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Category Archives: Wines

First Crush, 40th Vintage

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Crush for our 40th vintage started today.  The first bin of Chardonnay from the John Muir Hanna vineyard arrived and we wasted no time getting a video of sorting table activity for your enjoyment.  This is always an exciting time here, more so this year with our newly retrofit cellar.  Enjoy.

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Harvest Has Begun

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We’re just a few hours into Harvest 2011 and already things are shaping up very nicely.  It’ll be extremely busy over the next few weeks, but we’re excited to see the white grapes coming in now…

Learn more about the white wine harvest in Napa Valley by watching this video, produced by the Napa Valley Vintners:

3…2…1…

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The launch codes have been given and the pad prepared, we are T-minus 21 hours to the start of our 40th crush! The new cellar is finished, the headlamps are cleaned and checked, the crews are rested and ready for tomorrow (early) morning when we will begin Harvest 2011. The first fruit across the scale this year will be about 10 tons of night harvested Sauvignon Blanc from our Takahashi Ranch in the Oak Knoll District of Napa Vallley.

A long standing tradition on the first day of harvest here at Montelena is the Blessing of the Grapes.  Tomorrow,  mid-day before we begin pressing the Sauvignon Blanc, we will invite our friends and neighbors to join all of Team Montelena for an invocation and blessing of this year’s crop, the new cellar, and all of us working with them. Two priests will be on hand to help us out, followed by a few toasts, and lunch by Jade Lake. A fine way to start what is bound to be an interesting and intense Harvest 2011.

Day 1 – Chateau Montelena Alaska Adventure: Welcome Reception

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Our ship was the Regent Navigator.  A smaller cruise vessel compared to the other ones sailing the Alaskan passages.  This ship holds a maximum of just under 500 passengers.    We boarded in Seward, just outside of Anchorage.  Apparently it was the nicest day they had seen in a while – lots of sunshine.   

Our first winery event was our welcome reception – all turned out.  Cameron Parry, our winemaker, gave the official welcome to the cruise.   We poured two older Estate Cabernets, 2002 and 2003, a 1999 Potter Valley Riesling as well as current releases of our chardonnay and sauvignon blanc.    Everyone was excited to be here and on this trip.

We finished in time for dinner and a good nights rest for our big day of winetasting - a mini-Quarter of a Century!  Ten vintages of Estate Cabernet as well as ten vintages of our Napa Valley Chardonnay.  Oh boy, can’t wait!

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The Grapes are Near!

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Finally!  We’re at 22 brix; now we need just a bit more!  The heat is on and things are looking good.  The challenge for our production team, however, is that it looks like everything will be coming in at the same time.  Normally we get our white grapes first, then the reds and lastly the Riesling (I know, it’s white, but it ripens late because it’s coastal).  This year is the perfect storm.  Do we have room for all the grapes? Not to worry; you won’t see any blush wine coming out as we lump them all together.  Our renovated high-tech cellar and experienced vineyard and production teams are in full preparation to handle all the influx of grapes.  Will it be easy? No way – it’ll be very long days and nights in the weeks ahead, but we can take homage that the end result is always worth it.

We are bracing ourselves for the impending storm….

The grapes are nearly here!

Fall’s Arrival

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We’re kicking off the last, official week of summer (though the temperatures in Napa Valley yesterday didn’t seem to indicate the change in seasons!) and transitioning into fall…which makes me very happy.  It’s not that I don’t enjoy summer and sipping great, light wines on the patio, because I definitely do!  I just happen to love fall a little bit more.  I like everything that fall represents – Halloween, Thanksgiving, cooler weather and cozy weekends, pumpkin spice lattes, boots and coats, warm soups and stews and the beginning of ski season.  Most importantly, as a wine-lover, I am looking forward to the change in seasons because we’ll soon begin harvest here at the winery and that’s always the most exciting time of year.  Sure, we’re a little late this year, but we’re expecting another great vintage as the grapes begin to come in.  Fall of 2011 also marks the completion of the cellar upgrade and the Barrett family’s 40th vintage – so there’s a lot to celebrate this year!  As the days begin to get a little shorter and the nights begin to get a little cooler, I’ll be embracing this new season and putting my patio wines away.  I’m now looking forward to hearty meals, comfort foods and comfort wines.  For me, that means our Estate Zinfandel – a great partner for chili, soups, roasted meats and spicy pastas (just a few of  my favorite cool-weather meals).  What are you looking forward to as summer turns to fall?  What is your comfort wine in the cooler months?

 

 

House Party 2012 – Save the Date!

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On January, 28, 2012, we’ll open up the Chateau for our first-ever House Party, where our guests will have the run of the place (and the first glimpse at our newly renovated cellar).  Upstairs, downstairs – there will be food and wine around every corner.  We’ll be featuring slow-cooked rotisserie meats (think: pig, lamb, poultry and beef) to enjoy along with the Montelena classics, a special collection of older vintage wines from our library, and even a few limited-production winery-only wines.  Join us to eat, drink and be merry and then stay to party the night away, dancing to the music of San Francisco’s Wonderbread 5, at the first great party of the New Year.  Rock and Rotisserie 2012we hope to see you there.

