The dinner featured the wines of the Robert Mondavi Winery. The innovative chef, Theo Friedman, just 24 years old and founder of Theory Kitchen, prepared dinner. Ted Allen, of the Food Network show “Chopped” and other programs, hosted the evening. Representing the Mondavi Winery was wine maker Joe Harden.
The Robert Mondavi Winery is located in the Napa Valley. Robert Mondavi opened his winery in 1966 and changed the face of California wine forever.
When Michele and I arrived, we were welcomed with wine and a an assortment of starters.
Crispy Maitakes with Cured Egg Yolk and Parsley Ranch Dressing
Piedmontese Beef Tartare with Pickled Mustard Seed and
Chilled Espresso Hollandise
Made from 79% Sauvignon Blanc and 21% Sémillon. The grapes are hand harvested in the cool, early morning and then the whole clusters are gently pressed, minimizing skin contact to retain freshness and vibrancy in the wine. Joe said that for richness and complexity, they barrel ferment 91% of the wine in 60 gallon French oak barrels. The wine is then barrel aged on its lees for eight months with hand stirring (batonnage) to integrate flavors and develop a creamy texture. Joe said a portion of new barrels (8%) contribute subtle oak spices to the fruit character. The wine was bottled in July 2015.
The wine has hints of lemon and lime with a touch of melon and fennel. $40
Made from 98% Sauvignon Blanc and 2% Semillon. Almost all of the juice was barrel fermented in French oak, 42% new, for a slow cool fermentation. The wine was aged on its lees for nine months and then was hand stirred twice weekly. Joe said this was to create creamy texture and to enhance the volume and length and the small amount of Semillon added gives the final blend a richer mouth feel and more complexity. Two cement egg-shaped fermentation vessels are used to explore the purity of the fruit that comes from the production method and added this wine to the final blend. Joe said the name “To Kalon” is Greek for highest beauty and it is one of Napa Valley’s oldest and most respected vineyards,
This reserve was bigger, richer, and more complex wine with hints of citrus fruit, a touch of spice and vanilla and a creamy texture $52.
Made from 73% Cabernet Sauvignon, 23% Cabernet Franc, 2% Merlot and 2% Petit Verdot. Appellation: 100% Napa Valley, To Kalon and Wappo Hill vineyards. Joe said this wine is inspired by Bordeaux blends, at heart it is a free sprit. Rather than a set style, they take their cues from each vintage from the vineyards. Cabernet Sauvignon in 2014 was fantastic in the Wappo Hill and To Kalon vineyards.
The grape clusters were gently destemmed directly into traditional French oak tanks for cold soak, fermentation, and extended maceration for a total of 24 days of wine to skin contact. Joe said this maximizes the extraction of varietal character and complexity while keeping the tannins fleshy and supple. The wine was drained and gently pressed into 28% new French oak barrels for malolactic fermentation. The final blend was assembled though repeated tasting. The wine has hints of dark and red fruit, juicy plum, and cassis with a touch of cinnamon. $50
Hudson River Duck Breast, Cocoa and Malt Glaze,
Preserved Berries Maitake
Made from 93% Cabernet Sauvignon, 6% Cabernet Franc and 1% Petite Verdot
The grapes were hand harvested with three stages of strict sorting, on the vine, by individual clusters, and then by single berry following destemming. Harvest was from September 2nd to October 17th. The selected grapes went directly into traditional French oak tanks for cold soak, fermentation, and extended maceration for a total of 34 days of wine to skin contact. Joe said this is done to maximize the extraction of varietal character and complexity while keeping the tannins round and supple. The wine was drained and gently pressed into 100% new French oak barrels for alcoholic fermentation and assuring seamless integration of fruit and oak. The final blend was assembled through repeated tasting over twenty-one months of barrel aging. This is an intense, complex and full-bodied wine with hints of blackberries, cassis, cocoa powder and vanilla. $165
Selection of Cheese and Crackers,
Dried Apricot and Clove Preserve, Roasted Nuts
Made from 100% Sauvignon Blanc. In 2002 they handpicked the botrytis-affected clusters from the Wappo Hill vineyard in Napa Valley’s Stags Leap District AVA as the clusters reached a sugar level of 40%. Due to the fungus’ dehydrating effect, the grapes were richly concentrated with pronounced flavor intensity. After gently pressing the grapes as whole clusters, the juice was fermented in 60 gallon French oak barrels, 13% new, to give the wine complexity and depth. The wine fermented slowly for two months until it reached 12% alcohol at which time the yeast activity naturally stopped, leaving a residual sugar of 16.1 percent. The wine was aged on the lees and gently hand stirred each barrel once a month, to increase the creamy structure of the wine, during 19 months of barrel aging. Because of the botrytis cinerea, this dessert wine has hints of orange marmalade, honey, orange zest, brown sugar and almonds. Residual sugar is 161 g/L. $NV