As far as American winemaking dynasties go, the Mondavis are the Kennedys. The story of wine never reaches the mythical heights of a JFK “Camelot” presidency, but the legacy of the Mondavis is an essential thread to the fabric of America’s story. Starting with the late Robert Mondavi first building his namesake winery in Oakville, Napa Valley, in 1966 and running operations with sons Michael and Tim, you can travel time through several generations of Mondavis and encounter some of the most iconic names in California wine and arrive at the present day with some of the hottest and most interesting young brand names on the market: To Kalon Reserve Cabernet and Fumé Blanc (Robert), Opus One (Robert), Continuum (Tim & Marcia), M by Michael Mondavi (Michael), Aloft (Marc) and others.
A wow Cab for the price, the 2012 EMBLEM Cabernet Sauvignon is the entry-level bottling under the Michael Mondavi Family label for this grape varietal. There are mixed views on whether the house of Mondavi lost the prestige of their brand by relying too heavily on value-priced labels (such as Woodbridge) within their portfolio, but there is perhaps a stronger argument that providing quality, affordable wines on the market to the everyday consumer is something that has always been an authentic desire and essential element of the family’s mission. So many wineries concentrate on high-end, prestige wines only to later introduce an affordable category within their portfolio purely for profit-driven motives. Affordable wines, however, have been in the blood of the Mondavi brand name. The Emblem is perhaps the family’s fullest realization of a high quality, affordable Napa Valley Cab. This is unquestionably one of the best Cabs out there you’ll find in the 30-dollar range. Integrated, seamless, whole, great mouthfeel, full-bodied, structured, rich in flavor, rounded tannins, approachable young and ageable for the cellar—the wine successfully finds the middle ground between prestige and affordability, and hits all the important marks desired in a great tasting, crowd-pleasing Cabernet. For so many people in America, a wine that costs $30 is a special-occasion wine, and this is one wine that delivers on the promise of a great brand. –J.M.