Chateau Montelena 2005 Napa Chardonnay

My wife is a Chardonnay addict. If I open an amazing Zinfandel that knocks my socks off, or an incredibly perfumed and complex Pinot Noir, she will say “that’s nice dear. Give me a glass of Chardonnay.” After opening two mediocre (okay, one was mediocre, and one was horrible) Chardonnays for her, I had to make amends. And last night, I did a very good job of it. The 2005 Chardonnay vintage in California is shaping up to be excellent, and maybe even great, and the Chateau Montelena Chardonnay fits right in. It’s not particularly oaky; in fact, I was surprised at how little oak there was, but there was so much of everything else that it didn’t need it. This is not a typical California Chardonnay with oak and vanilla and butter flavors that predominate. It is wonderfully balanced, with incredible layers of fruit and very interesting mineral hints that are a perfect counterpoint to the acid. But what is amazing is the richness that comes from the intensity of the flavors, rather than a hefty dose of new oak.

Unfortunately, this is not an inexpensive wine ($30 at deep discount), but if you are interested in an atypical California Chardonnay from an excellent vintage, you can’t go wrong with this beautiful example of some of Napa’s best Chardonnay.

2 Replies to “Chateau Montelena 2005 Napa Chardonnay”

  1. I myself overdosed on over-oaked chardonnay back in the 90s, when I first started really drinking wine. since then i’ve had an aversion to oak, especially when it’s applied by new world winemakers. however, i had a Newton unfiltered chardonnay about 3 years ago (i think it was probably the 2002 vintage), and it really made me think twice. it was a powerful and intruiging wine, and really got me thinking about CA chardonnay in a different way. granted, i’m not 100% into new world oaked chardonnays, but i think this Newtown changed my mind a bit. and I think that CA winemakers are starting to develop a bit more of a deft touch when it comes to oak and balance. I’m not sure if the 2002 is still around, or still viable, but it, and the more recent vintages, are right around the 30-35 dollar price point. And when I think “well that’s a lot of moeny”, well hell, I’ll spend 40 dollars at a restaurant on a pedestrian bottle of wine, so why not spend 35 for a nice dinner at home?

  2. I am not surprised that the 2002 Newton Chardonnay would make you think twice. It is one of the classic chardonnays of Napa. And it is definitely an oaked wine; it’s just that they are so complex, with so many flavors and textures, that the oak becomes part of the whole, rather than the dominant flavor like in so many simpler chardonnays. Su Hua Newton is one of the best winemakers in the world, and if you see her name on the bottle, the odds are that it is going to be very, very good.We drink wine every night, so the economic calculation is different than when we go to restaurants. The challenge is to find more reasonably priced chardonnays that exhibit some of that complexity. Try the 2005 Newton Red Label Chardonnay ($18-$20) or the 2005 Foxglove Chardonnay ($10-$15). Of course the 2005 vintage is a great one for most chardonnays, so you really can’t go wrong.

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