Chateau Montelena Winery

Chateau Montelena has a colorful past, but it was the legendary Paris Tasting in 1976 that made this winery -- and the California wine industry -- famous.

chateau montelena, napa valley wineryExplore Chateau Montelena and discover its fascinating history. Photo © Wollertz

French wine experts chose Montelena winery's 1973 Chardonnay in a blind taste test, beating out France's finest from Burgundy.

The unexpected selection stunned the wine world. The rest of the world learned about it in Time magazine's article, The Judgment of Paris. A Hollywood version of the event was depicted in the 2008 film Bottle Shock.

Vintners here humbly say that the wine itself was the hero, and a win for all Napa Valley wineries. They certainly raised the bar.

Whether you're a serious wine lover or a history buff, you'll want to put this magnificent winery on your tour list. You'll love the wines and love getting the insider's story that the movie doesn't reveal.

Chateau Montelena Wines

Montelena wines are still world-class. Best known for its aromatic and full-bodied Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, and fruity, delightful (my words) Chardonnay, this winery also produces superb Zinfandel and Sauvignon Blanc.

Here are a couple stellar reviews:

  • Chateau Montelena Napa Valley Chardonnay 2017 - "Toasty, with pastry accents to the ripe white fruit flavors that lengthen out thanks to light, creamy accents. Brioche notes show on the juicy finish." 91 Points, Wine Spectator
  • Chateau Montelena Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2019 - "Solidly built, showing an array of singed vanilla and cocoa along the edges, with a core of steeped plum and blackberry compote flavors." 90 Points, Wine Spectator
chateau montelenaBridge over Jade Lake at Chateau Montelena. Photo © David Tonelson

Built in 1888, this magnificent Chateau was intended as a barrel aging facility. Made of stone walls three to twelve feet thick, the Chateau kept the wine barrels an even cool temperature year-round. It was quite extravagant -- and forward-thinking -- for nineteenth-century Napa Valley, where most wineries were constructed of wood. Its design was also a rarity, looking like an English Gothic castle.

In 2013, the Chateau Montelena winery was placed on the National Register of Historic Places. This honor recognizes two legacies: From 1888-1920, Alfred Tubbs built and operated the winery; then, 1968-1976 when vintner Jim Barrett bought the property and rose to fame with its 1973 Chardonnay.

Today, Chateau Montelena is still owned and operated by the Barrett family, with Jim's son Bo Barrett as CEO. 

This ivy-covered chateau is an exquisite gem to explore. Carved into the hillside of Mount St. Helena, the historic stone castle overlooks glistening Jade Lake, surrounded by gorgeous gardens and vineyards. It's truly a peaceful paradise you won't forget.

Chateau Montelena Wine Tours and Tastings

Reservations are now required for all tastings and tours of the magnificent chateau, its vineyards and cellars.

Step into the tasting room on the top floor of the chateau for a sampling of current release wines.

You have several tour/tasting options. The tours are in small groups -- and that's a good thing. You'll get more out of it from your knowledgeable guide, who'll share Montelena winery's rich history and show you around this beautiful estate.

True oenophiles will want the Montelena Estate Collection small group tour and tasting experience. You'll taste how Chardonnay made this winery famous, followed by four vintages of superb Montelena Estate Cabernet Sauvignon. 

chateau montelena

Events at the Chateau Montelena

Chateau Montelena occasionally hosts special events at the winery. Be sure to check their website for the latest happenings.

These are for Wine Club members only, and require reservations.  

Sample current release wine alongside a library of vintage with your host Winemaker Matt Crafton. This is a rare opportunity for Comparative Tasting at the Chateau on March 16, 2024.

Enjoy a relaxing spring afternoon at the much-anticipated Spring Shindig, April 20, 2024. Sip new releases and library wines, savor a gourmet lunch, and listen to live music.

Celebrate the release of summer favorites, Sauvignon Blanc and Riesling at the Summertime Paella Party on July 27, 2024. Indulge in freshly shucked oysters, Spanish tapas, and scrumptious paella. Mingle with friends on the beautiful estate while jamming out to the music of local flamenco guitarist, Daniel Fries.

When and Where

Open daily, 9:30am - 4pm. Chateau Montelena winery is closed for many holidays and special events. Check the winery's website for the latest schedule and tasting options.

What you'll want to know before you go:

  • Make a reservation for all tastings and tours. It's easy to do on their website.
  • All visitors must be 21 and older.
  • Pets are not allowed on the property, with the exception of service dogs. 
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