Chateau Montelena is located in the northern part of Napa Valley off of Tubbs Lane (in between old Faithful Geyser and Highway 29). The property is removed from the typical Napa Valley wine route but is well worth the drive for a visit and a tasting. A stop here feels far removed from the busy wine strip south of St. Helena, although it can get very busy here in the afternoons, especially on summer and fall weekends.
The winery is located in the ‘shadow’ of Mt. St. Helena, the tallest mountain in the region which prominently rises above the northern part of Napa Valley. There rich history associated with this property; one feels this as soon as one walks up to the old stone ivy covered winery.
Alfred Lovering Tubbs (who Tubbs Lane is named after) was a successful businessman in San Francisco. He had the “rope market” cornered during California’s gold rush by supplying rope to gold miners as well maritime rope to the thriving clipper ship industry. His business, Tubbs Cordage Company was founded in 1849 but didn’t produce their first rope until 1856 in partnership with his brother Hiram. Remarkably the business operated until 1962. The original office building was located in what is now the Dogpatch neighborhood in San Francisco and has since been moved to the Hyde Park Pier in San Francisco (where visitors can view the outside – the inside is closed to the public because the building is currently being used for office space).
In 1870, the Tubbs brothers also built a grand hotel encompassing several city blocks near Lake Merritt in Oakland which was referred to as the Tubbs Hotel. This hotel was destroyed in 1893 by a fire.
After Alfred retired, he fell in love with the French wine industry while touring in France and decided to build a winery in Napa. Prior to purchasing land, he was already family with Napa Valley as he and his family would visit White Sulphur Springs Resort near St. Helena. According to a mention in the Napa County Report Napa County Reporter Jan 20, 1882 edition, Tubbs purchased 253.81 acres from a John Hoover for what today sounds like peanuts – $16,000. According to the July 24, 1885 edition of the Napa Register, Hoover had lived north of Calistoga since settling there in 1855. This same article mentioned Hoover was the foreman of his former property now known as the Tubbs Ranch and was overseeing 150 acres of vineyards which he and a Mr. Schram had overseen the planting of in 1885.
Tubbs soon hired a French winemaker and built a wooden winery he named Hillcrest Estate; the first vintage here was in 1886. This winery soon burned down, and Alfred oversaw the construction of a new stone winery which was completed in 1888. Alfred renamed the winery A.L Tubbs Winery after himself. The winery was constructed with the cellar built into the side of the hill (good for maintaining cool temperatures). This was not Alfred’s first wine venture; he was a founder of what was called Napa Valley Wine Company; an article in the April 4, 1884, edition of the Napa County Reporter references he was the president of the company.
Tubbs died in 1896 and left a sizable fortune at the time, estimated to be 3 million dollars. His remains are housed in the family mausoleum located against a hillside towards the back of Mountain View Cemetery in Oakland. Mountain View Cemetery is 226 acres and was founded in 1863. It houses a number of prominent individuals including architect Julia Morgan, painter Thomas Hill and chocolatier Domingo Ghirardelli. Incidentally, several other families’ with Napa Valley winery connections, the Crocker’s (Crocker & Starr Winery) are also interred in their own family mausoleum as is the Snowball family (former owners of what is now Quintessa Winery) in this same cemetery. Within a 4 minute drive of the entrance to the cemetery is Napa Street; Mr. Tubbs certainly would have enjoyed knowing this random tidbit of information in regard to his final resting place.Unfortunately, with the beginning of prohibition the winery shut down in 1920 although the Tubbs family kept growing grapes during those 13 discouraging years. After Prohibition ended, Alfred’s grandson Chapin, who had been overseeing the property for many years, renamed the winery to Chateau Montelena in 1934. Chapin was actively pursing repeal and was the president of the Napa County Association for Prohibition Reform. He was also director of the Calistoga Fair and the Tubbs Building at the Napa County Fairgrounds in Calistoga is named in his honor. After Chapin died in 1947, the property sat vacant until a couple from Los Angeles (Yort & Jeanie Wing-Frank) purchased the site in 1958 with plans to retire to the country. The couple originally purchased Hotel Calistoga in Calistoga before acquiring the Chateau Montelena property.
