Chateau Montelena Facts

  • Annual Case Production:
  • Location:
    Calistoga, CA
  • Appellation:
    Calistoga AVA, Napa Valley AVA
  • Grape Varieties:
    Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Riesling, Zinfandel
  • Founded:
  • Important People:
    Bo Barret (winemaker), Jim Barret

Recommended Wineries:

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Chateau Montelena
Chateau Montelena's place in wine lore was forever secured at the 1976 Judgement of Paris. That year, several Napa Valley Chardonnays were placed up against the finest White Burgundies, to be judged by France's most respected critics. Blind tastings were conducted, and at the end, the unthinkable happened: Chateau Montelena's 1973 Chardonnay came out on top. The critics were amazed and Montelena was written into the history books.

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Chateau Montelena was founded by Alfred Loving Tubbs almost 100 years before its shocking victory at the Judgement of Paris. Tubbs, a ropemaker who had made a fortune during the California gold rush, chose a site at the Base of Mount St. Helena just north of Calistoga, California to plant his vines and build a winery. The Tubbs family continued to harvest grapes through prohibition until 1958 when they sold the property to Yort and Jeanie Frank. The Franks, who bought the property as a place to retire, excavated Jade Lake, which remains an iconic Napa Valley landmark today.

Fast-forward to 1968: Chateau Montelena was purchased by a group led by Jim Barret. Barret and his partners re-planted the vines and updated the winery, releasing Montelena's first vintage in 1972. Six years later, Montelena won its greatest victory, at the Judgement of Paris, and has been producing premium wines ever since. Winemaker Bo Barret, the son of Jim Barret, is in charge of wine production at Chateau Montelena. Working with a combination of volcanic, sedimentary and alluvial soil, Barrett makes classic, austere Cabernet Sauvignons with brooding black fruit and earth character and powerful structure for aging. We especially appreciate the element of restraint in his winemaking; Barrett has no interest in allowing his fruit to bake in the sun in order to make wine with 15% alcohol. These wines will get better and better for 20 to 25 years. Barret also makes an Estate Zinfandel and of course the famed Napa Valley Chardonnay. Production ranges between 30,000 and 36,000 cases per year.

In 2008, a sale of Montelena to Michael Reybier, owner of the Bordeaux winery Cos d'Estournel, fell through. Jim Barret and his partners remain owners today.

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About Napa Valley

Napa Valley is the most famous wine-growing area in the U.S. It begins at the base of Mount St. Helena in the north and tapers off some 30 miles to the south into the floodplain where the Napa River enters San Francisco Bay. From Mount St. Helena to the city of Napa, the valley is defined by two north-south ridgelines of the Coast Range Mountains.
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