Bottle Notes, Cabernet Sauvignon

1996 Chateau Montelena Cabernet Sauvignon – Bottle Notes

Chateau Montelena dates back to 1882 when Albert Tubbs bought 254 acres of property just north of Calistoga. Tubbs planted vines and by 1896 Montelena was the 7th largest winery in California. Winemaking came to an end with the onset of Prohibition.

The current iteration of Montelena can be traced to 1968, when Jim Barrett was brought on as a partner in the winery. Wine production began again in 1972, with Mike Grgich employed as winemaker. Four years later, the Chateau Montelena 1973 Alexander Valley Chardonnay won first place among the Chardonnays and White Burgundies entered in the “Judgment of Paris” wine competition. This was later chronicled in the popular wine movie Bottle Shock.

This bottle was decanted for an hour and served with grilled flank steak.

Blood red in color. 13.5% ABV. Stunning nose of red fruits, cedar, leather and anise. Full bodied and fruit forward with chalky tannins. Sour cherries, currants, cassis and minerals on the palate. The finish is very long and the tannins seem to be mostly resolved. Beautiful bottle of Montelena that is showing well after 22 years in the cellar. For me Montelena was at it’s best in the 80’s and 90’s. The ’96, as good as it is, takes a back seat to peer vintages including the ’91, ’94 and ’97. I’m sure this wine will age longer but I would be inclined to drink over the next 2-4 years.

My rating: 94 points.

Chateau Montelena is truly a throwback to a bygone era. These are wines meant to be cellared, providing less pleasure on release than they will after 10 or more years of aging.

Current vintages are readily available at retail and can also be purchased at the winery. Expect to pay $100-$125 per bottle.

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