Sipping History & Vision with the Mondavi Sisters


One of my personal favorite wine journeys is when I have the opportunity to sit, sip and visit with the Mondavi sisters. These are incredibly special young women, creating elite, exciting wines. Winemakers bottle their passion, personality, and vision, and this is especially true at Dark Matter. Here not only is passion bottled, but history as well-past, present, and future.

Sitting down with Alycia and/or Angelina Mondavi (winemaker), to taste Dark Matter Wines is a one-on-one happening. This is an event that transcends the typical wine tasting experience. If you are fortunate enough to start with their Chenin Blanc, you’ll find this fine wine is produced as an homage to their grandfather, Peter Mondavi Sr., who was a trailblazer in Napa. He was the first to plant this varietal in the Valley in addition to being the first to introduce 100% Chenin Blanc into California.

Today, the Mondavi sisters source from that same vineyard as grandpa did, Pope Valley vineyard, producing an elegant wine. For their Howell Mountain Zinfandel and Cabernet, grapes are sourced from their small family-owned Howell Mountain estate vineyards.

Tasting with The Mondavi Sisters

When you book your private tasting with Dark Matter/Aloft, you will have the pleasure of tasting with Angelina and/or Alycia Mondavi. Don’t be surprised if Angelina joins you with  purple stained shirt and hands, which just adds to fun. In addition to exploring these limited production wines, your time and knowledge will be greatly enhanced by the effervescent personality of these young women. 

There is a Jim Croce song that begins “if I could save time in a bottle….” THIS is exactly what Angelina Mondavi does with every bottle of Dark Matter/Aloft. The wines are created with a background of almost one-hundred years of history that has shaped the way wine is made, looked at, thought about and savored. It is this family’s heritage and DNA that helps give Angelina the unique perspective of crafting something that is extraordinary. 

As you sip the wines, you can’t help but be enthusiastic by the overall personality that comes through. If you are tasting with both Angelina and Alycia, you will palpably experience their energy which is non-stop, like that famous Energizer Bunny.

Talking about the wines you can’t help but notice the way Angelina and Alycia interact with each other, like watching a fast-paced tennis match. They feed off each other, beginning and ending each other’s sentences. As you listen to them talk, discussing the wines, vineyards, weather and personal passion, you can’t help but be drawn into understanding their collective vision, and how it has evolved. There have been times I have been tasting with Angelina and Alycia that I simply laugh to myself, being mesmerized by their interaction and infectious personalities-you will be too.

Dark Matter/Aloft is a true family project of ‘the sisters.’ Angelina the winemaker, Alycia the marketeer, along with Riana and Giovanna (Gigi). All four are involved in this family brand, each bringing their special talents – from working the vineyard, to the juice that is bottled, and the business side of finance, marketing, and being brand ambassadors. Taste the wines of Dark Matter and be prepared for a true “wow” factor.

The Wines

Depending on when you visit, availability, will determine “what” you are tasting. Dark Matter wines are exclusively grown on the small (four acre) Howell Mountain vineyard owned by the four sisters. Aloft Cabernet is from the family (the sisters and their parents) Howell Mountain property, and the Chenin Blanc is sourced from Henry’s Vineyard in Pope Valley, the same vineyard Peter Mondavi Sr. sourced from for his Chenin Blanc. If they could talk, oh the history these vines could tell; they were originally planted for Peter Mondavi Sr. about 80 years ago. 

“Edgy” is a term that Angelina uses to describe Dark Matter, “Dark Matter wines is a nod to our family with an edgy twist.” In the truest sense of the word, their wines are avant-garde, trend setting, forward thinking.

Whether you are tasting Dark Matter’s “Limitless,” Cabernet from the sister’s property, or “Aloft,” from the jointly owned family vineyard, you will experience a wine that blends together the experience of almost 100 years of winemaking history. While using history as a guidepost, the current generations’ wine is the vision of what a spectacular wine should be, and the story of terroir it should tell, while exhibiting the best and most selective fruit from Howell Mountain.

Dark Matter Zinfandel is the coup de grace of the label-throw out everything you have ever thought about Zinfandel. This is Zinfandel re-defined. Edgy for certain, presenting such an aroma that your brain is immediately excited. As you slowly sip, your senses will come alive, as your nerves experience multifaceted layer of flavors. Dark fruits, spices and elegance carefully woven together in a fine tapestry. From pick to bottle to your glass, Dark Matter spends four years in barrel, with another two years bottle aged, giving it time to mature and grow up. While immediately drinkable, the Zinfandel can sit for years to come, for when you open it for that special occasion.

What brings your tasting experience together and makes it totally unique, is the time you spend with Angelina, Alycia, or both. The history and vignettes you will hear about the Mondavi family’s 100 years of influence in shaping California’s wine industry will keep you spellbound. You can’t help but feel what they feel about their craft, and their vineyards. And, of course, carrying on a family tradition steeped in community, with a vision to the future, putting their personal and unique stamp on “tomorrow,” continuing what has been a 100-year journey to this point.

Sipping these wines, reflecting time, history and a vision, sharing time with the Mondavi sisters, is a unique and memorable experience, the first time-every time.

Don Sonderling is a freelance writer covering California’s Wine Country lifestyle, and culture. He and his wife are constantly sipping their way from Santa Barbara to Napa, focusing on Paso Robles and the Central Coast, where they have explored for about 25 years. Don has earned his WSET2 (Wine and Spirits Education Trust) certification, has completed the Bourgogne Masterclass through the Napa Valley Wine Academy, and is a member of the LA. Wine Writers.

Focusing on the people and unique experiences to be had, Don’s goal is to have people read about California’s amazing wine country adventures, seeing it through his eyes, and say: “I want to go there, try that, meet them,” and enrich the lives of others as his has been, by exploring California’s wine roads.