2nd Annual #Cabernet Day

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This Thursday, September 1st, marks the 2nd annual #Cabernet Day social media extravaganza.  In 2011, it’s an international party with #Cabernet headquarters scattered all over the world.  Check out the official page to find a #Cabernet HQ in your neighborhood.  We’ll be celebrating with our Napa friends at the Napa Marriott…and we’ll be featuring a delicious older vintage of our Estate Cabernet.  Join us in toasting this internationally celebrated grape on Thursday, Septemeber 1, 2011.  

American Dream

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We have a new face on the blog! Lynn Pedone will be working in the vineyard, with Dave Vella and his crew, as she pursues her studies in Viticulture at Santa Rosa Junior College. A little background on Lynn: she’s a recent East Coast transplant, has lived all over the world growing up in a military family and has previously worked in the world of business and finance. She’s now hoping to settle into her “last career stop until retirement” in the wine industry and is looking forward to the opportunity to learn more about vineyard maintenance with Dave.  Lynn will be writing a weekly blog post about her experiences working in the Chateau Montelena vineyards.  Read her latest post below:

Placido Garcia Hernandez, Montelena’s vineyard foreman, tells the quintessential story of the American dream.  I sat down with this integral member of the Chateau Montelena team to learn more about his life and work in the vineyards.  Placido, whose birthday is on July 4th, came to California from Mexico in 1961.  As a teenager, he worked hard picking tomatoes, melons, pears and peaches in the fields and orchards of Sacramento, eventually working his way west to his first grape harvest in the Napa Valley.  He has been with Chateau Montelena for 37 years, since 1974.  When I asked Placido what the best thing is about working at Montelena, he replied without even thinking about it – “every day.”  Every day he is happy to be here, and thanks God he still has the energy to work.  He explained that Montelena is a very special place, a “nice place to work,” where there is good communication and support, and where it feels like family.  Most of all, Placido told me, Montelena is what enabled him to realize his American dream: that of buying a home and sending his children to school.  He is proud that he has been able to share his dream with his wife Maria and their family of four girls (including a set of twins) and a boy, all grown now with children of their own – his six grandchildren.  He is also very proud of the fact that he has been a part of the many changes that have taken place here since he started.  He told me how different Montelena looked back then (fewer vines) and also how different Calistoga was – he can remember when you could buy a pitcher of “cerveza” for one dollar!  I was curious to get his take on the Paris tasting and what happened in 1976; Placido remembers that it was a “big deal” – but not just for Chateau Montelena.  That event put Napa on the virtual world wine map, and everyone who made wine in the Napa Valley was forever inspired to strive to make the best wine they possibly could.  Placido admits he doesn’t really know much about making wine or even describing wine – he “can only say if it’s good” – but he does know about grapes and vines.  I’ve admired his expertise and have been fortunate to have his guidance and support this summer.   It would be hard to imagine Chateau Montelena without Placido!

Placido in the Vineyard

Veraison

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We have a new face on the blog! Lynn Pedone will be working in the vineyard, with Dave Vella and his crew, as she pursues her studies in Viticulture at Santa Rosa Junior College. A little background on Lynn: she’s a recent East Coast transplant, has lived all over the world growing up in a military family and has previously worked in the world of business and finance. She’s now hoping to settle into her “last career stop until retirement” in the wine industry and is looking forward to the opportunity to learn more about vineyard maintenance with Dave.  Lynn will be writing a weekly blog post about her experiences working in the Chateau Montelena vineyards.  Read her latest post below:

Today, Montelena’s vineyard signaled the first sign of veraison – every year, one of the most important events in the vineyard that starts the countdown to harvest.  Exactly what triggers this remarkable event isn’t fully known, but it may have something to do with seed maturity.  Veraison means, literally, the “change of color of the grape berries” – basically, the onset of berry ripening.  During this period, the vine switches its resources to ripening the fruit, and leaf and cane growth subside.  The berries soften, seeds turn from green to brown, acids decline and sugars accumulate and fruity aromas develop.  Not coincidentally, this is nature’s way of making the fruit appealing to animals!  This morning’s assignment was leaf pulling in the fruit zone – to increase air circulation around the berries and give them more sun exposure.  It was during this exercise that I pulled away leaves on one cluster to reveal, for the first time, purple berries.  I ooh’d and aah’d with delight, and had to run back to my car to get my camera, afraid if I went back later and tried to find that exact bunch, I wouldn’t be able to find it.  The vineyard crew carried on, unphased – though I think they were somewhat amused at my enthusiasm for something they have all seen already many times.  The result of that effort is the photo, below, which I think you’ll agree is a thing of beauty!

 

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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.

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