WHAT: To celebrate what would have been Robert Mondavi’s 100th birthday on June 18, the Robert Mondavi Winery has issued two special wines from his favorite Napa District: Oakville.
The Fume Blanc is important because Mondavi created the term in the 1960s to differentiate his Sauvignon Blanc from the typical sweet, simple California wines of that era. He wanted to make an elegant, complex dry wine in the style of the Loire Valley wines in France.
He was particularly fond of a Pouilly-Fume wine he tasted, so he called his wine Fume Blanc. The wine was a hit and now there are many California Fume Blancs. The name usually means the wine has a subtle elegance while many other California Sauvignon Blancs offer a ripeness found in the Bordeaux style.
This latest wine is everything you could hope for in a Sauvignon Blanc: crisp, dry, balanced, with a silky mouthfeel and long, lingering finish. The aroma bursts out of the glass, filling the room with hints of melon, citrus and cinnamon. The flavors are citrus, pineapple and hints of lime.
It is more substantial, subtle and elegant than Mondavi’s regular Fume Blanc, which sells for about $10 less.
All the grapes come from the renowned To Kalon vineyard, which surrounds Robert Mondavi Winery in the geographical heart of Napa Valley. To Kalon means highest beauty in Greek, and grapes from the vineyard are among the most sought after in Napa.
The wine is 91 percent Sauvignon Blanc and 9 percent Semillon. To produce richness and complexity, 90 percent of the wine is fermented in 60-gallon French oak barrels. The rest was cool fermented in stainless steel tanks to preserve lively fruit flavors. All the wine was barrel aged sur lie (on the yeast) for nine months to develop a creamy texture.
Serve it well chilled.
The second tribute wine is a 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon. Mondavi knew well-made Cabernet Sauvignon could stand up to the best wines from Bordeaux and Burgundy, and he knew Oakville presented the perfect growing conditions for Cab.
This bottle presents a perfect combination of power and finesse with layers of blackberry and black cherry with traces of black pepper. It has a long, smooth finish. The wine sells for $45, and should continue to develop for 7-10 years.
WINERY: Mondavi led the revolution in the wine world when he insisted top-quality wines could be produced in Napa Valley. His ultramodern winery, built in the mission style in 1966, was a bet that the Napa Valley would produce some of the finest wine in the world.
The winery practices natural farming and is a leader in environmental responsibility by conserving soil and water, managing pests and recycling water and materials.
Mondavi knew that great wines always begin in the vineyard and he carefully sought out some of the best growing regions in Napa. That allowed him to make great wine at higher prices while still mass producing quality wine at lower prices.
Though the family later faced internal fights and an eventual breakup of the company, the Oakville vineyards have remained the heart of the Mondavi empire.
GOES WITH: My wife, Teri, and I had this wine with marinated grilled shrimp, wild rice and veggies. I enjoyed sipping the wine while I marinated the shrimp in orange, lemon and lime juices, mixed with grated ginger, soy sauce and brown sugar.
But the real thrill came when I had the wine with the shrimp. It was delicious, as the citrus of the wine matched the citrus of the shrimp. Teri is not overly fond of Sauvignon Blanc, but even she said it was a terrific wine.
I would serve this with seafood in a cream sauce, roast chicken and most fish or shellfish on the grill.