Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Naked Vine Double Barrel: The Mondavi Wine Fairy Returns

I certainly welcomed a fortuitous visit from the Wine Fairy during our culinary deconstruction/reconstruction. (And thanks again to Folsom & Associates for the shipment.) The most recent included a pair of bottles from Robert Mondavi’s Napa Valley collection, which was the second time this brand of lightning has struck. You may remember I had the opportunity to try the Napa Valley Pinot Noir and Chardonnay in October. After this latest shipment, I have only the Mondavi Napa Valley Merlot to try to hit for the cycle.

Here’s how these two – the Fumé Blanc and the Cabernet Sauvignon – shaped up:

Robert Mondavi 2010 Napa Valley Fumé Blanc – To help avoid confusion, the fume blanc label actually includes the helpful note “A Sauvignon Blanc.” When Mondavi grew the first Sauvignon Blanc grapes in California back in 1968, they called the wine “Fumé Blanc” as a hat tip to Pouilly-Fumé, a French version of Sauvignon Blanc. (Other French Sauvignon Blancs include Sancerre and whites from the Touraine region.) The Mondavi version is 94% sauvignon with 6% Semillon blended in. The description said that this sauvignon blanc “reflected Napa Valley” – which I took to mean that it would be made in a richer, less acidic style.

My suspicions were confirmed. While citrus is certainly the order of the day, the acid level is considerably lower than, say, one of the aforementioned French versions. The dominant flavors run more to the melon end of the spectrum than the grapefruit end. It’s full bodied, reasonably complex and a bit creamy. I thought it was quite nice. Alongside a foil-pack fish with tomatoes and herbs, served over some couscous, it complemented a very workable meal which we enjoyed down in our cave. At $20, perhaps a bit pricey, but if you’re looking for a California white that’s subtle and flavorful, it’s a good option.

Robert Mondavi 2010 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon – I was really looking forward to giving this wine a try, especially after the positive experience I had with the Napa Valley Pinot Noir. Sometimes during a major construction project, you’ve gotta treat yourself. The Sweet Partner in Crime picked up some filets at the store. We deserved a good dinner to rise above the chaos, and I thought this Cabernet (a little over 80% Cab Sauv, with the balance as Merlot, Cab Franc, and Syrah) was a potentially great accompaniment. Cabernet Sauvignon was, after all, the grape upon which Mondavi built its reputation, so signs seemed positive. Steaks were grilled, mushrooms were sautéed, etc. I opened this bottle, decanted, poured, and...well, in so many words -- Meh.

Maybe I’d raised my expectations too high. This certainly isn’t a *bad* wine. It’s a perfectly serviceable cabernet. Flavors are in the right place, medium body, not hugely tannic – but nothing really jumped out. This wine seemed restrained. I know I talk about “balance” in wines a lot. Whether a wine is big and tannic or light and fruity, I think of “balance” as a chorus. Some individual voices may be louder (or flavors may be stronger) than others, but they all work together in harmony. With this wine, the flavors are more reminiscent of people conversing in a waiting room, consciously keeping their voices down so they don’t stand out. With dinner and with chocolate, it wasn’t bad – it just didn’t add much, in my opinion. At $28, I think I could find a wine that better suits my tastes.

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