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Continuum, Tim Mondavi's New Venture

Photo by: Greg Gorman

Posted: Jan 16, 2007 1:36pm ET

Last Friday, Tim Mondavi was ready to show me the first Napa Cabernet Sauvignon he's worked on since leaving his family's Robert Mondavi Corp. in 2003. He poured a barrel sample of his new wine, the 2005 Continuum—a dark, rich, supple youngster that proves he hasn’t lost his touch with Cabernet.

A blend of Cabernet (60 percent) and equal parts of Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot, the wine is dense yet fleshy, with rich currant and black cherry-laced fruit. It has the signature Mondavi style that combines elegance and finesse. It's powerful yet restrained and graceful, a style Tim has mastered during his 30-year career as a winemaker.

This wine is every bit as good as Mondavi's finest efforts, and it reminded me of the 1987 and 1997 Mondavi Reserve wines when they were this young.

As the wine evolved in the glass over the next hour, Tim talked about the new venture that he formed a year ago with his children, his sister, Marcia Mondavi Borger, his father, Robert Mondavi, Robert's wife, Margrit, and Marcia's children.

The way Tim sees it, he's merely starting over, just like his father did when he launched Robert Mondavi Winery in 1966 after being ousted from Charles Krug winery, which his family owned.

It's a bittersweet return to wine for Tim, 55, and Marcia, 59, not to mention Robert, who is 93. The Mondavi family lost control of their wine empire, Robert Mondavi Corp., in 2003 amid internal strife over whether the wine company could remain true to its Napa Valley heritage, or whether it should continue to push case volume to meet Wall Street’s earnings expectations.

In the end, the board of directors voted to sell the company to Constellation Brands, which left the Mondavis out of the wine business for the first time in decades.

It took Tim time to get over the shock and disillusionment of losing his family's namesake winery and company. But he says he never had any doubt that he'd stay in the wine business.

Tim and Marcia, along with Robert, regrouped and formed their own company, which goes by the name Continuum to reflect their family’s ties to wine and their ongoing passion for it. There are 1,300 cases of the '05 vintage, but Tim says he would like to build the brand to 8,000 cases and maybe even construct a winery.

The grapes came from two vineyards in Oakville, Marjorie's Vineyard (named after his mother) and To Kalon Vineyard, both long mainstays of Robert Mondavi Winery's Reserve Cabernets. Tim says he is hoping that Constellation will allow him to purchase 36 acres of the two vineyards; land in that area currently sells for around $300,000 per acre.

Tim says that he is also pondering making Pinot Noir and Syrah—two grapes that excite him—from the Sonoma Coast. Stay tuned.

Tim Corliss
livermore,ca —  January 16, 2007 5:52pm ET
Hi James - Any news on a website or a place to register for a mailing list? I google'd them and couldn't find anything.
James Laube
Napa, CA —  January 16, 2007 6:01pm ET
Tim, no mailing list yet that I'm aware of. Tim said they're working on a web site. But I'll send him a note and see if there is somewhere you can write.
Jason Thompson
Foster City, CA —  January 16, 2007 6:14pm ET
Thanks for the update Jim. This is great news. Glad to see the Mondavi's back in the saddle.
James Laube
Napa, CA —  January 16, 2007 7:53pm ET
Tim, you can reach Tim via his daughter, Carissa...carissa (at) tmondavi (dot) com
Richard R Slutter
January 16, 2007 10:55pm ET
how interesting...its nice to see members of the family regrouping and recouping. Any more info on this wine? Release dates...price? Thanks for the info
Dave Joyce
Winston-Salem, NC —  January 16, 2007 10:57pm ET
Jim, Did he talk any about whether the company his brother Michael formed with his kids, Folio, would be involved in the distribution of Continuum wines? Just wondered if they plan to keep it all in the family as both these companies grow. I have been impressed with some of Folio's offerings, particularly the well priced Oberon Cab and Merlot. It is great news that Tim is back in the saddle. Hope Constellation will sell him the two old family vineyards as Tim sure knows how to make their fruit sing and dance!
Tim Mondavi
Oakville, CA —  January 17, 2007 12:53pm ET
Hello Jim, My father, Margrit, Marcia and our families want to thank you very much for the great article. It was a delight to share our wine with you. I believe that it is the finest that I've been associated with. My children were able to put together a place holder website at: http://continuumwine.com/ Thanks again! -Tim
Dan Jaworek
Chicago —  January 17, 2007 1:40pm ET
Its a really rare occasion that I buy a CA wine and even more so that it would be a Cab. However, I'm really happy to hear that the Mondavi family is getting back into it. I like to think of wine makers much like chefs. There's always some new upstart sprining up here and there to challange the status quo and they help keep everyone honest. But the old guys are a living link to a great past. We owe a lot of our past and present enjoyment to thier contributions. As long as they are alive, their wines deserve a place in the market place. Dan J.
Bruce Nichols
Naples, —  February 3, 2008 11:02pm ET
Managing wine service for the Naples Winter Wine Festival gave me the opportunity to meet Tim, Carissa, and Margrit; taste their wines; and observe the feedback from the more than 600 wine enthusiasts who attended this year's event.The Mondavi's were gracious and passionate, the wines delicious, albeit still tight, and showing incredible promise. Those guests who had the chance to taste the Continuum were all very excited by the wines. Years ago I hosted Marcia and NY Times writer Terry Robards in the east coast tasting of the first three vintages of Opus One and the response to this new effort generated similar accolades and respect.The family is most definitely back on tract.Bruce NicholsNaples Wine News
Elyse J Ward
Buffalo Grove, IL —  March 12, 2008 10:15pm ET
Register here:http://www.continuumwine.com/Still waiting, however.

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