Michael Mondavi Family Animo Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley 2012

Inky black color; dark fruits, plum, olives, herbs on the solid, generous nose; black fruits, plum, black cherry, blueberry on the palate.

Big Napa cab—85.2% cabernet sauvignon, 14.8% petit verdot. Spent 20 months in 87% new French oak, but fine tannins (with a hint of dust), balancing acidity, sophisticated fruit integrate well. This is not a Napa oak monster by any means, nor a fruit bomb. Minerality, cassis, whisper of black currant tang, sandalwood on the finish.

Dry, serious, medium-plus body, easy drinker—all at the same time. 2012 was very good year in Napa and the depth and richness of this wine reflects the gifts presented by the vine and weather gods. This is new offering from Michael Mondavi using grapes harvested from the family’s Animo vineyard near the top of Atlas Peak (southeast of Napa). It was named by Michael’s daughter, Dina, when she exclaimed the site possessed “animo”—the Italian word for spirit or soul. Some vineyards have spirit and soul, others do not; the Mondavis believe this 15-acre site at 1,270-1,350 feet in elevation has it. The wine supports their opinion.

The Animo soil is volcanic, rocky, and porous, contributing to diurnal-nocturnal temperature changes of 30 degrees or more, allowing for a long ripening season and balancing acidity. Because of various facings of the blocks, Animo grapes are picked in multiple passes by hand. Then comes meticulous work: de-stemming, cold soaking for four days in stainless steel, punch-downs and pour-overs for color and tannin extraction. After fermentation the wine macerates on the skins for 28-35 days to add depth of color and complexity of flavor.

Michael Mondavi Family Estate makes various levels of wine. Entry level is Isabel Mondavi Wines (rosé, pinot noir, chardonnay), followed by Emblem (affordable cabs in $35-$60 range). Animo takes it to the next level and compares very well with the better-known (and more expensive) Camus/Silver Oak/Cakebread bottlings. The top-of-the-line efforts are labeled “M by Michael Mondavi” and go for more than double the price of Animo; both Animo and M come from the same vineyard.

Michael Mondavi Family Animo Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley 2012 is superb value in its price category and a deliciously serious and drinkable effort. $85

Michael Mondavi Family Estate website