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Category Archives: Just For Fun

Celebrating this Fourth of July

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The month of July has multiple celebrations for me – the celebration of summer in full swing, the celebration of my work anniversary, (year nine for me at Chateau Montelena), but most importantly the celebration of our country.

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As I go through my day to day life, I find that I sometimes take for granted what freedom we have here in the United States.   I mean, I get glimpses of the measures we take to have this freedom, like security lines at the airport, military skirmishes on the news but otherwise I am, like most people, in my own bubble and focused on our day to day lives.   The fact that I can do this and not worry about my safety makes me very grateful.  This luxury is part of Freedom.

I am extremely grateful to live in this country and am thankful for the women and men who continue to fight for our freedom.   During this Fourth of July, I will be raising a glass in honor.

Happy Independence Day, America!

American Milestones Video

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A few months ago a video production team visited the Chateau to interview Master Winemaker Bo Barrett and Vineyard Manager Dave Vella for a 7.5 minute piece that will air on PBS periodically. UltraMont member Tom Koch also makes a cameo, and talks about what keeps him refilling his glass with Chateau Montelena wines.


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Get a Charge Visiting Montelena

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DC Fast Charger

Courtesy of Chateau Montelena, visitors to the winery who drive electric-powered vehicles can now charge their batteries while they enjoy our hospitality. In partnership with Ecotality, the company that sells/markets EV charging stations that exist on the Blink Network, we have installed a Pedestal Charger, along with the first Level 3, DC Fast Charger in the Napa Valley. The DC Fast charger can charge most batteries in less than an hour. It will be tied into the Blink Network of charging stations throughout the country so that EV owners on the network will be automatically pointed to us as they make their way north of San Francisco. The DC Fast Charger is operating now, the Pedestal Charger will be operational in the near future.

Finally the Truth about Sulfites in Wine

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The following article by wine journalist Bill St. John, which appeared in the October 25, 2012 Chicago Tribune, ought to set the record straight regarding sulfites in wine. It’s definitely worth the read (perhaps with a nice glass of Montelena).

Sulfite’s Headache is in Labeling

Fermentation By-product is in All Wine, but Only U.S. Requires Warning

This is the time of year when people tell me, as they return from their European vacations, that they drank bottle after bottle of wine with their meals and “never got a headache.” They explain this miracle by saying that wines in Europe “do not contain sulfites,” unlike wines sold in the U.S., the labels of which clearly state “Contains sulfites.”

Because wine bottle labels in Europe do not print “Contains sulfites,” the assumption is that the wine does not as well. But it does; the label merely does not state that it does.

“Contains sulfites” is on all bottles of wine sold in the United States, no matter where the wine was made, because of our government’s regulations, rules that do not hold outside the U.S.

My sadly returning vacationers further claim that winemakers in other countries “must make a separate wine for export.” They do not; the Antinori Chianti Classico that you drink in Tuscany is the same Antinori Chianti Classico that you drink in Toledo.

The reason that you didn’t get a headache drinking it in Tuscany is that you were on vacation. In Tuscany.

Anyway, most people do not “get a headache” from ingesting sulfites.

The “typical allergic reaction to sulfites,” says Dr. Mary C. Tobin, director of the Division of Allergy and Immunology at Rush University Medical Center, “is hives, itching, flushing, swelling, nausea, diarrhea and low blood pressure.” All bad, but no headache.

Reactions to sulfites vary from mild to life threatening and affect a small percentage of the population (the FDA estimates one in 100, although up to 5 percent of the population of asthmatics). People allergic to sulfites by and large know that they are.

“Sulfite” describes a form of the common, natural, nonmetallic element sulfur. The preservative sulfur dioxide is another form of the element. Because sulfur is an antioxidant and anti-microbial, it prevents spoilage and browning in food and wine. What sulfur does for Tokay, it does for Tater Tots.

Furthermore, you cannot find a wine – any wine – completely free of sulfite. Sulfite is a natural byproduct of fermentation; around 5-10 mg/liter of sulfite exists in wine willy-nilly. Wine labels may state “No added sulfite” (sometimes seen on organic or so-called natural wines) but that is merely as true as it stands. The wine still contains some sulfite; none was added to that which occurred as matter of course.

