On September 21, 2021 in Vancouver BC at Blue Water Cafe we celebrated the seventies and eighties as a wonderful period for old style classic cabernet in California. The focus was a 10 year vertical of historic Mondavi Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon ranging from 1974 to 1989. The event was possible through the generosity of knowledgeable longtime collector Dave Spurrell who had cellared all these bottles for many decades. He also provided a short history of the man Robert Mondavi born in Virginia Minnesota in 1913 and passed away at the age of 94 on May 16, 2008. Your scribe has had the pleasure of trying all these wines several times over the years but they now have become an important part of California wine history. We wondered how they were holding up presently. That 1974 is approaching 50 years of age! Though served as the first of ten this beauty shone so brightly. Lots of deepest dark young red colour exploding with that distinctive eucalyptus mint cedar bouquet and lots of life with elegance left even in standard 750 ml well stored. My last two experiences of this wine was in magnum even more remarkably fresh and age worthy. Remember buying the regular Mondavi cab 1974 (12.6 abv 91% CS, 5 Merlot, and 4 Cab Franc 24 months 3/4 French Nevers & 1/4 American oak) at the Washington State Liquor Board for a bargain price of $4.65. The Reserve was picked at 23.7 Brix for 13.6 abv using 86% CS & 14% Merlot with the same oak treatment for 30 months. Surprised to see the low score of 87 from Wine Spectator (but all scores were lower in those days) and similarly low for all the Reserve wines. Maybe because of bottle variation due to filtering experiments that were being done for 1974. The 1969 Unfined & 1970 Unfiltered both with 15% Cab Franc were forerunners for this style. The other wines were all solid and holding rather well: 75 leaner herbal, 76 100% CS aged rim, 77 drought year baked intense, 80 has 13% Merlot lighter forwardly. Second flight had 85 as group fav elegant under 13 alcohol again, 86 paler stylish with highest Cab Franc in this series at 12%, 87 fuller richer 2nd fav of second flight, 88 solid, 89 has 91 CS 9 Merlot. Volume increased from some 9000 cases back in 1974 to a norm a round 15000 cases in the eighties. Really like the lower alcohol cool fruit so drinkable easy style of those days. Robert Mondavi always commented that the 1974 vintage would have been outstanding if he had used 100% French oak which would have provided the wine with better finishing lift. He would be pleased to know that it is still terrific and is truly outstanding the way he made it. Congrats.
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