BY BEN BEDDOW
Robert Mondavi was a pioneer and innovator in the world of Californian wine—indeed, in American wine too. He single-handedly put Napa Valley on the world wine map as a region that could produce fantastic wines, contrary to popular belief at the time. His founding vision for his namesake winery was to produce wines that could stand in the company of the great wines of the world.
Sally Johnson Blum, the new Director of Winemaking at the Robert Mondavi Winery in Napa Valley, is passionate about continuing Mondavi’s incredible legacy, and his quest for innovation.
During her college years, Sally was focused on building a career in biotechnology. Then, she studied abroad for six months in France, and this changed her life. Upon returning to the United States, Sally was elected for a double major in French Literature and Biology. After that, she went on to complete a Master of Winemaking at the University of California, Davis, and as Sally puts it, “the rest is history”.
The Robert Mondavi Winery is located in Oakville, California, one of Napa Valley’s most well-known appellations, found right in the heart of the valley. Innovation is still an integral part of the team’s philosophy at Robert Mondavi Winery, and it is an exciting time for Sally to be joining them. One of the changes currently underway is a transition to organic farming in the To Kalon and Stags Leap District vineyards, both in the Robert Mondavi portfolio.
To Kalon was the first vineyard planted in the Oakville region, and because of the area’s distinct terroir,
the wines that come from here are held in very high esteem. The majority of the grapes for Robert Mondavi Winery’s The Estates Cabernet Sauvignon Oakville is sourced from here, and it is one of the wines that Sally is most excited
to work with.
The 2019 The Estates Cabernet Sauvignon Oakville was named Wine Spectator’s #6 Wine of 2022, and Sally describes The Estates Cabernet Sauvignon Oakville as a wine that is terroir-driven, with a distinct sense
The Robert Mondavi Winery has a large portfolio showcasing some of the best that Napa Valley has to offer. Some of these wines have brand names, like The Estates mentioned above. But another, more accessible range of wines in
the portfolio are simply named after the region.
“Our Napa Valley tier wines express the terroir of this amazing region, conveying luxurious ripeness as well as elegance and balance.”
The Napa Valley tier of wines expresses the terroir of the whole Napa Valley region. This range includes both a Cabernet Sauvignon and a Chardonnay, and they are a great way for the curious to begin immersing themselves in Robert Mondavi Winery’s offerings. They are rooted in the history of Napa and Robert Mondavi himself, reflecting on the region’s viticultural history, and the hospitality and entertainment aspects that Mondavi himself pioneered in the region.
Sally has a visible passion for winemaking, and it is this passion, she says, that fuels her winemaking philosophy: “Passion fuels your winemaking philosophy. I aim to craft wines that reflect both the sense of place and distinct moment in time, from the terroir to the growing season.”
Sally has now completed her first harvest at the Robert Mondavi Winery, laying down countless barrels for wine drinkers to enjoy in both the near and distant future. Although Mr. Mondavi no longer graces these vineyards, his spirit lives on through those like Sally.
“I am thrilled,” shared Sally, “at the opportunity to contribute to this incredible legacy and continued quest for innovation, in the spirit of Mr. Mondavi.”