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Calistoga AVA Spotlight: Chateau Montelena and Canard Vineyards

This is the first installment in a series of blogs that will examine the different AVAs of Napa Valley and what makes them special. We'll highlight one famous winery and one hidden gem in each region.

An American Viticulture Area (AVA) is a designated grape growing region that has specific and identifiable characteristics as defined by geography, history, and climate. The variances between AVAs lead to significantly different flavors in grapes and wine and the exact spot where the grapes are grown plays a significant role in what you like and don’t. We decided to feature Calistoga first as it’s the most recent region to be granted a separate AVA status in Napa Valley (although Coombsville is well on it’s way)

After an arduous 6-year battle, the government named Calistoga the 15th AVA in Napa Valley on January 7, 2010.  Many were involved in this fight but it was Bo Barrett, of Chateau Montelena, who authored the official petition and his winemaker Cameron Parry, who said best what makes Calistoga worthy of this distinction.

Chateau Montelena gained its fame in the 1976 Judgment of Paris, where their Chardonnay shocked the world (especially the French) by winning best in class in a blind tasting of French and California wines. California wines actually rated best in every class, but it was Montelena who was praised for putting California wines on the map. The story of this victory is frequently told in articles, books and movies but it’s the beauty of the grounds, the consistent quality of the wines, and the Chateau itself that makes Montelena a staple of the Calistoga AVA. They’re known for their Chardonnays and Cabs, but definitely try the Zin. 

Canard Vineyards was originally planted in 1846 by Reason P. Tucker, who played a pivotal roll in the Donner Party rescue efforts. Today, this vineyard is owned by a down to earth, generous family (Rich "Duck" Czapleski, Adam Czapleski, proprietors, and Adam Fox, Director of Business Development, pictured above) that lives on the property and will happily play bocce ball with you (even BBQ for you and invite you in their pool if you’re lucky) as you taste their well balanced, and bold red wines. They don’t have a sign and they don’t need one because their wines sell out every year. If you’re looking for a truly personal and off the beaten path experience, this is it.

For a comprehensive list of all of the wineries in the Calistoga AVA click here.