All of our Estate Cabernets have this wine's singular blue-black color when young. The nose is a heady concentration of dried roses, violets, intense cassis with a hint of dried cranberries, along with the traditional earthy notes from our Estate vineyard. The palate follows with a dense core of Montelena's unmistakably intense Cabernet-berry fruit, which is complemented by the flavor of the soils in our vineyard. I enjoy exploring this wine's many layers.
The 1988 vintage naturally had good fruit density, but we carefully crafted the wine to result in a mouth-filling, balanced texture that shows our experience in dealing with highly extractive vintages. This Cabernet is showing its potential early on, but an even greater reward will come with additional bottle age.
Chateau Montelena Winery
Chateau Montelena was founded in 1882 by Alfred Tubbs. The renaissance of the winery, under the leadership of James Barrett, began in 1972 with the replanting of the Estate vineyard and the establishment of the Chateau Montelena philosophy: make the best, period. Today the tradition continues. Jim Barrett’s son, Bo, winemaker at Chateau Montelena beginning in 1982, is now its Master Winemaker. After more than three decades of experience with the same vineyards and varieties, the Montelena Estate Cabernet Sauvignon and Napa Valley Chardonnay are recognized as world-class.
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It's hard not to think of Napa Valley when thinking of California wines. The region is, after all, the one that brought world recognition to California wine making. The area was settled by a few choice wine families in the 1960's who bet that the wines of the area would grow and flourish. They were right. The Napa wine industry really took off in the 1980's, when vineyard lands were scooped up and vines were planted throughout the county. A number of wineries emerged, from large conglomerates to small boutiques to cult classics. Cabernet Sauvignon is definitely the grape of choice here, with many winemakers also focusing on Bordeaux Blends. Whites are usually Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc.
Within the Napa Valley lie smaller sub-AVAs that lend even more character specifics to the wines. Furthest south is Carneros, followed by Yountville, Oakville & Rutherford. Above those two is St.-Helena and finally, just granted an AVA, Calistoga. These areas are situated on the valley floor and are known for creating rich, smooth Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Chardonnay. There are a few mountain regions as well, nestled on the slopes overlooking the valley AVAs. Those include Howell Mountain, Stags Leap and Mount Veeder. Wines from the mountain regions are often more structured and firm, benefiting from more time in the bottle to evolve and soften.
It's not rare to see a wine's country of origin listed as "California." A country into itself in the wine world, California makes enough varieties and styles to match many European wine countries. It produces a diverse range of wines that span the quality spectrum.
The most famous of the California wine regions is Napa Valley, and these wines are certainly outstanding – but it's not as broad and diverse as its larger neighbor, Sonoma County. Down south, Santa Barbara's Santa Maria Valley is well-known for its Rhône blends, as well as cool-climate varieties like Pinot and Chardonnay. The Central Coast, the largest California AVA, has many different microclimates that lead to a wide range of wines with many sub-AVAs.
Most wine ranges from 10-16% alcohol by volume. Some varietals tend to have higher (for example Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon) or lower alcohol levels (Pinot Noir and many white varietals), but there is always some variation from producer to producer. Some wine falls outside of this range, for instance Port weighs in closer to 20%, while Muscat and Riesling are usually a bit below 10%.
Wine Style Guide
Light & Fruity
Red wines that are more fruit-forward and lighter in tannin and body.
Smooth & Supple
Medium bodied reds that go down easy, with smooth tannins and supple fruit.
Earthy & Spicy
Wines where earthy and/or spicy dominate the flavors – typically medium to full body.
Big & Bold
Full bodied wines that have concentrated fruit and are higher in alcohol and/or tannins. Some need age.