Chateau Montelena Chardonnay Napa Valley 2020 1.5L Magnum
Creamy and vibrant with beautiful citrus and balanced acidity. Ben Gubbins: Struck match, toast and lime aromas. The palate is firm and citrussy, holding tight through a citrus and pineapple finish_read more
Bright gold in the glass, the wine opens with green apple, honeysuckle and orange blossom. The citrus in particular seems to be most evident, as lime leaf and lemon zest at this stage. This vintage was more classic rather than overly ripe, so it's not surprising. There's a hint of fresh wood and vanilla as well, adding some nuance without overshadowing the beautiful floral character. The parade of citrus marches on, although the midpalate turns more tropical with starfruit and pineapple. And while there's still plenty of green apple, the texture and juiciness of Asian pear adds complexity and depth. The acid is consistent and winds its way through the profile, lifting the texture and balancing the suppleness from barrel. This will be a long-lived wine. The transition to the finish is still somewhat abrupt due to the wine's youth and dynamism. This will change over time. But here, the character is dominated by lemon curd and pie crust, along with chalk and fresh apricot. The acid is still mouthwatering, although it has mellowed somewhat. Despite its young age, the overall length of this Chardonnay is impressive.
Country: United States
Appellation: Napa Valley
Chateau Montelena’s history is one of the deepest and most storied in the Napa Valley and California. Founded just north of Calistoga by a senator and San Francisco entrepreneur in 1882 at the turn of the century, it was one of the largest wineries in the state. Prohibition put an end to Montelena’s winemaking, and the next major era began in 1968, when Jim Barrett purchased the estate. Jim fell in love with this exceptional property, blessed with a complex mix of soils, slopes and biodiversity of wildlife and fauna. He had a dream of creating wine at the level of the great First Growths of Bordeaux, and set about replanting the vineyard, outfitting the winery with modern equipment, and studying the processes necessary for farming and winemaking at the highest quality level.
In 1976 Chateau Montelena put California at the forefront of the wine world. That year a who’s-who of the French wine and food establishment gathered for a grand tasting at the Inter-Continental Hotel in Paris. Four white Burgundies were tasted against six California Chardonnays. When the scores were tallied, the French Judges were convinced that the top-ranking white wine was one of their own. In fact, it was Chateau Montelena’s 1973 Chardonnay, rated above all other wines. This seminal event has been memorialized in the book "The Judgment of Paris," by George Taber, as well as in the 2008 feature film Bottle Shock.
Today Chateau Montelena’s distinct 19th century stone structure stands as a quality icon in Napa Valley, consistently producing some of the finest wines in California. Master Winemaker Bo Barrett, Jim’s son, now runs the estate with the help of Winemaker Matt Crafton and Vineyard Manager Dave Vella.
Ronan Sayburn MS, Eugenio Egorov, Ben Gubbins write: Mike Grgich, who turned 100 in April 2023, emigrated from Croatia to California in 1958 and worked his way up as a winemaker until, in 1973, he produced the Chateau Montelena Chardonnay that triumphed in the 1976 Judgement of Paris tasting. His own winery, then Grgich Hills Cellar, was founded as a partnership in 1977. Grown near San Pablo Bay, the estate Chardonnay is fermented and aged in barrels and foudres, 40% of which are new French oak.
Ronan Sayburn MS: Gunflint reductive nose with green cardamom, cucumber skin, oyster shell and seaweed. Smoky subtle oak. Lean, tight and mineral. Eugenio Egorov: Hints of citrus and caramel with a touch of vanilla on the nose. Creamy and vibrant with beautiful citrus and balanced acidity. Ben Gubbins: Struck match, toast and lime aromas. The palate is firm and citrussy, holding tight through a citrus and pineapple finish. - Decanter 95
Joe Czerwinski writes: The 2020 Chardonnay was released in October 2022. As usual, it's a non-malolactic fermentation wine, matured in a relatively small proportion of new French oak, and so it reveals hints of apple, tangerine and lime on the nose. Medium to full-bodied, it's sappy, a bit linear and vibrant on the palate, finishing crisp and long. I've capped the aging estimate at a decade, but past vintages have aged successfully for 20 years or more, depending on your preferences. - Robert Parker Wine Advocate 93
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