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Wednesday, 18 July 2018 10:27

Mondavi Winemaking Team Evolves

TASTE News Service, July 18, 2018 - In July 2018 Genevieve Janssens transitions from Director of Winemaking to Chief Winemaker at Robert Mondavi Winery, and Nova Cadamatre, MW, re-joins the team as Senior Director of Winemaking.

Sunday, 03 April 2016 19:21

April 1, 2016 Wine Pick of the Week

Opus bottle and glass Picmonkey

1998 Opus One


Opus One

Napa Valley

Alcohol: 13.5%

Suggested Retail: $265 for the current release (2012). An internet search shows prices around $320 for the 1998.

Friday, 22 January 2016 14:42

January 22, 2016 Wine Pick of the Week

woodbridge sauv blanc Picmonkey2013 Sauvignon Blanc


Woodbridge by Robert Mondavi


Alcohol: 12.9%

Suggested Retail: $ 6.25 (750ml), $ 12 (1.5L)


“Woodbridge wines are good quality, value-priced options from the second label of the Napa Valley winery founded by Robert Mondavi 50 years ago. Woodbridge is just north of the city of Lodi and is included in the Lodi American Viticultural Area (AVA).

“The Mondavi family has a long history with the Lodi and Woodbridge growing regions (both the late Robert and his brother, Peter, the 101-year old patriarch of Charles Krug Winery, graduated from Lodi High School in the early 1930s). Grapegrowing here goes back much farther than that, however, and there are some still-productive vineyards that were planted in the 19th Century.

Saturday, 18 April 2015 15:33

April 17, 2015 Wine Pick of the Week

Mondavi 99 Cab S. Reservr Picmonkey

1998 Cabernet Sauvignon Res.


Robert Mondavi

Napa Valley

Alcohol: 14%

Suggested Retail: $145 (for the current release)


After disappointment when opening a Bordeaux of similar age a couple of weeks ago (see our wine “Pick” for April 3), our publisher got nervous about a few other older wines he’d been saving for special occasions. Today’s featured wine had special meaning for him, since it was a bottle given to attendees at Robert Mondavi’s 90th birthday party. Better to pop a cork a little too early than too late, he figured. Fortunately, this wine from the 1998 vintage fared much better than the ’99 Chateau Magnol.

“I hadn’t sampled this particular vintage of the Mondavi Reserve Cabernet in years. When opened this week for a family birthday dinner it was different from the way I remembered it. Not worse. Not better. Just different. This Napa Cabernet Sauvignon had traded power for finesse. If it didn’t have the commanding presence that could overshadow most first-growth Bordeaux in its youth, at age 17 it did show an almost delicate side. Sourced primarily from the Oakville AVA and with most of the fruit coming from the famed To Kalon vineyard, this Cabernet Sauvignon includes a bit of Cabernet Franc (12%) and a smidgen of Petit Verdot (2%). The aroma still evokes blackberries and black currants, with a little spice in the background. Those fruits make up a major part of the taste, along with dark plum characteristics. On the palate, the wine seems lighter than younger versions of quality Napa Cabernet, but there is a long, lingering finish. Wine is a living beverage that changes over time. The presumption that older wine is automatically better than young, isn’t necessarily accurate. This week’s experience with the ’98 Mondavi Reserve was delightful, but I’m happy I chose to open the bottle this year, rather than next.”

Food Affinity: “Almost any good red meat would be enhanced by the presence of this wine in your glass (for that matter, so might special vegetarian dishes). We referenced power and finesse above—we think this wine would be a great pairing with a prime grade filet mignon, cooked medium rare.”

Friday, 07 February 2014 14:47

February 7, 2014 Wine Pick of the Week

RMondavi PS pinotnoir bottle Picmonkey

2011 Pinot Noir


Producer: Robert Mondavi Private Selection

Appellation: California

Alcohol: 13.5%

Suggested retail: $10.99



“A quick internet search indicates that at least five different examples of this variety use the name Robert Mondavi on the label. Most of them are better than this bottle, which is produced by Robert Mondavi Private Selection, a separate winery from the original Robert Mondavi Winery in the Napa Valley, according for a spokeswoman for both entities. But it's not surprising these wines should taste different. Our example was purchased on sale at Safeway at $6.99. The basic Napa Valley Pinot Noir from the Robert Mondavi winery in Oakville retails for $27. How similar could they be? We mention these prices not to malign our Pick for this week, but to help consumers realize that a purchase of a wine using the Robert Mondavi name can mean various experiences—a splendid, high-end product north of $45, a solid purchase for about $25, or an acceptable table wine under ten bucks.

