Celebrate Mondavi's 100th

June 19, 2013 

"Do what you love and you will never have to work a day in your life" is a favorite quote of mine from a true visionary who was at the forefront of proving to the world that Napa Valley, Calif., is one of the best wine regions in the world. While Robert Mondavi spent almost as many hours as there are in a day establishing and running the winery that bears his namesake, it was his passion not his job.

June 18 marked the celebration of the 100th anniversary of this icon's birth and, although the Mondavi family hasn't owned the winery for a number of years, the wines are still made with the same love and care as those first released in 1968.

Thanks to some very dear friends who ended getting engaged in the Valley, I had the pleasure of a one-of-a-kind tour at the Robert Mondavi Winery in 2004. Along with the tour, we had a gourmet lunch on a private patio that overlooked the famed To Kalon vineyard. As we were finishing our meal, we had the unique opportunity to meet none other than Robert and his wife, Margrit. Although this encounter was brief, it was obvious how this charismatic man was able to be at the forefront of the changes in the way that wineries operated in this country. Robert Mondavi was a pioneer in marketing Napa Valley to the world, as well as assisting in bringing many innovative wine-making techniques to the region.

Robert grew up working and later co-managing the Charles Krug Winery, which was owned by his parents. Due to management disagreements with his

brother Peter, Robert left Charles Krug and in 1966 and founded the Robert Mondavi Winery, which he built in Oakville on the western side of Highway 29, a busy thoroughfare for tourists. Today the winery draws several hundred thousand tourists each year. Taking note of the Spanish missions that had been built hundreds of years earlier throughout this region of California, Mondavi constructed his winery in a similar style.

In tribute to Mondavi, nothing could be more fitting than to raise a glass of two wines from the Oakville District not only as to honor him, but to taste why this visionary man chose the site for his winery -- a Fumé Blanc and a Cabernet Sauvignon -- both made from grapes grown in the To Kalon vineyard.

The 2011 Robert Mondavi Fumé Blanc Oakville District is a Sauvignon Blanc-based wine that contains a small amount of Sémillon. Mondavi first released Fumé Blanc in 1968 and the name itself was something that he created because he wanted to make a wine in a more traditional French style. This wine is dry, with a hint of sweetness on the finish.

The 2010 Robert Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon Oakville District is 88-percent Cabernet with small amounts of Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Malbec. This wine is quite powerful with classic flavors of black currant, blackberry and dark cherry along with hints of mocha. For those of you true Cabernet Sauvignon fans -- this 2010 offering will not disappoint.

According to Robert Mondavi -- "Wine to me is passion. It's family and friends. It's warmth of heart and generosity of spirit." Raise a glass and enjoy.

Jim Rawe, a family attorney in Bradenton, is an avid collector of fine wines. His column appears weekly. He can be reached at jimrawe@gmail.com.

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