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A new California Chardonnay from one of the world’s most prestigious vineyards.
A tasting at Chateau Montelena. Image courtesy of the winery.
The enviable pedigree of Napa Valley’s Chateau Montelena is built on a unique historical legacy. In the 1976 Judgment of Paris — a pivotal moment in wine history when famed French bottles were pitted against then-underdog American iterations in a blind tasting — the winery’s 1973 Chardonnay won top honors. This was a massive upset in the wine world, considering the wine was up against a 1973 Charmes Roulot Meursault and a Leflaive Puligny Montrachet, bottles that would command five figures in today’s market.
Nearly 50 years later, Chateau Montelena is still making excellent wines. Part of the winery’s draw is the Calistoga climate. While the central selection of the valley is hot, the wooded hills and rolling climate of the Northern Napa Calistoga AVA makes for more exuberant cool climate wines. Calistoga reaches highs of 90 during the day but dips down to 50 during the evening to lock in a crisp acidity in a Chardonnay. The 2021 Chardonnay offers honeysuckle, green apple, and jasmine on the nose, with that florality continuing onto the palate as the wine opens up to flavors to Asian pear, overripe apricot, and a slight hint of lemon curd, all brought together through a persistent flintiness and mouthwatering acidity. $70
(Pro tip: with every new vintage, Montelena has been opening up their cellar to release a corresponding five-years-older bottle. An excellent excuse for a side-by-side.)
Kate Dingwall is a WSET-trained sommelier and spirits writer. Her work has appeared in Wine Enthusiast, Eater, Forbes.com, and Food & Wine, and she pours wine at one of Canada’s top restaurants.
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