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Chateau Montelena brought some of their wines into town and invited mailing list customers to attend a free tasting and food pairing. Haggis is on the list and graciously invited me to tag along. The event was held at the Peninsula Hotel (voted the best hotel in the US in a 2003 Zagat survey). The executive chef Terry Crandell was sent each of the wines in advance and asked to create a food pairing. Although neither of the Barrett's were there, the managing director, Greg Ralston, attended as well as some of the marketing staff. We were able to talk to Greg about the wines.

Here are my notes in the order the wines were served:
  • 2005 Chateau Montelena Chardonnay - USA, California, Napa Valley
    This was served with Snapper ceviche. I found this to be a very nice chardonnay. Made from 30-35 year old vines. A pleasant tropicality to the nose with a little banana mixed in. Only lightly oaked. Notes of citrus/lime and some white pepper on the finish. 88 points.

  • 1998 Chateau Montelena Chardonnay - USA, California, Napa Valley
    The pairing with this wine was a cardamom scented lobster salad with mango and candied ginger. Much less tropical than the 2005. I found this to be thinner or leaner as well. Most likely due to the below average ripeness in 1998. Scents of almond oil on the nose. On the palate I noted lemongrass, minerals and some white pear. Light bodied and a short finish. 83-84 points.

  • 2004 Chateau Montelena Cabernet Sauvignon - USA, California, Napa Valley
    Served with a beijing duck quesadilla with chili and hoisin sauce. Delicious but a little too salty of a match with this wine. This is mostly cab with some of their estate merlot mixed in. Light crimson color. There was a little alcohol on the nose. Light to medium bodied at present. Somewhat muted nose when compared to the other reds. Smokey red fruit notes with cassis and ripe berry. Dusty tannins. 87 points.

  • 2004 Chateau Montelena Zinfandel Estate - USA, California, Napa Valley
    Food wise I thought this was the best match of the night. Paired with a Spanish chorizo and potato croquette with either chorizo oil or cilantro aioli dipping sauces. The chorizo oil was the far better dipping sauce match. Not a big fruity over alcoholed Zin which was similar in style to the 1997 Montelena St. Vincent that I had last year. Better body in this wine though. Integrated tannins. Very easy drinking and not overly spicy. Almost cablike. 88-89 points.

  • 1998 Chateau Montelena Cabernet Sauvignon The Montelena Estate - USA, California, Napa Valley
    The chef prepared spiced baby lamb chops with a sweet fennel jam with this wine. Good pairing. This wine had a little skunkiness on the nose but it blew off with some swirling. A round wine but not overly deep. Notes of black cherry and ripe tomato which I probably picked up from the firm acidity. Light to medium bodied. A drink now wine (or at least over the next few years). I don't think this is a long ager. 88 points.

  • 2005 Chateau Montelena Cabernet Sauvignon The Montelena Estate (barrel sample) - USA, California, Napa Valley
    The food pairing was braised beef short ribs on cheddar grits with a tomato jam. This is made from mostly 30+ year old estate Cabernet Sauvignon with a little Cab Franc in the blend. This barrel sample was a dark reddish purple color. Thick texture with firm tannins. Rather earthy and woody at present with the tannins hiding much of the fruit. Some chocolatey black fruit on the finish though. Full bodied. Scoring this on future expectations mostly. 92+ points.

Thanks for the invite Haggis. Very enjoyable.

Original Post
Glad you could make it. It was a very nice event...good wines, good food, good company. I wish they did this every year here, rather than every other year!

My impressions of the wines are pretty close to yours:

2005 Chardonnay
I, too, noted some tropicality, but called it "pineapple" with some pear. The tropical fruit are in the background and are subtle, but add a layer of complexity that I like a lot. The oak, too, was discrete, but present enough to give some weight. I would have scored it higher had the mid-palate been more present. 89

1998 Chardonnay
It's hard to know if this is how Montelena chards will age, or if it is a characteristic of this particular vintage. Regardless, there was just a touch of petrol on the nose. This seems to dissipate with time. VM, Dan, and I traded impressions of the major flavors, coming up with marzipan, roasted pine nuts, macadamia. I think the latter is closest. Also a tad of pomegranate. Whether the fruit has faded a little, or whether the 98s are less fruity, I don't know. I like this aged chard, but not quite as much as the 2005. 88

2004 Napa Cab
Crushed blackberry and a hint of yeast. A little green and tannic, but that was less evident when I cleansed my palate of the appetizer that was matched with it. This pairing left something to be desired and did not do the wine justice. Nonetheless, this is not one of Montelena's best efforts (yes, I know, this is the regular bottling, not the Estate). 87

2004 Estate Zin
Heavy, deep, fruity nose, like a warm humid day. Can almost take a bite out of it. But, it was playing "hard to get." Heady, a little hot (I did not note the alcohol level), great fruit and pepper. This needs 5+ yrs to settle down, but should be very nice when it does so. 90 (for future potential).

1998 Estate Cab
A touch of Old World funk on the nose, which I was not expecting and don't recall from other 98s I've had. Great fruit, depth, balance. Clearly, my note-taking was begining to go downhill by this point! That's all VMs fault for continuing to brink second and third glasses to our table. 91

2005 Estate cab (barrel sample)
Now your talking! This is going to be great! Absolutely delicious. Very rich and chocolatey, as VM notes. 92 (with potential to improve upon bottling/aging).

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