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Category Archives: Winery News

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!

Technology: Blessing or Curse?

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Well, for my last blog of 2011, I’m gonna rant a little (ok, I guess a lot). I’m not gonna chat about wine – sorry, if you’re looking for words of wisdom for what to drink on New Years, you should have that figured out already.

What I’ve reflected on lately is the curse of modern technology; specifically, laptops/iphones that everyone carries.  True, these new wonders have sped up our lives, made us more efficient, and quite frankly, reduced a lot of excess use of natural resources (trees/paper for one).  What this technology has also done, unfortunately, is made us forget common manners, and reduced our opportunities for experiencing new things and meeting new people.

Let me share with you some experiences and examples:

Flying.  We can open laptops, watch movies, flip through 50 channels on our own personal in-flight screens, and even play video games.  I’ve now become more accustomed to channel surfing than chatting with the people around me on airplanes.  True, I’ve met some odd people;  but I’ve also met some very interesting people over shared stories on a long flight.   Not any more!  We now sit side-by-side for 5 hours completely tuned in to our own personal environment/entertainment system.  This also goes for buses – I rode Muni in San Francisco for years and have seen a lot of strange things on the bus.  I have also met some great people on the bus, and am happy that two of them have been among my closest friends for 10+ years.

Holidays.  A few Thanksgivings ago, a group of friends gathered for the big feast.  As we sat down, two people continued to take pics on their phone to send to their friends that weren’t at the table.  Their texting continued as we started eating. Finally (and thankfully) the rest of us chastized the texters to put down their phones and enjoy the moment with their friends of the here and now.  I grew up without this as my mother would never allow us to either: (a) be on the phone during meal times or (b) have the tv on.  These great rules helped keep the family values of meal time sacred.  So when did texting become acceptable during dinnertime?

I’ve seen this behavior all-too-often at restaurants, during movies, among passengers in my car.  People are missing the opportunity to be present and enjoy those around them!

Alright, you get my point. New technology is great. We are far more efficient; the world moves faster around us; we can multitask.  I have this technology, but I try to be a responsible user.  And you know what?  This technology didn’t exist 20 years ago but the younger generations can’t imagine life without it.  My parents didn’t have all this technology and access to everything at every moment, and they were wonderful people and great parents.  And their parents barely had access to television!  I’m sure that about 80% of the world’s population lives without all this extra stuff.  So, to better appreciate all that is going on around me, I have occasionally gone out for dinner and intentionally left my phone at home.  It is one of the most invigorating feelings of independence!  I encourage you to try it.  But most of all, if you’re going to spend time surfing aimlessly on the web, take a moment to look up what Miss Manners says about proper etiquette when it comes to ichat/games/etc in a social environment.

Happy New Year to all, and be sure to take some time to enjoy and appreciate the living, breathing people around you!


Time to Impulse Buy

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For those of you on my Christmas shopping list, a word to the wise: resist my constant requests to give me your Christmas wish list.  If you give me your list, you’ll get something predictable.  But if you don’t, you’ll stress me out and I’ll keep thinking about an ideal gift, wait until the last few shopping days and buy something beyond my budget just to get it over with.

So yes, I’ve just finished my holiday shopping, and those who procrastinated with sending me their wish list are the true benefactors of a highly expensive gift.  Will they like it? Hard to say.  The tough thing for me is, most of my friends love Montelena, but that’s too easy of a gift from me.  That’s the low hanging fruit of shopping: too easy, too predictable. They’d love it, sure; but they also know I didn’t put a lot of effort into shopping beyond the workplace!

And you’d think that all of us working here at the Chateau are tired of the good juices. Well, we had our holiday luncheon last week with the (in)famous White Elephant gift exchange. Who would’ve thought it would be all the good boozy stuff that people kept stealing….  Nothing warms the soul more than the gift of booze, unless it was stolen from your co-workers.

Anyways, Merry Christmas to all…eat well, drink well; then we’ll all think about a good New Year’s resolution after we indulge.

Virgin America Video

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Fliers on Virgin America in December and January will see this 2:00 minute video inviting them to visit us.  It is actually footage we shot some years back and “re-purposed” for the airline, which did all of the copy.  It was fun to revisit it.  Back in those days, Bo had a mustache.  Take a look.

Tis the Season; Really?

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Is it me, or has this holiday season crept up with a vengeance?  I usually have more time to mentally prepare for it, but before I knew it, Thanksgiving was here.  Now, it’s nearly Christmas.  I’m trying to wrap myself around it; all indications and not so subtle hints have been here. It’s cold…very cold.  Retail commercials started I think, like around November1st.  Christmas music is playing at every gas station, but I just don’t feel Christmasy yet!  I think part of it is how late the harvest/season here went.  We were literally going right up to the week before Thanksgiving.  Another part is getting old and watching time fly by, but that’s for another blog category.

So here we are; two weeks before Christmas, and three before New Year’s Day. And really 18 days until 2012!  I’m still thinking the y2k scare was just last year.  What I do appreciate in the year 2011, however, is I can do my shopping online!  Yes, I can shop at 3am, and have it here in two days.  I don’t have to fight crowds in lines, traffic jams in parking lots, and the constant music!!!  But wait, perhaps that’s why I’m missing the Christmas spirit?  You really only get that with other company.

Alright, so in writing this blog, I’ve figured out why I don’t have the “spirit” yet….So, here I go, expensive fuel costs, parking, screaming kids, crowds…now I feel Christmasy!




Procrastinating Doesn’t Pay

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For those who waited till the day before an exam and then crammed – it didn’t work, did it?  If you waited till the last day of a clothing sale, you’ve probably often found the inventory to be limited to sizes of except Small and XXL.  Well, it works that way here too!  With a small harvest, our 2008′s are either gone, or going fast!  Well, many current releases as well.   The 2010 Riesling?  Gone.  Our 2008 Zinfandel? Gone.  And 2008 Napa Cabernet and 2007 Estate Cabernet? Going very, very soon.

I blinked and then they’re gone.  Will we have wine to sell? Yes, we will; but if you have a library or would like to continue your vertical, don’t wait till the last-minute!

Find the wine you’re looking for here.

Back from Vacation

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I just spent a week on vacation after finishing another high season here at the Chateau and it was just what the doctor ordered; Thanksgiving in Boise, Idaho with some of my closest friends.  I often get a funny reaction when I tell people I’m going to Boise for vacation.  The consistent reaction I get is, “Why!?”  My answer is always the same, “Have you ever been to Boise?”  And the answer from all those who ask is always, “No.”

My friends have lived there for 20 years now, have built a beautiful home, have started a business, and know just about everyone you need to know in town.   Boise is a city with a small town feel: it’s comfortable, easy to navigate and has great food and shopping.  Did I mention the great food?

For breakfast, Goldie’s is a must: corned beef hash, farm fresh eggs – ohhh sooo good.  Lunch/dinner: Fork was a standout; I went there twice in one week.  I was there once for a burger (they use fresh brisket in their meat) and the other time for perhaps the best BLT (with egg on top) I’ve ever had.  We were tempted to go back a third time! The only downfall there?  No Chateau Montelena :( …  Keep going back; we’ll get them to carry it!

For wine shopping, the Co-Op is as good a wine shop as I’ve seen in the best Urban cities.   The selection from country to country, price point –  all great. And, yes, they do carry CM!

Moral of this story: Before you poopoo a city you’ve never visited, give it a shot!  Sometimes you just have to get out of your vacation comfort zones (i.e. New York, Hawaii, San Francisco) and head for a small town for true Americana.


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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

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