“You know you’re doing something right when, after 45 years of Chardonnay winemaking, they name a California Chardonnay style after your winery, the “Montelena style.” In short, it means a non-malolactic, minimally oaked Chardonnay. This estate has long made one of the best examples of a quiet, restrained Chardonnay that ages for 20 or more years.”
Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate, Oct 2014
For almost 20 years, the Chateau Montelena team has farmed most of their own Chardonnay vineyards, making every decision from pruning to harvest. It’s a real winemaking-in-the-vineyard approach. This is a vineyard-oriented winery that argues that a skilled team can maneuver the challenges that distinguish good years from bad by decoding the soil, vineyard, and region through the lens of the fruit. While it may be all about creativity and perspective, there are undeniably details and nuance that set each growing season apart and make certain vintages special.
2014, for instance, was sunny, just warm enough, and bountiful: the fundamental criteria for a “great” vintage. After a dry winter and mild spring, substantial rainfall just before budbreak saturated the soil at the beginning of the growing season. Drought conditions, however, dominated the vintage, necessitating precise vineyard practices that encouraged fruit to ripen slowly through the summer. Temperatures remained cool at night and fruit was harvested early from the end of August through early September.
The Napa Valley Chardonnay is an unfined, unfiltered Chardonnay, aged ten months in French oak. It remains true to the finely-balanced Montelena style: pure fruit flavours, no malolactic fermentation, little-if-any yeast stirring, and judicious use of new oak. The nose is dominated by ripe peach, pear, and cloves, with subtle floral honeysuckle notes. There’s a nice fullness and weight to the focused palate, punctuated by melon, green apple, fresh citrus, and a hint of vanilla. The wine’s density is readily apparent, and the creamy texture lingers on the finish.
“This is a dreamy creamy white founded in stony mineral and juicy acidity that shows a mix of baked apple, pineapple and melon. A tease of green olive provides a briny, salty edge to its tense balance. A lingering hint of vanilla oak figures prominently on the lengthy floral finish.”
93 points, Wine Enthusiast, Dec 2017
“The 2014 Chardonnay is bright, focused and finely-cut. Lemon peel, white flowers, mint and white pepper give the 2014 much of its lifted, mid-weight personality. As always, the Montelena Chardonnay is done in a brisk, dry style, with blocked malolactic fermentation. 2016 – 2022.”
91 points, Antonio Galloni, vinous.com, Dec 2016
“One of California’s great Chards, still in its groove 40 years after its triumph in Paris. Way young at the moment, and not very impressive when first opened, but after 30 minutes it began to display intimations of fresh fruit — I love it when Chardonnay shows lemony acidity at first, then slowly, slowly lets hints of Gaugin-like tropical enticements coyly reveal themselves. Oh, this wine will be magnificent in five years. After 24 hours the second half of the bottle revealed heretofore unseen magical layers of beguiling complexity. Brilliant!”
Nick Passmore, Forbes, June 2017