August 3, 2010

Dante’s cellar notes

Filed under: News — burke @ 2:56 pm
Dante Mondavi, Continuum Estate, Napa Valley, 2009

Dante Mondavi in an oak fermenter, Continuum Estate, 2009

Greeting from the Continuum Cellar!

                Working in the family business has taught me a lot and given me great respect for all the hard work of the preceding generations.  I have come to know that we are Mondavi’s and that wine is in our blood!

                I am extremely excited about our 2008 Continuum.  Working the last 4 vintages has given me the chance to witness the magical evolution of our wine from ripe grapes arriving at the cellar doors, thru fermentation, and finally to bottling; the 2008 is undoubtedly our brightest star yet.  The key factor in this evolution is the fact that the blend is now 70% Pritchard Hill grown.  Resting 1300-1600 feet in elevation above the valley floor, Continuum Estate has very rocky red volcanic soil with spectacular views.  The combination of the altitude, steep slopes and our intensive farming practices means we tend to have very low yields at two tons per acre.  These low yields are due both to the site and to our fruit thinning practices. The goal is to achieve greater uniform ripening and encourage more free hanging grape clusters. More filtered, less direct sunlight gives us more control in the vineyard and avoids over exposed or over shaded fruit.

                Our 2008 is very elegant yet powerful.  My grandfather‘s classic description fits the new vintage, “A sign of a great red wine is an iron fist in a velvet glove.”  In other words, a great wine should be soft and approachable today yet have the structure to age and stand the test of time. This is true of our 2008; it has real depth of richness and an amazing structure.  The final blend is 71% Cabernet Sauvignon, 17% Cabernet Franc, 7% Petite Verdot and a small amount of Merlot to complete the wine. Bottling is still two months away but I can’t wait to share this new vintage with everyone!

                Our cellar team works hard and is very dedicated to creating a single wine to stand among the world’s finest.  Our winegrowing team is made up of my father TIm Mondavi who over sees all aspects of Continuum especially the cellar as he is director of winemaking, Kurt Niznik, our winemaker and Carrie Findleton, our cellar master.  I enjoy working with this fantastically talented group of people very much.      

                Let me take you on a little cellar tour to present a glimpse of what crush is like at the winery. The morning starts at about 6 am (it is a long day; if we’re lucky we leave by 8pm) with pumpovers, punch downs and barrel ferment rotations.  This aids the fermentations, keeps the tank healthy, keeps the yeast active and extracts color and tannin. All of our fruit is handpicked early in the morning and arrives at the cellar in small gray picking boxes. We have two sorting tables, the first of which our team uses to pick out any grape clusters which may be flawed.  We also match the grapes we are crushing whether Cabernet Sauvignon, or Cabernet Franc or Petite Verdot, for a consistent berry size with our de-stemming cage to ensure a clean de-stemming.  It’s pretty key to have the grapes come out one side and the stems the other.  It also keeps the boss happy, which was my first big lesson in 2007! 

               We then sort out any raisins or jacks (stems which may be attached to the berries) on the second sorting table.  Now comes the time to gently crush the berries (without crushing the seeds) and gravity feed the fruit into one of our fermenters.  We typically cold soak the first couple days before we begin fermentation. The cold soak period brings out the fruit flavor and color in the must without heat. Continuum has eight open top French oak fermenters, two cement fermenters and 15 barrel fermenters.  The oak fermenters tend to give the new wine a softer texture while the cement fermenters bring more mineral characteristics to the wine. Each of these different vats or barrels is stirred regularly to mix the lees (spent yeast cells) into the fermenting must and extract more flavor and texture as well as protect the new wine from oxidation. 

                 After 30 or more days of fermentation and maceration, we drain the new wine to 100% new French oak and basket press the pomace (leftover skins) into barrel as well.  The basket press slowly squeezes the pomace together until nearly all the wine is released.  Pressed wine has much, much more color, tannin, lees and a sweetness which only comes out when we squeeze the ity bity remaining raisins. I like to call it flavor country.  The large oak fermentor tanks hold a single 5 ton lot of wine; this new wine will fill 11 barrels in total, 8 of which are free run and 3 of which are pressed wine. All our vineyard lots are kept separate until blending and maloactic fermentations take place in barrel.   More or less at the end of the day I d have to agree with this famous quote

 “Wine is sunlight, held together by water.” – Galileo Galilei

Hope to see everyone at Continuum Cellar or at Continuum Estate soon!


