Chateau Montelena is one of the most prominent Napa Valley wineries. It was directly associated with bringing international recognition to the California wine industry through the 1976 Judgment of Paris. Based in Calistoga, it is famous for its varietal Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay wines.
Chateau Montelena's real success came in the famous 1976 Judgment of Paris tasting, where its 1973 Chardonnay was deemed the best of a lineup of top wines from California and France. The top red wine, the Stag's Leap Cabernet Sauvignon, was also from California.
The victory upset the French dominance of the wine industry, catapulting California producers onto the international stage, and opening the door for New World producers. The tasting was covered in Time magazine by George Taber, who went on to write a book about it titled Judgment of Paris, which in turn inspired the 2008 movie "Bottle Shock."
Despite its claim to fame with Chardonnay, the flagship wine of Chateau Montelena has actually been its Estate Cabernet Sauvignon. It was born in the early 1980s, when the estate vines had matured enough to start producing quality fruit. After fermentation in stainless steel, it is barrel-aged in a series of tunnels and caves beneath the winery for up to 22 months.