After visiting Robert Mondavi Winery I decided to visit two other Mondavi family wineries. The first was Charles Krugg which in Calistogga across the road from the Culinary Institute of America. It was originally owned by Robert’s father and is today owned by his brother Peter Mondavi. When I arrived the tasting room was open but the historic building was in the process of being restored. It is scheduled to be completed in October 2008 so I decided to return at a later time. I then headed south to Carneros to visit Michael Mondavi Family Estate Winery.
This winery is the representation of four generations of premium California wine making. The family’s winemaking heritage began in 1919 in Lodi California when Michael Mondavi’s grandfather, Cesare, went into business selling grapes and winemaking supplies for families to make wine legally during Prohibition. Cesare then purchased Charles Krugg winery and his sons Peter and Robert worked in the family business. Then in 1966 Robert Mondavi along with his eldest son Michael parted from the family business to found the Robert Mondavi Winery in Oakville. The goal was not merely to make simple quaffable table wine, but to produce a wine that would rival the finest wines of Europe.
Michael made wines for the first eight harvests at Robert Mondavi Winery. He then transitioned into Sales and Marketing then he served as. In 1994, when the Robert Mondavi Winery went public, Michael served as President, CEO and Chairman. Then in 2004 he left to start his own winery. Today, along with his son Rob Mondavi Jr. as the head winemaker, Michael carries on the family heritage of producing world-class wines at the Michael Mondavi Family Estate.
I first visited this winery when first it first opened, the facilities were new and the vines were young. At the time it was called The Folio Wine Gallery and it was a custom crush facility for various wine makers in the family. Then Michael had his named branded and changed the name of the winery to Michael Mondavi Family Estate Winery. The architecture of the winery and tasting room is simple, not grand like the California Mission Style of Robert Mondavi Winery, as it has much more of the feel of visiting someone’s country home. The quaint little white house has a wrap around back porch that over looks the vines and surrounding hills. From there visitors can leisurely experience a variety of wines while enjoying the beautiful view.
But Michael isn’t the only one to continue the family winemaking heritage. Following the sale of Robert Mondavi Winery, Robert partnered with his youngest son Tim Mondavi and daughter Marcia Mondavi to make a premium wine from a single estate called Continuum Estate. Today the family partnership Continuum Estate is still run by Robert’s son Tim, daughter Marcia and grandchildren Carissa Mondavi, Chiara Mondavi, Carlo Mondavi and Dante Mondavi.
While re-visiting Michael Mondavi Family Estate I sampled the following wines:
The first pour was the Isabel Mondavi 2011 Chardonnay - Carneros. The wines of Isabel Mondavi are crafted by Isabel’s son, fourth generation winemaker Rob Mondavi, Jr. These wines started as “just a few cases for mom,” but then grew in popularity. This wine was barrel fermented. Light golden yellow in color with a tint of green, this wine has subtle tropical aromas, a hint of smoke and butter. On the palate it is medium bodied, slightly creamy and yet it is crisp maintains ample acidity. It has a medium+ length finish with additional notes of dried peaches. This wine is really well balanced and I have tasted many wines like this in the Napa Valley that sell for $30-$35, yet I brought one home for $25.
The second sample was the 2012 Isabel Mondavi Deep Rosé, Napa Valley. Most rosés in California are made from Zinfandel, Grenache or Syrah and there are a few made from Pinot Noir here and there. This is a very unique rosé as it made from Cabernet Sauvignon made in the saigneé style from grapes grown in the family’s Atlas Peak and Pope Valley vineyards. It is deep in color, purple at the color to pink at the rim rich in color with pronounced aromas of cranberries, watermelon, strawberries, and red apples. It is BIG in the mouth and full of flavor on entry with ripe fruit and yet it is dry and crisp with a light medium- body and a refreshing long finish. This is probably one of the best rosés I have tasted and it will be the perfect wine to enjoy on a hot summer day. It sells for $20 a bottle and I brought two of them home.
The third wine was the 2009 Hillside Reserve Oberon Cabernet Sauvignon. This wine was made by winemaker Tony Coltrin. He is a Napa Valley native who brings more than 35 years of winemaking experience to Oberon Wines. Tony sources grapes from the Michael Mondavi family’s Oso Vineyard in Pope Valley, Suscol Ranch in southern Napa, and Atlas Peak vineyards. This wine exudes intense and concentrated aromas of cassis, dark chocolate and vanilla. On the palate it is silky and velvety with medium+ tannins and excellent backbone and structure. This is an absolute phenomenal wine but it is a bit steep at $75 a bottle.
The fourth and final pour was the 2007 Reserve Spellbound Petite Sirah – Napa Valley. A blend of 99% Petite Sirah and 1% Syrah, this wine was created by winemaker Rob Mondavi, Jr. from grapes grown 1,000 feet above the Napa Valley floor. It is deep purple-black at the core and has hedonistic aromas of intense blackberry preserves. I was then expecting that the wine would be a fruit bomb on the palate but this was not the case. It is comparatively reserved with firm tannins that have a big grip, with medium body and acidity. Sadly I found the finish to be somewhat short. A really nice wine upfront but it is a bit simple and it left me wanting a little more. There are many wines like this in the central valley (Lodi) that sell for significantly less. This wine sells for $45 a bottle.
To see more pictures of Michael Mondavi Family Estate Winery, check out Erik Wait’s Wine Country Photography at:
To visit or for more information:
Michael Mondavi Family Estate Winery
1285 Dealy Lane