The Robert Mondavi Winery
    October 1st, 2009

By: John St. Mark

Robert Mondavi MemoramYou may have heard about Robert Mondavi’s passing last year, just as his 95th birthday was approaching; he was much celebrated for his many accomplishments, including a prominent role as ambassador for wine to the American public, and ambassador to the world for American wine. His legacy extends far beyond his namesake winery in the Napa Valley, but that is a great place to visit if you would like to learn about his contributions to the wine industry, and about winemaking generally.

The Robert Mondavi Winery is located in the heart of the Napa Valley, right off Highway 29 in the Oakville district. The property was first planted to grapevines in 1868 by a man named H. W. Crabbe, who is believed to be the first to plant cabernet sauvignon in the Valley (this area is still considered prime country for cabernet.) Mondavi purchased his first eleven acres and built the winery in 1966, after a falling out with his brother Peter, with whom he had been running the Charles Krug winery up the road in Saint Helena (their father, Cesare Mondavi, had purchased Krug back in 1943. Peter and his family still own Charles Krug.) Like his father before him, Robert was able to forge strong relationships with local growers; although the winery now owns about 500 acres of vineyard, it continues to purchase fruit from a number of highly sought after growers.

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Wine Tasting In The Napa Valley
    September 1st, 2009

By: John St. Mark

There are literally hundreds of wineries in the Napa Valley, and although I will be mentioning a few landmark wineries as points of reference, my goal here is not to make specific recommendations (we’ll leave that for future columns) but rather to offer some general information that should be helpful wherever you choose to go.

Napa Valley Sterling Vineyards

If you’re starting from San Francisco, driving to Napa should take roughly an hour and a half to two hours, assuming traffic isn’t too bad (allow more time if you have a scheduled appointment; it may take longer to get further up the Valley, and traffic delays are not uncommon.) The more scenic route would be to cross the Golden Gate Bridge and take Highway 101 north to Highway 37 east, and then Highway 121 through the Carneros District (where a number of notable wineries, such as Artesa and Domaine Carneros, are located) to Highway 29 north and the town of Napa.

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The Napa Valley
    August 3rd, 2009

By: John St. Mark

The Napa Valley has a big reputation, but if you’ve been there you know that it is not such a big place. In fact, of all the wine grapes cultivated in California, less than five percent are grown in the Napa Valley.

So, what’s the big deal with Napa Valley wine? How did the Valley become known as one of the world’s premier wine producing regions?

There is some conjecture that indigenous people in the area may have used the native vitis californicus grapes to make some form of wine, but winemaking in the European tradition began in California with the Spanish missionaries, who needed sacramental wine for religious services, and also valued wine for nutritional, social, medicinal and eventually commercial purposes. The northernmost mission was established in Sonoma, just over the hills from the Napa Valley, in 1823.

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