On one of my first wine trips in California, we flew over some Central Coast land that Robert Mondavi had purchased. It was maybe 20 years ago, and everyone thought he was crazy to get involved with anything south of Napa. His Central Coast wines were OK when they debuted, then they became too lcd (for me as a wine snob). But I like to try everything, so when I recently received samples of Solaire by the Robert Mondavi company, I casually opened it and poured some in a glass — and was very pleasantly surprised.
The Paso Robles Cabernet Sauvignon is nicely balanced, with some fruit in the midst of a bunch of structure and tannins: a great deal of flavor that complements food without tasting like fruit juice. The same is true of the Santa Lucia Highlands Chardonnay. I thought of Bordeaux and Burgundy, not California, as I was drinking the wines. And that is what Robert Mondavi hoped to accomplish when he set out to make fine wines in California in the 1960s, and everyone thought he was crazy.
What is crazy about Solaire is the price — $15 to $17. I only hope that winemaker Rick Boyer isn’t pressured to cut corners and take the quality down when people start buying Solaire en masse.