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Category Archives: Vineyard

Movable Feast 2011

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We closed the winery down on Saturday the 21st, as we do every year on the third Saturday in May, for our annual party to end all parties – the Movable Feast.  This party allows us an opportunity to celebrate our CellarMaster members, enjoy fantastic food and pull some of our older bottles out of the cellar to enjoy with friends old and new.  We hosted one of our largest groups in recent history – over 260 party attendees came to eat, drink, and be merry at Movable Feast 2011.  With Cajun-themed food (think gumbo),  music courtesy of the talented Louisiana-based band L’Angelus and an impromptu conga line, it was a very memorable afternoon.  To make a special occasion even more so, Author George Taber (formerly a writer for TIME magazine and the only journalist present at the 1976 Paris Tasting) was able to join in the festivities to commemorate the 35th anniversary of the 1976 Paris Tasting that put Chateau Montelena on the world wine map.  It’ll be a tough one to beat, but we’re ambitious enough to try to make Movable Feast 2012 even better.

The scene is set

The Movable part of the Feast

Lunch is served

The conga line snakes around the tent

 

Hope to see you here next year!

Baby grapes in the oven….

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….or, more accurately, on the vine. 

These pictures of Montelena’s ‘A’ block of Cabernet Sauvignon, planted in 1973, were taken this afternoon, Sunday, May 22.  Note the baby grape bunches on the vine.  In a couple of more weeks, these bunches will flower.  Compare these pictures to the pictures of the same block during bud break (see my blog from April 4th) to see how fast the vineyards have changed in the last six weeks.

The Gloomy Days of May

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Ok, so who said Summer is around the corner clearly is not living in Northern California!  Wet, cold, and snow in Tahoe still?  Just when you thought it was time to hang up the snowboards and break out the Cargo shorts, hold on there.

So the question is, will this affect 2011 harvest?  I asked the experts (our dynamic  duo of winemaker Cam Parry and his assistant, Matt Crafton), who gave me the assessment that bloom hasn’t happened yet, so we’re still good.  Check back in two weeks…

We can all take a collective sigh of relief for now, and appreciate the respite from one of the worst hay fever seasons in years as the rain washes down some of those nasty nose irritants.

A Symbol of Montelena History in Auction Napa Valley

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Vintage 2007 of our Estate Cabernet Sauvignon represents the 30th bottling of the wine that fulfills Jim Barrett’s vision for excellence in winemaking.  We thought it appropriate to offer a complete horizontal, six sizes from 375ml to 6 Liter, in the E-Auction of Auction Napa Valley coming up in early June.  Each bottle is signed by Jim Barrett, and by Master Winemaker Bo Barrett.  A cool add-on is that the case holding all the wine is constructed with reclaimed redwood removed during the renovation of the Private Residence in the Chateau.  You can view the lot description here.  One lucky bidder will get this treasure.  Do you think we should make more for sale here at the winery?  What do you think the auction lot will go for?

Dave Hosts Jeremy Irons

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Recently, the famous actor Jeremy Irons visited us as part of a British documentary project.  Who was the lucky guy that hosted him?  Our own Dave Vella, because the whole subject of the upcoming feature is about sustainability, and Dave is our resident guru on that subject.  Catch Jeremy Irons on the current Showtime series “The Borgias” – catch Dave and Jeremy Irons on camera in a future Blenheim Films documentary about sustainable farming – we’ll let you know when the film is released.

Dave Vella and Jeremy Irons

Life of a Vine

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If you read George’s recent post on the subject of vintage, you might be interested to see the entire vintage of 2007 – the current release of Montelena Estate Cabernet Sauvignon – through the “eyes” (as it were) of one particular vine.  Life of a Vine presents a monthly summary, in three installments, of what actually transpired that year.  Take a look.

