Sippin' and Chillin' at Robert Mondavi's Massive Vineyard
Napa Valley is a weird place. It's kind of demure, with rolling hills blanketed in low rows of lush vineyards, but also kind of action central, as the chances are high that the person cooking your food or pouring your wine is at the top of the industry. Recently we ventured into kitchens, cellars and wineries (all accessible to you, too) in search of the extraordinarly yummy, which really is the norm in Napa. Here, we share some of our winery picks.
A visit to: Robert Mondavi Winery in Oakville, California
Robert Mondavi. It's a name you likely associate with entire shelves in the wine section of your grocery store, but what is now an empire began with some grapes in 1966 (though the first Cabernet Sauvignon vintage wouldn't be released until 1968). Mondavi is the OG (original gangster, in slang) of Napa Valley, so duh, we had to stop in.
The winery itself is sprawling, not to even consider the vineyards yet (there's 550 acres to his To Kalon vineyard alone). Likewise there's too much to be said for Robert Mondavi himself, so we'll just stick to the property you can experience. There's two tasting rooms, a slew of event rooms, another tasting room just for members of their wine club, and then the production facility and barrel rooms. We skipped the tour because of a time crunch with reservations across the way at his Opus Wine operation, but we'll be back.
Tasting details: Just off the entry portico, you can choose to taste four standards, but follow the signs for the Reserve "To Kalon" room for the reserves. Here, you choose four from a list, including: Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay Reserve, Fumé Blanc, Pinot Noir, and 6 different years of Cabernet Sauvignon.
Pricing: Call 1-888-766-6328 to reserve a place in their $25, 80-minute tour. There are other tour and tasting options to consider. Or just head to the tasting room for a $20 flight of the Mondavi standards. We however recommend veering to the right, to the To Kalon Room, for their $40 Reserve tasting of 4 specialties and a more customized tasting experience (plus there's a fireplace!). If you can't handle four pours, individual samples are available, ranging from $5 to $20 for two generous ounces.
Our wine pick: For our four reserve samples, we went with the Fumé Blanc and three different years for Cabernet Sauvignon to see if we could really taste the variation. Of the 2001, 2005 and 2009, we most enjoyed the 2009 Cab Sauv for its mild (but deep!) flavor and its purple fruits.
We attended Flavor! Napa Valley as a guest of Napa Valley Tourism, but headed to the wineries ourselves, so rest assured all photos, opinions, and inebriation is completely our own.
[Photos: Cynthia Drescher/Jaunted]