Few things in life are totally indisputable. One of them is that there is no single person more important to the history of the California wine industry than Robert Mondavi. It was Bob who championed Napa Valley more vociferously than anyone before or perhaps since. He believed before anyone else that wines equal to any in the world could be produced in Napa. Without his irrepressible passion for the wines of Napa and the forward movement of the Valley as an important wine making region it’s impossible to say how long it would have taken for it to achieve the heights it has. Mr. Mondavi would have been 100 years old today. On this occasion it’s important to reflect on what he still means to the wine world. Innovation, advancement and quality were things he held dear. I’ll take a look at two wines today, both from the To Kalon vineyard in Oakville. Appropriately one of them is an inaugural release of a new wine from that vineyard. What better way to honor a man who kept moving forward than with a new offering from a world renowned vineyard in Oakville that he championed. First up is the Robert Mondavi Winery 2011 Oakville District Fumé Blanc. The fruit for this wine was sourced at the To Kalon vineyard in Oakville adjacent to the winery itself. In addition to Sauvignon Blanc (91%), a small amount of Sémillon (9%) was blended in. The fruit was hand picked and whole cluster pressed. 90% of the wine was barrel fermented in 60 gallon French oak; the balance in stainless steel tanks. The entire lot was aged in barrel with 12% new oak utilized. This wine has a suggested retail price of $32. Aromas of fresh cut grass and lemon zest inform the welcoming nose of this 2011 Sauvignon Blanc based wine. The palate here is dense and layerd; loaded with honeydew melon as well as copious quantities of citrus and tropical fruit characteristics. Essence of orange shows up on the prodigiously persistent finish along with white pepper. What impresses most about this offering is a deep level of refinement and complexity. There is depth, fruit, spices and all sorts of flavors to spare, but all in proportion. This is a gorgeous example of Sauvignon Blanc that is well worth its asking price.
Today’s second wine is the Robert Mondavi Winery 2010 Oakville District Cabernet Sauvignon. All of the fruit for this wine was sourced in Oakville and 99% at the To Kalon Vineyard where the Winery sits. In addition to Cabernet Sauvignon (88%), Cabernet Franc (7%), Merlot (4%) and Malbec (1%) were also blended in. After hand harvesting fermentation took place in French oak tanks. Barrel aging took place over 18 months in French oak; 75% of them were new. Just fewer than 8,500 cases of this wine were produced and it has a suggested retail price of $45. Dark fruit aromas permeate the nose of this 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon; Blackberry and plum are of particular note. These characteristics continue on the densely layered palate where raspberry and blueberry flavors emerge alongside a copious core of spices. Earth, chicory and dusty chocolate notes are all part of the finish. Well integrated tannins and firm acidity are both in play here. This wine is refreshing and engaging, begging you back to the glass for additional sips. It needs an hour in the decanter right now to really showcase its charms. However if you’re patient, lay it down for a few years and it’ll be even lovelier.
These are two terrific wines from Robert Mondavi Winery; offerings which speak quite well to his vision and dream for Napa Valley in general and his own winery in particular. Specifically at the middle to higher end of the portfolio, Robert Mondavi Winery continues to turn out well made, vineyard driven wines that honor their founder. Close to 50 years in they’re still pushing the envelope and making a mark in Napa Valley. Happy 100th Birthday to Robert Mondavi who is no doubt smiling and kicking back some Napa Valley wine wherever he is.