Dante Mondavi

July 1, 2010

Carissa’s excellent wine adventures

Filed under: News — burke @ 12:19 pm
CE Cabernet Franc vines for new vineyard June 2010

CE Cabernet Franc vines for new vineyard June 2010

Spring has been chock a block full of events and festivals to usher in the summer. I have had the outrageous fortune of traveling from Napa to Nantucket and on to Aspen to represent my family’s 2007 Continuum.
Kick starting it all off in May, I traveled to Massachusetts for the Nantucket Wine Festival. I had no idea what to expect, having never been there… and, well… don’t tell my father, but I would have loved to stay right there for the entirety of the summer- if only I could! I was wholly enchanted by the incredible spirit of generosity and hospitality of my hosts the Wackenhut’s, along with everyone from Nantucket. The wine festival is infused by the relaxed atmosphere and rich history of this beautiful island. I attended as a guest vintner for the exclusive Great Wines in Grand House’s event as part of the festival. We showed three vintages of Continuum paired with exquisite dishes by Chef Daniel Bruce, of Meritage at the Boston Harbor Hotel, for a small group of 18 people. The wines were enthusiastically received and paired perfectly in a beautiful historic home; a truly exceptional evening.
Early June found me back home for Auction Napa Valley where on the eve of the auction we presented a meal for 20 guests under the stars at my father’s home. Five courses prepared by Chef Sarah Scott, including some from her upcoming book “The Wild Table” (Viking Press, October 2010). These were paired with the first three vintages of Continuum along with special wines from my father’s past. That evening Michele Grupe from Cope Family Center, a parent and family support services non-profit agency in Napa, shared with us touching stories of some of Cope’s clients who will benefit from the Auction Napa Valley. Since 1981 when my grandfather helped start the first Napa Valley Wine Auction in 1981, this annual auction has now raised over 9 billion dollars, all to benefit local not for profits. The theme of the evening was inspired by our auction lot offered the following day “Northern California Cruising”. Our lot featured three Tesla electric cars to cruise the Northern California coastline, with time to stop off at Hog Island Oysters, then on to cruise the wine roads of Napa Valley in a weekend tour led by my father. We were over the moon the next day when Continuum’s lot sold twice over to Koerner Rombauer and Jose Nazar raising a total of $150,000!!! Thank you to the incredible generosity of Jose and Koerner!! We cannot wait to take to the open road with you both!!
Finally, I have just returned from the Aspen Food and Wine Classic in Colorado for an out and out weekend of fun and celebration. Set in the heart of downtown, the Classic offers world class food and wine seminars by superstars of the wine and food world over a 4 day period. I sat in on a seminar by Ray Isle of Food and Wine magazine who took us through a flight of blockbuster wines from Spain-a region I would love to explore further, with its many different soils and climates expressed in truly unique wines!! I also attended a class given by Paul Greico, of Hearth Restuarant and Terroir wine bar in New York, who focused on non-intervention ‘wines from the edge’ as he called them. These fascinating wines were made by cutting edge winemaker’s who are pushing the envelope of what they believe to be wine’s most natural expression. This great world of wine is so vast and passionate! With summer‘s warmth now ripening our vines, my enthusiasm for the 2010 vintage of Continuum and our family’s commitment to be recognized among the stars in wine is higher than ever!
Brilliant adventures in wine yet ahead… hoping to see you here at Continuum Estate!!
Happy summer,

May 18, 2010

Marcia’s Spring update

Filed under: News — burke @ 3:51 pm
Marcia Mondavi Borger, Continuum Estate 2009

Marcia Mondavi Borger, Continuum Estate 2009

Spring has indeed been a busy time here at Continuum Estate.  Not only has Ryan and his crew been busy planting our new vineyard, our Sales and Marketing team has been on the road telling our Continuum story.  Carissa, Carlo, Dante, Stu, Burke, Tim and I have traveled across the US showing our exciting 2007 vintage.  The response to our family’s commitment to ‘one wine from one estate’ has been heartwarming and most gratifying.

