California Wine, Napa Valley
About Chateau Montelena WineHeritage
Chateau Monetelena's rich history began on a chilly fall morning when Alfred L. Tubbs spaded over and inspected the soil where he thought of planting estate vineyards. He'd heard the Napa Valley was the best place to grow grapes in California. A deal was struck and in January of 1882 the San Francisco entrepreneur owned 254 acres of rugged land just two miles north of Calistoga at the base of Mount Saint Helena. The soils are well drained, stony and loose – perfect for the vine cuttings he would plant.
It took less than a decade to turn his dream into reality. First Tubbs planted his vineyards, then he built his Chateau, and in 1886 he imported a French-born winemaker. By 1896 his winery, christened Chateau Monetelena (a contracted form of Mount Saint Helena), was the seventh largest in the Napa Valley.
Winemaking at the Chateau came to an end with prohibition. After prohibition was repealed, the Tubbs family continued to harvest the vineyard, making some wines and selling grapes to other wineries and home winemakers until they sold the winery in 1958.
The Chateau and its overgrown grounds passed into the hands of Yort and Jeanie Frank who were looking for a peaceful spot to retire. The Chateau inspired Frank to excavate a lake with grounds landscaped to reflect the Chinese gardens of his homeland. Today, Jade Lake is considered one of Napa Valley's most beautiful sanctuaries, home to a variety of fish and wildlife, and surrounded by weeping willows and native fauna.The Renaissance
The next chapter begins with the renaissance of Chateau Monetelena Winery and the Estate vineyard. Under the leadership of James Barrett, the vineyard was cleared and replanted, and the Chateau outfitted with modern winemaking equipment. He assembled a team to oversee the vineyard and winemaking, grew and contracted for the highest-quality grapes in the Napa Valley. In 1972 wines were made for the first time.
In 1976 Chateau Monetelena put California at the forefront of the wine world. That year a who's-who of the French wine and food establishment gathered for a grand tasting at the Inter-Continental Hotel in Paris. Four white Burgundies were tasted against six California Chardonnays. When the scores were tallied, the French Judges were convinced that the top-ranking white wine was one of their own. In fact, it was Chateau Monetelena's 1973 Chardonnay, rated above all other wines.
The results proved that Chateau Monetelena could produce some of the world's finest wines, and that California's wine industry had come of age.