A Taste of
The Vinorium

Issue: 4 / Sunday 19 November, 2017

Dining with the Mondavi's

Written by Stuart McCloskey

 

Out of the blue, I received an invitation to join Tim & Carlo Mondavi for lunch in London, which is one invitation you do not decline. The great and late Robert Mondavi was known throughout the wine world as a pioneer until the world lost this colossus of a man in 2008.

Out of the blue, I received an invitation to join Tim & Carlo Mondavi for lunch in London, which is one invitation you do not decline. The great and late Robert Mondavi was known throughout the wine world as a pioneer until the world lost this colossus of a man in 2008.

I arrived (far too early as usual) at Hawksmoor Guildhall and prepared myself to meet two generations. Carlo (the son of Tim) arrived first followed by the Mondavi’s European export manager who, and before the arrival of Tim, made sure I was aware of the seating arrangements. Hawksmoor offers some very comfortable banquet seating around the parameter of the dining room – I was told to sit in the middle with Carlo & Tim flanking each side like presidential bodyguards. Soon after, Tim arrived and with all the dignitarys finalised we sat and ordered a bottle of sparkling wine.

I understand they spent the previous evening in the company of Steven Spurrier and wanted to try a bottle Steven’s English sparkling wine, Bride Valley. Alas, this was not possible. Instead we opted for a bottle Hambledon’s, NV Classic Cuvée which was very pleasant but certainly not a compelling drink at £60 per bottle.

Carlo quickly got down to business and introduced his own wine project, RAEN which he shares with his brother, Dante. Make no bones about it – Carlo is deeply passionate and has a great understanding of winemaking. His enthusiasm was affectionate and his technical know-how genuinely impressive. Moreover, Carlo is simply a great guy and easy to get on with. We sampled the trio of 2015’s which included their Royal St Robert Cuvee, Fort Ross-Seaview and Freestone Occidental. All three Pinot Noirs, from the Sonoma coast were outstanding (both our allocations of the Royal St Robert Cuvee have sold-out) and stylistically very different.

"It was fascinating to be guided through each wine as Carlo is very much a hands-on winemaker and has a deep understanding of each microclimate, fauna and flora which surrounds each vineyard."

It was fascinating to be guided through each wine as Carlo is very much a hands-on winemaker and has a deep understanding of each microclimate, fauna and flora which surrounds each vineyard. Royal St Robert Cuvee is a true expression of the cool climate vineyard where all the grapes are nurtured. We moved onto the Fort Ross-Seaview which was stunning and more so when Carlo explained the grape’s struggle to mature within the growing season. Their vines sit just above the fog line, which allows the foliage to photosynthesise. The afternoon sun warms the canopy and slowly ripens the grapes. This wine offered a real ethereal elegance and can be enjoyed over decades. Tim quickly interjected and wanted to express his preference for this wine. He also wanted to express his views to Carlo regarding site selection and made it clear that Carlo should be seeking-out cooler climate areas equal to Fort Ross-Seaview. I quietly sat back and took a large forkful of prime rib slathered in béarnaise sauce.

 
 

We moved onto my personal favourite, the Freestone Occidental which I found to be the most masculine of the trio. I believe the Occidental vineyard is circa 2 miles off the Sonoma Cost and is their coolest daytime site. The vineyard is surrounded by coastal oak trees, towering redwoods and wildflowers, which I can only imagine as something truly beautiful. The Pinot Noir ripens incredibly slowly but the wine offers extraordinary depth, complexity and balance rarely seen with US Pinot Noir.

Son and father tackled the wine list whilst I tackled as much lobster macaroni cheese I could shovel in whilst retaining some level of decorum.

Carlo is not shy in coming forward with his ambitions to make the greatest US Pinot Noir and he truly believes he has the sites, the clones and more importantly, the skillsets to make this a reality. Each year, Carlo spends an astonishing $40,000 on a blind vertical tasting, which includes the true Burgundian greats of Domaine Romanée Conti, Dujac to namedrop a few. Carlo pitches his wines against these as he believes this is his benchmark. Of course I asked the question “where do your wines come in the blind tasting” however, I do not recall receiving a response and I was too polite to press for one.