Yort was born in China; he was an electrical engineer and operated a successful TV repair business (built to resemble a Television set, including the exterior look of the building) on 1041 E. Colorado Street in Pasadena named Wing Company. He first came to the U.S. as a child with his parents; he later graduated with a degree in engineering from New York University in 1928. He returned to China and worked as a radio engineer and then returned to the U.S. permanently in 1941. During his years living in Los Angeles, he was also a lecturer and gave a number of speeches to various organizations about Communism. And it was during their time on the property that they created Jade Lake (Jeanie’s nickname) on a site that was previously flat land. The lake even contained a teakwood fishing junk called Wang Po, complete with a diesel engine. It eventually sunk, was dragged out of the lake and then burned in the vineyards. What is now the main tasting room was previously used by Yort as his workshop.
The Wing-Franks sold the property to Lee & Helen Paschich in 1968. The Paschich’s owned a business called Shades, Inc focusing on bamboo wooden window coverings. The business was located in the building that now houses Nadalié Cooperage located next to Tubbs Lane and just west of the entrance to Chateau Montelena. The Paschich’s also owned a vineyard on Picket Road at the time in Calistoga and Lee made a commercial vintage of some Cabernet Sauvignon in 1968.
Full time wine making operations resumed in 1972 when lawyer James Barrett & his business partners purchased at the time, majority ownership in the property from the Paschichs (Lee Paschich remained on board as their General Manager). One of the partners, Ernie Hahn of The Hahn Company was a major shopping mall developer. The first vintage released under Chateau Montelena was a white wine, a 1972 Riesling, the grapes purchased from the Muir-Hanna Vineyard in what is now the Oak Knoll sub appellation, just north of the city of Napa. They did produce a 1972 Cabernet Sauvignon, but it wasn’t of a desired quality, so they bottled it under the name, Silverado Cellars.
Chateau Montelena’s founding winemaker and limited partner for 5 years with 5% of the business was Mike Grgich, who later founded the iconic Grgich Cellars. When Grgich celebrated his 100th birthday on April 1, 2023 Chateau Montelena gifted him two historic bottles: a 1972 Napa/Alexander Valley Chardonnay and a 1973 Sonoma County Cabernet Sauvignon. And the winery opened up two more of these rare bottles to make sure they were ok before gifting Grgich.
During the Barrett’s ownership, 25,000 square feet of cave tunnels in roughly the shape of a pentagon (which visitors are not able to see) were drilled into the side of the mountain. In addition to the sizable caves, separate spaces for wine production including the tank rooms are housed on the first floor of the old winery building. A number of various shaped and sized tanks are located here including some tanks which are square. In 2017 before the devastating Tubbs Fire which burned from Calistoga to Santa Rosa in a matter of hours, Chateau Montelena had fortunately installed pumps for every tank. As a result, during the fires they were able to conduct pump-overs remotely.
In 2008 the winery was to be sold to Château Cos d’Estournel in Bordeaux but fortunately the sale fell through; Chateau Montelena continues to be owned and operated by the Barrett family.
Jim was very involved in the Napa Valley community having served as president of the Napa Valley Vintners and helping fund the Calistoga Pool and Recreation center (open to residents of Calistoga). He wrote a book in 2010 called, A Pilgrim’s Journey. Those interested in learning more about Chateau Montelena can do so by reading, What is More Real than a Dream? A Chateau Montelena Memoir, written by James’s first wife Laura Grace Barrett. This book offers an insiders look at Chateau Montelena including the early years, personalities, their award winning 1973 Chardonnay at the Paris Tasting of 1976 and the subsequent film, Bottle Shock.
