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Ch Montelena Zin Picmonkey

2014 Calistoga Zinfandel


Chateau Montelena Winery


Alcohol: 14.5%

Suggested Retail: $39

“Chateau Montelena is best known for its Chardonnay which bested French counterparts in the now-famous ‘Judgement of Paris’ in 1976. They still do a fine job with that variety, but they produce some other wines, too. One of these that doesn’t get that much attention is their Zinfandel. That’s unfortunate, because they make a very good one.

“When Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon is earning growers an average of $6800 a ton it’s hard to argue the logic of concentrating on just that one varietal, but some worry that Napa is becoming a viticultural monoculture. Bottlings of other worthy Napa Valley grapes—like Zinfandel—are becoming rarer now.

”Chateau Montelena’s 2014 Zinfandel is grown in the Calistoga AVA, the northernmost subsection of the larger Napa Valley. At 14.5%, it’s at the upper end of the alcohol level we’d prefer, but it’s not as grotesque as many of those hot and jammy Zins so popular a few years ago.

“Zinfandel is a variety than can exhibit many different personalities. Different styles and different tastes can still be ‘true to type’ when there are so many types. This week’s ‘Pick’ shows aromatics of dried cherries, sage and lavender. It has substantial presence in the mouth, without slipping into that syrupy excess. More of that dark cherry aspect continues in the taste, supported by subtle cinnamon and clove. At $39 this wine should exhibit more complexity than lesser-priced Zinfandel and it does. Lots of traditional ‘briary’ Zinfandel attributes packaged with a sophisticated richness here.”

Food Affinity: “The winery suggests this wine would be a good addition for picnics at the beach and we have no argument with that. However, Indian summer is close at hand and fall’s soon to be here. We’d say braised and slightly spicy red meat dishes with mashed potatoes or other root vegetable would be another way to go.”


Editor’s Note:   Wines reviewed in Taste California Travel are encountered by our staff in several ways. They can be discovered at trade tastings or visits to wineries. They may also be purchased by staff members for their own tables or be those sent by wineries for possible review. This is an editorial feature, not advertising, and appearance cannot be secured by payment. More information can be had by contacting This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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