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1996 Montelena Cabernet Sauvignon Estate

1996 Montelena Cabernet Sauvignon Estate

93 RP

From the critics:

94 RP

92 WS

90 VM

Critic Reviews

The 1996 Cabernet Sauvignon Estate is a powerful, black ruby/purple-colored wine with cherry liqueur-like flavors, full body, loamy, earthy scents, and a terrific, long finish that suggests 20-30 years of ageability.

Robert Parker | 94 RP
Openly fruity and seductive, with layers of cherry, currant and berry; extraordinary flavors and balance.--Chateau Montelena vertical. Drink now through 2012. — JL

Wine Spectator | 92 WS
Good ruby-red. Spicy, roasted aromas of cassis, black plum, toasty oak and pepper. Lush, jammy and a bit undifferentiated; showing its baby fat today. Seems distinctly less lively than the ’95, but the tannins are quite fine for the vintage and there excellent finishing persistence.

Vinous Media | 90 VM

Wine Details for 1996 Montelena Cabernet Sauvignon Estate

Type of Wine California Red : Whether it's Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah or Zinfandel, Californian red wine producers have a lovely habit of taking a varietal and expressing its essence in a unique, never before seen way. From Napa Valley to the regions south of Los Angeles, there's a red for everyone - and it's never too late to start exploring.
Varietal Cabernet Sauvignon : It is recognized worldwide, referred to as “king of grapes” and has easily become the most popular grape variety in the world. Cabernet Sauvignon has seemingly taken the world by storm. It has seen exponential growth and popularity in American and around the world over the past thirty years. The phrase “Cabernet is king,” is a common maxim in the world of wine. Cabernet Sauvignon wine has become so popular that when being referred to can be recognized by simple slang, such as “Cab” or “Cabernet. It might appear simple, straightforward and easily understood; yet, interestingly remains an enigma, which has both baffled and excited oenologists since its discovery.

The exact origin and circumstances of this world-altering event are still enigmatic; however, at the end of the 20th century, UC Davis Scientists (John Bowers and Carole Meredith) were able to solve part of the mystery using DNA fingerprinting technology that proved Cabernet Sauvignon to be the offspring of a surprising spontaneous crossing of Bordeaux varietals, Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc. By the 18th century there were already records of Cabernet Sauvignon being well-established on the west side of the Gironde Estuary (Left Bank) in the Medoc and Graves.

Although tremendously popular in California and what seems to have become the identity of Napa Valley winemaking, Cabernet Sauvignon’s birth took place in the Bordeaux region of southwest France by fortuitous unification. Whereas Napa Valley experienced a winemaking renaissance during the 1970’s and 1980s (greatly due to the 1976 Judgement of Paris) quality wine from the Cabernet Sauvignon grape has been produced in the Medoc, on the Left Bank of Bordeaux for over 400 years.

Cabernet Sauvignon’s first recorded plantings in California can be traced back to the 1850’s when Antoine Delmas, a French nurseryman, brought French vines (including one called ‘Cabrunet’) to the Santa Clara Valley. Early cultivation suffered due to obscurity of the varietal and improper planting in inhospitable soil. It wasn’t until pioneers such as Robert Mondavi, Randy Dunn and Warren Winiarski with their amazing foresight and understanding of terroir, would the grape variety finally find its niche in California winemaking.

Cabernet Sauvignon thrives in warm climates moderated by a cooling marine influence. It is perfectly attuned to gravel-based soils with good drainage. Whether on flat land or a hillside, the Cabernet Sauvignon grape flourishes in proper climates and terroir, producing incredible yields. The thick grapevine is extremely vigorous allowing it to exploit its natural host. Its distinctive small, black berries (reminiscent of blueberries) adhere firmly to the stalk and are capable of a very long “hang time.” These berries are extremely concentrated, producing intensely flavored fruit. The thick skins of the grape are characterized as having highly astringent flavor, high tannin, acidity and dark color. Coincidentally, the variety has a special affinity for oak, which helps soften the bitterness.

Today, the Noble Bordeaux varietal of Cabernet Sauvignon is planted on 340,000 hectares (741,300 acres) of vineyards across the earth’s surface. From Sicily to Sonoma, Chile to Bordeaux, South Africa to Napa. It has found symbiosis in terroir hotspots that mimic that of the Medoc and Napa Valley. Cabernet Sauvignon’s globetrotting has allowed the grape variety to take root all over the world, captivating its inhabitants and influencing winemaking. This serendipitous marriage between Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc centuries ago, which offered to the world its progeny, has changed the landscape of winegrowing, winemaking and the face of the entire wine market forever. It has influenced blending, changed civilization and has cultivated a place for itself in today’s world… the very pinnacle.

