The winery dining experience is fast becoming the ideal way for producers to showcase their wines — and lockdown has given us ample opportunity to reminisce about the best. As the world starts moving again, here are four to incorporate into your travels.
Robert Mondavi Winery — California, USA
In 1966, the wine pioneer Robert Mondavi launched his eponymous winery and crafted a Cabernet Sauvignon that was to change the face of Napa winemaking for good. By the 1970s, the estate’s Cabernets were full-throttle: cassis and cranberry interwoven with silken tannins and brick-dust lift.
Old vintages of Mondavi Cabernets feature in our online auction of the Benjamin Ichinose Collection of Fine and Rare Wines from 16 to 31 July. Lot 518, as seen below, is a mix of 1970s bottlings, including Michael Broadbent MW’s 4-star 1978 vintage.
At the winery’s Garden to Table food and wine pairings, guests are free to roam the herb gardens and vineyards before an al fresco supper in the shadow of the Mayacamas Mountains. The grilled ranch flank steak, drizzled in Bordelaise sauce, is a sensational match for classic old Cabernet Sauvignon.
The estate produces a host of Chardonnays, Merlots, Sauvignon Blancs and Pinot Noirs, but it is the Cabernet that captured Mondavi’s heart. It is to this doyen of classic, structured and elegant winemaking that you should raise a toast when you drink his special old bottlings.
La Maison d’Estournel — Bordeaux, France
The wines of the famous Château Cos d’Estournel in Saint-Estèphe are regulars at Christie’s auctions: bottles of the sublime 1982 vintage, which featured in our Geneva auction on 21 July, remind us of the care taken by the estate to ensure that everything is of the highest quality. Dark plums, mulberries and damsons abound, with lifted paprika spice and rose petal notes adding complexity.
The estate, which also makes the Merlot-led blend Goulée and a Sauvignon Semillon white, has an Indian-themed design. This makes for a creative tasting room, and sets the château apart from other estates in the region.
The restaurant in the country house-style hotel is sleek and polished, its menu stuffed full of local delicacies such as foie gras, chanterelles, Médoc hazelnuts and Sables des Landes asparagus. It all tastes exquisite, and the open kitchen, mirrored walls and views of vineyards add to the heady atmosphere.
To finish, order a more recent vintage of the Cos with a slice of chocolate tart: the powerful ripe fruit of vintages such as 2009 and 2010 matches the density of the chocolate seamlessly.
Restaurant Marqués de Riscal — Rioja, Spain
Ripeness and richness are hallmarks of the Tempranillo grape, especially on its home ground in Rioja. It also has the ability to evolve and unfurl as it ages, as is notably the case with older vintages of Marqués de Riscal Gran Reserva. Our London auction on 28 July included bottles of the 1982 vintage, alongside the 1964, 1970 and 1983.
The 1982 vintage is a magnificent mix of blood-orange peel, balsamic strawberry, baking spices and vanilla flavours — and the roasted squab at Francis Paniego’s one-Michelin-star restaurant is its perfect match. As a starter, opt for the red prawn carpaccio or the modern tapas, accompanied by a younger vintage of the winery’s Reserva (aged for three years, as opposed to five for the Gran Reserva).
‘To be able to swirl and sip a 1964 Marqués de Riscal Gran Reserva together with some Spanish cheese is to savour one of those moments that wine lovers live for’
The 1964 vintage is exciting, as it was the last to be made by the father of the current winemaker, Don Francisco Javier Hurtado de Amézaga. To be able to swirl and sip this wine together with some Spanish cheese is to savour one of those moments that wine lovers live for.
The winery, restaurant and hotel, located in the Basque Country in northern Spain, are all housed in a breathtaking building by Frank Gehry (above) and the stylish, clean-lined dining room looks out over the vineyards.
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Penfolds Magill Estate — Magill, Australia
Grange is one of the most exciting wines in the New World. Max Schubert, the godfather of Australian wine-making, crafted the Syrah-led wine in the 1950s, releasing the 1952 commercially. Its powerful style was disliked by the critics, and Schubert was forced to produce the 1957-1959 vintages in secret.
The critics ate their words, however, when they discovered that the wine had a singular grace and elegance as it aged. In 1960, Penfolds’ board of directors asked Schubert to release the wine officially, unaware that he’d never missed a vintage.
The Magill Estate Restaurant is surrounded by the estate’s vineyards, and Scott Huggins’ menu features a mouthwatering Mayura Wagyu steak. The rich marbled meat would suit the complex flavours of the 1969 vintage beautifully, while younger vintages of Grange could be sampled with the intriguing desert, Pine Nut Pie.
Just five miles from Adelaide, the restaurant is contemporary in style and transformed for dinner with low lighting that casts the vineyards into magical half-shadow.