Recently I had the chance to sit down for lunch at Stephen Pyle’s Restaurant with two notable Napa characters – Gary Midyette, director of winemaking operations at Robert Mondavi, and Sean McKenzie, winemaker for Clos du Bois. The two were on an annual Texas Tour that Constellation was doing for wines in its luxury portfolio.
Gary told me the tour was designed to encourage retailers to try other wines in Constellation’s fine wine portfolio they may have not had the opportunity to try before. Sean talked about how it provided the wine makers the opportunity – especially those with diverse portfolios – to show the differences of the portfolio wines and the versatility of the different coasts.
We started with the Mondavi Fume Blanc Reserve from To Kalon Vineyard. It was a crisp and fruit forward white that was clean with a floral finish and nice minerality with nectarine and stone fruit. Only 1,500 cases are bottled of this wine. Ironically I brought home the non-reserve version my very first trip to Napa many moons ago. That wasa good wine. The reserve version is great. It’s my kind of sauvignon blanc and I’m doing what I can to get a hold of some even though most of it is sold directly at the winery. It was a perfect first course starter.
We moved to the Clos du Bois Reserve Chardonnay that is sourced from the Russian River Valley. Clos du Bois has a “wineries within a winery” philosophy and they source grapes from 150 long-term growers in Dry Creek Valley, Russian River Valley, Carneros and Knights Valley. The 2010 Chardonnay comes from vineyard sites in the Russian River Valley. I tasted baked apple, lemon, caramel cream, baking spices and toasted marshmallow. Sean talked about how he fashions his wines to fit times when he is relaxing with his friends with great food and wants to create layers of complexity and depth to match. This was an Old World almost Burgundian in style wine.
We moved to the 09 Mondavi Pinot Noir from Carneros. Lots of red fruit and Asian spice, this was a great food wine and matched my entrée perfectly. It was a powerful, Old World Burgundian style wine and I enjoyed it thoroughly.
Next up was the 08 Sonoma Reserve Merlot, which had lots of wood, tobacco, plum and big berry along with chocolate and espresso. It defined what a good Merlot should be and was soft on the tannins and well balanced.
We then moved into Cabernet Sauvignon and both wineries had strong showings. The 08 Clos du Bois Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon from Alexander Valley was structurally a big wine with tobacco leaf, chocolate, black cherry and oak. It was drinkable today but would age well. The 09 Robert Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon from the To Kalon Vineyard was another powerful wine with great balance. Full of blueberry, mocha and oak, it was delightful.
My favorite part, and you could tell both guys were good people, was when we saw a group of ladies that were intrigued with what we were doing and the fact that so many bottles remained on the table. Not only did they give them the rest of the wine, but both graciously posed for pictures in spite of having to dash to the Republic Portfolio tasting that afternoon.