Napa Valley's Chateau Montelena Is Famous For Its White Wines

Chateau Montelena, located in Calistoga, California, produces a handful of wine varieties including cabernet, zinfandel, sauvignon blanc, and riesling. However, it's the winery's chardonnay that catapulted it to fame on one fateful day in the '70s.

Chateau Montelena had a significant impact on the history of winemaking. In 1976, a 1973 bottle of Chateau Montelena Chardonnay, now on display at the National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C., beat out some of the best white Burgundies from France in a blind tasting known as the Judgment of Paris. 

The judges included a panel of notable French experts, and the results sent shockwaves throughout the wine industry and became a pivotal moment for Californian and New World wine. Not only did it put Napa on the global wine map, it earned Chateau Montelena a spot on the National Register of Historic Places. At the time, a bottle of the beloved Chardonnay went for $6.50. Now, bottles of the 1973 vintage have been auctioned for over $20,000.

What you can discover and taste at Chateau Montelena

In addition to its infamous Chardonnay, Chateau Montelena is also revered for its other white wine varieties, including sauvignon blanc and riesling. The sauvignon blanc took over a decade to perfect, and it was worth the wait. Bottles of the wine habitually sell out, and it is beloved for its fresh citrusy flavor with notes of lavender, peach, and melon. The variety is a blend of 80% sauvignon blanc and 20% semillon and is aged for six months in French oak and Acacia barrels. Chateau Montelena reinvents the variety annually, always changing the formula for more nuanced flavors.

The winery's riesling has been in production for 50 years and is known for its intense balance between being floral and spicy in taste. The variety is a mix of honeysuckle, jasmine, and stone and tropical fruits, with notes of cinnamon and clove for a hint of spice. The wine is aged for six months in French oak and stainless-steel barrels.

Chateau Montelena opened a satellite tasting room in San Francisco in 2011. The vineyard accepts visitors onsite for tastings and conducts estate tours. Fittingly, the chateau resembles a French castle.