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Posted by Robert Whitley on July 21, 2016 at 10:27 AM

Robert Mondavi the Man

 

One of our top wine picks recently was the 50th anniversary wine from Robert Mondavi, probably the most renowned winery in California's Napa Valley.

The 50th anniversary is an important milestone to be sure, but longevity alone is not what makes the occasion significant. Many among the current generation of California wine enthusiasts weren't born yet when Robert Mondavi parted ways with the family winery, Charles Krug, and founded his namesake winery in 1966.

It was a time when California wine was regarded with suspicion and seldom found on the best restaurant wine lists of the day. Mondavi made it his mission in life to bring California wine to the best tables in the land.

Toward that end, he hit the road, zigzagging across America with his first cabernet sauvignons. His favorite tactic was the head-to-head tasting during which Mondavi would sit down in a top-notch restaurant with a major influencer and challenge that person to order any wine he or she desired off the wine list.

They would then taste the two wines side by side. More often than not the other wine was a famous French red, either a Bordeaux or Burgundy. The objective wasn't necessarily to "win" the tasting as much as it was to prove the Mondavi cabernet belonged in such refined company. Rest assured, however, Mondavi won its share of the tastings.

Robert, never the winemaker, made his mark as the most dogged salesman in the history of California wine. More than anyone before or since, he put California wine on the map and made it fashionable in the toniest restaurants and wine shops.

Thus, this 50th anniversary of the Mondavi winery is also the 50th anniversary of the modern era of California wine.

Duckhorn Vineyards, Napa Valley (California) Cabernet Sauvignon Rector Creek Vineyard 2012 ($95)
 Although most well-known for its superb merlot from various sites in the Napa Valley, Duckhorn has done itself proud over the years with a succession of vineyard-designate cabernet sauvignons that are the equal of  the finest the Napa Valley has to offer. One of Duckhorn's finest sites for cabernet is the Rector Creek Vineyard. This vintage from Rector Creek is a stunning wine, showing intense aromas of ripe cassis and blackberry, with a hint of wood spice and cedar in the background. The tannins, though firm, are beautifully integrated and the balance of the wine sublime. Excellent now, but even better in another decade or so.
97 Robert Whitley

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This Issue's Reviews
 
Beauty in Beaujolais: the 2015 Vintage
Michael Apstein

When I was in Côte d'Or and Beaujolais last November, all the producers with whom I spoke were absolutely raving about the 2015 vintage. The exuberance in Beaujolais--perhaps because the wines were closer to being finished than in the Côte d'Or--was even more palpable and universal. Pierre Savoye, a top grower based in Morgon, was effusive in his praise for the vintage. Showing a broad smile, he could barely contain himself while saying, 'This year, the weather made the grapes and the grapes made the wine. The winemaker did nothing.'
Impressions from Wine Travels in Germany
Jessica Dupuy

Just a couple of weeks ago, I had the pleasure of joining the German Wine Institute for a week in the angelic wine regions of the Pfalz and Baden. Following weeks of rain throughout the southern part of the country, the clouds parted to reveal blue bird skies…and a veritable heat wave. Temperatures hovered into the 90s during the heat of the day--which was a bit daunting considering the theme of our trip was to actively experience German vineyards and wine through outdoor exercise. Our merry group of journalists included two Americans, a French Canadian, a Pole, a Norwegian, a Finn, and 2 Danes. And if that sounds like the beginning to a bar joke, you wouldn't be far off.
Wine With
WINE WITH…Crab Imperial with Lime Crème


It's time to revisit this delicious American classic, which was an especially popular dish during the Mad Men era. Of course, Crab Imperial meant different things to different people even then. It was usually a super-rich, creamy creation spooned into scallop shells, ramekins or a casserole dish, sprinkled with parmesan and baked until brown and bubbly. Sometimes the mixture was stuffed into a fileted fish or mushroom halves. We prefer a somewhat scaled down version than the original. It's less creamy, less cheesy, and with more emphasis on the succulent crabmeat itself. And we leave out the diced bell pepper, a common ingredient but one that we find too aggressive. Our Crab Imperial is more like exceptionally elegant crab cakes made all the more delicious with a topping of lime crème.
On My Table
Rethinking Summer Whites
Mary Ewing-Mulligan

Treana Winery, Central Coast (California), Treana Blanc 2014 ($30): The first thought that crossed my mind as I tasted the 2014 Treana Blanc on a sultry July afternoon was, 'This is certainly not what you'd call a 'summertime white!' My second thought was, 'Hell, it's so delicious I'd drink it even in this heat.' Relatively light body, crackling high acidity and vibrant flavors of crisp, fresh citrus typify the white wines we tend to reach for in warm weather. This wine, instead, is full-bodied and unabashedly rich, with aromas and flavors of tropical fruits and honey. It's a white wine with the weight and presence worthy of France's Rhône Valley but more opulent in its flavor intensity, as you would expect from California. Treana Blanc, in fact, is a blend of grape varieties grown in the Northern Rhône Valley: Viognier and Marsanne at 45 percent each and the more delicate Roussanne at 10 percent.