Come Taste For Yourself

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

Visit The Chateau

Our New Pavilions

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If you have ever visited Jade Lake to enjoy its tranquility – and especially if you are a CellarMaster Wine Club member who has reserved one of its two islands for personal use – you are familiar with our pavilions.  These structures were originally built by Yort and Jeanie Frank, whose family owned and lived in the Chateau in the mid-20th Century.  It was in fact Yort who excavated the lake, created its enchanting gardens, and named it all after his wife, whose nickname was Jade.  After decades of exposure to the elements, even with our careful upkeep, it finally became necessary to replace the pavilions.  This work was recently completed, faithfully replicating the original design, and even incorporating beautiful roof tiles sourced directly from China.  Here is a picture of the left island pavilion, taken just before guests arrived for our annual Movable Feast event in late May.  Next time you visit, we hope you take in the view.  Better yet, after your visit maybe you would have a picture or two to share with us (hint…hint)?

Chateau Montelena Winery, Estate Cabernet Sauvignon

Summer Arrives at Chateau Montelena

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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:

Tuesday was officially the first day of Summer, and in the vineyard here it was appropriately HOT…97 degrees.  It seemed fitting that we spent the morning tending to the irrigation needs of the vines.  Irrigation involves more than simply keeping the plants alive.  In viticulture, the strategies for watering depend on the desired style of wine that will ultimately be achieved – there are different effects of irrigation on berries from budbreak to bloom and fruit set and all the way through to maturity. One of my favorite lessons from vineyard management class is that vines are like cats – they don’t like wet feet!  At Chateau Montelena, they practice deficit irrigation, providing just enough water to keep the vines from becoming overly stressed.  Heriberto, (Beto, as he is called by the staff here) who I spent the day shadowing, explained that when the vines are young they are irrigated more to grow a strong healthy vine and as they get older and start to produce fruit, the water is greatly reduced.  I always think of what Jim Barrett, i.e. Bill Pullman, said in the movie Bottle Shock – making the vines “struggle” intensifies the flavor.  Who would know better?  And this is where I put in a shameless plug for the movie…if you have never seen, go get yourself a copy and share it with friends.  You don’t have to be a wine lover to appreciate this wonderfully entertaining, feel-good movie.  If you are lucky enough to live in the area, you can pick up a copy (autographed by Bo Barrett) in the Montelena tasting room if you take the “Bottle Shock Chardonnay Experience” tour.  As with the movie, once is not enough!

Returning to the day’s events, I accompanied Beto as he turned on valves for several irrigation pump stations throughout the vineyard blocks.  Just when I thought to myself, oh, this will be an easy task….there is actually much more to irrigation and fertilization (fertigation when both are applied simultaneously) than I imagined.  As I said to Beto, learning about something in a classroom is never the same as doing it.  Beto has been with Montelena for more than 20 years, and it’s easy to see that he loves what he does.  We began in a hillside block, walking the rows to inspect the drip lines and replacing any failing, or plugged, emitters (the small, round cap-like spouts through which the water flows).  Next, travel to the various pump stations where, in some cases, valves need to be turned on.  At other stations, filters need to be removed and cleaned out.  Valves are shut off at the end of the work day, then the whole process repeats again the next day.  I also observed as organic fish fertilizer was applied through the irrigation system to one of the blocks of baby vines (this is done once or twice a year on young vines).  The huge 300-gallon tank has to be transported to the application site with a forklift, and then a myriad of hoses connects the tank to the irrigation system with a portable pump.  Quite a remarkable way to apply fertilizer, considering how painstaking it must have been in the days before all this wonderful machinery was developed!

