tasting!! The heartbreak of the film Bottle Shock was that it dealt with the Barretts and not with the cinderella story of a winewmaker from Croatia who slipped the bonds of Communism to come to America and fulfill his dream of creating wine in what his professors call “paradise”. “Mike” is still quite alive and although he is not active in the day to day of G-H, he is still a force to recon with.

    I started collecting wines in 1970 at the age of 23 and I was very lucky to have obtained and enjoyed Chateau Montelena 1973 Chardonnay before and after the 1976 tasting in France. I was also extremely lucky to have spent more than just fleeting moments with Mr. Grgich at his winery in the Napa Valley.

    Miljenko Grgich is a giant in American and California winemaking.

  2. Steve Howe | November 27th, 2011 at 7:21 pm

    Chateau Montelena is a legend in the Napa Valley wine world. Everyone should give their tasting room a visit.

  3. Kori | December 6th, 2011 at 11:33 am

    Thanks for sharing the info about Mike Grgich. While I am aware of that history, this post was about a current Chateau Montelena wine so I was merely giving a little bit about the history of the winery, not a complete write-up about the Paris tasting. I certainly did not intend to minimize Mike’s role.

    Agreed. Great wines and beautiful place.