Robert Mondavi was born into a Napa Valley wine family, the Charles Krug Winery in St. Helena, but left after an argument in 1965. Ambitious from the start, he had a vision for Napa Cabernet that might compete in style and quality with the best of Bordeaux (he later became friends with the Baron de Rothschild of Château Mouton-Rothschild and they conceived Opus One together).
Having tasted most of the early vintages began to the inaugural 1966 (in 2009), in my view he succeeded pretty much immediately. While Mondavi’s legacy today incorporates that vision, he is perhaps better remembered as a gregarious philanthropist, promoter of the arts, and successful wine entrepreneur – Mondavi ultimately becoming a large scale billion dollar business. There is almost an implied snub I feel, because in my experience his wines from the ‘60s and ‘70s compete with anything being made at the time, and are often my favourites.
This tasting hits what – to my taste – is the sweet spot, from 1971 to 1992, spanning ten vintages. Here we have wines that can compete at second, and occasionally first growth level, and while interest in them is growing, and stocks steadily dwindling, they remain excellent value today for Napa and Bordeaux lovers alike.