Wine, Food, and Music Under the Stars at Robert Mondavi Winery
On a magical summer evening at Robert Mondavi Winery, we listened to Natasha Bedingfield’s sultry voice ring out and enjoyed a private wine tasting in the Kalon Reserve Room, followed by a gourmet meal in the vineyards. We enjoyed amazing wine, food, and now music. Could life get any better?
The wine tasting included wine from the Oakville AVA, which produces some of Napa Valley’s finest Cabernet Sauvignon. While a few wineries mixed it up with some lighter summer offerings, Cabernet Sauvignon was the star. Fourteen wineries were present to offer samples of their wine. Light snacks of fruit, cheese, and crackers cleansed the palette and paired well with the wine.
After the wine-tasting, we were escorted to long tables scattered among the vineyards for our feast. Mondavi takes wine and food very seriously, so Chef Jeff Mosher created a special menu for the occasion. The tables were elegantly set with yellow linens and flowers. Dinner was served family-style, which afforded the opportunity to get to know our fellow diners.
We began with shrimp and watermelon salad with cucumbers, pickled red onions, and baby wild arugula and frisee. Next we dined on grilled summer squash with gremolata, followed by roasted sunchokes with romescu sauce. The entree was dry-aged Niman Ranch strip loin with garden basil pesto – so tender it melted in your mouth.
As you would expect, we were offered a selection of Robert Mondavi Wines, including a 2009 Napa Valley Fume Blanc, 2010 Carneros Pinot Noir PNX, and a 2009 Oakville Cabernet Sauvignon. For dessert we enjoyed Royal Blenheim apricots and local cherries, a selection of local cheeses, and a nectarine upside-down cake with tarragon whipped cream.
By the time we finished feasting, the sun had set over the vineyards and the concert was beginning. The lawn area had been transformed into a concert venue with stage, seating, and blankets. The opening artist was Jon McLaughlin, who entertained the crowd.
Once the concert began, we moved our chairs to the lawn for better viewing of the stage but stayed close enough to our server, who kept our wine refilled. The intimate setting afforded all a view of the stage and of Natasha. Once she began singing the enraptured audience was on their feet dancing.
Guests who didn’t attend the dinner camped out on blankets with a picnic and purchased Robert Mondavi wine. The winery makes it easy for visitors to have everything they need to enjoy wine with the concert. White wines were packaged in an ice bucket with ice and several glasses. And for those who didn’t bring their own picnic, food was available from vendors.
Robert Mondavi Winery was one of the first wineries to create the comprehensive wine experience by making food pairings available with the tastings. They also displayed art collections at the winery for all to enjoy, and made wine affordable to consumers. All of this was novel at their founding in the 1970s and is very much copied today. This is the 43rd year of their Summer Concert Series running through July 21, 2012.
Details: Robert Mondavi Winery is located on the St. Helena Highway (Highway 29) in Oakville, California. The are open daily for tours and tastings. Visit their website to plan a visit to the winery. Details about their concert series can be found here.