USA, California: 22 June – 22 July 2010
Icon of Napa, the Napa Valley Wine Train is here in action.
Napa. Finally, we had arrived. It was the place which most all other wine regions we had seen around the world were purposefully or subconsciously referring themselves to, both for the good and the bad. Some saw it only for the excess of glitz, a Disney land before all else, while others saw it as their own personal finish lines. In either case, it was clear all around: it was the height of comparison. It was either here or Bordeaux, the only two regions of the world that everyone seemed to find a place for in conversation when describing themselves. And now that we had arrived, home for one of us, it was time to see again why this land had grown to be legend.
It’s safe to say we had the most warm and family style tour at the Robert Mondavi winery with longtime winemaker Genevieve Janssens (A familiar last name not by coincidence, it is Georges’ mother), and it’s here where a lot of it all started for the region. The winery still hosts its popular Summer concerts in the vines (started in 1969!), narrated by the eloquent Margaret Mondavi who has been a great support to our project, and the winery continues its nature for innovation as well: Some great ideas we saw included a weekend in the garden, where participants pick their own garden vegetables and partake in a course by Robert Mondavi winery’s head chef on the garden fresh style. A second innovation which greatly caught our eye was the ‘Water Box’ project, a Dutch-conceived invention which enables plants to be dry farmed, with a little bit of maintenance-free technological help. A box surrounding the plant (in this case a vine), needs only one watering and the rest is taken care of by an ingenious dew collection system which trickles water to plant, enough for the plant to grow and reach natural ground water supplies. A similar testing in the Sahara desert showed an incredible success rate greater than traditional farming practices!
Alongside Robert Mondavi, we continued to make sure our collection housed the greats, and were met with high support from philanthropic growers! We are happy to announce that our humanitarian fundraising auction will feature wine from Opus One (which was started by Mr. Robert Mondavi and Baron Philippe de Rothschild and where Genevieve Janssens also worked on the winemaking team to help begin this great alliance), Staglin winery (who is also moving mountains with its own charity fundraising), Quintessa winery (A quintessential Napa premium wine), and Dalla Valle and Viader vineyards (two great examples of boutique premium Napa wines which work hard to keep the bar high for Napa Valley Bordeaux style blends)!
Robert Mondavi winery: Visiting Robert Mondavi winery was like coming home, with Margaret Mondavi an initial supporter of our World Wine Tour 2010′s charity fundraising concept, and winemaker Genevieve Janssens having an inspirational role in our foundations with wine (and this entire project!). This winery too is needless to say one of the molding forces of the Napa Valley, creating what it is today as a top tourist destination and world renowned quality and premium wine producer. Since its first vintage in 1966, it has been the quintessential icon of the Napa Valley fine wine tradition, and has served as an inspiration for countless vintners in the valley who followed. As chairpersons to the first Napa Valley charity wine auction which started in 1981, they have long supported the tradition of charity and the auctions have become one of the largest and most significant fundraisers in the US (last year over 8 Million was raised)! With an impact immeasurable in the wine world, from culinary programs and wine education launched in the 80s, to an all around promotion of the arts captured in the catch phrase itself ‘wine, food, and the arts,’ we are very proud to feature this founder of fine wine inspiration in the world, having Robert Mondavi wines at our auction for charity in Laos!
Opus One: Began in the late 70s as a partnership between Baron Philippe de Rothschild and Mr. Robert Mondavi, Opus One became known as America’s first ultra premium only winery and is founded on the best vineyard sight of the Valley: the To Kalon vineyards. This winery’s architecture has drawn tourists from afar just as much as the legacy of its wine has, and we were happy to have a meeting with Roger Asleson, director of Public Relations who shared with us the Opus One vision. We are very happy to have our Hong Kong auction feature a Magnum of the most current release (year???), which Roger has exclaimed is one of the best yet!
Quintessa: We had a great tour and tasting with winemaker Charles Thomas (here signing a Magnum of 2007 Quintessa for the auction), who shared to us his passion for Organic and Biodynamic farming which Quintessa lives by. With 170 acres of Organic and Biodynamic vineyards, Quintessa works with natural remedies for farming difficulties: The use of diverse cover crops keep microorganisms happy, and beneficial insect populations are encouraged by the planting of native plants and grasses. The large property houses five unique microclimates coming from different hillsides, valleys, and bodies of water, and so this ultra-premium red blend winery was rightly christened ‘Quintessa’!
Staglin: ‘Perched’ on the lawn of the winery’s new receiving facilities as seen here, Staglin winery’s label is the one-winged angel. The Staglin family was quoted saying they draw daily on this emblematic bronze statue’s energy filled pose, as they continue their legacy of wine-fundraising projects. In fact, it’s quite impressive, when considering that the Staglin Fund has raised millions (actually, over 43 Million!) for Mental Illness research, a condition afflicting Garen and Shari Staglin’s son. Their fundraising concerts, ‘The Staglin Music Festival for Mental Health’ have given the Staglin’s the support needed to match their never ending inspirational energy, helping further their will to combat these diverse diseases afflicting millions. We are very happy to have this charity-famous and premium organic Napa Valley winery contribute as well to our own fundraising endeavor!
Dalla Valle Vineyards: Founded in 1986, Dall Valle has consistently and for good reason earned its spot among the elite of Napa Valley’s premium wines. Located on a plateau above the valley, in the eastern hills of the top sight of Oakville, the vineyards receive a perfect combination of sun exposure and cooling marine influence that makes it ideal for classic winegrowing. This boutique limited production winery makes some of the world’s most sought after red wine blends, and we were very happy to discuss the winery’s success and history in the vineyards with Naoko Dalla Valle herself. Founded by Naoko and her late husband Gustav (Originally from Italy with over 175 years of family wine business), the winery and vineyards come to full fruition with the help of world famous winemaker Michel Rolland. Bidders will be delighted to hear of the Participation of Dalla Valle in our Hong Kong auction, and with this and the rest, the auction is sure to get hot!
Viader Vineyards: Also founded in 1986 (with a first vintage in 1989), Viader Vineyards has earned a reputation for consistent high quality and limited production wines. A family run business, Viader winery has its roots in another wine-capital country, Argentina, with winemaker/owner Delia Viader immigrating to the US before starting the winery. We had a great tour of the amazing estate and cellars, ending with a tasting in the must-see tasting room sitting atop a hill to provide a picture perfect view in the valley. We are very happy to feature wine of Viader, which is an essential component to our Napa collection!
Our Napa winery top wine quest though has not ended here, and we invite you for our next and final California blog, where we will explore more of the best wines here, from boutique to worldwide powerhouses!
~Anja and Georges