Vintage Weather Summaries

One of our goals at Chateau Montelena is “To bring the vineyard and the vintage to your table.” The flavors in the wine represent the fruit of the vineyard and vary from vintage to vintage, depending on the weather conditions during the year. Rather than making a “manufactured” wine that tastes exactly the same each year, we allow the wine to express that with which Mother Nature has blessed us. We believe this adds to the sense of discovery each time a bottle is opened, and ultimately to the pleasure we receive.

The basic differences in weather conditions between vintages can be grouped into four categories: 


Classic “Bordeaux” weight and balance, cassis and earth flavors, more “terroir”/less jammy fruit. Higher total acidity, but not low pH. Cellar signature is earthy/berry.

cool variable

More Cabernet varietal black pepper. Higher total acidity and lower total tannin. Cellar signature is a hint of herbal and wood tones with some cellar charm.

temperate consistent

Balanced fruit, earth, tannin. Layered flavors taste different each repetition.


Stronger fruit flavors and bigger tannins, with concentrated, spicy, cassis and black fruits. Lower cellar tones.

Weather Summaries by Year

Jump to decade:


Cool Variable, but almost too bizarre to categorize. Insufficient winter rains. Bad spring frosts. Record heat in July caused considerable damage. Rainfall at crush. One of the worst years in memory. All Cabernet Sauvignon was declassified.


Cool Variable. Normal winter, warm spring. Long, cool growing season. Record crop. Excellent maturity. Clean fruit.


Temperate Consistent. Cool spring with a touch of frost. Long, cool summer. Ideal ripening conditions during crush. Excellent, well-balanced fruit. A memorable vintage.


Cool Variable. Very cool growing season. Some rains at harvest, but not enough to cause much trouble. Late harvest. Fruit had great balance. Wines notable for elegance and finesse.


Hot. First drought year. Fruit had high sugars, low acids. Vineyards stressed. Early August – September crush.


Hot. Second drought year. A little bit cooler than 1976. Growers more prepared for low water. Vines still somewhat stressed, but the fruit had good balance and concentration. Long, cool, crush.


Temperate Consistent. Good winter rains. Long and warm growing season. Late heat led to a somewhat compressed harvest. High extract and body with well-balanced fruit.


Cool. Early spring heat waves caused uneven set. Cool growing season, followed by rains at harvest. Early picking resulted in well-balanced, clean fruit.


Hot. Coolest growing season on record, but heat wave at crush ripened grapes nicely. Intense, well-balanced fruit. Great potential on these wines.


Cool Variable. Dry year. Extreme heat waves in June but cooler in late summer. One of the shortest growing seasons on record. Low yields, very concentrated wine.


Cool. Wet winter, cool spring. Record crop, thinned 5 times to lower the yield. Mid-September rains caused some problems, but we finished picking before major storms in October. Big wines, clean, fat and juicy berries.


Cool Variable. Record winter rains. Crop down 20% from 1982. Cool spring gave way to a heat spell in mid-July that caused damage. Early crush with a moderate sized crop. Good maturity, clean, balanced fruit.


Hot. Very heavy late fall-early winter rains, but no late winter rains resulted in warm soils and early bud break. Hot spring and summer, shortest growing season on record. Fruit very clean, big, with surprisingly good balance.


Cool Variable. No late winter rains resulted in early bud break with a long, moderate growing season. Dry, cool fall weather during crush, long harvest. Excellent fruit and balance.


Temperate Consistent. Heavy winter rains in February and March followed by a warm spring led to early bud break. Growing season even longer than 1985. Wines rounder, softer than 1985; a few late season rains posed no major problems.


Hot. Drier than normal winter and a hot spring resulted in significant shatter. Late summer heat led to early crush. Yield was light, wine is very concentrated.


Hot. Relatively dry winter, warm spring, early bud break. Rainy weather at bloom reduced crop size. Hot summer and a long crush. Like ’87, low production and concentrated wines.


Cool Variable. Low rainfall and a cool spring, but warm weather late. Crop thinning insured even ripening. The wine is highly extracted with significant body and structure.


Temperate Consistent. Low rainfall, droughty conditions, then heavy rain during bloom reduced yield by 50%. Remaining year was routine with good ripening and good fruit development. Complex and concentrated wine.


Cool. Light winter rains but good March precipitation helped soil moisture through to harvest. Cool growing season with warming right at harvest, so everything got nice and ripe. Fairly big crop with very good maturity and concentration of flavors.


