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Visiting Chez Mondavi, and Top 10 Wines of the Week

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I go today (Thursday, when I posted this) to Rob Mondavi’s place, up in the Carneros, for dinner. He invited me to meet some of his friends, none of whom is older than 45. They represent a new, upcoming generation in Napa Valley. Some have familiar last names (Burgess, Gott, Mondavi, Steltzner, Truchard, Viader) but, as the sons and daughters of veterans, are establishing their own reputations. Others are not known to me.

In the case of a younger winemaker taking the helm in Napa Valley, think of the weight they must feel pressing down on their shoulders. Tradition. Expectations. Quality. And, yes, reviews. When you make wine in Napa Valley you are playing in the NFL, the NBA, Major League Baseball. Especially in these perilous economic times, they have got to experience some angst every once in a while. Can you keep the family tradition going forward into the second decade of the 21st century? Can you make a success from the career you’ve chosen, and upon which you’re risking a great deal? Will you let your parents down?

I’m looking forward to this event with a keener anticipation than many other things I’ve gone to lately. I’ll let you know how it went.

Meanwhile, here are the top 10 wines of this past week.

Bartalotti 2005 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, Rutherford. $60, 144 cases, 15.2%.

Robert Mondavi 2008 I Block Fume Blanc, Oakville. $75, case production not revealed, 14.7%.

Robert Mondavi 2008 Reserve Chardonnay, Napa Valley. $40, case production not revealed, 14.2%.

Chime 2009 Pinot Noir, Sonoma County. $19, 1,100 cases, 14.4%.

Sean Thackrey 2008 Devil’s Gulch Ranch “Andromeda” Pinot Noir, Marin County. $45, 700 cases, 14.4%.

Calera 2008 Ryan Pinot Noir, Mt. Harlan. $40, 2,856 cases, 14.9%.

Laird 2009 Sauvignon Blanc, Napa Valley. $16, case production not revealed, 13.8%.

Volker Eisele 2007 Terzetto Bordeaux blend, Napa Valley. $75, 450 cases, 14.7%.

Cambria 2008 Katherine’s Vineyard Chardonnay, Santa Maria Valley. $22, case production not revealed, 14.5%.

Vine Cliff 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley. $55, 1,200 cases, 14.3%.

  1. Last saw young Rob flitting about Oxbow spring 2010…it’s a shame his venture there didn’t survive.
    Yay, to a new generation of winemakers!

  2. Yay indeed! Life goes on.

  3. Only one wine under 14.2% alcohol.

    Does that mean that:

    a. you are a proponent of high alcohol wines
    b. CA can’t make anything under 14% alcohol because all the winemakers like raisins
    c. there actually might be wines over 14% alcohol that are in balance, have varietal character and are reflective of their provenances

    Inquiring minds want to know–or maybe just like asking rhetorical questions.

  4. Charlie, it means (d) I like writing things that Charlie Olken will comment on! But seriously, thanks for pointing out that (c) is the obvious right answer and the people who don’t know that (or have too much at stake to acknowledge it) are (I’m trying to be discrete) prejudiced.

  5. Is the high alcohol a result of winemakers trying to coax as much flavor as possible out of their grapes? By that I mean leaving the grapes hanging as long as possible without negative affects generally means more flavor, correct? But another result of leaving the grapes hanging is a higher brix level thus resulting in the higher alcohol levels, right?

    I’m a wine novice, so please forgive me if the answers to my questions are fairly obvious.

  6. Good to see my friend Sean Thackrey on your list… What fun and what a great day for you. Nice to see you out and about.

  7. Brian… Grapes hanging longer raises the brix (which will equal more sugar, more flavor, more color, more tannins). Powerhouses are first born in the soul, and then born in the lab (which equals higher alcohol wines). Then, it becomes a decision of what flavors you like when your sipping wine and is it still in balance, in my opinion. There are audiences for both… Right Steve and Charlie?

    Right or wrong, there are still audiences for both… Right?

  8. I think that the word TRADITION! should be writen in all caps and with exclaimation point. Thank you Trevia

  9. Thank you, Jo. That’s what I had assumed so I wanted to make sure that was correct.

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