Napa Valley legend returns to wine world

“Wine has been with civilized man from the beginning,” so said Robert Mondavi, whose name has been associated with great wine in Napa Valley from the beginning. The passion and vision that Mondavi brought to the table is the stuff of legend.
This driving force for all that is wonderful about Napa Valley wines passed on in 2008, after his namesake winery was sold in 2004. He was a champion for California as best of all wine countries.
Now, after careful planning and cultivation of some of the most fertile vineyards in Napa Valley, Robert’s son Michael and grandson Robert (Rob), are ready to re-establish the innovation, dedication, passion and vision of the first family of winemaking.
Rob Mondavi has been getting his hands dirty making wine, first with his family at Robert Mondavi Winery, then after it was sold, with his father Michael at the recently created Folio Fine Wine Partners. Folio, in addition to representing many great names in the world of wine, is now producing the next generation of Mondavi wines with names like Emblem, “M,” Oberon and Spellbound. At an impressive gathering at Carlsbad Wine Merchants recently, Rob thanked Kathy Bankerd and her staff for the opportunity to show his wines.
“M is my father Michael’s signature of his life’s work” Rob said. “For six years the grapes were sold to the present owner of Opus One, the internationally known blend that started with the Mondavi family. We want it to now be the very best wine in the Napa Valley with this 2005 release. It comes from our Oso Vineyard near Howell Mountain, where we make 150 barrels. Out of that total, only 30 of the best are used in M.” He then talked about one another premium wine, Emblem. “The 2006 Emblem Cabernet is beautifully balanced with elegant texture. The thing that’s great about winemaking is you always have the history. Our challenge is to find new ways to get the best out of the vines and push them to new heights.”
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Amarone of Valpolicella
As I write this column, the most influential wine publication in the world, Wine Spectator, is releasing its top 10 wines. It just revealed that four are Italian wines. Amarone is not nearly as well-known as its brother wines from the north, Barolo and Barbaresco; and Brunello and Chianti Classico in the south. But don’t let that stop you from tasting this beautiful varietal.
Amarone comes from the province of Veneto known as Valpolicella. Verona and Venice are not too far away. It is made with grapes that are partially dried and racked for a long time period before being pressed. This is called “raisining” or drying. It concentrates the sugar to give it a big strong flavor of licorice, tobacco and fig. The best ones are aged about 10 years and served at about 60 degrees, cooler than most reds.
The best winemakers have learned how to finesse the best behavior out of these volatile wines, so that now Amarone is the fourth largest seller in Italy. It goes beautifully with any risotto dish. Some names to know are Amarone Tenuta Saint Antonio, Amarone Guiseppe Quintarelli and Amarone Bussola.
Wine Bytes
— The Dana Inn in San Diego presents Stonestree Winest of Sonoma with a dinner at 6 p.m. Dec. 3. Chardonnay, Cab and Merlot will be poured. Cost is $50 per person. RSVP at (858) 325-1981
— Barolo vs. Brunello, may the best wine win. On Dec. 4 from 4 to 8:30 p.m. at Bacchus Wine Market, downtown San Diego in the Gaslamp District. This is a big one so RSVP at (619) 235-0005. Cost is $35 per person.
— Callaway Winery in Temecula gets into the holiday season with a Candlelight Dinner from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. Dec. 5. There will be a three-course gourmet dinner in the barrel room, with live holiday music. The cost is $85 each. Call (951) 676-4001 for details and reservations.
— Carlsbad Wine Merchants celebrates a Ladies Day from 1 to 6 p.m. Dec. 6. A variety of shopping ideas are on display while you enjoy a glass of wine with friends. Call (760) 804-9994 for details and reservations.
— Firefly Grill and Wine Bar in Encinitas hosts a Caymus Vineyards of Napa Valley dinner at 6:30 p.m. Dec. 9. Wine pourings will include the ’07 Cabernet and Special Selection Cab. Don’t miss the capper, a Late Harvest ’04 Viognier. Main course is Roasted Lamb Loin. Price is $85 each. Call (760) 635-1066 for an RSVP.
— Tesoro Winery in Old Town Temecula has a wine and art “Launch Party” from 7 to 9 p.m. Dec. 10 with wine and cheese. Event is free. Call (951) 308-0000 for details and reservations.
— Cellars wines come to La Jolla at the Valencia Hotel Sky Room, with a gourmet dinner from 6:30 to 10 p.m. Dec. 10. Cost is $125 each. RSVP at (858) 454-0771.


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