Temperate Consistent. Low rainfall, with classic warm days and cool nights throughout the season. Harvest started a little earlier than normal. Cooling trend after Labor Day allowed for more hang time and strong flavor development.


Cool. Average rainfall with some rain every month through June. Cool spring and cool weather at harvest, good fruit maturation. Crop size average, excellent flavor development.


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.


Cool. Well above average rainfall. Bloom, veraison and harvest all later than normal. Great ripening weather for 6 weeks.


Hot. Average rainfall. Mild winter, untimely spring rains and intense summer heat resulted in low vineyard yields. Ripening weather in September-October was excellent. Lightest crop size since 1988, very high extraction and very concentrated juice.


Temperate Consistent. Average rainfall, warm winter and spring, mild summer. Slow ripening and wonderful weather during harvest, warm days and cool mornings. Large crop, the wine is very dense and extremely flavorful.


Cool. Well above average rainfall, cold and rainy throughout the early to middle growing season. Warm and dry July and August, cool September and wonderful ripening weather in October. Average crop size, great flavors and ripeness, extremely well-balanced. [...]


Temperate Consistent. Average rainfall, cool spring and summer, excellent October weather. Below average crop size, the fruit attained full ripeness and flavors. Very good fruit chemistry.


Cool. Average rainfall. Growing season dominated by cool weather and spikes of intense heat. Cluster loss from windy heat in June kept yield low. The light crop allowed full ripening and harvesting before the onset of wet weather. The wine is very refined, high quality.


Temperate Consistent. Well below average rainfall. Frost damage followed by high heat in May that caused some shatter kept yields low. Remainder of season was mild and grapes attained full maturity before picking. Started night picking to increase fruit integrity. Wines are very rich, well-balanced, and full.


Cool Variable. Rainfall was right at average for the season, but most came in November-December. A challenging vintage with a generally cool growing season, lack of spring rain and excessive heat at harvest. Vine stress and very small berry size led to a very low yield crop, especially in Cabernet Sauvignon. The wines are concentrated with good flavor and balance.


Temperate Consistent. Early bud break, followed by late rains and cool weather in April. Excellent growing conditions all summer. A few days of heat in September brought the first wave of Harvest, followed by temperate weather through October. With the dual conditions during Harvest, wines show a distinctive blend of cool and hot vintage characteristics.


Temperate Consistent. Well above average rainfall for the year, most of which fell November through February. March was dry and warm, causing early bud break. Moderate temperatures extended bloom, resulting in much shatter and a lighter crop. September began hot but moderated through harvest. The wines show concentrated fruit with fine, ripe tannins.


Temperate Consistent. After a cool and wet spring, a very mild and overall good weather pattern prevailed for the remaining season, providing ideal conditions for flavor and fruit chemistry development. Wines show similarities to 1986, where we enjoyed delicious, fully mature fruit without excess sugar, and with good acidity.


Cool. Higher than average early rainfall in a season dominated by cool weather delayed bud break, ripening, and ultimately harvest timing. August and September ushered in ideal ripening conditions with no rainfall. The long growing season and extended hang time for the fruit ensured full, complex flavor development and produced an exciting and complex wine.


Temperate Consistent. A winter dry spell was broken by a sufficient amount of rainfall in February and then continued into a dry spring. The dry months allowed us time to finish pruning and tying before an early bud break in March. A moderate summer provided ideal ripening weather. The rising temperatures at the end of August pushed us into harvest and eventually cooled in September so that we ended up with a wine with firm acidity and fine grained tannins.


Cool Variable. Cold, dry winter conditions set us up for risk of freezing at bud break and required that we implement frost protection on many mornings in April. Rising temperatures, combined with wind in May, resulted in some shatter and lower crop yields than previous years. The summer months were good to us and we saw excellent flavor development in the grapes. The hot days and cool nights resulted in a complex and concentrated wine.


Temperate Consistent. After a typical spring, the remainder of 2009 was relatively cool until September when we had excellent warm weather. May through August was a repetition of warm periods, followed by cool periods for an extended time which gave a delayed start to vintage expectation. However, excellent warm to hot weather in September moved the start of harvest up a bit. There were no severe high-heat drying wind events, which was a relief, and that contributed to another very successful vintage. The overall harvest operation was smooth and steady.