There are names throughout history that will live forever, most great, some evil. The wine industry also has its great names that will never be forgotten such as Dom Perignon, Louis Pasture, Agoston Haraszthy, Gustave Niebaum and the latest addition to the list of greats, Robert Mondavi.
Robert Mondavi singlehandedly dragged the California wine industry into the modern era. Not only was he a great winemaker and astute businessman, but he set the style for California wines for years to come. With his passing in 2008, the wine industry lost an icon of monumental stature.
The winery that he established is now in the very capable hands of his children who are carrying on his philosophy and his tradition of making wine. All of the Robert Mondavi wines, from their least expensive to the monumental and award-winning Opus One and To Kalon Vineyard wines are exceptional. The latest vintage of the Robert Mondavi Napa Valley wines proves, without any doubt, that the traditions set up by their founder are continuing today and, if possible, improving with age.
Robert Mondavi 2014 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon ($28). The 2014 growing season started off poorly because of drought conditions but the rains finally came and the growing season ended well. The Robert Mondavi 2014 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon is full-bodied with a deep ruby color that displays the aromas and flavors of blackberry, red and black currant and plum being the most prominent. There are also the flavors of mocha, cedar, oak and vanilla lying in the background adding extra layers of complexity and then leads to an extraordinarily long finish which can only be described as pure Mondavi; superb and memorable. The best word to describe this wine is elegant and is a wine that can be enjoyed now or if given a few years of bottle aging, develop even more character; the wait will be well worth it.
Robert Mondavi 2014 Napa Valley Pinot Noir ($27). This wine proves that the Robert Mondavi Pinot Noir’s are at the apex of all of the Pinot Noirs produced in this country. The Robert Mondavi 2014 Napa Valley Pinot Noir draws the grapes for this wine from the Carneros district of the Napa Valley, an area universally acknowledged as producing the finest Pinot Noir grapes in the world, including the grapes from their ancestral home of Burgundy. The aroma is resplendent with ripe plums and summer red berries with a background of caramel and oak. There is also a haunting mineral flavor that marks this wine as both a Mondavi and coming from the Carneros district. I would like to add that while this wine is very drinkable right now; putting a bottle or two away for a few years will yield a wine that will be unforgettable.
Robert Mondavi 2013 Merlot ($23). It is very unfortunate that a glut of Merlot earlier this century resulted in some very poor examples of the variety hitting the marketplace. This wine, however, is one of the most interesting Merlot wines I have sampled in a very long time. The Robert Mondavi 2013 Merlot explodes into a fiesta of berry flavors and aromas in the glass and is so heavy with fruit that it gives the impression of being sweet but is actually totally dry. The wine presents the aromas of ripe plums, mixed berry compote with blueberry, blackberry, cherry and a slight amount of oak in the background then finishing with hints of dark chocolate and toffee that linger in the mouth for a very long time. The tannins, that component of a red wine that produces the dry sensation in the cheeks, are held in check resulting in a long finish with a velvety mouth feel. I found this to be an excellent wine that can accompany a broad spectrum of foods and should not be relegated as a wine only to be served with the heavy red meats. Give this Merlot a try; it may reestablish your faith in the variety.