January 27, 2011

Lindsey’s direct view from Continuum Estate

Filed under: News — burke @ 3:47 pm
Lindsey Maldonado, Direct Sales Coordinator, Continuum Estate

Lindsey Maldonado, Direct Sales Coordinator, Continuum Estate

Greetings from Continuum Estate!
As I sit here, cross legged on a massive andesite boulder I’m distracted by the beauty that surrounds me. Vineyards in the foreground, San Francisco in the distance…What an amazing part of the world this is!
One of the highlights of working here is to be able to take in these sweeping views every day. Even better is when I get to share the estate with the occasional visitor we are lucky enough to have up here.
Still, our location…or should I say the road to our location does not lend itself well to much traffic and while we can have the occasional car or two bump along up the hill for a visit, we would like to try to bring Continuum to you. And with about 70 percent estate fruit in the 2008 vintage, we now have the ability to bottle this site and take it “on the road.”
This year, in addition to hosting wine dinners, we will be hosting pre-dinner wine tasting receptions at fabulous restaurants throughout the country. Information for all of these events will be posted on our website as well as our Facebook page under the “Events” section. We will also be reaching out to those of you on our mailing list as we schedule events in your neck of the woods.

The first of these events will be taking place on February 17th in San Francisco at Foreign Cinema. Tim Mondavi will be hosting the dinner event and will be pouring four vintages of Continuum! We would love to have you join us and, of course, your friends are always welcome. For those on the East Coast, Carissa Mondavi will be hosting two dinners: first on February 23rd in Washington, DC as part of the Capital Wine Festival . Then a wonderful meal as Chef Daniel Bruce joins Carissa on February the 24th at the Boston Wine Festival . Finally, for those in New York, partner and founder Marcia Mondavi, along with Carissa, will be hosting a dinner on March 1 at the acclaimed Crab Tree Kittle House-

For those of you that have been calling and e-mailing me…the wait for the 2008 vintage is almost over! The wine is slated to be released on March 1st. If you are new to our mailing list, please mark the date on your calendar as the limited quantity of wine is made available on a first come, first served basis and if the last few years are any indication, it will go quickly.
I’m looking very forward to the year ahead and keeping you in the loop as things develop. Please feel to contact me at anytime. It’s always lovely to hear from you!

All the Best and Cheers,
Lindsey Maldonado

Direct to Consumer Coordinator
Telephone: 707.944.8100 ext.212

January 2, 2011

Chef Sarah’s culinary continuum

Filed under: News — burke @ 7:37 pm

Chef Sarah Scott, Continuum Estate

I remember when I first started cooking for the Mondavi’s and, in particular, one occasion with Tim and his family in the mid-80s. It was at his then, newly constructed home in the Stag’s Leap District. I was in the kitchen prepping for dinner, head down, peeling garlic and shallots, picking fresh thyme and parsley and tending to the sauce. I looked up and saw that I was surrounded by a small sea of red- and blonde-haired children. They weren’t even tall enough to reach the top of the marble counter. And, they were all staring at me!
“Who are you and what are you doing?” one of them bravely asked.
“I’m the chef and I’m making dinner,” I said.
They considered this.
“Can we help? We know how.”
I surveyed the tiny crew then handed over the bunch of parsley. Soon, little fingers were deftly plucking the leaves from the stems and there was a busy, contented feeling in the kitchen.
Not much has changed over the last 25 years.
When they are around, I still look up to find Carissa, Carlo, Chiara, Dante and Dominic, Tim’s children, in the kitchen when I am cooking at Continuum. Still curious, still asking questions and still wanting to help. I will hand over a pile of fava beans to be shelled, bunches of basil to be picked or a loaf of bread to be sliced and grilled for bruschetta. Everyone’s taller now, some of them tower over me, but that love of food is alive and well in this family and at Continuum in its pleasurable and very serious pursuit of bringing wine and food together.

This past year at Continuum brought a variety of roast beasts, wild and foraged foods and the bounty of our Napa Valley food producers and farmers to the table. My co-author, Connie Green, and I were generously and enthusiastically supported by Continuum in the launch of our cookbook The Wild Table. It led to a year of exploring the various properties in new ways. Connie brought a small troop of us, including Tim, Marcia and Carissa, into the woods next to Tim’s house one drizzly day, baskets and mushroom knives in hand. We emerged an hour or so later with candy cap mushrooms, miner’s lettuce and chickweed. These became ingredients for a later meal featuring spit-roasted wild boar, malfatti with wild greens and candy cap mushroom crème brulee. The boar was hunted and prepared by fabled hunter/forager Angelo Garro aided by his trusty sous chef, author Michael Pollan. It was an omnivore’s wild feast and the weaving together of wine and food not only in a literal way, but philosophically as well. Terroir, Sustainable, Natural and Local. These words took on a new, delicious meaning that night.

