June 30, 2011

Stu’s view: 2008 Continuum

Filed under: News — burke @ 9:30 am

We’ve been in a very interesting place this past couple of years with our fledgling Continuum project. It’s clear now that launching a new and expensive wine in these times has been like launching an untested (albeit sea worthy) sailboat in a hurricane! Timing, they say, is everything.

Even so, the reception to Continuum has been exceptional, unparalleled in my 35 years in the wine business. The primary reason, I believe, is the real substance behind the project. The story of the Mondavi family returning to the fine wine business in Napa Valley (a business they were instrumental in creating!) is compelling. When you combine that with the quality of the wine itself (and the response to that wine by the critics) we’ve gotten off to a great start.

Our momentum began to build in earnest with the 2007 Vintage. That exceptional vintage for Napa Valley allowed a nice showcase for all Napa Valley wines, Continuum in particular. It took us only 3 months to sell out in our major markets, and through our on-line channel. We were delighted, given our relatively unknown status and price category, to have this kind of acceptance.

That being said, we approached the 2008 vintage with some trepidation. The reputation of the 2007 vintage was clearly a factor in our success last year. We were not sure how the market would react to our 2008, clearly in the shadow of its highly touted predecessor. The answer to that question came quickly. We were sold-out in less than 45 days of our March 1st release on our website. We had a similar reaction in the marketplace. And this is before the critics chimed in on the wine itself!

I suppose if I had to give credit to any one factor in the success of the 2008 Continuum, it would be just that… the quality of the wine.  It is by some accounts (Tim’s for one!) the best of our first four vintages. In fact, Tim has been quoted as saying the 08 Continuum could well be one of the best red wines he’s ever made. And that’s saying something, when you consider his role in making Opus One, Mondavi Reserves, in Tuscany Ornellaia and Luce, Sena in Chile, etc. It’s an impressive list.

We’re fairly certain that our momentum will continue. We’re delighted that the 2008, for the first time, was made predominantly from grapes from our Pritchard Hill Estate. Vintages that follow will lead to a 100% estate grown wine by 2013. I think this increasing reliance on Pritchard Hill will further enhance the quality, and further underscore our very serious approach to our category.

Thank you for all your continued support of our Continuum.

We could not do it without you!


June 10, 2011

Marcia’s view from the hill

Filed under: News — burke @ 9:00 am

Building the Continuum Estate winery road, June 2011

Cabernet Franc in bloom Continuum Estate, June 2011

We have had an amazing late spring here on Pritchard Hill. The weather has been quite cool and we have had very unusual June downpours. Our rainfall to date is 43 inches, a good 5 inches more than normal. This wetter weather has only proven to us how fortunate we are to be here on Pritchard Hill. With elevations between 1300-1600 feet., our estate vineyard temperatures tend to be a bit warmer, by about 5* , when it is cooler on the valley floor and a bit cooler, once again by about 5*, when it is hotter down below in Oakville. This certainly was an advantage with our 2010 vintage. Last year was a very cool vintage and many on the valley floor had trouble with ripening. Being above the fog line, with a bit more morning sun, certainly has its advantages.

Spring brings the vine’s flowering. This is one of the most important times of the year for our vines. A warm dry period encourages the vine shoots to put all their energies into flowering. This flowering forms the berries for our fall harvest and also sets the stage for the next year’s crop. This year the cool weather was a blessing for us as it delayed our bloom until after the downpours of last week. Now that the sun has come out and it’s warmth has covered the vineyards, we are just beginning to see flowering in our Cabernet vineyard! Perfect timing!

As we are walking the vineyards looking for flower, we are also watching to see how our new 19 acres of vines are doing. The bench graft vines are really doing well, it is exciting to see them progress starting to reach for the trellis. We are also in the process of field grafting Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot onto the root stock we planted last year. Our vineyard team, assisted by a crew of a dozen more can field graft a phenomenal number of vines: 4000 a day!!!! This is truly an art and a fabulous skill.

The first weekend of June also brought the 31st annual Auction Napa Valley. The generosity of the Auction attendees is really amazing. Over the last three decades the Napa Valley Vintners have raised and donated over $100,000,000. to charitable institutions throughout Napa Valley. From health and wellness programs at local hospitals to educational support and youth outreach and low income housing programs, the Auction has improved the quality of life for generations of Napa residents. Isn’t this a run on sentence?

Our 2011 Live Auction lot was a celebration of our Italian Heritage. Tours, tastings and private cooking classes with some of the finest chefs in the Bay Area with lots of Continuum! All this, and a fabulous dinner with the Continuum family at Tim’s house. We were thrilled that our lot raised $85,000. And was purchased by our dear friend Darioush Kahaledi of Darioush Winery in the Stag’s Leap District. We are looking forward to cooking and dining with him sometime soon.