Jim died in 2013; today his son James Patrick (Bo) Barrett is one of the owners and winemaker; incidentally, Bo is married to Heidi Peterson, arguably one of the country’s most famous winemakers. Bo has been a part of the operations since he was hired to work in the cellar in 1972. And in 2010 he was responsible for helping create the Calistoga American Viticulture Area – this is one of 16 sub appellations in addition to the primary Napa Valley Viticulture Area.
The old winery sits on the edge of a hill above approximately 110 acres of planted vineyards located to the north of the winery. Visitors park below the winery and walk towards the lake and then up the wooden steps which lead to the tasting room. Several silver Walking Liberty half dollars (the dates long since worn off by tens of thousands of footsteps) are embedded in the concrete, placed there by the company that poured the concrete for good luck.
Note the prominent sign that declares “Parking for Irish Only” located between the first and second flight of steps up to the winery. Bo often parks his truck here – just look for the license plate, El Ogre.
The winery still sees visitors without an appointment, either at the main bar or if crowded at several other spaces and sometimes outdoors, weather permitting. Other experiences require an appointment. Guests are offered several current releases including Chardonnay, Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon. Their Sauvignon Blanc (first vintage in 2012) and Riesling are produced in limited quantities and offered to club members first and may not be available for tasting.
The trend in Napa Valley continues to be on more private and curated tastings; however it is refreshing that Chateau Montelena continues to keep their wine bar. We find wine bars are ideal spaces to meet other interesting people who are there because of the same reasons that you are – generally for a love of wine. As a result, wine related topics are an easy conversation starter. During a recent visit we met an individual who works for a winery in Willamette Valley who told us Chateau Montelena was one of a handful of wineries he visited during his first trip to Napa Valley. His trip was in 1976 and he recalls it was exactly one week before the Paris Tasting of 1976.
And an old photo of James Barrett is kept behind the bar in case curious visitors want to take a peek.
Several tour options are offered including an estate tour; this very basic tour starts with a tasting in the rear tasting room, a brief history of the property and a walk to their crush pad, to Jade Lake and a stop at Bo and Heidi’s helicopter pad directly to the north of the lake. A vineyard tour is also offered where guests are driven out into the vineyards on a golf cart and provided more information about the farming and vineyard management practices at Chateau Montelena.
Private Library tastings can be arranged by appointment. These tastings are conducted in an intimate room of no more than 8 people led by a wine educator. While requiring an appointment for the library tasting, if you happen to be here during the times they offer this tasting, you may be able to get in at the last minute if it’s not fully booked. We highly recommend this tasting as you taste and discuss their older releases and it is a great opportunity to see how the wines age and evolve. Several rooms at Chateau Montelena are named in tribute to individuals who have made valuable contributions to the winery including former winemaker Jerry Luper and long time former vineyard manager, John Rolleri.
Groups up to 60 can be accommodated with a reservation made far enough in advance. A commercial kitchen is on site and can be used by an outside chef for such events.
For visitors to the property, a self-guided map and brochure are available so that one can walk around the estate at one’s own leisure visiting the various points of interest listed on the map. One highlight inside the old winery building is the Estate Room containing plaques outlining the various periods of its ownership history, old Chateau Montelena bottles including one from 1937, vineyard soil samples and a wine barrel with one of its heads signed by the main actors in the film, Bottle Shock.
A must see is the Chinese themed 5-acre Jade Lake and islands (used for tastings for club members) directly behind and below the main winery building. As you face the winery walk to your right down two sets of stairs and follow the path to the lake. Small red Chinese style bridges connect to several of the islands, large koi swim in the pond and if lucky you may see a beautiful white swan and or an egret or two perched on its edges. The bridges are all constructed crooked as Chinese legend tells that evil spirits only travel over water in a straight line. Notice the green colored water – a natural dye is added to the lake at times to keep algae from spreading. Bread for feeding the ducks is sometimes available in containers located next to the pond. You can see part of the estate vineyard just to the northeast of the lake.
