By Rick Riozza

Most of us California vino lovers know well the Robert Mondavi story and his namesake winery, established in 1966, with a vision to place Napa Valley wines on the map and to produce world class wines. Mondavi succeeded at that.  He chose To Kalon Vineyard in the heart of the Napa Valley as the home for Robert Mondavi Winery. This first-growth vineyard, located in Oakville, California, is renowned for producing some of the finest Cabernet Sauvignon wines in the world, as well as for its Sauvignon Blanc grapes, from which he crafted his signature wine, Fumé Blanc.

One of Robert Mondavi’s famous quotes was, “Making good wine is a skill; fine wine is an art.” And that philosophical bent runs throughout his family.  Fifty-one years ago, the Margrit Mondavi Summer Concert Series began when Mrs. Mondavi brought her passion for the arts to the Napa Valley, beginning a tradition that fused stellar performers, local culinary vendors and great cuisine to unite the local community.

This summer of 2020, in adherence with social distancing guidelines, the winery is producing a new incarnation of the series simply known as Summer Sundays:   “Experience the magic of food, wine and the performing arts from your home this summer with our bi-weekly virtual events which continue to support Napa Valley student music programs and additional non-profits selected by our performers.  The Summer Sunday series commenced on July 5 with a performance by acclaimed Bay Area Jazz Musician Marcus Shelby, in the winery’s fabulous Vineyard Room.

I got on the series program a little late and missed the July 5th performance.  However, I went on YouTube channel and dialed in on Robert Mondavi Winery Summer Sundays: The Marcus Shelby Trio featuring Tiffany Austin, and caught some 30 minutes of wonderful and beautiful jazz/blues pieces by said trio.

In and out of this year’s columns, we’ve been doing and reporting our share of “virtual wine tastings” with various wineries and their winemakers.  This Summer Sundays project indeed takes the total wine experience to new heights. As you can see below, you and yours can put on a virtual wine tasting and concert in the comfort of your home.

Celebrated Bay Area TV and radio personality Liam Mayclem hosts Summer Sundays. “On alternating Sundays, we’ll broadcast experiences on our social media channels, including cooking demonstrations and competitions, music, dance and theater performances, and conversations about wine with our own Master of Wine, Mark de Vere.

“For each event in the series, we’ve designated a featured wine, and created unique packages designed to bring the winery experience to your door. We encourage you to purchase these wines and packages in advance, and sip along with Liam as you enjoy the performances, demonstrations and conversations via our YouTube account and the hashtag #RMWSummerSundays.

So the complete deal with this virtual wine tasting/music/dance/theater/cooking exhibitions “evening” is that the Robert Mondavi Winery puts together a “concert kit” that includes a selection of wines with a theme, along with some other culinary items such as cheese, crackers, mustard, artisan tapenades, etc., that go to accommodate a casual tasting party.

I recently received the “Carneros Package” to accompany my virtual experience of watching live the musical group, The Head and The Heart.  The concert was fun and entertaining, and the wine was first class.  The suggested language of my Carneros Package stated: “The cool breezes and morning fog of the Carneros wine region in the southernmost part of Napa County provide the perfect growing conditions for Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes. We’ve paired three bottles of our favorites with two delicious local tapenades and artisan flatbread. “

The three wines included in my concert kit were excellent choices—two of which were new to my Mondavi wine experience: 2015 PNX Pinot Noir Carneros, 2016 Unoaked Spotlight Collection Chardonnay Napa Valley, and the 2018 Pinot Noir Carneros.  These were very impressive curated wines for the occasion.

The 2016 Unoaked Spotlight Collection Chardonnay Napa Valley ($34.) I had completely forgot that the R.M.Winery had an unoaked Chard in its portfolio.  It’s a treat for sure at its price, but it fits right in with our valley’s savvy wine community. Here we have Asian pear and apple notes flirting with bright classic un-oaked Chardonnay profile… perfect for a breezy Sunday afternoon. We all said, “Yeah—you can tell it’s a Mondavi wine.”

I’ve always enjoyed the Mondavi Carneros Pinot Noir.  When I’m traveling (remember those times?), and I get over to the local store, if I see a R.M. Mondavi Carneros pinot on the shelf, I’m going to grab it because I know its quality. This 2018 Mondavi Carneros Pinot Noir shows wild dark cherry and a ripe red plum aroma; it’s lush and complex with hints of cocoa and dried herb and finishes with a touch of pink peppercorn spice to round out fruit.

The 2015 PNX Pinot Noir Carneros ($55) was, of course, the star of the “evening”.  This is world-class wine; simply show this bottle at any of our valley’s exquisite restaurants around town (obviously next year!) and the sommelier on duty will happily escort you to the table and will enjoy a nice sample taste along with you.

This Pinot Noir provides evocative aromas and flavors of deep blackberry, black cherry, wild violets, sweet spices of white pepper, cinnamon, dark chocolate that weave seamlessly together.

Please go on-line at to check out the various other “summer wine” packages that include titles such as “Napa Classic”, “Rosé All Day”, and “Fabulous Fumé”, among other wine and accoutrement packages.  Cheers!

Take note: the next virtual tasting and concert will take place on Sunday, August 30th,  where world musician and humanitarian Michael Franti will be having a concert virtually from Bali, and conversation; followed by the stellar Alonzo King LINES Ballet Performance on Sunday, September 13th.

Rick is your somm-about-town. Contact him at