When it comes to concerts in wine country, Robert Mondavi has been consistently hosting excellent musical performers for the past 48 years at their iconic winery in Oakville, Napa Valley. What started with humble beginnings, the Summer Concert Series has grown into Napa Valley's most quintessential outdoor concert experience, fully equipped with overflowing wine and goodies to keep all ages satisfied during the show. Hosted on the winery lawn, the Summer Concert Series has been bringing big-name performers to the stage since its inception. Famous artists such as Ella Fitzgerald, Patti LaBelle and Buena Vista Social Club have all graced the stage over the years. This year, one of the headline acts was without a doubt the Michael Franti & Spearhead performance on July 22.
What I love about this concert series is that guests can bring in picnic supplies to enjoy during the show. While no outside wine is allowed in, the winery tasting room and shop is open through intermission to purchase your favorite wine from the Robert Mondavi collection by the glass or bottle. Guests can also carry in blankets and low-back chairs to mark a spot on the winery lawn, and everyone is encouraged to come early and get comfortable before the show starts.
For those who are looking for an elevated experience, tickets can be purchased for a full dinner and wine pairing experience leading up to the show. Dinner takes place in the historic ToKalon Vineyard adjacent to the winery lawn, between the beautifully gnarled old vines, and wines from the Robert Mondavi collection are paired with a gourmet, farm-fresh, six-course meal. On a warm summer night, this experience is about as magical as it gets.
Although the Summer Concert Series has come to a close this year, the Robert Mondavi team is already planning next year's lineup and the performer list is usually released in early spring, so we all have something to which we can look forward!
Paso Robles is a California wine region known for its diversity of terroir and wide range of varietals. Once the largest undivided appellation in the state, Paso Robles is now comprised of 11 official appellations; across the appellations, the region sees a maritime climate that shifts to a more continental climate the further inland you go. Average rainfall varies between the appellations at anywhere from 8-30 inches a year, and like all quality-producing wine regions, the diurnal temperature range is wide at 20-50 degrees. This varied terroir makes for a diverse range of varietals produced in many different styles, and Bianchi Winery has successfully mastered the art of producing very agreeable and diverse styles of wines.
Starting with the whites, their Chardonnay brings together the ripe fruit flavors we all know and love from the California sunshine, with the fresh acidity we expect from this classic Burgundian grape variety. The 2013 Bianchi Signature Series Chardonnay brings together fruit-forward aromas of apple and green mango; on the palate, sur-lie aging with bâtonnage gives body with toasty, vanilla oak flavors combined with green apple, kiwi and a touch of toffee.
I've always loved the Rhône varietals from Paso Robles and Bianchi's expression of Syrah is no exception. Simply put, the 2014 Bianchi Signature Series Syrah is an easy-drinking and highly enjoyable Syrah that will put a smile on everyone's face. Dusty brambleberry and a touch of molasses make for an aromatic nose, and the palate brings ample fruit. Brambleberry and plum jam synthesize over layers of gentle tannin and agreeable acidity. Open this bottle with a group of friends and it won't last long!
From their Bordeaux collection, the 2013 Bianchi Signature Series Cabernet Sauvignon jumps right out of the gate with its enticing aromas of sweet tobacco leaf, plum and cassis. Tasting nicely with several years of age, it takes just a bit for the tannins to mellow on this Cabernet Sauvignon, so I recommend decanting it for 30 minutes or letting it breath in the glass for equally as long before enjoying. Lighter in body, but by no means austere, this Cabernet still has vivid fruit flavors of blackberry and cassis, with savory notes reminiscent of sage. You won't be disappointed by this Paso Robles Cab.