1178 Broadway -- Burlingame, California 94010
Telephone 650-343-0182



HOURS:
Monday 9-7 Tuesday-Saturday 9-7:30
Closed Sundays.




Inquire About A Wine--Gerald at Weimax.com


Please check our Home-Page for Shipping Info.


Email Newsletter icon, E-mail Newsletter icon, Email List icon, E-mail List icon Sign up for our Sporadic Emails

For Email Marketing you can trust

 

SUSSUDIO ???

FLORAL ALBARI—O

SARDINIAN WHITE

BOONTLING PINOT

NEW SONOMA RHONE-ISTE OF NOTE

REMARKABLE PINOT

LAKE COUNTY ZIN

STELLAR NEW ARTISAN RIOJA

OSTATU BLANCO

GREAT GRUNER VELTLITER $13.99

NICE LITTLE PINOT $9.99

STONY RIESLING

BLAYE ME!
$14.99

NEW MADIRAN
$14.99

DRY MUSCAT
FROM AOSTA

I'M OKAY
YOUR RUCHE

"TEXTBOOK" CHARDONNAY

RIOJA BARGAIN

PRETTY PETTY SARAH

FORAGING FOR PINOT NOIR

MARSELAN...A HYBRID OF CABERNET & GRENACHE

CLASSIC MACON $13.99

CRISP MOUNTAIN WHITE

BEST BUYS
Good Wines for $5-$15

CASTEL√O BARGAIN

STELLAR BLAUFRńNKISCH ESTATE

CAMPANIAN DELIGHTS

COLORFUL ZIN

23 TO BUY 25 REASONS

FIE, FY, FO, FUM

ROMORANTIN

DOURO DYNAMITE

PORTUGUESE RED BARGAIN

BARGAIN ZWEIGELT

GRAND SYRAH FROM AN UNUSUAL PLACE

SERIOUSLY FINE KIWI SAUVIGNON BLANC
$21.99

SPICY AGLIANICO

WHITE BURGUNDIES OF NOTE

MARSANNE BARGAIN

CHERRYISH TUSCAN RED SALE $10.99

2013 TAVEL ROSE

DRY NEW YORK RIESLING

PROSECCO FOR ADULTS

UNUSUAL ROSSO FROM THE COLLINE NOVARESI

BILLIONAIRE'S WINES UNDER $30!

BARGAIN WHITE BORDEAUX

PIERCINGLY GOOD
WHITE

TOP OF THE LINE
CREMANT

ANOTHER RULLY GOOD WHITE

UNIQUE BUBBLY DESSERT WINE

RESERVE QUALITY RIOJA

LA INA SHERRY

BARBERA OF NOTE

LETTUCE SHOW YOU A GOOD PINOT NOIR

NEW, ARTISAN PINOT NOIR

SUPER VERONESE SALE $12.99

PIEMONTE'S GRAND VIN BIANCO?

WHITE BURGUNDY OF NOTE

GAMAY FROM THE FRENCH ALPS

DELICIOUS, FRESH ROS…S

GREAT GRUNER VELTLINER

GOOD ELEVEN-BUCK CHIANTI

FLOWERY, CURIOUS RED

OLD FAVORITE KIWI SAUVIGNON IS BACK

OLD PATCH RED
ZIN BLEND

MONCUIT'S GRAND CRU CHAMPAGNE

HONEYED MUSCAT

SPICY 
GEW‹RZTRAMINER

Napa Valley Grape Info
2002

2010

Amazing FRENCH CIDERS

FIZZY LAMBRUSCO

 

 

HOME PAGE

AMERICAN WINES

CALIFORNIA PINOT NOIRS

RHONE WANNABEES

ZINFANDELS

SAUVIGNON BLANCS

MERLOTS

OREGON WINES

CALIFORNIA CHARDONNAYS

CALIFORNIA CABERNETS

RIESLING & GEWURZ

WASHINGTON STATE

CANADIAN WINES

Adventuresome  Wines

ROS…S !!

