Robert Mondavi established his namesake winery in 1966 with a vision to create Napa Valley wines that would stand in the company of the world’s finest. He chose To Kalon Vineyard in the heart of the Napa Valley as the home for Robert Mondavi Winery. This first-growth vineyard, located in Oakville, California, is renowned for producing some of the finest Cabernet Sauvignon wines in the world, as well as for its Sauvignon Blanc grapes, from which Mr. Mondavi crafted his signature wine, Fumé Blanc. Along with To Kalon Vineyard, Robert Mondavi Winery sources grapes from some of Napa Valley’s finest vineyards, including Stag’s Leap (Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc) and Carneros (Pinot Noir and Chardonnay). Mr. Mondavi believed that wines should reflect their origins, that they are the product of the soil, the climate, and the careful stewardship of those precious resources. He also believed in combining the newest techniques and technology with time-honored winemaking traditions.
Robert Mondavi’s parents emigrated from the Marche region of Italy and settled in the Minnesota city of Hibbing. Robert Gerald Mondavi was born in Virginia, Minnesota. Mondavi graduated from Stanford University in 1937 with a degree in economics and business. In 1943, Mondavi joined his father and brother Peter after the family acquired the Charles Krug Winery located in St. Helena from James Moffitt. In 1965, Robert Mondavi left the family winery after a feud with his younger brother Peter over the business direction of the Krug winery. In 1966, he founded the Robert Mondavi Winery with his sons Michael and Tim Mondavi in the Napa Valley with the goal of producing wines that would compete with the finest wines from Europe. Part of Mondavi’s original vineyard land included the To Kalon (a Greek term meaning “the beautiful”) vineyard originally established by Napa Valley pioneer H.W. Crabb in 1868.
As you enter the grounds of the Robert Mondavi Winery, you will pass a statue of St. Francis of Assisi, created by 20th century San Franciso artist Benjamin Bufano. The detailed mosaic figure is an elegant and dramatic example of his work. The saint first brought grapes to California 200 years ago.
The tour starts of course with the vines. Grape vines can live for 100 or more years. Newly planted vines take anywhere between three to five years to establish completely and start bearing fruit. The age of 10 to 30 years is considered the prime fruit production age of grape vines, although the older the vine, the more distinctive the flavor. Older vines produce less juice.
The casking process starts with 60 thousand gallon tanks, hand made from French oak. Fifty-six 16-ton-capacity, oak fermentors were installed in June 2000 by a team of French craftsmen from Tonnellerie Taransaud together with Gene Nelsen and his team of American coopers from Al Bellagio Wood Tank Co.
The smaller oak barrels allow the wine to develop its unique characteristics. As evaporation takes the “Angel’s share,” barrels need to be continually topped off.
Robert did not like the visual effects of spilling the wine, and had all casks “painted” with Cabernet Sauvignon, this has become a standard practice at all winery’s. The winemaking goal is to achieve wines demonstrating a balance between concentration and elegance and Mondavi contends that oak fermentation and warm extended maceration are the perfect match for To Kalon fruit.
9.2 million cases of wine are produced annually in Napa Valley alone, with a value of 10.8 billion dollars. Generally 4-5 grape clusters will produce one bottle of wine, 4-6 bottles can be made from each vine, that’s 500 gallons per acre. Mondavi wines have the 8th largest distribution in the US, 13th globally. Robert Mondavi began buying acreage in Oakville in 1966 and now owns a total of 770 acres, of which 655 are planted, providing the To Kalon cellar with 900 tons of fruit annually.
One of the first wineries to offer tours, tastings, culinary and art programs – Mondavi’s commitment to education continues with their world-renowned visitor programs. The winery is open to visitors daily from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. From the education, to the scenery, to the tactile pleasures, the Signature tour is a must see from amateur to Somme. Enjoy!
Robert Mondavi Website: http://www.robertmondaviwinery.com
Robert Mondavi Center: http://www.boora.com
Napa Valley Register: http://napavalleyregister.com