Carlo also spoke of his miniscule bottling of his 2016 Fort Ross-Seaview Charles Ranch Vineyard Chardonnay, which is a first for them. Only 200 cases have been made and Carlo has promised The Vinorium a small, exclusive allocation, which we will share with you all...

My attention was ushered towards Tim and his project, Continuum which is located on Prichard Hill, St Helena, also home to some esteemed neighbours including Bryant Family. Tim’s export director jumped into action with his PowerPoint presentation whilst Tim reeled off his patter precisely and with fervour. It was a well rehearsed double act however, I have to confess the laptop was blocking my way to all the beef which was diminishing quickly!

We started with Tim’s 10th release; the 2014 which was served ‘en-magnum’ - A classic Bordeaux blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Merlot and drinking deliciously. These are very serious wines however, the ’14’s elegance was pure magic. This vintage has sold-out both in the US and UK however, we have requested a little allocation. The 2009 was next inline to be served which and to be perfectly candid, was a brute with lifted alcohol levels that I found disagreeable. Ditto with the 2006 which is showing no sign of age whatsoever. I delicately broached my discord with both vintages which Tim agreed with. Tim went on to explain that his earlier vintages are his least impressive and each new vintage seems to be getting better and better. Early vintages used 100% oak and perhaps the toasting was too obvious. Today, Tim has replaced 20% oak with Sonoma Coast Stone and Nomblot concrete eggs vessels which provides a wonderful clarity to the overall finished wine.

Like Carlo, Tim’s knowledge of his craft and land is quite extraordinary - Granted, the Mondavi family is a behemoth name in the wine industry however, each and every one of them understands wine like few I have met over the course of 25 years.

Wine presentation finished, discussions regarding wine critics immersed with some fabulous stories regarding their relationship with Robert Parker, which has not always been convivial. Sadly, these are best saved and shared over a bottle of wine rather than putting pen to paper!

It goes without saying, I am a privileged man to have the opportunity to dine, drink and laugh with two amazing winemakers. They were incredibly generous with their time, their selection of wines and they picked up the check too (just in case you wondered).

Sadly, I am unable to offer a thorough assessment of Hawksmoor (for the above reasons) however, what I did sample was delicious and I must say the staff were super-friendly...

Cheers, Stu

footnote – I am hoping to be in a position to offer the complete RAEN trio next week...

News Snippets

James Suckling.com has released a great article following their recent visit to New Zealand.

500 wines were sampled, a great video produced (starring our very own Devotus exclusivity) but the backing track is a shocker.

Kumeu River 2015 Chardonnay’s performed incredibly well with 97 points awarded to...

 

Evidently, Kumeu River is in this weeks spotlight with Wine Searcher naming two of Kumeu’s wines in their ‘top 5’ The World’s Best Value Chardonnays, which is some accolade given the sheer number of listings. Hunting Hill (always our favourite) takes second place with Mate’s coming in 5th... It was an impressive line-up with not a
Chablis in sight!

 
 

Our (2016) Deep Woods Reserve Chardonnay has just been awarded 97 points and a staggering 5 Gold Medals at the prestigious Royal Queensland, Adelaide, Perth, Margaret River wine shows...

The 2015 Estate Cabernet Merlot has picked up an unprecedented 10 Golds / Trophies and 95 Points.

Both wines are being prepared for shipment and will be arriving in the UK, January 2018.

 
 

The super-famous Margaret River producer, Devil’s Lair may be coming to the UK for the very first time with an exclusivity with The Vinorium.

We are in talks regarding representing their entire portfolio including the legendary 9th Chamber Cabernet Sauvignon & Chardonnay which are only made in the very best vintages. The 2011 vintage was awarded 98 James Halliday points and Cabernet Sauvignon of the Year.

