Read about what’s new at one of California’s oldest winemakers, CK Mondavi and Family as SSM editor, Stacy Rushton, talks wine and family with Janice Mondavi.
Rarely as our girls were growing up, did we have holidays without them. But one that does stand out in my mind was a trip to Napa Valley, the renown wine country of California. We rented a car on the coast and then wandered the back roads, enjoying the verdant hillsides crisscrossed by sturdy grapevines, pendent with the promise of rich wine to come. I was envious of all who were blessed to live there year round.
Last year the Food Wine Conference, organized by Sunday Supper, had a new sponsor, CK Mondavi, which gave me the unique opportunity to connect with one of the very people I envied of all those years ago.
Janice Mondavi, a fourth-generation Californian herself, married into that famous wine family. In between raising four daughters and fundraising for worthy charities, she has made being an ambassador for the family business her own special focus. Read last year’s interview here.
It was my delight to catch up with Janice recently, just ahead of Food Wine Conference 2017 and find out what’s new at CK Mondavi. First of all, they’ve changed the name on their labels – to CK Mondavi and Family – along with a completely redesign. The new look harkens back to a vintage label from the 1960s but with a more modern feel. And the addition of “Family” reflects the increased involvement of the fourth generation. Three of Janice and Marc Mondavi’s four daughters work for the 74-year-old family-owned business in some capacity. To honor the first patriarch, an image of Cesare Mondavi graces the front too.
The new look bottles won’t be in stores until June but I am excited that our attendees at Food Wine Conference will be among the first to get a sneak peek in person next week. Best of all, each label has two-word descriptors to help buyers choose the varietal that best suits their palates or complements their meal, from the “rich and velvety” Cabernet Sauvignon to the “crisp and refreshing” Sauvignon Blanc. (My personal favorite, The Scarlet Five – a red blend – is described as soft and flavorful. I’ll vouch for that!)
As Janice says, at CK Mondavi and Family, “That’s one of our family philosophies, from my father-in-law on down, we want to make wine to be able to enjoy with our food. We don’t want wine that overpowers the food or the food to overpower our wine. It’s always been a varietal first characteristic that we strive for, across our brands.”
I was curious about how CK Mondavi and Family are able to produce such quality wines and still keep prices so reasonable. Turns out, it’s all about forward planning, so those of us who aspire to live that life in California (Tell me it’s not just me!) have probably missed the window of opportunity. Since all the grapes used in CK Mondavi and Family wines are grown in the United States, owning a lot of your own grape-growing land keeps overheads low. The rest of the grapes come from farmers who have been growing for CK Mondavi and Family so long that many of those contracts are merely handshakes. They are considered part of the extended CK Mondavi family.
Janice and I shared a chuckle over her father-in-law who was appalled to pay $3,000 an acre back in the 1960s. Prices in Napa now run between $400-500,000 an acre, pricing most of us right out of the market.
I’ll just have to console myself at next week’s Food Wine Conference, enjoying the delicious CK Mondavi and Family wines that Janice is bring along to complement the great meals, prepared by our friends at Rosen Shingle Creek. I hope you will be joining us. (Register here.) Janice is excited about the event too, telling me that it was huge success for the brand last year, and a wonderful learning experience for her personally. Not much of a social media user before, she amazed her daughters by finally catching up. She found our enthusiasm infectious.