Category Archives: Wines
With the holidays quickly approaching, I’m getting excited for family and friends to visit and enjoy some great vino. This year, I’ve decided to have a little fun with it – I’m going to pick up some wines and make my own version of an Advent Calendar…an Advent Wine Calendar, if you would. I will randomly number each bottle of wine for one of the days leading up to Christmas!
What fun and creative ideas will you come up with for the upcoming holidays?? Leave a note in the comments section.
San Francisco! A beautiful multicultural metropolis located between the Pacific Ocean and the ever-changing bay of the same name. In many ways “The City” as many of us affectionately refer to it, could be considered the gateway to the California wine country. These days a 25 minute drive from SFO in almost any direction will land you on the door step of a plethora of places that will proudly serve you anything from a small sample to a full glass of the life-blood that has given rise to a truly global industry. While wine has permeated all four corners of the globe and is now produced in all 50 of the United States, few people realize that up until 107 years ago, San Francisco was among the major hubs of wine production in California and the US. You see, starting with the gold rush of 1849 and the proliferation of grapes being planted in northern California by many of the immigrant gold seekers, California enjoyed a quick growth in wine production. However, in order to stay close to points of distribution, which in those days was still mainly by ship and rail, wineries were mostly located in the city of San Francisco, as it was a major port and hub for trains and ships.
Fast forward to 1906; San Francisco and the surrounding Bay Area was rocked by a 7.7 magnitude earthquake. Among the destruction were many of the wine making facilities located closer to the bay. During the recovery process and encouraged by growing technology for transportation, many winery owners decided to build or rebuild closer to where grapes were grown in the surrounding valleys, joining others, like our founder Alfred Tubbs and Chateau Montelena, who had smartly made this decision in the first place.
Today, the Bay Area wine industry has come full circle and once again wine is being made closer to and in the city-by-the-bay. Beginning 5 years ago, Chateau Montelena became part of this growing trend when we opened our first San Francisco tasting counter at Press Club in September of 2008. After much success there, we relocated our tasting room to the historic Westin St. Francis hotel in Union Square and opened full time 2 years ago. By partnering our two historic brands, we continue the growing trend of bringing wines out of the valleys and back to the people in San Francisco.
Often times we’ve heard from people about how limited their time is when visiting the city, and despite being only 60 miles away, Napa Valley often is just out of reach. For us specifically, we recognize that being at the very top of the valley makes it difficult for some people to make it to see us, even when already in Napa.
So we took a page from history and have brought our wines to where the people are! We offer the same tasting room experience as if you were visiting the winery with the convenience of being able to stay in San Francisco. We offer a tasting flight, bottle purchases, the ability to have your wine selections shipped home for you and a variety of winery souvenirs. We’re open from 1:00 pm to 8:00 pm Wednesday through Saturday and our tasting room is staffed with a knowledgeable winery representative who is happy to take you through our flight and offer a variety of insight into the world of wine and Chateau Montelena’s place in it.
We also love to see our wine club members who might be visiting San Francisco as well as any of you who live in or around the city. All of your member benefits apply in our San Francisco tasting room just as they would up at the winery itself. If you’re not yet a member, come by either tasting room to find out all of the benefits our Cellar Master club has to offer.
The next time you find yourself in San Francisco and are craving a sip of something from Montelena, please stop by and see us. We’re located just off of the lobby in the Westin St. Francis Hotel: 335 Powell St. San Francisco, 94102.
A big thank you to all of our Wine Club members who joined us for our Traveling CellarMaster Tasting in San Diego!
We were expecting the warm So-Cal sunshine that San Diego is famous for, but the warm welcome from our Wine Club members was more than enough to make us feel at home. Executive Chef Jeff Jackson with The Lodge at Torrey Pines did a fantastic job creating recipes that perfectly paired with our Chateau Montelena wines. I’m never going to forget the Chicken Pâté in a Donut with Apricot, which he paired with our 2009 LateHarvest Sauvignon Blanc.
For those of you looking for inspiration at home:
Chateau Montelena CellarMaster Wine Club Member Tasting Event Menu
Chateau Montelena, 2012 Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc: English Pea Purée, Dungeness Crab and French Breakfast Radish
Chateau Montelena 2010 John Muir Hannah Chardonnay: Grilled Prosciutto-Wrapped Shrimp with Peach Purée
Chateau Montelena, 2010 Estate Zinfandel: Potted Shortribs with Onion Marmalade
Chateau Montelena, 2009 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon: Roasted Lamb Rack, Herb Bread Crumbs
Chateau Montelena, 2003 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon: Preserved Duck Tostada Mole
Chateau Montelena, 2009 Late Harvest Sauvignon Blanc: Chicken Liver Pâté in a Donut with Apricot
We’ve recently begun hosting our Traveling CellarMaster Tastings throughout the year and across the country, exclusive for our Chateau Montelena CellarMaster Wine Club Members; yet another perk of membership.
Next stop, New York!
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.
The holidays are in full swing here at Chateau Montelena and our tasting room is lit up and looking as festive as ever – but goodness, where has the year gone?! That Indian summer we had certainly didn’t help me adjust. So, needless to say, I find myself writing this with hardly half my shopping done and Christmas just two weeks away. Funny, because it seems every year I tell myself “next year will be different” and I vow never to do last minute shopping again…sound familiar? Or, are you just having an impossible time finding that perfect gift? (As lovely as another sweater is, sometimes I’m looking something a little more…er unique.)
