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Celebrating this Fourth of July

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The month of July has multiple celebrations for me – the celebration of summer in full swing, the celebration of my work anniversary, (year nine for me at Chateau Montelena), but most importantly the celebration of our country.

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As I go through my day to day life, I find that I sometimes take for granted what freedom we have here in the United States.   I mean, I get glimpses of the measures we take to have this freedom, like security lines at the airport, military skirmishes on the news but otherwise I am, like most people, in my own bubble and focused on our day to day lives.   The fact that I can do this and not worry about my safety makes me very grateful.  This luxury is part of Freedom.

I am extremely grateful to live in this country and am thankful for the women and men who continue to fight for our freedom.   During this Fourth of July, I will be raising a glass in honor.

Happy Independence Day, America!

At Home in the Montelena Gardens

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While there are many great reasons to think that working at Montelena is special, the grounds have got to be close to the top of the list.  Walking in the vineyard in early spring near bud-break or in the late summer when the foliage is lush and cool in the hot sun, shading the precious bunches of juicy grapes underneath, I feel connected to nature.  Coming back to the Chateau I often feel as if I am stepping into a beautiful landscape painting. Looking across Jade Lake at the islands, each with their neat pagoda shaded by willows gently swaying; seeing the swans and the ducks gliding across the water and watching the peonies, columbine and grasses being ruffled in the breeze, I am reminded of a favorite childhood poem:

Over in the meadow
In the sand in the sun, lived an
Old mother turtle and her
Little turtle one.
“Dig,” said the mother,
“I dig,” said the one, and they
Dug all day in the sand in the sun.

I always feel at home here.  Today (June 27) is my mother’s birthday.  While she is no longer alive I cannot see a purple iris or a beautiful garden without thinking of her.  She would have loved the Montelena gardens.  Happy Birthday Mom!

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!

Just How Long Has it Been?

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Well, to give you perspective, we’ve harvested a whole season’s worth of grapes, the Giants won the World Series…and then the new season already started, the 49ers went to the Superbowl, we celebrated Christmas, New Years, partied for our second annual House Party; finished Movable Feast, and are half way through the year 2013. Yes, that’s how long it’s been since my last post.  Yes, I’m still here.  I’d give you all the excuses, some legit, some just “excuses,” but I’d go against what I preach to my peers, friends, co workers…   Could I have found 5 minutes of my day to do a post?  Yes.  I can’t promise a weekly, or even every other week post, but I’ll do my best.

Been an interesting ride for sure.  We lost our iconic leader and friend, Mr. Barrett over this time.  We continue to adjust without him, but certainly can’t forget all he’s done for us; heck, for this country quite frankly.  He wasn’t the first person I’ve lost, and as life goes, won’t be the last.  It’s a reminder to remember to appreciate life every day; people around you; travel, live, enjoy life, do everything, eat great food, don’t keep holding on to that special bottle…there will be always more special bottles.  Open it, and make new memories!  Hopefully, with me of course.


And the winners are…

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Congratulations to our CellarMasterRecipe Challenge Winners!

We had many wonderful submissions for our second annual members’ Recipe Challenge. Our staff culinary team reviewed all submissions. We then selected 10 semi-finalist’s recipes for testing in our Chateau kitchen.

Each of four categories- Appetizers, Salads or Sides, Main Courses, and Sweet Endings- were independently judged by our staff in a private tasting, paired with the suggested wine. We are delighted to announce our winners as follows:

Category Winners

Donald Kellar, for “Vietnamese Style Ahi Cakes”, paired with Chateau Montelena Potter Valley Riesling;

Evan Goldfischer, for “Evan’s Famous Latkes”, paired with Chateau Montelena Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon;

Erica  Bearman, for “Grammy Miller’s German Sauerbraten”, paired with Chateau Montelena Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon (main course);  and

Greer Reimer, for “Chocolate Tarragon Mousse”, paired with Chateau Montelena Potter Valley Riesling.

Congratulations to all!

Our category winners are all invited to schedule a private tasting, vineyard tour, and catered lunch on the islands for four people – all with our compliments and congratulations.


Grand Prize Winner

Our Grand Prize Winner is Erica Bearman, for her traditional Saurbraten which came to her family from “Grammy Miller”. In the final tasting, this dish reminded the judges of a holiday meal and judges noted that the flavors paired beautifully with Chateau Montelena’s Napa Valley Cabernet. Erica, along with up to seven guests, will be invited to join us in our Chateau Residence Kitchen to prepare their winning dish along with our culinary staff members, who will complete the four course luncheon with their own complimentary dishes. The sit down luncheon, served in the Chateau’s Great Room, will include Chateau Montelena wines paired with each dish!

We’ll post each of the winning recipes over the next few weeks so that you can make them and taste for yourself (and, of course, enjoy with your favorite Montelena wine). We encourage you to try the recipes perhaps share some of your own favorite pairings. Who knows? We may ask to share your recipe on our blog! Better yet, become a CellarMaster so you can participate next year and submit your own recipe in next year’s challenge.


Judy Tischler

Recipe Challenge Coordinator

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

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