The winery successfully converted to solar power with the installation of a number of raised solar panels in 2007. Great attention is given to the vineyards; they farm as sustainable as possible and introduce cover crops then till them into the soil at the proper times (no herbicides used). In addition, rather than using pesticides they introduce beneficial insects into the vineyards such as ladybugs. As in parts of France, they irrigate new vines to get them established and then dry farm as much as possible. Experimentation with rootstalk, clones and trellising systems are part of the continuing learning process at Chateau Montelena.
If one were to generalize Chateau Montelena’s wines in one word it would be “balance”. They put significant effort into creating healthy and balanced vineyards while crafting wines that are not dominated by high alcohol, over ripe fruit or tannins – i.e., out of balance. Rather the wines are refined and elegant featuring bright acidity and a significant backbone for aging.
Their style of wines is more fruit forward then the wines of Napa Valley in the 1960s and 1970s, understandable as palates have evolved and vines are fairly virus free these days, yet their style is still a throwback to a time when wines were created to be enjoyed with food rather than consumed as a cocktail like beverage.
The Chateau Montelena Chardonnay’s are bright and refreshing in their youth and hold on to these characteristics as they age. Their Chardonnay does not go through malolactic fermentation. These are not oaky or buttery bottlings and visitors who haven’t tried a Chardonnay of this style are often pleasantly surprised by its lively character.
The 2019 Chateau Montelena Chardonnay is medium gold in color; at the time of our tasting the bouquet was a little shy so we needed to swirl vigorously and give it more time in the glass. It offers aromatics of green apple, citrus and pear and as the bouquet fully opens, it reveals a light scent of vanilla. Any oak influence is very subtle here. The palate is focused with a mineral driven core, including a flinty character. It offers flavors of honeydew melon, green apple, lemon juice and not quite fully ripe pear. The finish lingers mouth watering and begs another sip. This wine is very balanced.
The 2015 Chateau Montelena Napa Valley Chardonnay is more Burgundian style than a Napa Valley style – one can easily understand this while tasting this wine side by side with as an example, a Rombauer produced Chardonnay. The difference is night and day. It is a clean crisp presentation of the varietal characteristics. Pleasing aromatically, it offers scents of citrus blossom and as it breathes tropical nuances. Not heavy on the palate, the wine sings and is lively from start to finish. A dancing acidity if you will. It lingers with notes of green apple, kiwi and a lemon/lime citrus nuance.
The 2010 Chateau Montelena Chardonnay (tasted 13 years post vintage from a magnum) is deep gold in color; the aromatics initially offer a honeyed note including of honeycomb along with some stone fruit influences (yellow peach and apricot), citrus, melon and a hint of lychee. This wine shows remarkably well; it is balanced, bright and refreshing. The palate offers flavors of mandarin and other citrus notes, apple and some stone fruit characteristics similar to the bouquet. It’s texture is creamy and like velvet. This bottling lingers with rich flavors and a mouth watering acidity. Beautifully done.
Chateau Montelena is one of few Napa wineries to produce a Riesling. While this variety used to be very common in Napa Valley most Napa wineries who make this wine today source from areas better suited economically to growing this varietal. Case in point is Chateau Montelena’s Riesling which is sourced from the McFadden Farm in Potter Valley, owned by Guiness McFadden. Potter Valley about 50 miles north of Chateau Montelena in Mendocino County. The 2007 Chateau Montelena Riesling is golden color. It is a fairly dry, clean and crisp wine with bright acidity and a finish containing a noticeable richness of fruit.
As of our latest update to this review the oldest vines on the property are Zinfandel, originally planted in 1972. The 2019 Chateau Montelena Estate Zinfandel is medium ruby in color; the bouquet offers a pleasant union between both darker spices and fruits including cherry, blackberry and rhubarb. Let this wine breathe – more fruit will continue to evolve. This wine shows higher toned red fruits across the palate and are especially noticeable on the slightly tart finish. It offers flavors of red cherry, strawberry, currant, cranberry and red licorice. The palate is balanced in its youth lightly textured well-integrated tannins. This wine was aged for 16 months in French and American oak of which 16% were new barrels. This is a very food friendly bottling.
