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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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Category Archives: Just For Fun

Food Truck Movement Coming to Calistoga!

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Well, if for only a day at least…

Yes, some of you may wonder, George is up early; he never blogs before 2pm…  I’m trying to give you the opportunity to get up to Calistoga and take advantage of our two month promotion as we’ve partnered with two fabulous truckies in San Francisco – starting today.

Seoul on Wheels will be here handing out Korean bites to go with our wines from 11am-2pm just today.  Julia, the owner, is a full-of- life personality (you may have caught a glimpse of her on Andrew Zimmern’s Bizarre Eats: San Francisco episode earlier this year).  What she and her crew are able to do in tight confines results in sheer magic on your plate.

I met with her in the city with our wines to make sure her dishes will pair well – no brainer.  Wait till you try the beef rib eye with our Napa Cab; the spicy pork with the Zin; the grilled chicken with our Chard!    Darn it, my mouth is watering and it ‘s only 8am.

Anyways, hope to see you up here today.  Put on your calendar for the next one: Oct 4; Curry Up Now!



The Benefits of Moving

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So I just moved from one place to another in St. Helena and I forgot just how fun it can be.  I must’ve been drunk when I wrote that sentence.  My new place is 6 blocks from my current residence, so I figured, ‘why pack everything up so neat and tidy to just go 6 blocks and then unpack again?’  So, my bright idea was to go by every day after work, load up my car, and drop off stuff at the new place.  The challenge is, it stretched my move from one full day into about 7 mini days.  Oh how this is dragging on!  Plus, I’m not sure how safe it is, even in a residential neighborhood like SH, to have one hand on the steering wheel and the other balancing my Riedel Grand Cru Sommelier glasses on the passenger seat.

What I did realize (just as I have on all my past moves)  is how much stuff I can get rid of.  After not using or seeing it for a couple years,  I realize how insignificant some material things are; or over time, they’ve lost their sentimental value; and they can be better appreciated by someone else.  I know if I had a residence I lived in for decades, I’d be a classic hoarder.  With the frequent moves, I’ve purged a lot more, and it feels good.   I finally got rid of my disco clothes that I hung onto forever, figuring I’d need it for some Halloween or theme party soon (and giving it no mind that I couldn’t fit in them anyways!).

By now, you’re wondering, “hey, this is a wine blog; where’s the reference to wine?”  Well, I did mention my Riedel glasses!  And, the other benefit of moving: after moving my wines, I realized, I have a lot to drink.   Moral of this story: Even if you’re not moving, do an occasional check of your wine stock; you may find some gems that need to be consumed.  So throw a party to do just that…and make sure to send an invite my way.


2nd Annual #Cabernet Day

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This Thursday, September 1st, marks the 2nd annual #Cabernet Day social media extravaganza.  In 2011, it’s an international party with #Cabernet headquarters scattered all over the world.  Check out the official page to find a #Cabernet HQ in your neighborhood.  We’ll be celebrating with our Napa friends at the Napa Marriott…and we’ll be featuring a delicious older vintage of our Estate Cabernet.  Join us in toasting this internationally celebrated grape on Thursday, Septemeber 1, 2011.  

Chateau Montelena 2011 Alaskan Adventure Wine Cruise

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Recently I was extremely fortunate to represent Chateau Montelena Winery along with our winemaker, Cameron Parry, on our most recent wine cruise.   We sailed the inside passage of Alaska from June 25th through July 6th, starting in Anchorage and ending in Vancouver, Canada.   We along with our 50 guests, some of which are CellarMaster club members, spent some wonderful time getting to know one another during our wine seminars, receptions and dinner.  My next few blog entries will be postings of this adventure along with photos of the scenery, the events and our wonderful guests.     

I hope you enjoy the entries and maybe I will see you on our next cruise in 2013?

No trick photography here. The iceberg calves are really that color.

A sample of some of the yummy Montelena Estate Cabernet Sauvignon we poured, (1994, 1996, 1998, 2000).