“We love Pinot Noir. It's seldom cheap and we constantly seek decent examples at prices that would allow frequent, if not every-day, purchases. In California the Pinot Noir variety is best grown in cooler coastal regions. Some of the juice in this bottle came from such vineyards, but about two-thirds of the content was grown in California's Central Valley.

“Extended preface out of the way, we can say the Robert Mondavi 2011 'Private Selection' Pinot Noir is a decent bottle of wine. Syrah and Petite Sirah grapes bolster the Pinot Noir, which comprises 80% of the blend (5% more than required by law). Aromas of strawberries and cherries are predominant. The fruit tasted is cherry and plum-like, with just a little spice and toast in the background. There's a surprisingly long finish. Pinot Noir—whether from Burgundy, California or even other climes—can be a sublime experience. While this isn't in that category, it's a respectable example of the breed at a bargain price.”

Food Affinity: “Tea-smoked duck, grilled lamb burgers, pork sausages with a not-too-vinegary red cabbage.”

Tuesday, 16 July 2013 23:46

Memories of Bob, Part II

by Dan Clarke

R Mondavi JPEG in front of new winery PicmonkeyA younger Robert Mondavi admires bunch of grapes in front of his new winery.

Nature of the Man – Indomitable

After a falling out nearly fifty years ago, Robert Mondavi was exiled from Charles Krug, the family winery. Though a financial settlement was reached years later, in the mid-1960s he was adrift and without funds—at least funds necessary to start his own winery. In 1991 a luncheon marking the 25th anniversary of the founding of the Robert Mondavi Winery was attended by several of the people who'd provided financial backing for the venture. One of them recalled asking Bob for some projections of costs to establish a winery and estimated revenues for the first year or so. He said that Bob repaired to another part of the building with a pencil and pad of paper, later returning with numbers that looked good enough to validate investment. The speaker added that those projections later proved uncannily accurate. Bob was a smart man and had been in the wine business for about 30 years at that time, so it's not unreasonable that he be able to make fairly accurate predictions. However, any new business is a risky proposition. I have the feeling that Bob knew what was going to happen, because he would will it to happen.

At the beginning of harvest some wineries invite a man of the cloth to bless the first grapes to be crushed. It's part religious ritual, part agricultural tradition and also a good photo-op for the media. The Robert Mondavi Winery followed this custom in the Napa Valley and also at their Woodbridge facility just north of Lodi. One year Bob showed up walking with two canes. Though obviously in pain, he took the microphone to thank the officiating priest and all those who'd shown up on a hot August day in the San Joaquin Valley. When ceremonies concluded winery employees returned to work and most of the spectators took off. Some grape growers and a few writers were invited to stay for lunch over on the lawn, but I lingered. Soon there were only two of us out near the crush pad. Machinery started and the first Sauvignon Blanc grapes started moving on the conveyor belt toward the crusher. Bob moved slowly toward the spot where fork lifts were delivering their bins of grapes. He leaned over and watched the grapes move by for several minutes. How many times has he seen grapes crushed, I wondered? Isn't it always pretty much the same? What his thoughts were at that time I don't know, but I do know my thoughts were, “He still cares. You have to respect a man who still has such passion for what he does.”

A few months later I ran into Bob's son, Michael, and asked how his father was doing. “He's doing great,” came the reply. “He's had both his knees replaced.” Guests at Bob's birthday party the following June were dancing on the lawn. When the band started playing the twist I figured to sit one out, but as I left to get a glass of wine I glanced over to the right and saw Bob Mondavi doing a very credible exhibition of the dance—one that made my own knees ache just to watch.

