254 acres - ACRES BY VARIETY. (CS) Cabernet Sauvignon: 78 acres. (ZN) Zinfandel: 14.6 acres. (PV) Petite Verdot: 2.0 acres. (CF) Cabernet Franc 3.8 acres.
Appellations : Calistoga, Napa Valley, Oak Knoll District of Napa Valley
Alluvial, Volcanic, Sedimentary
Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Petite Sirah, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Zinfandel
Hours 9:30 a.m. - 4:00 p.m., Monday - FridayRESERVATIONS REQUIRED Phone 707-942-5105
1429 Tubbs Lane Calistoga, CA 94515
Even if you’ve never set foot in Napa Valley, Chateau Montelena looms large in America’s wine community. It produced the winning white wine in the pivotal 1976 Judgment of Paris, earning its inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places. A bottle of the victorious 1973 Chardonnay is part of the permanent collection at the Smithsonian. There’s far more to learn about this American icon, though.
Overview and History
Chateau Montelena's tradition of excellence started in 1882 when California State Senator and San Francisco entrepreneur Alfred Tubbs founded the winery and set out to make world-class wines. While much of Napa Valley consists of beautifully landscaped grounds and impressive winery buildings, few match Chateau Montelena’s 1880s stone chateau. Its grandeur didn’t come cheap: That structure was built with rope money. Founder and entrepreneur Alfred Tubbs bought his acres in Calistoga after making his fortune selling rope to gold miners and sailors starting in the 1850s. That business, Tubbs Cordage Company, remained in operation in San Francisco until 1962.
Tubbs was inspired by French wines he’d tasted while on a post-retirement tour. When he returned to California, he purchased land in Napa Valley, built the winery, and eventually hired a French winemaker to oversee what he called the A.L. Tubbs Winery. It seems fitting, then, that his winery would play a crucial role in the relationship between French and American winemaking.
The Montelena name is actually not from any family that owned the estate; inted it is actually a contraction of nearby Mount St. Helena, coined by Tubbs’s grandson, Chapin, who renamed the winery in 1940. In the years surrounding and following Prohibition, winemaking ceased at the winery for nearly two decades. In 1958, retirees Yort and Jeanie Frank purchased the property. The Franks didn’t make wine, but they did oversee much of the stunning landscaping, including digging Jade Lake.
In 1972, James Barrett, a real estate attorney from Los Angeles, purchased the property with the intent to revitalize Chateau Montelena. The new owners came on board and installed Mike Grgich as winemaker. The team replanted vineyards, renovated equipment, and, in 1972, started making wines again. The winery gained international recognition with the Paris Tasting in 1976, and continues today with its handcrafted world-class Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon. The story of the 1976 Judgment of Paris, and the impact it had on Napa Valley, is widely told. What often goes unmentioned, however, is that the 1973 Chateau Montelena Chardonnay was actually the second modern vintage at the winery.
The famous bottle of 1973 Chardonnay was made by Miljenko "Mike" Grgich, winemaker at Chateau Montelena Winery in Calistoga, California. This vintage outranked some of France's best white Burgundies at a blind tasting held in Paris in 1976. Organized by Steven Spurrier, an English wine merchant, the tasting involved a panel of nine experienced French judges. They compared a select group of wines from France and California without benefit of knowing which was which. The judges were taken aback when they realized they had awarded first prize to an American Chardonnay in the white category. When they also scored a California red (1973 Stag's Leap Wine Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon) higher than any of the French contenders in the same competition, the rest of the wine world took notice.The "Judgment of Paris" had a huge impact on the California and U.S. wine industry. It crushed the widely-held belief that only the French could make premium wine and inspired American vintners to expand their operations. The aftermath of the tasting played out most vigorously in California, where, between 1975 and 2004, the number of wineries grew from 330 to 1,689. By 2004, California accounted for most of the $643 million in annual U.S. wine exports.
After James' passing in 2013, his son Bo Barrett assumed leadership and the family-owned winery has remained true to its philosophy to "make the best. Period." CEO Bo Barrett’s history with Chateau Montelena stretches back nearly 50 years, and he’s been involved with every single vintage since 1972. Barrett has done everything from weeding and pruning to cleaning barrels to promoting the wine around the world.
While Chardonnay first brought the spotlight to Chateau Montelena, these days, Cabernet Sauvignon reigns supreme, as it does through most of Napa Valley. The company’s Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, from vines situated on gentle slopes composed mostly of alluvial soils, produces wines prized for their balance and elegance.