Girls’ Night with Chateau Montelena

Ever since my first visit to Chateau Montelena ( in 2009, I have been hanging on to 2 bottles that I bought while doing their Library Wine Tasting. One was the 2004 Montelena Estate Zinfandel and the other was the 2005 Potter Valley Riesling. If you would like to read or (reread) about my experience of humiliation at “Chat. Mont.” and the fun and food poisoning of the whole Napa/San Francisco trip, go to: . There is also a part 2 if you want to read that:

I decided that now was the time to open these lovely wines and watch the movie “Bottle Shock”. If you have not seen the movie, it is loosely based on the event in 1976 where California wines and French wines were compared in a blind tasting and the Californians took first place in both the red and white categories: Chateau Montelena Chardonnay and Stag’s Leap Cabernet Sauvignon. It was a huge boost to the American wine industry.

Since I think of wine, food, and movies as a communal thing, I really wanted to share this with someone who could appreciate all 3 and that is my cousin Catherine. Plus if I ask nicely…she might offer to cook! Catherine is a fantastic cook and I thought she should have been a chef or a food critic, but she is in the IT industry. In fact when I did a wine tasting at her house, I gave her the list of wines and she made all the food to pair with them and even made a spreadsheet as to what wine goes with what food! It was AWESOME!

Catherine takes me up on my offer of “wine & a movie” and she says she will cook! So I show up with actually 3 bottles of “Chat. Mont.”. The third bottle is 2007 Chateau Montelena Cabernet Sauvignon that I saw at Whole Foods. It is hard to find Chateau Montelena in this area, so when I saw it, I grabbed it. Just as a side note…Stag’s Leap ( easier to get so that’s why I never bothered adding it to our “movie night” and we needed to keep the wine consumption down…at least that was the original motive ;-).

We immediately open the Zinfandel and let it “breathe” (remember Twisted Peeps, this is the Zinfandel grape in its unadulterated form…not white zinfandel…there is no such thing as a white zinfandel grape). Normally I can only handle Zinfandel in small doses because it is such a powerfully concentrated wine with flavors and smells of black fruit, smoke, vanilla and peppery hot tannins. But this was elegant with a lite pepper, vegetable, dark spices and fruits smell. The taste was black cherry, plum, cinnamon, cardamom with a zest of pepper but with a silky finish.

We loved it so much that we HAD to go ahead and open the Cabernet Sauvignon and do a comparison. If we were doing an “official tasting” we would have tried the Cab. first, then the Zin. but we are in Catherine’s Kitchen having what the Hell, let’s taste both wines!

The Cabernet had smells of black currant, minerals, strawberry, and plum. The taste was all kinds of black fruit, tobacco, and gravel with a little citrus acidity that came cleanly off the tongue. Catherine thought it more “French” in style because it didn’t just carpet your tongue in bold black fruit and make you think you have a swatch of velvet on your tongue that you can’t get off.

Now for dinner….we had a rib eye cut almost 2″ thick (bought from Whole Foods – love their quality) and assorted little potatoes and asparagus roasted in the oven. Catherine grilled the steak with salt and pepper as the only seasoning but she did make a mushroom, butter, wine sauce too if we needed it…we really didn’t need it…the ribeye was outstanding. After the asparagus was done, she drizzled balsamic vinegar over it. The vinegar came from one of her trips to Italy and it was in a tiny bottle…I think it was kind of expensive…it sure was good!

As for the food and wine pairing: the Cab. made the meat more earthy and complimented it perfectly. The Zin. made the meat zesty & peppery. With the veggies: the Cab. was nice but I think the balsamic vinegar kind if dulled the wine. The Zin. was outstanding with the veggies. The balsamic vinegar became more smokey and sweet.

Next up…watching the movie with grilled peaches and the Riesling. We opened the wine and you could smell honeysuckle, white flowers, and peaches. The color was a fantastic bright gold. The taste was peach & apricot cobbler, and honey with a long citrus finish so it didn’t come across as overly sweet. Catherine served the grilled peaches (which had a smokiness to them) with a dollop of mascarpone cheese, lemon gelato and coconut gelato.

The wine complimented the peaches perfectly. The cheese got some citrus zest but retained its earthyness. The gelato became total opposites with the wine. The lemon was delightfully smooth and the coconut had a bite and covered up the honey aspect of the wine. That really surprised us.

By this time, I was happily mellow and I think Catherine was grateful because I didn’t feel like shouting out “I’ve been there” or “you don’t wear your Daisy Dukes while working in a vineyard” or “Mike Grgich was the winemaker at the time”…you know, just being all around annoying…;-). Instead I was enjoying an absolutely fabulous evening with great food, wine and of course company….it dosen’t get any better than that, y’all!

P.S. While I was hanging out with my cousin, my long-suffering husband was at the Texas Motor Speedway for a charity event that he was in charge of for our Corvette Club. He prefers cars over wine…;-)


4 thoughts on “Girls’ Night with Chateau Montelena

  1. What a delightful evening. Jealousy comes to mind. Had to take the trip back in time since that was b4 we learned of your blog. Now I’m looking for those labels the next time up at the wine shop. 2″ ribeye! mmmmm.
    Rick and Helen, the calikids. ;>)


    • Catherine’s Mom & my Mom are sisters and both fantastic cooks…so she learned from the best.
      Since my Mom has passed on, I am sooo Thankfull that I still have Auntie Regina & her cooking!


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