The Legacy of Mondavi Wine Enthusiast, May 2016 (original article)
A lucky few may get to taste old and rare vintages of Robert Mondavi wines, beginning with the 1966 Unfined Cabernet Sauvignon, sourced from the To Kalon Vineyard. By 1971, it was simply known as Reserve. It wasn’t until the 2011 vintage that the winery designated it as To Kalon Vineyard. But just as interesting—and more widely available—are the wines inspired by the winery or made by the many winemakers who have passed through its doors. There’s also the legacy of Geneviève Janssens, the director of winemaking since 1997 and a quiet mentor to many. Michael Mondavi, Robert's oldest son, was the first winemaker at Mondavi Winery, a position he held through its first eight vintages. He now runs Michael -Mondavi Family Estate and Folio Fine Wine Partners. Michael's son, Rob, makes the Michael Mondavi wines, including M by Michael Mondavi, Animo and Emblem.
Rob recently launched Fourth Leaf Wines with his cousin, Angelina, the granddaughter of Peter Mondavi (Robert's brother) and daughter of Marc. Also there early on? Warren Winiarski, who would later found Stag's Leap Wine Cellars and launch Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon into the global -stratosphere after the historic 1976 Judgment of Paris tasting.
The list of great winemaking names with connections to the winery reads like a Who’s Who of Napa.
Michael's younger brother, Tim, began making the wine at the family winery in the 1980s. He went on to start Continuum Estate, which produces a singularly focused Cabernet from a high-elevation site on Pritchard Hill. He runs Continuum with his sister and children, two of which, Dante and Carlo, have recently launched Raen Winery, making Pinot Noir from three hillside vineyards on the extreme Sonoma Coast. Zelma Long, Robert Mondavi’s chief enologist in the early 1970s, is an international consultant for wineries in California, Washington, Israel and France. She’s also winemaking partner at Vilafonté in South Africa. Long was originally hired by Mike Grgich, who went on to help make the winningChateau Montelena Chardonnay of Judgment of Paris fame. Now in his 90s, Grgich continues to preside over Grgich Hills Estate in Rutherford. Other talents to grace Robert ¬Mondavi Winery in the past include winemaker Ric Forman, later of Sterling and Newton, who is making his own wines under the nameRossi-Wallace; John Williams of Frog’s Leap Winery in Rutherford; Dan Goldfield ofDutton-Goldfield in the Russian ¬River Valley; and Paul Hobbs, of Paul Hobbs Winery and myriad international ¬consulting gigs. That’s to name just a few.
In addition to the Robert Mondavi Winery wines, Janssens also makes Portfolio, a limited-production Cabernet in partnership with her husband, Luc, and two children. Janssens stands beside the next generation of winemakers at Mondavi, Joe Harden and Megan Schofield. If the past 50 years are any indication, Robert Mondavi Winery will continue to nurture and launch future winemaking stars. It’s a good time to taste it all.
Tasting the Legacy
Portfolio 2011 Limited Edition (Napa Valley); $140, 95 points. A blend of 82% Cabernet Sauvignon and 18% Cabernet Franc, made by Geneviève Janssens, this has an Old-World soul with plenty of California complexity.
News from the Winery, 2010 — The Janssens family had a very prosperous 2010. Our daughter Gabrielle successfully passed the California State Bar, and is now a lawyer. Our son Georges has finished his World Wine Tour 2010. This endeavor stemmed from his dream to combine world travel with charity. The wines collected around the world by his efforts will be auctioned in May 26, 2011 in Hong Kong. Profits from this event will go to the Lao Rehabilitation Foundation, our nonprofit organization which supports Laotian people and their children with medical and educational needs. Luc and his team have accomplished four medical missions in the remote areas of Laos, improving the lives of over six thousand patients in the northern provinces.
Genevieve, as a winemaker, was honored by the French government with the highly coveted medal of “Officier du Mérite Agricole”. The Wine Enthusiast Magazine has also honored Genevieve by awarding her with one of the industry’s highest honors, the “2010 Winemaker of the Year” award. The Janssens family will go to New York City in January 2011 to celebrate with The Wine Enthusiasts in recognition of her accomplishments.