Robert Mondavi Winery
More so than any other name, the name Robert Mondavi is heard throughout the Napa and Sonoma Valleys as well as the East Coast area of the United States. We decided to visit the Robert Mondavi Winery because of a shared vision to educate the American people about wine. As a result of our visit to California, we have learned that Robert Mondavi is a leader in the wine education movement and his wife, Margrit, is a leader in hospitality. Both education and hospitality were very evident on our visit to the Robert Mondavi Winery.
It was the last day of our California visit and the clouds broke with heavy rain. We made it to the reception room only slightly damp and checked in for our 11:30 tour, “The Harvest of Joy Tour and Lunch.” Since it was my birthday we thought this would be a perfect opportunity to try one of several educational tours offered by the winery. As we were a bit early we dried off in the large reception area next to an inviting fire. Adorning the walls of this area are wine artifacts from recent to ancient eras. One can see the spark of inspiration for a future article. Some of these artifacts include a decanter, 18th century wood grape bucket, 19th century medicinal wine jar, amphorae from the 1st century B.C., and many more assorted objects.
Annette, our Wine Educator, greeted us and our small group was joined by another employee, who was interested in learning more about this particular program. We talked about Wine Trail Traveler and the Mondavi philosophy of education. Annette was more a gracious host than a stand and deliver tour guide. She made us feel at home in this world famous winery. She started in a room with maps of the Napa Valley. Annette discussed the different AVAs within Napa Valley. We have learned that many of the wineries we visited grow grapes on land around the winery, but also own or purchase grapes from other AVAs. This allows the winery to source grapes from the best location to take advantage of the terroir best suited for a particular varietal.
The rain stopped for a moment so we ventured out to the vineyard where the rows are labeled with the grape varietal. This is a demonstration vineyard and without the leaves on the vines one can notice the trellising and pruning techniques employed. Art is an important part of the Mondavi education philosophy. Whether it is the art of the winemaker, the art of the chef, the painter, the sculpture or the designer, art surrounds you. The vineyard was no exception with large, colorful balls formed with metal strips brightening the landscape, especially on a rainy day. Unfortunately our time in the vineyard was short-lived as the rains hurried us into the winery.
We saw rows of large oak tanks used for fermentation. In another room oak barrels were perfectly aligned quietly aging the wine they contained. Another room housed the stainless steel tanks and yet another the bottling assembly line. Off the assembly line there is a small room with a wine bottle display. We learned that, "... Robert Mondavi Winery pioneered a trend to eliminate lead capsules, as well as developed a more elegant, drip free neck finish." Robert Mondavi Winery also uses 50% recycled glass materials in their bottles. Artifacts and art was displayed throughout the winery building.
It was time for lunch and we proceeded to another building where the table was elegantly set. The first course consisted of smoked sturgeon salad with potato-celery root latke and Granny Smith apple-horseradish Créme Fraîche. This was paired with a 2004 Robert Mondavi Winery Carnerous Chardonnay. The salad and wine matched wonderfully. The second course was stewed lamb with baby artichokes, English peas, shütake mushrooms and carrot puree. This course was pared with a 2004 Robert Mondavi Winery Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. Again the pairing of food and wine matched perfectly. Our final course was a raspberry and lemon curd tart paired with a 2005 Robert Mondavi Winery Napa Valley Moscato d’Oro. This is a sweet wine and brought smiles to the sweet wine drinkers.
During lunch Annette introduced the wines and our discussion centered on wine. The chef, Richard Haake visited us near the end of our lunch. We highly recommend this tour. You will learn about Robert Mondavi, the winery, and eat a fabulous lunch paired with three great wines.
After our tour we met with Rob Hennigar, Director of Education programs. We discussed Robert Mondavi’s vision of educating the American public about wine, and how over the years, he has consistently shared this learning with others. Rob pointed out the many educational tours offered at the winery are for the public as well as educational opportunities offered to the employees. Check out the various educational tours on their website. Employees can take courses from beginning to advanced and new courses are being developed.
Over 150,000 visitors come to the Robert Mondavi winery each year. Of these, 65,000 take one of the tours. Half of the visitors come for the programs while the other half come to taste. The sign over the door to the reception area sums the philosophy, “Visitors Welcome.”
The Robert Mondavi Winery is open daily from 10:00 to 5:00 except Easter, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day. Advanced reservations are recommended for the tours.
Robert Mondavi Winery
7801 St. helena Hwy
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