Marketing can be a tricky business. Consider the Mondavi name. Robert Mondavi was instrumental in making a name for the California wine industry, and he did it with premium wines that bore his family name. Then, a push to popularize the economy-priced Woodbridge line of Mondavi wines brought his name to the masses — but at the expense of the winery’s good name. A New York Times profile written in 2003 noted that Mondavi deeply regretted the cheapening of his family name, and that he felt the family had to work to restore it. (Mondavi died in 2008, at the age of 94.)
I don’t know how much damage the Woodbridge name has done to Mondavi’s reputation, except to say that I’m personally skeptical of the name now. Which is unfair — I’m a bit of a cynic when it comes to mass-marketed products, and I often judge them more harshly than they deserve.
On to today’s wine. We’re not reviewing a Woodbridge imprint, but the bottle — priced around $11 — is still closer to an everyday drinking wine than to the premium bottles that made Mondavi’s name. It’s sold as a Cabernet but is actually a blend, with 83 percent Cabernet grapes and 3-4 percent each of Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Syrah, and other vintages. (American law says you can sell any wine labeled as a varietal if it holds at least 75 percent of that grape.)
How does it look? This wine is a darker indigo color, and opaque, with very thin legs, making me think this will be a fairly dry wine, despite the sweeter grapes mixed in with the Cabernet.
How does it smell? There’s a lot of fruit on the nose of this Cabernet — mainly plum, with some other red fruits — along with a fair amount of tannin as well.
But how does it taste? Well, the fruit’s less forward on the taste (still mainly plum), and the wine is dryer than the fruity nose suggested. The tannins make this wine a bit alkaline, but the alcohol’s not prominent, and the wine’s not particularly astringent. There is some oak on the taste that I didn’t really notice on the nose.
What should I eat with it? This might be a West Coast wine, but it’d go great with a thick, greasy East Coast-style burger (not one of those thin, griddled numbers California does so well.) This would complement smoked cheese as well.