5 YEARS OF MONDAVI NAPA CS '90-'94 AND OTHER ASSORTED BOTTLES - Encino, CA. (7/16/2005)
It's a blast hanging out with a group of close friends and having the time of your life. When you combine great food & wine, good friends, a warm summer day and a pool/jacuzzi, how can you possible go wrong? Throw into the mix a 5 year vertical of R. Mondavi Napa Valley Cab. ('90-'94) and you just upted the fun factor. This is the only vertical of wines, besides Les Cailloux, that I own more than 5 vintages of. So we gathered at Walter & Amy's palace of corruption and prepared to be afflicted. Surpirising, but I actually kinda remember most of the wines I drank. Here are my foggy recolections. All wines were opened and poured straight into stems.
Sitting outside by the pool listening to Stevie Earl's "I feel Alright" we sipped a few whites while the party began. Actually some Grappa was also brought out. There was one Grappa made by Walter's father back in Croatia. Jaimie also brought a bottle of Italian Grappa, which I unfortunately didn't write down. We were told that Grappa is actually the first drink of the day back in the old country. One thing I can say for certain, "Grappa ain't my thing." Too much heat, and that was on the Italian bottle. The Croatian moonshine was the stuff that causes blindness. I turned my attention towards the white wines. Karen brought a great antipasto platter of olives, roasted red peppers, artichoke hearts, prosciutto and provelone to start with.
- 2002 Chateau Ste. Michelle Sauvignon Blanc - USA, Washington, Columbia Valley
Fruity, fruity, fruity. Bleh! Gimme Sancerre...please.
- 2003 Höpler Grüner Veltliner - Austria, Burgenland
It's hot out here in the valley, but this one quenched our thirst. It was too cold to get anything at first. After some time warming up it began to show a floral lemon/citirc nose. I can't quite put my finger on the texture description, but there was something going on. Perhaps a slight oiliness. Simply put this one was a winner and great qpr ($10).
- 2002 Isabel Sauvignon Blanc - New Zealand, South Island, Marlborough
I didn't really skip breakfast today, as I got my helping of grapefruit with this one. It was a tad bit acidic, but still nice to drink on this hot afternoon.
Time for some reds so we started with a couple of pinot noirs. The wines were served alongside a platter of roasted red beets, goat cheese, roasted pistachios and fresh cracked black pepper with a beet juice and olive oil drizzle.
- 2001 Arcadian Pinot Noir Lafond Vineyard - USA, California, Central Coast, Santa Lucia Highlands
I have tried several of Joe's wines, but I think this was my first tasting of the Lafond. Typical Joe style of restrained/elegant fruit paired with wonderful structure and balance. Not at that level of his Pisoni/Gary's or Dierberg, but still a fine pinot noir.
- 2002 Chalone Vineyard Pinot Noir Estate Chalone - USA, California, Monterey County, Chalone
Typical CA. pinot fruit aromas of baked spices, cinammon and cherry/raspberry. The fruit is bit on the sappy side. Velvety clean mouth feel with decent acidity. Maybe this could sit in the cellar a bit, but I'm not really sure what could make this better. It just didn't have that extra level of class that some of the other pinots have achieved.
Time for the main event. Everyone seemed excited to finally try these wines. As I mentioned, all the bottles were opened at the same time. Wines were kept in the bottle and poured directly into stems just prior to tasting. Fortunately I had enough stems to save all the wines for a return visit. I was able to try each vintage over the course of at least an hour. Only one of the wines faded out after about an hour, but for the most part they all showed a consistent style and profile that was showed with each vintage. Walter served a roast beef with this course, accompanied by Jeff's delicious vegetable terrine. From an economics stand point, I paid $9.99 for the 1990, the $11.99 price tag from Trader Joes was still on the 1991. An extra tidbit, halfway through the release of 1991, the bottle and label design changed to the ripped label and lipped bottle.
- 1990 Robert Mondavi Winery Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley - USA, California, Napa Valley
The first in a series of consecutive vintages, 1990-1994, this wine ended up being one of my favorites of the night. It was too difficult to assess color, which in hindsight is a shame. Notes of prunes, cassis and cedar dominate the nose with just a touch of earthy flavors. The fruit is remarkably vibrant. Silky and seamless. Tannins are melded into the framework. This is really about all I could expect from this 15 yr old. The finish lasted and the wine remained stable the entire time it was in my glass.
- 1991 Robert Mondavi Winery Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley - USA, California, Napa Valley
This is completely different from the 1990. It shows less fruit and much more earthy characteristics. Aromas of mushroom, forest floor, pine and tobacco. The palate mimicks the nose with a bit of unresolved tannin. I feel like this wine possesses a solid structure and balance, if only the fruit could have been brighter. Still not a bad wine by any means, but more of an educational tool.
- 1992 Robert Mondavi Winery Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley - USA, California, Napa Valley
This one is in the same mold as the 1991 with more flavors of cassis and cedar and less underbrush and pine needle. This one had the shortest life of the bunch. The finish started off with some length, but dried out after about an hour. I have had better bottles of the '92.
- 1993 Robert Mondavi Winery Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley - USA, California, Napa Valley
This wine had a stunning nose for about 30 minutes. It showed rich and vibrant cassis, cab. fruit with penetrating scents of cigar box, tobacco and coffee bean. What a spectacular moment! Absolutely intoxicating. After about 30 minutes it began to receed to more modest version of it's former self. Still quite enticing. The palate was rich and seamless. NOTN!
- 1994 Robert Mondavi Winery Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley - USA, California, Napa Valley
The last of the flight and my judgment was definately impaired by this time. What I can say is that Jeff Z summed it up best by noting the wine seemed to be a summary of many of the best components of the previous 4 wines. The '94 definitely held together better than the others. It showed wonderful balance between the earthy flavors of the '91 & '92 and the more fruit dominant profile of the '90 & '93. Another seamless treat. Overall, my WOTN.
At some point prior to dessert a bottle of 2003 Clos du Caillous CdR was opened, but I missed trying it. Dessert time and along with a mind boggling homemade tiramisu and strawberry shortcake from Jamie, we had this one to try.
- 2002 Rosenblum Cellars Black Muscat Gallagher Ranch - USA, California
This is about as close as one can get to alcoholic blueberry pancake syrup. Actually it was fine to drink, not at all cloying, but something I probably wouldn't seek out.
By the time dessert was scarfed down, we were ready to kick into overdrive. More bottles of wines emerged, I think a couple of zins and god knows what else. Someone came up with idea to see how many of us could fit into the jacuzzi. I think we managed to reach capacity and as we carried on, we listened to the memorable "Exile on Main Street". Several of the non-wine geek attendees mentioned how interesting and eye opening the wines were. While they don't drink high end wines, they were really impressed by the various varietals and styles tried over the course of the night. I must confess that I rather enjoy turning people on to wine. By 2:30 am, it was time to get my arse home and try for a few hours of sleep before recording bass lines on a new set of songs. There's almost nothing I wouldn't trade for this kind of fun. These are the times I will always remember.
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