A Patriarch's Passing

www.Carolyntillie.comCalifornian and American wine has lost one of its greatest leaders.

Robert G. Mondavi, wine industry scion and founder of the the famous eponymous Napa winery passed away at the age of 94 on Friday, 05/16/08.

Arresting and vibrantly engaging even towards the end, Mondavi is widely regarded as the greatest influence on American wine over the last four decades and an unstoppable force that led to the international renown that Californian wine in particular, now enjoys across the globe.

He was a leader that introduced and blended New and Old World fine winemaking techniques to the Napa Valley while he owned his namesake winery in Oakville. He was also credited for his unselfish support of other local vintners and his constant efforts to encourage the sharing of winemaking expertise and experience all across the valley. His single-minded one-man PR campaign for the Napa Valley and its wine could be considered his single largest contribution to the wine world, however.

The world is a lesser place without his outsized personality, but his legacy remains with the knowledge and unflagging joy of wine that he brought to people the world over and the assurance that the wine industry will continue to grow, led by the new leaders that he helped nurture to replace him.

Clayton Art & Wine Festival

Beth and I have been itching to enjoy any of the Spring days lately that are actually warm and wind-free, so when we saw that not only was the weekend going to be warm, but that the Clayton Art & Wine Festival was on deck, we picked up the Pug and headed up the road to the festival Saturday morning, 05/03/08.

Knowing how small “downtown” Clayton, CA actually is, we were a bit worried about parking but when we arrived at noon, we had no trouble finding a spot. After walking past a packed Ed’s Mudville Grill (fantastic family grub and sports bar), we headed into the event. We scoped around a bit before settling in and buying our glasses and drink tickets. Pug was having a blast already and had made quite a few small-sized friends rather quickly, as children are always excited to meet him.

Walking around with our empty glasses for a bit, we started to realize that there weren’t very many wineries present…in fact, we only saw about 8 -10 wineries total, with one of them being Vendange (whom I didn’t know even poured at these types of events). Most of the rest were large bulk wineries. We were happy to see that Wine Thieves had a booth and were pouring some favorites however, in the parking lot of Moresi’s Chophouse, Clayton’s excellent local steak house.

After an almost full circuit, we started seeing some wineries that got us excited. Across from the Clayton Historical Society Museum, we found Más Wine Company, a newer winery from Cloverdale and their very interesting “mini tank” wine dispensers. These are a bit like a keg, but one that injects nitrogen into the tank to replace any volume loss after dispensing their wine. I really liked their 2006 Vino Blanc, a traditional white Bordeaux blend that had wonderful acidity and white fruit, yet a creamy mouthfeel in the long finish.

I was most excited to see two local CoCo County wineries pouring their stuff on the Western side of the festival. Sterling Albert was pouring almost a full array of whites and reds, while Tamayo Family Vineyards was pouring wine from both of their labels, CANA (estate fruit) and Tamayo Family (appellation-specific fruit).

CANA had a couple wines that enticed my palate, the 2006 CANA Celebration Rosé and the 2004 Tamayo Estate Syrah. The Rosé had some very interesting herbal characteristics such as celery seed, that I actually found mouth-watering and complementary to the juicy strawberry and other light red fruit and acidity. The Syrah, while big and bold, had a tremendous mid-palate and peppery finish…good stuff. As our day wound down and we wore the Pug out chasing him around the park, I stole off for one last sip of Rosé and a contented ride home in warm mid-afternoon sun.

Please see my tasting notes below and if you would like to list all of these wines in your own WineLog, I’ve tagged them all with “ClaytonArtWine2008“. Enjoy!

CANA Contra Costa County Tamayo Family Vineyards Syrah Estate Celebration Rosé 2006

Tamayo Contra Costa County Tamayo Family Vineyards Estate Syrah 2004

Más North Coast Vino Blanc 2006

Sterling Albert Mt. Diablo Syrah 2005