Life of a Vine Part 1

Life of a Vine Part 2

Life of a Vine Part 3

Vintage Watching

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A lot of us religiously read and watch what critics are saying about vintage quality.    We already know that 2007 is a vintage of the decade, but if you look back 30 years, and if you have an opportunity to try wines of vintages that were not as highly touted, you should come to the conclusion that, as with all critics, their statements are broad based, and not addressing individual regions and wineries that may indeed have made some wonderful wines.  “Shoulder” vintages, or years that precede or follow the superstar years are often overshadowed (how do you follow up an almost perfect vintage?!)

All I’m sayin’ is before you dismiss some of these vintages, do a little research, go taste some, and be your own judge.  Yes, I am talking about 2010.

Napa’s Best Secret: The Calistoga AVA

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Any true wine geeks out there?  OK it’s a little long for our blog, but it’s one of the best summaries of what makes the Calistoga area (an official American Viticultural Area, or AVA) such a great place to grow wine grapes.  This was written for a local journalist by winemaker Cameron Parry, and provides a link to the actual petition – authored by Bo Barrett – that led to government approval of the AVA.  Here goes, hope you like it:

The Calistoga AVA has a lot of great sloping/hillside and higher elevation vineyards and the well recognized concentration that they bring, along with a relatively small amount of “flat” valley floor land.   That valley floor land has a lot of alluvial influence, so even though it is flat, it is not that heavy – lots of stony, well drained soils.   There are 3 different soil origins, and numerous classified soil types, which bring in a great complexity as well.  But, it’s not just the dirt!   One of the most defining features of the Calistoga AVA is the influence of Mt. St. Helena, which acts like an air pump: drawing air up (pulling cooler air in from the Knights Valley gap) during the day as the mountain warms, and sending cool air sliding down slope at night.   This near constant air movement helps keep temperatures in check and reduces the mildew pressure.  It also contributes to a large diurnal swing (as much as 40 degrees a day on a regular basis), which (without getting into too much grape physiology) helps preserve the natural acidity in the grapes resulting in wines with great balance, complexity, and longevity.   Many people think that Calistoga is the hottest of the AVA’s in Napa, but in reality the hottest part of the valley is just north of St. Helena.   The other often overlooked aspect of the Calistoga AVA is the orientation of the valley.   Most of the Napa valley runs about 340°, but right around Larkmead Lane, the valley turns West by about 20-25°, running about 305°.   The result is that the Calistoga AVA has a very different solar exposure than the rest of the valley.   The result, here at Chateau Montelena, is that we see earlier ripening/earlier harvest dates than many other locations, which often means that all of our fruit is in before the fall rains.  Somehow we also seem to have better solar capture even in the “difficult” years, meaning that we always get ripe fruit.

Much of this is outlined in the TTB petition that Bo wrote back in 2003, so that would be a great reference as well.

Calistoga AVA

Bud break is here…

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…the growing season has begun!  After a rainy, wet March, the last week has been beautiful.  The vines just couldn’t wait to bud.  Below is a picture of a new bud on one of the Cabernet Sauvignon vines from block A, planted in 1972.  This picture was taken Thursday afternoon.  By next week, the whole vineyard will be sprouting with green shoots.  This is my favorite time of year!

In a few weeks the vines will be cloaked in green shoots. It all happens so fast.

Here comes the sun…finally…

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…for the next few days at least.

It’s been a wet few weeks here in Calistoga, but the trend changes tomorrow. 

What’s the weather like in your area?  Comment and let us know.

5-day forecast

The sun will finally shine this week after about 3 weeks of rain.

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About Our Authors

Kristina King

Born in Colorado and led a nomadic life until the ripe old age of four. Kristina loves to travel, eat, drink wine, and enjoy the outdoors. One of her mottos is: Life is an adventure - enjoy!

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.

Cameron Parry

Winemaker since 2008, Cameron has been an integral member of the winemaking team at Chateau Montelena since 2004. He and his wife live in Calistoga with their two beautiful daughters.

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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