Liquid Food

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Once described as “Outspoken, energetic and charismatic”, Robert Mondavi was one of the most influential and admired winemakers in California’s history. He was the driving force behind the most famous winery there; the Mondavi Winery in Napa Valley. In his autobiography Mondavi wrote, “I always knew that food and wine were vital, with my mother being Italian and a good cook. Since I was three or four years old, my mother used to feed me wine and water. I grew up with wine as liquid food.”

Mondavi believed that wines should be accessible and enjoyable for everyday life and part of a healthy lifestyle. The “liquid food” certainly must have been good for him, because when Mondavi died in 2008, he was ninety-four.

Top-of-the-range Mondavi wines, such as their “Opus One” can set you back several hundred dollars a bottle, but the Woodbridge Winery was established to provide accessible and enjoyable wines with a less staggering price-tag. Several of these are imported by Ambrose Wines of Bangkok.

Mondavi Woodbridge Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 (red), California. (Foodland, Supamitr, Bt. 1,189)

This is a lovely deep red and has a delightfully inviting aroma of ripe dark fruit, toasted oak, a hint of fresh coffee and a several other fascinating herb-like background smells. The variety of smells reflects the qualities of the grapes used in the blending, which as well as Cabernet Sauvignon (77%), also includes Petite Syrah, Syrah, Barbera, Merlot and 5% of non-specified varieties.

It’s a masterful, fruit-powered blend and produces an excellent smooth and rich mouth-feel with a good balance of fruit and very smooth tannins. There are deep flavours of black cherries and blackcurrants with a touch of blackberry. There’s a long spicy, peppery finish too, thanks to the Merlot and Syrah. Nevertheless, this is not really a complicated wine. It’s confident certainly, laid-back, elegant and easy on the palate. It’s a lovely to drink on its own, but coming in at just under 14% alcohol content, you may prefer to drink it with food. “Grilled or roasted meats,” suggests the back label but really, you could drink this with pasta, pizza, rich gratin dishes, hearty roasts or stews.

Mondavi Woodbridge Chardonnay 2009 (white), California. (Foodland, Supamitr, Bt. 1,089)

This has a delightful, if somewhat unexpected aroma of apples and a background of fresh grass with hints of spice. I think I could detect a dash of vanilla there too. This is very different to the bland aroma of many Chardonnays. The secret’s in the blending of course, a skill that the Woodbridge wine-makers seem to have developed to a fine art. Chardonnay accounts for 76% of the blend and thus the wine is allowed to be called “Chardonnay”, but it also has 18% French Colombard, a dash of Viognier and a very small percentage of non-specified grapes.

The wine has a beautifully soft and silky mouth-feel; it’s almost creamy in texture. There’s loads of fruit on the taste and very soft acidity. If sharp, zesty whites are not your thing, give this one a try. There’s an amazingly long finish too, with notes of citrus and spice. The Woodbridge winemakers have crafted a lovely fruit-focused elegant wine, which is a really easy drinker – in my case a bit too easy, for I would happily enjoy this for the rest of the evening. It’s about 13% alcohol content but is perfect on its own, without the distraction of food. However, if you’re planning a dinner of roast chicken or grilled fish, try a bottle of this to enhance the food.

The prices of these two wines might look a bit high, but in Thailand, because of duty and tax, we pay well over the odds for imported wines. In the USA, Woodbridge wines sell for a mere $8.99; even cheaper if you look around. That’s about Bt. 260. Yes, two hundred and sixty baht. Now that’s a sobering thought, if ever there was one. I’d think I’d better have another glass.