“Not a one-trick pony.” Review: Chateau Montelena Cabernet Sauvignon 2014

“You can make your famous tacos.” My wife’s text message concluded, informing me that she had invited friends to dinner and that I was cooking. It is true that I make a wicked taco, thanks mostly to the instruction of my dear friend Mike. Lately, though, I’ve made a lot of them, and tonight, I decided I wanted to make something else. Something new. I don’t want to be a one-trick pony, in the kitchen or anywhere else.

I hit the grocery store with only a vague notion in my head of what I wanted to create, picked up a few items, chatted with the clerk, headed home. I began whipping things up in the kitchen, attacking the cutting board and firing on all four burners, while my patient wife stood watch over our children. An hour plus later, I had a nice pasta fresco, beef tips in a rich sauce, and some squash in burnt feta. I’d never done this before, and if I may say so, it came out great, even if it’s not what I’m known for. And fueling my efforts, as usual, was a terrific glass of wine.

Chateau Montelena is known, of course, for Chardonnay. Their 1973 vintage won the Judgement of Paris in 1976, cementing their place in the world’s wine scene and putting Napa’s push-pin firmly into the wine map of the world. Winemaker Matt Crafton and others at Chateau Montelena, however, have always had a vision that extended far beyond Chardonnay. I think that, thanks mostly to cinema, I had perhaps viewed them as a one-trick pony prior to visiting and tasting through some of their rather extensive portfolio. The truth is that they are anything but. This Cabernet is proof of that.

The 2014 Chateau Montelena Cabernet Sauvignon is but another extension in the lineage of incredible Cabs that have come from this winery over several decades.  Brightly colored with a flash of cherry on the nose, it is impeccably clean with a gorgeous gleaming ruby hue. The nose took me back to Calistoga and is truly a classic Napa sensation. On the palate, beautiful vanilla notes rest comfortably behind pronounced flavors of cherry, which in time open up to become black currant, chokecherry, mild raspberry, and more.  Fruit driven in youth, it will lay down well and ultimately give way to more old world characteristics that linger just below the surface. A beautiful wine, I enjoyed it a great deal, and it paired brilliantly with beef tips. A blend of 86% Cabernet Sauvignon, 13% Merlot, and 1% Cabernet Franc, this is what craftsmanship tastes like.

It’s good to be known for something. I suppose in some respects it often means you’ve done well. But it’s even better to step outside the realm of what you’re known for and do well in other arenas. Cheateau Montelena has always been diverse, though some people still don’t know that. For me tonight, diversity meant beef tips. If you haven’t tried Cab Sauv from Chateau Montelena yet, I would say you’re past due. It’s something special, I assure you.



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