Chateau Montelena is famous for its chardonnay and acclaimed for its cabernet sauvignon, but its 2009 Riesling is another well-made wine, and perfect for summer.
In 1972, Southern California lawyer James Barrett ventured to Napa Valley and purchased the unoccupied Chateau Montelena. Four years later, it became part of American wine history when its 1973 chardonnay won the famous Paris Tasting of 1976. French wine judges were shocked to discover they had voted it the best white wine in a blind tasting that included bottles of white Burgundy from Premier and Grand Cru-classified vineyards.
Barrett’s son Bo graduated from high school in 1972 and spent that summer pulling weeds and removing rocks from the vineyard of his family’s new home. After studying viticulture and enology at Fresno State University, he became the family winemaker in 1981. Barrett maintained the position until 2008, when Cameron Perry was promoted to winemaker.
Riesling does best when cultivated in a cool climate. The best rieslings come from Alsace in France and the Mosel-Saar-Ruwer and Rheingau regions in Germany. And vineyards in New Zealand and Canada are producing crisp, flavorful rieslings, too.
Chateau Montelena’s Napa Valley location is too warm for producing quality riesling grapes, which is why Bo Barrett makes his riesling from certified organic grapes grown by Guinness McFadden in Potter Valley, about 2½ hours north. McFadden’s vineyard is at 1,400 feet in the Mendocino Mountains, giving Chateau Montelena a perfect match of grape and climate.
“A walk in the park” is how Barrett explained the 2009 vintage. Moderate weather throughout the growing season and a dry harvest yielded a stress-free winemaker’s year.
The 2009 Chateau Montelena Riesling is wheat-colored with a pronounced fruit and honeysuckle aroma. There are rich melon and peach flavors with just the right amount of acidity to keep the palate fresh.
The 2009 Chateau Montelena Riesling is a perfect wine for summer fare like grilled sea bass with pineapple salsa, curried chicken salad with diced green apples, or grilled pork tenderloin alongside New Jersey farmed corn and yellow and red tomatoes showered with chopped basil and a sprinkle of extra-virgin olive oil and sea salt.
The 2009 Chateau Montelena Riesling retails for approximately $23.