2002 Montelena Estate Cabernet Sauvignon

The 2002 growing season would appear “normal” by a simple review of the numbers. And although our annual rainfall was close to average, the rain fell mainly between November, 2001 and January, 2002, with very little precipitation in early spring. February and March were warm as well as dry, leading to an early bud break. The growing season was prolonged by cool weather in June and July, and then August heated up. Two weeks of high temperatures in the last half of September allowed us to finish harvest at the Estate on a fairly normal timeline around the middle of October. But our early bud break gave us a very long growing season and the dry soils produced grapes with minimal water content, yielding a crop of less than 2 tons to the acre of small, highly concentrated berries. The extended hang time ensured full, complex flavor development.

We started picking Cabernet Sauvignon on September 14th during a period of ideal weather, with warm days and cool nights. Two weeks of prolonged heat set in a few days later, which caused sugar levels to rise in some areas before flavors had fully developed. To ensure that we harvested only the fruit that was ready, we carefully picked fruit row by row, leaving the rest behind for later passes by our crew. This also helped avoid grape shriveling; a distinct possibility given the dry year, and a cause of further crop shrinkage. Building upon the success of our Chardonnay, we began nighttime hand harvest of the Estate Cabernet, resulting in very high fruit integrity and cooler temperatures. By September 27th the warm days and cool nights returned, allowing us a more typical harvesting pattern. The final blocks of our Estate were picked on October 15th. Reflecting on how great this wine turned out serves to reinforce the advantage we have here at Chateau Montelena. Our winemaking team has been working with this vineyard for more than thirty years, and in 2002 that wealth of experience paid off.

95Wine Advocate
95Wine International

"A relatively flamboyant effort. Its opaque purple color is followed by a gloriously pure nose of crème de cassis, licorice, earth, truffles, and flowers. Full-bodied, powerful, and rich, with high tannin as well as concentration."

Robert M. Parker, Jr., The Wine Advocate
vintage weather

tasting notes

In the glass our 2002 has a dark, inky-purple color, saturated to the edge. It has a pronounced aromatic bouquet of luxurious pure ripe fruit, cassis and earth. The wine's diverse, complex and powerful flavor profile - with ripe cassis, blackberry, and black cherry flavors supported by hints of tar and earth - prove that the painstaking and slow process of partial row harvesting was well worth the effort. The tiny Cabernet berries yielded from the vineyard's dry soils produced powerful yet silky tannins and a refreshing backbone of acidity which, combined with its bold structure and rich flavors, infused it with plenty of power to age for a long while. The wine is elegant, showy and polished, with plenty of body and plush ripeness. We think you can enjoy the powerful, vibrant fruit now by opening a few bottles, and then wait a couple years for the concentrated, distinctive Montelena character to evolve before opening the rest.

After a special July 2010 tasting, wine journalist Laurie Daniel published her notes on this vintage: "Dark, dense and still very tight, with black fruit and firm tannins. Needs time."

Harvest Date Sept. 14 to Oct. 15
Sugar At Harvest 24.2 to 25.7 brix
Barrel Aging 18 to 20 months
Bottling Date November 2004
Release Date March 2006
Cases Produced 7,400