|Born||June 18, 1913
|Died||May 16, 2008 (aged 94)
Robert Gerald Mondavi (June 18, 1913 – May 16, 2008) was a leading California vineyard operator whose technical improvements and marketing strategies brought worldwide recognition for the wines of the Napa Valley in California. From an early period, Mondavi aggressively promoted labeling wines varietally rather than generically. This is now the standard for New World wines. The Robert Mondavi Institute (RMI) for Wine and Food Science at the University of California, Davis opened October 2008 in his honor.
Robert Mondavi's parents emigrated from the Marche region of Italy and settled in the Minnesota city of Hibbing. Robert Gerald Mondavi was born in Virginia, Minnesota. From Minnesota the Mondavi family moved to Lodi, California, where he attended Lodi High School. In Lodi, his father, Cesare, established a successful fruit packing business under the name C. Mondavi and Sons, packing and shipping grapes to the east coast primarily for home winemaking. Mondavi graduated from Stanford University in 1937 with a degree in economics and business administration. While at Stanford he was a member of the Phi Sigma Kappa fraternity. In 1943, Mondavi joined his father and brother Peter after the family acquired the Charles Krug Winery located in St. Helena from James Moffitt. The winery had first been established by Charles Krug in 1861. In 1965 Mondavi was fired from the family winery after a feud with his younger brother Peter over the direction of winemaking at Krug. Subsequently Mondavi started his own winery in Oakville. Today, the Robert Mondavi Winery is located between Oakville and Rutherford (though its corporate headquarters are in nearby St. Helena).
In 1966, he founded the Robert Mondavi Winery with his sons Michael and Tim Mondavi in the Napa Valley with the goal of producing wines that would rival the finest wines of Europe. Robert Mondavi was the first major winery built in Napa Valley in the post-Prohibition era. Part of Mondavi's original vineyard land included the To Kalon (a Greek term meaning "the beautiful") vineyard originally established by Napa Valley pioneer H.W. Crabb in 1868. The winery bearing Mondavi's name produced high quality wine in the California mission style.
Robert Mondavi had three children, Michael Mondavi, Marcia Mondavi and Tim Mondavi. Michael Mondavi the eldest was in charge of the sales and marketing for Robert and Tim was the winemaker.
In 1967, the woman who would later become Robert Mondavi's second wife, Margrit (Kellenberger) Biever Mondavi, joined the winery. They married in 1980 in Palm Springs, almost immediately after his divorce from his first wife, Marjorie Ellen (Declusin) Mondavi.
In 1968 he made a dry oak–aged Sauvignon blanc, an unpopular variety in California at the time, and labeled it "Fumé Blanc". The wine was a success and, in time, Fumé Blanc became accepted as a synonym for Sauvignon blanc.
Mondavi successfully developed a number of premium wines that earned the respect of connoisseurs and vintners alike. In 1979, he built the Mondavi Woodbridge Winery in Lodi, California developing it into a leader of popular-premium wines. He also entered into a joint venture with Baron Philippe de Rothschild of Château Mouton Rothschild to create Opus One Winery, and since the 1990s has set up joint ventures with local partners in Europe, South America and Australia.
Interested by his work and his success, in the 1990s Mondavi's story and his wine company became topics for specialists of wine.
In the Grand European Jury Wine Tasting of 1997, the Robert Mondavi Chardonnay Reserve was ranked number one.
In 2005 Robert Mondavi and his younger brother Peter made wine together for the first time after their feud. Using grapes from both family vineyards, they produced one barrel of cabernet blend, which was sold under the name "Ancora Una Volta" ("Once Again").
In 2003, Mondavi expressed regret and criticized his sons for the business strategy that emphasized the inexpensive Mondavi lines, Coastal and Woodbridge, over the premium wines, allowing the company name to lose its association with fine wine it held in the past. He said, "We've got to get our image back, and that's going to take time."
In the 2004 documentary film Mondovino, the Mondavi family featured prominently, in close application to its theme of globalization. At the time, the Mondavis had recently acquired the Italian "cult wine" Ornellaia winery, Tenuta Dell'Ornellaia.
On December 22, 2004, Constellation Brands acquired the Mondavi winery in a controversial takeover for nearly US$1.36 billion in cash and assumption of debt. Following the sale of the company, Mondavi partnered with his youngest son Tim Mondavi and daughter Marcia Mondavi to make a single wine from a single estate at the highest level. The family partnership Continuum Estate is still run by Robert's son Tim, daughter Marcia and grandchildren Carissa Mondavi, Chiara Mondavi, Carlo Mondavi and Dante Mondavi.
Due to the contributions of Robert and Margrit Mondavi, the Mondavi Center at UC Davis in Davis, California for performing arts was named after him. The two were founders and major benefactors behind COPIA: The American Center for Wine, Food and the Arts, which opened November 2001 in the city of Napa, California.
Robert and Margrit were also founding supporters of the restoration of the 19th-century Napa Valley Opera House and the Oxbow School, a new art school in Napa that provides grants and instruction to art students in their junior year of high school. They have contributed to the restoration of the Lincoln Theatre in Yountville, California, and have supported the Cantor Arts Center at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California.
He was inducted into the Junior Achievement U.S. Business Hall of Fame in 1991.
On December 5, 2007, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and First Lady Maria Shriver inducted Mondavi into the California Hall of Fame, located at The California Museum for History, Women and the Arts.
He was inducted into the Culinary Institute of America's Vintner's Hall of Fame in 2007. The election was based upon ballots from seventy wine journalists. The decision for their election of Mondavi is for contributions to the wine industry of California during his lifetime.
- Laube, James, Wine Spectator (May 16, 2008). "Robert Mondavi Dies at Age of 94".
- Davis, Kip (September 15, 2011). "Peter Mondavi leads Krug’s 150th anniversary celebration". Napa Valley Register (Lee Enterprises, Inc.). Retrieved September 15, 2011.
- Julien Lefour, Comment les cépages de tradition française deviennent des vins californiens ?, Communications, n°77, 2005, 16 p. (Edgar Morin Center - EHESS/CNRS). Free downloading sur http://www.persee.fr
- Patricia Sullivan, "Robert Mondavi 94; Noted Vintner Who Raised Qualities of American Wine", Washington Post, May 17, 2008, p. B5. Accessed 24 May 2008.
- Frank J. Prial (July 2, 2003). "With Head Held High, Mondavi, at 90, Faces a Storm". The New York Times.
- Carol Emert (November 4, 2004). "Legendary California wine company is sold". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 2007-11-13.
- Lechmere, Adam, Decanter.com (May 16, 2008). "'Colossus' Robert Mondavi dies".
- Mondavi, Robert; Paul Chutkow (1999). Harvests of Joy: How the Good Life Became Great Business. New York: Harvest Books. ISBN 978-0-15-601056-6.
- Mondavi inducted into California Hall of Fame, California Museum. Accessed 2007.
- "Vintners Hall of Fame Inductees," Culinary Institute of America
- Hubler, Shawn (May 17, 2008). "California wine came of age under him Vintner elevated state's wines". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved October 9, 2010.
- Carson, l. Pierce (May 16, 2008). "Winery patriarch dead at 94 Mondavi passes: 'We've lost our leader'". Napa Valley Register (Napa, CA: Lee Enterprises, Inc.). Retrieved September 18, 2011.
- Robert Mondavi official site
- Napa Valley Wine Co. the story and historical documents re. Charles Krug, Jacob Beringer/Beringer Bros., and Cesare/Robert Mondavi (in German)
- Robert G. Mondavi Papers at Special Collections Dept., University Library, University of California, Davis