2018 Chateau Montelena Napa Valley Chardonnay

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2018 Chateau Montelena Napa Valley Chardonnay

Chateau Montelena shot to fame in 1976 at the iconic Judgement of Paris that shook the wine world to its core when their 1973 Napa Valley Chardonnay won first place against an enviable line-up of top French Burgundies. The result was a shock to the wine trade all over the world and changed the history of California wine - and Chateau Montelena - forever.

Tasting Notes

Winemaker Matt Crafton best describes this vintage:

Paradoxically, the “easy” or “straightforward” vintages can be the most dicult for me as a winemaker. e media, critics, and industry representatives tend to praise classic California vintages as a tide that lifts all ships, providing a simple, neat narrative that makes for clean headlines and a universal endorsement of the resulting wines. And they’re correct. For those wineries making high-volume, formulaic products, these vintages can be a godsend. But for us at Montelena, the challenge becomes how to artfully craft the mosaic, that beautiful composition of the disparate parts of each vineyard block into something truly captivating and nuanced, amidst so much uniformity. 2018 certainly qualifies in that it would have been tantalizingly easy to fall into the rut of recipe-driven, prescribed process. Thus our objective became how to highlight subtlety; how to tactfully magnify the shades of flavour that is so easily obscured by the abundant sunshine. It’s a unique mindset in that we actively search for and embrace the challenge. It’s the Montelena way. “


Golden straw-colored in the glass, the wine opens with cinnamon and ripe peach, bolstered by aromas of melon, fig, and pear. More fruity than floral upon release, there’s nonetheless plenty of honeysuckle and spice, softening to green apple and vanilla.


Initially fused with lemon curd and ripe orange, there’s dynamic tension transitioning to the midpalate between the suppleness of summer stonefruit and the austere acid beneath. The citrus lingers as well, amidst a billowy texture that bolsters the bare minerality, contrasted only by the whisper-soft hint of fresh-baked bread.

Bright and fresh, ripe apricot along with orange marmalade lend a slight sweetness peppered by toasted almond and clove.

Chateau Montelena Chardonnay

Vintage Weather

On the heels of a relatively dry winter, March and April brought ample rain and cool temperatures, delaying bud-break in the vineyard. June ushered in a very typical, warm, Napa Valley summer punctuated by cool nights, especially into August. As a result, ripening was slow yet consistent, requiring patience and precise attention to flavour development and texture in the fruit. The vineyards were harvested over the course of an entire month, a luxury we took full advantage of.


Established in 1882 and located in Calistoga, California– the Montelena Estate is one of the oldest and most notable wine-producing properties in the Napa Valley.

Chateau Montelena Winery, originally called A.L. Tubbs winery after its founder Alfred Tubbs, was constructed in 1888 and intended as a barrel-aging facility. The Chateau was unique in materials, plan, size, and style for its era. In nineteenth-century Napa Valley, the majority of wineries were constructed of wood. Instead, the Chateau is made of stone with walls three to twelve feet thick, which provides natural insulation against outside heat or cold. Similarly, the structure built into a hillside, to further regulate temperature - something necessary for producing quality wines but uncommon at the time. Also rare among Napa Valley wineries, the Chateau resembles an English Gothic castle gatehouse complete with rusticated stone walls, battlement with crenels and merlons, narrow arched windows, large arched door in the place of a portcullis, and bartizans with faux arrow slits.

Accounts of the stone winery’s designer, masons and source of materials vary. The design has been attributed to Hamden McIntyre, the well-known local winery designer; however, McIntyre relocated to Vina in 1887 where he took charge of the vineyard and winery of Leland Stanford. The building is unlike McIntyre's other wineries, none of which were designed in a Gothic style. Some sources also suggest that while in Europe, Tubbs hired a French architect to draw plans for the building, brought back French masons to build it, and imported European stone for the walls. Other accounts suggest the design was inspired by the Cellar of Chateau Lafite in France.

Originally, the interior was one large space with a second-story crushing floor, but in 1960, a second-floor apartment was inserted so the Chateau could be used as a home. The space was then converted into our current tasting room though parts of the private residence remain and are used on occasion today for family guests and private events.


    Year 2018
    Bottle Size 750ml
    Cultivar 100% Chardonnay
    Country USA
    Alcohol content
    13.9% alc vol 
    Units of Alcohol per Bottle 10.4 units
    Type White Wine
    Barrel Aging
    10 months French Oak
    Allergen Information Contains Sulphites
    Origin California
    Appellation Napa Valley