In celebration of the release of our 2007 Continuum we hosted our 2nd ‘Pick-up Party’ for our Continuum members on May 1st.  It was a wonderful afternoon of sipping the 2007 Continuum and tasting five special food pairings created by Chef Sarah Scott.  As a sneak preview we also showed a barrel sample of our 08 vintage; a most exciting infant in which 70% of the wine is from Pritchard Hill fruit.  Eric Symons added a perfect tone to our sunny afternoon by serenading us with his classical guitar.  It was great to see so many of our members back again after last year’s very soggy, but fun party, and to meet many new faces.  Our Continuum family is growing! 

Spring also brings the release of our Estate olive oil, a whole 37 cases.  Not only do we have exceptional vineyards high atop Pritchard Hill, we also have well established olive groves.  This presented a wonderful challenge for us, to begin learning as much as we can about olives and olive oil.  Last year we picked all five classic varieties we have planted here at the estate, and created a field blend for our house oil.  Quite a lovely olive oil, but it also encouraged us to truly focus on the types of trees we have and the character differences of each variety.  This year we kept all of the varieties separated during pressing and were able to taste each of them selecting only the finest for ‘our’ blend, rather than a ‘field blend’.  It is wonderful to have this opportunity to offer our members Continuum Estate olive oil and further display the bounty of Pritchard Hill.

Our plans for our future winery are well on their way.  Howard Backen and his crew of John Taft and Silvia Nobili have been spending hours with Tim, Greg, and Kurt making certain that we have not only a beautiful winery but also a ‘winemaker’s winery’.  From grape receiving to final bottling we want this to be a state of the art winery that supports the development of this one exceptional wine and realizes the best of our experiences in winegrowing. 

The gravity flow winery itself will speak elegantly of our land, sitting on a knoll on the eastern edge of our vineyards.  The four corners of the building will be rammed earth, literally springing from the beautiful red soil of Continuum Estate, with caves below for barrel aging.  In the spirit of bringing the indoors out and the outdoors in the walls will be primarily glass, highlighting the beauty of our oak fermentation tanks; the heart of Continuum’s winemaking.  The views from within the cellar will be quite stunning as well.  They will enable us to see our distant history in St. Helena, our more recent past in To Kalon and our future as we overlook our Continuum Vineyards.  Hospitality will be outside the cellar and will also focus on our vineyards.  Future plans for a vibrant culinary program include a small kitchen with opportunities to entertain both indoors and out.    

We can hardly wait for construction to begin, but we do have a bit of a wait as the permitting process can take a very long time.  I assure you we’ll have a party to celebrate when the building begins in earnest.  However in the interim, we would love to host you here at the estate and have you follow the workings of Continuum through our website where you can keep up to date on our progress.

In Continuum!  

Marcia Mondavi Borger

May 5, 2010

Estate vineyard update

Filed under: News — burke @ 11:19 am
New vineyard staked and ready to plant, Continuum Estate May 2010

New vineyard staked and ready to plant, Continuum Estate May 2010

New vineyard development Continuum Estate 2009
New vineyard development Continuum Estate 2009


Ryan Gerhardt, vineyard manager for Continuum Estate

Its early May on Pritchard Hill and the vines are awakening from their long winter slumber with leaves and green shoots growing.

The seasonal turn from winter to spring has left us drought free with all the reservoirs full after a higher than normal rainfall of 36 inches. Temperatures have been fairly cool but warmer days are returning, and now that the rains have stopped, we are on schedule in the vineyard.

The big news is the development of 20 new acres of vineyard alongside the current 40 acres in production. Last summer we pulled out 13 acres of vines and dug up an additional 7 acres to continue the development of our estate vineyards.

