Vino and Vinyl, A Brooklyn Pop Up Dinner with Robert Mondavi Wines

I was delighted to attend a pop-up wine dinner held in a historical, stunningly renovated brownstone in Brooklyn, featuring up and coming wine maker Joe Harden, of Robert Mondavi winery and innovative chef Theo Friedman. The event was a sensory pleasing showcase of the modern approach Joe is applying to the historic Mondavi vision.

Emmy award winner, James Beard award recipient, author and television personality Ted Allen hosted the evening. Incredibly knowledgeable in both food and wine (and also the history of Brooklyn and its brownstones), Allen brought a graciousness and warmth to the entire event.

The stunning dining room.

The legacy of Robert Mondavi is that of a man who put the Napa Valley wine region on the map. For over 40 years he pioneered sustainable viticulture and crafting high quality, approachable wines that express the terroir of Napa Valley. Today, Joe Harden is carrying forward his iconic vision.

A former professional basketball player, Harden grew up making wine with his father in a 30 acre Cabernet Sauvignon vineyard. After obtaining a degree on oenology, he completed his training under renowned Mondavi winemaker Genevieve Janssens, learning the entire process from field to bottle in the To Kalon vineyard in Oakville, Napa Valley. Harden’s wine philosophy is to make the best quality wine that is balanced and food friendly. For a detailed account of Joe’s journey, click here.

Winemaker Joe Harden detailing the history and vision in each glass.

Chef Theo Friedman of Theory Kitchen [a traveling, pop-up kitchen], has trained at The Musket Room, Gotham Bar and Grill and other prominent NYC restaurants. At only 24 years old, Friedman has been creating pop-up dining experiences since 2010; establishing a cult following of passionate eaters, providing him with the opportunity to cook in kitchens and pop-up spaces across the country. As I was the only vegetarian attending the event, he was kind enough to go out of his way to create an entire meat-free menu for me. To read more of about his fascinating career, visit theorykitchen.co

Chef Theo Friedman describing his spectacular dishes.

To begin the evening, we enjoyed two very different Fume Blancs [Robert Mondavi is actually the man responsible for the name Fume Blanc], both hailing from the legendary To Kalon [ancient Greek for “the highest beauty”] vineyard in Oakville. To Kalon is “ recognized as one of the finest first-growth vineyards of the world” and Joe Harden is a “ firm believer in the power of To Kalon”. Predominantly Bordeaux grapes are grown at To Kalon [Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Petit Verdot, Syrah], these 2 Fume Blancs are the only white wines coming from this historic vineyard.

Robert Mondavi Winery ‘Oakville’ Fumé Blanc Oakville 2014

Winemaking: Grapes came from the To Kalon vineyard, specifically from the young vibrant up and coming Sauvignon blocks that aren’t quite up to the caliber of the reserve wine. Hand harvested and whole cluster pressed. 91% of the wine was fermented in 60 gallon French oak barrels, then barrel aged [8% new oak] on its lees for 8 months with hand stirring [bâtonnage] to integrate the flavours and develop its creamy texture.

Tasting Notes: Bright and fresh with citrus, herbs and a trace of floral accented by a streak of clean minerality, finishing crisp and fruity. Easy drinking, fantastic sipping on its own or easily paired with a wide variety of dishes. [It was wonderful with crispy maitakes with cured egg yolk and parsley ranch.]

79% Sauvignon Blanc, 21% Sémillon
14.5% Alcohol
$34 [average price]

Robert Mondavi Fumé Blanc Reserve To Kalon Vineyard Napa Valley 2014

Winemaking: Grapes were sourced from the iconic, dry farmed, Sauvignon Blanc vines planted in the 1960’s in To Kalon vineyard. Hand harvested and whole cluster pressed. Almost all of the juice was fermented in French oak [42% new], and then aged on its lees for 9 months and hand stirred [bâtonnage] twice weekly, for a creamy texture and to enhance the volume and length. A small amount of Sémillon was added to increase richness and body. Additionally, 2 egg shaped cement fermentation vessels were utilized to explore the purity of fruit that this process is known for, and added to the final blend.

