Join us for a luncheon at Napa Valley Grille with vintners Larry Gilman and Donna Mills to learn about and taste Mandeville Vineyards Wine. Larry grows grapes in Mandeville Canyon in Brentwood. He produces two wines, a Malbec/Cabernet Blend and a reserve…
So you want to make wines in the hillside of your backyard, in Mandeville Canyon, Brentwood, California? On a steep hillside, that’s been covered with thick brush for 75-100 years, untouched? And this potential vineyard happens to be behind the home of Donna Mills (yes, that Donna Mills famous from a long tenure as the star of Knots Landing) and Larry Gilman (a name you may also know from his work in the film industry as an actor and producer, and even more so for his high demand as an international speaker for his company, The Mastery Workshops) – and now you are asking are they serious?
Take a breath. It only gets better. (Want to go straight to see more photos? Go here.)
Mills and Gilman met at one of Gilman’s workshops, about 17 years ago. As they began their life together in Mills’ home, they also began growing their own vegetables. Soon Mills noticed that Gilman had an interest in wine and surprised him with a gift: viticulture classes at UCLA. From there, and being bit by the winemaking bug, Gilman took another look at their land and thought he could do much more than plant salad fixings. He wanted to plant grapes.
Mills said they sent soil samples to Davis and hired a geologist. And even though Gilman’s dream could possibly work, the hillside, in Mill’s opinion couldn’t and said, “I thought he was crazy!”
Gilman…wow…all I could think when he started his slide presentation was, dude, you ARE the kid in the candy store. His excitement kept building as he showed us the before, during and after pictures of all of their work: beginning with clearing the brush and creating access on an extremely steep terrain, to having to give up their first winery name “Ethereal Wines” when they received a cease and desist order from a liquor company with the same name, to finally planting Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon – in the same year they had just begun the work.
During all of this the pair organized a large seated dinner in their new vineyard for friends, which ended with each guest writing a note and attaching it to a vineyard post.
Mandeville Tasting Notes
2016 Malbec/Cabernet Blend
With aromas of juicy plum, rich earth, lots from the spice rack, as well as char, oak, mint and pine needles. Well done. Then, in the mouth, I got very big and dark flavors of black cherry, blackberry, cracked pepper, tannic and dry. Wanted to swirl this one a bit, and I ended up enjoying throughout the entire luncheon.
2016 Reserve Malbec/Cabernet Blend
Hello blueberry and blackberry, richly layered on the nose along with toasted oak, and slight hints of rose petal, sage and eucalyptus. Very welcoming. Going in for a taste I got the same rich fruit, as well as a nice balance of dried cherry and spice, with a bit of milk chocolate to seal the deal. This one was also swirl-worthy. I enjoyed revisiting both wines several times as they opened up during our 4-course meal.
Notes: These are very small production wines. They have 431 plants – 287 Malbec and 134 Cabernet, both #3309C rootstock, drought and disease resistant. Their next release should be 2020.
Winery and consulting winemaker: B. Alan Geddes, The Village Winery
Napa Valley Grille – Tavistock Restaurant Collection proprietary wines – and Chef Kenny Spost
The restaurant is in the heart of Westwood, probably just a few minutes from the Mills-Gilman home. With several private rooms just itching for wine dinners, we settled into one, very expectantly and began by tasting the restaurant’s Tavistock proprietary wines: a NV Prosecco, Veneto; 2016 Pinot Grigio, Delle Venezie; and 2016 Sauvignon Blanc, Monterey. Tasting notes were set in front of us and all I could do was agree, and proclaim that these are wines I would order again.
Our complete pairing:
Napa Valley Garden Salad: Sugarsnap peas, asparagus, white balsamic vinaigrette, feta, fried prosciutto with the Pinot Grigio. I especially liked how the prosciutto broke up easily so I could have a little bit with every bite.
Skull Island Tiger Prawns: Torched caramelized lemon, herb oil with the Sauvignon Blanc. Once I doused my prawns with lemon juice, and followed Gilman’s example on how to peel the shells away, these were quickly dispatched down the hatch, lovely with the Sauvignon Blanc.
Mushroom Broth Pappardelle Pasta: Spinach, goat cheese, walnuts with the 2016 Mandeville blend. Even though this was rich and heavenly, and the wine complemented the dish so very well…I couldn’t finish it…only because I was saving a little bit of room for the last course.
Marinated Wagyu Skirt Steak: Red bell pepper tomato coulis, fried peewee potatoes, upland crest pesto vinaigrette with the Mandeville Reserve. Oh yes. What a treat to have Wagyu for lunch, and you can bet I ate every bite as I went back and forth between the blend and the blend reserve, in between every last morsel.
Thank you Chef Kenny Spost and staff – truly an excellent pairing!
Final Thoughts From Gilman
“It’s small, all hand done…” Gilman had said. And yes, “We play classical music in the vineyard for the plants…and cry over every plant that doesn’t make it. Thanks for having our maiden voyage with you.” Gilman concluded. Stay tuned for an update as Gilman and Mills extended an invitation for our group to join them for harvest soon…
www.MandevilleVineyards.com “Estate Grown, Picked and Bottled.”
Photos of Larry Gilman, Donna Mills, the wines, Chef Kenny Spost, the dishes and more can be seen here.
Eve Bushman has a Level Two Intermediate Certification from the Wine and Spirits Education Trust (WSET), a “certification in first globally-recognized course” as an American Wine Specialist ® from the North American Sommelier Association (NASA), Level 1 Sake Award from WSET, was the subject of a 60-minute Wine Immersion video (over 15k views), authored “Wine Etiquette for Everyone” and has served as a judge for the Long Beach Grand Cru and the Global Wine Awards. You can email Eve@EveWine101.com to ask a question about wine or spirits. You can also seek her marketing advice via Eve@EveBushmanConsulting.com