- Reviewed by:
- Joe Czerwinski
- Drink Date:
- 2025 - 2045
I tasted the soon-to-be-released 2019 Cabernet Sauvignon Estate from two bottles, one freshly opened and one that had been opened the day before. Both were clearly outstanding, with the freshly opened bottle being just a bit tighter and less luxuriously textured but obviously packed with potential. Mixed currants and cherries appear on the nose, joined by hints of dark chocolate, while the palate is medium to full-bodied, rich, expansive and velvety, with a lingering, mouthwatering finish.
One of the historic California estates that put Napa on the map following the Paris Tasting of 1976, for some reason Chateau Montelena was largely neglected by my immediate predecessor at RPWA. There is always something new to chase, so I suspect it was more that than anything else. It can sometimes be difficult to find a reason to visit longtime estates that just continue along, turning out classic wines, regardless of fads or fashion. The Chardonnay comes from an estate-grown parcel in Oak Knoll under the lee of Mount Veeder, plus another grower in Oak Knoll and one in Coombsville. The style remains resolutely true to the historic model, with fermentation kicking off in tank before transfer into barrels (15 - 25% new French oak), and no malolactic fermentation. The wine stays in wood for 10 months, then receives a year of bottle age prior to release. There's also an annual library release, typically five years behind the current vintage. While the Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley isn't an estate wine, Montelena is the single largest contributor of fruit to the program. It includes between 10 and 20% Merlot, from a vineyard in Oak Knoll, and spends 16 months in 20 - 30% new French oak. In contrast, the Estate Cabernet Sauvignon comes entirely from the estate's vineyards in Calistoga. It spends 22 - 26 months in barrel, then another 18 months in bottle prior to release. Fortunately, for consumers new to collecting, or restaurateurs who haven't stockpiled old vintages, there is a library release program for the Estate Cabernet Sauvignon as well. Winemaker Matt Crafton showed me the current and library releases before finally offering to pour the yet-to-be-released 2019 Estate Cabernet and a sample of the 2021 Estate Cabernet that he had blended earlier from several barrels. Both vintages are certainly wines to look forward to, with the unfortunate reminder that there are no 2020 reds here.