The Coast News Group
The classic stop for most visitors to Napa Valley’s Wine Country is Castello di Amorosa, which was heavily damaged by the Glass Fire on Sept. 28. Photo courtesy of Castello di Amorosa
ColumnsTaste of Wine

Taste of Wine: A new chapter in the Mondavi family winemaking story

The most rapid growth period in the history of Napa Valley wines was piloted by the world-renowned Robert Mondavi, the most significant figure in the growth of the region, a period that ended in his passing in 2009.

The next generation has taken on a more sedate, gentile approach to fine winemaking, masterminded by Robert’s son Michael. He cleansed himself of past policies and began anew with his wife, Isabel, son Rob Jr. and daughter Dina in the Atlas Peak district Animo vineyard, establishing the Michael Mondavi Family Estate. Within the serene confines of the Oso Vineyard on Howell Mountain, the family makes wines under the Emblem and M by Michael Mondavi brands.

Before the tasting experience, it must be noted our visit with the Mondavis was before the Napa/Sonoma Glass Fire that ripped through parts of Napa Valley beginning Sept. 27, damaging much of the Calistoga/St. Helena district. It continues at this writing.

Rob Mondavi Jr., co-founder of the Michael Mondavi Family Estate, with sister Dina and father Michael Mondavi. Photo by Margarite Triemstra

Mondavi Family Estate’s host for the visit was Jay Brenner, who started the entourage off with the 2018 Isabel Rosé in honor of Rob’s mother.

A delicately hued wine with a light touch on the palate, this Rosé had fresh aromatics with hints of honeydew melon and white peach. The red used was a 100% Cabernet Sauvignon.

Another “cool” wine was the 2018 Animo Heritage Sauvignon Blanc aged in French oak, which earned a 95-point rating.

The second vineyard, Oso, is from the 95-acre vineyard, nestled in the Howell Mountain district in northeastern Napa Valley at an elevation of 1,200 feet. Here the highly rated 2016 Emblem Cabernet Sauvignon is created, with a splash of Petite Sirah and Petite Verdot for this flagship creation. It has fine-grained tannins, lively acidity and a long delicious finish.

(Because of the fire, Michael Mondavi reports losing planted vines at Oso Vineyard Howell Mountain. He said in an email that “as smoke continues to settle over Napa Valley, we have made the incredibly difficult decision to not produce any red wine within the 2020 vintage.”)

Wine lovers will enjoy their visit to Michael Mondavi’s tasting room at Brasswood Estate, on Highway 12 in St. Helena. Tastings are available by reservation only; reach out to Jay Brewer at [email protected].

This photograph brought me to tears

The massive 120,000-square-foot, 9-story Castello di Amorosa caught the brunt of the Glass Fire the morning of Sept. 28, including damage to the Farm House building.

It contained approximately 120,000 wine bottles with a retail value of $5 million, with total damage estimated to be $10 million to $12 million, according to owner Dario Sattui. Since most materials and labor for the entire castle came from Italy, the restoration costs could skyrocket.

Sattui started building the Castello in 1994. According to Sattui, the $40-million project was completed in 2007 with 107 rooms and four underground levels that provided a foundation for nearly a million imported antique bricks. The latest numbers from the Glass Fire indicate some 600 homes and buildings destroyed in the 60,000-acre fire that has not yet been contained as we write this column.

There are many more stories of winery damage. If you wish to tap into the latest news, visit There, you can also learn how to help with a donation to the Napa Valley Community Disaster Relief Fund. For the latest at Castello di Amorosa, visit

Wine Bytes

  • Morton’s the Steakhouse and DAOU Family Estates of Paso Robles are presenting “A Taste of Two Legends,” a four-course dinner and wine pairing at Morton’s downtown on Saturday, Oct. 24, 6:30 to 9 p.m. Cost is $175 per person inclusive of tax and gratuity. It will be an unforgettable evening of exquisite cuisine paired with the finest wines from DAOU Family Estates, including the award-winning “Soul of a Lion” Cabernet Sauvignon. To assure your place for this special occasion, visit or call 619-696-3369.

Frank Mangio is a renowned wine connoisseur certified by Wine Spectator. Reach him at [email protected]