1975 The Robert Mondavi Reserve sleeper

I bought a case at auction around 15 years ago. This is my last bottle, and each time I have marveled at the complexity, the powerful but seamless structure and above all the finish which beggars almost every wine I have had this year.

The color is still a darkish crimson with a thin edging of mahogany. The nose is bright red fruit, strong saddle leather, spices and a hint of earth. The wine is perfect today, having plateaued at least a decade ago, and my notes have been consistent. I am probably being a little stingy with my 96 point score.

That’s awesome, you sure got lucky. I purchased a 1979 reserve about 5 years ago through WineBid and it was WOTN at a WB offline gathering. The complexity was insane and the nose was mind-blowing. Since then, I’ve sourced about a half-case of 1979s including a 3.0L…all have been a fraction of the experience that I had with that first bottle. I hear the 1978 was the best of the 70s for Mondavi, however I don’t have the pocket-book or stomach to go through sourcing more older Mondavis based on sourcing history. Therefore, I’ve just stocked up on 2013s and 2015s and will just wait it out, lol. One exception, took a flyer on a 85’ reserve and will report back if there’s fireworks.

74 was also great. Zelma Long was the winemaker then. She left at the end of the 79 vintage to work for Simi, where she became President. Napa Bob Mueller followed her, as I recall.

Peopple who have drunk the '98, the vintage Bob parker dumped on, say it is tasting great now.

I have had the 1978 a number of times including from Imperial. For me, this is appreciably better.

They just don’t make it how they used to. Such a shame. '85 Mondavi should be singing! Had it couple of weeks ago and it was magnificent.

I’ve tossed in the '74 with second growth Bordeaux (obviously not '74) a couple of times in tastings, and it has shined.

1975 as I recall has quite a lot of mountain fruit in the blend. Higher acid than the 1974, and at this stage I’d say more consistently good.

Funny thing is, these wines were made with rotofermenters…

It was the first of three drought vintages. Despite that, all the 1975s I have had, although not that many, have been very fresh.

It’s incredible that these world class wines aren’t being made anymore. And incredible that you found a case at the right time :slight_smile:. A decade of Joy, Mark.

Just curious why you think they’re not made anymore. Are they really making their reserves that much different these days? I thought their 2013 and 2015 had a ton of stuffing to go 30+ years. However, I’m too young to know what the 70s or 80s wines tasted on release.

If the wine alcohol percentage is 2+ points higher, then the wines are not the same. If the newer wine is actually good 30 years from now? So much the better. But is not the same World Class wine.

every older mondavi I’ve had ive been amazed at how these wines don’t get more credit. they have always over performed their price and are still readily available for reasonable pricing

Oh absolutely! As I mentioned above, in the 1970s they used rotofermenters. I think the 1973 was the first vintage they used those. They tried pretty much everything once over the years. As Tim got more involved, they moved to in some respects more traditionally Bordelais style winemaking, with oak tanks for vindication. But, by the '90s they started picking riper and riper, to the extent that the raw material going into the wine aren’t really the same. Part of that was surely pursuit of a different aesthetic, but another aspect was that the vineyards were all replanted after the AXR1 fiasco, and the systems that were adopted at Mondavi as elsewhere only bring fruit to physiological maturity at very high brix… It is a big subject, too big, really, for casual discussion here, but e.g. 2013s will, I’m convinced, reach a very different destination to the e.g. 1975s when they are the same age.

In 1986, a close friend, who was a wine salesman, came to my house brandishing a bottle. I had never seen him so excited. The bottle was Helen Turley’s first wine, B.R. Cohn 1984,and after tasting it, and later retasting it with our wine group, we bought the entire New York allocation. It was so different to anything we had ever tasted, but hard to express exactly what it was. Perhaps the quality of the fruit, it seemed more pure than other wines.

My share was two cases, and over the next year, I devoured one. But then I began to get bored with it; I opened the occasional bottle, but it never seemed to change. True, the tannins softened, but it never developed any complexity, and the fruit that entranced initially began to dull. Age had withered its beauty without compensating it with the interesting lines that old age brings.

After tasting the 1994 Insignia, I had strong feelings of being asked to down the same rabbit hole. There was certainly a lot more tannin, more alcohol and a similarity of fruit character. Last year, I tasted the wine now that it hit the 25 year mark. I can understand that there are people who like the wine, it is easy enough on the palate, nothing that interesting that would make me reach for a second glass. Compared to the Mondavi, a marvel of complexity, it was I am afraid totally vacuous.

Funny, that '84 Cohn was made in Burgundy barrels…guess who sold her the barrels. That vineyard gave off vegetal flavors which I never liked. Helen’s 93 Colgin I treasure. People credit/blame Helen for high alcohol wines but for the most part that is not true. That Colgin is around 14%.
Another thing to remember: in the late 80s/early 90s winemakers started to notice they were getting higher sugar to alcohol ratios. It used to be written in stone, multiply your sugar reading by .55. to get the alcohol. Now it’s .62.

As I pointed out earlier, Parker dumped on the '98s at Mondavi and said Tim was trying to make French wine in California.So to save their communal bacon they brought in Michel Rolland as a consultant. The wines got richer and richer. The '03…yikes!
The wines have moved back to what Bob Mondavi liked to call ‘middle body’.

Let’s not forget that wineries react to the market and to influential wine writers.It’s hard to fight city hall.

The life of wine brands!! They used to say Florida was where brands went to die. The people who were excited over Mondavi in the 70s and 80s are now playing the Zoom version of shuffleboard. I might add nobody sold wine like Robert Mondavi. What a whirlwind.
There is always a new darling in the wine world and in America, old timers get shoved to the back. But who has better vineyards in Napa?? Not many.

I sold my 1994 Insignia several years ago for a similar reason. And, I love Insignia from the 70s and 80s.