’ ” And by the 1990s, wine buyers’ tastes were shifting, too, with the austere, old-school, “English” sense of what Cabernet should be giving way to what could basically be called an American love of richness, plush tannins and ripe, sweet fruit.
The stylistic trends of the ’80s continued; as sommelier Gillian Ballance of Murray Circle at Sausalito, California’s Cavallo Point Lodge said when we tried the 1990 Mondavi, “OK, your black fruit.” (When harvested at lower levels of ripeness, Cabernet tends to produce more red currant than black currant or blackberry flavors.) In fact, the 1990 was fantastic—for several of us, the best wine of the tasting.
1990 Château Léoville Las-Cases (5)A great vintage in Bordeaux, and a spectacular wine, but this bottle was oddly muted and dull, a testament to the variability of how wines age—and a possible hint that it was stored poorly at some point in the past.
2009 Robert Mondavi Winery Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon (5)This is the current vintage of Mondavi’s flagship Cabernet, and it showcases director of winemaking Genevieve Janssens’s deft hand at balancing richness and elegance.
Napa Valley was still a bucolic place back then, full of prune orchards, wheat fields, even cattle.What was unmistakable about both wines was that they were clearly from a different era than the Cabernets of today: light in alcohol (12.5 to 13 percent, compared to 14.5 or 15 percent now), with flavors indicating they’d been harvested far less ripe than is currently the norm.Tim Mondavi, Robert’s son, made nearly all of the Mondavi wines we tasted, so a few days later, I asked him about that difference in character.Because I am neither comatose nor jaded to a level that would stun a rock star, I was pretty excited that they asked me to attend.So were the three wine experts I invited along to try the wines, too, at least based on the more or less supersonic speed with which they got back to me about the offer.