FRENCH WINES
ALSACE
BEAUJOLAIS
RED BORDEAUX
WHITE BORDEAUX
RED BURGUNDY
WHITE BURGUNDY
RH‘NE VALLEY
THE FRENCH ALPS
SOUTH OF FRANCE

LOIRE


CHAMPAGNE

 

ITALIAN WINES
PIEMONTE

VALLE D'AOSTA

NORTHERN ITALY

CENTRAL ITALIA

TUSCANY

SOUTHERN ITALIA


SPANISH WINES
Spanish Sherry
& Other Delights


PORTUGUESE WINES

SWISS WINES

GERMAN WINES

AUSTRIAN WINES

ARGENTINA

CHILE

AUSTRALIA

NEW ZEALAND

SOUTH AFRICA

OBSCURE WINES

DESSERT WINES

CHAMPAGNES

HALF-BOTTLES

SPIRITS

CIDERS

BEER
Even Real "Bud"!

OTHER STUFF

WINE TASTING

WHAT'S OPEN


UPCOMING TASTINGS

TASTING RESULTS
  
NEWSLETTER

SHIPPING INFO

ETC.

 

TASTING REPORTS

HOW TO ORGANIZE A BLIND-TASTING

BLIND TASTING ARCHIVE

MY 2013 EURO WINE ADVENTURE BOOK

CHATEAU MONTELENA
VERTICAL


ALBA WINES EXHIBITION 2007

ALBA WINES EXHIBITION 2008

SCHRAMSBERG vs THE FAMOUS FRENCH

German Wine "Master Class" Tasting

S & M FOR WINETASTING GEEKS

TEAR-WAH
TASTING

2014 SF INTERNATIONAL WINE COMPETITION

2013 SF INTERNATIONAL WINE COMPETITION

2012 SF INTERNATIONAL WINE COMPETITION

2011 SF INTERNATIONAL WINE COMPETITION

2010 SF INTERNATIONAL WINE COMPETITION

2009 SF INTERNATIONAL WINE COMPETITION

2008 SF INTERNATIONAL WINE COMPETITION
Periodically Amazing

2007 SF INTERNATIONAL WINE COMPETITION
The Nose Knows!

2006 SF INTERNATIONAL  WINE COMPETITION.
SPIT HAPPENS

2005 SF INTERNATIONAL WINE COMPETITION.

2004 SF WINE COMPETITION TASTING

The 2003 SF WINE COMPETITION

2002 SF WINE COMPETITION TASTING 

A Vertical Tasting of Nalle Zinfandels

 

ETC.

RANTINGS & RAVINGS

WINE ROADS of EUROPE

Food/Wine/Friends
A Photo Gallery

MASTER OF WINE ESSAY TOPICS

Old Bottles: A TASTE OF HISTORY

Bob's Venetian Diary

Bob's Paris Notes Updated Spring 2007

Wine Writer's Confession

NEW "CULT" WINERY

Some Restaurant Reviews

HOW TO SELL WINE.
Info For Brokers and
Wine Distributors.

HOW TO HOLD A TRADE TASTING

$100,000 WORTH OF WINE MARKETING ADVICE:  FREE!
Mainly for Foreign Vintners

MOLDY CORKS

Study Reveals Experts Taste More Than What's In the Glass!

OKANAGAN VALLEY WINE TOUR-2010

BRIAN'S 2005 SUMMER VACATION WITH UNCLE

Gerald's Tour de France 2006

GERALD'S TOUR DE FRANCE 2008

A TOUR OF PORTUGAL-2009

HOW TO SPEAK BETTER ITALIAN

PONZI'S 40th
ANNIVERSARY

ROOSEVELT'S 2005 CHILI COOK-OFF

ROOSEVELT'S 2007 CHILI COOK-OFF

Grape Goddess

Ross Bruce Birthday

ALESSIA DALL'U

CCIV

FAQs

BURLINGAME

Links


CHATEAU MONTELENA
10 Vintages of Chardonnay
25 Years of Cabernet Sauvignon

July 2010

Notes by
Gerald Weisl,
wine merchant


We've been long-time fans of the wines of Calistoga's Chateau Montelena, having purchased their 1972 vintage Johannisberg Riesling (as it was called back then) when it was released in 1973.

The winery has undergone some changes since then, but visiting the place in July of 2010 brought back numerous pleasant memories.

