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As a new member of the Montelena family, we invite you to meet us, taste the wines and enjoy a bounty of benefits.

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Estate Zinfandel Brownie with Zinfandel Chocolate Ganache

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Zin Brownie

Zinfandel Brownie
2 eggs
¾ cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
½ cup butter, melted
½ cup Chateau Montelena Estate Zinfandel
¾ cup good quality cocoa powder (such as Ghirardelli)
¾ cup all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
⅓ cup chocolate chips (bittersweet is best)
½ cup Zinfandel Ganache (recipe follows)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a mixer or bowl, whisk together the eggs, sugar, vanilla and then Zinfandel. Add the melted butter and whisk to blend. Mix the dry ingredients together, next add dry mix to stir these into wet mixture. Add the chocolate chips and spread the mixture into a greased pan. Bake for 20 minutes, or until a toothpick in the center comes out clean.

Zinfandel Chocolate Ganache
12 oz. semi-sweet chocolate morsels
½ cup heavy whipping cream
6 Tbsp butter
½ cup Zinfandel

1. In a small saucepan, heat cream and butter almost to the boiling stage (but don’t boil it).
2. Pour over the chocolate morsels.
3. Let stand about 30 seconds and stir until smooth (2-3 minutes probably)
4. Add Zinfandel and stir until completely combined and smooth.
5. Drizzle over brownies and allow to cool, enjoy!

©2014 Nick Rugen Chateau Montelena

From Our Kitchen: Lamb Burgers with Nick’s Spicy Tzatziki Sauce

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A perfect paring for our spring red releases: Lamb Burgers with Nick’s Spicy Tzatziki Sauce. Best with a glass of our 2011 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon or 2011 Montelena Estate Zinfandel!

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Lamb Burger 
serves about 4


  • 1/2 bunch fresh mint, chopped
  • 1 1/2 lbs. ground lamb
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon sweet paprika
  • Pinch of ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon Kosher Salt
  • 1 cup feta cheese, crumbled
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil + more for brushing
  • 4 ciabatta rolls/ hamburger buns/ whole wheat pitas
  • 1 cup baby spinach
  • 1 small red onion, sliced into rings
  • Nick’s Spicy Tzatziki Sauce (recipe below)

Combine first 7 ingredients and half of olive oil in a mixing bowl, incorporating well. Next divide the mixture into four even balls, then shape into patties about 3/4 inch thick. Cook on grill over medium heat, roughly 4 minutes per side or until desired doneness. Turn grill to medium low. Brush sliced bun option with olive oil and grill until golden brown, about 1 1/2 minutes. Top bun with burger, spinach, and onion.

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Spicy Tzatziki Sauce
makes about 2.5 cups


  • 2 cup Greek style yogurt
  • 1 English cucumber, seeded and small diced
  • 2 tablespoons Kosher Salt
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic
  • 1 package (1/4 bunch) of fresh dill
  • 2-3 tablespoons of Harissa, depending on how hot you like it!

Place all ingredients in food processor or blender, puree until fully incorporated. Use as a condiment with a lamb burger, falafel or anything else!

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On the road with Montelena…Pork & Cabs

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Most of us don’t automatically put “pork” and “cabernet” together when we think of food and wine pairings, but in the hands of a talented and creative chef, the combination can be magic.


At a recent Montelena dinner at Table 6 in Denver, Chef Carrie Shores partnered our ’06 and ’09 Estate Cabernets with porchetta marinated for several days in a juniper berry-laced brine.  The porchetta was roasted whole, sliced, seared, and served with a spicy blueberry demiglace and pirogues filled with turnip puree.   The hint of juniper and blueberries provided just the right flavor bridge between the richness of the pork and the complex fruit and spice flavor components of the two Cabernets.




Carrie’s menu started with a first course of seared scallops with smoked trout, miso honey butter, grapefruit and a touch of tarragon, paired with 2011 Montelena Chardonnay.  The next course:  lamb stroganoff cradled in salt-baked whole onions, served with 2010 Montelena Zinfandel.  To top it all off, after the main course of porchetta, we were treated to freshly made beignets and donuts for dessert.  How good is that on a snowy evening in the Mile High city!



Food and wine aside, two things struck me about this delightful evening—first, the enthusiasm of Aaron Forman’s Table 6 “A-Team.”  They obviously love what they do, and they do it well!  Second, it’s always so gratifying for us to meet our friends and club members, old and new, where they live.








