Category Archives: Vineyard
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.
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.
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.
Wondering how Harvest 2012 is shaping up at Chateau Montelena? Vineyard Manager, Dave Vella, shares his thoughts on the vintage weather and how it will affect our wines. Learn more about what you can expect from Vintage 2012:
Have you ever wanted to sample our Estate Cabernet Sauvignon before it’s bottled? Well, now you can. For the month of October (or while supplies last), we’ll be offering a complimentary barrel sample of our 2010 Montelena Estate Cabernet Sauvignon when you purchase a tasting of our current wines. This offer is available exclusively at our San Francisco location in the lobby of the Westin St. Francis on Union Square – in the Landmark Lobby across from the Grand Staircase. This will be the only opportunity to sample this wine before it’s cellared and released in 2014.
As our CellarMaster Futures members can attest, this is a wine that rewards you after a few (or 25-30) years in the cellar. By purchasing it before it’s released, you’re guaranteed to be able to fill your cellar with a few bottles of this incredible wine and you’ll also enjoy the most advantageous pricing available. So, if you stop by our San Francisco Tasting Room and you like what you taste, be sure to ask us about our Futures program.
Happy Wine Tasting!
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!
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.
Upon returning to the office Monday morning, we were greeted with an email from a customer about an experience he’d had with one of our wines over the weekend. The wine in question: our 1976 North Coast Cabernet Sauvignon. He writes:
Last night I had a small dinner at my home in Healdsburg, CA, in order to honor a friend, and to try out some Napa “Cult” Cabs I had assembled. Screaming Eagle, Harlan Estate, Bryant Family etc…. But the most amazing surprise was a 1976 Chateau Montelena Cabernet Sauvignon North Coast (I’ve attached a picture of that) … wow! Whoever made that wine should be very proud, it’s drinking wonderfully, even after 35+ years! Please give my regards to the Barretts and anyone else who had a hand in that very fine bottling. What a pleasure, I’m a winemaker myself, and I just had one of the best wines I’ve ever had. Bravo!
As you might imagine, it was a pleasure to find this email in our inbox Monday morning and to know we were included in a tasting with such wonderful wines. We love hearing from our customers about their memorable experiences with our wines.
What was the best bottle of Chateau Montelena wine you have ever had and who did you enjoy it with?
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?
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!