Winemaker Bo Barrett and his father, Jim, decided to showcase their Chardonnays and Cabernets by presenting an amazing vertical tasting of each.

Bo called it "The Montelena Time Machine" and the guest tasters were treated to not only a tasting of remarkable wines, but the off-the-cuff reminiscing of Bo, reflecting on the challenges of each vintage.


El Padron:  Jim Barrett


Jim Barrett in the 1970s.

The wine that put them (and California, for that matter) on the world's enological wine map was Montelena's 1973 Chardonnay.


Jim Barrett described the notion of tasting such a range of Cabernet vintages coming from the same estate and made by the same winemaker as "unique."
He was clearly enthusiastic to have a chance for guests (a few wine merchants and a number of journalists and wine writers) to taste the wines and see how they've developed.



We had ten vintages of Chardonnay to taste as our first flight.


CHATEAU MONTELENA NAPA CHARDONNAY
Montelena's first vintages were made by Mike Grgich, followed by Jerry Luper.
Bo Barrett explained that, at the start in the early 1970s, there were but 400 acres of Chardonnay in Napa, so they used to buy fruit in Sonoma's Alexander Valley (Gauer Ranch).  They also purchased, for a while, fruit from the Santa Maria area in the Central Coast.
Today they get their Chardonnay from the Oak Knoll District, just north of Carneros and they make a wine without employing a secondary, malolactic fermentation.  Montelena Chardonnay, unlike so many high octane wines, can be cellared and allowed to actually develop and blossom with bottle aging.

VINTAGE NOTES and COMMENTS
1979 Made by Jerry Luper, this wine featured mechanically-harvested (50%) fruit.  Some of the grapes came from the "Retlaw" vineyard...this is "Walter" spelled backwards.  Walter, as in the vineyard of Walter Disney.  The wine even had some skin contact during its fermentation.
Thirty one year old Chardonnay...and it's still alive and showing well!  Sure, it was "old", but it had an interesting floral note and a touch of oak on the palate.  One can sense this was an attempt at a sort of Burgundian-styled wine
1982 Bo Barrett's first official harvest as "the winemaker" and much to his chagrin, the weather gods had the temerity to provide rain from September 9th to September 22nd.  As a result, some of the fruit had a bit of botrytis.  It's a bit of a curiosity and I found the flavors to be reminiscent of a nicely matured Sauternes.  There was a bit of appley fruit and a touch of oak, along with a lightly nutty tone and some toastiness.
1985 This wine is a classic example of Napa Valley Chardonnays from the 1970s and into the '80's.  This vintage had fruit from the Mount Veeder area, comprising about 10% of the total.  Brassy in color and less yeasty/toasty.  It's showing its age, but still has some life and light oak...a graham cracker-like character, too.
1992 Bo Barrett spoke of this vintage as yielding a large crop, optimum sugar levels and a compact harvest period for Chardonnay (they started picking August 22nd!).  The notion of a large crop and good quality is a bit of an anomaly, but the 1992 produced a beautifully balanced wine with notes hinting at apricot and peach.  Ripe fruit.  High toned.  Dry and still fairly crisp with good length.  Remarkable.
1994 This vintage saw relatively low crop yields and Montelena harvested about 60% of "normal."  The wine has a youthful color, being light to medium straw.  The aromas are a bit dusty and hay-like, with apple and pear notes.  It's dry and seemingly "big boned."  I found an coarse texture to this wine as it almost comes across the palate with an astringent character.  It's ripe, big and fairly deep, though and can still be held for a few more years.
1997 The 1997 growing season provided a fairly warm summer and the crop was bountiful and ready to harvest at the end of August.  Barrett calls this sort of year a "Goldilocks" vintage...not too hot, not too cold--just right.
The color was a bit brassy in tone and the wine seemed to show the character of a warm, ripe year:  baked apple aromas and flavors with a bit of high octane 'heat' on the palate, though the wine is not high in alcohol, curiously.
1999 The 1999 growing season was fairly cool and Chardonnay did not mature until late September and early October.  They picked at a higher sugar level, apparently, than in the warm 1997 vintage!  The wine has medium straw color and the aromas started out strangely.  I found notes reminiscent of Play Doh to start and this morphed into a ripe and fruity tone.  It's nicely acidic, though, and big on the palate with some "attack" or "grip."
2002