Nature of the Man – Gracious

At a later birthday celebration at the winery (I think it was Bob's 90th), Governor Gray Davis was among those mingling on the lawn. He was in the company of several guys in dark suits--unusual dress in the Napa Valley, especially on a sunny afternoon in June. Though in his second term, Davis' popularity had been plummeting. A few months later voters would make him the second governor in the state's history to be recalled. On this occasion he had come to the winery to offer official birthday greetings to Bob. When his presence was announced and he was asked to come up to the stage, the crowd was strangely silent. As the governor ascended the steps to join Bob there was still an uncomfortable quiet. Emcee Tommy Smothers said to the crowd, “C'mon. We know you don't like the guy, but give the Governor a welcome.” It was a funny line, even if borderline cruel. Though 60 years old, Smothers still had that impish little boy quality that let him get away with it.

Bob strode over to greet the approaching Davis. He thanked him for coming and said that he was honored by his presence. Gubernatorial presentation having been completed, Bob said something like, “People are behind you, Governor Davis, just keep doing what you're doing” (stay the course, in effect). I have no idea what Bob's political leanings were, but he treated the Governor of California with respect and cordiality. It was the appropriate thing to do.

On a different occasion at Woodbridge (likely another blessing of the grapes), I slipped inside the door of a huge new barrel room as Bob addressed all the employees of this Mondavi-owned winery. There had been substantial money spent on upgrades recently and much of it had gone toward new French oak barrels for aging of the red wines. The new barrels weren't absolutely required, Bob told them, but they were necessary if the Woodbridge Winery were to continue in a leadership position in its price category. He thanked his employees for their efforts and assured them that they all contributed to the success of the operation. Returning to the subject of the new barrels, Bob said that this move was part of a constant effort to improve, citing past innovations in the quest to be the best. Reminding them that they were participants in the success of the winery, he challenged his employees to stay working hard and to imagine innovations yet to come, asking “What will we need to be doing to still be the best 25 years from now?”

Driving home to Sacramento I thought about how Bob had paid such respect to the Woodbridge staff while still encouraging them to do better. I had no doubt that he was seriously planning a future 25 years out. Bob was over 80 at the time.

Memories of Bob, Part I

Memories of Bob, Part III

Monday, 15 July 2013 18:22

Memories of Bob, Part I

by Dan Clarke


I first met Robert Mondavi in 1987. We were entering an elevator at the conclusion of a dinner in San Francisco at which he had been honored. The evening was billed as something like Legends of the Napa Valley and he was one of the 12 legends acknowledged that night.

“Hi, I'm Bob Mondavi and this is my wife Margrit,” he said, offering a handshake. Of course, I knew who he was. After all, he was a legend in the world of wine. Though I was covering the event for the California Wine Press, I was not a legend in the world of wine journalism. We exchanged pleasantries on the ride down to the ground floor, saying goodbye as we headed for our cars outside. I remember thinking, this man is a real heavyweight, but a regular guy. Since then he's always been Bob to me.RM RMondavi Toast low Picmonkey" . . . in the company of the best wines of the world."

Though that night was the first time we'd actually met, I was aware of him from the time he opened his own winery in 1966. Just a few years after that I had begun attending jazz concerts on the lawn at the new winery. At that time there were fewer than 30 wineries in Napa and booking music was quite innovative. It made people more aware of wine and of the Napa Valley. It was obvious that this Mondavi was a creative man, the kind who made things happen.

The Robert Mondavi Winery did no paid advertising in those days, but they had the best PR department in the business. They made a writer's job easier. There were real stories to be told and access to the family and staff was easy. Though still not a legend in the world of wine publishing, I found myself invited to many of their events. I had opportunity to observe this man in action and, on occasion, to interact with him. I was saddened the last time I saw him, as Bob's health had begun to wane. He was sitting next to his brother, Peter, and had a glass of wine in his hand. The glass had a straw in it.

Bob died at age 94, but a month ago the Robert Mondavi Winery, now owned by Constellation, acknowledged what would have been his 100th birthday. At that time I noticed newspaper articles in which colleagues included a personal reminiscence or two and I would like to share some of my own memories of Bob Mondavi when he was the most vibrant, dynamic personality I'd ever encountered.


