While my personal history in enology is firmly rooted in France, I found myself drawn to Napa Valley more than 30 years ago. In Robert Mondavi, I recognized an approach to winemaking that was similar to my father’s. After receiving my National Diploma of Enology in 1974 from the University of Bordeaux, France, I worked in my family’s vineyards in Corsica and France while also operating my own enology laboratory in Provence.
The Robert Mondavi Winery is located in the middle of Napa Valley, in Oakville, which provides the best of both worlds. We receive a massive influence of both warm and cold.
A fine wine can always be traced back to the earth, and that earth is the legacy of what we have received from our ancestors and what we are going to leave for the future generation. In Napa Valley, the composition of the land is so complex, even more so than Bordeaux. In addition to the more than 140 different types of soil in Napa Valley (which is incredible), there are more than 15 different growing regions throughout the Valley that are divided according to location. Some are on the slope of the mountain, some are at the bottom, and some have a little more sand or rock. All of these factors affect the vines and make the resulting wines amazingly different.
The area is incredibly diverse. In perspective, Napa Valley is a very small region in California that is really responsible for only 4 percent of California wine. The beauty of the area is enhanced by the mountains that surround it to the northeast and the west and the Sonoma Valley.
The north of Napa Valley is better suited for cabernet sauvignon and zinfandel grapes-warmer varieties-while the south is good for pinot noirs, chardonnays, and merlots, which are sensitive to the heat and dehydration. The south is closer to the ocean, therefore has more humidity and more fog, which rolls in from the San Francisco Bay. The movement of the air and winds are so complex, as is the relationship the vines have with the ocean. Also, depending on the year, there is la niña or el niño, which, too, affects the lives of the growers.
The Robert Mondavi Winery is located in the middle of Napa Valley, in Oakville, which provides the best of both worlds. We receive a massive influence of both warm and cold. The vineyard has cabernet sauvignon and sauvignon blanc. The merlot is also doing fine, but it is very sensitive to changes in temperature, more so than the others.
Mr. Mondavi was one of the first great winemakers to recognize the potential in the area. He was such a global ambassador to the region; he traveled non-stop around the world in hopes of educating people about the splendors of Napa Valley and its wine-growing region. Other American wine growing regions also have their benefits, but Napa Valley’s unique geographical factors-the mountains, the valley, the ocean-create an environment that is unmatched, and our vines respond accordingly.
Wines from Napa Valley are being recognized as on par with some of the finest French and Italian varietals, and it is an unending source of pride for the entire region. At Robert Mondavi Winery, we are thrilled to be a part of this new tradition of great wines from northern California.