Grape(s): 99% Cabernet Sauvignon, 1% Cabernet Franc
Localization: Calistoga, Napa Valley, California, USA
Tasting Notes: Incredibly floral and opulent, the red berry character of this vintage, mostly Bing cherry and raspberry at this stage, is buttressed by rich notes of cocoa, hazelnut, and Earl Grey. Black pepper and cedar complement this freshness exquisitely. Dense but light on its feet, the contrast of velvety tannins and bright acid bookend a youthful and vibrant palate, chock full of blackberry sorbet, plum sauce, and strawberry jam. Fresh fig and marzipan lend richness and texture while stitching these disparate forces into a cohesive yet lively experience. Baking spices abound on the finish along with coffee bean, star anise, and an almost caramel-like sweetness that dovetails beautifully with fresh blueberry and cinnamon.
94 Points - Vinous: The 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon Estate is dark, ample and totally seductive. Black cherry, mocha, plum, spice, new leather and tobacco all meld together. Pliant and supple, the 2016 is already incredibly delicious. This is an especially mid-weight wine and style. Accordingly, the 2016 Estate will drink well with minimal cellaring. The Estate was bottled just two months before this tasting. I imagine it will put on some weight with further time in bottle. All the elements appear to be in the right place for that to happen.
The Domain: Chateau Montelena’s history is one of the deepest and most storied in the Napa Valley and California. Founded just north of Calistoga by a senator and San Francisco entrepreneur in 1882 at the turn of the century, it was one of the largest wineries in the state. Prohibition put an end to Montelena’s winemaking, and the next major era began in 1968, when Jim Barrett purchased the estate. Jim fell in love with this exceptional property, blessed with a complex mix of soils, slopes and biodiversity of wildlife and fauna. He had a dream of creating wine at the level of the great First Growths of Bordeaux and set about replanting the vineyard, outfitting the winery with modern equipment, and studying the processes necessary for farming and winemaking at the highest quality level.
In 1976 Chateau Montelena put California at the forefront of the wine world. That year a who’s-who of the French wine and food establishment gathered for a grand tasting at the Inter-Continental Hotel in Paris. Four white Burgundies were tasted against six California Chardonnays. When the scores were tallied, the French Judges were convinced that the top-ranking white wine was one of their own. In fact, it was Chateau Montelena’s 1973 Chardonnay, rated above all other wines. This seminal event has been memorialized in the book "The Judgment of Paris," by George Taber, as well as in the 2008 feature film Bottle Shock.
Today Chateau Montelena’s distinct 19th century stone structure stands as a quality icon in Napa Valley, consistently producing some of the finest wines in California. Master Winemaker Bo Barrett, Jim’s son, now runs the estate with the help of Winemaker Matt Crafton and Vineyard Manager Dave Vella.