Robert Mondavi Napa Valley Merlot 2013

Deep ruby color; plum, red currant, cherry, violets on the nose; black plum, black cherry, red currant tang, blackberry, black pepper, cedar on the palate.

Robert Mondavi Napa Valley Merlot 2013

Dry, approaching off-dry (8.4 g/L RS); fruit forward, led by plum, nicely balanced with good acidity for a big red (3.64 pH); friendly, well-managed tannins; velvety mouthfeel and finish. Bold, straightforward, smooth, silky, very easy drinker. 90% merlot, 3% cabernet franc, 3% syrah, 2% malbec, 1% cabernet sauvignon, 1% petit verdot. The 10% other-than-merlot grapes give this some nuances, enhance the darkness of the color, add to the structure. Very reserved use of oak: malolactic fermentation in French oak, followed by 17 months in barrel, but only 4% was new oak, a deft and admirable way to contribute very subtle oak elements.

Robert Mondavi built his namesake winery in 1966 with the expressed purpose of making wines in the Napa Valley that could compete on the world stage. He succeeded. All the grapes in this effort grew in Napa: 57% in the Stag’s Leap District, 26% in Oak Knoll, 6% in Napa Carneros, 6% in Atlas Peak, and 3% in Rutherford. The majority from Stag’s Leap contributes to the velvety delivery and smooth, fleshy mouthfeel that are classic merlot elements.

Robert Mondavi Winery is a master at superb, large-scale production of wine that faithfully expresses the varietal or a style, a legacy of the founder, Robert Mondavi, who revolutionized wine making and marketing. Constellation Brands owns Mondavi now, but the affordable quality remains, as do key personnel who were mentored by Robert.

Geneviève Hanssens is the director of winemaking today. She started at Mondavi in 1978 and was named Winemaker of the Year by Wine Enthusiast in 2010.

Robert Mondavi Napa Valley Merlot 2013 is solid merlot and solid value; widely available; a reason to return to merlot if you have shunned it since Sideways. Pairs with lamb, veal tenderloin, roast chicken, crock pot beef stews, spaghetti and meatballs, tomato-based Italian dishes. With its soft approachability and dark fruit flavors, merlot is food friendly, pairs well with rich sauces and savory/umami flavors. $21-23

Robert Mondavi Winery website

Mondavi’s Geneviève Hanssens

Mondavi’s To Kalon Vineyard

Robert Mandavi

Mondavi barrel aging room