This wine is a typically bright ruby red, with opaque density and color, which leads to a nice array of aromas: sweet black currant jam, with hints of black cherry and flowers. There is much fruit in the nose, not unexpected considering the excellent ripeness achieved in this vintage. The unique blend of soils in Ch. Montelena's vineyard leads to very pleasing layers of complexity, and there is an evident menthol-cedar note attributable to the volcanic soil component. On the palate this wine delivers intense, broad and sweet fruit, layered with spicy cherry, and even a bit of chocolate.
The overall structure of the 2003 Estate Cabernet is ripe and rich, pure and well delineated. It is very much in the Montelena Estate style, in which vineyard flavors drive the wine. It is a very structured Cabernet from a great growing year, and it will greatly reward you after a few more years of cellaring.
"big wine from the Barrett family (14.2% alcohol), this 2003 exhibits earthy black currant fruit, the restrained but intense Montelena style, full body, good richness and impeccable balance, purity and density. The color is a healthy dark ruby/purple and the wine shows lots of cassis. In spite of the restrained aromatics, the palate is rich, full-bodied, substantial and persuasive. This 2003 is approachable now, but it will be even more gorgeous 15, 20 and 25 years from now. This is a heritage wine from this great estate in northern Napa Valley.
The Wine Advocate
"Bright ruby-red. Sweet aromas of black cherry, flowers, menthol and creosote. Supple, sweet and fine-grained, though not especially nuanced for this wine. Strong note of chocolate. Finishes with a fairly fine dusting of tannins and lingering notes of cherry and licorice. This seems a bit less vibrant than it was from barrel a year ago. Barrett noted that the December 2005 bottling date was quite late for this wine, and my sample had not yet recovered.
International Wine Cellar