Magnificent Mondavi

Great wines, great friends and great conversation-who needs jobs? That was the atmosphere at the HBS Wine and Cuisine Society’s first wine dinner, held this past Monday at Henrietta’s Table at The Charles Hotel. At 6:30PM, as RC students put off case work for the evening and EC students recovered from the torture of submitting (OK, trying to submit) resumes for nonexistent jobs, 50 wine-thirsty students filed into Harvard Square.

The agenda for the evening was to feast on four courses of great New England fare and listen to Ann-Marie Avanni, our guest and sponsor from the Robert Mondavi Family of Wines, introduce six of the winery’s award-winning wines. We now know who the true experts will be come springtime when first years do their case on the Robert Mondavi Winery for Competition and Strategy. You guessed it, the WCS members!
Wine Review:

The evening began with a wine reception featuring the La Famiglia di Robert Mondavi Pinot Grigio 2000, a wonderfully refreshing white wine that was enticingly fruity with hints of peach and citrus, yet also full and dry. As Ann-Marie told us, the La Famiglia was Robert Mondavi’s tribute to his Italian roots. Judging by the reactions in the room, it was definitely a hit for both Italians and non-Italians.

Our first course was a salad of romaine hearts, roasted peppers, Vermont feta, grilled croutons and creamy garlic dressing, paired with the Robert Mondavi Winery Napa Valley Fum‚ Blanc 1999. The wine, which was crisp with floral and herb nuances, was a perfect complement to the creamy garlic dressing and feta cheese that complemented the salad. As Ann-Marie explained, she chose a cream-based dressing over a vinaigrette since anything with vinegar, due to its high acidity, is extremely difficult to pair with wine.

Our second course was a Maine rock crab cake, which was served with the Robert Mondavi Carneros District Chardonnay, a wine that thanks to the cool vintage, had exceptional richness. The Chardonnay, which had notes of citrus, ripe apple, tropical fruit and flowers, was the perfect complement for the heartiness of the crab cakes.

As we moved to the entr‚e, a twin plate of seared salmon and sliced tenderloin with red wine demi glac‚ served with mashed potatoes, the decibel level went up a few notches, and people completely forgot about their job searches and/or cases and graduated to more interesting subjects.

Our table had the pleasure of sitting with Ann-Marie, who shared with us her first experience of meeting Robert (Bob) Modavi and his wife Margaret, at Logan airport. As the EC students know from our first year C&S class, Robert Mondavi founded the Robert Mondavi Winery 1966 and built it into the powerhouse of a company that it is today. As Ann-Marie told us, both Robert and his wife Margaret insisted on carrying their own luggage and wouldn’t even think of accepting help. How’s that for a down to earth power-couple?

The twin plate of salmon and tenderloin was paired with the Byron Santa Maria Valley Pinot Noir 1998 and the Robert Mondavi Winery Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 1998. Although most people assume that only white wines go with fish, a pinot noir can be a perfect complement to salmon as it is a slightly heavy and oily fish, which can easily stand up to a pinot noir. The wine itself had bright aromas of black cherry and rose petals accompanied by accents of vanilla and spice. The Cabernet, which went with the tenderloin, is one of Robert Mondavi’s flagship wines. Its multidimensional flavors and beautiful balance made it easy to understand why it’s a top seller.

As the evening wound down, the last wine of the night was introduced-the Moscato d’Oro 1999. This luscious dessert wine was served with a warm blueberry buckle. It was just sweet enough to taste like a dessert wine, with notes of guava, ripe peaches and citrus, but was light enough not to taste syrupy like many dessert wines do. Unfortunately, it is one of the winery’s specialty wines, and is produced in such small quantities that it is not widely available. Nevertheless, it was a real treat with which to end dinner.

For those of you who are looking for some terrific wines to serve at your next dinner party or to order at your next dinner out, you can find the names of all the wines that we sampled (as well as wines served at past events) on the WCS website. Now if only we could figure out how to get around those Massachusetts laws about shipping cases of wine to HBS. Now there’s something for which taking those courses over at the Law School might be useful!