Tasting Note: Robert Mondavi 1995 Napa Valley Zinfandel

Zinfandel is like white wines: it doesn’t age well, right?

Wrong. Oh, so wrong.

IMG_4209On Saturday night, I opened a bottle of 14-year-old zin I’d pulled from the cellar a couple of weeks ago, to set it up right and make it ready for drinking on the right occasion. Which, in the end, meant pizza night on a lazy Saturday evening.

The 95 Napa Valley zinfandel from Robert Mondavi – back when it was really a Mondavi winery – opened up on an intense and well-defined aroma of sweet pipe tobacco, with some prune and spice showing up afterwards. All that carried through on the mouthfeel, where a very decent level of acidity kept the wine lively and easy-drinking, despite a solid 15% alcohol level. I wouldn’t go as far as saying it was refreshing, but it certainly found its balance, and did not feel heavy at all.

Better yet, as the wine opened up, more fruit came through, as black cherry notes came to the forefront. Eventually, the wine actually smelled like the tanks of fermenting pinot noir I punched down at Closson Chase vineyards, ten days ago. As if that zinfandel still had a touch of fresh picked grapes at its core.

This isn’t the first time I’ve had solid, mature zinfandel that felt like it could keep going and going. About four years ago, I drank a bottle of 1979 Glen Ellen Zinfandel I’d picked up at the tasting room at Ridge, one of my favorite California wineries. Although it felt a bit more like an old port, in some ways, it still had balance and life to it, at a good 25 years of age. Lots of pleasure to be had yet – and it was far from being over the hill.

How’s that for a wine that doesn’t age?

While I’m at it, I could tell you about the 1998 Doisy-Daëne white Bordeaux we had with Thanksgiving dinner,  as another example of graceful aging. But that’s another story.

I’d love to see how the Anderson Ranch zinfandel from Quivira, a biodynamic winery I visited last year, during the Wine Bloggers Conference, or a Preston Old Vines Zinfandel would taste like in 10, 15 or even 20 years. From what I’ve tasted so far, I think there could be much rejoicing.

Oh, by the way, the old zin went really well with the chicken-mushroom-onion pizza. Just wrapped around it smoothly, and matched nicely with the tomato sauce. Simple food that gave the wine all the room it needed to shine.

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In the California Vineyards: A quick stop at Alpha Omega

I’m finally getting around to blogging about the wineries I visited in California, last fall, after the Wine Bloggers Conference. Maybe I needed to let all that wine tasting and winery visiting steep for a while. Or maybe I just got very busy when I returned from California and never got around to it. Or maybe I’m just a procrastinator, I don’t know.

Anyway, the first winery I’ll tell you about is one I hadn’t originally plan to visit, but am glad I did after all: Alpha Omega. If I went, I have to say that it’s not because of the… ahem… modest name or because Michel Rolland is a consulting winemaker there.

I’d heard about Alpha Omega because (more…)

Tasting note: 1997 California Cabernet Sauvignon

On the evening following the death of Napa Valley legend Robert Mondavi, I headed with a higher than usual level of anticipation to my main wine tasting group’s tasting on 1997 California Cabernet Sauvignon. The events of the day put the tasting under a special light, with everyone wondering, on arrival, whether or not a Mondavi cabernet would be part of this enticing line-up.

The first sip of the evening, after touring the aromatic landscapes of the nine wines decanted for the occasion, was accompanied with a toast to Robert Mondavi, with everyone saluting the spirit of the man. Doing it with the best vintage in recent memory seemed quite fitting.

We were tasting blind, which I always prefer, but when the bottles were pulled out at the end of the tasting (more…)

A toast to Robert Mondavi

As I mentioned in a previous blog post, the very first wine experience that gave me a real sense of what wine could be about came from a bottle of Robert Mondavi Pinot Noir Reserve 1987. And I have several very good memories of drinking Mondavi wines, before the days of the Constellation takeover that took the Mondavi Winery away from the Mondavis. To Kalon Fumé Blanc 2004, for instance, is one of the greatest New World whites I’ve tasted.

So it was with a real sense of sadness that I read, today, that Robert Mondavi, the patriarch of that famed wine family, died today at the age of 94. Wine Spectator immediately sent out an e-mail to subscribers and put up a whole special section on its web site. The news (more…)

Published in: on May 16, 2008 at 5:17 pm  Comments (2)  
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