Tim Mondavi At Telluride Reserve Mountain Village Food & Wine Celebration
Tim Mondavi is the winegrower, visionary and creative force behind all aspects of Continuum Estate. He has devoted his life’s work and passion to enhancing the art of wine. In 1974, armed with a degree from UC Davis in viticulture & enology, Tim joined the winemaking team at Robert Mondavi Winery. There Tim guided wine research programs, led the development of Napa’s Appellation system and mentored many winemakers over the years. Early on, he began using the term “winegrower” instead of winemaker, to identify his belief that the personality of great wine is a manifestation of the soil, climate and the people involved.
At Telluride Reserve this August 15-18, Time will showcase Napa Valley to bring together the best in food and wine, and there’s no better pairing than wines from Tim’s Continuum Estate and a Napa menu from Mondavi’s executive chef Sarah Scott. Guests will enjoy a vertical tasting of Continuum led by Tim as he discusses the intricacies of vintage, his family’s legacy, and life in the Napa Valley with one of the greatest wine families in the world.
What was it like growing up in the Mondavi family?
I was fortunate to have grown up on the grounds of Charles Krug Winery in St. Helena, California, where the vineyards and winery were my playground. The biggest thing going in St. Helena at the time was the high school football team that was undefeated for 80 games. I was born in 1951, and back then nobody had heard of Napa Valley, and wine in America was thought of very differently. The only good food around was made at home since the restaurant scene was extremely limited. My mother, Marjorie, was a great cook and my grandmother, Rosa, was famous for her Italian cuisine. Our home served as a hospitality center, and all the conversations at my father’s table were always about wine.
Early on, you chose to use the term ‘winegrower’ in place of ‘winemaker,’ which is uncommon in the wine world. Could you elaborate on why this distinction matters to you?
I believe the term ‘winemaker’ was popularized in America post-prohibition. The New World is the only place the term ‘winemaker’ is used. Lab-coated scientists, trained as winemakers, were able to weave through the post-prohibition challenges, focusing their magic on cellar activities where wine was made. It is clear now that the best wines are grown, not made. And the very best are grown in the best of sites. As they say, the best wines bear the footprints of the winegrower.
What is the defining moment that shaped your outlook on wine and its creation?
There are plenty of those kinds of moments for me. Growing up, wine was part of our lives every day. Every night at dinner, my father would share his views on wines of the world. I played in the vineyards and cellar at Charles Krug as a child, which had a huge impact on me. But it was my first trip to Europe in 1970 that helped reinforce the magic of wine—its incredible diversity, and its affinity for family, through raising it together and enjoying it together.
Tell us about Continuum Estate, and how it reflects your overall philosophy of winemaking?
First and foremost, great wine comes from a great site. I believe that Continuum Estate certainly is a great site, and among the greatest of the world. It is up to us to raise wines and to present them with this inspiration. For this, we have a dedicated team working every step along the way with us in the vineyards and cellar. The complexity of our wine comes from this unique site with mineral-rich volcanic soils and westerly and southerly exposures. Complexity is also reinforced through the four grape varieties suited to these 44 separate and distinct, organically farmed, vineyard blocks. Our varietal plantings are 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Cabernet Franc, 15% Petit Verdot and 5% Merlot. The winery we designed and built allows us to bring forth the varied and beautiful personality of this fabulous site. 2019 marks the 100th anniversary of our family being in wine, and I believe that Continuum is the pinnacle of our now four-generation endeavor.
Simply put, what do you think makes great wine?
As the winegrower for my family, I have been able to be a part of giving birth to Robert Mondavi Winery and Opus One where I was responsible for the wines and wine growing in Napa Valley. We also grew wine throughout the balance of California, and farther afield in Tuscany, raising Luce della Vite Montalcino as well as Ornellaia in Bolgheri. In Chile I was a part of developing Sena in the Aconcagua Valley, and Arboleda and Caliterra in Colchagua Valley. This hands on experience in these areas reinforced a great appreciation in me for site. Simply put, great wine requires two things, a great site and a team committed to respecting it and realizing its full potential.
Your Taste and Terroir at Telluride Reserve focuses on Napa Valley, how do you plan to highlight its flavors through Continuum?
Napa Valley is a gifted region with a climate that brings rain in the winter, and sun and warmth during the growing season that allows us to raise wines naturally. Napa Valley constitutes only 4% of wine of California, and the hillsides constitute only roughly 4% of the wines of Napa Valley. In the length and breadth of our beautiful valley, we have tremendous diversity of soil, climate and potential.
The Continuum Estate is 1,300 to 1,600 feet in elevation, well above the Valley floor. Our wine is reflective of our red rocky volcanic soils that are mineral rich and sparse in fertility. As a result, the vines struggle and give a small precious crop. The wines have wonderful concentration, vibrancy and minerality, with layers of texture and nuanced fragrance. They also reflect the native aromatic brush that grows all around our beautiful vineyard with gorgeous savory notes of dried wild herbs.
I’m excited to be in Telluride again, because of its majestic natural beauty and the people who have created a culture that appreciates that, along with great food and wine. Everywhere you go in Telluride there is a relaxed, welcoming attitude that celebrates healthy lifestyles and flavorful cuisine.