Country US : As one of the most prolific and innovative wine regions in the world, America is a joy to explore. Most wine connoisseurs will agree that the nation's finest and most compelling wines are being produced today, which means that we have front-row seats to one of the most inspirational stories in wine history. While other regions tend to focus on specific wine styles and have somewhat strict rules as to which varietals you could grow, areas like California have few such restrictions in place. As a result, creative visionaries behind America's most reputable estates have been able to develop compelling, unique, and innovative styles, with a level of terroir expression that rivals even France's largest giants.
Region California : With a history of wine production that dates back to the 18th century, California currently sits as one of the world's most prolific and reputable wine regions. With an area as vast as California, you can expect a colorful collage of terroir profiles, a series of microclimates, and micro-environments that give the wine a unique, memorable appeal. The region's produce is far from homogenized in that sense, and it would take you countless hours to sample all of it. While the region boasts scars from the Prohibition era, it went through what can only be described as a viticultural Renaissance sometime after the 1960s. At that point, California went from a port-style, sweet wine region to a versatile and compelling competitor on the world market. Today, no matter which way your taste in wine leans, you can find a new favorite producer among California's most talented.

Notable sub-regions include legendary names like Napa Valley and Sonoma County, places that any wine lover would die to visit. California's quintessential warm climate allows for incredibly ripe fruit expressions, a style that provides a stark contrast to Old World-inspired, earthy classics. Even where inspiration was clearly taken from staple French appellations, Californian winemakers put their own unique spin on the wine.
Subregion Napa Valley
Appellation Calistoga
Climat/Vineyard The Montelena Estate
Cru Estate


Producer Chateau Montelena : At Chateau Montelena, it’s believed there is “A unique story in every bottle.” Its story is of a place that has long been cherished, where they honor their terroir, and where homage to their heritage is paid by innovation and continued success. It is a magical place where history was made.

The story of Chateau Montelena begins in 1882, when Alfred L. Tubbs moved to California and purchased 254 acres of land in the Calistoga appellation of the Napa Valley. Tubbs was enamored by French wine and it was here where he began building a chateau that would be right at home in Bordeaux. He planted the vines for the purpose of creating his American version of French wine and even hired a French winemaker to help with the process.

In the following years Montelena had become tremendously popular and with this fame and wealth, Tubbs continued to expand until it became the 7th largest winery in Napa at the start of the 20th century. Unfortunately, when the 1920’s arrived, so did prohibition and the nation’s winemaking and consumption came to a crushing halt. It would take decades for the California wine industry to rebound and by the time it did, the heirs of the Tubbs family would sell the winery in 1958. Alfred Tubbs is still remembered in Calistoga as a pioneer and innovative mind that helped to build the California wine industry. The street on which Chateau Montelena resides is named in his honor.

When the Frank family purchased the property, they created the picturesque grounds and gardens that still occupy Montelena today. In 1969 Montelena was purchased by Jim Barret and Lee Paschich, who began ripping out the existing vines as it was comprised of varietals that the new owners were not interested in. Barret’s passion and goal was to produce great California Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay. It would take until 1978 for the estate wines to debut but in the interim, they produced wine from purchased fruit.

In the following years, Barret would bring in Mike Grgich as winemaker and by the mid 1970’s, Montelena would gain major traction in California, making the winery immensely popular. But what gained its true fame and reputation took place in Paris in 1976. It was at “The Judgement of Paris” where a bottle of 1973 Montelena Chardonnay was pitted against other California Chardonnays as well as some of the finest whites in Burgundy. Montelena’s Chardonnay was awarded first prize, making history and earning worldwide recognition.

Today, Chateau Montelena is as beautiful as it was in the times of Tubbs and the Frank family. The gardens still grace the property and the manor house has been officially recognized by the American National Register of Historic Places. The sprawling 121 acres under vine are planted to Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Zinfandel and Riesling, and have an annual production of close to 50,000 cases. Though Zinfandel and Riesling are produced, Montelena is primarily known for its Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon and Napa Valley Chardonnay.

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