The towns of Lodi and nearby Woodbridge are located in California's Central Valley, just
north of Stockton. Central Valley is hot, yet Lodi benefits from two climate reprieves; it has
altitude, and it enjoys the cooling breezes from distant San Francisco Bay because of its
location just east of the Sacramento River Delta. Winemakers like warm dry days and cool
nights. Robert Mondavi grew up in Lodi. Woodbridge winemaker Todd Ziemann is a fourth
generation native of the area. The new 2008 Moscato combines Mondavi's concept of a food
friendly wine with UC Davis educated Ziemann's winemaking prowess.
“Robert Mondavi believed in producing wines with crisp acidity that are well balanced
with food,” Todd told me. We met at the launch of the new Woodbridge Moscato
wine at Kurve restaurant in Manhattan's East Village; the wine was showcased with a range
of sweet and savory bites designed around the wine and produced by my friend chef Pichet
Ong. “Don't overpower the wine with huge heavy tannins or pushy flavors, Robert
Mondavi believed,” Todd continued. “We follow this philosophy in creating
this wine using three types of Muscat grapes.” The $9 wine is 60% Muscat Canelli,
30% Orange Muscat and 10% Muscat of Alexandria. “My goal in blending these three
related varietals was to have good complexity of flavor without one dominant
The 2008 Moscato is a light greenish straw in color, teasing my nose with gentle aromas of
peach, apricot, honey and white flowers. The wine is about 5% sugar (52 grams per liter)
giving it a sweet flavorful edge but by no means pushing it into the dessert wine category.
Alcohol level is a modest 10%. The sweet is very well integrated with some forceful acidity
and yet another fine surprise, a slight bit of frizzante (Todd uses the Italian term for
effervescence as a tribute to the partial inspiration for the wine, Italian Piedmont's fruity
Moscato d'Asti). True to its conception, the wine brought a range of pleasant floral and fruit
notes to the mouth. The finish is reasonably dry given the sugar. On its own, the wine is
mouth filling and flavor stimulating, with a defined gentle side.
The real test for the wine, however, would be its front-line food-friendliness, and here it
passed muster with Pichet Ong's inventive menu, which included a number of savory
Not to do things by halves, Pichet also served up a quartet of sweet confections:
- Vietnamese style vegetable spring rolls
- Foie gras on brioche toast with Thai chili pepper jam
- Kaffir lime and coconut marinated chicken skewers, peanut sauce
- Tuna tartare with tamarind chutney
- Ceviche of shrimp, thai chili, cilantro, and pineapple
- Goat cheese & date crudite
- Peking duck summer rolls
- Meyer lemon oil & herb marinated mozzarella
Robert Mondavi was an innovator whose name is associated with many fine and expensive
wines but, according to Anne Siegel, Director of Public Relations for the Robert Mondavi
Family of Wines, “he had a soft spot for the simple, drinkable wines families could
enjoy together with food, and he loved Moscato.” Sadly, I never met Robert Mondavi,
but I know that impish grin from so many photographs, and hence it doesn't surprise me to
hear from both Anne and Todd that Mondavi liked to keep a bottle of Moscato in his freezer
so he could turn to it whenever he wanted to refresh himself with a slushy.
- Raspberry cayenne bittersweet chocolate truffle
- Squash cupcake with salted caramel and cocoa nibs
- Chocolate bacon and caramel crunch cookies
- Chevre cheesecake, walnut crust
“Moscato was originally a side item for the winery,” Todd told the group.
“We came out in 2004 with 125 cases of our first Moscato Bianco which we sold
entirely to winery visitors. Word of mouth and anxious requests for more told us we had
something for the general market.” The spring 2009 launch of the 2008 vintage,
California appellation, will put 60,000 cases on the market.
Woodbridge by Robert Mondavi produces a range of widely distributed wines, all in the
sub-$10 range, including Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, White Zinfandel, Pinot Grigio,
Riesling, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, Zinfandel and now this Moscato. I have no
guess as to how the other nine varietals will fare if you try to make them into slushies, but I
may attempt this one day with the Moscato.
We ought to be drinking this all summer.
Wine Pages Home
Good food friendly wines always have a place on American tables.
James Beard Award Nominee Elliot Essman
The Woodbridge Moscato.
Woodbridge winemaker Todd Ziemann.
New York chef Pichet Ong.
Copyright © Elliot Essman 2009 The URL of this site is: