Friday, April 2, 2010

A Wine Journey: 1987 Mondavi Reserve

The Wine Journey is a quest to taste all of the wines identified as wines of the decade ( by Master Sommelier  Andrew McNamara.  I opted for the 1987 Mondavi Reserve as the next wine in the series.

Robert Mondavi Winery, located in the heart of Napa Valley, was founded in 1966 by Robert G. Mondavi to "... create wines in California that belong in the company of the world's finest."  Ably led by Robert G. Mondavi, a worldwide missionary for California wines while he was alive, the winery played a key role in the development of today's US wine business.

Most of the fruit for the Mondavi Reserve is sourced from the 550-acre To-Kalon vineyard which is located in the benchland region of the Oakville AVA.  The location of the AVA (edge of the Mayacamas Mountains), its micro climate (appropriate amount of morning fog followed by day long sun), and its soil profile (bale clay loam alluvial soils) all contribute to the growth of complex, world-class Cabernet Sauvignon grapes which, in turn, power many of Napa Valley's high-profile reds.

The 1987 Napa Valley Growing season was almost perfect.  It was characterized by very mild early spring weather with the mildness extending through the summer.  The extended growing season allowed for slow and even fruit ripening, resulting in good acid levels and a desirous concentration of fruit characteristics.

Now to the wine.  I did not have a bottle of this vintage in my cellar so I purchased a bottle online from Sokolin.  The wine arrived two days after purchase and was pristine in appearance, attesting to, I hoped, good provenance.  I was scheduled to meet Adam Chilvers ( for lunch at Houston's (a Winter Park restaurant) so I decided to take the bottle along for the ride.

When I arrived at the restaurant Adam was in the company of a Chateau St. Michelle winery representative and Heather Shapiro of Southern Wine and Spirits and they were tasting samples.  The Chateau ST. Michelle rep left prior to the beginning of our tasting session.  Adam's  1996 Leoville Las Cases (brought for the occasion) needed more time in the decanter so we turned to the Mondavi Reserve.  It was opened and decanted at 2:25 pm and the cork came out fully and evenly.  There was some residue on the base of the cork and moisture stains about one-third up the cork.  The color was uneven and there was a muting of the red tones away from the center of the glass.  When swirled in the glass, the wine exhibited excellent viscosity.

On the nose there were notes of cinnamon, blackberry, bell pepper, cedar box, cinnamon, nutmeg, sandalwood, cigarbox, and sweet tobacco.  On the palate the wine showed good structure with an excellent integration of tannin, acid and fruit.  I was very surprised at the retained acid levels in this, a California Cab, after 23 years.  The wine exhibited a peppery spiciness and notes of pine on the back of the palate and had a nice, long finish.

This was an extremely well-balanced wine and tasting it was truly a treat.


  1. Thank you for your notes on our classic 1987 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon. This wine has many great years ahead of it. We really only open this bottle at the winery for our Four Decades Tasting and Dinner. We are honored that you made it a part of your lunch!

  2. Hmmmm.... one of my absolute favorites from California. The bottle I had that really made me go "wow" was two summers ago. It came from my father's cellar and had pretty much been there since release and was opened during a week of wine and fun with a good bit of our family there. I have always thought that this was one of the best Mondavi Reserves ever made - at a full 21 years old the last time I had it, the wine was just approaching middle-age. So why did this bottle make my best of the decade list? Well, to me it is one of the greatest wines that I've ever tasted from California, and second - the company in which I was fortunate enough to drink it was second to none...