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Category Archives: Wines

From Our Kitchen: Lamb Burgers with Nick’s Spicy Tzatziki Sauce

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A perfect paring for our spring red releases: Lamb Burgers with Nick’s Spicy Tzatziki Sauce. Best with a glass of our 2011 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon or 2011 Montelena Estate Zinfandel!

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Lamb Burger 
serves about 4


  • 1/2 bunch fresh mint, chopped
  • 1 1/2 lbs. ground lamb
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon sweet paprika
  • Pinch of ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon Kosher Salt
  • 1 cup feta cheese, crumbled
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil + more for brushing
  • 4 ciabatta rolls/ hamburger buns/ whole wheat pitas
  • 1 cup baby spinach
  • 1 small red onion, sliced into rings
  • Nick’s Spicy Tzatziki Sauce (recipe below)

Combine first 7 ingredients and half of olive oil in a mixing bowl, incorporating well. Next divide the mixture into four even balls, then shape into patties about 3/4 inch thick. Cook on grill over medium heat, roughly 4 minutes per side or until desired doneness. Turn grill to medium low. Brush sliced bun option with olive oil and grill until golden brown, about 1 1/2 minutes. Top bun with burger, spinach, and onion.

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Spicy Tzatziki Sauce
makes about 2.5 cups


  • 2 cup Greek style yogurt
  • 1 English cucumber, seeded and small diced
  • 2 tablespoons Kosher Salt
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic
  • 1 package (1/4 bunch) of fresh dill
  • 2-3 tablespoons of Harissa, depending on how hot you like it!

Place all ingredients in food processor or blender, puree until fully incorporated. Use as a condiment with a lamb burger, falafel or anything else!

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‘Tis the Season…

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…For Dungeness crabs!

Tomorrow morning, for the second year running, George will make the trek south to Half Moon Bay to pick up a rather large order of live (delicious) Dungeness crabs from our friends aboard The Cricket. A few weeks back, he took orders from the Montelena Team and we’ve been anxiously awaiting and pondering how to serve them up…

To whet your appetites, here is one of Brian’s favorite pairings from our CELLARMASTER on the Road Tastings this year. Recipe courtesy of Brian Sheehan, Executive Chef at TPC Boston.

Avocado mousse, arugula, celery root, green apple

1 ripe avocado
2 limes (zest & juice)
½ C  Extra virgin olive oil
Salt & pepper to taste

Puree all ingredients in blender until silky smooth

2 T  lime juice
4 T Extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1tsp honey
1 tsp fresh cilantro (chopped)
Salt & pepper to taste

Blend lime juice, mustard, and honey in small bowl
Slowly drizzle in oil to form an emulsion
Add chopped cilantro
Season with salt and pepper

1 small celery root (peeled) (cut into matchsticks)
1 Granny Smith apple (cut into matchsticks)
1 tsp apple cider
Pinch of salt and pepper

Toss ingredients together


12 oz. Jumbo lump crabmeat (picked of shells)
1 tsp Dijon Mustard
2 tsp mayonnaise
2 tsp Extra virgin olive oil

Spoon Avocado mousse onto chilled plate
Place crab salad next to mousse
Toss apple celery root salad with honey lime vinaigrette
Place celery root apple salad on top of crab salad
Dot plate with remaining honey lime vinaigrette


Wine Advent Calendar

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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.


A view from the City

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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.


Tales of the Travelling CellarMaster Tastings: Torrey Pines Pairings

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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!

American Milestones Video

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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.


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Lighting up the Tasting Room

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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.

Get a Charge Visiting Montelena

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DC Fast Charger

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.

Finally the Truth about Sulfites in Wine

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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.

Simply Divine Lemon-Thyme Bruschetta

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Perfect Pairing with Chateau Montelena’s 2010 Napa Valley Chardonnay!

Simply Devine Lemon-Thyme BruschettaWhat 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.

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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