This article reviews an inexpensive California wine from the recently deceased wine giant Robert Mondavi who to a large extent put California on the international wine map. If you intend to become a wine professional you should consider the Robert Mondavi Institute (RMI) for Wine and Food Science at the University of California, Davis. We are too old for that sort of thing but not too old to enjoy his wine, at least in this price range. One day we may taste an example of his $100 Cabernet Sauvignons, but we won’t be reporting on it in this column. For now, let’s see how the company’s $10 wine does. By the way, you may be able to find this wine in the United States for considerably less than $10.
OUR WINE REVIEW POLICY All wines that we taste and review are purchased at the full retail price.
Wine Reviewed Robert Mondavi Woodbridge Cabernet Sauvignon, California, 2007 13.5% alcohol about $10
Let’s start by quoting the marketing materials. Tasting Note: Deep garnet red; wild red berry and cassis aroma; fresh fruit flavor, balanced wine, soft tannins, good quality, easy drinking. Serving Suggestion: Serve with grilled meats. And now for my reactions.
The first meal consisted of slow-cooked beef ribs and potatoes with fresh red pepper slices. First I had a few sips to get me started. The wine was round and so were the tannins. I tasted dark fruits, in particular black cherries. This Cab was fairly long with a good acidic balance. In the presence of the meat this wine became even rounder. It enveloped the potatoes. The red pepper rendered the wine more acidic, but not unpleasantly so. Some Harissa (a Turkish hot pepper sauce) intensified the Cabernet Sauvignon’s flavors; dark became darker and I don’t mean that negatively.
As you may be aware, I enjoy trying somewhat unusual wine and food pairing combinations. I had every intention of trying this wine with a chicken dish. And in this case, I had permission from headquarters. The back label starts with the following sentence: “Our Cabernet Sauvignon’s spicy dark fruit character, with a velvety smooth finish, is delicious with grilled or roasted meats, – even chicken!” I tasted this wine with chicken in a soy and onion sauce accompanied by roasted eggplant doused with garlic, and French fries in garlic and rosemary. The wine was tannic. I tasted oak. The black cherry and plum flavors were powerful and yet did not destroy the chicken. This liquid delight was actually chewy. The oily eggplant (I’m not complaining) rendered the wine more acidic but the combination worked well. But let’s be fair, the wine and chicken didn’t mesh.
My final food pairing involved beef stew, carrots, and potatoes. There was great balance of acidity, fruits, and tannins. I got some oak with dark fruits, mostly black cherries and plums. The wine was nice and long, meaty and chewy.
I ended the bottle with two local cheeses. In the presence of a nutty, mild Provolone the Cabernet Sauvignon retained most of its characteristics but didn’t meld well with the cheese. A marbled, yellow and orange Cheddar cheese flattened the wine.
Final verdict. This Cabernet Sauvignon is definitely a winner with hearty beef dishes. I’d buy it again and again. And I’d like to do a vertical tasting, comparing Mondavi Cabs up the line.
Levi Reiss has authored or co-authored ten computer and Internet books, but really prefers fine Italian or other wine, with good food and company. He loves teaching computer classes at an Ontario French-language community college. His global wine website www.theworldwidewine.com features a weekly review of $10 wines and new sections writing about and tasting organic and kosher wines. His Italian travel website is www.travelitalytravel.com .