My First $300 Bottle of Wine

Robert Mondavi helped to put California wines on the map in the mid-twentieth century, and it’s good to see that his descendants aren’t just resting on their laurels (or their grape vines) and counting the cash they raked in when the winery was taken over. Instead they’ve set up a new winery in the Napa valley, called Continuum and are dedicated to making one of the best wines in the world.

Thanks to Olivia’s wine connections we managed to snag an invitation to a tasting at their winery, high up in the hills in east Napa, at the wonderfully named Sage Mountain Vineyard.

Robert’s grandson, Dante Mondavi, showed us around and took us on a tour of the vines and the vistas. We admired the neat rows of vines, smelt the wild mountain sage which gives the wine some of its distinctive flavour, and we learnt of the importance of terroir when making a great wine.

Then it was down to the serious business of tasting the wines. They only make two wines and so we started with the “cheapie”, called Novicium, which sells for a mere $150. It was very good, but I have to admit that expensive wine always makes me a bit anxious … do I think it’s ten times as good as a $15 wine, or are the finer points wasted on me? I enjoyed it, but I don’t think I’d have guessed the price correctly in a blind tasting.

Sitting in the beautiful tasting room with spectacular views out over the hills, we nibbled on local olives, almonds and aged cheddar and read the tasting notes in our personalised welcome pack.

Finally, the Continuum arrived to great fanfare. It costs $300 dollars a bottle and you can’t just roll up at the winery and buy a few bottles. You have to make a formal appliction and request an allocation of the wine, which you might or might not get, as it as every vintage usually sells out. Knowing all this, I took my first sip with great trepidation and was relieved to discover that it is absolutely delicious.

The tasting notes describe it as “exquisitely balanced … a generous dark fruit expression, with youthful black mulberry, savory wild herb and a ferrous minerality.”

Once I’d tasted this $300 bottle I stopped worrying about whether or not I’m able to appreciate expensive wines, and instead I started worrying about whether tasting expensive wines will stop me from enjoying wines that I can actually afford.