Wine Talk

Snooth User: edwilley3

Thoughts on mid-90s Robert Mondavi reserve cabernet?

Posted by edwilley3, May 7, 2012.

Howdy, folks.  I have access to very well preserved mid-90s Mondavi reserve cabs. I have been eyeing them for a while and wondered if anyone here has opened them recently and cared to share their thoughts on whether they are worth the $100 or so it would cost to acquire them.

Thanks in advance.

Replies

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Reply by Richard Foxall, May 7, 2012.

A few years back I purchased a 1990 Mondavi reserve--a really great vintage.  Worth every penny of the $105 I plunked down for it.  I know that the mid-90s started to see the advent of over-ripe wines in some quarters, but Mondavi remained pretty cautious for a while.  The wines got terrific scores, although given where RP's palate was, that could mean they were steering riper, but the good scores were pretty much across the board. 

If you lived nearby and I was likely to get an invite to a vertical tasting, I'd be strongly recommending a buy.  Even so, that's a decent price if the provenance is good, although there have been occasional flurries of these wines on K&L, BPWine, etc.

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Reply by gregt, May 7, 2012.

Worth it. Better than the Opus One at similar or higher prices. Mondavi got slammed by people like Laube in WS for not making riper, softer wines, but those from the early-mid 90s are quite good today.

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Reply by dmcker, May 8, 2012.

I'm in agreement with both Fox and Greg. Mondavi has made wines that mature well and are not over the top from early on.  And back then, anyway (long before the winery was sold), they were more honest (c.f. Fox's 'cautious') wines, IMHO, than their rich cousins at Opus One--though I've drunk plenty of them, too.

Considering the current market for Napa name brands, the price seems reasonable. Are they from a collector you know? And what are the actual vintages?  I've posted about the '97s and '98s here on more than one occasion.

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Reply by Richard Foxall, May 8, 2012.

Definitely the pre-1994 (when Mondavi went public and was consequently under different pressures) and for a few years after are going to be classic wines that are really representative of what Mondavi was doing.  There's good reason why he has the position in wine he does, and it isn't just self-promotion--he really did care about making great wines at a lot of price ranges.  The winery tours were an education, and he couldn't hide behind tricks after letting you backstage like that.  I agree with GregTand would further state that these are good wines because they are not show-off bottles like the Opus--a good argument for what "terroir" might mean in Napa, as they represent that honest winemaking .  The amount of ToKalon in these wines was substantial, and the ageability of those grapes is not in dispute.

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Reply by Richard Foxall, May 8, 2012.

Good article about the history of ToKalon (and the use of the name) here.

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Reply by gregt, May 8, 2012.

Actually that's a good point. There's a reason people pay for the Tokalon fruit. Mondavi made millions with the Woodbridge brand, but his serious wines weren't bad at all and they were good examples of what you could do in Napa if you weren't trying for scores. I was a little bit snotty and a few years ago tried one of the Mondavi reserves from the early 90s and it made me re-assess my idea of Mondavi. I guess it's good to be humbled once in a while. Now I wish I owned some of those wines.

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Reply by Richard Foxall, May 9, 2012.

Back before he did Woodbridge and capitalized on Cal Cab as a brand--something he should get credit for on both the marketing (the vast majority) and winemaking (not as much, but perhaps more than snobs give him credit for) side--RM and his family (including Peter, from whom he was estranged) were at the forefront of improving the wine of Napa Valley across the board.  While there had been great wines like Inglenook, they went largely unnoticed because Napa was underexploited and the great work in the vineyards was getting thrown into wines of only competent making.  What happened to Inglenook can be found in other threads--and the corporate ruin of it might be the unintended consequence of RM's success at branding Napa and, more generally, California wines at a time when American understanding of wine was recovering from prohibition and different post-war recoveries.

His winery was and is a monument to the best aspects of modern winemaking.  Which he intended it to be.  RM built other monuments to himself, too.