 

Support Your Local Farmer’s Markets

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I’ve been a big advocate of local farmer’s markets for many years.  While I do ponder why the costs of fruit and veggies at these direct-to-consumer venues is as high, if not higher than, some of your finest grocery chains, I’ve also come to realize that it’s still money well spent.  Here’s why:

*Quality.  Just as in buying wine directly from the source. You know you can count on the quality of it. Did it drive across country and back on warm, summer days?  Did it sit next to a furnace in some building?  No, it was stored best by the people who know how.  For produce, you know where it’s coming from; you meet the farmers and get first hand information.  You understand the TLC that went into it.  Tasting tree ripened fruit or fresh cut veggies from the ground is so much better. This is as close as most can get in an urban surrounding.  And, you’re often getting true organic or non-genetically modified produce; which translates to better for the earth, better for the body.

*Price.  Yes, it isn’t “as cheap,” but you know it comes directly from the source, and no middlemen taking their shares.  Think back when how farms struggled, and the government had to subsidize to make sure we have food on our tables.  They’re not getting the same subsidies.  This tremendously helps them to eek out a living. After all, when was the last time you drove by a farm and saw their mansion on the grounds?  It’s not high-profit careers until it gets to the hands of conglomerate grocery chains.  These folks stress every year about how the weather will be; they’re up at the crack of dawn till sunset; and they don’t often get two days off a week.

*Uniqueness.  Some, if not all of these markets will have things you’ve never seen or heard of.  Every July, I crave the candycots that are only available at the famous Ferry Plaza farmer’s market in San Francisco on Saturdays. These little gems, appropriately named, are like eating candy.  They are exclusively grown in the Fresno area, and just through the months of end of June and July.  Being far from where I live, I tracked down the farm and asked them if there’s any way to get these. Their response, “either come to our farm, or the SF Farmers market, that’s it!”  Can’t ship, no stores..  And, I’ve never found as sweet boysenberries; heck, haven’t found boysenberries, period; except there, for a 4 week window.  And the variety of Asian pears!   Oh my, I can go on… You just have to go frequently and find these unique things.

*Fun Factor. It’s just plain fun to walk around with friends and family; sample the “fruits” of their labor, be outside, and eat at the adjacent food tents.

So support these farmers, bring your wallet, and bring home of nature’s goodness!

Source

A Reason To Drink #SauvBlanc

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This Friday, on June 24th, we’ll be celebrating the beginning of summer by cooling down with some refreshing glasses of Sauvignon Blanc in honor of #SauvBlanc Day.  To participate in the online festivities, simply use the hashtag #SauvBlanc when you are sharing/tweeting/Facebooking information about this beloved summer wine.  Visit the official page for more information: http://sauvblanc2011.eventbrite.com

My First Day In The Vineyard

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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:

I can’t move….

Yesterday was my first day of work in the Chateau Montelena vineyard – my “dream job” – ? Wow, this old body isn’t used to physical labor – especially not for 8 hours! The last time I worked this hard was back in the day (emphasis on “back”) when I was a gym rat, body building and power lifting, and learned “muscle has memory” – in this case, it had better be a long one!

We started off suckering the vines – pulling unwanted green shoots off of the trunks below the drip lines. No problem. Then someone handed me a shovel – !? Oh yes, using a shovel to break up/dig out weeds in the berms. If you have ever pounded a metal shovel into hard, dry dirt, you know it’s not a lot of fun! But I persevered. I couldn’t keep up with the men (incredibly hard workers), but at least I had their respect that I wanted to pull my weight and do my share. The heat did not help matters – yesterday was the hottest day of the year so far, 90. Fortunately there was a breeze and I took my share of shade breaks. The good news is that I probably sweated off at least a pound – at this rate I’ll be back into most of my wardrobe by September! Also, the foreman told me there wouldn’t be any more shoveling – they were pretty much done with this for a while. So now we will be doing other typical summer vineyard activities – tucking the vines up into the wires, pulling leaves in the fruit zone, etc. Anyway, it was a good day – the workers are all very kind, seemingly tolerant to have me in their midst, and willing to take the time to explain how and why we do certain things in the vineyard… Placido, Paulino, Heriberto and Beto – those are the names I learned yesterday.