Tasting Notes: Fresh pear, herbs and bright acidity fuse with soft, creamy lemon, whilst citrus zest and a streak of minerality comprise the lengthy finish. Elegant and rich, yet super easy drinking. [A perfect companion with the creamy, bright, chilled California avocado and English pea soup.]

98% Sauvignon Blanc, 2% Sémillon
14.5% Alcohol
$52 [average price]

Robert Mondavi Winery ‘Maestro’ Napa Valley 2014

Winemaking: Maestro was created in commemoration of Mr. Mondavi. Upon the opening of the To Kalon cellar in 2000, Mr. Mondavi hired the Napa Valley Orchestra to perform, halfway though he grabbed the conductor’s baton and started conducting the orchestra. This led to a front page picture and headline calling him “The Maestro of Napa Valley”. Conceived as a free spirit, it’s a wine that allows the winemaker to explore and experiment, its not restricted by style or grape. The 2013 vintage is a red blend, whereas 2014 is mainly Cabernet Sauvignon, as it had a beautiful harvest that year. The 2014 was crafted to be approachable, soft yet dense, and to pair really well with food.

Grapes were sourced from the Wappo Hill vineyard in Stag’s Leap, along with To Kalon vineyard. Hand harvested and sorted in the gravity flow cellar. The clusters were destemmed directly into French oak tanks for cold soak, fermentation and extended maceration, a total of 24 days of wine to skin contact, serving to maximize the extraction of varietal character and complexity while keeping the tannins fleshy and supple. Next the wine was drained and pressed into 28% new French-oak barrels for malolactic fermentation, then aged for 21 months.

Tasting Notes: Vibrant, concentrated jammy fruit [think blueberry, plum, black cherry] vanilla and baking spice supported by velvety tannins. A dessert-like finish, with pink peppercorn dusted Grenache, coffee and toasted oak lingering decadently between each sip. [ A fantastic foil to the wonderfully fresh, pungent ramp pasta.]

73% Cabernet Sauvignon, 23% Cabernet Franc, 2% Merlot, 2% Petit Verdot
15% Alcohol
$46 [average price]

Robert Mondavi Winery Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve To Kalon Vineyard Napa Valley 2014

Winemaking: The reserve Cabernet Sauvignon is a wine that met a lot to Mr. Mondavi, “a wine he hung his hat on”. He crafted it with the intention that it be “enjoy with food and friends and family”. Today it is known as a reflection of his philosophy on winemaking, creating wines that are powerful yet gentle. [Joe provided us with my favourite quote of the evening, stating that Mr. Mondavi said: “I want my reserve Cab to be as soft as a baby’s bottom and have the power of the voice of Pavarotti”. The “First Growth” grapes form the finest blocks in To Kalon vineyard provides the wine with natural structure, acidity and power.

Hand harvested grapes spent 34 days fermenting and extended maceration in French oak tanks. The wine was then pressed and underwent malolactic fermentation in 100% new French oak barrels. The final blend spent 21 months in oak barrels, and was bottled in August 2016. Consistently being tasted to monitor its development, it is looking as though the wine will be released this October.

Indeed, my favourite wine of the evening, it is exudes elegance and power, well structured and perfectly balanced.

Tasting Notes: Food friendly acidity and well integrated oak accent fresh, ripe berries, crushed pink peppercorn and herbaceous elements. Silky smooth tannins, vanilla, chocolate and a trace of menthol linger on the lengthy, plush finish. Elegance along with a strapping, robust gentility in every sip. [Wonderful with grilled portabello covered in cocoa and malt glaze.]

93% Cabernet Sauvignon, 6% Cabernet Franc, 1% Petit Verdot
14.5% Alcohol
Currently not released [$165 Suggested Retail Price]

Robert Mondavi Winery Sauvignon Blanc Botrytis Napa Valley 2002

Winemaking: With the dry climate in Napa Valley, the humid conditions necessary for botrytis or noble rot [the concentrating of sugars and flavour by allowing the grapes to shrivel or raisin] to develop need to be created. Following the regular harvest, select grapes are left on the vines for noble rot. Sprinklers are used at night in order to increase the humidity, with harvest taking place in November. Grapes were sourced from the Wappo Hill vineyard in Napa Valley’s Stags Leap District AVA. Fermented for 2 months in French oak barrels [13% new], then aged on its lees and hand stirred once a month for 19 months.

