Continuum: How the Mondavis pressed on
One of the grandest of sagas that took place in Napa Valley during the 20th century was the split between the original Mondavi brothers of Robert and Peter. Many a wine drinker will know the name Robert Mondavi as while he has since left us, his name still adorns that large winery on the west side of Highway 29 in Oakville.
Peter Mondavi may be lesser known as he was seemingly the quieter of the two brothers and was working to make Charles Krug wines as good as they could be while Robert was out there selling them. The relationship didn’t work, Robert was kicked out in 1965 and began his own winery the year and went on to be a champion of the valley and the desire to make world-class wines.
In 2004, the Robert Mondavi board sold off the winery and its various vineyards which stripped Robert and his descendants of the winery he had build. Ever determined, he and his children started up Continuum the next year in 2005. I have to hand it to the man who was (I believe) 91 at the time as I wouldn’t have had it in me to start yet another project although it was his family that took to building up and continuing (thus the name) the project.
This is an extremely condensed version of a story that took place over half a century but it allows for an introduction to this new project and getting the chance to taste the wines recently as well as talk with Chiara Mondavi, Robert’s granddaughter. She’s been working up in Bordeaux but popped down to lead a small group through the tasting.
It was nice to talk with her a bit at the end as you don’t see a lot of Napa wines in Spain given the price and Continuum is most certainly no bargain bin wine, costing about $250 retail. As they were just starting with this in Barcelona (imported by Caskadia), Chiara asked me how I thought the wines would place in the market. It’s an interesting question as the initial response by most would probably be, “Are you crazy? We can get good wine for 5€ and great wines for 25€! There’s no way this will sell.”
One needs to keep in mind that Continuum is producing 60,000 bottles (or 5,000 cases in US parlance) which is quite small for Napa Valley. That lends a sense of exclusivity to the wines and while you won’t see me splashing out that kind of money for wine given what one makes as a wine journalist, there is a solid segment of people who can indeed afford it and they do indeed pass through Barcelona. It’s one thing to slap a big price tag on a Napa wine however and something else to be able to back it up The wines are very well made in a modern/classic Napa style. Also, having the name “Mondavi” behind them lends a great deal of street cred for those looking for it.
Despite being a legendary Napa Valley family, this winery happens to be outside any of the well-known Napa AVAs and thus the wines that have come forth are simply, “Napa Valley” although a potentially new AVA could be created someday called, “Sage Mountain” but that’s just on the drawing board currently. Make sure to have a look at their website as photos of massive boulders in their vineyards at 400-500m are pretty impressive.
We tasted through three different vintages that were large departures from one another, especially as the 2006 was made of fruit from the revered “To Kalon” vineyard. 2011 was a rainy year that was challenging for many in the valley. And then there’s 2014 which, based upon my tastings in February, was one of the finest vintages the region has seen in some time.
Dark ruby with a garnet crest. Graphite, plum, very fine grained, racy streak of red plum fruit. Light on the palate as well as slightly thin at the moment with a good deal of alcohol in the finish. Still very, very tight and will need a good six years more before drinking.
65% Cab Sauvignon, 15% Cab Franc, 15% Petit Verdot, 5% Merlot 14.8%
Ruby with light bricking at the rim. Flecks of dark plum, cassis notes and more leafy, tightly curled raisin notes. Full mouthfeel, rich, dark fruit, light plum, gets a touch of alcohol in the nose. Good wealth of tannins, medium minus in acidity, long finish with a good deal of tannic grip, alcohol sticks a bit in the retro palate, starting to fall off, definitely ready and should be drank now.
75% Cab Sauvignon, 12% Cab Franc, 11% Petit Verdot, 2% Merlot 14.7%
Very dense in ruby color, more pronounced garnet rim. Fig and dark cherry, cloves, licorice, tar. Good balance on the palate, good deal of sweetness from new barrels. Quite massive in terms of tannins with a chalky finish. Juicy, big, and weighty but still a bit muddled in terms of linear appears. Very tasty but a wine to age further, at least three more years before optimal.
59% Cab Sauvignon, 25% Cab Franc, 16% Petit Verdot, 15.1%