Wine Talk

Snooth User: jamessulis

Recent trip from Napa Valley

Posted by jamessulis, May 1, 2013.

Just returned from San Francisco, Ca and took a wine tour to Napa Valley. Visited Robert Mondavi, Folie a Deux, Andretti winery and Franciscan winery. Was awesome. While at Robert Mondavi the host and tour guide talked about the History and production of Mondavi Wines. The winery was absolutely beautiful. There was a time when the tour guide had an open forum of questions. I asked if Mrs. Mondave (still alive but in her 80's) had any intentions of going to a screw top. The reply by the tour guide said absolutely NO. He said Mondavi believes that screw tops are not acceptable for their fine wines because the cork lets in little amounts of air which is good for continuing aging and that screw tops seal off any air and the wine stops aging. This is very contrary to my beliefs, but Mondavi Winery must know right? I purchased a bottle of Mondavi 2009 Stags Leap Cabernet Sauvignon just to have something special in my wine rack. This bottle wasn't the most expensive ($90), they had others which were in the range of just under $200 far beyond my budjet.


Reply by JenniferT, May 1, 2013.

Super interesting! Thanks for posting. Especially neat to hear their comments regarding cork vs screwcap.



Reply by GregT, May 1, 2013.

Mondavi is a great place to visit - it's an  icon winery.

They're completely wrong in what they said about screw caps however.

First, you don't want the cork to let in little amounts of air - that's a myth.

More importantly, if you DO want some air, you can manufacture the screwcap to allow the precise amount you want, and you can make hundreds of them! With cork it is always a crapshoot. Every cork behaves differently.

Just remember, there is not only one type of screw cap and that's it. You can manufacture with any features you want.

Reply by outthere, May 1, 2013.

Most of the time the person leading tours knows what they are told in order to lead the tour. Anything else is ad-lib. Kinda like asking. Tasting room person technical questions about the wine they are pouring. They know the winery story, family history, nice tidbits and talking points from release flyers.

Reply by napagirl68, May 1, 2013.

Yep, what my little tarsier greg t says... totally wrong.  Any aging interaction with air takes place with the air in the headspace of the wine. I have verified that with the top scientific researchers personally (via my work).   If what the guide says was true, your wines would be oxidized in short order.

That is not to say that the cork doesn't add other nuances, such as TCA (cork taint) and other fungi (being sarcastic).

Many, many of the fine Napa wineries want to embrace screwcap.  They fight only the marketing/public perception, NOT the science.


Reply by JonDerry, May 2, 2013.

I'm still on a roll with wines I've bought being TCA free...I've gone at least a couple hundred without getting a corked wine.

Reply by EMark, May 2, 2013.

Lefty, sounds like you had a great trip.  Well, duh, Mark, are you suggesting that a trip to San Francisco and wine country could, possibly, be anything less than great?

Greg/Napagirl, I, personally, love the convenience of the screwcaps.  The only concern that I have heard regards the wine's contact with the plastic (or whatever it is) liner that seals the metal cap.  The fear is that this sealant material can taint the wine.  The proposed solution, from you, distinguished sir, is to store the bottles upright.

Does anybody know if developments have occurred that eliminates or mitigates possible taint from the sealant?  It is a lot more convenient to store bottles on their side.  I do so, even with screwcapped bottles, and, for those, I drink them fairly quickly.

Reply by Richard Foxall, May 2, 2013.

Thanks for reporting back, Lefty.  If you are on a first tour of Napa, Mondavi really belongs on the list.  They did more to make great wine and educate people about it than just about any winery for a very long time.  They still make great wines at reasonable prices, and some very good wines that you can find pretty easily.  That's a very good thing, especially for folks who travel to see family and friends and don't have the advantages of NYC, SF, LA, Seattle, etc., when they do. 

Sadly, Mrs. Mondavi wouldn't have much say in any case.  Mondavi is now owned by a corporate behemoth.  (Constellation Brands bought them in 2004.)  To their credit, they seem to have kept up the quality of the wines and the tour. 

My position on the screw cap (store them upright, that's my position!) has been shared elsewhere in the Forums.  If exposure to oxygen beyond the ullage was good, why not create more ullage?  Instead, excess ullage is a bad sign.  Anyway, before I turn this into another 240 word diatribe, they are wrong about the corks. 

Any plans for another trip, maybe hitting the DCV/RRV or other Nor Cal wine areas?

Reply by JonDerry, May 2, 2013.

Storing screwcaps upright makes we want to store wines with cork upright. Same ullage.

The only mystery, or caveat there is that the cork may dry out. Or is it an old wives tale?

I'm going to have to experiment on my own with some cheaper wine I guess.

Reply by Richard Foxall, May 2, 2013.

Right, JD,  the only reason we store wine onits  side is because the cork will supposedly dry out if we don't.  And I actually think that may well be true for the bottom of the cork, and lead to crumbling, although I've had properly stored wines direct from winery library programs that had crumbling corks, so it's not a sufficient condition if it's even a necessary one. 

I think that storage standing or laying would be a lot easier if there was one Bordeaux style bottle for all wines, same height, and so on, but that is never going to happen.  Wine and its marketing is as much about tradition and romance for a lot of consumers, however they want to define that.  Some find the pop of the cork romantic, as has been addressed elsewhere, but I'm with NG:  Nothing romantic about spoiled wine. If you don't like the look of the screw cap, how about those glass stoppers?

Reply by JonDerry, May 2, 2013.

They can also sell a lot more gadgets to remove corks than they can twist-offs!

Reply by Richard Foxall, May 2, 2013.

Are you suggesting they make a profit off the non-wine items in the gift shop?  I thought they sold those caps to protect us from UV rays.

Reply by JonDerry, May 2, 2013.

Actually the default corkscrew I use was from a tour at Mondavi some 5+ years ago.

Reply by JenniferT, May 6, 2013.

Glad I came back to see the follow up here - it was my understanding that oxidation will kill a wine and prevent it from aging properly. I figured there would be many different types of screw caps, however I was not aware that there are some that allow  I am also not aware of any reason to store bottles on their side, other than to ensure the cork does not dry out. 

I did do some reading, and I did find an article that detailing the belief that "there is some very minor oxygen exchange between the cork and the wine which is believed to help the wine age". The article doesn't really support or refute the statement, however doesn't look like there is much out there to back up that claim. (If you are interested, you can read it at You'll find the it under the section entitled "Does cork really breath?" :)

It must have certainly been a pleasure to meet Ms.Mondavi; I will try to make a point of visiting on my next trip to California.

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