Writer Brian Freedman had the pleasure of attending a 2 hour Zoom call and tasting with Bo Barrett, owner of Chateau Montelena and Matt Crafton, the winemaker. He noted “Chateau Montelena’s continued success is in large part thanks to their laser focus not just on quality, but on their willingness to allow each vintage to shine in its own unique way. In other words, there is no paint-by-numbers approach to making their Chardonnays and Cabernets (they also produce excellent Zinfandel, Sauvignon Blanc, and Riesling, but the Chardonnay and Estate Cab are their flagships), no insistence that each year taste like a relative of the previous one.” He quoted Bo Barrett who said “Our philosophy here is, we’re trying to capture the light and the land of that year.”
His wine notes on the 6 wines tasted are as follows:
Chateau Montelena Chardonnay 2009 (magnum)
This is majestic: Propulsive, concentrated, and so long on the finish. A deeply mineral nose, with lemon pith and hard apples, precedes a palate of hazelnuts, concentrated lemons, hard stone fruit, green apples, and amazing tensile strength. It fans out on the palate and yet never loses energy. Especially in this magnum format, it has another decade of life left…and likely a lot more.
Chateau Montelena Chardonnay 2014
So much richness and breadth, and great texture here, with hints of white peaches, nectarines, lemon blossoms, orange blossoms, honeysuckle, toast, Asian pears, and a touch of candy corn. This is at a great inflection point, with the exuberant fruit still present but with indications of maturity peeking through.
Chateau Montelena Chardonnay 2019
Beautiful, generous, and lengthy, with nectarines, yellow apples, honeysuckle, and slate-like minerality. It’s taut yet dense, lively yet generous, and with another 20 years of life ahead.
Chateau Montelena Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 1991
Impeccably mature, redolent of freshly dug mushrooms, forest floor, cigar humidor and pencil shavings, currants, and cherry pits. These turn to a palate lifted with balsamic notes and chamomile, perfectly ripe plums, dried violets and lavender, leather, smoked meat, dried beef, and porcini broth. The tannins are fully resolved, lending each sip a distinctly silky character, yet there’s plenty of energy still pulsing through it all. This is an absolute stunner.
Chateau Montelena Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2007
Deliciously savory, with sarsaparilla notes alongside purple and black plums, brambly berries, a touch of creaminess to the black cherries, cedar and pencil lead, flowers, and blood oranges. Barrett explained that this has more polymerized tannins from the skins, as opposed to the stems and seeds in the 1991, and he believes that this will be “an order of magnitude better” than the 1991 when it’s the same age, which is a mind-boggling thought given how excellent that one is, too.
Chateau Montelena Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2017
So ripe and generous, bright and rich, with hints of red apples alongside cinnamon sticks, cloves, and caramel notes, blue fruit, blackberries, and cherries of serious purity and exuberance. It still needs a bit of time in the cellar, but it’s a highly successful bottling from what Crafton called a “very technically challenging vintage,” given the vacillations between cold and heat, and the added nightmare of fires. This is one for the cellar, but I expect remarkable things from this Cab as it evolves over time.
Link to the full article HERE