2006 Robert Mondavi Cabernet Napa Valley

Buy local...local to the winery.

Rating: Good off the shelf, but stellar from the winery.  Overall, an impressive wine for the dollar. $25-ish

The rest of the story: Full disclosure: This wine was tasted during a visit to the winery during which overnight accommodations were provided by the ownership.

Just a couple of months ago this same wine was part of a tasting line up.  And it was pretty good.  Good enough to buy more of.  But today - at the winery - it was different.  Better.  Way better.

Was it really that much better?  Or was it the perfectly conducted tour?  Was it the cozy guest house Constellation provided for the night?  Or, just possibly, was it, in fact, that much better?


Last month's article on the pro's and con's of buying wine online versus retail highlighted the inevitable deterioration of quality wine experiences during conventional transport.  This is that difference.  Sitting mere yards from the To Kalon vineyard where 35% of this wine came from, it's no surprise that the quality would be as good as it gets.

The difference between wine at the winery and the same exact wine off a grocery store shelf 2,500 miles away - based on this tasting - is night and day.  When bought from the winery its intensity ratchets up considerably while its freshness is unmistakable.  Though the 2007 vintage should be something to look forward to, this is an easy staple of any cellar - or weekend meal.

Representing 30-40% of the winery's total production, this is Mondavi's workhorse.  And since that equates to an output of around 100,000 cases, finding it is a snap.  If you believe freshness is key, order it online here.  Or, you can roll the dice and pick it up for $10 less/bottle here.

Either way, you'll not likely be disappointed.  Now, if the winery could see its way clear to matching most retailers' pricing, this would get at least 4 stars...

Stay tuned for more wines from this tasting session.