Swan(less)Lake and Other Tidbits on Nature

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I’ve written a few times about mother nature’s awesome power and influence, and she strikes again!   We tragically lost our latest pair of swans in Jade Lake to a hungry predator. Our first reaction after sadness was anger towards the beast. I realized, however, how nature really is at full display here at the Chateau.  Foxes, coyotes, skunks, racoons, bobcats, turkeys, and yes, even bears have been spotted in the vicinity.  At least 3 mentioned are not vegetarians either.  Part of the beauty of the grounds at Chateau Montelena are the natural surroundings, and keeping it wild.  This means we’re on stage to what happens in nature.  We’ve all seen it on National Geographic or the Animal Channel; it’s just a bit more shocking when it comes to your back yard so to speak.

Just a couple months ago, during a heavy wind storm, we lost a 100 foot eucalyptus tree; it fell in front of our driveway in a way that was least damaging and harmful to property and life.  It could have been a lot worse. All we lost besides the tree and a few other trees along it’s path, was power and phones for part of the day. (and I’m not sure that was a bad thing!:)  Losing a 150 year old behemoth gave new light, literally, opening up the sun to help new growth and young trees to thrive now.

And now, we, along with the whole state, are faced with a drought of epic proportions; of which, many of the new generations or recent California transplants have not seen.  I don’t remember the last significant rain fall we’ve had. The hills are brown, the lakes are low.  Strong urgings by the local communities to conserve may lead to mandatory cutbacks and fines.  Mother nature at it again.  We’ll survive, and thrive, as we always do, but what this is may be a wake up call; helping us remember to appreciate our precious natural resources.  We’ll learn to adapt, where conservation rather than waste is the norm.  We’ll all be fine.  But once again, I’m just amazed that despite modern comforts and technology growing, and yet the lack of rain will impact us greatly, in a domino effect, our economy, and our way of life.

Ok, so what’s the moral of this blog?  Save water, drink wine….:)






The view from the vineyard….

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Jim’s older brother, Fr. Vincent Barrett, officiated at our annual harvest season Blessing of the Grapes many times in the 1970’s and early 1980’s.  After Fr. Vincent passed away in 1985, we chose to honor his memory by constructing a small shrine on a quiet spot on Horse Hill overlooking the Montelena Estate vineyard.  If you’ve taken our vineyard tour you perhaps noticed it as you headed up the main vineyard road in our “club car.”

SV Shrine_edit

In addition to honoring our own beloved Vincent, the shrine has a second significance for us.  St. Vincent of Saragossa, martyred in 304 during the persecution of Christians by the Roman emperor Maximian, had been adopted as their patron saint by vineyard workers and winegrowers across Europe by early Medieval times—perhaps they identified their struggles against drought, mildew, frost, insects, and all of the tribulations of grape growing with the legendary tortures suffered by St. Vincent.  The many “St. Vincent” place names in Italy, Spain, France and other parts of Europe bear witness to the widespread devotion to him, as do the stained glass depictions of St. Vincent in many Gothic cathedrals, most notably at Chartres.

In some places in Europe, St. Vincent is celebrated in January with—of course—special food and wine (his feast day is January 22).  A good excuse to pop the cork on a bottle of Montelena Estate Cab!

Our vineyard tours are offered on Mondays and Wednesdays, weather permitting.

‘Tis the Season…

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…For Dungeness crabs!

Tomorrow morning, for the second year running, George will make the trek south to Half Moon Bay to pick up a rather large order of live (delicious) Dungeness crabs from our friends aboard The Cricket. A few weeks back, he took orders from the Montelena Team and we’ve been anxiously awaiting and pondering how to serve them up…

To whet your appetites, here is one of Brian’s favorite pairings from our CELLARMASTER on the Road Tastings this year. Recipe courtesy of Brian Sheehan, Executive Chef at TPC Boston.

Avocado mousse, arugula, celery root, green apple

1 ripe avocado
2 limes (zest & juice)
½ C  Extra virgin olive oil
Salt & pepper to taste

Puree all ingredients in blender until silky smooth

2 T  lime juice
4 T Extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1tsp honey
1 tsp fresh cilantro (chopped)
Salt & pepper to taste

Blend lime juice, mustard, and honey in small bowl
Slowly drizzle in oil to form an emulsion
Add chopped cilantro
Season with salt and pepper

1 small celery root (peeled) (cut into matchsticks)
1 Granny Smith apple (cut into matchsticks)
1 tsp apple cider
Pinch of salt and pepper

Toss ingredients together


12 oz. Jumbo lump crabmeat (picked of shells)
1 tsp Dijon Mustard
2 tsp mayonnaise
2 tsp Extra virgin olive oil

Spoon Avocado mousse onto chilled plate
Place crab salad next to mousse
Toss apple celery root salad with honey lime vinaigrette
Place celery root apple salad on top of crab salad
Dot plate with remaining honey lime vinaigrette


Wine Advent Calendar

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With the holidays quickly approaching, I’m getting excited for family and friends to visit and enjoy some great vino. This year, I’ve decided to have a little fun with it – I’m going to pick up some wines and make my own version of an Advent Calendar…an Advent Wine Calendar, if you would. I will randomly number each bottle of wine for one of the days leading up to Christmas!

