“There is no secret: great wine begins in the vineyard.” – Robert Mondavi
One of the names forever associated with California winemaking is Robert Mondavi. The wines, which I perceive to be true testaments to the spirit of the region, are everywhere… From neighbourhood wine stores to big name supermarkets… To restaurant wine lists, and even high-end specialty stores.
But who was the man behind the wine?
Robert Gerald Mondavi was born in Virginia, Minnesota to two Italian immigrants in 1913. Their family migrated to Lodi, California, where his father established a fruit and packing business named C. Mondavi & Sons, whose primary goal was to pack and ship grapes to the East Coast for “home winemaking”.
In 1966, he founded his own winery in Oakville, California, with “a vision to create Napa Valley Wines that would stand in the company of the world’s finest.” He first shot to fame with the creation of his first wine, a dry oak-aged Sauvignon Blanc that he called Fumé Blanc. Over time, the success of this varietal allowed Fumé Blanc to be a synonym for Sauvignon Blanc.
Currently, his name is present in famous labels: His namesake Robert Mondavi Winery, the entry level version Woodbridge by Robert Mondavi, and his collaboration with Baron Philippe de Rothschild, the legendary Opus One.
Apart from having been a visionary winemaker, he was a man of varied and sophisticated interests. These were shared to us during the Robert Mondavi Wine Dinner in Finestra, Solaire by our gracious hosts from Future Trade International and Constellation Wines, broken down into four elements: Wine (of course), Food, Music, and Art.
Over a backdrop of orchestra music courtesy of Manila Strings Machine, we enjoyed a delectable fare created by Finestra’s Chef de Cuisine, Alan Marchetti.
Here are my personal highlights of the evening’s wine and dinner pairing:
- Robert Mondavi Napa Range Fumé Blanc 2014The original calling card of the winery conjured up ideas and memories of sunny summer days, with notes of zesty lemons and citrus fruits, fragrant peaches, and fresh pineapple. Beautifully balanced by a minerality that kept the wine food friendly and interesting, it was brilliantly paired with the Yellow Tuna Tataki.
- Robert Mondavi Napa Range Cabernet Sauvignon 2013One of the varietals that California is known for, the winery’s interpretation of that particular Cabernet Sauvignon was an unexpectedly elegant take on a typically fruit-forward grape. Its flavours of black cherry, plum, and blackberry were perfectly cohesive with the notes of sweet spice, herbs, dark earth, and sweet tobacco. The Grilled U.S.D.A. Sirloin played off marvellously with the rich texture of this wine.
- Robert Mondavi “Reserve to Kalon Vineyard” Cabernet Sauvignon 2013
This particular wine was reminiscent of old time strong men, with its intensity, concentration, and what could only be described as “muscle”. Added to its dimension were fruity notes of fresh blackberries and wild berry compote, plus hints of dark cocoa powder, all-spice, sweet vanilla, and a little bit of forest floor. It was a wine meant to be stored for a special occasion around 15 years down the line… Or with Finestra’s Silton and Almond Beignet.
- Robert Mondavi Moscato D’Oro 2014Confession: I’ve never heard of Robert Mondavi producing desert wine prior to that evening. I was pleasantly surprised to have enjoyed a glass of very fragrant Muscat wine, which had intense flavours of peach, lychee, orange blossom, and jasmine. I loved that it wasn’t cloying, and apart from having it with that evening’s Sugar Pearl and Peach Espuma, I could imagine myself having it alone.
In the case of art, it must be said that Mr. Mondavi in the course of his life made a number of significant contributions to the world of art. This included his and his wife Margrit’s support during the restoration of the 19th century Napa Valley Opera House, the Lincoln Theater in Yountville, Cantor Arts Center at Stanford University in Palo Alto, and the Oxbow School in Napa.
Wine, food, music, and art… Indeed the four key elements to what was an awesome wine dinner.
Special thanks to Mr. Yogi Ringler and Mr. Eric Kahn of Future Trade Inc., Ms. Samantha Befus of Constellation Brands, Mr. Daniel Blais and Chef Alan Marchetti of Finestra, Solaire