Our drive to the winery was also very nice. We were staying in St. Helena, about 9 miles to the south. Instead of taking Highway 29 up the center of the valley, we took the Silverado Trail.
The drive along the Silverado Trail was very pretty. The trail runs along the eastern side of the Napa Valley at the base of the Vaca Mountains. It runs parallel to the main road, California 29, which runs up the center of the valley. The Silverado Trail was built in 1852. It curves a lot in places and is often bordered by hills. Sometimes the hills are far enough from the road that they provide nice views. We passed a number of vineyards on either side of the road. In other areas, there were woods alongside the road.
At the northern end of the trail we passed the Calistoga Mineral Water Company. Near the entrance is a huge sculpture of the 1926 truck that the founder of the company used to deliver his water. The sculpture has the back of the truck filled with cases of water bottles, some of which appear to be tumbling out the back.
We followed Lake County Hwy about a mile and a half to Tubbs Lane, where we turned left. We drove about 800 feet and turned right into the winery property.
Chateau Montelena was established by Alfred Loving Tubbs when he purchased the property and built a stone chateau in 1882. The chateau was designed by a French architect.
By 1896, Chateau Montelena was the 7th largest winery in the Napa Valley. However, with the onset of Prohibition in 1920, the winery ceased production. In 1958, the property was purchased by a Chinese-American family to serve as a retirement home. They created beautiful Jade Lake below the chateau.
In 1972, Jim Barrett purchased the property and resumed commercial wine production. He brought in Mike Grgich as the winemaker. The Chardonnay Mike produced the following year won the 1976 Paris tasting.
Shortly after the Paris tasting, Grgich left Chateau Montelena to establish his own winery. The winemaker who replaced him left in 1981. At that time, Jim Barrett offered the job of winemaker to his son Bo, who is still the winemaker.
The winery was on a hill above the parking lot. Along one side of the parking lot were some tall and majestic redwood trees. From the lot, there were nice views across the vineyards to the nearby hills.
View from the Parking Lot
We walked up a long set of steps to the winery. At the top of the stairs, we came to the front of the chateau, with a courtyard in front of the building. The walls were partially covered with vines, and there were a number of barrels on low racks. Since the skies were covered by gray clouds and the stone walls of the chateau were grayish, the whole scene looked a bit gloomy.
In the courtyard, we saw a large truck full of grapes being unloaded. The grapes were being unloaded by a young woman standing on the high bed of the truck. She was kind enough to take my camera and photograph a large bin of grapes for me.
We then walked around to the opposite side of the chateau and entered the tasting room. The tasting room had a cheery interior, with bright stone walls, a nice wooden bar, and wood floors.
In the Tasting Room
The young man who served us was very friendly and helpful. The tasting fee was $20, but it was well worth it. We tasted six wines - three whites and three reds. One wine was spectacular, three were excellent, and two were very nice. Prices below are the retail prices:
- 2010 Potter Valley Riesling from Mendocino County - excellent - $25
- 2009 Napa Valley Chardonnay - excellent - $50. This wine is made in the style of the 1973 Chard that won the Paris tasting. Unlike most Chardonnays, it can age because it is produced without malolactic fermentation (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Malolactic_fermentation).
- 2007 Montelena Estate Zinfandel - very nice - $30
- 2008 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, 86% Cabernet Sauvignon, 12% Merlot, 2% Cabernet Franc - very nice $49
- 2007 Montelena Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, 99% Cabernet Sauvignon, 1% Cabernet Franc - excellent - $135
- 1991 Napa Valley Chardonnay - spectacular. The winery had opened one case of this wine. It was incredible. I’m not a great fan of whites, but I loved this one. I should have asked the price.
After finishing in the tasting room, we walked back down the stairs to Jade Lake. The lake was very pretty. It was surrounded by lawns and trees, including weeping willows. It had an island with a red, Chinese-style pavilion. There was a red Chinese-style bridge crossing out to the island.