Robert Mondavi sold his self-named company to Constellation Brands in 2004, which means that at least a generation of wine drinkers knows Mondavi only as a name on a bottle of wine they see at the grocery store. Such are the vagaries of family businesses.
If they had known the pre-Constellation Mondavi, or even the pre-publicly traded Mondavi, though, the chardonnay ($40, sample) is the kind of wine they would have associated with the winery. Mondavi made his name not only by marketing Napa Valley (and, by extension, the rest of California), but by making some terrific wine. Talk to the old-timers, and they still wax poetic about the 1979 reserve cabernet, and many remember when Mondavi was about wine and not corporate wheeling and dealing.
Enjoy this wine and imagine what could have been. The chardonnay, frankly, stunned the Wine Curmudgeon with its style and complexity. I was expecting a heavy-handed, post-modern approach -- too rich, too overdone and too much of everything else. Instead, I found -- dare I say -- classicism. This is a wine in balance, with acid to offset the wonderful green apple fruit and enough oak to show it's there but not to overwhelm the wine. Drink this on its own with someone you care about or for a special occasion dinner. Highly recommended.