ROBERT MONDAVI WINERY, 7801 St Helena Hwy, Napa, CA 94574, (888) 766-6328
Hours: Daily, 10:00 – 5:00; Reservations required for a tour with tasting; No reservations required for a tasting at the cafe
What to expect: Educational wine tasting and tour and a walk through the vineyards
When you enter the Robert Mondavi Winery and make your way down the driveway, you might experience a moment of deja vue. You’ll immediately recognize the main building of the winery if you’ve ever enjoyed their wine before because the main building is featured in the Robert Mondavi logo and on most of its bottled wines.
This is the winery to visit if you are looking for a well-rounded tour of a Napa Valley winery. Not only will you get a tour of the winery itself and the cellars, but you’ll also walk through the vineyards and get an education on wine tasting. Even better, you’ll be escorted at all times by a wine education specialist who provides a lot of interesting information and is very willing to answer all questions. I learned why there are roses in vineyards, do you know why?
For those of you who do not have the time for a full tour, which takes about 90 minutes, you can opt for the walk-in wine tasting. The basic tasting is in their Vineyard Tasting Room, and for $20, you can sample 4 of their classic and spotlight wines.
You can also purchase a full glass of wine ranging from $5 to $12.50 as well as an artisanal cheese platter for $20 to enjoy on the patio overlooking the vineyards. It’s a very scenic and relaxing place to sit and enjoy some wine and cheese.
However, I highly recommend that you spend some time at this winery and take one of their tours. I took the Signature Tour and Tasting (90-minutes for $30). Although there are a few different tours you can take (reservations required as some tours are limited to 15 people), I think this tour is the best of the bunch. This guided tour is reasonably priced, it shows you the vineyards as well as the wine cellars, and you get an education on wine making and wine tasting.
The tour starts off with a short story about the history of Robert Mondavi and the winery, which was actually quite interesting. I really never gave much thought to the history of the wine I drank, and I probably still won’t. However, when you are standing on the grounds of the winery, the place will pique your interest, so I am happy they included it in the tour.
You’ll then proceed to the vineyards, where you’ll walk to a nice shaded seating area to learn more about the vines and grape growing in the Napa Valley. You can only access the vineyard if you are on a guided tour, and it does provide for some nice photographs. It was a pleasant experience to walk amongst the vines.
Next stop on the tour is the giant oak fermentation room located on the mezzanine level of the 20,000 square foot wine producing facility. Here, in this very modern facility, you’ll find rows of 6-ton (5,000 gallon), French oak fermentation tanks. If you visit at times other than harvest, chances are that these tanks will be empty as they were when I was there in May.
Get your cameras ready for the next stop, the underground barrel cellar. I loved this room, not only because it was a room filled with wine, but it was just very pretty. The barrel cellar sits directly beneath the fermentation room. It is filled with 1,200 French oak barrels in their first-year, stacked just one-level high to allow unrestricted access.
Finally, you will be taken to a viewing room where you can see the wine being bottled in the bottling facility.
When your guided tour of the facility is complete, you will end up in a rustic room for your wine tasting. Here you’ll learn how to properly open and pour wine, how to read wine labels, why a restaurant gives you the cork when it opens a bottle, why you swirl wine in the glass, and how to smell, taste and describe wine. Of course, if you are a wine conniseur or just think you are, you may already know some or all of this. If that’s the case, just sit back and enjoy your three samples. They also serve a small appetizer that is perfectly paired with one of your wines, so you can experience how food can bring out a different taste in the wine.
After your tour and tasting, be sure to stop by the gift shop. Here you can buy all the wine you tasted including limited production bottles that are not sold in stores. You can also find some kitchen and wine gadgets as well as souvenirs with the Robert Mondavi logo. I loved the displays in this gift shop, which made shopping it a very pleasant experience. I definitely walked out of here with a few bags of wine and other gadgets.
Overall, the Robert Mondavi is a fantastic experience, and I think anyone who visits Napa Valley for the first time should include this winery on their itinerary.
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