Drink 'em young or hold 'em? There's no better way to compare the appeal of a wine when it's young versus when it's mature than to taste different vintages of it side by side. I had that opportunity recently with two Robert Mondavi Reserve Cabernets: 1995 and 2005.
Mondavi makes what I consider to be a classic style of Napa Cabernet, modeled on the wines of Bordeaux and usually reliant on a portion of Cabernet Franc. The wines are typically rich yet elegant, consistently offering loamy currant, black olive, herb and touches of lead pencil. They impress you with finesse, grace and subtle nuances, and they have aged well. They are not as ripe as some other styles.
The 1995 showed the beautiful integration of young and mature fruit flavors, a perfect example of a transitional stage. It still has lots of body and depth. I first reviewed this wine on release, in a blind tasting in 1998, giving it a score of 94 points. This time, I scored it 93 points, non-blind.
The 2005 is fresh, vibrant, pure, tight and concentrated, exhibiting the same loamy currant, black olive and herb notes. I originally rated it 92 points in a blind tasting last fall, and this time scored it 93 points, non-blind.
Both of these wines are delicious. I like fresh, rich, vibrant fruit flavors, and both of these wines have that, even while illustrating the difference between youth and maturity. Each has its place.
Robert Mondavi Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 1995 (94 points, $80 on release)
Robert Mondavi Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 2005 (92 points, $135)