Wine Of The Week: Robert Mondavi Winery ‘The Estates’ Fumé Blanc Oakville 2021

A rich and toasty Sauvignon Blanc that’s full of lush white peach and blossoms, with a candied texture and a hint of herbaceousness.

(Robert Mondavi Winery)

Robert Mondavi’s Fumé Blanc isn’t a new wine, nor something that’s trendy or particularly hip. But sixty years after its inception, it remains one of the most revolutionary and revered Sauvignon Blancs in American history. 

In the 1960s and 1970s, winemaker Mondavi would travel to Europe. It was there where he fell in love with the wines of France and Italy, specifically the white wines of Bordeaux and the flinty Sauvignon . Blancs of Sancerre and Pouilly- Fumé.

We all love to go to Europe and drink nice wines, but his journeys were long before the commercialization and popularity of airplane travel. When he returned home to California, he brought a unique understanding and knowledge of European wines.

So he set out to make his own iteration of White Bordeaux in the Napa Valley. He put two and two together, and realized that Sauvignon Blanc, the main grape in white Bordeaux wines, were planted in spades across California. So he took some Napa Sauvignon, grown on the To Kalon Vineyards and age it in oak.

Instead of Sauvignon Blanc, he called it fumé (smoke in French) blanc. Compared to the lighter, fruitier styles of Sauvignon Blanc found across the world, its rich and toasty, full of notes of lush white peach and blossoms, with a candied texture and a hint of herbaceousness. It’s not your typical Sauvignon Blanc—but it’s an iconic and an excellent way to taste a sip of California history. $65

Kate Dingwall is a WSET-trained sommelier and spirits writer. Her work has appeared in Wine Enthusiast, Eater,, and Food & Wine, and she pours wine at one of Canada’s top restaurants.