Chateau Montelena's rich history began on a chilly fall morning when Alfred L. Tubbs spaded over and inspected the soil where he thought of planting estate vineyards. He had heard the Napa Valley was the best place to grow grapes in California. A deal was struck, and in January of 1882 the San Francisco entrepreneur owned 254 acres of rugged land just two miles north of Calistoga at the base of Mount Saint Helena. The soils are well drained, stony and loose - perfect for the vines he would plant.
It took less than a decade to turn his dream into reality. First
Tubbs planted his vineyards, then he built his Chateau, and in 1886
he imported a French-born winemaker. By 1896 his winery, christened
Chateau Montelena (a contracted form of Mount Saint Helena), was
the seventh largest in the Napa Valley. Winemaking at the Chateau
came to an end with Prohibition. After Prohibition was repealed,
the Tubbs family continued to harvest the vineyard, making some
wines and selling grapes to other wineries and home winemakers.
The Tubbs family sold the winery in 1958, at which time the
Chateau and its overgrown grounds passed into the hands of Yort and
Jeanie Frank, who were looking for a peaceful spot to retire. The
Chateau inspired Frank to excavate a lake, with landscaping to
reflect the Chinese gardens of his homeland. Today, Jade Lake is
considered one of Napa Valley's most beautiful sanctuaries, home to
a variety of fish and wildlife, and surrounded by weeping willows
and native fauna.
The next chapter began with the renaissance of Chateau Montelena
Winery and the Estate vineyard. Under the leadership of Jim
Barrett, the vineyard was cleared and replanted, and the Chateau
outfitted with modern winemaking equipment. He assembled a team to
oversee the vineyard and winemaking, then grew and contracted for
the highest-quality grapes in the Napa Valley. In 1972 wines were
made for the first time. Decades later, this celebrated
family-owned winery continues to thrive with Jim's son Bo Barrett
at the helm.