Robert Mondavi Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 1976

Robert Mondavi Winery Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 1976, Oakville, California, 13%

(Not commercially available)

California’s Mondavi Winery is owned by Constellation Brands, a principal supporter of the Institute of Masters of Wine and sponsor of the IMW’s Robert Mondavi Winery Award.

This award is given each year to the student who performs best across all four theory papers of the MW exam. It’s now in its 22nd year.

Peter and I were both fortunate enough to win it in our respective years and, as a result, were treated to an unforgettable trip to California in March 2011 which you can read about here. (And during which we were lucky enough to try the 1980 and 1985 vintages at Mondavi too.)

As well as the trip, award-winners are invited to an annual lunch to celebrate past successes and to discuss key topics affecting the industry today.

This was the first year I’d been able to make the lunch and the venue was St. Leonards in Shoreditch, long on my list of restaurants to visit.

The food was a wonderful succession of sharing plates involving the likes of beetroot, fromage blanc & walnut, and leek heart, almond cream & truffle, not to mention 90-day-aged dexter sirloin with anchovy hollandaise.

And it was with this last dish that my wine of the lunch really came into its own. The key to both the wine and its ability to pair with the dish was its balance and refreshing drinkability. Along with tertiary autumnal aromas, a silky texture and leafy, sour cherry fruit, the alcohol level of 13% lent an elegance and finesse that was delightful.

I couldn’t help questioning why this wine was 2% lower in alcohol than the same wine from 2013, also a dry year, but I’m not sure we really got to the bottom of it – unlike the bottle, which was very swiftly finished.

(8/10, Susie, November 2018)