May I suggest tickets to our 2nd annual HOUSE PARTY Saturday, January 26, 2013? Once again, we will open up the Chateau so that our guests can have the run of the place for one fantastic night filled with dancing, fine food and wine. The theme this year is Fire and Ice - we will be serving culinary adventures at tempting temperatures that you can enjoy with Montelena classics, special wines from our library collection and even a few limited-production winery-only wines. We are also adding a “Salon de Vin” this year where you can stock up on special wine bottlings and larger formats.
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.
Perfect Pairing with Chateau Montelena’s 2010 Napa Valley Chardonnay!
What could be simpler than these fresh bruschetta? The creamy texture, delicate thyme, perfume of citrus and sweet honey are a match made in heaven for our Chateau Montelena 2010 Chardonnay!
- 1 traditional French baguette; thinly sliced
- 8 ounces whole milk fresh ricotta cheese
- Zest of 1 large lemon
- Salt and freshly cracked black pepper, to taste
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 8-10 springs fresh thyme
- Additional lemon zest, for garnish
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
De-stem the fresh thyme leaves and bruise with the back of a soup spoon.
Mix together ricotta, half of the fresh thyme leaves and lemon zest. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.
Brush baguette slices with olive oil on one side, reserve remaining olive oil. Toast baguette slices in the oven for 5-7 minutes until slightly browned and warm.
Spread toasts liberally with seasoned ricotta. Drizzle with remaining olive oil; repeat drizzle with honey, and sprinkle with reserved thyme leaves. Arrange on serving platter; zest lightly with addition lemon if desired, for garnish. Serve warm.
So Delicious with Chateau Montelena Riesling!
Our Potter Valley Riesling compliments the spicy and delicate flavors of this warming curry. Try substituting butternut squash for the carrots to make this a truly fall dinner.
- 2 chicken breasts, oven roasted on the bone and shredded
- 1/4 cup flour
- 3 T. butter
- 4 Tbsp lemon curry powder (or medium madras style)
- 2 teaspoons fleur de sel
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground peppercorns
- 14 oz. lite coconut milk
- 1 Qt home made chicken stock
- 1 ½ c. jasmine rice 2 Tbsp fresh ginger, minced
- 2 Tbsp garlic, minced
- 2 serrano chili peppers, seeded, de-veined, minced
- 2-3 medium carrots, julienne cut
- zest of 1/2 lemon
- 3/4 cup fresh or frozen peas
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander seeds
- 8 green onions, medium dice
- 1/3 cup each finely chopped mint and cilantro
- Juice of one small lime
- 1 med. Heirloom tomato large dice, for garnish
Roast chickens ahead and debone when cool: shred breast meat into bite sized pieces. Heat butter and flour in a large saucepan on medium- high heat; cook roux until blonde. Add curry powder and combine quickly. Heat coconut milk and whisk immediately into roux; reduce heat to medium. As white sauce thickens, gradually add chicken stock and simmer 5 minutes. In a separate small saucepan, prepare basmati rice and cook per instructions. Add the carrots ginger, garlic, and chili pepper to curry sauce and simmer until carrots are al dente, about 3-4 minutes. Add the chicken, lemon zest, green onions and peas; reduce heat to medium low and stir occasionally until heated through.*
***Just before serving, add the coriander seeds, cilantro and mint. Adjust seasonings and stir in lime juice. Serve with basmati rice scooped into center; garnish with tomato and more cilantro as desired. Serves 6 as a main course.
Do-ahead tip: Prepare curry ahead to *, and refrigerate for up to 2 days. Reheat and continue with **.
A Perfect Pairing with Our Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon!
This caponata is an interesting appetizer or side dish when you plan to uncork our smooth, intense Napa Valley Cabernet. The pine nuts, tomatoes and balsamic come into harmony with the dense, nutty and slightly bitter cocoa nibs to perfectly compliment the cabernet/merlot marriage, always a lovely wine to open with dinner. Cocoa nibs are available in most gourmet grocery markets packaged in small pieces. The flavor is slightly nutty with chocolate notes and a hint of bitterness. We think it is a brilliant bridge to deep concentrated red wine aromas and flavors. Our recipe was inspired by Zazu Restaurant in Santa Rosa, California.
- 3 medium, firm eggplant, unpeeled, 1 inch dice
- 2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
- 1 ½ lbs. garden tomatoes, peeled and diced ( substitute 1 28 oz. can peeled tomatoes, drained)
- 1 1/2 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped small
- 1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
- 3 stalks celery, diced
- 1/4 cup raisins, soaked for 1 hours in ¼ cup cabernet wine
- 1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
- 1/4 cup capers
- 1 tablespoon cocoa nibs
- ½ c. finely chopped Italian parsley
- olive oil, for sautéing
- kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Slice the eggplant, season with salt and pepper, and place in a single layer between paper towels, weighted with a large skillet, to press excess moisture: about 30 minutes.
In a large sauté pan on medium high heat, sauté the eggplant in single layer batches in 4-5 tablespoons of olive oil until golden and soft, about 7 minutes. Set aside.
In the same pan, sauté the garlic until fragrant, about a minute. Add the tomatoes and chocolate and stir until chocolate is melted. In a mixing bowl, combine eggplant, garlic, tomatoes, balsamic, celery, raisins, pine nuts, capers, cocoa nibs, and parsley. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Chill the caponata for one hour before serving or spoon into a glass jar and keep for later, up to 3 days.
Delicious with crusty French bread, as a side, or spooned onto toasted baguette slices…all with a glass of Chateau Montelena Napa Valley Cabernet.