1994 Montelena Estate Cabernet Sauvignon

1994 was an excellent year for the farming of quality wine grapes. The overall weather during the growing season was typically warm days with cool nights, precisely the conditions we always hope for. The weather during the critical ripening and flavor development stage, which is after veraison (color change) and through harvest, was especially cooperative with many cool (50°) nights, overcast mornings and warm days. With Calistoga’s higher elevations and austere soils the much-heralded 1994 vintage’s weather effects on red wines are even more pronounced. This ideal weather is fundamental to why the ‘94 Napa vintage is being so highly praised. Also, the crop load was light enough, due to shatter, that no thinning was required. Our crop was light normal at 2.6 to 3.2 tons per acre. Similar vintages have been 1990 and 1984, and after over a year in bottle it reminds me of our ‘78 as well.

93Wine Advocate
93International Wine Cellar
vintage weather

Temperate Consistent. Low rainfall, with classic warm days and cool nights all season long. Overcast mornings and warm afternoons all the way from veraison through harvest. Grapes ripened steadily and harvest was very orderly. Crop size above average, with excellent maturation and flavors.

tasting notes

1994 is also the first vintage to include our hillside grapes, planted in 1989, in any appreciable percentage. Slightly more than 10% of the Montelena Estate blend comes from these plantings and a bit of the hillside extract is showing in the intense perfume nose even at this young stage. This sub-tone carries through on the palate as an intensified spice that carries longer onto the finish. The character we get from our 20+ year old vines, balanced with our trademark earthy berry spice from the low yields of dry farmed and hillside fruit, gives complexity and elegance along with the power you expect from Montelena. (The Montelena Estate is one of the few great Napa properties that has not been replanted due to phylloxera. We always wanted low yields and planted the entire Estate to St. George rootstock.)

The 1994 is the most balanced, in a California Style, of the great '90's vintages we have released. Ripe varietal Cabernet fruit drives the nose. As expected, it has a ripe rich berry nose, extracted and jammy with great perfume. On the palate it is very massive and richly fruited. The body is thick with ripe chewy tannins and gives great length. It is very concentrated with the classic Montelena earthy berry complex and has many layers of flavor and aroma from our diverse terroir, the soil system. The fruit carries very long and smooth into a long finish. It will easily age as long as you can be patient.

After a special July 2010 tasting, wine journalist Laurie Daniel published her notes on this vintage: "Dark, dense and very youthful, with ripe black cherry, anise, cedar and firm tannins. A powerful wine that's a mouthful."

Harvest Date September 15 to October 13
Sugar At Harvest 23.0° to 24.2° brix
Barrel Aging 14 to 24 months
Bottling Date August 1996
Release Date March 1998
Cases Produced 9,000
Alcohol 13.5%