This spring has also brought a crop of new reviews for our 2008 Continuum. Stephen Tanzer’s International Wine Cellar said our 2008 was “Large-scaled and voluptuous yet light on its feet, with lovely floral perfume to the flavors of black cherry, minerals and sexy caramel oak. Seems every bit as strong as the 2007 bottling, and perhaps even more refined.” We are thrilled with this wonderful review as well as an excellent one from Jim Laube at the Wine Spectator. ” A remarkable effort, offering riveting, expressive aromas of mocha, currant, mineral, herb, black licorice, tar and pebble, this is intense, structured, balanced, nuanced and firm, finishing with a gutsy richness and sophistication.”Of course, we also must thank all of you, our spring release was an enormous success. We sold out of the 2008 vintage in a mere six weeks! In fact this was twice as fast as last year!! Thank you!!!

Finally, the most exciting news here at Continuum is that we have started construction on the road to our future winery site. This means that our caves and fermentation room is truly on its way! For those of you who have visited us the phrase “red, rocky volcanic soil “has real meaning. As they dig away the bright red soil, rocks and boulders are everywhere. It is this rock that drains our soil, and gives our wines their unique depth of character and richness. These rocks will also be crushed, mixed with more soil and put back to establish the foundation for our road and for our future winery. This rock is important! When the road is completed, we will begin construction of the winery caves, hopefully in September.

Please do take the time to come up to Continuum and watch our progress, it is VERY exciting!

Thank you all for your continued interest and support! Keep spreading the word of Continuum.

Have a great summer!

Marcia Mondavi Borger

May 3, 2011


Filed under: News — burke @ 5:26 pm


Continuum Estate olive trees,  May 2011

Continuum Estate olive trees, May 2011

One of the great things about Continuum Estate is that it grows more than great wine. I mean for most wineries that would be enough and, yes, we are incredibly grateful for the superior quality Cabernet family fruit which grows so very well here in the red, rocky clay soils of the Vaca Range. Yet, in addition, we quite happily enjoy a second harvest which, while not as abundant, is just as delicious. I am referring to the compelling and quite rare extra virgin olive oil grown at our estate.  2010 marks the third bottling of the Continuum EVO and many of us believe that it is the best yet. How do we do it? Well first of all we start with a good number of trees, 543 to be exact. These olive trees are planted on different parts of the estate, some around the barn and guest house, others higher up closer to the proposed winery site. Our olive trees come in 3 different flavors, French, Italian and Spanish, and were planted at various times though most were planted in 1991-93.
The Spanish trees are a variety of mission variety, many of which were originally brought to California by the Catholic fathers in the 18th and 19th century. These olives tend to be medium sized and darker in color and have a distinctive flavor of chlorophyll with a decidedly buttery texture making for luscious oil with a bit of a bite.  Just a sixth of the estate olive trees are planted to these so-called Mission varieties.
The French varieties, Picholine predominantly, originally from Provence are more extensive at a third of the plantings on the estate. These have a pretty fresh mushroom like aroma but are rather pungent with a greater degree of bitterness than either the Mission or the Italian varieties. On their own they can be too strong but in a blend their distinct character is brought into balance.
Finally, we have our Italian varieties with a wide variety of trees planted including Frontaio, Sevillano and Pendolino clones. Some of these varieties are Tuscan while others are found further south, some from as far away as North Africa. These trees provide over half of the production and, not surprisingly, the final blend has a distinctly Italian flavor profile. This oil is quite rich with an earthy green color and lush flavor and texture. The nose has a lovely floral note of violet and nasturtium blossoms.

When all these varieties are blended together, a fabulous oil results….. Our 2010 Continuum Estate Extra Virgin Olive Oil is a deep golden green in color with aromas of fresh mown hay, mint and new spring vegetables. On the palate, the oil is rich and sensual with a touch of green tea and white pepper. The finish is wonderfully balanced: buttery, smooth and complex.

It really is not only the best oil we have made; it is one of the best oils we have ever tasted. Unfortunately, with less than an acre of trees, we are not able to produce very much oil. We suggest that you use it sparingly on seasonal cooked or raw foods before serving. Enjoy it later this summer with fresh, ripe tomatoes or drizzle it over just grilled steak or savor it with toasted crostini topped with fresh mozzarella.  After you have tasted this golden green oil, we know you will enjoy this second harvest from Continuum Estate just as much as we do.

Buon appetito!

April 5, 2011

Greg’s update on the Continuum Estate Winery!

Filed under: News — burke @ 10:01 am

After two long years of back and forth on architectural designs, countless reports and working with Napa County to get all the documentation they need for a Use Permit, it looks like it’s all coming to an exciting conclusion. On April 20th the final county hearing takes place, after which (fingers crossed!) we will receive our Use Permit and start construction on the new Continuum winery. We will likely begin work in early May, strangely enough right around the same time as our Spring Release Party, or should I say, Groundbreaking Party? The construction work will start slow, beginning with road work and grading of the site. This will turn into cave drilling over the winter and into the spring of next year. Construction on the winery building itself will then start with a targeted completion date of Harvest 2013.

