Constellation’s Eugene Mlynczyk MW celebrates 50 years of Mondavi wines.

Robert Mondavi at his winery

Robert Mondavi is one of the real icons of the California wine industry. Here, I refer to both the man and the winery. Founded in 1966, counting forward, 2016 represents the 50th anniversary of Robert Mondavi Winery.

Looking back to 1966: what was the wine landscape like in Napa Valley? No major new winery had opened since the Prohibition era, wine tourism was minimal and Napa was not on the world stage in any real shape or form.

Mondavi logoThese hurdles did not stop Robert Mondavi from venturing forth in an effort to set new ground for the entire Napa Valley. One of his first self-appointed missions was to recreate California Sauvignon Blanc, which was at the time a sweetish, rather neutral wine. Channeling inspiration from the Loire Valley in France, with its famous Pouilly-Fumé appellation, the term (and wine) “Fumé Blanc” was coined. Fumé Blanc remains Robert Mondavi’s signature and is one of the winery’s most popular choices.

While other grapes also figure significantly in the California and Napa sphere, the grape above all else for these regions is Cabernet Sauvignon. The first 1966 vintage of Robert Mondavi Winery’s Cabernet Sauvignon was released in 1968. Through to the present day, the likes of Decanter Magazine and countless critics and collectors the world over, prize Robert Mondavi Winery’s Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve as one of the very best global examples of its type.

Mondavi 50From day one, Robert Mondavi was also a believer in what some would call “The Gracious Life,” namely the marriage of wine, food and the arts. To this point, Robert Mondavi Winery has hosted a summer concert series for many decades in the winery’s courtyard. Artists who have performed include jazz legends such as Ella Fitzgerald, Dave Brubeck, Dizzy Gillespie, Tony Bennett and many more.

Robert Mondavi also took a broader world view when others were merely staring at the ground (which is in itself not a bad thing for winemakers to do). As early as 1970, Baron Philippe de Rothschild and Robert Mondavi were discussing the idea of a joint venture, which was later refined and finally emerged as the Opus One project.

Since those early days, the core inspiration for Robert Mondavi Winery has continued unabated. A lucky few will be able to experience these 50 years of history locally at two sold-out LCBO Vintages taste and buy dinner events in June, featuring a structured tasting of wines from across five decades. An exclusive release of rare Robert Mondavi wines and current top releases will be available through the dinners and afterwards on-line at the Vintages website (click here to see more information).

Mondavi bottle cabMondavi bottle fumeFor those who just can’t wait, satisfaction can be had today. Robert Mondavi Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon is always available at Vintages, and I recently rated the 2013 vintage (currently on shelves) at 91 points, with pure blackcurrant and cedar notes so typical of the best sites in Napa. A good portion of this wine comes from the historic To Kalon vineyard in the Oakville sub district, providing the quality core for this wine.

The perfect white companion, in only limited availability but also now on Vintages shelves, is the Fumé Blanc 2014. This is a refreshing summer wine, but also structured enough for first courses and mid-weight mains. For those who are interesting in aging whites, the Robert Mondavi Fumé Blanc will evolve and improve for 5-7 years or more.

Finally, I plan to raise a glass to the memory of Robert Mondavi on the occasion of would have been his 103rd birthday on June 18th. I hope you will join me to toast a real California visionary!

– Eugene Mlynczyk MW

Wine Details

  • Robert Mondavi Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 – Vintages #255513 $35.95 (Always Available)
  • Robert Mondavi Napa Valley Fume Blanc 2014 – Vintages #221887 $22.95 (Limited Availability)

Robert Mondavi Winery is a part of Constellation Brands, a Good Food Fighter. Please support the businesses and organizations that support Good Food Revolution.