The amount of sulfite in a bottle of wine will vary, depending on vineyard and winemaking practices, from 40-80 mg/liter. Again, these are levels in all wines conventionally made, from all regions of the globe. Wines that contain more than 10 mg/liter of sulfite must mention, again by our government’s laws, “Contains sulfites.”

To put sulfite levels in perspective or context, many foods contain sulfites but are not labeled so. For instance, bottled lemon juice, dried (orange) apricots, grape juice, many a salad bar and many a frozen white food (such as potatoes) that the processor wishes to remain white, all contain sulfite, often in amounts many-fold to that in wine.

So, why is there no warning label on a bag of trail mix? A good ol’ American answer: politics.

According to Thomas Pinney, in the second of his two-volume work “A History of Wine in America,” the congressional engine behind the sulfite warning label, finally enacted in 1986, was then-Sen. Strom Thurmond, of South Carolina, a teetotaler who once growled that “party animal” Spuds MacKenzie, the Budweiser bark-person with one black eye, was “glamorizing the use of alcohol” among young people.

Beginning in the 1970s, various neo-prohibitionist groups lobbied Congress for ingredient labeling on bottles of wine and other alcoholic beverages, with the ostensible aim of preventing such disasters as fetal alcohol syndrome. Stymied by the courts throughout the 1980s and prevented from passing into action such legislation, these efforts morphed into warning labels of one form or another, writes Pinney, “Only now the object was not to inform but to frighten.”

Thurmond’s crowning achievement was the passage in 1988 of the law that mandates the “government warning” label on all bottles of wine sold in the United States. You’ll see it, sometimes, slapped on bottles of wine made in other countries but sold here, looking like the afterthought that it is considered to be by foreign winemakers.

It’s the label that tells everyone what they already know, sort of like a sportscaster describing to you what you’re currently watching: to beware of ingesting alcohol if you are pregnant or about to operate a machine.

Reading it always gives me a headache.

Extended Tasting Days In San Francisco

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With a busy October in the City By The Bay, we’ve decided to extend our days at our San Francisco Tasting Room in the lobby of the Westin St. Francis on Union Square.  In addition to visiting during our normal Wednesday-Sunday 1:00-8:00pm hours, you can also visit us for a little Montelena fix on the following *Bonus* days (same hours apply):

  • Monday Oct 8
  • Tuesday Oct 9
  • Monday Oct 15
  • Tuesday Oct 16
  • Monday Oct 29

Stop by on your way home from work and enjoy a tasting and a preview of our 2010 Montelena Estate Cabernet Sauvignon.  Just the thought of ending the day with great wine makes Monday a little more bearable, right?


A Week of Ups

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No downs; just ups over here at the winery.  Harvest is around the corner, and for the first time in 3 years, we might actually have what most would call a “normal” one!  We enjoyed a nice summer with no major spikes one way or the other.  We have a cellar crew that isn’t stressed, and we’ll soon have more great wines to continue selling and drinking!  How good can this week be?!  Well, we can top it off with a 49er/A’s/Giants victory and it’s all sweet!

Enjoy the rest of your week!

Recipe Challenge Winner: Amy’s Crab Cakes With Lime Aioli And Fennel Grapefruit Salad

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Try this “Appetizer” category winner, submitted by CellarMaster Amy Weinberg, with our Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc.

“Absolutely delicious cool summer appetizer…the salad is a refreshing compliment to the rich fresh crab!”

You will need:

Plastic wrap

a muffin pan

a large flat bottomed skillet

Prep Time: 60 minutes, including 30 minutes  for crab cakes to refrigerate and set.


For the Crab Cakes:

  • 8 oz. high quality crabmeat; preferably fresh
  • 1 tablespoon Italian flat leaf parsley, chopped
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • ½ cup Panko bread crumbs
  • ¾ cup vegetable oil, for frying

In a non-reactive bowl, combine crab, parsley, salt and pepper to taste. Place the beaten egg and panko bread crumbs in two separate bowls. Use plastic wrap to line muffin tin.  Using two large spoons, mold approximately 1/3 cup and dip into egg mixture, then panko crumps. Place each crabcake into the lined muffin tin and gently press flat. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes or more to set. While crab cakes are chilling, make the fennel  salad and the aioli.

