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Category Archives: Just For Fun

Summer Sips: Riesling And Tofu Tempura

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Oh, how we love the 2011 Chateau Montelena Potter Valley Riesling with Asian cuisine! The traditional sweet and spicy flavors in Thai sweet chili sauces, along with a smidge of Sriracha hot sauce, provide a perfect dipping companion to this easy Tofu Tempura dish! The irresistable floral notes and bright acidity of our Potter Valley Riesling compliment the rich taste and texture of any tempura.


  • (14-ounce) package water-packed firm tofu, drained
  • 4 cups (1 quart) safflower oil or peanut oil
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour (about 1 cup)
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups club soda, chilled
  • ¾ cup prepared sweet chili sauce
  • 1 tablespoon sriracha , or to taste


  1. Slice block of tempura into thirds. Place tofu slices on several layers of paper towels; cover with paper towels. Top with a heavy skillet; let stand 30 minutes. Discard paper towels. Cut each tofu slice into bite size cubes. Hold at room temperature on paper towels while oil is heating.
  2.  Clip a candy/fry thermometer onto the side of a medium deep skillet or large (2 quart) saucepan; add oil to pan. Heat oil to 380°.
  3. Combine flour, cornstarch, and salt, stirring well with a whisk. Gradually add club soda, stirring until smooth. Using a slotted spoon, OR long chopsticks,dip tofu in batter. Gently place tofu in hot oil, and fry 1 minute or until golden, turning once. Fry cubes in small batches; do not crowd pan. Remove each batch of fried tofu with clean slotted spoon, and drain on paper towels.  Make sure oil temperature remains at 375° to 380° during each batch.
  4.  Plate with dipping sauce, and serve. (Keep tempura warm in oven for up to 20 minutes before serving.)


Upcoming Sabbatical

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As I gear up for a trip to Italy (I depart on Friday), I’m getting excited to venture into some of the best food and wine in the world!  It’s been a while since I’ve been there and I’ve indulged in all things Napa Valley/Chateau Montelena for the last few years. We all should realize that variety is the spice of life!  I need to re-expand my wine horizons; recognize other varietals, regions, foods, etc…

The other great thing about travel is that you come back and appreciate all that you have right here at home, such as: bathrooms that make sense, air conditioning, wider streets….and some pretty darn good Cabernet Sauvignon!

I’ll be off the blog for a little while. See you back here in a few weeks.


Summer’s Here!

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Well, it felt like Summer was in high form this past weekend as we hit triple digits in the Napa Valley.  According to the seasonal calendar, summer doesn’t actually start until tomorrow but that’s California for you!  It’s not a very predictable state. I remember many years ago watching weather reporters on the local news seemingly always getting the weather predictions wrong.  As a young teenager, I figured, this is science - there’s factual data to look at (and we can we travel to space) – so how can we not get weather right?  Today, however, I think they do a pretty good job.  Case in point: they predicted 100 degrees in St. Helena; it hit about 101 degrees.  They predicted a drop off Sunday to about 88 degrees; it was 89.

Anyways, this Summer season is starting off unlike the last two years where we saw rain and cool days as late as June and July.   I think this will be a great year for the vines (and my garden..more to come on that)!

How’s Summer shaping up in your area?

Summer Wine And The Living Is Easy

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So what is a “summer wine?”  Well, the snarky (but accurate) answer is that a “summer wine” is whatever happens to be in your glass from June 20th to September 21st.  However, most of the time we’re talking about anything that is light, crisp, and refreshing – a wine that can benefit from a bit of time in the refrigerator (or even – *gasp* – the occasional ice-cube in the glass).  For me, most often that means Sauvignon Blanc nice and frosty right out of the ‘fridge.   In fact, I think one of the things I like the most about this wine is that whenever I have a sip of it, no matter what time of the year it may be, it always conjures up visions of relaxing on warm summer evenings with family and friends.

