Something about the widely panned 2011 vintage in Napa brought out something special in what is, perhaps, America’s single most classic wine. If overcoming the challenge of deafness or blindness is partly responsible for the genius of Beethoven or Ray Charles, respectively, then perhaps, to a lesser extent, the challenges of the abysmal 2011 growing season in Napa is responsible for a ROBERT MONDAVI Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve To Kalon Vineyard that truly stands apart from bottlings in prior years or after (we rate the current 2012 bottling—possessing a much darker, more serious alter ego—95 pts).
Just from the aromas of the 2011 bottling alone, you can tell that what’s in the glass is something of supreme elegance and stature. It’s a stature that no longer needs to be earned–2016 marks the 50th anniversary of the winery which Robert Mondavi built that changed Napa Valley, and Napa Valley Cabs, forever. You might say that Robert Mondavi is to Napa Valley as Orson Welles is to film. Mondavi’s To Kalon Vineyard Reserve Cab is Welles’ Citizen Kane. Stature is already built into each bottling of the Reserve, it’s just that 2011 brings out such dazzling and intoxicatingly attractive aromatics in the wine: the freshest of blackberries, a touch of exoticism in purple fruit and lavender, and violets in bloom—all surrounded by the dark tones of espresso. When the wine touches the palate is when a certain forwardness of red berries and currants emerge from the mix—the 2011 vintage coaxes out this distinctive characteristic in the wine’s fruit profile. And, oh, that texture! So special, so supple and silky smooth—enchantment so as to lull you into a dream-state like a spell in a magical fairy tale. Sure, you can wait several more years, but this Sleeping Beauty has been awoken. Fruit quality, structure, power and delicacy, finesse, grace, and length—this kind of extraordinarily balanced Reserve may never happen quite like this again. Simply astonishing in its craftswomanship. The number 2011 strikes fear and dread in the hearts of many a minion in the kingdom of Napa. Wine Spectator gives this wine a rating of 92. That’s just blasphemous tyranny. We say, lightning in a bottle rarely strikes more than once. –J.M.