 My revelatory wine was a BV from the historic 68 vintage, but Mondavi was an aspirational wine in our family, and we never missed out on a chance to visit the winery when I was a kid--the tours were free, my parents let us sip the pours, and you learned how wine was made from fruit to retail. Given where the market for Bordeaux and Cal cult cab has gone, those wines from the heyday--like that 1990--are looking like a bargain.

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Reply by JonDerry, May 9, 2012.

Good info calling out pre 94' for Mondavi, for Caymus, even though under the same ownership there was a shift in the winemaking style of the special selection towards riper fruit I believe in 2001 or 2. There's a 1997 available at Hart Davis for $130 that I'm curious about, Belmont has a 1990 for $140, maybe that's a better look. 1990 CSS v. Mondavi reserve? 

With shipping, taxes, looks like about a $250-60 taste off well worth doing.

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Reply by Richard Foxall, May 9, 2012.

Nice idea, JD.  Let me know when the tasting is set.  I'd love to see how that 1990 is holding up.  I had mine in about 2007 or 2008, we drank it with a friend who brought out a terrific Spotswoode (now there's a wine we don't mention much around here) but that was a good example of what beautifully aged wine can be--the Mondavi just blasted the Spottswoode out of the water. 

But if you wanted to compare it to a 1990 Spottswoode, HDH has two for a mere $72.  Sounds kind of interesting. Maybe I will call my nephew in Chicago and have him pick them up.

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Reply by JonDerry, May 9, 2012.

Yeah, looks like the Special Select is the higher priced of the trio, more collectibile or just a higher release price?

Would be very interesting, and of course I'll need some people to participate. When do you think you'll be able to make it to LA any time in May or mid-late June? If you can make it, I can base it around your availability.

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Reply by Richard Foxall, May 9, 2012.

Oooh, now you're talking.  Mid June might impinge a little on preparations for Europe, but maybe early June?  Let me talk to spouse--she's been wanting to visit some friends down your way, so we might coordinate that.

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Reply by edwilley3, May 10, 2012.

Thanks, all. The vintages I can recall off the top of my head are 1993 and 1997, but I think he has a couple of 1998s. 

It's my favorite store in Dallas, at least when I am ready to spend more money than usual.  I have bought all the following wine in good condition from him:

(1) 2000 BV Georges de Latour:  Multiple bottles - looked like they were just laid down in the cellar

(2) 1996 BV Georges de Latour: 1 bottle - sadly getting a bit past it, but still nice

(3) 1990 Pommery Cuvee Louise: 1 bottle - WOW. Cellar aged since brought into the store and just amazing flavor.

(4) 1983 Dom Ruinart Rose: WOW (last 2 bottles before mine were bought by DR marketing rep when she came to Dallas)

(5) 1990 Dom Perignon: 1 bottle, not as good as Dom Ruinart or Louise

(6) 1996 Chateau Talbot: 1 bottle, still quite tannic - good condition though

(7) 1991 Roederer Brut Rose: 3 bottles - Yes, it was STILL tasty

(8) 2001 Oreno: WOW - and flawless condition

(9) 2003 Oreno: Haven't opened yet

(10) 2001 Guenoc "Port":  Talk about a juicy, sweet California treat (paid $22 plus tax); have one unopened

(11) 1993 Chateau Latour a Pomerol: Terrifc with steak and without...after 2 hours in decanter. Cork falling apart.

(12) Alfred Gratien "Cuvee Paradis": Delicious, even if a little worse for its age. I actually thought that it wasn't designed to be held too long.

 

Future Purchases:

(1) Various Mondavi

(2) Various dessert wines (including lovely hard to find rieslings)

(4) 1963 Taylor's Port.  Yes, the 1963. He has multiple bottles.

(4) 1989 VC La Grande Dame

 

One day we are going to organize a "tasting" and open a cellar aged 1996 Legacy magnum.

Then there are my scotch peeps...we open some amazing bottles.

 

 

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Reply by Richard Foxall, May 11, 2012.

I should be nicer to Texas. Those are some vey good bottles. 

