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I’m Back!

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Ok, after a couple months off (and no, I wasn’t “off”), I’m now back on the blog.    Over the last few months, we overhauled some of our computer systems, and now that the work is complete,  I’m able to blog again. Truth be told, I wasn’t sure I’d continue because I was not sure if there were readers out there.  It’s funny how you only hear about things when you stop writing and I learned that I, indeed had loyal readers. Reminds me of when I’ve moved in the past – neighbors who I barely knew or said ‘hello’ to would come to the moving truck and tell me, “I can’t believe you’re moving, we’re sorry to see you go…”   And my response: “And who are you?”

Anyways, I’m back online; but busy getting the party of the year going, Movable Feast 2012!  Hope you got your golden ticket; the event’s been sold out for weeks now!  Curious to know how you can join us next year?  Become a CellarMaster and enjoy an afternoon in the sun with great wine, fantastic food, the entire Montelena Family and plenty of Montelena Estate Cabernet pulled from our library collection just for this once-a-year festive occasion.



Montelena Moments: Brennan and Lindsey Sheedy

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We recently received a very kind email from Brennan and Lindsey Sheedy about their memorable first experience with Chateau Montelena wines.  Bitten by the wine bug during the planning of their wedding, here’s their story…


by Brennan and Lindsey Sheedy

This past November, Lindsey and I were married at a small vineyard in Santa Barbara County – our wedding location and our appreciation for fine wine can be traced directly back to our introduction to Chateau Montelena.  About two years earlier, while walking through the local movie store in Charlotte, NC, Bottle Shock caught my eye.  We both like wine and I, a native Californian, thought the movie would be perfect for our Saturday evening.  That night, we settled in with our gourmet bottle of $7 wine and were entertained as we learned the story of how the “kids from the sticks” beat the French at their own game.  Over the next 18 months as we planned our wedding, wine began to play a much larger role in our life together.  In wine shops and restaurants, we would point out the bottles of Montelena and, on one or two special occasions, we’d splurge on a glass of Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon.  From that moment on, our appreciation of wine began to grow: we split a three-year vertical with a few friends; bought a small wine fridge to store all of our “good” bottles and eventually wine magazines began arriving at the house.

The wine theme was very much prevalent on our wedding day: our guests were greeted with table assignments in wine glasses; we hosted a wine tasting on the veranda before dinner and we even made wine cork napkin rings to give out as favors.  Later that night, after dancing in the barrel room until the winery kicked us out, Lindsey and I headed back to our room where she had prepared a special wedding gift for me.  There, waiting in our room  was a basket containing the following items: the movie Bottle Shock, a copy of the book Judgment of Paris and a bottle of Chateau Montelena Chardonnay.

Montelena Wine Basket

A Wedding Gift

On our honeymoon, I spent days reading Judgment of Paris.  What was glossed over in the movie jumped out of the book as George Taber explored the lives of the winemakers and wineries that made the world take notice of California wine.  Whether the French judges knew they were tasting Californian and French wines or that they felt duped into the competition, you couldn’t argue with the results – that California winemakers could make wine as good as the French.  That significant tasting event sparked wine production around the globe and Taber gives a brief introduction to many of the world wine regions at the end of the book.  During the rest of our honeymoon, I think Lindsey started to regret the gift she’d given me as I’d only let her order Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand or bored her with explanations of how “right bank” Bordeaux was made predominately from Merlot.

Now home in Charlotte, the articles and tasting notes in the wine magazines have started making more sense and our cellar continues to grow.   However, the bulk of our wine collection grows only with wines that we feel we have a personal connection.  After reading Judgment of Paris and having watched Bottle Shock, we have learned some of the history of Chateau Montelena Winery.  This past February, we made a stronger connection with the winery by visiting the Chateau.  We had a great time viewing the historical notes and (cheesily) taking our picture with the champion 1973 Chardonnay bottle on display.  And just recently, we were fortunate enough to enjoy a local wine dinner featuring Chateau Montelena which demonstrated the quality of the fine wines.  With the rich history and the phenomenal wine, we look forward to a long relationship with Chateau Montelena.  More importantly, as we explore other wines from around the world, we will always remember that Montelena started it all – both in Paris and for us.


New Spring Releases!

