Category Archives: Vineyard
BY JUDY BARRETT
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.”
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.
There are many great reasons to visit Chateau Montelena, first of which is the wine. But for me, it’s about the history and experience. Everyday, we get to learn something new, some uncovered bit of history, some tribal knowledge handed down from our winemakers, managers or salty local.
We also get to experience the majesty of Jade Lake, which lies beneath the Chateau, and all that it attracts…namely a family of river otters that have been gorging themselves on the aquatic life. My first encounters were of what they left behind…bright orange droppings all along the shores of Jade Lake. But the last two weeks, they have been very active in the water, playing and diving and swimming right up to curious visitors. I walk my dog, Bruno, twice a day along Jade Lake and these little guys frolic in the water and stop long enough to peer at you as you pass on by or take their picture. It’s great to see some extra wildlife along with the Australian Black Swans, Mallards, Herons and crawfish.
So, as you come by to taste the wines and take pictures in front of the castle, keep in mind that there is also lots of history and wildlife to indulge in as well. Who knows, you may even spot the river otters sunning themselves on a catamaran yourself.
Greetings. Now that the harvest is over I thought it would be a good time to remind folks that our Vineyard Tour will continue (weather allowing) throughout the year. The Vineyard Tour offers a nice opportunity to see the Estate Vineyard from the “stretch” Club Car which holds 8 people including the driver. The tour is currently offered on Monday and Wednesday @ 10:30 AM (on a first come first served basis) and focuses on the viticultural aspect of making wine and a chance to view the vineyard at various stages throughout the year. If you are curious about the various procedures involved to vineyard maintenance–growing, pruning, irrigation (or lack thereof), frost control, fertilization, etc. then you might want to check out the Vineyard Tour. In terms of soil, climate, and topography, the Chateau Montelena Estate Vineyard is truly one of a kind!
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.