I'm sure I don't need to say it, but vintage Champagne has lots of aging potential--that's a big factor in declaring vintages.  The bigger issue is always storage.

Hope you have invested in a Durand.  Or have a very good touch with an Ah-So.

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Reply by dmcker, May 11, 2012.

Ed, some quick responses:

  • I'm with Fox in noting you've had some very good bottles (hey, and I'll even add an 'r' to very!  ;-)  ).
  • I'm with you and him about the aged champers, and with you about the Dom Perignon; think you'll also find the Grande Dame better than it.
  • Something wrong with the storage of the Latour a Pomerol if the cork is disintegrating on a '93. '63  sure, '73 hmmm, '83 no, '93 what the...?
  • Get multiple bottles of the '63 Taylors if you have the budget. All the houses put out very good bottles that year.
  • The BV Latour lasts nowhere near as long as it used to. In the old days there's no way a bottle would be sadly past it that was only a decade and a half old--still good at twice that is more like it.; though it begs the question of perhaps another storage issue?
  • And regarding the original subject of this thread, the '97 Mondavi is very good, but it was a really hot year and I detect a bit of a hollowing out since there was too much fruit-to-acid; as I've commented elsewhere I'm liking the '98 better now, and it's too bad you missed an offer I posted about it a few months ago at a price well south of three figures....

 

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Reply by dmcker, May 11, 2012.

And Ed, for reference here're a couple different sets of current Mondavi cab offerings from merchants in Napa. They (and KL at bottom) do mailorder.

Apologies ahead of time for the usual formatting nastiness on cut-and-pastes into the Snooth editor....

 

 

From Benchmark

 

Description Country Conditions Stock Status Qty Price     Robert Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley 1984
  United States   In-Stock 2 $35.00     Robert Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley 2004
  United States torn label In-Stock 2 $49.00     Robert Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon Oakville District 1992
WA92, WS91 United States   In-Stock 1 $49.00     Robert Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 1994
WA97 United States   In-Stock 1 $125.00     Robert Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 1995
WA93, IWC91 United States writing on label In-Stock 1 $69.00     Robert Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 2000
IWC92, WA90-92 United States   In-Stock 1 $69.00     Robert Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 2004
WS95 United States   In-Stock 1 $79.00     Robert Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon Unfiltered Napa Valley 1988
  United States very top shoulder, bin stained label In-Stock 2 $49.00  

 

 

From BPWine

 

Robert Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon Carneros -- 2004
  750mL   1 In Stock $59.00     Robert Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve -- 1989
  750mL (hs, sdc, sdc, wisl) 1 In Stock $55.00     Robert Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve -- 1989
  750mL (ts, sdc, ssos) 1 In Stock $55.00     Robert Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon Vine Hill -- 2005
  750mL   1 In Stock $69.00  

 

 

 

And from KLWines a bit south of there:

 

  2008 Robert Mondavi Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon (Previously $20)

89 points Robert Parker's Wine Advocate: "The 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon Napa, Mondavi's least expensive Cabernet Sauvignon, is 85% Cabernet Sauvignon, 7% Merlot, and the rest Cabernet Franc and other grapes. It has a healthy deep ruby/purple color, with a pleasant nose of black fruits intermixed with hints of charcoal and spice, delicious, sweet fruit, medium body, and nice suppleness and flesh. Given that discounters will probably price this wine in the low twenties, this could be an outstanding bargain. It is no doubt a tribute to the talents of their director of winemaking, Genevieve Janssens. ... Read More »


Inventory: Hollywood Main Warehouse Redwood City San Francisco

Price: $16.99 RP89 ST89 WS89 Top Pick! 2008 Robert Mondavi Reserve Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

95 points Robert Parker's Wine Advocate: "The 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve is a big wine loaded with black fruit, cedar, licorice, grilled herbs and tar. Layers of flavor build effortlessly to the muscular, virile finish. Despite its size, the 2008 Reserve maintains elements of classicism that serve to balance some of the wine’s more extroverted leanings. The wine impresses for its depth, expressive inner perfume and beautifully integrated tannins. It is a showstopper from Mondavi. The 2008 Reserve is 85% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Cabernet Franc and 7% Petit Verdot. Anticipated maturity: 2013-20... Read More »


