Potter Valley Riesling 2021
Riesling is a hidden gem within the Chateau Montelena portfolio. Many people don’t know it exists, and once they do – they keep coming back for more. Stylistically, it is amazingly refreshing with notes of lemon blossom, honeysuckle and rose petal that are balanced by lively acidity
Winemaker Matt Crafton best describes the experience associated with this unique wine:
“I love sharing our Riesling when I travel. Primarily, it’s because very few people actually know that we make Riesling and even fewer have tried it. But, secondarily, and this is my favorite part, I really enjoy the responses I get when I offer someone a glass. By far, the most common reply is some flavor of ‘No thank you. I don’t drink sweet wine.’ Once I coax them into a taste, however, few don’t finish the glass. “
Many years ago, Chateau Montelena selected a certified organic vineyard in the Coastal Mendocino Mountains from which, even today, it sources the fruit for the Potter Valley Riesling. The basic winemaking truth — “The Right Grape in the Right Place”—drove that decision then, and it is every bit as valid now. The Riesling grape is a noble variety that requires moderate days and cool nights to allow proper ripening and mature flavor development.
Potter Valley is a sublime setting for growing Riesling. Situated northeast of Ukiah at the headwaters of the East Fork of the Russian River, the floor of this tiny valley sits at 1000 feet of elevation, higher than some hillside vineyards in Napa Valley.
The floor of this tiny valley sits at 1000 feet of elevation, higher than some hillside vineyards in Napa Valley. The Riesling is grown on the backslope of an alluvial fan that extends from the hillsides above. The soil is deep but drains well, ideal for deep roots and resilient vines. Additionally, the consistently mild temperatures and persistent fog make Potter Valley an ideal vineyard site for Riesling.
What a difference a year makes. Deciding not to harvest the 2018 Riesling due to smoke exposure in the vineyard was agonizing but it was the correct decision. For the first time since 1972, Chateau Montelena did not make Riesling, but the 2019 was well worth the wait. Not only is it delicious and certainly fills the void from the missed vintage, but the entire episode, capped with the comeback of an amazing wine, serves as yet another example of our unwavering commitment to integrity and honesty. The rhetoric of “high standards” and “no compromises” is bandied about, but the idea of crafting a wine contrary to our values wasn’t even considered. Welcome back Riesling.
The 2021 Potter Valley Riesling was fermented entirely in stainless steel using three different yeast strains, at cool temperatures of 55-60 Fahrenheit. The wine was then racked on fine lees and matured in a combination of neutral barrels and stainless steel.
This vintage was the perfect opportunity to explore not just the nuances of Riesling but the manifold dimensions of this expressive variety. In general, the climate in Potter Valley imparts a consistency and stability of flavor to fruit in the vineyard, with significant variation emanating from early autumn rain or in the case of 2021, prolonged drought. It’s in these vintages that the basic character of the fruit is substantively changed; not detrimentally, but fundamentally different. For the Montelena winemaking team, this is a rare challenge that tests our technical acumen and a rare opportunity that rewards curiosity and creativity. It’s also a vital reminder to guard against overgeneralizing regions and seasons: not all Napa Valley Chardonnay tastes the same, just as not all Clare Valley Riesling should be lumped into a single category. It’s in this vein that the 2021 Montelena Riesling stands on its own. In a warm, dry year, when “conventional” wisdom would predict excessive ripeness, plentiful residual sugar, and shallow acidity, instead there is balance, finesse, and freshness. It’s both amazing and humbling that after fifty years of producing this wine, we can still be surprised and awestruck.
On the nose, Floral and spicy, the intensity here is quite impressive. The ripeness of the vintage is immediately apparent as star jasmine, honeysuckle and fresh apricot are bolstered by cinnamon and clove. The fresh flowers eventually yield to dried peach and mango as the aromas turn tropical with a subtle hint of beeswax.
The spice is more subdued on the palate, uncovering a latent suppleness and viscosity, further enhanced by stonefruit as well as ripe, Honeycrisp apple. It’s a beautiful balance that is polished and punctuated by a firm band of acidity transitioning to juicy pear.
There’s a soft, roundness on the finish that pulls in all of the minerality of the wine but layers in baked apple and just a touch of lemon rind. The pear is still present but this time as a complement to more tropical notes of lychee and fresh pineapple.
Enjoy the 2021 Potter Valley Riesling with Asian cuisine, such as spicy pad Thai, or perhaps with citrusy grilled shrimp.
Suggested Retail Price
Other Wines by this Producer
Napa Valley, California
Produced from grapes grown on the Montelena Estate vineyard, the Zinfandel is a classically-structured, subtle and refined wine. More than anything, it hearkens back to the way that Zinfandel was made in the 1960s and 1970s, with completely distinctive, rich and spicy California berry fruit, but a balance that made them no heavier than their Cabernet counterparts.
Napa Valley, California
A true icon. The Napa Valley Chardonnay is the wine that put Chateau Montelena and Napa Valley at the forefront of the wine world in 1976, in what is now memorialized as “The Judgment of Paris.” To great disbelief, the Chateau Montelena Napa Valley Chardonnay was the top-ranking wine against four white Burgundies and five other California Chardonnays. And as they say, the rest is history.
Napa Valley, California
The Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon embodies the balance of Montelena, classic “old-world” structure with ripe California fruit. It is crafted from fruit coming from the Montelena vineyard and several prime neighboring vineyards, all in the Calistoga AVA. The Montelena Napa Cabernet is a wine that delivers immediate pleasure upon release, but in Montelena style, while age and develop beautifully.
Calistoga, Napa Valley, California
The Estate Cabernet Sauvignon is Chateau Montelena’s flagship wine and a quality icon of Napa Valley. The winemaking team works obsessively and passionately with each vintage to capture the best expression of their historic terroir. This is a show-stopper that reveals the perfect blend of flavors, aromas and textures to reach the pinnacle of balance.