Napa Valley: wine tasting tour at Robert Mondavi

90% of the wines produced in the United States is on the West Coast, the vast majority being in California. Napa Valley outputs 4% of the wine production in California. This post shares a brief history and the current wine production process at Robert Mondavi Winery.

A brief history

Robert Mondavi was an American winemaker. In the 1960s, the sauvignon blanc grape was unpopular in the United States. California wineries were making it a condition to buyers to sell their wines coupled with sauvignon blanc just to get the unwanted inventory off their hands. Mondavi developed a sauvignon blanc and labeled it Fumé Blanc. It was a success. And rather than keep the glory to himself, he taught American  winemakers how to make it. This deed helped elevate California winemakers to worldwide recognition.

How to visit robert mondavi

Tickets can be booked directly from the Robert Mondavi website. The winery is in the heart of Napa Valley and takes about 1.5 hours to drive from San Francisco.

We booked the Signature Tour and Tasting, which costs $40 per person as of October 2018. This comprised of a guided group tour around the winery, followed by a sit down tasting of four wines. The whole tour lasts about 75 minutes.

The Tour and fun facts

At the beginning of the tour, the guide gathers us in a room and gives us a brief history of Napa Valley. That’s how I learned the fun facts of California and Napa Valley wine production.

Afterwards, we saw the vineyards up close.

Cabernet Sauvignon Grapes. If I recall correctly, the vines pictured here were were 15-year old.

The oldest vines on this property is from 1945 (73 years old). According to the guide, older vines yield less but more delicious (and more expensive) wines, whereas younger vines have a higher yield, but are cheaper and mostly go to the store shelf.

A view of the vineyards from up top.

Grapes are harvested in the middle of the night because it’s colder. They don’t want to harvest grapes in heat – it’s supposedly bad.

After the grapes are separated from the stems, they’re thrown into some very big barrels.

The grapes are fermented, then stored in these big barrels for 9 months.

Another view of the big barrels.

After the 9 month period, the grapes are siphoned directly into smaller barrels.

The grapes are stored in these smaller 59-gallon barrels for an additional 9 months.

And after that, they’re finally transferred into individual bottles. They spend one year in the bottle before shipping the bottles to stores to sell. So the Robert Mondavi wines drank today are usually 3+ years old.

Robert Mondavi sells about 200,000 cases of wine per year. With 12 bottles per case, that’s approximately 2,400,000 bottles of wine. With 400 wineries in Napa, that’s a lot of wine.

The latter half of the tour was a sit-down wine tasting of speciality wines. We drank some something something blancs, purple colored stuff, white colored stuff, red colored stuff.

Each time, we were to smell it initially, then taste a small sip. Then we had to spin it around the glass to give it more oxygen, and then give it a second sip. Then finally a third sip, and “If you don’t like it by the third sip, this is not your wine.”

Yeah, I didn’t like any of them. I prefer to stick with tea. The good news is the experience inspired me to make a meat and cheese platter the next day.


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