Know how to get a cavalcade of seasoned (read: potentially jaded) wine writers, winemakers, wine growers, and wine industry insiders to go as quiet as mice (I’m talking pin-drop-sounds-like-a-jet-engine-on-fire quiet), and as stupefied as deer in the headlights?
I saw Robert Mondavi Winery pull it off a few weeks ago in Napa Valley.
You tell the crowd that you’ve just tapped the keg on the remaining bottles of the winery’s inaugural Reserve-level Cabernet Sauvignon bottling (in this case, the 1966), and that wine is now in everyone’s glasses. Oh, yeah, then you have the creator of that wine stand up and say “I’m Warren Winiarski, and I made this wine.”
As once-in-a-lifetime wine tasting events go, that one ranks pretty highly, even for those of us who have already had outsized amounts of once-in-a-lifetime wine tasting event opportunities (this was helped by the genuine combination of pride, awe, and shock in Winarski’s voice as he described that he never expected to be speaking about the 1966 Cab fifty years later).
During the course of the multi-day Mondavi event at the Napa Valley winery (which I attended as a media guest), we ended up going through a sizeable portion of the last fifty vintages of Robert Mondavi Winery’s Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon.
What became clear as we were lead through the various tasting proceedings and events by RMW educator Mark de Vere, and winemaking team Genevieve Janssens, Joe Harden, and Megan Schofield, was that this iconic wine is impossible to separate from its equally iconic winery, and its arguably much more iconic namesake.
I half expected the ghost of Robert Mondavi to waltz in on us like a whirling dervish at some point during our tastings, and I don’t at all mean that flippantly; at this point, his presence and influence is as firmly embedded in the superstructure of RMW as the material in its literal foundation…
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There was so much that I didn’t want to like about Sonoma’s storied Williams Selyem.
- The too-cool-for-school exclusivity of their mailing list.
- The imposing fortress-like facade of their “barrel-evoking” tasting room and its “wall of bottles.”
- The fact that they used terms like “barrel-evoking.”
- That current owners John and Kathe Dyson were former mailing list members (how cute!).
- That the label typeface they use was so old that it had to be recreated from scratch when their printing went digital.
- The way that their wines get collectors all google-eyed, shooting prices up on the secondary market.
- The friggin’ goats.
The problem with trying to be a Williams Selyem hater, though, is that when it comes to their affable, knowledgeable staff, and their consistently excellent wines, there’s just not enough bad there to hate…
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Pssst! Hey! Wanna vote Naked?
I was recently a judge for a contest that Naked Wines is running, in which winemakers made video pitches describing what fantasy/dream wine they would create if they had an extra $100Gs laying around (for more info. on what Naked Wines is all about, check out the interview we did with founder Rowan Gormley).
In this case, however, one of the winemaker finalists in the contest can actually win the $100Gs to go and make the wine.
I helped whittle down the numerous video entries in order to select the eight finalists. The judges also included Naked Wines Archangel Kent Reynolds, Naked Wines staffers Matt Parish (chief winemaker) and Anne Saunders (US managing director), as well as few notable friends of mine: Jeff Siegel (of WineCurmudgeon), Tom Wark of Fermentation, and #winelover founder and globetrotting-firend-to-just-about-everyone Luiz Alberto.
While some of the video entries certainly made excellent cases for why some people are better suited for making wine than for making videos, for the most part the pitches were excellent, the finalist group diverse and interesting, and I’m looking forward to seeing which one of these wines makes it to the birthing stage.
You can go vote for your favorite online (so, theoretically, you could actually vote naked) until July 4th over at https://us.nakedwines.com/winemakerfantasy2016.