Animo by Michael Mondavi Heritage Sauvignon Blanc 2018
Seeking vineyards that would form the foundation of his family estate, Michael Mondavi zeroed-in on a particularly rugged, Manzanita-dotted parcel high on Atlas Peak in the Vaca Mountain range of southeastern Napa Valley. As Michael surveyed the site with his family, his daughter Dina remarked, "Dad, this place has animo."
Animo is an Italian word for heart or spirit. In the family’s experience, some vineyards have it, and some don’t - a pervading spirit that presents the opportunity of producing something that is truly exceptional. An experienced vintner recognizes the dormant energy of such a site before it has even been planted, its potential evident in the raw material, from the soil to the curvature of the land and sun exposures.
Michael Mondavi sensed the potential of Animo at first sight, and the continually developing wines that are produced here have spirit to spare. The Animo Vineyard is planted to a mere 15 acres of Cabernet Sauvignon vines in soil composed of a relatively uniform rocky volcanic tufa infused with red streaks of iron. The vines climb from an elevation of 1,200 to 1,350 feet on the slope of Atlas Peak, overlooking Napa Valley. At this elevation, the grapes enjoy a protracted growing season, and harvest generally extends well into October. Variations in elevation and sun exposure require numerous picking passes at harvest time. The attention paid to each individual vine is reflected in the quality of the finished wine.
One of the world's most highly regarded regions for wine production as well as tourism, the Napa Valley was responsible for bringing worldwide recognition to California winemaking. In the 1960s, a few key wine families settled the area and hedged their bets on the valley's world-class winemaking potential—and they were right.
The Napa wine industry really took off in the 1980s, when producers scooped up vineyard lands and planted vines throughout the county. A number of wineries emerged, and today Napa is home to hundreds of producers ranging from boutique to corporate. Cabernet Sauvignon is definitely the grape of choice here, with many winemakers also focusing on Bordeaux blends. Napa whites are usually Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc.
Within the Napa Valley lie many smaller sub-AVAs that claim specific characteristics based on situation, slope and soil. Farthest south and coolest from the influence of the San Pablo Bay is Carneros, followed by Coombsville to its northeast and then Yountville, Oakville and Rutherford. Above those are the warm St. Helena and the valley's newest and hottest AVA, Calistoga. These areas follow the valley floor and are known generally for creating rich, dense, complex and smooth reds with good aging potential. The mountain sub appellations, nestled on the slopes overlooking the valley AVAs, include Stags Leap District, Atlas Peak, Chiles Valley (farther east), Howell Mountain, Mt. Veeder, Spring Mountain District and Diamond Mountain District. Wines from the mountain regions are often more structured and firm, benefiting from a lot of time in the bottle to evolve and soften.