I thought it would be interesting to compare two wines from the same producer, same vintage, same grape but from different parts of California and sold at different price points. This could be filed under the “are more expensive wines better?” category. Spoiler alert: In this case the more expensive wine was quite a bit better.
These are two cabernet sauvignons from Robert Mondavi. And certainly these aren’t the only two labels of cabernet sauvignon that Robert Mondavi produces, but it’s a nice comparison of a cheap one with a mid-priced bottle.
The less expensive of the two retails for about $11 and is from the Central Coast region, which is roughly between Santa Cruz (south of San Francisco) and Los Angeles. It’s sold under the “Private Selection” label, which sounds like something that should be premium, after all it’s a “private” label! One point for smart marketing.
The other wine sells for $28 and bears the “Napa Valley” label, hence it comes from the Napa Valley region.
Before I even taste the wines I already have a grudge against the Private Selection due to the cork selection. The Napa Valley label is bottled with a natural cork, which comes with some risk of flaws causing the wine to be corked. But the Private Selection bottle comes with a synthetic, plastic cork. While I know that there is less risk of contamination to the wine from this cork there is an experiential aspect to the plastic corks that really turns me off. I’d rather have a screw cap than this yucky, plastic, pretend-cork thing. I’m not against all synthetics, I’ve come across some from Nomacorc that have a more natural feel. But the one in this Robert Mondavi Private Selection bottle is the kind that makes me cringe. I’m taking back that point I gave for the marketing smarts!
OK, we’re back on an even playing field and it’s now just about the wine.
Robert Mondavi Winery, Napa Valley, Cabernet Sauvignon
The aromatics are intense from this wine, offering cedar, black cherry, blackberry, black currant and dusty earth fragrances. The palate is brimming with concentrated blackberry and currant flavors, but the mouth feel is what makes this wine stand out. It is smooooooth. The finish is also exceptionally long. This is a very good cabernet sauvignon.
Wine: Robert Mondavi Winery, Napa Valley
Variety: Cabernet Sauvignon
Robert Mondavi, Private Selection, Cabernet Sauvignon
The nose is pleasant, although a touch disjointed/unharmonious/angular, meaning the aromas are all good aromas, but they’re not necessarily synergistic or maybe it’s just a balance thing. It offers a strong black cherry aroma, along with some vanilla and leather (like a new leather wallet). In the mouth the fruit is led by a sour cherry flavor, giving an underipe characteristic. It’s very tangy. Other flavors include a bit of blackberry and plum. I would not describe it as “smooth.” It’s drinkable, but doesn’t compare to its bigger brother from Napa Valley.
Wine: Robert Mondavi, Private Selection
Variety: Cabernet Sauvignon
Find Robert Mondavi, Private Selection, Cabernet Sauvignon with Snooth
So, the more expensive wine is more than twice the price of the Private Selection. But is it twice as good? Not mathematically speaking (based on the scores). But yes, I would say, subjectively, the Napa Valley is twice as good as the Private Selection.
Disclosure: These wines were received as a media sample.