2002 is the last year the Sauvignon Blanc Botrytis was made since the conditions haven’t been right. Joe stated that they are hoping this year they will have the opportunity for a 2017 vintage.

Tasting Notes: Fresh and vibrant with a bright acidity balancing the sweetness. Honey drizzled orange, lemon and apples fuse into lingering buttery croissant and candied orange notes. Sweet and vibrant, delicious on its own or a wonderful pairing with all types of deserts, from rich cheeses to decadent chocolate. [A great pairing with mild to stinky cheeses, dried apricot and clove preserve, and roasted nuts.]

100% Sauvignon Blanc
12% Alcohol
$100 [average price]

A superb finish to the evening.

Media event hosted by Robert Monday Winery.

Eat Drink and be Merry: The Dreaming Tree Trio

Winery: Dreaming Tree Wines is the creation of legendary musician Dave Matthews along with New Zealand winemaker Sean McKenzie. The duo is passionate about crafting accessible wines that express “the unique characters and rich flavours” of California’s wine country. The portfolio currently consists of 6 wines, all sourced from various sustainably farmed vineyards in California.

A Certified California Sustainable Winegrowing winery, they strive for sustainability in all facets of wine production, including sustainable methods in the vineyard, bottles that are a quarter pound lighter and manufactured with clean-burning natural gas, 100% recycled paper labels, along with natural corks sourced from sustainable farms. The winery also utilizes solar energy, having the largest solar footprint in the US wine industry.

Philosophy: To make “wines for people to drink. I don’t make wines for people to put in their cellar.”

The Dreaming Tree Sauvignon Blanc Sonoma County 2016

“We think this wine hits all the right notes. No matter what your journey may be. This is the perfect wine to share along the way.” – Sean McKenzie

Winemaking: Aged for 3 months in stainless steel tanks, bottled immediately in order to maintain the youthful characteristics of the fruit.

Tasting Notes: Pale gold in colour with bright, fresh aromas of melon, grass, clean minerals and citrus. Juicy, summer cantaloupe and honeydew flavours meld with pineapple and a hint of pink grapefruit. Tingly acidity and clean minerals shine on the citrus zest finish. A fantastic summer sip.

Pairing Suggestions from the Winery: A great sipping wine that also pairs well with classic fish and chips, fresh shellfish and spicy Mexican dishes.

100% Sauvignon Blanc
13.4% Alcohol
$12 [average price]

The Dreaming Tree Pinot Noir 2015

“This is something I feel good about inviting someone over to share with me. It’s something I can be proud of. It’s creation.” – Dave Matthews

Winemaking: 70% of the grapes were sourced from Central Coast AVA. Aged in oak barrels for 10 months.

Tasting Notes: Transparent bright garnet in colour with inviting aromas of cherry, strawberry, vanilla, white pepper and toasted oak. Tasting similar to the aromas with ripe cherry and strawberry dusted with crushed pink peppercorn. Silky tannins and an engaging savoury streak fuse with vanilla, cherry, spice and traces of oak on the lengthy finish. Easy drinking and well balanced with food friendly acidity, wonderful on its own or with a wide variety of dishes. [It was fantastic with gnocchi covered with rich fontina/parmesan sauce and roasted broccoli.]

Pairing Suggestions from the Winery: Roast chicken or pork, grilled fish, mushroom risotto.

100% Pinot Noir
13.8% Alcohol
$13 [average price]

The Dreaming Tree ‘Crush’ Red Blend 2014

“I swallowed it before I put the glass down.” – Dave Matthews

Winemaking: 79% of grapes were sourced from North Coast AVA. Wines were periodically racked [siphoning the wine off the lees or sediment] to clarify and to develop the smooth tannin structure. After aging for 16 months in oak, the individual varieties were blended.