Close runners-up for summer time R&R are Riesling and Rosie – little known fact: we make a fantastic rosé, but it isn’t available for purchase, sorry, we make it just for our owners and employees – which are both exceptional end-of-the-day thirst quenchers and also pair beautifully with that other great American summer tradition, barbeque!   Try the Riesling with some Memphis style ribs – you’ll be pleasantly surprised; the Sauv Blanc, on the other hand, is a great match for barbequed oysters.   As far as the Rosie goes, it is a small production rosé of Zinfandel that is great with grilled pork chops.   Maybe someday we’ll make enough to share…   Now, don’t worry, I’m not leaving out the Chardonnay, and no it is not 4th place on my summer (or any other) list, but it is far too versatile to be pigeon-holed as a “summer wine.”  I love a cool glass of Montelena Chardonnay anywhere and (just about) any time – with delicate sable (butterfish) in August, or herb crusted roast chicken in January – it is always a great choice.


What will you fill your glass with this summer?

A Great Week In The Bay Area

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Is Napa still considered Bay Area? I’ll say yes.  Some define the Bay Area as the outreach of BART (for those unfamiliar with the acronym, that’s our train system here).   Napa County still touches part of the Bay waters – the San Pablo Bay waterway that borders the Carneros District – and provides a nice cooling effect for the varietal of grapes that prefer lower temperatures that are grown in that region.

In any case, as a sports fan, foodie, and wino, there’s no better place to be than here in Napa this weekend.  Our Giants are on a winning streak – Matt Cain pitched a perfect game yesterday; the US Open comes to town; summer season fruits are here, so Farmers’ Markets are bustling; and of course, there’s always the wine country beckoning for a visit.  It’s the quiet before the storm – just before the high season of visitors begins here at the Chateau, so we’re relatively quiet for now.  Not to mention, three new restaurants opened up in the little town of St. Helena

Apart from anticipating the weekend’s searing heat, it’s a great time to be in the Bay!

Montelena Moments: Brennan and Lindsey Sheedy

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We recently received a very kind email from Brennan and Lindsey Sheedy about their memorable first experience with Chateau Montelena wines.  Bitten by the wine bug during the planning of their wedding, here’s their story…


by Brennan and Lindsey Sheedy

This past November, Lindsey and I were married at a small vineyard in Santa Barbara County – our wedding location and our appreciation for fine wine can be traced directly back to our introduction to Chateau Montelena.  About two years earlier, while walking through the local movie store in Charlotte, NC, Bottle Shock caught my eye.  We both like wine and I, a native Californian, thought the movie would be perfect for our Saturday evening.  That night, we settled in with our gourmet bottle of $7 wine and were entertained as we learned the story of how the “kids from the sticks” beat the French at their own game.  Over the next 18 months as we planned our wedding, wine began to play a much larger role in our life together.  In wine shops and restaurants, we would point out the bottles of Montelena and, on one or two special occasions, we’d splurge on a glass of Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon.  From that moment on, our appreciation of wine began to grow: we split a three-year vertical with a few friends; bought a small wine fridge to store all of our “good” bottles and eventually wine magazines began arriving at the house.

The wine theme was very much prevalent on our wedding day: our guests were greeted with table assignments in wine glasses; we hosted a wine tasting on the veranda before dinner and we even made wine cork napkin rings to give out as favors.  Later that night, after dancing in the barrel room until the winery kicked us out, Lindsey and I headed back to our room where she had prepared a special wedding gift for me.  There, waiting in our room  was a basket containing the following items: the movie Bottle Shock, a copy of the book Judgment of Paris and a bottle of Chateau Montelena Chardonnay.

Montelena Wine Basket

A Wedding Gift

On our honeymoon, I spent days reading Judgment of Paris.  What was glossed over in the movie jumped out of the book as George Taber explored the lives of the winemakers and wineries that made the world take notice of California wine.  Whether the French judges knew they were tasting Californian and French wines or that they felt duped into the competition, you couldn’t argue with the results – that California winemakers could make wine as good as the French.  That significant tasting event sparked wine production around the globe and Taber gives a brief introduction to many of the world wine regions at the end of the book.  During the rest of our honeymoon, I think Lindsey started to regret the gift she’d given me as I’d only let her order Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand or bored her with explanations of how “right bank” Bordeaux was made predominately from Merlot.

