Robert Mondavi has never been one to sit back and take it easy. After crank-starting the jug-happy California wine industry in the 1960s, Bob has gone on to create major wines on three continents, and his recently announced partnership with Rosemount will take the
famous Mondavi savoir-faire to Australia.

Seña is Mondavi's joint project with the Chadwick family of Viña Errazuriz, one of Chile's oldest wine dynasties. The first vintage of Seña, the 1995, debuted in January of 1998. The Aconcagua Valley, where the Cabernet, Merlot, and Carmenère grapes for Seña are sourced, lies at about the same distance from the equator as Napa, and has similar hot, dry summers and damp winters moderated by the Pacific Ocean.

The 1997 Seña shows lovely balance and bright plum fruit, and you can even detect a trace of dustiness, which is also one of the hallmarks of Rutherford-grown Cabernets from California. The finish is long and mellow.

Since being stunned by the victory of California wines in a notorious 1976 Paris tasting, the French have been forced to pay attention to the New World. This has been fortunate, and has resulted in such delights as Opus One and Dominus. In 1996, Chateau Mouton Rothschild (Mondavi's partner in Opus One) decided to initiate a joint venture with Chile's largest producer, Concha y Toro, to create a world-class Bordeaux-style wine in South America. The result is Almaviva, named after the philandering nobleman in Mozart's Marriage of Figaro.

The 30,000-case gravity-flow facility draws on grapes from Concha y Toro’s 100-acre Puente Alto vineyards, which are considered some of the best in Chile. The encépagement is 75 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, 19 percent Merlot, and 6 percent Cabernet Franc.

The 1998 Almaviva has concentrated fruit and a classic Bordeaux structure. The wine is lovely now and will be even better after a couple of years in the cellar.

DOMUS AUREA 1996 CABERNET SAUVIGNON, $40 - Lively with hints of mints and spice. an excellent choice with steak.

SEÑA 1997 RED TABLE WINE, $70 - Lovely and balanced. Stands up to venison or game.

ALMAVIVA 1998 VINTAGE RED WINE, $87 - Smooth and luscious. A perfect match with rack of spring lamb.