Napa's Royalty: Chateau Montelena
One of the most recognizable names and estates in the entire valley, Chateau Montelena is a physical representation of the chronological evolution within Napa Valley. Built initially prior prohibition at the
commission of Alfred Tubbs, the construction was overseen by architect Hamden McIntyre who designed many of the notable structures within the valley including Inglenook Castle and The Culinary Institute (previously a winery) in the region.
The construction was unique at the time, as it was not only European inspired but also utilized materials that would afford more permanency than the wood structures prevalent at the time. The design would create a new aesthetic for the estate using masonry techniques that were unfamiliar to the region during the period. The original purpose of the facility was to be a barreling aging house with walls several feet thick. After the decay brought during prohibition, Bay Area residents from Asian ascent bought the property. Converting interior spaces into a residence, and also adding the property signature Asian gardens at the bottom of the Chateau. The current owners of the vineyard, the Barrett family, added a full remodel of the second floor which today functions both as a residence and tasting room for the winery.
The property's name was catapulted into history books thanks to the Judgement of Paris, where its Chardonnay finally proved that American wines produced in the valley were just as complex as those that inspired them in France. The legacy of the winery goes beyond the Judgement of Paris; both Bo and Heidi Barrett have managed to leverage their fortune and passion for winemaking into some of the most sought after, and cult-followed wines within the region.
Bottle Shock the movie is perhaps its most well-known mention, as well as the most accessible entry point into the history and heritage of the vineyard and its founders. It certainly has made the property and names a staple of Napa's wine tapestry.
Bo Barrett still oversees Chateau Montelena as his project. The wines are distinct in flavor profile and very accessible to the palate, making them favorites of both consumers and restaurateurs looking to add a bit of history to their wine cellars. Although often overlooked by its juggernaut Chardonnay offering. Chateau Montelena's Cabernet Sauvignons are on par with some of the other heavy hitters of the region. The wines are layered, with excellent structure that shows best when allowed proper aging.
A visit to the Chateau is sure to delight anyone looking for the quintessential winery experience in the area. At a reasonable price point, the wines are accessible for anyone looking for a true staple of California's wines, and who also may enjoy the enhanced experience of knowing they are drinking a bit of history in a consistent and well structure pour year after year.