2006 Robert Mondavi Chardonnay Napa Valley

Tightrope walker

Rating: Wow.  Way better than expected.  While stereotypical of what Cali Chard has become, it's executed with grace and accuracy.  Balances everything very well. $16-ish.

The rest of the story:  (NOTE: Please see the response from the winery at the bottom of this posting.) We prefer to support the independent grower-producer because, well, it's the socially responsible thing to do.  That, and the fact that we've always been a fan of the underdog.  But like some other wines we've reviewed recently, one cannot deny that this is an impressive delivery from this enormous production house.

It'd be stating the obvious to say that the Robert Mondavi Winery, now part of the Constellation Brands family, is a well-known name in California winemaking.  And since you can pretty much buy their wines anywhere, we know they make a lot of it - all the more impressive given the level of quality in this wine.

In the glass the color is strawlike, which is deceiving. With so much green in it, you'd think it'll be thin and light, right? Nope.  It's got full fruit body upfront, and creamy butter...but still tame, lithe, dry, and crisp.  There's definitely oak there, but it's kept in balance.  The aftertaste is very pleasant if somewhat stereotypical.

All in all, a very enjoyable a surprise. Better - way better - than expected. We paid $16.99 for it, but have seen it for as low as $14.50 and as high as $20.

When we taste a white this good, we like to see what it's like at room temp - where the flavors can really express themselves.  But good luck in exercising patience for that long.  Just pop the cork and drain it.

In response to this review, Chris Barefoot, Marketing Director for the Robert Mondavi Winery replied, "...Thank you for forwarding your review of the Robert Mondavi Winery Chardonnay Napa Valley. I am glad we suprised you. We often suprise people who may not have tried the wines in a while. The fruit for this wine is sourced from the southern part of the Napa Valley, the juice is gently pressed directly into barrel to maintain freshness and about 20% is fermented in stainless steel to maintain crisp acidity and fresh fruit flavors. Afterward it spends 10-12 months in 12% new French Oak barrels for complexity. Each barrel lot undergoes partial malo-lactic fermentation which is managed by taste alone. We do not blend non-malo with full malo to make partial, all lots undergo Malo-lactic until they reach the desired flavor profile. As you can imagine this means a great deal of cellar management.

The only point in the post that I would like to clarify was the reference "enormous production house." It is important to note that the Robert Mondavi Winery in Napa only produces wines from the Napa Valley which in its entirety only produces 4% of California wines. The majority of our wines are heavily influenced by the 450 acres we have in Oakville, and the 400 acres we have in Stags Leap. Many bottlings exceed 65% estate fruit. The total of all our reserve wines together is under 15,000 cases and includes some 100% estate production. The balance of the winery's production is dominated by three wines Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley which is approximately 120K cases and the two whites Fumé Blanc and Chardonnay which account for 50K a piece. While certainly larger than many, we have had 43 years to grow; and we are far behind large scale producers that can produce 1-10 MM+ cases. I think that because Robert Mondavi was a master of marketing people know us well, so they assume we are big. The fact that we produce wines in the Central Coast (Robert Mondavi Private Selection) and in the Central Valley (Woodbridge by Robert Mondavi) both which are widely available also contributes to the perception that the Robert Mondavi Winery is a mega-winery, when in fact these wines are made and cellared in the regions where the grapes are grown in order to guarantee freshness of the fruit to make the best wines. They both play an important role in making wine an everyday part of our lifestyles..."

Huh.  Had no idea.  We are definitely guilty of that assumption.  Thanks for the background and correction!