So, How Is 2011 Shaping Up?

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Vineyard Manager, Dave Vella, has over 25 years of experience working with the soils, vines and weather here at the winery.  With that kind of experience working with one particular vineyard, he has seen it all over the years.  I recently caught up with him to get an update on how things are shaping up in the vineyard for the 2011 vintage.

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Vineyard Tours Starting Soon

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Most of you know wines from what you buy at the store, read in reviews, hear from friends and enjoy at dinner parties.  For those who venture to the regions where it’s actually made, their learning curve goes up exponentially.  They get the stories first hand (sometimes, subjective); but even then, that’s a good thing. What makes our wine different than someone else’s may seem better to some, not to others.  That’s the beauty of enjoying wine. If it were that easy, it wouldn’t be fun.

Well, we’re taking your learning curve a bit farther if you visit us in Calistoga.  Starting soon, on Mondays and Wednesday mornings at 10:30am, we’re offering vineyard tours.  Our little 8 passenger electric cart will whisk you around (in an environmentally-friendly way) our 100 acres of vineyards, giving you a fun and educational, Disney-like drive through our Estate vineyards.  You’ll get an up-close and personal experience learning how our wines begin.   Should start up next week; but check our website for details soon!

 

The 2009 Napa Valley Chardonnay

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It’s official…the 2009 Chardonnay is released and ready to enjoy!

Have you had a chance to try it yet?  If so, what do you think?

 

Receiving Your Favorite Wine Directly May Be A Thing of the Past Unless..

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There is another House of Representatives bill, being submitted (HR1161) , that will affect the direct shipping of your wine regardless of whether you are in a wine club, have a wine allocation or just occasionally order wine.  This act was sponsored by the wholesalers and will bring us back about two decades on wine shipping. Read more here.

According to Free the Grapes.org, this is what this bill will do if it is passed:

  • Establish that State Laws Override Federal Laws: Shifts the burden of proof from state to challenger in all cases that deal with the validity of any state law regarding the regulation of matters involving alcohol beverages and makes such state laws presumably valid over any federal law that is inconsistent with its provisions.
  • Render Commerce Clause Ineffective: Establishes federal law that makes the Dormant Commerce Clause not applicable to any state law that deals with alcohol beverage sale or distribution unless they are demonstrated to “facially discriminate, without justification”.

This is a disagreement between beer wholesalers and beer producers. U.S. House Resolution 1161 was introduced March 17 at the request of the National Beer Wholesalers of America with the support of the Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America. But, because of its broad scope, HR 1161 is a direct threat to wine direct shipping by exempting anti-competitive and discriminatory state alcohol beverage laws from most federal review.  It will reverse the federal decision brought about from Heald vs. Granholm which was instrumental to increasing the number of states that allow legal, regulated winery-to-consumer shipments, making it essentially difficult to buy wine directly from your favorite wineries.

Please reach out to your representatives, as well as your senators, to let them know that this is not okay.   Free the Grapes.org has a template that you may use to to send an email or fax directly to your representatives.

Here Comes The Sun

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In the famous words of one of the greatest bands of our time, thank God it’s here!  I won’t talk much about the weather, as that’s been beaten down in blogs and articles everywhere; so if you’re wondering what it means to vintage 2011, ask us in the Fall. It’s still too early.

What I can say, however, is my tomatoes, cucumbers, and squash may have a chance after all.  Without warmth and sun, they were showing signs of doom.

I can put away the jackets I had already stashed in April, just to dust them off for May and June.

Vacation in Montana looks promising.

A day at the beach may be a reality now.

Farmer’s markets can start showing off some real Summer fruit.

After all man has done in modern technology, we’re all still at the mercy of Mother Nature in so many ways.  I love California!

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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.

Cameron Parry

Winemaker since 2008, Cameron has been an integral member of the winemaking team at Chateau Montelena since 2004. He and his wife live in Calistoga with their two beautiful daughters.

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