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’d 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 vine cuttings he would plant.
The wines at Chateau Montelena are often described as having classic “old-world” structure with ripe California fruit, and it is in years like 2010 that this really shines through. What that means is that these wines tend to have more acid, lower pH and more moderate alcohol levels as compared to some of the flashy “modern” Cabs. This classic chemistry allows them to pair very well with a wide variety of dishes and sets them up for graceful aging.
This growing season was defined by the long cool summer that led to slow, almost methodical ripening. The only exception was a brief but intense heat wave in the third week of August. All of the Napa Cabernet blocks came in with beautifully balanced chemistries, full maturity and lower sugars - perfect for Montelena’s style of wine.
The prime vineyards for the Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon are located in the northern end of the Napa Valley, in and around Calistoga. All of the sites are located next to primary or secondary tributaries of the Napa River and have been selected for their alluvium soil profile. These characteristics result in earthy, complex and concentrated Cabernet Sauvignon softened by the judicious addition of Merlot. The cobbly, gravelly subsoil makes for deep root penetration and good drainage.
The blend in 2010 is 91% Cabernet Sauvignon, 7% Merlot, 2% Cabernet Franc. Primary fermentation takes place in stainless steel, followed by malolactic in barrel or oak tank. Barrel aging lasted 14 months in French and Eastern European oak barrels, of which 12% were new. Result is deep, saturated color is just one of the hallmarks of our Estate Cabernet, and this inky purple beauty shows great intensity all the way to the edge of the glass. The nose is loaded with rich aromas of black fruits and spices. Notes of blackberry solicit memories of hot summer afternoons while clove, allspice, vanilla, and hints of cocoa tease with thoughts of baked goodies. Emerging from these layers is a core of brandied cherries, light oak, and a hint of anise. This wine shows a smooth entry that steadily builds to a full, fleshy mid-palate, then evolves seamlessly into a rich, spicy finish that invites you back for more. The black fruits from the nose are evident throughout the palate, and are complemented by lively, red fruit characteristics brought forward by the core of bright acidity. There are loads of fine grain tannins that give mass to the wine without being aggressively astringent, hinting at the delicacy and suppleness that will come with time in the cellar.