Now home in Charlotte, the articles and tasting notes in the wine magazines have started making more sense and our cellar continues to grow.   However, the bulk of our wine collection grows only with wines that we feel we have a personal connection.  After reading Judgment of Paris and having watched Bottle Shock, we have learned some of the history of Chateau Montelena Winery.  This past February, we made a stronger connection with the winery by visiting the Chateau.  We had a great time viewing the historical notes and (cheesily) taking our picture with the champion 1973 Chardonnay bottle on display.  And just recently, we were fortunate enough to enjoy a local wine dinner featuring Chateau Montelena which demonstrated the quality of the fine wines.  With the rich history and the phenomenal wine, we look forward to a long relationship with Chateau Montelena.  More importantly, as we explore other wines from around the world, we will always remember that Montelena started it all – both in Paris and for us.


A Seahorse Smoking a Cigar?

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Our vineyard crew is busy pruning the vines, so I visited with Bo in the Estate Vineyard to witness some of the trimming process, an annual task that takes weeks to complete. Important cutting decisions are made along the way. In one case, it involved literally sawing off a large branch on an older (1973) vine to allow another, better-positioned cane to take over for high quality grape production. I saved the piece Bo sawed off because I thought it would look cool in my office. After a while, it looked to me like a seahorse smoking a cigar. Any other ideas?

New Years Resolutions; Better Late than Never

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Well, I’m off to a dubious start already on my New Year’s resolutions.

1st Resolution: Be on time with my commitments.  Ok, so my first blog of 2012 is a week and a day late.  Not good.

2nd Resolution: Go to the gym at least 3 times a week.   I’ve been once since Jan 1 and I sort of waved over the machines on that visit.

3rd Resolution: Eat better; do a juice cleanse.  Does wine count as a juice?  Let me wipe my fingers from the chicken finger grease before I wreck my keyboard and write more excuses.

4th Resolution: Watch less tv; be more productive; go to the library; read more.  How can I when I’m in the middle of Top Chef Texas, Walking Dead, Modern Family?  No to mention that new episodes of Andrew Zimmern and Anthony Bourdain are just coming on! Do magazines count as reading?

5th Resolution: Learn more. Ok, let’s stop with this one.

As you may have read in a previous blog, I was ranting about having to go back and study for my CSW and how I thought I gave that up in college, and never wanted to look back – forgoing any more “tests and exams” in the future.  Oh how I hated that stress!  Well, now looking back, I was truly productive during the studying!  I learned a lot, found myself covering 3 of my 4 resolutions above because of it, and that was without even trying.  So, with a little discipline/self control, my commitment is to learn a new language.  I’m traveling to Italy in the summer, so I figure, why not Italian?  Being in the wine industry, I love our wines; no doubt, but what makes me appreciate it more is knowing what else is out there, including the Italian stuff.   So here’s a resolution I intend to keep;  and I know that it will help me with all the others.  Check back with me in a few months; I’ll tell you if Rosette Stone is really worth the money.  Ciao.



Replant of an Historic Block

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The oldest block of Cabernet Sauvignon in the Estate Vineyard has been pulled for replant.  Block 1A, situated in mostly sedimentary soil – in fact, the only area in the Estate Vineyard where sedimentary soil occurs  – was planted in 1973, just after Jim Barrett acquired the property.  For those of us who see the vineyard on a daily basis, the first impression is always “something’s missing” from this picture.  But we also know that what’s to come are new Cabernet Sauvignon grapevines, a new generation of fruit for the next generation of Chateau Montelena.  It’s all part of our ongoing replant program designed to grow the best fruit we can as stewards of this incredible property.

Happy New Year!

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Here we are on Thursday, December 29th and less than 48 hours to the New Year.  This last year has been an exciting one, to say the least!  We’ve finished renovations and a seismic retrofit on our cellar, finished up our most interesting vintage to date, brought the food truck movement to the ole Chateau, went on an Alaskan cruise, saw our Jade Lake island pavillions through a makeover, unveiled a new vineyard tour for visitors and even hosted a movie star!  The year 2011 also marked a few important milestones for us: the 30th vintage of the Montelena Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, the 35th anniversary of the 1976 Paris Tasting and the Barrett Family’s 40th vintage.

We’re sad to say goodbye to 2011 but are looking forward to all of the excitement to come in 2012 – such as  a certain fiesta to be held here at the winery on January 28th, new vintages of wines to be released, tasting events around the US and a whole lot more, but we don’t want to spoil all the surprises.

With that thought, I’m signing off until next year.  Wishing you and yours the happiest of New Years.  Cheers!

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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