The 2003 Chateau Montelena Zinfandel is medium to deep ruby with a rust/brickish color. We tasted this wine 20 years post vintage; at this age the tertiary aromatics dominate the bouquet including of leather, forest floor, lavender, mushroom, white pepper, coffee grounds, toffee and dark tobacco spice. But there is still fruit showing including scents of bramble, dried blackberry and cooked plum. This wine offers flavors of cooked blackberry, prune, dried cherry, black raspberry and strawberry. The tannins are so finely woven one barely notices their subtle and lingering presence. This wine aged far better than we expected.
The 2019 Chateau Montelena Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley is 91% Cabernet Sauvignon and 9% Merlot. This wine is medium to dark ruby in color; the bouquet initially offers notes of dried tobacco leaf along with dark plum. This wine shows as savory with a dark spice and red fruited flavor filled finish. It lingers with a light tartness and flavors of currant and cranberry. One can feel the moderate gripping texture and light dryness of the tannins but they are in harmony with the rest of the wine. This bottling was aged for 16 months in both French and eastern European oak of which 28% was new.
The 2019 Chateau Montelena Estate Cabernet Sauvignon is 99% Cabernet Sauvignon, 0.5% Cabernet Franc and 0.5% Petit Verdot. This wine spent approximately two years in barrel and then two years in bottle before it was released. It is deep ruby in color with aromatics showing blackberry and plum along with sage and dried herbs. This wine smells fresh, vibrant and slightly savory in its youth. The tannins are earthy, dark, slightly drying and persist for some time on the flavor filled and mouth watering finish. Also some notes of dark pepper. This wine will benefit from additional years of aging.
The 2014 Chateau Montelena Estate Cabernet Sauvignon is 97% Cabernet Sauvignon, 2% Cabernet Franc and 1% Petit Verdot. This wine is deep ruby in color; the bouquet initially shows a note of old leather. It is sweetly fruited with aromas of ripe blackberry and boysenberry. Accompanying are some dessert spice notes including cardamom and a note of dark pepper. This wine is drinking extremely well 9 years post vintage at the time of our tasting. It offers flavors of plum and red cherry with a finish full of life both with its acidity and red fruits including cherry, cranberry and currant. It finishes with a light wood spice, a dusty nuance and very well integrated tannins. This wine was aged for 22 months in 100% French oak of which 35% were in new barrels.
The 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon Montelena Estate shows both fruit and secondary spices on the bouquet – but is dominated by fruit. It offers aromas of plum, blackberry, sweet red licorice along with hints of cocoa powder. While the bouquet smells like it has some age, the palate does not taste like a wine 12 years old at the time of our tasting. In a blind tasting one would be very hard pressed to pick this wine out of a lineup of current release Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon wines produced of a similar style. Savory on the palate and fairly soft on entry the wine shows mostly red fruits, red cherry and currant. Great acidity – causes one to immediately salivate. The tannins are still very much noticeable, firm but not big and are slightly dusty. This wine still has loads of life ahead of it.
The 2001 Cabernet Sauvignon Montelena Estate is a dark wine: the intensity of color hints at its depth of flavor and concentration. This wine shows pleasing notes of dark cherry and just the right amount of tartness with good acidity to help ensure it will pair very well with a variety of food. The tannins are structured but in balance with a mouth feel that is soft and rounded.
Often after tasting through robust and heavier contemporary Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon bottlings, we like to finish with a bright white wine. We have never had to urge to do so after tasting any of the Chateau Montelena Cabernet Sauvignon wines.