My Journey Past the Orange Curtain

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 So I leave tomorrow down to Orange County, home of Disneyland, TV shows like The OC, Real Housewives of OC.  I’m there to do some wine dinners starting Wednesday with my friend Pascal at his restaurant in Seal Beach.   The restaurant, Thai on Main, a block from the pier, is amazing; and therefore, always busy.  How does someone named Pascal own a Thai Restaurant you’re wondering?  Well, Pascal’s background is Cambodian/Chinese, but he was raised in France.  He speaks fluent French, Cambodian, and English.  His family owns Chinese restaurants in Grenoble, France; his mom the Chef who created the recipes.  Thai food has been another passion for them.  And best of all when visiting is that Pascal’s hospitality is second to none. I’ve had the privilege to travel to France and Cambodia with him and his family.  I can tell you, I’ve never eaten so well and so much as on trips with his family.  They are always looking over my plate and piling it on when it gets half empty.  Their genuine care for other’s enjoyment is very visible at his restaurant when you see the customers’ faces.

Thursday I’m in Newport Beach at 21 Oceanfront.  This is as classic as it gets.  When you want the dishes of yesterday that continue to live on, it’s nice to go to a place that does it right.  Not to say that’s all they do; their chefs have been innovative keeping up with new culinary trends; but it’s nice to go back and know you can get some of the classic favorites they’ve had there for decades.  Sadly, this dinner is sold out; but we may add another one Friday! 

In any case, if you can’t make it this week, don’t let that stop you from visiting them another day.  Just cause I’m not there, doesn’t mean the hospitality and quality stop. They don’t.

And if you’re afraid to get through the Orange Curtain, don’t be.  I’ve lived there for over 20 years, and those were some of the most memorable years of my life.  There’s a reason those shows based their themes there.  Its beauty, conveniences (and shopping) are arguably second to none in this country.


American Dream

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We have a new face on the blog! Lynn Pedone will be working in the vineyard, with Dave Vella and his crew, as she pursues her studies in Viticulture at Santa Rosa Junior College. A little background on Lynn: she’s a recent East Coast transplant, has lived all over the world growing up in a military family and has previously worked in the world of business and finance. She’s now hoping to settle into her “last career stop until retirement” in the wine industry and is looking forward to the opportunity to learn more about vineyard maintenance with Dave.  Lynn will be writing a weekly blog post about her experiences working in the Chateau Montelena vineyards.  Read her latest post below:

Placido Garcia Hernandez, Montelena’s vineyard foreman, tells the quintessential story of the American dream.  I sat down with this integral member of the Chateau Montelena team to learn more about his life and work in the vineyards.  Placido, whose birthday is on July 4th, came to California from Mexico in 1961.  As a teenager, he worked hard picking tomatoes, melons, pears and peaches in the fields and orchards of Sacramento, eventually working his way west to his first grape harvest in the Napa Valley.  He has been with Chateau Montelena for 37 years, since 1974.  When I asked Placido what the best thing is about working at Montelena, he replied without even thinking about it – “every day.”  Every day he is happy to be here, and thanks God he still has the energy to work.  He explained that Montelena is a very special place, a “nice place to work,” where there is good communication and support, and where it feels like family.  Most of all, Placido told me, Montelena is what enabled him to realize his American dream: that of buying a home and sending his children to school.  He is proud that he has been able to share his dream with his wife Maria and their family of four girls (including a set of twins) and a boy, all grown now with children of their own – his six grandchildren.  He is also very proud of the fact that he has been a part of the many changes that have taken place here since he started.  He told me how different Montelena looked back then (fewer vines) and also how different Calistoga was – he can remember when you could buy a pitcher of “cerveza” for one dollar!  I was curious to get his take on the Paris tasting and what happened in 1976; Placido remembers that it was a “big deal” – but not just for Chateau Montelena.  That event put Napa on the virtual world wine map, and everyone who made wine in the Napa Valley was forever inspired to strive to make the best wine they possibly could.  Placido admits he doesn’t really know much about making wine or even describing wine – he “can only say if it’s good” – but he does know about grapes and vines.  I’ve admired his expertise and have been fortunate to have his guidance and support this summer.   It would be hard to imagine Chateau Montelena without Placido!

