Robert Mondavi Maestro 2014, Napa Valley
Cost: $48-52
T he Robert Mondavi Winery reminds me of Alice’s Restaurant in Arlo Guthrie’s song of the same name. You know, you can get anything you want at Alice’s Restaurant.
In the world of wine you can get anything you want at the Robert Mondavi Winery. Looking for an inexpensive wine for a weeknight dinner? Pick up a Woodbridge or Private Selection label from Mondavi. Looking for something to go with a nice dinner? Try their Napa Valley wines. If you want something a little more special you can get an Oakville District wine.
Mondavi wines cover a wide variety of price points, but they are universally good and representative of the grape and terroir each represents.
Not content with great wines at good prices, the folks at Mondavi have created a special wine to mark a special occasion for the winery–their 50th anniversary.
Robert Mondavi Maestro was introduced in 2016, the anniversary year. This bottling from the 2014 vintage is the second time around for this Bordeaux-style red blend. The initial offering from 2013 featured merlot, but this version is heavy on cabernet sauvignon.

The winemaker says Maestro is made to spotlight the strengths of each vintage with no set style or formula. This year’s blend is a blockbuster, with layer after layer of lush fruit flavors. This is a wine for people who love big, powerful red wines that also have enough acidity and finesse to pair with food.
The current version is a little silkier, with a softer mouthfeel than the 2013 Maestro. The Mondavi folks said the softer mouthfeel comes from the fruit from their Wappo Hill Vineyard in the Stags Leap AVA. The rest of the fruit comes from the revered To Kalon Vineyard in Oakville. It brings structure and power to the finished wine.
This year’s blend is 73 percent cabernet sauvignon, 23 percent cabernet franc and two percent each of merlot and petit verdot.
The wine is a gorgeous inky dark red in the glass with enticing aromas. On the palate it is complex, full of juicy plum and cassis, with hints of cinnamon and cocoa. The tannins are rich and well integrated.
The grapes for this wine were hand picked into small bins and carefully sorted at the winery’s gravity-flow cellar. After the clusters are destemmed the grapes go directly into traditional French oak casks for a cool soak, fermentation and extended maceration. The juice remains in direct contact with grape skins for 24 days, bring maximum extraction of varietal characteristics and complexity.
Then the wine was drained and gently pressed into 28 percent new French oak barrels for malolactic fermentation. The final blend was assembled through repeated tasting trials over the 21 months of barrel aging.
The name Maestro was chosen to note a key moment in the winery’s history–the opening of their To Kalon Cellar in 2000. The state-of-the-art facility was the realization of a long-held dream by Robert Mondavi. He was known for bringing people together to enjoy wine. For this occasion he threw a grand opening party at which he unveiled a specially-commissioned “Ode to To Kalon” performed by a chamber orchestra.
The legend is that Mondavi got so excited during the performance he jumped up from his chair, grabbed the conductor’s baton and led the orchestra. He became the Maestro of the vineyard, literally and figuratively.
Current owners Constellation Brands say they are still inspired by Robert Mondavi. He certainly was the person who brought Napa Valley winemaking onto the world stage. He never stopped believing that Napa wines could rival any in the world.
Winery: When Robert Mondavi opened his winery in Napa Valley 51 years ago he was gambling that Napa and the rest of California could produce wine to match the best in the world. It was the first Napa winery after Prohibition, built in a sleek and modern style.
His confidence in the California terroir paid off as the rest of the world quickly learned about the amazing wines from California. Mondavi was a tireless crusader for the wines of Napa and other regions.
Mondavi also believed fine wines would match a gracious lifestyle that included food and art. That dream has become a reality as California’s wine regions have become magnets for wine, music and the arts.
As the company grew it added other labels, such as Woodbridge and Private Selection, and added production facilities farther south in the Central Coast region to handle the grapes coming from that fertile area.
The Private Selection wines were introduced in 1994, primarily featuring California’s north and central coast grapes at a moderate price. Private Selection varietals include chardonnay, cabernet sauvignon, heritage red, meritage, merlot, malbec, pinot noir, zinfandel, riesling, pinot grigio and sauvignon blanc.
The Woodbridge label is the winery’s entry point, followed by Private Selection. The top tier is Robert Mondavi Winery, which is further divided into district wines, reserve wines and spotlight wines.
Constellation Brands acquired the winery in 2004.
Michael and his girlfriend Micheala enjoyed the chop suey, and Micheal loved the wine.

Goes with: We had this with chop suey, a soup my grandmother and my mother made. It’s one of those comfort foods that always transports me back to their kitchens whenever I make it. It’s relatively simple, and you can make a big batch and freeze some.
Here’s the recipe:
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Chop Suey
2 pounds beef, pork and veal, trimmed and cut to bite-sized pieces.
3 Tbls. shortening or cooking oil
1 cup hot water
1 tsp. molasses
1 cup onion diced
1/2 cup soy sauce
2 cups celery chopped
2 Tbls. cornstarch
2 bunches green onion, sliced thinly
1/4 cup cold water
beef stock or bullion
Cooked rice.
Melt the shortening in a Dutch oven. Add meat and brown. Add onion, celery, hot water, beef broth and salt. Cover and simmer until meat is tender, about 30 minutes.
Add remaining ingredients and cook about five more minutes. Mix cornstarch and cold water. Blend into chop suey to thicken the liquid. Cook a few minutes more. Serve over rice.
This is a good meal any time of year but it is especially good in cool weather. To make it heartier, use more beef broth and less water.
The wine was so good it even got a rare smile out of Michael.

Because it has soy sauce in it, this soup sometimes can be hard to match with a wine. The Mondavi Maestro was a perfect fit. The silky smooth fruit flavors of the wine blend nicely with the soy sauce, molasses and meat.
This wine also would pair well with a thick grilled steak, beef burgundy, beef stew, a hearty casserole or rich cheeses.

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