During one of our earlier visits, they still had a select number of cases of their 1997 Estate Merlot. They made this wine as a one-off due to club members’ demand for a Merlot. The 1997 vintage turned out so nicely that James Barrett decided to bottle it exclusively for club members. However, they also produced a second Merlot in 2018. To date, these have been the only two Merlot bottlings under the Barrett ownership. After 11 years at the time of our tasting, the 1997 vintage still expressed beautiful fruit complemented by a supple and rounded mouth feel.
Chateau Montelena sells “futures” of their Estate Cabernet Sauvignon – available to members of their wine club. This is one way to secure these always highly rated wines well in advance at a cost of 30 to 40% lower than the normal release day pricing.
1973 Chateau Montelena Chardonnay
Chateau Montelena helped put themselves and Napa Valley on the international wine map when their 1973 Chardonnay won hands down at a tasting in 1976 in Paris, France. This was the first blind wine tasting event on an international stage that showed California wineries could produce just as high-quality wine as their French counterparts. Mementos of this event are on display, and visitors can purchase journalist George Tabor’s book, Judgment of Paris, at the winery which describes this historic tasting. The film Bottle Shock (released in 2008 starring Alan Rickman and Chris Pine) loosely recreates the events that led up to this historic tasting.
The vineyard sources used in the historic Chateau Montelena 1973 Chardonnay that the winery entered and won in the Paris Tasting of 1976 unfortunately are no longer being used for their Chardonnay. Of the 39 total tons of Chardonnay used to create that award-winning wine, 14 tons came from trellised Chardonnay vines in the Bacigalupi Vineyard (Russian River Valley of neighboring Sonoma County).
The majority by tonnage (20) came from Belle Terre Vineyards in Alexander Valley, also in Sonoma County farmed by the Dick family. Four tons came from the Muir Hanna Vineyard – located just north of the city of Napa. Today this vineyard is overseen by the great grandson of noted conservationist and founder of the Sierra Club John Muir (who also helped establish the founding of Yosemite National Park). Rounding out the Chardonnay was a ton of fruit from Lee Paschich’s vineyard in Calistoga. The majority of the 1973 Chardonnay was from Sonoma County. Incidentally a bottle of that award winning vintage is in the Smithsonian National Museum of American History, right next to Mike Grgich’s old suitcase he came to Canada with and his old beret (see our photos of this exhibit below).
Helen and Charles (a former dentist who died in 2013 and whose family used to own Bacigalupi Market near downtown Santa Rosa) Bacigalupi purchased what is now the Goddard Ranch or referred to as the ‘home ranch’ in 1956. At the time it was planted to Zinfandel, Mission, and Golden Chasselas. They initially farmed these grapes before planting Pinot Noir and Chardonnay in 1964. When they decided to remove the existing vines and replant, they sought the advice of the University of California farm adviser for Sonoma County at that time, Bob Sisson and also family friend Paul Keck of Korbel Wine Cellars (whose daughter Pam would later marry Helen & Charles’ only child, John). Both men recommended they talk to Karl Wente of Wente Vineyards in Livermore – and it was Karl who provided them the bud wood to start their Chardonnay block (grafted onto St. George rootstock). Whenever the family needs to replant or re-graft Chardonnay vines, they always take cuttings from some of the strongest/healthiest original vines.
Pam, who we met with, recalls Helen contacted UC Davis about the type of trellis system they should implement – UC Davis recommended one type, but she and Charles chose a different style that ultimately was more conducive for their site and vines. Charles planted these first vines with field budding help from another old timer vintner, Joe Rochioli Jr. The soil difference between this old Chardonnay block and the neighboring hillside block is dramatic; the soils from the Chardonnay block are alluvial (we spotted some rounded river cobble during our visit), while the Pinot Noir block is planted in iron rich reddish soils.
While at college Pam’s daughter Nicole read the first edition of George Tabor’s book, “Judgment of Paris”, but noticed that there was no mention of Bacigalupi Vineyard and the family’s involvement in the historic 1973 Chardonnay. She eventually contacted Tabor, and in his second edition he updated to include relevant information about the Bacigalupi Vineyard contribution to that wine.