Not only were wild mushrooms and foraged foods on the menu often this past year, but roasted goat became a new favorite. We cooked several locally raised goats, one occasion being the Continuum 2007 vintage release pick up party and later in the fall for a group of Michelin-starred Japanese Chefs visiting for the World of Flavors Conference at the Culinary Institute at Greystone in St. Helena. Roasted slowly over seasoned oak, basted with rosemary and sage from Tim’s garden, the rich, deeply flavored meat was delicious with all the vintages of Continuum. I had picked up a variety of ancient grains on a trip to New York’s Green Market and made a side dish of kamut, spelt, farro and amaranth to go with the goat, along with some roasted wild mushrooms. Dessert was a pistachio tart with Tim’s home-grown, hand harvested pears. The chefs lingered a long while that day, nourished by the wine, the food and that well-seasoned Continuum hospitality.

We look forward to more delicious events and meals in 2011. We will continue to enjoy the variety of locally sourced beef, lamb, duck, guinea hen, artisan cheeses and charcuterie that pair so well with the wine. Wild mushrooms, elderberries, fennel and juniper have proven to be delicious complementary flavors and we will be heading off the beaten track to forage for them in their seasons. Soon it will be time to fire up the grill, to set the table, uncork the wine. We’ll gather together once again with old and new friends, savoring the good life which is alive and well at Continuum Estate.
Happy New Year,


Sarah Patterson Scott, Chef, Writer and Continuum Estate Culinary Consultant, served as Executive Chef at Robert Mondavi Winery for 14 years, overseeing and developing the Culinary and Wine and Food Programs at the Oakville winery. She has travelled extensively, participating in wine and food programs globally. Sarah’s culinary business provides wine and food experiences, consulting and recipes for wineries, restaurants and private clients in the Napa Valley. She produced her first cookbook in 2010, The Wild Table, with wild foods expert Connie Green of Wine Forest Wild Mushrooms, published by Viking Press.

November 30, 2010

Happy Holidays from Continuum Estate!

Filed under: News — burke @ 6:28 pm
Winter at Continuum Estate with Olives, 2009

Winter at Continuum Estate with Olives

The 2010 harvest is winding down and our new wines are being pressed and put into barrels. The beautiful golden vineyards have now lost their leaves and the bare vines are glistening with frost in the mornings. The time to reflect and take stock is upon us.

2010 brought exciting changes to Continuum. We planted 19 acres of new vines to a combination of Cabernet Franc, Petite Verdot and a little Cabernet Sauvignon and grafted over 2 more acres to Cabernet Franc and Petite Verdot; when these reach maturity in a few years time we will be much closer to our goal of being 100% estate grown.

We are very thankful to our loyal supporters who have purchased Continuum. 2007 was acknowledged as an exceptional year and we were fortunate to sell all of our Spring Release in 3 months and our Fall magnum release in 6 hours. Wow!

2010 also brought us fantastic accolades from the Wine Spectator, Food & Wine, Sunset, the San Francisco Chronicle and many others. We are thrilled that wine and food journalists are as excited about Continuum as we are!

Thanks also to our many visitors who have come to visit us. We feel that out home on Pritchard Hill is not only exceptionally beautiful but also the perfect place for growing exceptional wine. Carissa and Lindsey had a great year driving guests around the vineyards in our Polaris ATV. You all are great sports to take this rough and tumble tour in stride.

Over the course of 4 generations our family has learned that every year is different and unique in what it brings. The 2010 vintage has been quite cool and at times challenging: amazingly it also brought us fruit of exceptional character. We believe our quality this year comes not only from our site but from our exceptional team. Knowing the vineyard, respecting the land, walking the ground-this is the real secret to our success this year and every year. We are passionate about great wine.

Wishing you all a merry holiday and prosperous New Year,

Marcia Mondavi Borger
and the Continuum Team

October 31, 2010

Tim’s 2010 Harvest Update

Filed under: News — burke @ 7:18 pm
Harvest 2010 Cement fermentation tank Cabernet Sauvignon 3BTOP Block

