Best Wineries
Chateau Montelena in Calistoga.

Chateau Montelena Winery in Calistoga

By Published On: December 8th, 2023

Dive into the celebrated history and wines of this Napa Valley superstar.

As you turn onto Tubbs Lane in Calistoga and approach Chateau Montelena, it’s understandable if you believe you’re in France. One of the most historic and peaceful settings in the Napa Valley, Chateau Montelena’s 254 acres include a stone castle overlooking a Chinese garden, lake, and about 100 acres of vineyards. 

Chateau Montelena Winery and vineyard aerial view.
Aerial view of winery and vineyard. Photo Courtesy: Chateau Montelena.

Founder Alfred Tubbs made his fortune selling rope during the Gold Rush and built a winery in Napa after he’d retired and fallen in love with the French wine industry. He purchased the property in 1882, and the winery’s first vintage was produced in 1886. After the Tubbs family, owners York and Jeanie Wing Frank added Jade Lake.

The property was then owned by Lee and Helen Paschich, who would go on to partner with Jim Barrett, whose son Bo is Chateau Montelena’s current owner (and he has also been its winemaker since 1982).

Chateau Montelena Winery Chinese garden and jade lake.
Chinese garden. Photo Courtesy: Chateau Montelena.

The Setting

Located in the shadow of Mount St. Helena in the northern part of Napa Valley, Chateau Montelena is tucked between Highway 29 and the Old Faithful Geyser of California. Visitors park below the winery and walk towards the lake, then up the steps leading to the tasting room in the 12,000-square-foot chateau.

Chateau Montelena Winery building exterior.
Winery entrance. Photo Courtesy: Chateau Montelena.

Chateau Montelena sees visitors without an appointment, either at the main bar or several other spaces (including outdoors, weather permitting), although reservations are recommended so guests don’t have to wait. Other winery experiences require an appointment.

Chateau Montelena Winery tasting room.
Tasting room. Photo Courtesy: Chateau Montelena.

Tasting Experiences

A Taste of Montelena experience ($60) at the bar includes current release wines, and is available on a first-come, first-served basis if you do not have a reservation. It’s a great introduction to the winery if you haven’t tasted Chateau Montelena wines before.

A Taste of Montelena wine tasting experience at Chateau Montelena Winery.
Tasting at the bar. Photo Courtesy: Chateau Montelena.

But if you have some familiarity, consider the Explore Ageability experience ($95), where you’ll have a comparison of library and current release vintages, to learn about how the wines will continue to evolve over time.

The Montelena Estate Collection experience ($125) begins with the library Chardonnay and includes a comparative tasting of four Estate Cabernet Sauvignon vintages.

The Hillside Terrace Experience is a new package ($700) that includes a private tour of the sprawling vineyard, customized wine tasting on a hillside deck with views of the estate, and three-course lunch on the patio of a private residence with seasonal items that pair with the winery’s finest wines. 

The Hillside Terrace Experience at Chateau Montelena winery.
The Hillside Terrace Experience. Photo Courtesy: Chateau Montelena.

The Wines

Chateau Montelena leaped into worldwide acclaim for having won the “Judgment of Paris,” an international wine competition held in 1976 in which its 1973 Chardonnay bested its French counterparts in a blind tasting. The winery is especially known for its Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Riesling, and Sauvignon Blanc wines.

Chateau Montelena averages an annual production of 30,000-40,000 cases.

Chateau Montelena wine bottles and cases.
Wine bottles and cases. Photo Courtesy: Chateau Montelena.

Fun Facts

Montelena isn’t named after any of the families who have owned the winery. The name is a contraction of nearby Mount St. Helena.

The film, “Bottle Shock,” is not a documentary. It’s a Hollywood version of history and is loosely based on the Paris tasting in 1976.

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