Tasting Notes: Dark garnet in colour with aromas of cranberry, raspberry, black pepper, vanilla and toasted oak. Velvety tannins along with hints of vanilla and leather accent cherry, raspberry and plum jam flavours. Crushed black peppercorn, toasted oak and a trace of rich black cherry comprise the plush finish. Full bodied with ripe fruit and silky smooth, don’t be surprised how swiftly your glass will empty.

Pairing Suggestions from the Winery: Barbecue, vegetarian stuffed poblano peppers, Vietnamese pork sandwiches.

64% Merlot, 20% Petite Sirah, 13% Zinfandel, 3% Other
13.7% Alcohol
$13 [average price]

Samples submitted for review purpose.

Mud House Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough 2014

Processed with Snapseed.

Winery: Established in 1996, with a focus on the earth and environment, the Mud House name reflects their “origin and link to the earth, where the wine begins”. Mud House has vineyards in 3 different regions of New Zealand’s South Island; Marlborough, Waipara Valley and Central Otago, along with two wineries, one in Marlborough and one in the Waipara Valley. Employing a combination of innovative technology along with the “passion and artisan skill of the winemakers” they strive to capture the essence from where the grapes come from, “ensuring the unique complexities of each region travelled through the earth through the vineyard to the glass”. The Mud House range of wines are crafted to be “everyday wines to enjoy at any occasion”.

Winemaking: Grapes were sourced from the Woolshed vineyard [clay and loam soils] located in Upper Wairau Valley, Marlborough. Planted in 2001, the 105.5 hectares of vines are nestled “in the shelter of a steep sided triangular hill called the ‘Delta’”. Grapes from Woolshed are designated for the Single Vineyard Woolshed Sauvignon Blanc and the Mud House Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc.

Tasting Notes: Pale gold in colour with aromas of peach, pineapple and tomato leaf. Super fruity and refreshing, with lush, tropical fruits sculpted by racy acidity and herbaceous hints, finishing with energizing citrus zest notes.

100% Sauvignon Blanc
Marlborough
New Zealand
Produced and Bottled by Accolade Wines New Zealand Ltd, Riverlands
13% Alcohol
$14
Enjoy now thru 2017

Rated 89 points by Wine Spectator

Loveblock Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough 2015

LOVEBLOCKSB

Winery: Loveblock Vintners was founded by Erica and Kim Crawford and is located in the high hills overlooking the Awatere Valley in New Zealand’s famous Marlborough region. The estate vineyard, ‘Loveblock Farm’ is certified organic, whilst the other vineyards are practicing organic, as with the majority of vineyards in New Zealand, synthetic/chemical products are not used. Many sustainable methods such as “natural compost, cover crops and livestock are used to enhance soil health”.

Philosophy: “Creating the best wine we can to express this extraordinary place and its unique aspect. We follow our deeply held belief in ethical farming which enables the wine to show its true and naked terroir.”

Winemaking: Grapes are sourced from “from estate vineyards in Marlborough, two in the lower Awatere valley, and one at the base of the Waihopai valley”. The soil is a blend of alluvial loam with clay over stone. “A small portion of the wine goes through natural and malolactic fermentation, cutting the sharp edge off the palate.”

Tasting Notes: Super pale gold in colour with aromas of yellow apple, melon, papaya and green olive. Tropical in character, with bright pineapple, peach, papaya and apricot flavours balanced by vivid acidity. The herbaceous hint on the dry, citrus finish is a lovely compliment to all of the fruit.

