Robert Mondavi at 90
Copyright 2003 by Robin Garr. All rights reserved. Originally printed May 31, 2003. For more information go to wineloverspage.com.
The profiles of Robert Mondavi and Baron Philippe de Rothschild make up the Opus One label. When the definitive history of California wine is written, it would be difficult to imagine any of its principals standing more tall than Robert G. Mondavi.
Mondavi, with his son Michael, founded the winery that bears his name in 1966. In the third-of-a-century since, the Mondavis have left their stamp on just about every aspect of American wine, from creating the name "Fume Blanc" to pump life back into the flagging commercial fortunes of Sauvignon Blanc in California, to building a showcase winery that's still a Napa Valley landmark.
Within five years of the winery's founding, the Los Angeles Times declared its 1969 Cabernet Sauvignon the best wine produced in California, and they've never looked back. Some of California's top wine makers - including Mike Grgich (Grgich-Hills), Warren Winiarski (Stag's Leap) and Zelma Long (Simi) polished their trade at Mondavi, putting the winery's stamp on wine making throughout the state.
Building partnerships with top wineries in France (to make Opus One), Italy (to make Luce) and Chile (to make Caliterra), the Mondavis have built a wine conglomerate that produces 20 labels and more than 80 wines from four countries.
Robert Mondavi recently presided over the opening of COPIA: The American Center for Wine, Food and the Arts, a Napa institution that celebrates the role of wine, food and the arts in American culture.
And this, I think, carries on his lifelong dream: To make wine a natural, everyday part of the American dinner table, and to make Napa Valley wines (and, of course, Mondavi wines) that rank with the world's best.
It's a rare and happy thing for an individual to live to see the fruition of such a dream and to hear the applause of his peers late in a long and productive life. And so it is with Robert Mondavi, who celebrates his 90th birthday on June 18.
For more about Mondavi, visit the company's Website.