TN: 1998 R Mondavi Napa PN

With all of the R Mondavi comments, as well as the Pinot Noir threads, I
dredged up a 1998 R Mondavi Napa Pinot for dinner. Now, for those, who did not
grow up in the Deep South of the US, please disregard the next paragraph, or
better, do not read it, at all.
My wife had gotten word that a local purveyor was going to have fresh catfish
filets, so she went back and picked them up, when they arrived. She did a
pecan-crusted coating, and double-dipped the filets. In accompaniment, she did
fresh mixed greens, black-eyed peas, and her interpretation of Mark Miller's
cornbread, sans jalapeños. This is not exactly a wine-friendly menu, but for
me, the earthiness of the catfish nearly always calls for a PN, and I had this
last bottle of the ‘98 R Mondavi Napa in the cellar. Here we have fried
catfish, greens with ham, black-eyed peas with pepper vinegar, and a slightly
sweet cornbread —not a group of foods and forward tastes, that call for a
light wine.
Well, served initially, at cellar temp, 55 F, the Mondavi PN was nice and
smooth. It was a light brick-red. There was a definite meniscus which was a
pure pink —no clear liquid, at all. The color did not belie the body of this
wine. This was a medium-bodied PN, and still showing well. I had many more
examples of the Mondavi Carneros PN's, but this was part of a half-case of
their Napa, that I had picked up upon release, and the last bottle. I'm not
sure of the source of these grapes, but they do not appear to be Carneros, as
there is no mention of that sub-appellation anywhere.
Tasted in a Riedel Vinum Burgundy balloon, the wine had definite cherry
elements—Rainier cherries, not the dark, or black variety. There was a
slightly herbal element, but I could not place it in the beginning. The
mouthfeel was very smooth, as I'd expect from a quality PN with a few years of
cellar time. The finish was medium, with not an edge of any sort. The tannins
were very light and well integrated. The level of acidity was medium.
When the food was served, I was wishing that I'd opted for a younger Carneros,
or Santa Rita Hills fruit-bomb, or a Syrah, or even a Zin. Was I ever wrong.
The earthiness in the catfish went well with the PN, especially after a few
extra minutes in the glass. A damp leaf (not earth in this example) element
crept into the wine, reminding me of hiking in the Appalachians in the Fall
with a heavy mist. Now we had a good marriage. The black-eyed peas, even with
the pepper vinegar went well—obviously an earthy element again. OK, the greens
were neutral, but I had no complaints. The cornbread was superb with the wine.
After the meal, I worked with the PN some more, and that herbal element
revealed itself as eucalyptus, though without the mint note, that I usually
associate with that taste.
All in all, this PN was a very nice example of an older CA PN, and was still
holding its own. There was a lot more to this wine, than I had expected, when
I first poured it. Now, had this been a DRC, regardless of color, I'd have
expected the tight tastes, and firm body, but this was a CA PN, for goodness
sakes, and one that I would have assumed to be past its prime. I could not
have made a better choice for accompaniment for this eclectic meal, had I done
extensive tastings.
Reference was made on the back label about 1998 being a small El Niño year,
and all that it brought to the vineyards. Unfortunately, no mention was made
of the exact location from which the grapes were sourced. Other than the
eucalyptus note, I found no trace of the "spices" referenced, but they were
probably much more notable when the wine was younger. I could not find any
TN's on the previous bottles. The "cherries," did darken a bit, as I tasted
through the evening, from Rainier, through a medium black. By the end of the
tasting, the wine was decidedly beginning to fade, but it had requited itself
very well. I only wish that I'd had enough folk over to open a Domaine
Drouhin, and maybe a Carneros PN, just to do a side-by-side. Regardless, a
pleasant experience, and somewhat unexpected.
I didn't pull this bottle up from the database, when I began writing, but I
feel that it was in the US$25.00 range. If I find out differently, I'll
append.
Hunt
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Hunt

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