Today I did what many people think I do everyday. I toured a vineyard—Tim Mondavi’s new property on Pritchard Hill—tasted all four of his Continuum wines and talked about what’s on most vintners' minds these days: the economic market and wine pricing.
Mondavi’s vineyard is the former Cloud View property on Pritchard Hill. It’s a chic, name-dropping neighborhood by any standards. You have to drive through Bryant Family Vineyard and Chappellet’s vineyards to access Mondavi’s property. And once there the 'hood includes the likes of Colgin, Ovid, David Arthur, Stagecoach and Dalla Valle.
Mondavi’s first two vintages, 2006 and 2005, have been exquisite. Both are rich, elegant, complex and layered. Barrel samples of 2007 and 2008 continue in the same vein. With 2009, Mondavi will begin to use more Pritchard Hill grapes in the wine—it’s a blend of 55 percent Cabernet, 30 percent Cabernet Franc and 15 percent Petite Verdot. Mondavi makes no secret of his fondness for both Cabernet Franc and the style of Dalla Valle’s Maya, a Cabernet Franc blend.
Eventually we talked about industry trends. A year ago we might have debated whether California Cabernets were too ripe and powerful. That phase seems to be waning a bit as more wineries are reining in ripeness.
But instead we spent some time talking about pricing, and Mondavi recalled the debate surrounding the first release of Opus One, the Robert Mondavi-Baron Philippe de Rothschild wine.
When the first two vintages, 1979 and 1980, were released in 1984, both wines were priced at $50, at the time the highest price for a California wine and high by any standards. Behind the scenes, the discussion among the proprietors was whether to charge $60, and price it higher than Bordeaux’s first-growths (Bordeaux pricing always varies a bit since the wines are initially sold as futures at discounted prices, before they are released).
Anyway, as Robert Mondavi began to weigh his options, his close advisors warned him that $50 would be high, but $60 would make the price the topic of conversation, rather than the quality of the wine.
It made me think. It’s a good point: When you’re considering a wine, price shouldn't be of greater consideration than quality.