Robert Mondavi Private Selection Central Coast wines
Forty years ago you could drive the California coast south to north, staying on the back roads as much as possible and marveling at the many faces of this immense state.
In that era when gas cost 40 cents a gallon, you could wander from place to place but one site you wouldn’t see is the amount of winemaking we now see along what’s today is the Central Coast AVA. At least not much compared to the estimated 100,000 acres of grapevines found there today.
Marked by fog, damp and patchy sunshine, the Central Coast AVA stretches more than 250 miles long, a vast area of agriculture tied together by the influences of the Pacific Ocean. The AVA produces 15 percent of California’s wine grapes, including those of Robert Mondavi’s Private Selection wines.
The Mondavi Private Selection wines, founded by Mondavi in 1994 to take advantage of the region’s wide-ranging growing conditions and more recently the RM line of wines aimed at Young Transitionals (upscale 21-35 y.o. with no kids), are examples of how well, and how affordably, dedicated winemaking can produce delicious wines.
This year (June 18) marked the 100th anniversary of Mondavi’s birth and as part of the ongoing celebration of what Robert Mondavi meant (and still means) to winemaking in California and the nation as a whole, I recently had the opportunity to sample a range of his Private Selection Central Coast wines.
This line includes 11 wines – seven reds, four whites, not all of which I tasted – includes Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Meritage, Merlot, Pinot Grigio, Pinot Noir, Riesling, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, and Zinfandel.
Whew. All are line-priced at the wallet-friendly $11.99 and offer a level of quality rarely seen at that price. It’s easy to forget for a moment these are mass-produced wines, that’s how good they are.
As winemaker Rick Boyer says on the Mondavi Central Coast web site, “To me, winemaking is a lot about combining gut feel, experience, and art. We hope there is soul there.”
The “soul” part I can’t speak of, but the ability of Boyer (and Robert Mondavi) to produce sound, consistent wines at an affordable cost has helped the company become the “third most powerful wine brand” in the world, according to a report from strategy consultants Intangible Business.
2011 Central Coast Meritage – A Cabernet Sauvignon-based blend with Merlot, Malbec and Petit Verdot, offering dark berry flavors with black-cherry and plum notes. Mouth-filling but not over-whelming.
2011 Central Coast Cabernet Sauvignon – A return to the early days of California Cabernet, before the domination of oak hid the natural flavors that initially propelled California to world attention. Lots of red and black raspberry and red cherry with a touch of earthy notes, all highlighted with subtle American and French oak.
2011 Central Coast Chardonnay – If only all California Chardonnay was this subdued, this tasty and this affordable. Lemon rind, green apples and a hint of peach highlight this product of one of the coolest growing season in Central Coast record.
2011 Central Coast Sauvignon Blanc – right out of the bottle, this wine recalls a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, with hints of grass and lemon/lime citrus. Behind that,of course, are the citrus, melon and spice that mark California’s version of this uber-popular wine. Crisp acids and bright flavors, a good late-summer sipper.