 

Here's where we start to see Montelena Chardonnay show more refinement, changing to a t-shirt & jeans into nice slacks and a sport coat.  They had updated some of their crusher/stemmer/press equipment in 2000, along with a sorting table in 2002.
This wine displayed a good nose, showing fresh, clean, bright green apple fruit and a mildly stony note.  It's crisp and dry on entry and seems to "melt" into a richer, more unctuous wine.  There's a lemony note on the palate and the retains a crisp quality being very "fine." 
2004 Clear in appearance and medium straw in color, the 2004 growing season saw an early start and this allowed the Chardonnay to mature in late August before a heat spike in early September. They initiated night harvesting, noting this yields "finer" results. Bo Barrett speaks of "polish" with respect to this vintage and it's beautifully fresh with hints of peachy fruit.  They whole cluster-pressed 57% of the fruit and de-stemmed 43%.  The former, according to Barrett, gives a more delicate wine, while the latter portion has deeper, more intense aromatics.
Beautifully dry, crisp and still very young with a nice future ahead of it!
2006 As they had in 2005, the 2006 was picked entirely at night.  Slightly more than half the lot was whole cluster pressed and they employed merely 15% new French oak.  The wine is medium-straw in color and it displays all sorts of nice fruit aromas (green apple, hints of peach, a touch of melon, even a berry tone) with a faintly yeasty note and some stony elements.  It's young, fresh, dry, nicely acidic and a good candidate, as we have seen, for the cellar.
It was great to see such a range of vintages of a California Chardonnay.  

The wines seem to be made with the idea of a relatively consistent "styling" and they have not changed the style to appeal to the current fashions of a particular era or market.

We heard the comments, relatively off-the-cuff, from winemaker Bo Barrett, who seems to take a grounded, pragmatic approach to wine growing and wine making.

"I'm not into the voodoo of winemaking," he told the tasters.  "Young vines, for example, can make good wines and sometimes older vineyards don't give the best fruit quality and/or they are not always economically viable...we can't live on 7/10ths of a ton per acre, for example."

Barrett often referred to the great, influential French enologist, the late Emile Peynaud and his "triangle" of balance.  This means, according to Barrett, something like "a bit less than 14% alcohol, 6 or 7 grams of total acid per liter and approximately 3.2 or 3.3 pH for a Chardonnay.  

As noted in the tasting notes of one vintage, the vintage variations are a delight to see in the glass.  Further, one can see the 1979 vintage was made by someone with leanings to Burgundian winemaking and the more recent vintages show the work of someone intent upon showcasing the fruit qualities of the Oak Knoll area vineyards without the influences of a malolactic fermentation or the overt use of new oak cooperage.  Additionally, the wines are vinified to dryness and Montelena Chardonnays are intended for an audience which appreciates this style of wine.  Their "customer" is not necessarily the same person who's a fan of Rombauer or wineries employing enologist Helen Turley.

 

We then moved to another room to taste a dozen Cabernets from the Montelena Estate, starting with the 1984 vintage.

 


Click on the map to see a larger version...

 


 


CHATEAU MONTELENA 
NAPA
ESTATE CABERNET SAUVIGNON
Montelena has approximately 68 acres of of its estate vineyards in the Calistoga area.  Most of the vineyards are devoted to Cabernet Sauvignon, although there is some Zinfandel.  They have, according to winemaker Bo Barrett, three soil types in an amongst the various blocks.  Most of the vineyards are in alluvial soils (fine grained, with clay, silt and/or gravel), while 6 acres are decidedly clay and 4 are volcanic.
This video, which features subtitles (in case you don't understand "Wine-Speak"), gives some insight into the Barrett family's winegrowing and winemaking philosophy.

Most of the budwood for Montelena's Cabernet Sauvignon came from old clones of vines in nearby Alexander Valley. 
Bo Barrett explained the vineyards were first planted from 1972 through 1974.  The first vineyards were planted with 8' by 12' spacing.  "This leaves a lot of earth exposed with no vines 'catching' the daily sunshine.  Today we plant vineyards with greater vine density."
We typically have found Montelena's Estate Cabernets to offer a mildly earthy, dark berry fruit with oak well in the background.
Here's what we tasted and how the wines were showing in July of 2010...
These samples were decanted from large format bottles...


