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The Key to Mondavi: Consistency

May 30, 1991|DAN BERGER

With one major exception, the wines of the Robert Mondavi Winery have maintained a consistency of style throughout the years.

The best wine in the line, the one that has given Mondavi international acclaim, is the Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve. Made primarily from a block of grapes growing just behind the winery, it is usually deeply concentrated, with noticeable toastiness from its aging in French oak barrels. Price of the wine recently rose to $50 a bottle.

The regular bottling of Napa Valley Cabernet ($16.75, a good value) has become a Napa Valley prototype, replacing what was once the standard bearer for the valley, Beaulieu Vineyard's Rutherford Cabernet. The Mondavi wine is herbal, round and more approachable than most wines in the valley. Both Cabernets age beautifully.

Mondavi's Napa Valley Chardonnay ($13.50) has remained similar in style throughout the years, getting a bit less unctuous, though the flavors are a little fat. The Reserve Chardonnay ($27.50) is a bigger, fatter statement, with loads of oak and extract, and less fruit than I prefer.

The Napa Valley Fume Blanc (Mondavi introduced the name, thereby helping to popularize Sauvignon Blanc; $8) has always been an herbal and complex wine, perfectly varietal though lighter in texture than some. The Reserve Fume Blanc ($16) has a more aggressive aroma but quite a bit more oak and richness too. It ages nicely.

The wines that have changed are the regular and Reserve Pinot Noirs. They are the most improved and most dramatic wines in the Mondavi line. The Napa Valley Pinot Noir ($15) is a fruity, fairly rich wine with cherry and clove scents intermixed. The Reserve Pinot Noir ($25) is wonderfully deep and complex with myriad aromas, a lush, forceful fruit character and a long, rewarding finish.

Mondavi also produces Chenin Blanc, Riesling in various sweetness levels, and dessert-style Sauvignon Blanc.

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