In the spirit of Halloween, the other day I received a bottle of wine from what I consider to be one of the country’s most famous Ghost wineries.
Chateau Montelena Winery, established in 1882 and located in the heart of Napa Valley was once again made famous by a fairly recent movie called Bottle Shock. If you haven’t seen the movie I’m hoping that you’ll go on Netflix and rent it while you still can.
While I won’t destroy the story line for those of you who haven’t watched the movie, it is about the story of how the Californians beat the French in the Judgement of Paris of 1976. Chateau Montelena’s 1973 Chardonnay beat the top French Chardonnays at the tasting, leading Napa Valley to the top rankings for fine wines.
But, prior to that there is a long history at the Chateau, making it one of my favorite Ghost wineries of all time.
Chateau Montelena really began on a chilly morning in 1882 when Alfred L. Tubbs used a spade to turn over some rocky soil outside of Calistoga, a small town at the base of Mt. Saint Helena. Tubbs planted his vineyards and built a beautiful Chateau. By 1896 Chateau Montelena was the Seventh largest winery in the Napa Valley.
Things went well until the passage of Prohibition, at which time the wine industry in America was devastated. Many of the winemakers in America closed their doors forever. Some found ways to still grow grapes, sell the grape concentrate, and supply people who wanted to make their own wines in the privacy of their bathtub at home.
Once Prohibition was repealed the Tubbs family went back to making some wine and selling grapes for home winemakers. However, the Chateau never regained its strength or ability to make wines in the volume it had before Prohibition.
In 1958 the winery was sold in its depressed state to York and Jeannie Frank, who chose the site for their retirement. They excavated a lake on the site, and made a wildlife sanctuary.
It wasn’t until Jim Barrett bought the place, replanted the vineyards, and installed new winemaking equipment that the winery went back into production. In 1972 the first wines were produced in many years, and soon to become famous in the Judgement Of Paris just a few years later. Truly an amazing story of a winery completely dying and being brought back from the dead.
I received a bottle of the winery’s 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon. The wine is picked in small sections allowing the grapes to be perfectly ripened. This creates a better fermentation process as well.
The wine was a deep red in color with hints of tobacco and cocoa on the nose, blending with red currant. The flavors were rich and dark, with black cherry and tobacco. A nice body to the tannins in the wine is balanced nicely with the rich acidity. I definitely noticed this wine open up as the night wore on.
Thanks to the Barrett family for making wines so good that the French remain envious. I highly recommend you reach the winery at www.montelena.com.