1997 Montelena Estate Cabernet Sauvignon

Harvest 1997 was the stuff of legends. It was one of those years where making wine was big fun! The Montelena crew will tell the story of the Mighty `97 to our grandchildren. Crush was wild and intense, all different varieties coming in at the same time, fantastic weather, lots of grapes, lots of excitement and energy. It was awesome.

The vintage quality is remarkable for several reasons, and several anomalies, all to the good. The grapes ripened early with a heavy crop - usually big crops are slow to ripen. The weather during Harvest was great with warm days and cool evenings - perfect ripening weather. If we could have ordered it a la carte it could not have been better. The berry size was very small - an anomaly in a big yield year. In fact, we had trouble pumping the Cabernet from the crusher to the tanks because it was so dry… mostly skins! This is normally associated with very low crop years like 1987 and 1996. In 1997 the bins and gondolas were heavy, as in a big berry year, but it was because we had many small bunches and lower stem percentage than normal. So the intensity of the vintage is very high, plus there is good volume. Many barrels were filled with good stuff!

98Wine Advocate
94Wine Enthusiast

I recently chose to open my last two bottles of '97, and what a great choice it was! I was completely blown away by how fresh the wine was- the fruit still had amazing brightness while the acidity and tannins were in perfect balance.

Dave Flugeman - June 2010
vintage weather

Temperate Consistent. Average rainfall, warm winter and spring, mild summer. Slow ripening and wonderful weather during harvest, warm days and cool mornings. Large crop, the wine is very dense and extremely flavorful.

tasting notes

The resulting wine is pretty much what we experienced all along. It is highly extracted and is really built for the long run with the balance we always seek, and will probably be very youthful on release. When tasted for these notes I gave it a good slosh of air to open it up, and for the first few years a good decant or opening it well ahead of time will be a good idea. There is the trademark Montelena earthy, berry fruit, smoky and rich with many subtleties. On the palate it has a big juicy front, a very full texture and many layers of flavors in a rich cross section of fruit and terroir. In summary it is the mother of all nineties Cabs and a great example of the Montelena Estate vineyard from an excellent vintage. As we have aptly demonstrated from wines like our 1978, this tasty wine has the right stuff to provide you decades of reward.

After a special July 2010 tasting, wine journalist Laurie Daniel published her notes on this vintage: "Dark and quite ripe, with black fruit, cedar and a bit of earthiness."

Harvest Date September 1 to 26
Sugar At Harvest 23.5° to 24.5° brix
Barrel Aging 18 to 20 months
Bottling Date August 1999
Release Date March 2001
Cases Produced 12,000
Alcohol 13.5%