Mondavi Reserve Cab Captivates

Four years ago this month, the grapes for Robert Mondavi’s impressive 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve wine got their start as tiny buds forming on some very special vines in Napa Valley.

The $135 wine is magnificent, a mouthful of supple tannins and fruit. It  needs time for full flavor development — I wouldn’t hesitate to cellar this wine for a decade or more — but it’s still good to go with dinner tonight.

I liked the blueberry highlights that complemented a core of cassis and plums. The flavors come in layers with a nice long finish that goes on for 45 seconds.

Good Now, Better Later

I’d aerate the wine — which spent 18 months in French oak — at least an hour before drinking. It proved a perfect match for a dinner plate loaded with roasted tri tip steak, baked potato and steamed broccoli.

The 2008 vintage in Napa started with a dry spring interspersed with some tense moments when frost threatened the crop. The grapes persevered, although yields were below normal.

What’s in the Bottle?

The wine is not all Cabernet Sauvignon.

About 15 percent Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot are blended in for finesse and color. All of the grapes are from the Oakville Bench, a geographic region marked by well-drained sandy and gravelly soil that allows the roots to grow deeply. Some of the grapes come from the most famous vineyard on the Oakville Bench,,To Kalon,.

To Kalon (which means “highest beauty” in Greek) contains about 440 acres. It was developed by Mondavi on the western edge of the bench land at the foot of the Mayacamas mountain range near where his namesake winery was built in 1966.

This is the first vintage of reserve wines made after the death of Mondavi, who passed away at the age of 94 on May 16, 2008.

The Mondavi family sold the winery to Constellation Brands in 2004. The family has departed, with Robert’s sons Michael and Tim now running their own winemaking operations — Michael Mondavi Family Estate and Continuum Estate.

Meanwhile,  Robert Mondavi’s director of winemaking, Genevieve Janssens, remains in the position she has held since 1978, giving the brand a quality link with the historic winery’s storied past.

Looking Ahead

The Robert Mondavi Winery is open daily for tasting and tours. It’s one of the first California wineries I ever visited (back in the late 1970s) and it’s still a big draw today with the added attraction of a series of special concerts in June and July.

Here’s the lineup for the 43rd Summer Concert Series:

June 30: Of A Revolution (O.A.R.) in a performance with a fireworks show. A portion of the proceeds go to The Heard of the World Fund.

July 6 & July 7: The Plain White T’s are first up followed by day-two feature artist Natasha Bedingfield.

July 14: Five for Fighting is the featured act in a concert that benefits the City of Hope national cancer research and treatment center.

The series concludes on July 21 with a surprise guest artist, yet to be announced.

Regional Wine Events

The 29th annual Tiburon Wine Festival will be held Saturday, May 12 when more than 60 wineries and 20 food purveyors will offer special tasting opportunities. Tickets are $65.

Taste Alexander Valley is a weekend-long celebration of the area’s finest wines May 18- 20. The festivities start on Friday May 18 with a special open house at Lancaster Estate Winery, which is normally closed to the public. Saturday and Sunday will feature open houses at the more than 30 participating wineries in the region, including Clos du Bois, Stonestreet , Rodney Strong,  Robert Young and Hanna Vineyards.

The sixth annual Santa Lucia Highlands Gala is set for May 19 at the Mer Soleil Vineyards winery in Monterey County. For the $85 admission, guests can sample wines from about two dozen regional producers.

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