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Along with the warmer weather and longer days, we bring more good news to our wine-loving friends.  This Spring, we’re pleased to release three new wines for your sipping pleasure: our 2008 Montelena Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, our 2009 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon and our 2009 Montelena Estate Zinfandel.  To coincide with celebration season, barbecues and cook-outs or even just those random Tuesdays when you’re craving a glass of really good red – these wines have arrived just in time for those instances.  With fantastic reception from our friends in the CellarMaster wine club, we’re looking forward to sharing these wines with new friends and visitors to the winery.  Whether you want something to stash away in the cellar for a special anniversary or birthday or something deliciously smooth and versatile to enjoy at a dinner next week, there’s a perfect wine for every palate and occasion.  Personally?  I can hardly wait for warm, late summer nights – those nights that beg for barbecuing with friends and family and enjoying a glass of our delicious Zinfandel.  Why the Zinfandel?  Well, I’ve found that it’s great with summer fare like burgers, barbecued ribs and grilled veggies foods that are omnipresent during the months of June/July/August/September (it also pairs nicely with chocolate and I’m definitely not one to pass up that combo).  What are your spring sippers?

Chateau Montelena Reds


A Seahorse Smoking a Cigar?

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Our vineyard crew is busy pruning the vines, so I visited with Bo in the Estate Vineyard to witness some of the trimming process, an annual task that takes weeks to complete. Important cutting decisions are made along the way. In one case, it involved literally sawing off a large branch on an older (1973) vine to allow another, better-positioned cane to take over for high quality grape production. I saved the piece Bo sawed off because I thought it would look cool in my office. After a while, it looked to me like a seahorse smoking a cigar. Any other ideas?

New Years Resolutions; Better Late than Never

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Well, I’m off to a dubious start already on my New Year’s resolutions.

1st Resolution: Be on time with my commitments.  Ok, so my first blog of 2012 is a week and a day late.  Not good.

2nd Resolution: Go to the gym at least 3 times a week.   I’ve been once since Jan 1 and I sort of waved over the machines on that visit.

3rd Resolution: Eat better; do a juice cleanse.  Does wine count as a juice?  Let me wipe my fingers from the chicken finger grease before I wreck my keyboard and write more excuses.

4th Resolution: Watch less tv; be more productive; go to the library; read more.  How can I when I’m in the middle of Top Chef Texas, Walking Dead, Modern Family?  No to mention that new episodes of Andrew Zimmern and Anthony Bourdain are just coming on! Do magazines count as reading?

5th Resolution: Learn more. Ok, let’s stop with this one.

As you may have read in a previous blog, I was ranting about having to go back and study for my CSW and how I thought I gave that up in college, and never wanted to look back – forgoing any more “tests and exams” in the future.  Oh how I hated that stress!  Well, now looking back, I was truly productive during the studying!  I learned a lot, found myself covering 3 of my 4 resolutions above because of it, and that was without even trying.  So, with a little discipline/self control, my commitment is to learn a new language.  I’m traveling to Italy in the summer, so I figure, why not Italian?  Being in the wine industry, I love our wines; no doubt, but what makes me appreciate it more is knowing what else is out there, including the Italian stuff.   So here’s a resolution I intend to keep;  and I know that it will help me with all the others.  Check back with me in a few months; I’ll tell you if Rosette Stone is really worth the money.  Ciao.



Replant of an Historic Block

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The oldest block of Cabernet Sauvignon in the Estate Vineyard has been pulled for replant.  Block 1A, situated in mostly sedimentary soil – in fact, the only area in the Estate Vineyard where sedimentary soil occurs  – was planted in 1973, just after Jim Barrett acquired the property.  For those of us who see the vineyard on a daily basis, the first impression is always “something’s missing” from this picture.  But we also know that what’s to come are new Cabernet Sauvignon grapevines, a new generation of fruit for the next generation of Chateau Montelena.  It’s all part of our ongoing replant program designed to grow the best fruit we can as stewards of this incredible property.

Happy New Year!

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Here we are on Thursday, December 29th and less than 48 hours to the New Year.  This last year has been an exciting one, to say the least!  We’ve finished renovations and a seismic retrofit on our cellar, finished up our most interesting vintage to date, brought the food truck movement to the ole Chateau, went on an Alaskan cruise, saw our Jade Lake island pavillions through a makeover, unveiled a new vineyard tour for visitors and even hosted a movie star!  The year 2011 also marked a few important milestones for us: the 30th vintage of the Montelena Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, the 35th anniversary of the 1976 Paris Tasting and the Barrett Family’s 40th vintage.