The winery and caves will be located at one of the highest points on the property, just over 1,500 feet in elevation on the very east side of the estate, nestled in between two vineyard blocks. With Howard Backen as the architect and general contractors Grassi and Company, you can expect to see a winery that not only emphasizes the all important functional aspects but also captures the beauty of the site while incorporating an elegantly designed building that is well integrated with the land. Vistas from the property will allow you to view the Mondavi family’s winemaking history in the Napa Valley, starting with Charles Krug Winery to the north, then Oakville and Robert Mondavi Winery to the west, leading up the hill to today and Continuum’s vineyards on Pritchard Hill. As an added bonus, to the south, there will be great views of San Francisco in the distance.

The completion of the winery will culminate an exciting two year period at the Estate with our new 19 acre vineyard coming on line for the Harvest of 2012, joined by the winery in 2013. This is really an important step for us as harvest 2012 will be the first time we will have the opportunity to be 100% estate based for our production. The Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot we will harvest from the new high density plantings when combined with our already established old vine Cabernet Sauvignon will take us to the next stage of Continuum’s evolution.

While the acquisition of the Continuum Estate properties in 2008 and 2009 allowed us to notch up our quality level, the new plantings coming on line and the ability to have our own estate winemaking facility will provide the opportunity to take Continuum to an even higher level and bring us one step closer to the ultimate goal of becoming one of the greatest wine estates in the world.

Continuum has gone thru quite a number of changes in its short history. In the course of 6 years we have gone from “we have only just begun” (not a bad Carpenters song either) in 2005 to establishing our estate in 2009 “take me home, country roads” (one of John Denver’s best) to 2011’s breaking ground “we’re gonna take it higher” (from the godfather himself, James Brown). All pretty exciting and we sure hope to see you at the estate over the next few years so that we can show you the progress we have made and of course at the party in 2013/14 once it is all done.

Have a great day and see you soon!!!

Greg Brady

General Manager
Continuum Estate

March 1, 2011

Tim’s take on the 2008!

Filed under: News — burke @ 12:07 pm
2008 Continuum 6 pack in wooden box

2008 Continuum 6 pack in wooden box

We are extremely excited about the new release of Continuum. This wine, the 2008, is our fourth offering and the first to reveal the true flavor of this amazing Pritchard Hill property. More than 70% of the blend was sourced from up here, high above Oakville on the eastern side of the Napa Valley. You can really taste the vineyard in the wine. This is what we have been working to make from the first, a wine reflective of our history, our passion for Cabernet family grapes and the fabulous character of our vineyard.
Below are a few notes on this stellar vintage-
2008 was the second year in a row of drought-like conditions with rainfall down by more than 60% Napa- wide. Bud break began in mid-March after more than a month of dry weather which set the stage for a hard frost, from late March to mid April; 27 days of serious cold hit the Napa Valley. Happily Continuum’s estate vineyards on Pritchard Hill were protected from most vagaries of the weather as a result of our higher elevations and westerly aspect. A heat spike during flowering in May did lower our crop levels but weather patterns were fairly mild from that point on until late August, when a week-long temperature jump pushed picking forward. However, no sooner did the heat arrive than it left again and the remainder of the harvest proceeded under cooler than normal conditions. Overall fruit quality from the estate was very good to excellent in 2008. Our non-estate growers also did well with Cabernet Sauvignon and Petite Verdot; Cabernet Franc was more uneven with some lots very good, while others underperformed and so did not make the grade.
All fruit was harvested over a period of five weeks from September 18 through October 25th with the Merlot and then the Cabernet Sauvignon harvested initially and the Petite Verdot and Cabernet Franc picked last.
The 2008 Continuum is wonderfully balanced and deeply sensual wine; we believe it is the finest wine we have ever made. The majority of the fruit, more than 70%, is from our Pritchard Hill estate vineyards and these higher elevation sites with their red rocky soils grow Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Petite Verdot and Merlot with real nerve, vitality and concentration. In general, the 2008 lots, especially those from Pritchard Hill, had a wild, mineral power and texture which is readily apparent in the finished wine. The 2008 has great density and life: a powerful core of ripe fruit perfectly balanced by polished, supple tannins leading to a long, nuanced finish. Aromas of black plum, mulberry, and coffee spice lead to black cherry, bitter chocolate, tobacco and graphite flavors. A wine of exquisite power and elegance, its inherent harmony and balance make it delicious now, while assuring tremendous ageabilty.

For the fullest sensory experience we encourage decanting, allowing Continuum to breathe before serving. Decanting awakens the wine’s more purely fragrant expression and enhances the suppleness on the palate.

Our goal at Continuum Estate is to produce a single wine to be recognized among the finest in the world. As Sir Isaac Newton stated: “If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” For our family, my grandfather Cesare was a giant. It was on his shoulders that my father Robert stood with his great vision for wine. It is our aspiration to build solidly on this foundation as we realize the potential of this incredible site on Pritchard Hill. We don’t expect this to happen overnight, or in a decade, or even in a single generation, but we will make it happen, vintage by vintage.
My family and I thank you for your support and appreciation.
In continuum,

Tim Mondavi

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