Interestingly Chateau Montelena only sourced Chardonnay from Bacigalupi Vineyard the one time in 1973. But Chateau Montelena winemaker at the time, Mike Grigich later approached the Bacigalupi’s about purchasing more Chardonnay – but by this time it was to late; the family had already begun selling their Chardonnay to Chateau St. Jean.
This coveted block was contracted to the Rudd family from 1998 through 2017 – a period when they were the exclusive producers of wine from this old site. Starting in 2018 the Bacigalupi family, for the first time in their history began producing Chardonnay under their own label from this block (calling the wine Renouveau, French for ‘renewal’ in tribute to Helen). Because yields are so low, they only produce around 100 cases each year. The several vintages we have enjoyed over the years from this block always have great texture, richness of fruit and excellent acidity – all hallmarks of this site and these vines. And attributes that are certainly helpful for aging.
And we’ve heard that Chateau Montelena only has less than 10 of these 1973 bottles left in their private collection.
According to Laura Barrett in her book, Memoir of Chateau Montelena Winery, their first retail client was Ernie’s Liquor Stores in 1975 – owned and operated by Ernie Van Asperen. Ernie was the founder of Napa Valley’s Round Hill wines and later Rutherford Ranch Winery.
We have been to Chateau Montelena many times but one of the most memorable was a late harvest warm day watching visitors watch Bo Barrett (they had no idea he is the owner) busy supervising some of the crush operations when long time Napa farmer Charlie Wolleson drove onto the crush pad in his spotless antique green flatbed truck carrying loads of plastic t-bins piled high with fruit from the Wolleson Vineyard in Calistoga. Incidentally, Charlie is one of the valley’s long-time collectors of old cars and antique trucks.
Charlie was in his mid 80s at the time, still sporting his trademark crew-cut, looking like he was cut of a cloth from decades ago while appearing to have the energy of someone far younger. While several years later, Charlie told us he no longer sells fruit to Chateau Montelena, his family has been farming the valley since the early 1900s.
Chateau Montelena, Westin St. Francis San Francisco
Chateau Montelena also maintains a small tasting room in San Francisco inside the historic Westin St. Francis in Union Square (open 7-days a week). They opened this space in late 2011. It is located to the left inside the lobby of the building just before reaching the reception. Construction of the St. Francis was completed in 1904 with financing provided from the estate of Charles Crocker (whose family also has tied in Napa Valley – reference Crocker & Star Winery). The St. Francis survived the 1906 earthquake and subsequent fires, merely two years after being built.
This iconic hotel has hosted numerous guests over its 100+ years of history including presidents Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson Gerald Ford, John Kennedy, Ronald Reagan, heads of state Queen Elizabeth II and Japan Emperor Hirohito. Helen Keller, General Douglas MacArthur, Charlie Chaplin and numerous other celebrities have also stayed here. In 1954 it was sold to Western International; the Westin name was added in 1981.
The predecessor space to Chateau Montelena’s room in the St. Francis was originally The Press Club at the Four Seasons Hotel in 2008 in San Francisco. The model at the time was a cooperative wine bar and featured several other Napa Valley based wineries/brands including Miner Family Vineyards, Pahlmeyer and Saintsbury.
Chateau Montelena also offers older vintages for sale; these are often larger format bottles. During our visits we have seen vintages dating back up to 20 years old for sale or for tasting. Production each year usually runs between 35,000 and 40,000 cases. Several CellarMaster membership levels are available including: Friends of Montelena, Futures (currently a waitlist for), Choice and Select – each offers a variety of differing benefits based on bottle annual bottle commitments. Some of the perks include access to one-off bottlings, older vintages, priority for current release wines and tastings on the coveted islands in Jade Lake. Shipments are made twice a year in the spring and the fall.
For more information, to schedule an appointment or to purchase wines, visit: www.montelena.com
Tubbs Cordage Company Office Building, San Francisco
FOOD: Transforming the American Table 1950–2000, Smithsonian Museum