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Robert Mondavi: The Importance
Ever since its birth in 1966, this winery has been creating some of California’s finest and most sought-after wines, which are outstanding expressions of the finest vines, terroir and winemaking. The head winemaker at Mondavi, Genevieve Janssens, whose relationship with the winery began in 1978, has been recognised for the incredible quality of the wines produced at this estate and was named Winemaker of the Year by Wine Enthusiast in 2010.
Robert Mondavi’s impact on the wine world has been massive, and as Robert Parker writes, “his contribution to the qualitative wine movement in America and importance to wine in this country is impossible to properly measure. In terms of wine quality and the promotion of fine wine, no one will ever equal what Robert Mondavi accomplished.”
Robert Mondavi: The Insight
The estate produces many different wines from different grape varieties, such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot, Pinot Noir, however it is clear that their standout wines are their Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve (typically a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot), their Chardonnay reserve (the 2012 vintage of which was described as “easily mistaken for a grand cru white Burgundy” by Parker), and their Fumé Blanc, made from old-vine Sauvignon Blanc. The grapes at Mondavi are sourced from the famous To Kalon vineyard, which arguably produces the finest grapes in all of California, along with grapes from other acclaimed vineyards such as Stag’s Leap and Carneros.
As the winery has grown, so has the praise heaped upon the wines being produced, and many people believe that the period between 1990 and 1997 produced the highest quality of wines. A notable example is the 1994 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve, which Parker rated 97 points with a drinking window extending to 2025: a testament to the longevity of the wines produced at Mondavi.
There was a slight dip in quality after the 90s, when the company went public and more emphasis was placed on the running of the business rather than on the winemaking. However it is clear from recent scores that the winery is firmly back where it belongs, producing some of the finest Californian wines. Of the 96 point rated 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve, Antonio Galloni writes that it “boasts stunning depth, power and richness. Exotic, powerful and structured, the 2010 emerges from the glass with masses of dark fruit, smoke, liquorice, menthol, plums and cloves…all the ingredients are there for it to develop into a spectacular wine… What a gorgeous wine this is.”
The 2013 Robert Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon 50th Anniversary Reserve was rated 95+ points and described by Parker as a “beautifully polished wine…full-bodied and rich, with outstanding depth, ripeness and purity. There is plenty of backbone and tannin for 25-30 years of cellaring. The wine shows notes of chocolate and plenty of blackcurrant fruit and blackberry. This is a beauty and certainly a great reserve and worthy homage to the legendary Robert Mondavi”
Robert Mondavi: The Background
The history of the Mondavi family in wine began when Cesare and Rosa Mondavi purchased the Sunny St Helena Winery in Napa Valley in 1934. They then purchased the Charles Krug winery in 1943 which became one of the first wineries in Napa to begin replanting their vineyards to Cabernet Sauvignon and to produce wines made of 100% Cabernet Sauvignon, which was significant at the time as very little Cabernet Sauvignon was planted in Napa. The family also used pioneering winemaking techniques such as the use of cold fermentation and were one of the first wineries in California to age their wine in new French oak barrels, a practice which was started in 1963.
Robert Mondavi broke away from his family and the Charles Krug winery when a huge dispute took place between himself and his brother Peter. This led to the creation of the Robert Mondavi winery in 1966 alongside two partners Ivan Schoch and Fred Holmes. In 1968 his partners sold their shares in the winery and Robert Mondavi set out on his own to give life to his vision to create wine which could compete with the best wines from Europe.
During his lifetime Robert Mondavi participated in many significant international projects, such as the creation of the Opus One winery in collaboration with Philippe Rothschild, the owner of Château Mouton Rothschild, to produce a Bordeaux style blend in California, which made its debut in 1979. Mondavi then spread his interests to Italy and in 1999 he purchased a stake in Tenuta dell’ Ornellaia, the remaining shares of which he purchased in 2002.
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