This was not as simple as sticking a pitchfork in the back yard and turning the soil. We had to remove a humongous amount of andesite boulders ranging in size from ½ ton to 30 tons in size!

(See pictures to get a better sense of this process.)

Now that the boulders are gone, we are preparing a variety of rootstocks, assorted clonal selections and selective  irrigation practices to support 13 unique vineyard blocks within this 20 acre section . Isolating these vineyard blocks allows us to better understand each one’s unique combination of soil, aspect, water retention, and fertility. As the vineyard blocks mature, each will reveal their own unique flavor and character. Our winemaking team will then carefully select fruit from these different blocks  to craft the finest wine possible from this world class vineyard.

In total we will place 47,500 vines in the ground this year of which 2/3 are Cabernet Franc and the rest Petit Verdot. This works out to a fairly tight vineyard spacing of 3 ft x 6 ft; this tighter spacing promotes more competition among the vines, resulting in higher quality fruit. The late spring rains have been a real boon for the new vineyard blocks as the soil moisture is higher than normal, ideal for planting.

In addition to planting new vines, we have grafted 4 acres of existing vines over to 3 acres of Petit Verdot and 1 acre of Cabernet Franc.  This fruit will be harvested over the next couple of years, well before our new plantings which we expect to crush in 3-4 years.  

Other projects include a study initiated by University of California, Berkeley with various cover crops grown in the vineyard to increase predation of pests.  We are also taking advantage of the new ‘real-time’ sap flow technology by installing sensors to track the water needs of our vines.

I along with my crew-Lupe, Salvador, Luis and Juvenal- are hard at work getting the vineyards ready for another great year.

Come up and see us when you can and take a look at this great property!

March 24, 2010

Continuum Grand Cru-zer is on the move!

Filed under: News — admin @ 10:52 am

Cruzer VineyardFrom Carlo and Dante Mondavi-
We are excited to announce the launch of the Continuum Grand Cru-zer, a wine tasting salon on wheels!! Beginning today, March 23rd, we are embarking on a wine tour as we hit the road for the release of the 2007 Continuum. Traveling and personally sharing the Continuum Estate story with each new release is paramount to building a great wine. We have been extremely fortunate to sell out of our previous vintages, yet experience has taught us that nothing takes the place of going into the market to share the wine and the story in person. Wine is, and always will be, such a personal experience, from the growing of it to the glass. Rather than quickly flying in and out of markets, the Continuum Grand Cru-zer allows us to stay longer and get to know the places and people where Continuum is celebrated.

Our vineyards, with their fabulous western exposure, grow in exceptionally rocky soil in one of the most truly beautiful sites in the Napa Valley. And the wine from this site is sensational! Our hope is that with this Continuum Grand Cru-zer we will be able to invite people into the Continuum experience, to taste this dynamite wine for themselves, and better understand the depth of our commitment to everything we’re building on Pritchard Hill.

We cannot tell you how many times we’ve heard stories of how our grandfather touched people. He was integral in building an incredible reputation for Napa Valley by creating wines to be proud of, but also- importantly- by sharing his passion for wine, food and the arts with others. With Continuum we are building on this great foundation and realizing our father’s vision; to create a single wine from a single great estate to be recognized among the finest in the world. The Continuum Grand Cru-zer, is our latest effort- with a twist- to visit people and invite them to join with us and experience for a moment the 2007 Continuum.

The Continuum Grand Cru-zer is actually the Damon Avanti 2806 R/V- the most fuel efficient, clean diesel, Class A motor home on the road today. Our thanks to the team at Damon and Avanti RV’s, for creating such a luxury coach to realize our dream. People may not expect this level of luxury in a recreational vehicle, but set one foot in the Continuum Grand Cru-zer, and you’ll see why we are able to bring a little bit of the Continuum experience on the road like this.

Carlo’s recent engagement to Megan Bopes partially inspired the Continuum Grand Cru-zer, as his fiancée’s parents spent many happy days traveling around in their own r/v.
Check us out on twitter @carlomondavi
to see our progress and view our video posts of our adventures across America.

To great adventures and great wine!!

Carlo and Dante

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