Inventory: Hollywood Main Warehouse Redwood City

Price: $89.99 RP95 ST90-  93 WS93 WE92 Top Pick! 2010 Robert Mondavi "To Kalon Vineyard - Monastery Block" Oakville Cabernet Sauvignon (Pre-Arrival)

Only 20 cases were made of this amazing wine! Purchased at the 2012 Premiere Napa Valley Auction by our Domestic Wine Buying team, here is an amazing opportunity to own a one of a kind wine. The Monastery Block is a block of the To Kalon Vineyard that lies against the Mayacamas Mountains on the Oakville Bench. This part of the vineyard is planted with high density spacing (4'x4'). Grapes from this block are very concentrated and intense. Winemaker Genevieve Janssens has created a wine that is not only intense and concentrated; it is balanced, seamless an... Read More »


Inventory: Main Warehouse

Price: $199.00 2009 Robert Mondavi Oakville Cabernet Sauvignon

94 points Wine Enthusiast: "*Editors' Choice* Dry, smooth and distinguished. Shows Mondavi's ability to get the grapes ripe in blackberries and currants, yet the fruit pulls back at the last moment, letting earthy, herbal notes take over, providing complexity and endless pleasure. The tannins are pure Oakville--sweet, soft and supple. Drink this elegant, balanced wine over the next six years." (6/2012) 


Inventory: Hollywood

Price: $49.99 WE94 1999 Robert Mondavi "Reserve" Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

95 points Wine Enthusiast: "* Editors' Choice * Cellar Selection * 68% To Kalon. Young. Cigar ash nose, blackberries, oak. A big, firm, assertive wine, fairly tannic. Scads of juicy cherries and blackberries. Very fine, lots of character and elegance. Drinks well now with rich fare through 2020." (6/2005)94 points Wine Spectator: "* Cellar Selection * An enormously complex and sophisticated wine that combines great flavors with uncommon finesse. Dark, sleek, rich and polished, with a delicious core of concentrated cola, currant, plum and blackberry. Tremendous finish. Best from 2004 through 2014." (6/2002)91 points Stephen Tanzer's International Wine Cellar: "Good... Read More »


Inventory: Main Warehouse Redwood City San Francisco

Price: $79.95 WE95 WS94 ST91 1998 Robert Mondavi "Reserve" Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon (some torn labels)

At a recent blind tasting of 1993 through 1998 Robert Mondavi Reserve, which was hosted by Michael Mondavi, the 1998 showed great! I picked it as the second best wine of the tasting after the 1996. The 1998 vintage is a blend of 84% Cabernet Sauvignon, 11% Cabernet Franc, 4% Merlot and 1% Petit Verdot. Mondavi Reserve Cabernet captures the personality of Napa Valley's Oakville District with 40% of the grapes harvested from the historic To Kalon Estate Vineyard. The wine is aged in 85% new French oak barrels and bottled unfiltered. The wine shows black ch... Read More »


Inventory: Main Warehouse

Price: $59.99 WE92 1980 Robert Mondavi Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon (some bin soiled labels)

You can't talk about Napa Valley wine, or any California wine for that matter, without mentioning the incredible debt owed to Robert Mondavi. His passion and ingenuity are synonmous with Napa's rise. 


