Robert Mondavi Fumé Blanc 2013, Napa Valley
I t’s easy to take for granted a wine you have enjoyed many times. You tend to forget about how good it is and what a good value it is. You just keep drinking it because you like it.
The Robert Mondavi Fumé Blanc is like that. I have enjoyed it for more than 30 years. Each time I drink it, I marvel at its quality for the price. And that quality doesn’t vary with the vintage; it stays the same year after year.
One of the great things about drinking wine is you can constantly explore new wines, new regions, new techniques. But in doing so, you always go back to old favorites, leaving room, of course, for the new favorites you discover along the way.
With the Mondavi Fumé Blanc the joy begins as soon as you pour it into a glass. There is an explosion of aromas when you sniff: tangerine, honeydew melon, lime and jasmine. The flavor continues to seduce the senses, with layers of fruit and floral tastes, especially lemon and lime. The crisp flavors linger long and pleasantly on the tongue.
The wine comes mostly from Napa (89 percent), specifically the Wappo Hill vineyard and the famed To Kalon vineyard. The other 11 percent comes from Mendocino. The blend is 90 percent Sauvignon Blanc and 10 percent Semillon.
The Wappo Hill vineyard in the Stag’s Leap District adds the bright citrus and herbal flavors, while the To Kalon fruit adds richness and complexity with layers of tropical, mineral and floral notes. The Semillon adds complexity and a nicer mouth feel.
Sixty percent of the juice was barrel fermented for added richness, with eight percent in new French oak. The rest of the wine was cool fermented in stainless steel to add crispness. The blend spent five months in 60-gallon French oak barrels and hand stirred twice a month.
When Robert Mondavi created this wine in 1968, he was breaking out of the standard simple, sweet Sauvignon Blanc mold. He got inspiration from the Pouilly Fumé of the Loire Valley in France, but gave the wine a distinctly California twist. It was an instant sensation and remains one of the winery’s most popular wines, along with its Cabernet Sauvignon.
Winery: There is no winery that says Napa Valley more than Robert Mondavi. The iconic winery on the main highway through the heart of the valley should be considered a must stop for every first-time visitor to wine country.
The late Robert Mondavi was a pioneer in the California wine industry. He built the first modern winery in Napa after Prohibition in 1966, hoping to show the world that Napa Valley could produce world class wines that would match any in the world.
Mondavi believed great wine was part of a gracious lifestyle that included food and art. For years the winery hosted a summer music festival to raise money for the Napa Valley Symphony. He also was instrumental in the launch of the Napa Valley Wine Auction that now raises millions of dollars annually for local charities.
He promoted education of wine consumers and started a program to introduce wine drinkers to the great chefs of Europe and the United States.
As the winery grew it added wines at all price ranges and built facilities in the Central Coast region, farther south. Their labels include Woodbridge and Private Selection as well as Robert Mondavi and Robert Mondavi Reserve. The Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve from the To Kalon Vineyard sells for $325 a bottle. Among its labels, Mondavi offers just about every varietal grown in California.
In the 1970s Mondavi and French icon Baron Philippe de Rothschild joined forces to create Opus One.
Constellation Brands acquired the winery in 2004.
The ultra modern mission style winery and tasting facility was built in 1966 and has offered interesting tours. The facility was renovated and expanded beginning in 1999 and was later named the To Kalon Cellar.
Like many other wineries Mondavi practices natural farming and believes in environmental responsibility. Environmentally friendly practices include conserving soils and water, managing pests and recycling water and materials.
Robert Mondavi knew that great wines always begin in the vineyard and he carefully sought out some of the best growing regions in Napa. That allowed him to make great wine at higher prices while still mass producing quality wine at lower prices.
Goes with: This Fumé Blanc is perfect with an elegant meal or a snack. My wife Teri and I really enjoyed it during the busy time around Christmas.
One night we were decorating and didn’t want to spend a lot of time cooking, so we steamed some shrimp we brought back from our last trip to Kiawah Island. The pairing was outstanding.
The citrus flavors from the wine were a nice match for the lemon juice we sprinkled on the shrimp. The cocktail sauce we used with the shrimp didn’t overwhelm the wine, but mixed nicely with the complex and long-lasting flavors.
You could also serve this with seafood in a cream sauce, salmon on the grill, roast chicken, turkey tetrazzini and lighter cheeses such as Havarti.
Robert Mondavi Fumé Blanc 2013, Napa Valley