Harvest 2010: Cabernet Sauvignon 3B-Top Block, Cement fermentation tank

All vintages in Napa Valley have their own personality. 2010 has given us challenges reminiscent of the late 1960’s and early 70’s with a much later beginning to the year and a later harvest. What began as a mild and fairly moist spring turned into a cool and at times cold summer with the rare day cracking 90* here on Pritchard Hill. Rainfall was plentiful in January and February and continued through the spring bringing an end to our water worries with 2 inches in June. The real surprise for us was the steadily cool temperatures which have been a constant this year throughout the region. These low temperature days pushed out budbreak and bloom to late April and May respectively and had us a bit concerned when veraison did not take place until mid-August! Certainly this is the coldest vintage in decades in the normally warm to quite warm Napa Valley; it has kept things interesting. Our new 22 acre vineyard plantings responded very well to the cooler temperatures and steady sunny days but the established vines, those that we depend upon to produce excellent fruit in 2010, were a bit shy and slow to develop up until late August when a burst of heat sped up the ripening process.
The greater amount of rain we had in 2010 was a relief after three years of drought; it also allowed our normally small vines to develop a larger canopy which was a real blessing during the brief but powerful heat spikes we experienced in late August. A fuller, leafy canopy crowned the vine rows and, combined with Continuum Estate’s high elevation, protected the still developing fruit from the sun’s scorching rays. The benefit of higher elevation vineyards has been more evident to me since coming to Pritchard Hill. Situated at 1325 to 1500 feet above the Napa Valley, Continuum’s vineyards are less prone to fog, frost and heat fluctuations than on the valley floor where lower elevation sites can trap the cold, fog and even heat at various times during the growing season. As each season passes, I better understand and appreciate this fabulous mountain estate. By studying the weather, aspect and soils on Pritchard Hill we continue to fine-tune our growing and winemaking choices.
The actual start of harvest began on September 30th with a small quantity of estate Merlot, near the proposed site of our winery. We then began the Cabernet harvest with the shyest portions of the upper blocks on October 12th. The remaining entirety of the estate was harvested from October 18th thru the 21st finishing with Cabernet Franc and Petite Verdot. This last portion of harvest began after a light rain the night of Sunday the 17th and was carried out with great care and great speed as heavy rains were due to fall from October 22nd thru the 24th. Ryan Gerhardt and his vineyard team did a heroic job harvesting all week, carefully picking each block, beginning at sunrise, before bringing the cool morning fruit to the winery. I am quite pleased with our estate fruit this year. The long, cool, late season has rewarded us with excellent flavors showing a balanced combination of ripe fruit and tannins, crisp acidity, vibrant color with character developement at lower potential alcohols.
At the winery Kurt Niznik and our cellar crew sorted each vineyard block separately, carefully selecting twice so that only the best grapes went into our oak or cement tanks for fermentation. 2010’s cooler growing season did reduce the amount of Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot we received so these precious lots are undergoing fermentation in small ¼ ton bins and new oak barrels as well as in the smaller oak tanks.
Fruit at reception often was quite cool and fermentations began well and quickly. We encouraged warmer ferments earlier than normal because of the cooler, later season. Slowly we are discovering the unique flavors of that each block of vines brings to the blend. All the new wines are showing well so far with 3BTOP being the current star. It will be very interesting to evaluate maturity comparisons over time with our other star, block M. This really is a fabulous estate!

Have a happy and joyous Thanksgiving!


August 26, 2010

Stu’s view from the road

Filed under: News — burke @ 1:37 pm
Continuum Estate Cabernet Sauvignon

Continuum Estate Cabernet Sauvignon

Bucking the trend
It’s not news to anyone. It’s a challenging time in the fine wine business today. The upper tier, even here in Napa Valley, is under considerable pressure.

There are exceptions, of course. I’m delighted to report that Continuum is one of those. In markets like New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco, Continuum sold out of available wine this year in less than a month. One factor certainly is that our production is still very small. As strange as it may sound, our production in our first three vintages was restrained by our ability to source grapes of the quality we require. Our production was also held back by the very rigorous selection process we use in making our final blends. Using the 2007 vintage as an example, over 30% of everything we made was ultimately eliminated from the final blend. It did wonders for the distinctiveness of that wine. There are times, however, when I wish we could have made more!

There are a number of other reasons why Continuum continues to flourish in these difficult economic times. The first, no doubt, has to do with the quality of the wine itself. The 35 years that Tim Mondavi devoted to making wine at the highest level (in Napa and around the world) has been a huge benefit. In addition, there seems to exist at every level the unspoken notion that the Mondavi’s family’s legacy and reputation are riding on the success of their new project. There has been a ‘spare-no-expense’ philosophy in creating Continuum’s first proprietary blends that I have not witnessed in my 35 years in the wine business. The response to our first wines, as a result, has been encouraging. At the base of Continuum’s early success, therefore, has been the quality of the wine itself.

There is another major factor impacting Continuum’s early success. The fact is that Continuum Estate ushers-in the long awaited return of the Mondavi family to great California wine. As one individual put it… “This is the return to the fine wine business… and of the family who put that business on the map!” Ever since Continuum emerged onto the scene in 2008 (with the release of the 2005 vintage) there has been an outpouring of this kind of support. It’s come from writers, restaurateurs and consumers alike. This “welcome back” has impacted greatly what we’ve been able to achieve in a relatively short period of time.

Stu Harrison

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