21 Ultimate Gifts: Legend in the Making

  • Brett Anderson

THE GIFT
An unprecedented opportunity to create 200 cases of first-growth-quality Napa Valley wine, from vine to bottle, with the Michael Mondavi family.
Private dinner for four at the home of Michael Mondavi to taste the family’s wines, including rare vintages from Michael’s personal cellar, plus a vineyard tour with the winegrowing team.
Participate in the 2011 harvest and crush.
Barrel tastings and selection, followed by a blending session with the Mondavi team.
Work with the team and a professional graphic designer to trademark a name and develop a proprietary label.
Celebratory dinner with the Mondavi family upon bottling.
Premium wine-locker storage for one year.
Private round-trip air travel to Napa, car service, and accommodations for two nights in luxury suites for four during each stage of the program.
$1 million

The Mondavi family tree is not a tree at all but a vine; and its life’s blood, of course, is wine. Soon after Robert Mondavi cofounded his winery with his son Michael in 1966, he realized his dream of producing first-growth-quality wines in California and helped to transform Napa Valley into an international tourist destination. Acclaim and fortune, however, did not alter the family’s philosophy of fine winemaking. "My grandmother was never involved in the day-to-day business," says Michael. "But she had a profound influence on us. Her credo was simple: Make wine that tastes good. She believed that the wine tastes good if, when you serve guests, they drink two or three glasses. If they only drink one glass, she’d tell you to go back to work."

The recipient of this gift will have the privilege of going to work with the former chairman of the board of Robert Mondavi Corp. and founder of Michael Mondavi Family Winery, producer of the exquisite M by Michael Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon. For the first time ever, Mondavi and his team of experts will create 200 cases of a 2011 Napa Valley wine crafted according to the specific tastes of a single individual, this gift’s recipient, who will experience firsthand each phase of the vintage’s production.

The project begins with a dinner for four at Mondavi’s home, where he will open up his personal cellar and a number of its rare bottles to determine what style of wine the recipient prefers. Mondavi insists, however, that the new wine have two qualities. "Number one, it has to have some flavor—it can’t just be a room-temperature liquid," he says. "And number two, if it’s a Cabernet, it has to have a wonderful weight—a creaminess—on the tongue."

The recipient and three guests will tour prospective vineyard sites with the winemaking team to determine which will yield fruit appropriate to the chosen style. The team will then negotiate and finalize contracts for the fruit. In the fall, the recipient and guests will return to Napa Valley to join in the grape harvest and crush.

Once fermentation of the grapes is complete, the winemaking team will establish an aging regimen appropriate to the recipient’s taste. "The type of oak barrel—whether it’s from the Limousin or Navarre forests in France—will give different flavors to the wine," says Mondavi. "If you want a delicate oak flavor, you use the Navarre oak very lightly toasted and for a short period of time. If it’s a big, full-bodied year, you’ll very likely want more oak to balance that robust flavor." After approximately 12 to 18 months, when the wine has matured sufficiently, the recipient and guests will again visit the winery to select wine from specific barrels and develop the final blend.

The final stage of the project is perhaps the most challenging of all: deciding on the wine’s name and designing a proprietary label for the bottle. "Naming a new wine is hell," Mon­davi admits, "because so many names that seem logical to you and sound nice have been copyrighted by individuals or companies to protect the name for future use." However, when this hurdle has been cleared and the new wine has been bottled, the recipient and guests will at last sit down with the Mondavi family for a well-deserved celebration, during which everyone will certainly ask for more than one glass.

Michael Mondavi Family Winery, Susanne Bergstrom, 707.256.2731, sbergstrom@foliowine.com, www.foliowine.com

This gift applies to the 2011 vintage only. dates for each trip will be largely determined by the winegrowing cycle and are subject to the availability of the Mondavi family and production team. Travel costs associated with the final price may actually be less depending on the recipient’s place of residence.

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