Wine Time: Robert Mondavi Chardonnay 2013, Napa Valley

COST: $18-20

 

WHAT: If you have heard of California wine, chances are you have heard of the Robert Mondavi Winery.

Mondavi was the pioneer, the innovator who paved the way for all the other great Napa Valley wineries. After nearly 50 years, the death of the founder and purchase of the winery by a conglomerate, the winery continues to pump out great wine.

From $5 Woodbridge to reserve wines costing more than $100, Mondavi offers value at all price levels. The Robert Mondavi line is particularly good, with top flight wines at moderate prices, such as this Robert Mondavi Chardonnay.

Chardonnay is the most widely planted grape in the United States, so you can find the wine made in just about any style. The Mondavi Chardonnay is rich and full without being overbearing.

It is a gorgeous pale yellow in the glass, with a pleasant, fruity aroma. Pear and apple dominate the palate, with a wide range of tantalizing supporting flavors such as ginger, melon and hazelnuts.

The velvety, textured finish is long and creamy with perfect acidity to give the wine a nice balance.

The grapes are from the great 2013 vintage when growers throughout California reported near-ideal conditions. The grapes for this wine were mostly grown in some of the best areas of Napa Valley, including 43 percent from Carneros, 18 percent from Stag’s Leap and 12 percent from Oak Knoll. In all, 96 percent of the grapes were from the Napa Valley.

Cool breezes and bay fog in the Carneros allow the grapes to ripen slowly, building more flavor while retaining natural acidity. Some fruit from the Wappo Hill vineyard in the Stag’s Leap District adds opulence to the blend.

The grapes are pressed as whole clusters to preserve the fresh flavors. Seventy percent of the juice was fermented in French oak barrels (12 percent new), with the rest cold fermented in stainless steel tanks to retain brightness. Partial malolactic fermentation added complexity.

Each barrel was aged on the yeast lees and hand stirred every week throughout nine months of aging.

All this care leads to a balanced wine. You can’t call it buttery or oaky or flinty, as you would some Chardonnays made all in oak or all in stainless steel. This balance makes the wine easier to pair with food than some Chardonnays.

This is a wine you would enjoy sipping on the porch this summer, or paired with fine meals.

WINERY: When Robert Mondavi opened his winery in 1966, it was the first major winery in Napa Valley since Prohibition. He had a faith in Napa Valley to produce world class wines, and a belief that wine, food and art provide a gracious lifestyle.

All of those are found in abundance in the Napa Valley now, But things were more uncertain at the beginning, when Mondavi began building his legend one vineyard and one brand at a time.

He encouraged a robust culinary culture in the valley and promoted arts of all kinds. His winery hosts concerts every summer. Mondavi also encouraged and supported charity events of all kinds including a major wine auction.

Opening the winery to visitors, he provided what still is one of the best tasting experiences in Napa Valley. It should be a required stop for all first-time visitors to wine country.

As the winery grew it added wines at all price ranges and built facilities in the Central Coast region, farther south. Their labels include Woodbridge and Private Selection as well as Robert Mondavi and Robert Mondavi Reserve. The Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve from the To Kalon Vineyard sells for $325 a bottle. Among its labels, Mondavi offers just about every varietal grown in California.

In the 1970s, Mondavi and French icon Baron Philippe de Rothschild joined forces to create Opus One. Constellation Brands acquired the winery in 2004.

The ultra-modern mission-style winery and tasting facility was built in 1966. The facility was renovated and expanded beginning in 1999 and was later named To Kalon Cellar.

Like many wineries, Mondavi practices natural farming and believes in environmental responsibility. Environmentally friendly practices include conserving soils and water, managing pests and recycling water and materials.

GOES WITH: It seems like we have been eating a lot of seafood this spring. The weather has been warm and prices have been good so we have been buying it a lot more than usual.

I was picking up lobster tails on sale at Publix a couple of weeks ago when I noticed they also had a great sale on king crab. I love snow crab, too, but you have to work a lot harder to get small pieces of meat compared to king crab.

One cluster each for my wife, Teri, and I was more than enough, so we warmed them up and had a feast. The nice thing about crab is you don’t really have to cook it. The crab we get is already cooked, so all you have to do is warm it. We drop ours in boiling water for a few minutes (it even works if the crab is frozen), and it comes out like it has just been steamed. We added wild rice, corn on the cob and fresh tomatoes and cucumbers.

The crab was a wonderful pairing for the Mondavi Chardonnay. The crab, which we dip in melted butter, brought out the creaminess in the wine and played nicely off the pear and apple flavors.

You could pair this wine with nearly any seafood dish, chicken baked or roasted on the grill, turkey or a wide range of cheeses. Serve it chilled, but let the bottle warm as you drink it, so you can taste more flavors opening as the wine warms.

 WINE EVENTS

THURSDAY, JUNE 4

Wine and tapas tasting, 5 p.m. until closing, La Maison on Telfair, 404 Telfair St.; four wines and three tapas, $25; (706) 722-4805

FRIDAY, JUNE 5

Wine and beer tasting, 4:30-6:30 p.m. Friday, also 2-6 p.m Saturday, Vineyard Wine Market, 4414 Evans to Locks Road, Evans; (706) 922-9463

Wine tasting, 5-7 p.m., Whole Foods, 2907 Washington Road; five wines and snacks; $5; (762) 333-0260

Wine tasting, 5-8 p.m., Wine World, 133 Georgia Ave., North Augusta; three whites, three reds and cheeses; $5 with rebate on purchase of a featured wine; (803) 279-9522

 

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