We’re sad to say goodbye to 2011 but are looking forward to all of the excitement to come in 2012 – such as  a certain fiesta to be held here at the winery on January 28th, new vintages of wines to be released, tasting events around the US and a whole lot more, but we don’t want to spoil all the surprises.

With that thought, I’m signing off until next year.  Wishing you and yours the happiest of New Years.  Cheers!

Technology: Blessing or Curse?

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Well, for my last blog of 2011, I’m gonna rant a little (ok, I guess a lot). I’m not gonna chat about wine – sorry, if you’re looking for words of wisdom for what to drink on New Years, you should have that figured out already.

What I’ve reflected on lately is the curse of modern technology; specifically, laptops/iphones that everyone carries.  True, these new wonders have sped up our lives, made us more efficient, and quite frankly, reduced a lot of excess use of natural resources (trees/paper for one).  What this technology has also done, unfortunately, is made us forget common manners, and reduced our opportunities for experiencing new things and meeting new people.

Let me share with you some experiences and examples:

Flying.  We can open laptops, watch movies, flip through 50 channels on our own personal in-flight screens, and even play video games.  I’ve now become more accustomed to channel surfing than chatting with the people around me on airplanes.  True, I’ve met some odd people;  but I’ve also met some very interesting people over shared stories on a long flight.   Not any more!  We now sit side-by-side for 5 hours completely tuned in to our own personal environment/entertainment system.  This also goes for buses – I rode Muni in San Francisco for years and have seen a lot of strange things on the bus.  I have also met some great people on the bus, and am happy that two of them have been among my closest friends for 10+ years.

Holidays.  A few Thanksgivings ago, a group of friends gathered for the big feast.  As we sat down, two people continued to take pics on their phone to send to their friends that weren’t at the table.  Their texting continued as we started eating. Finally (and thankfully) the rest of us chastized the texters to put down their phones and enjoy the moment with their friends of the here and now.  I grew up without this as my mother would never allow us to either: (a) be on the phone during meal times or (b) have the tv on.  These great rules helped keep the family values of meal time sacred.  So when did texting become acceptable during dinnertime?

I’ve seen this behavior all-too-often at restaurants, during movies, among passengers in my car.  People are missing the opportunity to be present and enjoy those around them!

Alright, you get my point. New technology is great. We are far more efficient; the world moves faster around us; we can multitask.  I have this technology, but I try to be a responsible user.  And you know what?  This technology didn’t exist 20 years ago but the younger generations can’t imagine life without it.  My parents didn’t have all this technology and access to everything at every moment, and they were wonderful people and great parents.  And their parents barely had access to television!  I’m sure that about 80% of the world’s population lives without all this extra stuff.  So, to better appreciate all that is going on around me, I have occasionally gone out for dinner and intentionally left my phone at home.  It is one of the most invigorating feelings of independence!  I encourage you to try it.  But most of all, if you’re going to spend time surfing aimlessly on the web, take a moment to look up what Miss Manners says about proper etiquette when it comes to ichat/games/etc in a social environment.

Happy New Year to all, and be sure to take some time to enjoy and appreciate the living, breathing people around you!


Time to Impulse Buy

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For those of you on my Christmas shopping list, a word to the wise: resist my constant requests to give me your Christmas wish list.  If you give me your list, you’ll get something predictable.  But if you don’t, you’ll stress me out and I’ll keep thinking about an ideal gift, wait until the last few shopping days and buy something beyond my budget just to get it over with.

So yes, I’ve just finished my holiday shopping, and those who procrastinated with sending me their wish list are the true benefactors of a highly expensive gift.  Will they like it? Hard to say.  The tough thing for me is, most of my friends love Montelena, but that’s too easy of a gift from me.  That’s the low hanging fruit of shopping: too easy, too predictable. They’d love it, sure; but they also know I didn’t put a lot of effort into shopping beyond the workplace!

And you’d think that all of us working here at the Chateau are tired of the good juices. Well, we had our holiday luncheon last week with the (in)famous White Elephant gift exchange. Who would’ve thought it would be all the good boozy stuff that people kept stealing….  Nothing warms the soul more than the gift of booze, unless it was stolen from your co-workers.

Anyways, Merry Christmas to all…eat well, drink well; then we’ll all think about a good New Year’s resolution after we indulge.

Virgin America Video

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Fliers on Virgin America in December and January will see this 2:00 minute video inviting them to visit us.  It is actually footage we shot some years back and “re-purposed” for the airline, which did all of the copy.  It was fun to revisit it.  Back in those days, Bo had a mustache.  Take a look.

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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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