Sauvignon Blanc with small amounts of Arneis, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris and Gewurztraminer [I was unable to confirm varietal percentages.]
Marlborough
New Zealand
Produced & Bottled by Loveblock Vintners
13.5% Alcohol
$17
Enjoy now thru 2020

Montes Trio Tasting: Three Diverse Wines to Enjoy All Summer

montestrio

Estate: Montes was established in the late 1980’s by four wine professionals with the goal of crafting “Chilean wines a quantum-leap higher in quality than the standards” that were currently in practice. Founder and winemaker Aurelio Montes professes “80% of good wine comes from the vineyards and only 20% from the cellar”. With that in mind, the estate not only employs sustainable viticulture, they also aim at conserving the environment. Currently they have conserved 400 hectares of indigenous forest in the Maule region, along with protecting biological corridors that enable the natural development of both plant and animal life. Preservation of the environment has resulted in the estate [including both farming and winemaking activities] to be Carbon Neutral as the forest absorbs all of the CO2 produced from both agricultural and winemaking activities. [Certified Sustainable, Carbon Neutral and Fair for Life]

Philosophy: “To make wines of the highest quality while caring for the environment and our people and developing a sustainable culture in every phase of production.”

The following 3 wines are wonderful companions to summer activities, from patio sipping to barbecues to quiet dinners.

Montes Spring Harvest Sauvignon Blanc 2016
Winemaking: Grapes were sourced from vineyards with granite and clay soils located in the Leyda Valley. The Sauvignon Blanc is unique in that it is harvested 21 days earlier then normal. Similar to Beaujolais Nouveau, it is the very first Chilean Sauvignon Blanc to hit the shelves each year.
100% Sauvignon Blanc
12% Alcohol
$16 [average price]

Tasting Notes: Pale straw in colour with sunny aromas of lemon, white flowers and grass. Bright and crisp, with fresh tropical fruit [pineapple, kiwi] gliding over an herbaceous, lemon drenched backbone complimented by a food friendly acidity. Lemon and lime notes linger on the zippy finish. A perfect pairing with salty foods, it was fantastic with buttery popcorn.

Pairing suggestion from the Winery: Sushi, ceaser salad, ceviche, shellfish, veggie pastas, lemon chicken.

montessaub

Montes Spring Harvest Sauvignon Blanc 2016

The Montes ‘Alpha’ line was the first premium Chilean wine. The line is also noted for its sustainable dry farming method developed by Aurelio Montes, where “nature waters the vines. If rainfall is insufficient for vine growth and development, the winery supplements with minimal irrigation to compensate for the difference. The result: 65% less water usage, and lush, elegant wines.” Grapes for both the Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah are sourced from the Colchagua Valley vineyards, specifically from the Finca Apalta and Marchigüe properties.

Montes Alpha Cabernet Sauvignon 2013
Winemaking: 55% of the wine was aged for 12 months in French oak barrels.
90% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Merlot
14.3% Alcohol
$16 [average price]

Tasting Notes: Dark garnet in colour with tempting aromas of wild berry jam black pepper and hints of vanilla. Silky layers of fresh blackberry, raspberry, nutmeg and vanilla laced oak evolve into a dry, baking spice and crushed white peppercorn finish. Well balanced and silky smooth, this is a fantastically versatile Cab that can be paired with just about any dish, or lovely sipping on its own. [I paired with a super dense, creamy alfredo pasta topped with peppery grilled tempeh.]

Pairing Suggestions from the Winery: Dishes with red sauce and mushroom sauce, all red meats.

montescab

Montes Alpha Cabernet Sauvignon 2013

Montes Alpha Syrah 2013
Winemaking: 55% of the wine was aged for 12 months in first and second use French oak barrels.
90% Syrah, 7% Cabernet Sauvignon, 3% Viognier
14.5% Alcohol
$16 [average price]

Tasting Notes: Inky red-violet in colour with aromas of blackberry, blueberry, vanilla and spiced oak. Dark berry jam flavours saturate the core of caramel laced peppery spice and velvety tannins. Jammy fruit and spice notes carry thru and are joined by toasted oak on the lengthy finish. Concentrated and velvety, this is a plush Syrah that can make the transition from dinner to dessert. [I paired with cheese manicotti dinner and then followed with a dark chocolate and hazelnut bar dessert.]

Pairing Suggestions from the Winery: Chinese dishes, pasta, all meat, especially red meat.

montessyrah

Montes Alpha Syrah 2013

 

 

 

Samples submitted for review purpose.