WHAT: Sometimes when you haven’t had a particular wine in a while, you forget how good it is. You know, you want to try new things, friends recommend something, and before you know it, weeks or months pass before you get back to a favorite.
It’s like that with the Robert Mondavi Private Selection wines, especially their chardonnay. I enjoyed the chardonnay last summer, but I went months before I tried it again recently. After a few sips, all the pleasant memories flooded back.
This is a great summer wine, but it has enough body and complexity to match well with some of the heavier food we eat in winter. Of course, in Augusta, seasons mean less than some other parts of the country, as temperatures can reach 60 or 70 degrees in January and February.
So why not drink a summer wine now?
It is a much more complex wine than you would expect at this price, with layer after layer unfolding with each sip. Mondavi puts a lot of effort into this wine, and that effort pays off.
The Private Selection chardonnay is a rich and creamy wine, but fermentation in stainless steel adds a crisp acidity for a nice balance. The wine starts out with aromas of green apple, lime and a touch of vanilla. Multiple fruit flavors hit your tongue as you drink: peach, nectarine, lime, pineapple and toasty oak. A pleasant minerality leads to a medium finish.
Most of the grapes came from the Central Coast AVA, with 10 percent from the Central Valley AVA. The 2014 vintage was the third straight outstanding year in California, resulting in many outstanding wines.
Long, dry days followed by cool night winds along the coast helped the grapes ripen slowly and evenly. The balance is a delicate one. Too much ripe fruit flavor and you could have a cloying fruit bomb. Too much acid and the wine tastes harsh. Here, the acidity adds perfect crispness to the round, rich flavors.
The grapes were pressed in whole clusters then cold fermented in stainless steel to capture the freshness of the juice. About 70 percent of the blend went through malolactic fermentation to give the mouthfeel additional creaminess. About 10 percent of the wine was aged in oak barrels for eight months.
The result is a wine that’s pleasant to sip by itself, but also is great for a meal. I would chill this in the refrigerator and then let it warm up for 15-20 minutes before serving.
WINERY: Robert Mondavi built the first modern winery in Napa after Prohibition in 1966 and grew the business into an empire.
Mondavi figured out the climate and soil in Napa Valley were perfect for growing world-class wine grapes.
As the company grew it added other labels, such as Woodbridge and Private Selection, and added production facilities farther south in the Central Coast region to handle grapes from that fertile area.
The Private Selection wines were introduced in 1994, primarily featuring California’s north and central coast grapes at a moderate price. Private Selection varietals include chardonnay, cabernet sauvignon, bourbon barrel-aged cabernet sauvignon, heritage red, meritage, merlot, malbec, pinot noir, zinfandel, riesling, pinot grigio and sauvignon blanc.
The Woodbridge label is the winery’s entry point, followed by Private Selection. The top tier is Robert Mondavi Winery, which is further divided into district wines, reserve wines and spotlight wines.
Constellation Brands acquired the winery in 2004.
GOES WITH: We had this one night with one of my favorite shrimp dishes, a shrimp pasta that a friend in Charlotte showed me years ago. It’s fast, easy and delicious.
Saute one pound of peeled shrimp in butter and olive oil, with minced garlic and one bunch of chopped parsley. Cook the shrimp until they just turn pink. Then add two 14-ounce cans of diced tomatoes with Italian seasonings and half a cup of chopped basil. (I chop and freeze my summer basil in ice cube trays, so I just toss two ice cubes of basil in.)
Cook until the basil melts and all the mix is bubbling. Serve over any kind of pasta you like. I prefer angel hair. Then add some grated parmesan on top. Slices of a crusty baguette go well with this dish. We also added a tossed salad.
This wine also would pair well with roast chicken, grilled fish, grilled pork chops, soft cheeses or pasta with cream sauce.
If you like margaritas, but want one with less alcohol, you could try this recipe from the winery:
One 750 ml bottle of Robert Mondavi Private Selection Chardonnay
1½ cup tequila
1 cup triple sec
1 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
½ cup freshly squeezed lime juice
1 orange, sliced
2 limes, sliced
In a large pitcher, combine the white wine, tequila, triple sec, orange juice and lime juice. Add the orange slices and lime slices. Chill for at least 2 hours. Serve over ice. Salt the rims of the glasses, if desired.