To cook crab cakes, heat one inch of vegetable oil in frying pan over medium high heat.  Add crab cakes gently and sauté until golden brown;  gently flip and repeat; set aside on paper towels.

For the Lime Aioli:

  • 1 lime, zested and juiced
  • 1 medium clove of garlic, roughly chopped
  • 1 egg and 1 egg yolk
  • ½ cup grapeseed  oil
  • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

In a food processor add lime zest, lime juice, garlic, egg and egg yolk and turn on food processor to combine.  Next, while food processor is running, very slowly add in the two oils.  Finally, add in salt to taste.  Transfer to container and place in refrigerator to help firm it even further.

For the fennel grapefruit salad:

  • 1 fennel bulb
  • 1 pink grapefruit
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

On mandolin, slice fennel paper thin.  Chop a small amount of fronds and set aside for garnish.  Supreme and segment grapefruit and cut sections into thirds.  Toss fennel with olive oil and add salt and pepper to taste.  Mix in grapefruit.

To plate: place a small mound of fennel grapefruit salad on one side of the plate.  Then smear 1 tablespoon or lime aioli an inch or two away from the salad on the larger side of the plate.  Place the crab cake leaning on the salad between the lime aioli smear.  Garnish with fennel frond and serve with a Montelena Sauvignon Blanc.


Submitted by Chateau Montelena CellarMaster Amy Weinberg

Take a Virtual Tour of Montelena

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If you have ever been here, you know it’s a pretty cool place to visit. If you have never been here, perhaps you have read that it’s a pretty cool place to visit. Lots of people share their experiences coming here in the social media sphere. Oh yes, there are the wines. But for visitors there are the added impressions that seem to linger for years: the memory of first setting eyes on the awesome stone Chateau; or wandering the long hallway that connects the tasting room with the Estate Room; or strolling the crooked walkways over the placid waters of Jade Lake; or catching a glimpse of the world famous Estate Vineyard through the willows of a Chinese Garden while waterfowl honk for your attention. Well, we took a leap into new technology to add a feature to our web site, something we’ve been wanting to do for a while. It’s a Virtual Tour of Chateau Montelena. We’re still working out some technical bugs, but it’s up and running for your viewing…er, visiting…pleasure. Just go to our home page and look for the “kicker” link in the lower left corner (there’s also a link in the upper sub-navigation line) to get it started. A 1-minute video will welcome you. Go to the “Help” tab to find out how to navigate the content-rich suite of locations and videos and 360s and…well, there’s too much to really explain in this space. Other than we are excited about it. It’s almost as good as being here. We hope you like it. Let us know.

I Really Am Back

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But have been remiss in posting…I’d give you all the usual excuses, but you’ve heard them all….busy, busy, busy….

And I know I promised some Italy pics, but I still haven’t organized them.  It’s coming, promise….

As for the Summer season at the Chateau, we’ve been experiencing good weather so far.  My tomatoes plants are looking good, but I’m not seeing a lot of fruit yet because the moles and gophers are playing buffet on the garden.

More importantly, however, we might actually have a grape harvest that’s on time!    All indications so far are going that way, but we’ve got a full month to go before we pick anything!

BTW, we’re offering Riesling in the Tasting Room coming up for a limited couple of weeks in our tasting lineup….be sure to come in and get some while you can, as that window will close by the 23rd of August.

I’m Back!

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After two weeks in Italy.  It was a wonderful trip, but I’m happy to be home. The one thing about traveling overseas, as great a vacation as it may be, it certainly makes you appreciate home (easier said when you live in one of the most beautiful places in the world!).  Anyways, as I continue to recover from jet lag, and get right back into the groove, you can expect a few posts on my Italy excursion along with pictures.  In the mean time, maybe I’ll see some of you next week at a Chateau Montelena Wine Dinner that I’m hosting at Ruth’s Chris in Irvine…. Curious about other upcoming wine dinners?  Be sure to check out our Events Page to find out when we’ll be hosting an event near you.

More to come….


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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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