Napa Find: “Four Decades” Tasting and Dinner

    It was a surreal experience to taste a vertical of Mondavi's Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve that spanned four decades from the 1970's to the 2000's.

    Four corks, one from each of the Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve spanning four decades. Such a poignant way to capture a symbol of the history of Napa’s wine making.

    Seeking the ultimate Napa experience on your next escape to wine country? The “Four Decades” Tasting and Dinner at Robert Mondavi Winery is an experience that would make any getaway unforgettable.

    If your weekend adventures in Napa are anything like mine, you can probably be found visiting a couple of tasting rooms to sample the latest vintages before wrapping it up with dinner at a restaurant or a picnic with goodies from Oakville Grocery. It’s a great way to discover wines not found online or at retail outlets as well as learn about the source of the great wines.

    However, most tastings at wineries will feature the current vintages and sometimes, a few library wines from random years. For those that want to truly experience the history of Napa wine making, the “Four Decades” Tasting and Dinner at the historic Napa Winery is a top contender.

    I was fortunate to be invited on this immersion into Napa’s wine heritage with the ultimate wine and food pairing dinner. Four decades of wines were coupled with resident Executive Chef Jeff Mosher’s culinary creations. It was a surreal experience to taste a vertical of Mondavi’s Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve that spanned four decades from the 1970’s to the 2000’s.

    At the start of each course, a passage would be read from Robert Mondavi’s autobiography, “Harvest of Joy.” It was clear that even though Mondavi Winery is now part of the Constellation portfolio of brands, the influence of Mondavi is still strong at the winery he founded.

    Luck would have it that on such an evening, I would also share a table with Genevieve Janssens, Director of Winemaking for Robert Mondavi Winery, who was also named Wine Enthusiast’s 2010 Winemaker of the Year.

    The evening was magical and most memorable. You can experience the “Four Decades” Tasting and Dinner as well. Just make sure to reserve in advance.

    The guests enjoyed some appetizers on the outdoor patio before flowing into the dinner area where live music already filled the place a wonderful aura.
    The guests enjoyed some appetizers on the outdoor patio before flowing into the dinner area where live music already filled the place a wonderful aura.
    These oysters were a favorite. Absolutely delicious paired with a glass of Mondavi Rose.
    Genevieve Janssens, Director of Winemaking for Robert Mondavi Winery, stood up at each course to talk about the inspiration for the wine that was being served. I was fortunate to have her at our dinner table.
    Amuse bouche courtesy of the chef. I think it was smoked salmon…regardless, it was delicious. I should have taken better notes, but the evening was too enchanting, and distracting.
    Crispy Tai Snapper, Vegetable Noodles, Herb Salad, Yuzu Vinaigrette paired with 2008 Robert Mondavi Napa Valley Chardonnay Reserve
    Seared Foie Gras, Pain de Mie Crouton, Mexican Tarragon, Cherry Compote paired with 2009 Robert Mondavi Winery Carneros, Napa Valley Pinot Noir Reserve. This was by far some of the best foie gras I have ever tasted. It was melt in your mouth and savory. Contrast this with the sweetness of the cherry compote, I was on cloud 9. As much as I wanted a second helping of this, I knew such decadence should be enjoyed with some restraint!
    Niman Ranch Flat Iron Steak, Potato Boulangerie, Chanterelle Mushrooms, Carmelized Shallots, Chard paired with a vertical selection of Robert Mondavi Winery Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve (1979, 1981, 1997, 2007). The table favorite was the 1979. You can always tell which wine is the favorite by just looking around the table to see which of the wine glasses are empty. It is the quickest and most accurate way to tell. The 1997 was also a close second. There was much discussion about the 2007 vintage, which when it came out was proclaimed a great year in Napa wines. However, some were noting that 2008, the year after seems to be aging better than the 2007. Regardless, this tasting clearly shows that Napa wines have the capacity to age very well.
    Dessert was a Peach Leaf Creme Brulee, Peach Compote, Almond Cookie paired with a 2010 Robert Mondavi Winery Napa Valley Moscato d’Oro. I was seated at the same table as Genevieve Janssens, Director of Winemaking for Robert Mondavi Winery. It was fascinating hearing how she grew up on her father’s winery and learned wine-making with the “three fathers” of modern enology, Jean Ribereau-Gayon; his son, Pascal Ribereau-Gayon; and Emile Peynaud. Robert Mondavi, during the 70’s was developing quite the reputation in the old world as an innovator of wine-making in the new world. For some, the change from traditional methods was shocking. For Genevieve who loves to explore new ideas and ways of making wine, it was all very exciting. She moved to Napa Valley in 1978 to join in the explosion of wine-making innovations.
    Chef Jeff Mosher pops out from the kitchen after dinner to great the most appreciative guests. By this time I was a super fan. Some of the best foie gras I’ve ever tasted, I had on this evening.
    The iconic architecture of the history Mondavi Winery.
    A look back at the start of the evening. Notice how I was diligently taking notes as Genevieve Janssens, Director of Winemaking for Robert Mondavi Winery introduces us to the wine we will be tasting. By the end of the evening, I was probably doing what the hosts wanted us to do through the multi-course decadant pairing of wine and food…sit back, enjoy and savor the moment.
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    Loni Stark
    Loni Stark is a self-professed foodie, and adventure travel seeker, and yet is also passionate about technology’s impact on business and creativity. She's the host of our Stark Insider video features. It’s been said her laugh can be heard from San Jose all the way to the Golden Gate Bridge. She makes no claims to super powers, although sushi is definitely her Kryptonite. Loni's story...