The Mondavis were like wine royalty in one of the world’s great wine making regions, the Napa Valley of California. In 1923 Cesare Mondavi moved his family to Lodi California and started a fruit wholesaling business. They became prominent in the Italian American community as hard working honest people. At that time sweet, fortified wines dominated the market in America, but Cesare believed the Americans would eventually start drinking drier table wines, like those that were popular in Europe. He traveled to the Napa Valley with an eye towards buying grapes for fine wine. Napa already had a history of wine production, but Prohibition and the scourge of phylloxera had destroyed many vineyards. Cesare’s son Robert graduated from Stanford in 1936 and decided to join his father and Jack Riorda in a bulk wine business in St Helena. Robert worked as a “cellar rat” learning every aspect of wine making he could. Meanwhile his brother Peter studied enology at the University of California at Berkeley. When Riorda died in 1940, Robert became the winery’s manager. The Second World War brought labor shortages, rationing, and shipping difficulties. In 1943 the Mondavis bought the Charles Krug Estate and began selling dry table wines under the Krug name along with cheaper wine under the CK label.
After the war Peter and Robert began to clash over the direction of the winery, with Robert wanting to improve quality and Peter focusing on profits. This relationship between the two brothers continued to deteriorate and in 1959 Cesare died, leaving Rosa his wife in charge of the winery. By the 1960s Robert and Peter’s fighting came to head and Rosa was forced to make a decision. Peter was made general manager and Robert was ousted.
Robert found the means to start his own Robert Mondavi Winery in the mid 60s and hired some talented winemakers, Warren Winiarski, then later Mike Grgich to create French-style wines. His ambition to create world class red wines and bring recognition to the Napa Valley culminated in the creation through a joint venture with Baron Philippe Rothschild, of the Opus One winery.
The Mondavi brothers went on fighting and suing each other for property and control of their fathers legacy. It’s a sad tale, where family members had to choose sides and the bitterness continues to this day. Cesare Mondavi had hoped to create a business that would last for generations, unfortunately Robert Mondavi winery (including Opus One) is now owned by a corporation called Constellation.
This Month’s Wine Quote:
Our White Wine of the Month is Rancho Sisquoc, 2012, Chardonnay from Santa Barbera, California. It has Apricot, peach, green apple and vanilla characteristics.
Our Red Wine of the Month is Aviron, 2010, Fleurie, from Beaujolais, France. It has ripe jammy fruit and rich structured tannins.
Wine Club members please come in and pick up your wines before they’re gone.
Sommelier, Maynards Market and Kitchen