Vineyard Techniques - Effects on Wine


Tuesday, May 20, 1997

Attended an interesting wine seminar at the Mondavi Food & Wine Center in Costa Mesa. Mondavi research vineyardist, Don Williams, led attendees through an all-too-brief 2-hr lecture and tasting that covered the differences in several vineyard techniques, and the resultant effect on wine made from these grapes. Organized into 4 flights of approximately three wines each, the concept of each flight was to taste two unreleased, yet finished samples of the individual wines that would go into the final blend of a given year. The final sample in each flight consisted of the current release version of the wine.

Since the unreleased samples and the currently released product were of different vintages, one could not necessarily draw logical conclusions about the final blend. However, this didn't detract from the tasting, as the main purpose was to compare the differences in the individual components, with the final product serving more as a example of such a blend. Notes as follows:


1996 Sauvignon Blanc. Light yellow color. Clean, crisp, vaguely grassy, with hint of lemon grass and a somewhat sweaty nose. Slightly sharp lemon-butter mouthfeel, with smooth yet acidic edges. Tart, medium-long finish with a touch of heat. Overall score: B

1996 Sauvignon Musque. Medium yellow. Nose of melon, peach, butter, clover, sweet grass, and hint of sweat. Tart, yet smooth mouthfeel. Short midpalate, but long on finish. Flavors of melon, lemon grass and butter. Overall score: B+

1995 Fumé Blanc Reserve. Medium yellow color. Slightly floral and grassy, with notes of lemon and butter. Tart, slightly thin fruit. Watery and buttery on the palate, with a medium-long crisp finish. Overall score: B

Impressions: this was quite an eyeopener, and a preview of things of come. On its own, the SB was clean, but very unimpressive. The Musque was full of character and body, but somewhat flabby. I was most surprised at the Sauvignon Musque mouthfeel qualities. Except for a slight sense of tartness, the Sauvignon Musque seemed to possess a lot of Semillion or Viognier aspects. In fact, for me, the final product sample of a '95 FB Resv, probably suffered a bit on the palate by following the Musque in the tasting.


1996 Chardonnay - Olmo Selection. Medium yellow-gold color. Nose of butter, musk, oak, and vanilla. Some butter and bitterness on palate. Slightly tart mouthfeel, with tropical and lemon flavors. Long clean finish. Overall score: B

1996 Chardonnay - Dijon 76 Selection. Medium yellow color. Deep nose of floral fruit. Huge mouthfeel. Crisp and oaky. Nearly chewy sweet fruit, with residual smoky quality. Smooth and long finish. Overall score: A-

1994 Chardonnay - Carneros. Medium yellow-gold. Smoky and smooth, with a edge of crisp acidity. Very long smooth, yet crisp finish. Overall score: A-

Impressions: the Dijon clonal selection is a silky and beautiful mouthful of wine, while the Olmo is more crisp and tropical. Williams says that more of the Dijon juice goes into Mondavi's better or reserve wines. While the UC Davis-inspired Olmo constitutes a higher portion of the medium to lower priced line. No surprises there!


1995 Pinot Noir - Yield Control. Light ruby red. Nose of eucalyptus, strawberry, and mint, with a touch of stemminess. Tastes somewhat underripe, with some residual bitterness. Sharp, bitter and fleshy at midpalate. Light framework, and quite thin in the mouth. Long, slightly hot finish. Overall score: B

1995 Pinot Noir - Early Thin. Medium ruby red color. Nose of strawberry, pomegranate, and spearmint. Expansive strawberry flavors, yet slightly thin on fruit. Medium framework in mouth, with a tart and somewhat sour quality. Very long finish. Overall score: B

1994 Pinot Noir - Carneros. Medium ruby. Nose of strawberry, cola, and cinnamon. Fleshy and round mouthfeel, smoky strawberry fruit, medium body, excellent balance. Long, smooth finish. Overall score: B+

Impressions: an excellent example of of how the final product can be better than the sum of its parts. This was our crash course in how crop yields and thinning affected the grapes. These two vineyard techniques seemed to impart quite different, yet complimentary qualities to the grapes included in the final blend.


1996 Cabernet Sauvignon - Lyre Trellis. Dark ruby. Huge nose of creamy cherry fruit, and chocolate. Flavors of sweet succulent fruit and vanilla. A touch of stemminess in the big mouthfeel, and a long finish. Overall score: B+

1996 Cabernet Sauvignon - Vertical Trellis. Very dark ruby. Very similar in taste to the Lyre Trellised fruit, with added dimensions of mint. Searing tannins on huge framework. Flavors of cherry and cocoa. Very long finish. Overall score: A-

1996 Cabernet Sauvignon - Pre barrel aging. Dark ruby. Quite closed, with only nuances of mint overly apparent. Dry and smooth mouthfeel, with restrained flavors of cherry and mint. Long finish. Overall score: B

1993 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve. Nearly black ruby in color. Nose of shoe polish, varnish, blackberry, coconut, and cigar box or wooden pencil. Massive mouthfeel, with flavors of blackberry and shoe polish. Very chewy, with long finish. Overall score: A-

Impressions: another crash course, this time in trellising. Surprising, was the dumb nose and restrained mouthfeel to the pre barrel aging sample. The Reserve nose was an absolute killer! Barrel aging obviously takes the wine to a whole new dimension.

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