Appreciation From The Robert Mondavi Family

The Napa Valley Vintners Association WebsiteI was surprised to find this note in my inbox today from the Mondavi Family, so I thought I’d share.

To all of our friends,

The Robert Mondavi family is extremely appreciative of the many kind expressions of compassion and personal reflections that have appeared since Robert’s death. From the beginning, his vision, commitment to excellence in every part of his life and desire to empower others to do their best, were hallmarks of his efforts; and he would be gratified to see that his message was heard around the world.

Please be assured that your words have eased our feelings of loss, and we hope that our paths will cross in the future so that we can share some of our best memories.

The Robert Mondavi Family

Wow. I wasn’t expecting to receive anything like this (even if it did go out to an undisclosed amount of recipients). It just goes to show that you never know who reads your blog, and that you have a chance to reach people on a personal level, even on the internet. This was a very classy gesture on the part of the family, especially during their time of loss. The more time I spend around the wine industry, the more I realize it’s all about the people involved; their love and passion is what makes this business so special. Some of the nicest people I have met are in this trade, and this little email is further proof of that.

You can share a message / condolences with the family on the Napa Valley Vintners Website

Also, The Chronicle’s Jon Bonné has an extensive write up on Robert at

A write up is coming soon on the Robert Mondavi Winery Website.

Why Is My Wine Bad?

Is my Wine Bad?Despite technical innovations, sterile environments, a well trained wine making staff, and state of the art transportation and storage, wines today can still be bad, displaying faults that will ruin any wine lovers expectations. A whole number of things could have gone wrong, and below are just a few of the more common problems.

TCA – 2,4,6 Trichloroanisole “A Corked Wine”
You have probably had a bottle of corked wine if you’ve tried at least 12 different bottles of wine or so. Granted, TCA levels vary, so in trace amounts, you may have thought a wine wasn’t bad, but just displayed earthy or moldy characteristics. In heavier amounts, you probably related the smell to wet cardboard, a smelly basement, or a moldy stench and you knew the bottle was bad. As more wineries have moved to screw cap closures, the appearance of TCA has gone down, but it hasn’t been eradicated since the cause can also come from inside the winery. The beams in the building, barrels, wooden palates, and especially corks, all have naturally occurring organic phenols that react with chlorine and form chlorophenols, which in turn react with mold and moisture and form TCA. I’ve typically found more corked wines when trying a cheaper bottle of wine that was sealed with a cork, but it still happens at any price level.

Acescence or Volatile Acidity (VA)
Balsamic Vinegar – Good, Balsamic Montelena – Bad.
Another fault that you may have encountered is when your wine smells like nail polish or vinegar and tastes tangy and sour. This wine was ruined when bacteria produced high levels of acetic acid, which overwhelm the tartaric, malic, or lactic acids that are wanted and balance the wine. Acetic acid is a naturally occurring by-product of fermentation, and trace amounts are allowed by the government in your wine. It’s when those level get to high (usually above the allowable 0.12g/100ml in California) that the wine has taken on this unwanted profile and is said to have acescense.

Brettanomyces/Dekkera or “Brett”
This is the bottle that overwhelmingly smells like a horse stable, barnyard, leather or even a band-aid. Some wine makers allow small amounts of brett into their wines to add complexity, but when these aromas overpower the fruit profile of the wine, it’s gone to far and the bottle is bad. Brettanomyces is a yeast that usually finds the inside of a barrel a welcome home, and can soon spread through the entire winery if not controlled by proper wine making hygiene. Brett is made up of 4-ethyl phenol, 4 -ethylguaiacol, 4-ethyl catechol, and isvaleric acid and can be very difficult to get rid of once it takes over a winery.

Watch for these traits in your wine, and don’t be afraid to tell your waiter, the retailer, the winery, or your friend that you think there might be a problem. It’s better to discuss the problem then ignore it, and you’ll develop a better palate because of it. If you get a chance to visit Copia in Napa Valley, they have a tasting station where you can smell and identify these faults from controlled samples, which might be a good way to familiarize yourself for future identification.

Remember, friends don’t let friends drink bad wine, and wineries are more than happy to replace your bad bottle, so don’t hesitate to bring it to their attention.

Another Write Up On Robert Mondavi, and A Review Of Solaire

(Note: Robert Mondavi’s Autobiography entitled Harvests of Joy: How the Good Life Became Great Business – Paperbackis available on The Mercury News printed a nice obituary on Robert Mondavi this morning, which can be found here. The article highlights how he got into the wine business, his innovation using tempurature controlled stainless steel tanks for fermentation and French Oak barrels for aging (an uncommon practice at the time for California wines), and his recent work developing Copia in Napa Valley. It also lists some of the wineries he was involved with, including Arrowood Vineyards in Sonoma, Opus One in Oakville, Byron Vineyard in Santa Barbara, and Continuum launched recently by his children. His namesake winery was sold to Constellation brands in 2004 and they recently introduced Solaire, a reasonably priced wine that bares his name on the label. Winexpression was sent a press sample of the two wines they currently produce, and following is my review.

Solaire Chardonnay and CabernetIt goes without saying that when putting your name on a bottle of wine, you want that name to reflect well on you. I’m pretty sure that Robert Mondavi wouldn’t allow a company to simply plaster his name on a product that he wouldn’t be proud of. Even though Constellation is a huge brand, they hit a home run with their latest venture that bares the Mondavi name. Solaire is crafted by Rick Boyer and aims to showcase the quality of grapes coming out of California’s Central Coast and the results are a pleasant surprise. Even more surprising is the price point that both of these wines come in at. I’ve been recommending both to close friends for a few days now, hopefully they can get a head start finding them at their local retailer before the rest of the world catches on.

2006 Solaire Chardonnay, Santa Lucia Highlands, California

Price: $15

ABV: 13.5%

Rating: A (94 – 96 pts)

Notes: Just in time for summer! This wine possesses a rich aroma of vanilla, a touch of Oak, and hints of citrus and creme, that are not overdone on the palate. Think Crème brûlée without the weight, finished by a medium bodied palate that is fresh and crisp. It finishes beautifully and leaves you wanting more. I’ve tasted Chardonnays that weren’t this good that sell for twice the price. This is a fantastic value.

2005 Solaire Cabernet Sauvignon, Paso Robles, CA

Price: $18

ABV: 13.5%

Score: A- (92 – 94pts)

Notes: Another fantastic effort, I don’t think I’ve tasted a Cabernet from Paso at this price that was this good. It is gorgeous to look at, a rich and deep purple, that reveals loads of Black Cherry, Blueberry, and other black fruits on the nose. The mouthfeel is complex and full, and contains hints of leather, oak, and Cassis, with the dominate flavors of Cherry and Blueberry carried over from the nose. The finish is round, and not overly tannic, and lasts for at least 30 seconds. This is a great food friendly wine and a fantastic value that I’d compare to wines that sell for $50.


Robert Mondavi Dies At 94

As reported in Decanter, Winespectator (who has a full obituary), and, Robert Mondavi passed away this morning at his home in Yountville. If you would like to read more on the man, a book detailing his life entitled The House of Mondavi: The Rise and Fall of an American Wine Dynasty(paperback) Hardcover is available for purchase on Amazon.

The man was instrumental in many of the innovations still used today in wine making, was an excellent marketer, loved the arts, and left a legacy that will not soon be forgotten.

Robert Mondavi Winery

Wikipedia Article