I also remember when Robert started to popularize the term "Fume Blanc" instead of Sauvignon Blanc. In those days when Chardonnay was queen, I personally had my doubts if the American palate would appreciate the more vegetal tastes of Sauvignon. I should not have worried. I also remember the discussions about To Kalon vineyard ("how do you spell that, Robert?") and how special he considered it.
All this comes to mind after drinking a bottle at dinner the other night of the 2007 Robert Mondavi I Block Fume Blanc from the To Kalon vineyard, a 100 percent varietal available only through the winery at $75. Just 208 cases were made. I love to be stunned by a great white, and this one did just that as it progressed through three layers. First, a melody of tropical and stone fruits - peach, mango, apricot skin, mellow tangerine juice - followed by a layer of brioche and subtle smokiness, then finished off with a minerally display of limestone and tart citrus out of a tin cup. The wine is full on the palate (14.7% alcohol) yet has great closing acidity.
In her notes, director of winemaking Genevieve Janssens, says To Kalon is "what I consider the first growth of Napa Valley." I would agree with her, although I would add the word "among," for the valley does have other vineyards worthy of that appellation.
And, at all levels, I continue to be impressed with the high standards of winemaking at Robert Mondavi at To Kalon and elsewhere. It is a worthy keeper of the cru.
Until next time...