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Enjoying Wine and Beer in the Augusta GA area

Isabel Cabernet Sauvignon Rosé Is A Stunner

Isabel Mondavi Rosé 2017, California

Cost: $19-21

You would be hard pressed to find a family that has had more influence on the California wine industry than the Mondavis. Cesare Mondavi started the ball rolling by buying the Charles Krug Winery in 1943, and the family is still going strong today.

Cesare and his sons Robert and Peter ran the winery until Peter and Robert parted ways. Peter continued to run Charles Krug, which is now run by his sons Marc and Peter Jr.

Robert Mondavi became an icon in the world of wine as one of the first people to figure out that Napa Valley was ideal for growing world class wine. He started Robert Mondavi Winery in 1966 where he made great cabernet sauvignon and sauvignon blanc, which he called Fume Blanc.

Robert’s son Tim and daughter Marcia are partners in the Continuum Estate, where their children also carry on the family business.

Robert’s other son Michael founded the Michael Mondavi Family Estate and Folio Fine Wine Partners, which imports wines from family-owned wineries from around the world.

Collectively, the family has produced more great wine than any other family I can think of. The 2017 Isabel Mondavi Rosé ($19-21) is a nice addition to their portfolio, part of the Michael Mondavi Family Estate. Named for Michael’s wife Isabel, this rosé of cabernet sauvignon is a stunner.

It is made in the restrained Provencal style, while showing plenty of Napa fruit. The wine is salmon colored in the glass, with aromas of strawberry, apple and ripe pear. The flavors are light, so the wine pairs well with lighter meals, but with enough strawberry and cranberry flavors to keep it interesting. A bright, crisp acidity makes it a good food wine.

While the blend contains 76 percent cabernet sauvignon, it pays homage to the family’s Italian roots with 24 percent barbera. The wine didn’t spend much time on oak, with Michael Mondavi joking that it was aged on Highway 29, the main road through Napa Valley.

The first vintage of this wine was 2016, replacing a darker rosé of cabernet sauvignon, which had been produced for several years.

“My daughter (Dina) came to me in 2015 and said we need to revamp the rosé because it was too heavy,” said Michael Mondavi. “So I told her to make a few barrels and we would try it.”

The family tasted her barrels and loved the wine, so when it was time for the 2016 vintage, Dina made all the rosé in the lighter style.

The clear bottle has floral filigree screen-printed instead of a label, making a striking package. I could see the bottle being reused as a flower vase or just a decorative piece.

Rosé is especially appropriate during October, which is breast cancer awareness month.

Winery: Working with his sons Michael and Tim, Robert Mondavi created the Robert Mondavi Winery in 1966, the first Napa winery built after Prohibition.

In 1999 Michael bought his own land and founded Michael Mondavi Family Estate. Later he started Folio Fine Wine Partners to manage a folio of exceptional wines from around the world.

Michael said he wanted to make wines to pair well with food, instead of trying to win competitions. “Wine that goes best with food is not necessarily the wine that scores high in a tasting with other wines,” he said.

“In my family wine was always the most important thing at the table. My wife says first comes people and conversation, followed by food. Then comes wine. Wine’s job is to enhance the enjoyment of the conversation and food.”

Michael Mondavi has spent his whole life in the wine industry. When he was 11, Michael’s grandfather told him his most important job was to leave the soil in his vineyards in healthier condition than when he received it from his father and uncle.

This influenced him to look to natural farming and a minimalist approach in the winery.

Michael has traveled the world as an ambassador for Napa wines, and has received many honors from the wine industry. He is known as the “quiet icon” among his friends and colleagues in the business. Many credit him with helping establish and build the Napa Valley wine industry as it is known today.

Drafted into the family business immediately following his college graduation, Michael often spent two thirds of the year traveling, promoting Mondavi wines and the Napa Valley wine industry in general. 

His first vineyard purchase was the Animo vineyard in Atlas Peak in 1999. Working with his wife Isabel and their two children Rob Jr. and Dina, they created Michael Mondavi Family Estate.

Michael believes in natural farming, and has ensured that all estate vineyards are farmed sustainably, with the winery achieving recognition as a “Napa Green Certified Winery.” For fruit not grown on estate vineyards, Michael has developed long-term relationships with trusted growers. 

The winery makes several wines under the labels of Michael Mondavi, Isabel Mondavi, Emblem and Animo. All are outstanding.

I loved this rosé wth fried chicken.

Goes with: We had the Isabel rosé with fried chicken from Maryland Fried Chicken. Even though it’s from a chain restaurant, the chicken tastes homemade, crisp and crunchy on the outside and juicy on the inside.

This was a great pairing. The light fruit flavors and crisp finish of the wine matched the juicy chicken flavors. Chicken is one of my favorite pairings for rosé, and the Isabel proved to be right on the mark. We added biscuits and french fries to complete the meal.

The rosé pairs well with a variety of cuisines from antipasti to spicy Thai. It’s also very enjoyable just by itself, while sitting on the porch thinking great thoughts. This would be a great wine for a fall picnic.

Serve the wine well chilled.

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