Inventory: Main Warehouse

Price: $45.00   1996 Robert Mondavi Reserve Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

94 points Stephen Tanzer: "Deep ruby-red. Explosive, somewhat feral, highly aromatic nose of cassis, roast coffee, game, smoky oak and chocolate; shows a very strong torrefaction aspect. Lush, rich and deep; has a pliancy and degree of early personality I find in only the very best young California cabernets. Subtle notes of chocolate and tobacco contribute to the wine appeal. Finishes fairly tannic but very long. Distinctly more layered than the '95." (11/99) 92 points Robert Parker: "The 1996 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve may be no better than the Oakvil... Read More »


Inventory: San Francisco

Price: $79.99 ST94 RP92 WS91 1998 Robert Mondavi Oakville Cabernet Sauvignon (some slightly stained labels)

According to the Wine Spectator: "Nice up front currant, plum, herb, toasty oak and cedary flavor, supple and rich, but on the finish it turns a bit herbal and tannic. Drink now through 2010." (09/01) According to Robert Parker: "Readers looking for a St.-Emilion from Oakville might check out the 1998 Cabernet Sauvignon Oakville. Soft herbal notes intermixed with cherries and earth emerge from this garnet/plum- colored wine. It is medium-bodied, round, and best drunk over the next decade." (12/10) 


Inventory: Main Warehouse

Price: $44.95 Top Pick! 2010 Robert Mondavi "To Kalon Vineyard-Monastery Block" Oakville Cabernet Sauvignon 1.5L (Pre-Arrival)

Only 20 cases were made of this amazing wine! Purchased at the 2012 Premiere Napa Valley Auction by our Domestic Wine Buying team, here is an amazing opportunity to own a one of a kind wine. The Monastery Block is a block of the To Kalon Vineyard that lies against the Mayacamas Mountains on the Oakville Bench. This part of the vineyard is planted with high density spacing (4'x4'). Grapes from this block are very concentrated and intense. Winemaker Genevieve Janssens has created a wine that is not only intense and concentrated; it is balanced, seamless an... Read More »


Inventory: Main Warehouse

Price: $399.00
 

 

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Reply by edwilley3, May 29, 2012.

Thanks for the feedback, dmcker.  Storage-wise, he's had them all since initial inventory purchase; I'm drinking the very last bottles. With the exception of the Latour a Pomerol and Talbot, they were in the active cooled cellar.  The 1996 Chateau Talbot adjacent to it was flawlessly preserved, although still highly tanic and herbal. I didn't decant it long enough.  Of course, there is a possibility that the Pomerol bottles were subjected to some heat on a truck back in the 1990s.  Texas makes wine delivery a serious problem.  

Re: the 1996 BV, the 'structure' of the wine didn't seem to match the still quite strong fruit, which was pretty impressive. It was by no means done for; it's just something I would have preferred to drink earlier when the tannins were stronger.  By contrast, the stunningly preserved 2000 - stored next to the 1996 in the cellar - doesn't even begin to seem like a nearly 12 year old wine.  I know that many people loved 1996, but I think my taste runs toward the 2000. I highly recommend getting a bottle. 

Comparing the Mondavi corks to the Pomerol, it was obvious that Mondavi used a much denser cork.  I've found similar variances with scotch/whiskey.  Old Scapa and Canadian Club Sherry Cask bottles have corks that do not stand the test of time, whereas same age Balvenie, Laphroaig, and Macallan will soldier on.  Cheap is NEVER the right way to go! ;) 

RE: shipping to Texas, I would love to do so, but I cannot buy mail order hooch from a retail store.  I can only (a) ship back to myself when I visit California or some other state or (2) buy from an out of state winery.  It sucks for sure. This is especially challenging with rarer whiskies, which often are found preponderantly to the coasts. My friend had to move heaven and earth to get us bottles of the Ardbeg "Day" committee bottle last week.  Just 60 for the D/FW area!!!  This is part of the reason why I ended up buying a Eurocave - I knew that I had to buy some wine from California up front instead of trying to get bottles as I wanted them in Dallas.  We have had a major shift in the liquor landscape here with the opening of Spec's and Total Wine. I expect many independent stores to close, along with one chain that is struggling. The good news is that prices are good.  The bad news is that my friend's store with all the vintage and rarer wine is going to get hammered. Not good.

"Walmart" syndrome is upon us!

BTW, I picked up an early 1990s bottle of Delamain "Tres Venerable" Grande Champagne cognac yesterday.  With tax strip on top.  $60 INCLUDING tax.  Don't hate me 'cause I'm lucky!!!  


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