Wines!! On my quest to becoming a Sommelier, our current studies have been on California and its gorgeous wines. I love my classes, and just to prove it, I have been doing extensive homework with a wide variety of California wines. And if the Beach Boys thought the California girls were great, just wait till you taste the California wines.
Let’s start with this baby. At under $15, it’s a fabulous deal and full of fantastic flavors. (My, that’s a lot of F words – and not the ones I usually use) Black cherries, raspberry, vanilla and spice make for all things nice in a wine. I had it with a BBQ, which won’t come as a surprise to my regular readers, but it does go very well with grilled food.
Here’s another one of my favorite Zinfandel’s from California. It’s the Predator Old Vine Zinfandel. A little higher up in the price scale, but just a gorgeous expression of Zinfandel, with rich flavors that can only come from an old vine, and in this case the vines are 50+ years old. Juicy and spicy with hints of bacon (hello!) and chocolate – what’s not to like. And it goes down like velvet.
You cannot talk about wine in California, without talking about Robert Mondavi. He was a leading California winemaker, many say he was ‘the’ leading California winemaker, responsible for bringing Napa Valley wines to worldwide attention. His was the first vineyard built in the Napa Valley and with his smart technical improvements and savvy marketing skills history was made.
The wine on the left is from the Robert Mondavi Private Selection and is great value. It sells for about $20 a bottle and is a favorite of good friends of mine. The Robert Mondavi on the right was a birthday gift to me from those friends that are fans of Robert Mondavi. It’s on the other end of the price scale. The wine on the left is delicious with flavors cherry and spices. The wine on the left is heaven in a bottle. Deep, dark and full of complex flavors. I know I talked about it last week, but in case you missed that, it was elegant and full flavored and one of the best Cabs I have ever had.
I found it very interesting that Robert Mondavi himself is not a big fan of the lower priced wines that carry his name. In 2003, Mondavi criticized his sons for the business strategy that emphasized the inexpensive lines. He said it allowed the company name to lose its association with the fine wine it was known for in the past. Robert Mondavi started his vineyard in 1966 and his goal was to produce wines that would rival the finest in Europe. And in the Grand European Jury Wine Tasting of 1997, the Robert Mondavi Chardonnay Reserve was ranked number one. What many don’t know is that the family no longer owns the Robert Mondavi winery. 3 days before Christmas in 2004, there was a controversial takeover by Constellation Brands.
In 1979 he partnered with Baron Phillipe de Rothschild of Chateau Mouton Rothschild, of Bordeaux fame, to create Opus One Winery, which you may recognize, and also has joint ventures with local partners in Europe, Australia and in South America with the Errazuriz name. Although Robert Mondavi died in 2008 at the age of 94, following the sale of the company, Mondavi partnered with his youngest son Tim Mondavi and daughter Marcia to make a single wine from a single estate at the highest level. The family partnership Continuum Estate is still run by Robert’s son Tim, daughter Marcia and grandchildren Carissa Mondavi, Chiara Mondavi, Carlo Mondavi and Dante Mondavi.
California has a wine for everyone. Many great wines come out of California, and not just the Napa Valley. Think Cheateau St. Jean, Beringer, Dreaming Tree and Calera just to name a couple that are available here in Nova Scotia. Josh Jenson became a pioneer by wanting to find the perfect spot to grow the heartbreak grape Pinot Noir, and rival the finest Burgundian Pinot Noir. This is a quote from the Calera website: Even Robert Parker is convinced: “Calera is one of the most compelling Pinot Noir specialists of not only the New World, but of Planet Earth.” Believe me, I have tried and enjoyed Calera Pinot Noir from the Central Coast line. And they are right! Compelling is a great word to use. I also like balanced, rich and goes with everything food friendly.
I could probably spend the next month writing about California wines. I really enjoy them, and visited the Napa Valley in 2001. I spent 8 glorious days enjoying the many wines of the Napa Valley that we can’t get in Canada. It’s a beautiful spot with rolling hills of vineyards and the people are fantastic and nice. I still want to move there one day.
Till next week, Cheers.