Robert Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon – A Benchmark in Wine

Last night’s wine from the cellar came from Robert Mondavi, who was one of my favourite producers. It was the ’96 Oakville Estate Cabernet and at almost 14 years old was still in beautiful shape! Fully mature, with that classic smell and taste of ripe blackcurrants and toasty oak…still a little tannin, and getting a bit woody, but a beautiful wine none-the-less.

Robert Mondavi Winery is, of course, an icon in the wine world.  Justifiably credited with almost single handedly putting California wine on the quality map, his multi-decade career (and that of his sons, who carry on his legacy) is truly amazing from so many perspectives.

For me, personally, Modavi’s wines also were responsible for getting me “hooked” on wine. I remember tasting his 1984 and 1985 regular Napa Valley Cabernets…they blew me away! I had actually started exploring wine from France, which tends to have less emphasis on fruit, but these wines were staggering. I didn’t even know what a blackcurrant was until I smelled and tasted them, but they were so full of that ripe fruit, I almost couldn’t believe it.

That led me, in turn, to explore their Pinot Noirs, Chardonnays and Fume Blancs, all of which I came to love as well.

And then, in 1989, we made the trip to Napa and Sonoma and a pilgrimage to the Mondavi winery.  I was literally in heaven (which, as a non-religious person, is saying something).  I still have a picture of me doing a vertical tasting of older Mondavi wines, sitting outside in that beautifully designed winery…the look on my face is pure rapture!  And I brought back a sweatshirt with the 1978 Reserve Cabernet Label on it.  I still have it…it is worn and ratty, but I won’t throw it out…it brings back too many memories!

Unfortunately, over the years as prices went up and the Mondavi style changed, I drank fewer and fewer of these wines.  I still check out the Napa Valley Cab every year and do buy some of them, but that is about it.

But that doesn’t change the impact that Mondavi wines had on me the way they got — and kept — me involved in wine.



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