From the cellar: We made the pilgrimage to Chateau Montelena on a visit to California in 2011. CM is pretty hard to come by in BC, even on a wine list in a posh nosh place, so it was high on the priority list when in the region. But of course we made a pilgrimage to all sorts of Napa / Sonoma spots and although CM has prestige, status, gloriously restful grounds replete with a duck pond reminiscent of Kensington Gardens, they have a “premium” fee for tasting. I turned tail and, seeing that, the staff interjected that we could share. So, for one price, two of us shared a tasting flight of some very tasty wines.
Who would say CM doesn’t know chardonnay? Luxe. And, to boot, they had opened a 1990 magnum when we were on site. It was, well, mysterious, certainly not what I was expecting (but, truthfully, having had all sorts of aged whites, including a pitch perfect 40 year old Huet Vouvray, I’ve never had a 21 year old chardonnay, so I had no expectations). The tasting went well, impressive, nothing to complain about, although (and not to take sides) it wasn’t the best wine we
tasted as we traipsed around from vineyard to vineyard, but it was faultless.
Before that pilgrimage (and, yes, because of “The Movie“) I bought a bottle of the 2006 chardonnay that I came across at Everything Wine in North Vancouver. $63.99. I just stood there looking at it for a long, long time, came to that “you only live once” moment and coughed up the dough. Then I cut back on essentials for two weeks… For no good reason we pulled it out of the cellar and drank it last weekend.
Was it a good chardonnay? First, it amazes me how many people have told me over the years they don’t like chardonnay. What does that mean? That’s like saying you don’t like vegetables. Sure, there is dross aplenty, but there is such variety and scope with what I call the Zelig grape it leaves me speechless. Would they turn down a Grand Cru Chablis or a Chassagne Montrachet? I doubt it. God forbid they would decline champagne!
Well, cut to the 06: It was unique. Steely, melon, pear, a long nutty (hazelnut?) finish. Opened up nicely as it warmed but decanted didn’t make much difference. Ultimately, we found it intriguing, more clever than enjoyable, as if it was trying too hard. And, there was no comparison to the raft of Burgundies we had in Beaune on a recent trip—meaning it was joy upon joy abroad. (If I was a judge in “The Movie” France would have won out…) But, and this is the absolute kicker, the 2006 was different than the 1990 we had at the vineyard, but not markedly different. I mean, wow, they make some heavy hitters down at CM, and what artful consistency. Still, I might just be too unsophisticated to appreciate the expertise.
Price: $63.99 at Everything Wine, once upon a time, pretty damn hard to find any CM whites in BC.
Market Liquidity: Art is subjective.