We continue the Dream Tasting presentation by Bo Barrett, winemaker and owner of Chateau Montelena. See part one for the wines from 1974 to 1996.

The new millennium delivered a moderate growing season for the 2001 Chateau Montelena Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, yielding an herbal, black-fruit, and dried oregano-scented wine. Its medium body carries a black-cherry flavor with a greater tannic texture and drier finish that the three preceding wines from the 1990s. 85 points. Retail prices range from $80 to $157. 

The wet spring and cool growing season accentuated the herbal aromas and flavors of the 2005 Chateau Montelena Estate Cabernet Sauvignon. Marjoram and bay leaf scents are intertwined with blackberry and pomegranate, giving the wine its initial appeal, but the dry, mineral and black tea finish indicates its declining slope. 87 points. Retail prices range from $98 to $192.

“Very rich” was on the first and last lines of my tasting note for the 2007 Chateau Montelena Estate Cabernet Sauvignon. Ideal conditions throughout the growing season and harvest delivered a clear, bright cherry-colored wine with pronounced black-cherry, blackberry and toasted oak aromas. The intense black-fruit flavors and earthy accents continues through the concentrated—yes, very rich—blackberry-flavored finish. 94 points. Retail prices range from $108 to $200.

“This is the vintage my father wanted to make,” Bo Barrett said as he introduced the Bordeaux-styled 2009 Chateau Montelena Estate Cabernet Sauvignon. Its bright cherry color has a youthful blue edge, and the red-fruit aromas and flavors are woven seamlessly with the round tannins, giving the wine perfect balance and length. It was the most drinkable wine of the tasting. And the black-cherry finish was delightful. 93 points. Retail prices range from $105 to $190. 

The Bordelaise comparison was also true for the 2011 Chateau Montelena Estate Cabernet Sauvignon. Cool vintages bring out the red fruit and herbal side of Montelena’s cabernet sauvignon, and the 2011’s color resembles the 2009 along with its cherry, bay leaf and marjoram aromas. Blackberry, plum and pomegranate fruit flavors flow across the palate with soft tannins and an earthy, mineral undertow. Like the 2009, it is eminently drinkable, but not quite as elegant. 89 points. Retail prices range from $100 to $160. 


The 2013 vintage in Napa Valley is the middle of a trio of warm, ripe, richly flavored wines. Black-cherry and toasted oak scents rise from the glass of the 2013 Chateau Montelena Estate Cabernet Sauvignon. Bountiful blackberry fruit merges with dark chocolate and marjoram flavors supported by tannins and minerality, which will give this wine decades of life. Let the 2013 age in your cellar while you enjoy the 2011 and 2009. 95 points. Retail prices range from $119 to $169. 

The charming 2014 Chateau Montelena Estate Cabernet Sauvignon is similar to the prior vintage with its opaque black cherry color and black cherry and toasted oak nose. But the mouthful of blackberry, plum and pomegranate fruit flavors are juicier and more forward than the middle child of the trio. There’s less of the dark chocolate character and tannin backbone, making the 2014 more approachable and fruit friendly. 92 points. Retail prices range from $119 to $165. 

It is a rare opportunity to taste 40 years of a single wine, and rarer still one from Napa Valley with a single owner and vineyard. There, wineries are created, bought and sold as any other business in America.

This retrospective displayed four decades of well-made, world-class cabernet sauvignon from one estate. As in Europe, it showed one family’s dedication to their soil, vineyard and wine. It revealed the steady hand of the Barretts to follow what nature gave them rather than the wine fashion of the moment. This adherence to the long view is found in the DNA of Chateau Montelena Estate cabernet sauvignon: Delicious red and black fruit flavors given by Mother Nature’s yearly whim, minerality and earthy accents from the vineyard’s soil, and moderation in oak aging and winemaking techniques.

With this philosophy of wine, it is easy to understand Chateau Montelena’s fame spreading from Paris to America and the wine world at large. And it is easier still to understand why this wine is in your cellar.

Bo Barrett at the Dream Tasting in NYC.

Photos by John Foy