 1984 Deep in color, the wine retains a marvelously youthful color.  It's nicely developed on the nose, showing lots of dark, black fruits and some red fruit.  There's a firm, tannic backbone at the outset and the wine seemed to soften in the glass over the 40 minutes, of so, that we had to evaluate these wines.  It comes from a fairly hot vintage and the wine is a real tribute to the vineyard.  It is on a plateau and should remain in good condition for many years.
1985 Medium ruby in color, this wine has beautiful fruit on the nose.  Red fruits, a hint of pear skin and a mildly woodsy note.  This is a mildly tannic wine that's medium-bodied and a wonderful example of "claret" made in the Napa Valley.  Bo Barrett finds a hint of Brettanomyces (a leathery, gamey, meaty quality, sometimes reminiscent of a saddle-like fragrance), but I was not at all sensitive to that in this wine.
"Brettanomyces is something we have in our tool box or painter's palette, but we're not allowed to take it out any more." Barrett explained.
1986 Another one of Barrett's "Goldilocks" vintages, the growing season began early and the fruit stayed on the vine longer than in the previous vintage.  The wine is clear in appearance and offers a deep, dark, still youthful ruby color.  The nose is fantastic:  lots of dark fruits and a mildly tobacco-like tone.  The tannins seem rounder and the wine comes across the palate with a supple texture.  Barrett says this vintage combines some of the best features of the previous two years.
1987 This was the product of a drought year with some extreme conditions which caused a reduction in crop levels.  This showed dark, youthful color.  There's a nice black fruit aroma with a faintly cassis-like tone.  I found a note reminding me of American oak with a certain spicy quality which I don't usually find in Montelena Cabernets.  It's medium-full to full-bodied and deep, ripe and dark.  This is still fairly tannic and yet nicely balanced.  I suspect it will last for another decade, two or three!
1988 Somewhat similar to 1987, bud break was early and the crop level compromised by rains at "bloom."  It's clear in appearance and a bit lighter in color--more ruby red than purple or dark.  I found some earthy fragrances here and it's seemingly less fruity than its predecessors.  There's a tobacco-like note and a mild hint of cedar.  It's moderately tannic and I found this to be a bit coarse and astringent as though the tannins are not well-matched to the overall level of fruit.  Perhaps another decade of bottle aging will bring this closer to a point of balance?
1989 The year began with a touch of snow on the valley floor and Spring weather was fairly cool.  The overall vintage was regarded as "cool," with harvest starting the third week of September and finishing during the second week of October.  Yet Barrett made a wine of deep color and it's still youthful in that regard.  He commented on having bought a new de-stemmer to replace their "Cuisinart" device which made a mash of the fruit and stems in previous years.
The nose offers hugely fruity, berryish notes with a wonderfully floral quality underneath.  It's nicely developed and yet still has a firm backbone of tannin.  I detected some beet-root sort of flavors and it's tannic and lengthy on the palate.  I was struck by the overall fine balance and cellar potential, especially in a relatively unheralded vintage.
1990 This harvest saw another small crop as there was a rain storm during "bloom," reducing the yields.  As the fruit was ripening, there was a bit of rain in September, pushing back the harvest and allowing for additional hang time and slowing the maturation.
Deep in color, this wine has a lovely nose with intense perfume.  It shows ripe, black fruit notes and a woodsy quality.  It's quite deep and nicely balanced with moderate levels of tannin at this stage.  The state-of-the-art de-stemmer may have accounted for the more supple quality here.  It's very fine and can be held another decade, or so.
1991 The growing season was "stuck on April" and the summer was unusually cool in Napa, but some heat in September allowed the fruit to attain ripeness.
The wine displays a deep, youthful color and it's showing a blackberry fruit character on the nose.  Now you can taste the fruit/tannin balance in this wine and see the major improvement from some of the earlier vintages.  It's simply a matter of refinement and elegance.  Long and deep with plenty of life in it.
1992 With warm summer temperatures, the harvest started  a shade earlier than normal.  There were numerous fairly hot days with significantly cooler nighttime temps, another positive factor.  The warm growing season also allowed for a bountiful crop, nearly 4 tons per acre.
Medium ruby in color, this shows a great nose...fresh red and black fruits...it's bright and polished on the palate.  It seems less astringent than most of the previous vintages and yet it still has some structure and additional cellaring potential.  Quite good.
1993 The growing season saw a bit of rain in April, May and June, with a normal summer weather pattern.  September saw some cooling mid-month and then a heat wave at the end.  It cooled during the first week of October and there was a small bit of rain.  The crop level was "normal."
Medium deep ruby in color, I felt this wine was a bit quiet on the nose and less exuberant than its predecessors.  Ripe berry notes on the palate with mild tannins...a "nice" wine, but perhaps a bit less compelling than many.
1994 Here's a highly-praised vintage which saw a fairly dry growing season with many days with fog or clouds in the morning and warm sunshine in the afternoons.  They viewed the crop level as "light," the Cabernet vineyards producing between 2.6 tons per acre and 3.2 tons per acre.  Picking began mid-September and proceeded until nearly a month later.
Having changed their crusher-stemmer, this vintage saw Montelena eliminate most of the stems and seeds, so the tannins present in this vintage are from grape skins only.
The wine is medium-deep ruby in color, with lots of lovely dark fruit aromas.  The wine is full-bodied, but avoids the "gobs o' fruit" syndrome popular with many critics.  You can see and taste that they've "polished" the wine  and that the fruit takes center stage.  Though there's some tannin in the middle, the "edges" seem softer and rounder.  Young and cellar-worthy.
1995 With bud break coming earlier than normal, the season stalled as April, May and June were quite cool.  Following veraison (when the grapes changed color from green to dark purple), the weather was warm during the day and the harvest began in late September and continued until the end of October.
Medium ruby in color, this wine displays lots of leathery, gamey notes of the Brettanomyces.  In fact, the Brett is the main theme of this wine.  It's still a bit tannic and quite leathery, a far different wine from so many of the other, cleaner vintages in this flight.

