Taste of Wine

Mondavi Wines 5 years later

Robert Mondavi, even after his death in 2008, remains the biggest household name in wine the world has ever known. Photo courtesy of Bing.comSuzette Obergfell of Girard Winery with Vittorio Homberger of Vigilucci’s in Carlsbad. Photo by Frank Mangio
I admit, I had stopped being a fan of Robert Mondavi wines since the woeful takeover of the family’s winery and vineyards in 2004 by the giant holding company, Constellation. The story of that dark day in Napa Valley doesn’t need repeating here. That is not the intent of this column as you should be able to tell by the title.

When Robert passed away at nearly 95 in 2008, it was the passing of a legend in the making and marketing of Cabernet Sauvignon that set a standard for this Bordeaux-bred varietal.

In reviewing the most acres of California wine grapes planted in 2012, Cabernet is just about even with Chardonnay, another highly promoted Mondavi wine. The Robert Mondavi 2009 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon has just been released and I will be the first to tell you this Cab, at $27.95 is a sizzler with classic blackberry and chocolate flavors with smooth tannins. Grapes are sourced from the Stags Leap and Oakville districts, with its famous ToKalon vineyard. Another I would recommend would be the 2010 Robert Mondavi Carneros Pinot Noir at $17.

Two sons, Michael and Tim Mondavi must be given credit for the unequaled success of Robert Mondavi Winery. Both learned well from their father. In the mid-90’s, seeking ever more money for expansion, the 3 made a fateful decision to go public. Son Michael handled marketing and sales, and son Tim focused on the winemaking. Global acquisitions came next with ever-stressful efforts to show a bigger bottom line. The winery peaked in 2001 with sales of more than 9 million cases of wine, worth more than 500 million dollars. With the recession and events of the early part of the 2000’s and Robert’s ambitions in philanthropy, Robert Mondavi Inc. fell into dispute and disrepair and Michael resigned in disgust. A takeover bid of 1 billion dollars by Constellation was accepted.

Today, Tim Mondavi carries on as owner of Continuum, 42 acres in the eastern Napa Valley hills, and Michael makes several brands of premium red wine with his son Rob. The company is Folio Fine Wine Partners, also in Napa Valley. They are also an importer of fine wine from countries like Argentina, Italy, Austria and Spain.

Robert Mondavi would have been 100 years old at this writing. If the Mondavi name was in any way tarnished with the bittersweet sale and the passing of the master, be assured all is well today, as winemakers all over the world credit this family for setting the table for wine’s greatness, now and forever.


Girard Pours at Vigilucci’s Carlsbad

Vigilucci’s Seafood and Steakhouse along the Coast Highway in Carlsbad and managed by Vittorio Homberger, presented a Napa Valley winery recently, Girard Winery. Cabernet based wines dominated, although its Chardonnay, from the Russian River Valley in Sonoma, showed pinpoint acidity from this cooler appellation. Suzette Obergfell, Girard’s representative pointed to the 2010 Artistry, served with Ravioli all’ Agnello, as the flagship wine. It’s a Bordeaux blend ($45). I would recommend the 2009 Girard Cabernet from Diamond Mountain on the west side of NapaValley with some of the richest, ripest grapes in this fabled area, dominated by volcanic soil ($75). Learn more about Girard wines at girardwinery.com.


Wine Bytes

The Feast of San Gennaro, an Italian Food/Music Festival, will be at Qualcomm Stadium May 30 through June 2. Tickets are $9. Amusement rides, beer and wine garden. See sangennarofeast.com for more.

Vigulucci’s Restaurant in Coronado and Murphy-Goode Winery are presenting a charity dinner and wine tasting May 30, to benefit Operation Homefront. For more info and to RSVP call (619) 522-0946.

Seasons 52 in Costa Mesa features winemaker Michael Cox for a dinner and wine tasting from Schug Carneros Estate, May 30 at 6 p.m. Five-course meal with a different wine for each course. $85. RSVP at (714) 352-1701.

Villa Capri 2 off of Highway 56 in San Diego has a Clos du Val Wine Dinner May 30 at 6 p.m. Grilled Filet Steak with Cabernet highlights the menu. $49.50. RSVP at (858) 538-5884.

Meritage Wine Market in Encinitas is planning a “Merlot, who needs Cab” tasting event May 31 from 6 to 8 p.m. Check with them for price and wine names, at (760) 479-2500.



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1 comment

Seth Laurente May 28, 2013 at 12:08 am

The Mondavi’s have indeed given a great contribution to the industry of winemaking in Napa Valley. Though they have problems 5 years ago, they are still producing some of the best wines in California. Their efforts are well paid off.

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