Placido in the Vineyard

Strolling Through the Vineyards

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One of the best things about summer is enjoying the sunshine and outdoors.  This is especially true when you work at a beautiful winery in gorgeous Calistoga.  The extreme heat has spared us so far this August, so I’ve been loving taking time to get outside for a lunchtime walk in the vineyard.  I take photos of what might be going on in our vineyard, see some friendly faces and get a little Vitamin D and exercise all at the same time.  Last week, I took some photos of veraison, which is occurring right now in our Estate Vineyard, as the grapes turn from green to purple and we inch nearer towards harvest.  I also stopped by the bottling line to see our crew bottling the 2010 Chardonnay (to be released next year!).  It’s a beautiful time of year – if you make it to the Napa Valley anytime soon, be sure to stop by and see for yourself and check out the new, special Chardonnay tasting offers as we celebrate the 35th anniversary of the 1976 Paris Tasting.  In the meantime, enjoy these photos of our current happenings:

Jorge & Eddie on Bottling Day

Cellar Reconstruction Progress

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An earlier post by Nyk mentioned the complete reconstruction of our cellar, only its third incarnation since the winery’s 1882 beginnings. It’s a project symbolic of our continuing commitment to world-class winemaking.  Beautiful new catwalks and a recently completed floor give the 6,600 square foot interior a sleek appearance.  There are a lot of additional finishes to complete before the fermentation tanks are installed, and everything is on schedule. We thought you might like to see how things are coming along.

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Clean Your Glasses

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If you live in an area where hard water runs from the tap, you most likely discover that, with time, your stemware starts looking cloudy. This results more quickly when you clean your stemware in the dishwasher. Very hot water enables the minerals to adhere to the glass, giving that etched, hazy look, and even a rough texture. Wine served in cloudy glassware is less appealing, as the mineral build-up grabs the wine and prevents the pretty “tears” or “legs” from streaming down the inside of the glass.  Highly pigmented wines appear to “stain” the inside of the glass, further diminishing the visual experience.

There is a way remove the cloudiness that is simple and inexpensive. Household white distilled vinegar, added to hot water in the sink and left in contact with your stemware for a few hours can often completely rid your glasses of the annoying haze.

Start by running very hot water into the kitchen sink. (You may want to boil water and pour it in the sink if your tap water doesn’t run really hot). Add 2 quarts of white vinegar to the water and gently submerge the glassware. Leave to soak for 3-4 hours, then rinse thoroughly and repeatedly before drying with a lint-free towel.

You can prevent the haze from re-occurring by regularly soaking clean glasses briefly (30 minutes) in this solution before rinsing and drying. Washing your stems by hand in tepid, not hot water also prevents mineral build-up.

For super stubborn hazy glassware, soak paper towels in full-strength white distilled vinegar and wrap around the inside and outside of the glass. Let the glasses sit for an hour, then rub well and rinse before toweling dry.

My Garden; Amazing Yields…and Zucchini for all!

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In our second year of planting a vegetable garden here at the Chateau, we’re finding just how productive a squash plant can be.  Every year, the Barrett family is generous to offer some land to any staff who wants to grow a garden.  Last year, Gil, our Cellarmaster, and I set off to grow some tomatoes, squash, cucumbers, melons, and peppers.  We did not see ideal warmth through much of the summer.  Melons were few – and horrible. Cucumbers – barely a couple fruited.  Peppers – just average.  Squash?  More than we could eat!

So this year, with optimisim of a nice, warm summer, we planted over a dozen varieties of tomatoes, 10 different types of squash, pumpkins, cucumbers of 6 varieties, peppers, and a number of beans.  Also wild strawberries.  So far, we’re off to a good year. Cucumbers are coming in fast and furious, tomatoes are starting to show lots of promise, peppers and pumpkins show vigorous growth; and the ever dependable squash: zucchini, scallop, crooknecks, sunburst, etc…are growing like weeds.

I’m finding new ways to cook the stuff. I’ve given so much away to friends (who may not be if I keep pushing this on them as often as they’re growing).  It makes me wonder, with just how fast and full these plants grow, why aren’t more homes doing this? For the cost of some squash I’ve seen, as easy as it is to grow, cut and eat, we can reduce the hunger issues while encouraging healthy eating (provided they don’t only make fried zucchini fingers with Ranch dressing). I mean, two plants per household is ALL they need…trust me.  Doesn’t take much space, soil has to be ok, sunlight is essential, but we all have that to some degree at home or nearby…

The beauty is, you don’t even really need to have a green thumb, and you can look like a veteran gardener with this stuff.  So do yourself a favor; go buy a plant or two at your neighborhood store for a couple bucks; it’ll yield ten-fold what you paid for them in the end, and you will feel good about yourself…

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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