 

We then adjourned and moved down into the cellar to taste the flight of wines ranging from 1996 to 2008...


Winemaker Cameron Parry has been with Montelena since the 2004 vintage and was named "winemaker" in 2008.


CHATEAU MONTELENA 
NAPA
ESTATE CABERNET SAUVIGNON
Montelena has approximately 68 acres of of its estate vineyards in the Calistoga area.  Most of the vineyards are devoted to Cabernet Sauvignon, although there is some Zinfandel.  They have, according to winemaker Bo Barrett, three soil types in an amongst the various blocks.  Most of the vineyards are in alluvial soils (fine grained, with clay, silt and/or gravel), while 6 acres are decidedly clay and 4 are volcanic.
Cameron Parry, who can differentiate between Leuconostoc oenos and Leuconostoc fallax, took us through the second half of the Cabernets, from the 1996 vintage up to a barrel sample of Montelena's 2008.

1996

The summer of 1996 saw numerous days where the thermometer hit triple digits.  Untimely spring rains diminished the potential crop size and the drought-like summer months pushed the fruit to maturity before harvest season temperatures dropped, allowing the fruit to linger on the vine.  Bo Barrett mentioned the experience of previous drought years allowed him to make the "right" winemaking decisions in producing this Cabernet.
After the 1995, this wine did not show so much Brettanomyces.  It had a lot of dark fruit on the nose and palate.  Moderately tannic at this stage, this is a deep, young wine with bright, berryish Cabernet fruit.
Very good.

1997

This vintage produced a large crop and it was warm throughout the growing season, so the harvest started early and was such that everything was ripening simultaneously.  And despite the relatively large crop level, the berry size was small and this meant a high skin-to-juice ratio.
Deep and dark in color, the wine features a mildly herbal note to start and it becomes increasingly leathery.  There's lovely dark fruit underneath, but the Brettanomyces wins out here.  It's a big, full-throttle red wine and we were told this "is the last of the Brett years." 

