Sunday, May 13, 2018



Emblem 2016 Sonoma Coast Chardonnay

 Morning fog in the Petaluma Gap vineyards
Michael Mondavi, estate founder (l), his daughter and son, Dina Moondavi (c) and Robert Mondavi, Jr.

by Dwight Casimere

Just an hour or so north of San Francisco lies the Petaluma Gap, a unique stretch of land about 30 miles wide that stretches along the coast between Bodega Bay and Tomales Bay and east to the mouth of the Petaluma River. It is near the city of Petaluma, California. The most distinctive features of the Gap are its weather conditions; lingering coastal fog, strong, fresh marine winds, and an abundance of powerful afternoon sunlight that bathes the area throughout the rest of the day. These conditions are perfect for growing wine grapes and vineyards have been in abundance in the Petaluma Gap since the 1880s. Because of these unique growing conditions, the Petaluma Gap was given its own designation as an American Viticultural growing area (AVA)  beginning in January, 2018.

Although the Petaluma Gap has been a wine producing region for more than a century, tourists might best know it for its proximity to the town of Bodega Bay, a sleepy seaside town that resembles a New England fishing village. It was made famous as  the location for the exterior scenes of Alfred Hitchcock's 1963 film, The Birds. Shrouded in fog and mystery, the area seems ripe for the setting of a suspenseful thriller. It also sets the stage for the production of a great and distinctive wine like Emblem 2016 Sonoma Coast Chardonnay.

Emblem 2016 Sonoma Coast Chardonnay is the latest edition from the Michael Mondavi Family Estate. Founded in 1966, it continues the tradition of California's leading winemaking family, the Mondavis.  Led by family patriarch and winemaking icon Robert Mondavi, the name has become synonymous with premium California wine throughout the world. The brother and sister team of Robert Mondavi, Jr. and Dina Mondavi  carry the mantle forward as they run the winery founded by their father, Michael Mondavi. 

The Mondavi pedigree is evident in every sip of Emblem 2016 Chardonnay. The depth and beauty of California's most cherished grape is captured in every bottle. Conditions were unspectacular during the wine's growing season, which is a good thing for winemakers. An early start brought forth firm, healthy grapes with vivid, deep flavors, great acidity and soft tannins that make for wine with freshness and finesse.  Barrel fermentation under constant cool temperatures preserved that freshness and contnued throughout the aging process. The wine's richness was further enhanced by aging in small French oak barrels for 9-10 months in 15% new oak and 85% neutral oak barrels, which gave the wine a soft, round mouth-feel.
This is a beautiful wine, bursting with flavors of ripe red pears, crisp green apples and hints of lemongrass and the warmth of vanilla and baking spices. The finish is long and delicious with a texture that makes you want to experience the pleasure of drinking it before, during and after the meal. 

Summer is perfect for Emblem 2016 Sonoma Coast Chardonnay. Serve it to your guests at   just below cellar temperature, but not too chilled, so that they can enjoy the sudden burst of fruit flavor that cascades into their mouth with the first sip. Summer salads, chilled seafood, such as shrimp cocktail, oysters on the half shell and a first course of seared scallops or peel and eat shrimp are great pairing possibilities. Some grilled salmon or fresh trout stuffed with a bit of fresh herbs would make a perfect first course, followed by some lamb chops covered with fresh garden rosemary and cooked to a just-pink doneness over hot coals covered in apple wood chips. Save some Emblem Chardonnay for a dessert of Key Lime Pie or strawberry shortcake and you have a dining experience that even the Mondavi's might envy.

 Robert Mondavi, Sr., Napa Valley wine icon at a Napa Valley Wine Auction with celebrity auctioneer Jay Leno in the background
 A cluster of Chardonnay grapes
 Alfred Hitchcock on the set of The Birds with stars Rod Taylor, Tippi Hedren and Jessica Tandy (c)
 Promotional stills for The Birds-Universal Pictures 1963

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