What fun and creative ideas will you come up with for the upcoming holidays?? Leave a note in the comments section.


Vineyard Strolls & Thanksgiving Preparations

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The Fall has been extended and mild this year, temperatures hanging in around the sixties and seventies for most of the last two months.  I have been doing a lot of walking in the vineyard and enjoying the wild life.  There is a pair of great egrets that have been spending a lot of time here, fishing along the shore of Jade Lake or flying up into the willows on the islands. They are so beautiful.


There is also a pod of four river otters that have joined us.  They seem to spend a lot of time in a luxurious  fur bundle on the back of the raft.


So, the last time I posted it was summer and I was lolling in my hammock making plans for Thanksgiving. Now Thanksgiving is next week!  George is right, the older you get the faster the time goes by.  Three of my sisters and one of my brothers are coming with their respective spouses.  It will be nice to spend a quiet Thanksgiving with my family.  I will be picking up the turkey on Tuesday and have handed out the cooking assignments – salad, vegetables and dessert – to everyone else.  I have already laid in a supply of the Potter Valley Riesling and will be picking up some zinfandel, both great with turkey. They will all be arriving on Wednesday and I am looking forward to a long, relaxed weekend.  It should be fun.  Although it wasn’t planned this way it turns out that it will be just my siblings without nieces, nephews, grand-nieces and grand-nephews; just a great bunch of people sitting around remembering the Thanksgivings we had together as kids – Happy Thanksgiving to all.

Where has the time gone

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I know, we ask ourselves that every year.  The older, or “more mature” we get, the faster it seems to go.  I could swear we just started October.  As a child, getting to Christmas (and school break) seemed an eternity. The only time that went fast were the two week break before going back to class. What makes it fun, however, is I still get excited for the holidays.  The cold weather, festive decor, spirit of giving just brings a different attitude to everyone.

So here we are.  Holidays 2013.  And this year, I pledge to go through my wine collection; scattered around various family and friends’ homes, and consolidate, purge, and drink or gift some of what I hope are forgotten jewels.  Just as Spring cleaning has become a tradition for some(and should be for others I might add)  This is the type of cleaning that truly is fun.  I will uncover some that needless to say need to simply go away, but I know there are bottles that will bring back memories of the times I was inspired to buy them; and what they may have become now.  If you’re in my area, within pouring distance, be sure to find me after a good cleaning……it is the season of giving!


Scootering in the Napa Valley

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Twisted Vine Scooter Stomp

Vintage Vespa’s have been an obsession of mine since 1984 when I bought my first 50cc scooter.  At a breakneck top speed of 35 mph, I found all of the back roads here in the Napa Valley that would accommodate that speed and range of a gallon of gas.  Over the years I have acquired many scooters and found the 150cc to 200cc models offer the perfect displacement for some of the roads less traveled. In fact, with a scooter’s small wheels and nimble turning radius, the Napa Valley Hills provide some of the best twisties for any scooter enthusiast.

As a founding member of the Napa Valley Scooter Club in 2003, I work with the Club to put on a yearly rally where we invite other scooterist from around California to enjoy what we at Chateau Montelena enjoy on a daily basis.

The latest incarnation of this rally is called the Twisted Vine Scooter Stomp.

Twisted Vine Scooter Stomp Patch

Here is a road map of our 2013 Twisted Vine Scooter Stomp

Here is a video of 2013 ride.

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Have your own favorite scooter or motorcycle ride in the valley?

Leave your comments below and I will give it a twist.

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About Our Authors

George Blanckensee

An expert event planner and an avid basketball and sports fan, George can tell you about all the best off-the-beaten path eateries.

Kali Clark

A Napa Valley native, Kali returned to the area after a stint on the East Coast and can be found documenting the latest happenings at the Chateau. When not behind the camera, she likes to experiment in the kitchen, travel, and enjoy the outdoors

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