WHAT: It’s not every day you can honor a veteran by drinking your favorite beverage, but thanks to a new wine just released you can do that this Memorial Day weekend.
Purple Heart Wines is a new label created to honor the men and women of the U.S. military. The company that produces the wine already has given $10,000 to the Purple Heart Foundation and has pledged up to $50,000 a year.
The label was created by C. Mondavi & Family, whose patriarch Peter Mondavi Sr. is a veteran of World War II. To make the wine, they tapped another veteran, Ray Coursen, a Vietnam veteran with major Napa Valley experience.
The first bottling is a great wine and a fitting tribute to America’s heroes. It is a merlot-based Bordeaux style blend that is powerful and mellow.
It is dark ruby, almost black, in the glass. Aromas of blackberry, plum and licorice get things started. The first sip reveals a lush wine with notes of blackberry, plum, black cherry and a smooth, spicy finish. The velvety mouthfeel gives this wine an air of elegance.
The wine is full of ripe fruit, almost sweet, but not quite jammy. It is a dry wine that goes well with food, but also is good to sip by itself.
It is similar to a Right Bank Bordeaux, but with the fruit-forward exuberance of an American wine. It is beautiful now, but likely will age well for another four or five years. This is a merlot made the way a merlot ought to be made.
“The whole deal is balance,” said Coursen. “I try to build a core with odd nuances around it. The core is merlot for 2013 and 2014.
“I wanted to make something that’s friendly to drink and friendly to new drinkers. It’s user friendly.”
Coursen, who has been making wine in Napa Valley for 30 years and is the former winemaker at Whitehall Lane and founder of Rutherford’s Elyse winery, said he is thrilled to be working on a project to honor veterans.
“We put a bottle on the table that makes you stop and think about your brother or your cousin,” he said. “These guys fought for us and we need to take care of them when they come home.”
The project has been popular.
“We’ve been getting a lot of emails from veterans,” said Coursen. He calls it “the wine we make without sacrifice to pay tribute to those who make sacrifices for us.”
The blend is 84 percent merlot, 7 percent cabernet sauvignon, 6 percent cabernet franc and 3 percent Petit Verdot. About 7,500 cases were produced. The 2014 vintage will be released in the fall.
The grapes were sourced primarily from C. Mondavi & Family properties in Napa Valley. The team set out to create a memorable wine at about $20 to keep it within reach of a larger group of people. They also wanted the taste to appeal to a wide variety of palates.
WINERY: The C. Mondavi & Family winery has been owned by the Mondavi family for four generations. The company has roots dating to 1861 when Charles Krug founded his winery in Napa Valley.
It is named for the patriarch of the family, Cesare Mondavi, who bought the Krug winery in 1943 and built it into a Napa Valley powerhouse. When Cesare died in 1959, his wife, Rosa, and two sons Robert and Peter ran the winery.
Robert broke away and formed his own winery in 1966. Meanwhile, Peter became president of Charles Krug when his mother died in 1976. By 1999, the Napa Valley Vintners Association had named him one of 12 living legends for such innovations as research on cold fermentation, aging in small French oak barrels and planting Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes in the Carneros region.
His sons Marc and Peter Jr. have taken leading roles, updating the winery’s equipment and replanting more than half of the winery’s vines.
The brothers have six children between them, and some of them have shown an interest in continuing the family winemaking tradition.
The family also has the Charles Krug label, the CK Mondavi label and The Divining Rod. Purple Heart is their newest venture.
GOES WITH: We had this luscious wine with homemade vegetable beef soup, which has been a favorite in my family for generations. It’s loaded with rich beef broth and a variety of flavors from vegetables such as turnips, carrots, celery, tomatoes, parsnips, potatoes, onions, leeks, okra, corn and parsley.
All the mellow flavors worked perfectly with the fruit-forward wine. I look for mellow, fruity wines when I serve this soup, and the Purple Heart hit all the right notes.
It also would pair well with lamb chops, pulled pork, grilled or roasted chicken and a variety of cheeses.