Robert Mondavi at 90
Mondavi, with his son Michael, founded the winery that bears his name in 1966. In the third-of-a-century since, the Mondavis have left their stamp on just about every aspect of American wine, from creating the name "Fumé Blanc" to pump life back into the flagging commercial fortunes of Sauvignon Blanc in California, to building a showcase winery that's still a Napa Valley landmark.
Within five years of the winery's founding, the Los Angeles Times declared its 1969 Cabernet Sauvignon the best wine produced in California, and they've never looked back. Some of California's top wine makers - including Mike Grgich (Grgich-Hills), Warren Winiarski (Stag's Leap) and Zelma Long (Simi) polished their trade at Mondavi, putting the winery's stamp on wine making throughout the state.
Building partnerships with top wineries in France (to make Opus One), Italy (to make Luce) and Chile (to make Caliterra), the Mondavis have built a wine conglomerate that produces 20 labels and more than 80 wines from four countries.
Robert Mondavi recently presided over the opening of COPIA: The American Center for Wine, Food and the Arts, a Napa institution that celebrates the role of wine, food and the arts in American culture.
And this, I think, carries on his lifelong dream: To make wine a natural, everyday part of the American dinner table, and to make Napa Valley wines (and, of course, Mondavi wines) that rank with the world's best.
It's a rare and happy thing for an individual to live to see the fruition of such a dream and to hear the applause of his peers late in a long and productive life. And so it is with Robert Mondavi, who will celebrate his 90th birthday on June 18.
The folks at wine.com are putting together a virtual birthday card for Mondavi, collecting digital birthday greetings from wine lovers everywhere to present to him on his birthday. You don't need to know Mondavi personally to participate. If you admire the man and enjoy his wine, you're welcome.
To sign the "card" - you may also add a short greeting if you wish - you're invited to click to
Wine.com pledges that it will not use this list for E-mail solicitations, although participants who wish to do so may elect to join the company's list by clicking the "Add me to wine.com's newsletter mailing" box.
For more about Mondavi, visit the company's Website,
Now, let's end the work week on a consistent note by reviewing one more U.S. Pinot Noir. We began with two Oregon Pinots on Monday, then on Wednesday moved to Northern California's Carneros, the cool zone that spans the southern end of Napa and Sonoma. Today we'll finish this geographical tour of the West Coast in Santa Barbara, a region on California's Central Coast, not too far north of Los Angeles, that is gaining increasing respect as a first-rate wine area.
Artesa 2000 Santa Barbara Pinot Noir ($17)
Clear garnet color, rather light. Marked "cherry cola" scent, an aroma that I often find in Central Coast Pinots; ripe red-cherry fruit emerges with swirling and time in the glass. Full fruit flavors follow the nose, almost candied in nature, gives an initial impression of sweetness that dries out with snappy acidity as the wine crosses the palate. Fresh and appetizing, a bit short in the finish, but still a good food wine as Pinot should be. (May 28, 2003)
FOOD MATCH: Makes a natural marriage with a dish created to match, the porcini pork chops featured in yesterday's Wine Advisor FoodLetter,
VALUE: Found for $17 locally, it's a good value by the standard of upscale Pinot. Faces a bit more competition at the $25 retail listed on the winery Website.
WHEN TO DRINK: Drinking well now, but will last, if not significantly improve, over the next few years.
WEB LINK: You'll find the winery fact sheet on the 2000 Santa Barbara Pinot Noir here:
TALK ABOUT PINOT ON OUR WINE FORUM: I've posted this tasting note on our Wine Lovers' Discussion Group, where you're welcome to join in an online conversation about this or other Pinot Noirs. Click to "TN: Artesa 2000 Santa Barbara Pinot Noir,"
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Friday, May 30, 2003