Margrit Biever Mondavi (born 1925) is Vice President of Cultural Affairs at Robert Mondavi Winery which she joined in 1967. Under her direction, Robert Mondavi Winery developed original cultural and culinary arts programs. In 1980, she married Robert Mondavi and worked with him in many of his philanthropic activities including the founding of COPIA: The American Center for Wine, Food and the Arts. Margrit played a key role in securing the downtown Napa location for the center, which opened in November 2001.
Working at the Mondavi Winery
When Margrit started working at Robert Mondavi Winery, there were very few visitors frequenting Napa Valley. One of the first things Margrit did was establish a fine arts program at the winery that brought many different kinds of artists to the winery including Richard Diebenkorn, Wayne Thiebaud and Nathan Oliveira.
Margrit founded the winery’s Summer Music Festival in 1969 as a benefit for the Napa Valley Symphony. This concert series has hosted many jazz, R&B and pop artists including Ella Fitzgerald, Harry Belafonte and Tony Bennett. The Mondavi Summer Jazz Festival opens with the New Orleans Jazz Band Preservation Hall.
In 1984, the Festival of Winter Classical Concert Series was created, with the proceeds benefiting local musical organizations like the Napa Valley Opera. Together with Veronica di Rosa, Margrit and a small group of other Napa Valley art lovers formed a board of directors to rebuild the original 19th-century opera house in the city of Napa. She organized fundraising events, including art auctions, to keep the opera house alive. In 1998, the opera raised significant funds for the restoration as part of a challenge grant from Margrit and Robert Mondavi; the renovated opera house opened in October 2002.
After ten years at the winery, Margrit introduced a program of cooking classes. She introduced the Great Chefs of France and the Great Chefs of America programs that are now known simply as Great Chefs at Robert Mondavi Winery.
In May 2003, Margrit and her daughter Annie Roberts, then the Robert Mondavi Winery’s executive chef, released a collection of their recipes and stories called Annie and Margrit: Recipes and Stories from the Robert Mondavi Kitchen. In early 2004, the book won the 2003 Gourmand World Cookbook Awards’ “Best in the World” distinction in the “Best Easy Recipes Book” category.
In 1997, Margarit and her husband issued a challenge grant of $2.2 million to spur the reconstruction of the Napa Valley Opera House in Napa. The Mondavis were also major patrons of the restoration of the Lincoln Theatre in Yountville which was reopened in early 2005.
Also in 2001, Margrit and Robert made a substantial personal gift to the University of California at Davis to establish the Robert Mondavi Institute for Wine and Food Science, and to launch the Robert and Margrit Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts which opened in October 2002. In addition, the couple continue to support the Oxbow School, a new art school in Napa that gives grants to and provides instruction for art students in their junior year of high school.