1998

The 1998 vintage was widely panned as a poor vintage in the Napa Valley.  Following the rather ripe and flashy wines of 1997, the 1998 growing season was challenging.  Winter hung on and May and June were quite cool, retarding the growing season.  July saw warm weather and Cabernet was harvested around the first week of October, as September turned cool.
You might find this wine to be a shade less intense in terms of color, with a bit of "development" evident on the robe.  It has nice red fruits on the nose and it's a mildly tannic Cabernet.  I found it to be a really nice California "Claret" (in the best sense of the term).  It seems to me you'd be hard-pressed to identify this wine as the product of a "poor" vintage.
That's a sign of good grape growing and winemaking.

1999

Cool weather predominated during the summer and 1999 saw warm weather heat things up in late September as the Cabernet finally attained ripeness.  Montelena picked its relatively small crop starting at the end of September and on into the third week of October.  It was a fairly small crop, with less than 2 tons per acre.
Deep in color, this wine shows nice, typical blackberry notes with a light hint of tar fragrances lurking on the edge.  It's a big, deep, powerful Cabernet with fine tannins.  This can go for another decade, or so.

2000

Here's another challenging year for Cabernet makers...the growing season was quite cool, apart from periodic heat spikes. Some winds during a hot spell in June diminished the crop level, but since the summer was so uneven, a smaller crop level was a blessing.
Chardonnay was ready at the end of August, but the Cabernet harvest began in mid-September and did not finish until the end of October.  They had quite a range of sugar levels, too.
The color of this wine was fairly dark and there were hints of ripe plum verging on a nearly prune-like fragrance.  The oak shows up, especially on the palate.  It's a mildly tannic wine with good balance.  Drinkable now, certainly, with another decade or so of cellar-ability.
As this was another vintage widely panned by numerous wine writers, one would be hard-pressed to taste this and determine it was the product of a supposedly disastrous year.

2001

Mother Nature fooled the vines by bringing warm weather in March, convincing the vines to start growing.  But then she pulled the rug out from under them with wet and near freezing weather in April.  Then during flowering in May, she turn on the furnace and the 100 degree temps caused some shatter in some vineyards, further reducing the potential crop.  The summer was moderately warm and even, so the smallish crop started to achieve ripeness during the first week of September.  Harvesting of Cabernet took about a month, with Montelena starting to pick at night.  At this point, too, they had a sorting table and were updating cooperage which had been old.
This shows deep, dark color.  The nose is lovely, with ripe fruit notes and lots of black fruit.  It struck me as wonderfully balanced...complex and intense without being "over the top."  The wine shows a point of maturity, yet it still can go another decade or two, well-stored.

2002

Winter seemed to finish early in 2002 and with warm days in February and March, bud break came early.  A cool summer saw August finally heat up.  This seemed to be a year featuring uneven ripening and Montelena picked row-by-row rather than simply harvesting entire blocks of fruit.  They credit their new regimen of night harvesting with helping provide better quality fruit.
This is still a baby!  Deep in color and it still has purple hues to it.  Young, fresh and tannic...it's hugely more structured than Montelena's 2001, for example.  Bright blackberry fruit and plenty of tannin;  but the fruit and tannin levels are such they suggest this wine will eventually arrive at a very high level when it matures.  Lots of fruit and patience here will likely be rewarded.  Handsomely.

2003

A warm March was followed by a wet April and a fairly warm summer.  The Cabernet did not ripen until well into September and they continued picking fruit until nearly the end of October.
This wine was quite dark in color, with an unusual nose...I found very fruity note reminding me of Muscat or Malvasia Nera as there's a high-toned floral element here.  The wine doesn't seem to have the tannic structure for long-term cellaring, but it's showy now and should remain in good shape for 5-10 years.  It will be interesting to see how this evolves and if it blossoms further.  I'd view it as a more immediately drinkable Montelena Estate wine.

2004

Winter rains finished in February and March was warm, allowing for early bud break.  For some reason, there was a moderate amount of 'shatter' during flowering, resulting in a smaller than normal crop.  The fruit started to ripen in early September and they wrapped up the Cabernet harvest during the last week of that month.  The sugar level was a bit higher than normal and it's one of the relatively rare bottlings of Cabernet that crossed the 14% barrier.
Lots of intensity to the color, which is youthful at this stage.  The nose offers amazingly deep, ripe fruit tones, with blackberries and cassis.  The wine is deep, profound and more tannic than either the 2002 or 2003.  It's a powerful, muscular Cabernet.  Superb.  Cellarworthy in grand fashion.

