I’ve been spending a lot of time lately preparing for a trip to Oregon’s Willamette Valley wine country and it’s showed up by the scarcity of blog posts. More on the trip in a later post, let’s catch up on at least a couple of really easy to find wines.

Robert Mondavi 2008 Napa Valley Cabernet – Betty Crocker, Campbell’s Soup, Coca Cola, and Budweiser are all such iconic and classic brand names. Sometimes we have to go back to those brands to remember just how darn good they consistently are each and every time.

I sort of feel that way about Robert Mondavi wines. I have has several through the years and feel like I should blush to admit I had never had Mondavi Cabernet – his flagship wine. I got a bottle of his Napa Valley Cabernet as a trade sample recently and had it over the weekend with a bone-in rib steak I charred on the grill.

The wine, just like the name, is an American classic. It’s 85 percent Cabernet, 7 percent Merlot, 5 percent Cabernet Franc, 2 percent Syrah, and 1 percent Petit Verdot. The wine is big, smooth with a really nice texture and rich finish. Year in and out the Napa Cab gets a consistent 90-91 points from the major scoring publications.

I got hints of dark fruit flavors, particularly cherry, with beautiful balance. Now, before you think I’m going to gush on … this wasn’t the best Cabernet I’ve had for the price point. The Mondavi Cab was really good. Turning to Mondavi is a bit like stopping at Wendy’s or McDonalds on the interstate. You know exactly what you’re going to get! Good quality and value in a respected name is nothing to sneeze at.

(Robert Mondavi 2008 Napa Valley Cabernet, $28, Trade Sample – you’re most likely going to find it around $20 or even less. Recommended.)

Georges Duboeuf 2010 Moulin-A-Vent – It’s exciting to get wines not yet released for sale to the general public – a perk of wine writing I suppose. I recently got a shipment of several of the iconic Beaujolais producer’s Cru Beaujolais wines.

George Duboeuf grew up a peasant boy into the Beaujolais region’s major negociant. (Neogicant is a wine merchant who purchases wine from much smaller producers and sells them under his own label.) While his name may not equal some of those in Bordeaux, Duboeuf’s wines have probably graced more dinner tables than most French Chateau’s namesakes.

The Moulin-A-Vent was very smooth and pleasingly light with grilled hamburgers on the Fourth of July! After all, the French were our major ally in the Revolutionary War. That makes Beaujolais and burgers a perfect pairing! It had hints of smoke and soft dark fruit. It did not feature the earthy characteristics that are often much-sought after in French wine but can be a bit gamey in Beaujolais.

The Cru Beaujolais wines are the area’s best. As I’ve written before, forget the Nouveau at Thanksgiving time and try the Cru wines and you’ll be a gamay grape fan!

(Georges Duboeuf 2010 Moulin-A-Vent, $16, Trade Sample, Highly Recommended)

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