Chateau Montelena's rich history began on a chill 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. The soil was well drained, stony and lose - perfect for the vine cutting he would plant. 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.

It took less than a decade to turn his dream into reality. First: he planted his vineyards then he built his chateau. Finally in 1886 Tubbs imported a French-born winemaker and by 1896, his winery, christened Chateau Montelena, was the seventh largest in the Napa Valley.

Although Chateau Montelena stayed in the Tubbs family until 1958, wine making at the Chateau came to an end with prohibition. After prohibition the Tubbs family continued to harvest the vineyard, make some Montelena wines and sell grapes to other wineries and home wine makers until they sold the winery.

The Chateau and its overgrown grounds passed into the hands of Yort and Jeannie Frank who were looking for a peaceful spot to retire. But the Chateau inspired Frank and he decided that a real castle had to have a moat. So began the project that became Jade Lake. Although rocky soil thwarted the construction of a canal around the Chateau, Frank excavated the lake and landscaped the grounds to make it reminiscent of 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 lake is a magnificent setting from which to view the Montelena Estate Vineyard and, in the distance, Mount St. Helena.

The next chapter begins with the renaissance of Chateau Montelena and its Estate Vineyard. Under the leadership of James Barrett the Montelena Estate vineyard was replanted and the Chateau outfitted with modern winemaking equipment. In 1972 the first wines in 50 years were produced.

The philosophy at Chateau Montelena is simple: make the best. Period. To that ends Jim Barrett found talented wine makers and grew or contracted for the highest-quality grapes in the Napa Valley.

Then in 1976, Chateau Montelena put California in the forefront of world-class wine making. That year, a who's-who of the French wine and food community, gathered for a tasting in Paris. Four each of white Burgundies and Bordeaux were tasted against six California Chardonnays and six California Cabernet Sauvignon. When the scores were tallied, French Judges were convinced the top-ranking white wine was one of their own white Burgundies. But in fact, it was Chateau Montelena's 1973 Chardonnay, rated above all other wines.

The results not only proved that Chateau Montelena could produce some of the world's finest wines but that California's wine industry itself had come of age.

Chateau Montelena / 1429 Tubbs Lane / Calistoga, CA  94515 / 707-942-5105

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