Old World wine, New World fruit. In 1972, Jim Barrett set out to produce classically-styled wines using sun-ripe California grapes. Continuing that approach to winemaking today, we produce refined, age-worthy, food-friendly wines, and we are fortunate to have a dedicated team of individuals with decades of experience working in our vineyards and handcrafting our wines.
There are hundreds of decisions that go into making a bottle of wine and it all begins in the vineyard, with the land. One of the most basic and essential ingredients in growing a great grape is starting with healthy soils. Mother Nature has determined the makeup of all the soil types found on our Estate vineyard, but it is the responsibility of the vineyard team to ensure that these soils are healthy and balanced. Instead of chemical products, we use only sustainable farming methods to promote the health of the soil and ultimately preserve the land's productivity. For example, instead of using chemical pesticides, we combat destructive pests by growing cover crops and releasing ladybugs into the vineyard.
While our vineyards are naturally low-yielding because of their rocky soil types, we help to keep the vine yield low by dry farming as well as thinning our crops each year. Smaller yields produce more intense, concentrated, and complex wines. To ensure even ripening of the grapes, we carefully monitor the canopy, removing leaves several times each growing season. For the same reason, the vines in each vineyard block are trellised specifically for optimum exposure to the sun and to promote air circulation. At harvest time all of our grapes are hand-picked by our experienced vineyard crew, picking the grapes at night to capture the natural flavors we prefer in our wine.
The wines produced by Chateau Montelena are handcrafted in our cellar by our dedicated winemaking team. The wines express the fruit from which they are made and the vintage in which they are grown, with all other elements in balance to complement the fruit. To achieve this goal, we use modern crushing, de-stemming and pressing equipment to process the grapes as gently as possible. We then use temperature-controlled stainless steel tanks to allow the wines to ferment slowly and evenly. Once fermentation is complete, the wines are transferred to small, French oak barrels to begin the aging process. We use a combination of new barrels along with older, neutral barrels to ensure that the natural flavors of the grapes are not masked by oak. After blending and bottling, the wines receive enough aging time prior to release so that they can be enjoyed right away or laid down to mature for years to come.
"The most important thing in winemaking is balance; from the technical aspect it is the strength of the triangle: balance of art, farming and science to make consistently great wines"