Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Travel Tip: Chateau Montelena

One of my favorite wineries that we visited here in Napa Valley is the ever-famous Chateau Montelena.  I love the architecture and history of this winery.  There's something about this winery that truly makes the term "magical" come alive.  

Located in the northern heart of Calistoga (on the upper end of the Napa Valley), you'll get a full appreciation for Wine Country, California as you drive up Highway 29 through Napa or over the Mayacamas mountain ranges from the Highway 101 side of Sonoma County.  There's something to say for the constant miles of vineyards or large mountain ranges.  

Chateau Montelena is hidden behind some redwood and eucalyptus trees, which really captures the mystique of the winery.  It is still owned by the Barrett family, the legendary winemakers of the 1970s that won the "Judgement of Paris" in 1976 for their 1973 Chardonnay wine.  For those that are not familiar, it was this 1976 wine judging led by Steven Spurrier in Paris that put California wines on the international market.  In the blind taste test (meaning that none of the judges knew which wines were Californian and which were French) Chateau Montelena's Chardonnay took first place in the white wine category among several other well known French Burgundy producers.  The rest, as they say, is history.  Since the 1970s, the California wine industry was... forever changed.  (Check out last week's What's in My Glass Wednesdays! post for information on another winery that was also submitted to this tasting.)

Chateau Montelena Winery

The legendary wine bottle still sits on display at the winery, and they offer a Chardonnay that they say is in the same style as the 1973 Chardonnay.  This is also the white wine that has been rumored to have turned brown at bottling and over the course of a few days, turned back to his beautiful light yellow hue.  

The 1973 Chardonnay Bottle from the 1976 Paris Tasting

Nonetheless, I feel like walking onto this winery is like walking onto a piece of history for this area.  It's definitely worth the extra effort to travel to, and the hospitality staff will be sure to please.

Chinese Gardens - Your entrance view from the parking lot

A map of Chateau Montelena

The Tasting Room Entrance

A carved pumpkin of the winery - we went around Halloween time

The Chinese Gardens

(All photos taken by author)

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