Calistoga Wineries: Chateau Montelena
On Tubbs lane, just a short drive from downtown Calistoga, Chateau Montelena was built of French limestone brought around the Horn in 1880. Secluded in a piney wood, the spectacular, vine-covered, crenellated winery is enchantingly poised above a small lake surrounded by gardens and weeping willows. A Chinese junk floats as if in a painted tapestry. Vivid orange koi fish swirl about, and red lacquered gazebos provide privacy for conversation and sipping of renowned estate-grown Cabernets and Rieslings.
Propelling Chateau Montelena onto the world wine scene in 1976, a Chateau Montelena Chardonnay exploded the myth that French wines are best by winning a blind tasting over the legendary white Burgundies of France. The all-French jury re-did the taste-off the next day, with the same result.
South of Calistoga a few miles, take the mile-long forest road to Schramsburg Vineyards, founded in 1862, the second-oldest winery in the county. A tuxedo-wearing frog in a pond and two elegant Irish setters will greet you. In 1862, German immigrants Jacob and Annie Schram planted vineyards on the hillsides of what would become the Diamond Mountain Viticultural Area. Chinese laborers hand-dug underground caves in the soft, volcanic rock wherein two million bottles of French-style sparkling wines are now aged and riddled––effervescent Blanc de Blancs, Blanc de Noirs; a dry, pink sparkler, Brut Rose; and an unusual Cremant Demi-Sec, made from Flora grapes.
The grounds around the restored Victorian mansion are glorious with mossy rock borders, ancient Mission olive trees, redwoods and eucalyptus, and herb and cutting gardens.
While on his honeymoon, Robert Louis Stevenson and his wife visited
the Schram home. He explored the caves and tasted the wines, noting
the “earth’s cream was being skimmed . . . . and the
customers can taste, such as it is, the tang of the earth in this
green valley.” Just as we do today.
Chateau Montelena Winery
1429 Tubbs Lane
Calistoga , CA94515
Hours: 9:30 a.m. - 4:00 p.m. daily
The article on this page is adapted from the book, Backroads of the California Wine Country by Karen Misuraca (www.karenmisuraca.com), published by Voyageur Press.