Several times I participated in tastings at the winery with larger groups, often from hotel chains like Hilton and Hyatt. Food and beverage directors, chefs and key management people would come from all around the country to visit Northern California wineries. It was part educational for them and part buying trip. They were looking for wines that could be put on their core lists, meaning they'd be available at all their properties. These hotel reps also had some latitude to select wines they liked that would be available at just their own locations. Getting placement on a core wine list meant significant sales for a winery. By the time I would sit down to taste with the hotel people they had visited other wineries that had volunteered to share hosting duties for 40 or 50 tourists, including some in neighboring Sonoma County. As I recall, wines at these tastings at the Mondavi Winery were presented in flights stratified by price within each varietal category and would represent products from all the wineries that had been visited. Discussion would follow these segments. It was fun to get the perspective of non-Californians and learn about the needs of their clientele, especially so when a large group of Japanese sommeliers visited. Bob was a tireless promoter of his own winery and of the Napa Valley, but that never seemed to be at the expense of anybody else. If cultivating these groups was good business for the Mondavi organization, it was also good business for numerous other wineries that participated.

Another sort of tasting became an annual ritual. The winery would invite some members of the media to a good restaurant in San Francisco. There they would participate in a blind tasting of Mondavi Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon and first growths from Bordeaux. These French wines were Cabernet based and considered the standard of the world for wines of this type. They were also far more expensive than anything from California. While we writers knew the identities of the wines to be poured prior to the tasting, we sat down to glasses of unidentified red wine. Two Mondavi Cabs would be among several French entrants. Each writer was asked to list which wines he liked in order of preference. Someone would tally the results while we tucked into a very nice lunch. Similar tastings were held on the same day in other major markets like New York and Los Angeles. When results were announced we discovered that most of us had selected the two Mondavi wines anywhere from the middle to the top of our lists. Invariably, Bob's comment was that he wasn't trying to say his wines were the best, just to show that “we belong in the company of the best wines of the world.” By that standard, anything but repeated, dead-last finishes would validate the theory. But his wines did so much better than that. Each time his point was proven, but Bob graciously underplayed his hand, letting others say, “Hell yes, these wines belong in the company of the best in the world.”

Memories of Bob, Part II

Memories of Bob, Part III


RM plaque with hands PicmonkeyPhotographer Gerry Parrott captured the moment as hands of Tim Mondavi and Margrit Biever Mondavi set the plaque. The Napa Valley Vintners (NVV) has dedicated a stately, old-growth olive tree planted at its St. Helena office in honor of Robert Mondavi, one of the founding members of the wine trade organization. Mondavi's life was celebrated during an intimate ceremony this week at the NVV that included Margrit Biever Mondavi, members of the Mondavi family and winery staff, and representatives of the NVV's Board of Directors and staff. June 18, 2013 marked the 100th anniversary of Robert Mondavi's birth."The concept of dedicating something in Bob's honor that is so alive is perfect and today's celebration was very meaningful because he was a co-founder of the Napa Valley Vintners. I know he would be happy that his spirit lives on in this 100 year-old olive tree," commented Margrit Mondavi, who along with Robert's son Tim Mondavi, helped set a commemorative plaque at the base of the tree.

Linda Reiff, executive director of the Napa Valley Vintners, spoke at the ceremony noting, "The spirit in which Mr. Mondavi lived his life is the same spirit that has always guided the Napa Valley Vintners. He often said 'A rising tide lifts all boats' - a philosophy still shared by our more than 450 winery members and the NVV's leadership. This heritage olive tree, planted at our organization's permanent home, seemed the perfect symbol to honor his life and show our respect for his contribution to our industry."Robert Mondavi was one of seven vintners who signed the NVV's original Agreement of Association in 1944. He was also one of the founders of Auction Napa Valley (formerly Napa Valley Wine Auction) in 1981. Mondavi served four one-year terms as president of the NVV: 1954, 1958, 1968 and 1969. The NVV moved to its headquarters, across the street from the St. Helena Library, in January 2010. About the Napa Valley VintnersThe Napa Valley Vintners (NVV) is the non-profit trade association responsible for promoting and protecting the Napa Valley appellation as the premier winegrowing region. From seven founding members in 1944, today the association represents more than 450 Napa Valley wineries and collectively is a leader in the world-wide wine industry. To learn more about our region and its legendary American wines, visit www.napavintners.com.

Editor's note: Planning a trip to the Napa Valley? You may want to check out Taste California Travel's Resource Directory where you'll find links to the websites of all the wineries, as well as websites of hundreds of Lodging and Dining option in the North Coast of California.

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