Fingers crossed...

 
 
 

2016 Bordeaux En-Primeur:

 

We continue our 2016 Bordeaux En-Primeur theme with three right-banks, which received unprecedented demand during the campaign particularly when Châteaux Ausone and Cheval Blanc released @ £3,200 IB per case of six and Châteaux Pavie & Angelus at £1,787.50 IB per case of six.

The quality of the below wines are uniformly on-par and the critics scores almost identical therefore, it does beg the question where is the value with the aforementioned. The below wines are hugely popular (once physical) and offer the ‘best’ right-bank investment.

 

•  4 x Cases Château Figeac @ £930.00 IB per case of six

98-100 Neal Martin
19.0 Jancis MW
98 Jane Anson / Decanter

 

• ]4 x Cases Vieux Château Certan @ £1,180.00 IB per case of six

97-100 Antonio Galloni
98-99 James Suckling
19.0 Jancis MW
95-97 Neal Martin

 

•  6 x Cases Château La Conseillante, which Suckling describes as the “greatest Conseillante of modern times” is offered at £930.00 IB per case of six

99-100 James Suckling
96-98 Neal Martin “
95-98 Antonio Galloni

 
 

Wine of the Week

 

Château Saintayme 2014

Denis Durantou of the famed L’Eglise Clinet needs little introduction and more pleasingly, his quartet of super-affordable right-banks are gaining serious momentum with each and every release. We sampled the full 2014 line-up this week and chose Saintayme as our ‘Wine of the Week’ simply as we normally shy away from 100% Merlot’s however, this was fantastic and demonstrated the sophisticated hallmarks we have come to love with L’Eglise Clinet. The wine is medium-bodied and shows a lovely level of acidity – tannins are ripe and svelte, which adds to the overall charm. Decant for 2-3 hours and enjoy this remarkably elegant Bordeaux over the next 6-8 years.

92 Points - Stuart McCloskey 

90 Points - Neal Martin “The 2014 Saintayme has a delightful, fresh and lively bouquet with blackberry and that subtle tincture of cold stone. If anything, this has gained vigor since I tasted it from barrel. The palate is fresh on the entry with grainy tannin, slightly savory in style with commendable structure on the finish. Classic Saint Emilion from Denis Durantou that will drink well for longer than most people will allow!”

£16.95 per bottle (duty & VAT included)

Buy £100.00 IB Per case of six

 
 

Take me to the Quartet
Cruzelles, Montlandrie, La Chenade & Saintayme

 

Tried & Tested

 

2015 Shaw + Smith Lenswood Chardonnay 2015 Adelaide Hills, South Australia

James Halliday awarded the ’15 Lenswood 98 points and named it ‘best of the best Chardonnay’ in the 2018 Wine Companion

From the estate Lenswood Vineyard planted '99, hand-picked, the bunches chilled overnight then whole bunch-pressed to new and used French puncheons for fermentation and 10 months maturation with gentle lees stirring. The bright quartz-green colour signals a wine of exceptional intensity and purity, pink grapefruit embracing white peach, oak watching on from the sideline. A truly great chardonnay

Our sample arrived (one week late) and here’s our view...

Lenswood vineyard (planted in 1999) has east and west facing aspects and reaches 500 meters above sea level which contributes to its overall elegance and natural acidity. Like the superb 2014, the 2015 has lifted struck-flint / minerality on the nose and later scents of cold wet limestone. This is an incredibly focused wine unapologetically linear, razor-sharp delineation and with outstanding depth, which will build over the next decade. Glorious with a little aeration and thrilling at every turn. This is an outstanding Chardonnay which comfortably sits in Burgundies Grand Cru camp. Astonishing.

 

Put it on your wish list and wait for our offer...

 

We will be donating 25% of our profit on each and every website order received from 5:00pm Friday 17 to 9:00am Monday 20. We will share the news on Monday evening...

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