2005

Early bud break in 2005, followed by a cool, somewhat wet Spring...June was a bit cool, but it warmed up in July and through early August.  Then it cooled off into September and Cabernet started to attain ripeness the last week of September and the harvest continued until late October.  The crew says it's a "classic" vintage for Montelena Estate Cabernet.
The wine displays very dark color, with bright fruit aromas.  There are notes of plum, blueberry and some cassis--really marvelous perfumes!  The wine seems to be a "kinder, gentler" version of Montelena Cabernet.  Nice length, deep and balanced.  The tannins seem subdued (or, perhaps well matched to the intense fruit and therefore a bit shadowed).  Attractive.

2006

There was greater-than-normal rain in the Spring.  Once the grapes turned color, there was quite a bit of heat and dry winds (come to think of it, there's often a lot of hot air in many wine regions!) through the first part of the harvest season.  Then the weather changed and into late October the climate was cooler.  A portion of the Cabernet was fully ripe and exuberant, while the late-picked fruit made a wine of greater elegance.
The wine showed a youthful, dark color.  The nose was bright but seemed unfocused and quiet, as though it needs time to blossom.  There is a nice woodsy note in there, though.  I found a moderately tannic Cabernet, with nice texture and deep fruit,  You can sense both facets of this wine, as there are notes of a warm, ripe vintage with some of the brightness of cooler climate Cabernet.  Nice balance and this surely needs time to evolve.

2007

A dry winter was interrupted by February rains, with dry conditions into Spring.  Bud break took place in March and then the summer months saw normal to warm, but not ultra hot conditions.  August saw some higher temps with a cooling trend into September.
Deep, dark, youthfully purple in color, the wine has an equally youthful, fruity character.  Loads of dark, black fruit aromas and there's a nice, mildly cedary tone as well.  The fruit flavors dominate and I found a mocha quality here, too, as perhaps they used somewhat more toasty cooperage this vintage?  Is it too soft, I wonder?  The tannins are so relatively mild, 

2008

They had to employ some frost protection measures in April as cold weather coincided with bud break.  Some heat and wind caused problems in May and with shatter.  Summer was warm and the swing between highs and lows was helpful in developing good aromatics and intense flavors.  Cameron explained there was yet another refinement in the vinification with this vintage.  "We started employing a technique that's perhaps a bit more common in Bordeaux," he explained.  "This is called 'delestage' and it involves draining the fermenting juice from the tank and then pumping it back over the cap and re-filling the tank."  It's said this helps reduce seed tannins and makes for a superior integration of fruit and tannin.
Deep and dark purple in color, this wine offered a wonderful fruity aroma with notes of blackberry and blueberry.  I also found a faintly floral tone in the back.  There's a nice touch of sweet oak here, as well.  Very polished and young...quite attractive. 



It was a magnificent opportunity (thanks Brian Baker, Bo Barrett and the entire "Team Montelena") to revisit so many "old friends."

Though many "vertical" tastings begin with the youngest wine and move to the oldest, there was method to their madness.  Tasters got to experience the wines from "the good old days" and moving forward in time, we were able to take note of the various refinements.

Both Jim and Bo Barrett spoke about a "50 year Plan" in starting Montelena.  This is remarkably far-sighted and quite unusual, since few winemakers have such vision.

It was wonderful to experience, as well, the vintage variation in the wines.
Not being a fan of numerically "rating" wines or vintages, I wondered how someone could precisely assign a numerical score to either a wine or the particular vintage.  All had merit and most were quite enjoyable.  Doesn't, then, that numerical score indicate a personal preference more than a significant qualitative assessment?


ON TO A PAGE OF MONTELENA "NOSTALGIA"

 

BACK TO THE WEIMAX HOME PAGE

 



 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

winepour.gif (12696 bytes)Wine Tasting Today

TO INQUIRE ABOUT A WINE:  
Copyright © 1999 WEIMAX October 28,  2014