The Coast News Group
Taste of Wine

Mondavis move on and up

Quietly, without fanfare, Michael Mondavi, favored son of the great one of wine, the late Robert Mondavi, is rebuilding his place in the Napa Valley Wine Hall of Fame.  Michael’s story is the stuff of legends, after 40 years and two empires. The current success is Folio Fine Wine Partners.
“Taste of Wine” visited with Michael recently at his estate in Napa Valley and found the passion and heritage in place, but with a relaxed and mild-mannered posture. If we fast-rewind the clock back to 1966, when Robert Mondavi Winery was first born, Michael was already winemaking and with fire in his belly. He was determined to show his father he could be every bit as good as Mondavi confidants Warren Winiarski and Mike Grgich, two Napa greats, who would later leave Mondavi and present wines that would topple French dominance in the “Judgement of Paris” in 1976.
Michael is now beyond the go-go days that ground out one of the largest public wine companies in the world. In 2004, he and his son Rob, daughter Dina and wife Isabel combined fine family wine with worldwide premium wines from Italy, Spain, France, Austria, Germany, Australia and New Zealand. The tradition continues as son Rob is now the winemaker at Folio, highlighted by the 2007 M, a Cabernet aged in mostly new French oak barrels for 22 months. The wine is rich yet supple, and has soul beyond its years. This is Michael’s signature wine. It was racked several times then cellared 15 months in bottle before release ($200). Michael was quoted as saying that “wines are like people; some age quickly and flame out; others continue to improve over the years. You never get a second chance to make a first impression.”
It’s been a long time since the chaos of the boardroom at Robert Mondavi Winery and age has been kind to Michael Mondavi and his true family. He and his son are making the best wine of their lives and he is a happier man for it. See for yourself at
Vigilucci’s restaurants pour it on
Roberto Vigilucci and his team of restaurant managers are running fast lately, with an array of wine events that have stirred a lot of attention.
From Coronado to Carlsbad, Vigilucci’s and fine wineries have paired up to treat guests to world-class names.
Two recent occasions included Chateau St. Michelle, pouring at the Carlsbad Coast Highway location; and the premier winery in all of Italy, Castello Banfi, based in Tuscany, in a special appearance at the original Encinitas Vigilucci’s.
Vittorio Homberger, the affable manager in the Carlsbad coast location, runs a lovely, contemporary seafood and steak Vigilucci’s with a sweeping view of the Pacific Ocean.  Based in Washington, Chateau St. Michelle is a major West Coast wine producer with a portfolio of familiar fine wines. This night, we were treated to a wine that made my top 10 last year: the 2008 Eroica Riesling, a product of the genius of Chateau St. Michelle’s winemaker and Germany’s best winemaker, Dr. Ernst Loosen. The name itself is a product of the musical genius of Beethoven and his Third Symphony. It sells for $25. You will love the crisp acidity. Another that has showed up on my previous Top 10 lists is Erath Pinot Noir from Oregon. It is in top form with the current 2008 release ($19). Fruit forward silky finesse with concentrated structure.
In Encinitas, Manager Paolo Pastorelli brought in Castello Banfi with their Educational Director Sharron McCarthy. Sharron informed us that three generations of the Mariani family have guided Banfi to a prime position in the Italian wine world, from Castello Banfi in Montalcino, Tuscany, to Banfi Vintners a world-class wine distributor.
“The reds with the Banfi banner are made on our 7,100 acres of vineyards near Montalcino that have virtually 100 micro-climates, enabling Banfi to produce wine grapes from Pinot Grigio to Brunello,” she said. She was especially fond of the 2007 Belnero, an exciting Super Tuscan blend of Sangiovese and French varietals, and made a point to remind us that Banfi reds are best served at 64 to 67 degrees instead of “room temperature.”
Castello Banfi is a featured visit on the “Taste of Wine” Tuscan Tour from Oct. 7 to Oct. 10, part of our Celebrity Mediterranean Cruise from Oct. 10 to Oct. 20. You can find out more by calling (800) 359-3772.
Wine Bytes
— Meet the Chefs of Del Mar from 1 to 4 p.m. April 10 at the Hilton Del Mar. Top chefs are presenting their best dishes and fine wines. There will be drawings for exciting food and wine prizes. Tickets are $125, VIP tickets are $185. All proceeds to Casa de Amparo. Visit or call (760) 754-5500 for details.
— Wine Vault in San Diego brings in Cass Winemaker Ted Plemons for a wine dinner from 5 to 9 p.m. April 10. Ted has made my column many times with his Paso Robles Rhone Valley style. Reception at 4:15 p.m. Cost is $49.50. Call (619) 295-3939 for more information.
— Keyways Vineyard and Winery in Temecula has its annual birthday Karnival from 3 to 6 p.m. April 10. Games, food, wines and more.  The cost is $25 for club members, $35 for nonmembers, $10 for kids 5 to 12. Call 1-877-KEYWAYS.
— Orfila Winery in Escondido has its next Concert in the Vines with artist Laura Roppe singing from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. April 10. Tickets are $20. Call (800) 868-9463 for details.
— Flemings Steakhouse & Wine Bar in La Jolla has a Justin Winery event at 6:30 p.m. April 15. There will be appetizers and a four-course dinner. The cost is $95 per person.  Call for an RSVP at (858) 535-0078.