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As a new member of the Montelena family, we invite you to meet us, taste the wines and enjoy a bounty of benefits.

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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:


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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?



Garden Entry, Part Two

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So, a few weeks ago I mentioned the abundance of harvest from my garden.  Well, it continues…  Now, the tomatoes are  coming in fast and furious just as squash is finishing up the growing season.  And yes, I’ve found the most creative ways to get rid of squash – number one: charities.

I definitely had those heavy ambitions when we planted the tomatoes.  Over 40 plants. I figured, ‘Eh, they’re small.  We’ll see what we get.’  The more veteran farmers looked at me with a bit of disbelief, saying they planted 2 or 3 for their families, and that’s probably more than they’ll need.   Ok, so now I am hauling away bushels of these beauties, and making lots of friends and family members very happy by sharing the bounty.

In one sense, it’s great – there’s nothing better than vine-ripened tomatoes.  Even more so when you go to the store and see them at $5/lb!

I’ve learned my lesson…but next year, I’m sure I’ll do it all over again the same way!


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.

Food Truck Movement Coming to Calistoga!

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Well, if for only a day at least…

Yes, some of you may wonder, George is up early; he never blogs before 2pm…  I’m trying to give you the opportunity to get up to Calistoga and take advantage of our two month promotion as we’ve partnered with two fabulous truckies in San Francisco – starting today.

Seoul on Wheels will be here handing out Korean bites to go with our wines from 11am-2pm just today.  Julia, the owner, is a full-of- life personality (you may have caught a glimpse of her on Andrew Zimmern’s Bizarre Eats: San Francisco episode earlier this year).  What she and her crew are able to do in tight confines results in sheer magic on your plate.

I met with her in the city with our wines to make sure her dishes will pair well – no brainer.  Wait till you try the beef rib eye with our Napa Cab; the spicy pork with the Zin; the grilled chicken with our Chard!    Darn it, my mouth is watering and it ‘s only 8am.

Anyways, hope to see you up here today.  Put on your calendar for the next one: Oct 4; Curry Up Now!



The Benefits of Moving

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So I just moved from one place to another in St. Helena and I forgot just how fun it can be.  I must’ve been drunk when I wrote that sentence.  My new place is 6 blocks from my current residence, so I figured, ‘why pack everything up so neat and tidy to just go 6 blocks and then unpack again?’  So, my bright idea was to go by every day after work, load up my car, and drop off stuff at the new place.  The challenge is, it stretched my move from one full day into about 7 mini days.  Oh how this is dragging on!  Plus, I’m not sure how safe it is, even in a residential neighborhood like SH, to have one hand on the steering wheel and the other balancing my Riedel Grand Cru Sommelier glasses on the passenger seat.

What I did realize (just as I have on all my past moves)  is how much stuff I can get rid of.  After not using or seeing it for a couple years,  I realize how insignificant some material things are; or over time, they’ve lost their sentimental value; and they can be better appreciated by someone else.  I know if I had a residence I lived in for decades, I’d be a classic hoarder.  With the frequent moves, I’ve purged a lot more, and it feels good.   I finally got rid of my disco clothes that I hung onto forever, figuring I’d need it for some Halloween or theme party soon (and giving it no mind that I couldn’t fit in them anyways!).

By now, you’re wondering, “hey, this is a wine blog; where’s the reference to wine?”  Well, I did mention my Riedel glasses!  And, the other benefit of moving: after moving my wines, I realized, I have a lot to drink.   Moral of this story: Even if you’re not moving, do an occasional check of your wine stock; you may find some gems that need to be consumed.  So throw a party to do just that…and make sure to send an invite my way.


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.  

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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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