A Legacy Moves On

By now you've probably heard about Robert Mondavi's death. His passing has been covered widely in wine publications and industry journals as well as national radio and television. His accomplishments were legendary and his foresight paved the way for an entire industry, the fine wine industry.

For me, his death is more symbolic. Robert MonRobert Mondavidavi and others who've passed before him (Rodney Strong, Hans Kornel, Joe Heitz) were the inspiration of the next generation of vintners, the David Stare's of the world. I can remember sitting around the dinner table and hearing my parents talk about Mr. Mondavi. They spoke of him with great respect and admiration. They too wanted to share in the dream of producing world class wines from a largely unheard of place in the world. (Remember - back then France was the dominant player and few if any other regions rivaled French wines in terms of quality or quantity.)  My folks even named their debut release, a mere 350 cases of 1972 Sauvignon Blanc, Fumé Blanc, upon seeing the success Mr. Mondavi was having with his newly coined term.

It saddens me to think about the tragic twists the Mondavi family took in the last decade or so. There are poignant lessons for families such as ours…the result of rapid expansion, loss of control, going public, spreading oneself too thin, dilution of quality, and family dysfunction. I understand there were huge rifts between father and children and my fondest hope would be that the family had heeled these wounds prior to Mr. Mondavi's passing. Otherwise, what good is the creation of a legacy without the love and harmony of one's family?

About 10 years ago I had my only Mondavi encounter. Not with Bob, but rather with son Michael. I had just developed our Endeavour Cabernet label. We were very excited about coming up with the name Endeavour (Captain Cook's ship that sailed around Cape Horn) until I found out that Mondavi Winery was also using the name for a holding company they owned. Without their blessing, I couldn't trademark the name, nor would it have been wise to continue to use it.  So, I wrote a letter and sent it to the winery. About 2 weeks later I received a call on my cell phone. I was in my skivvies in a dressing room at Banana Republic…go figure. Michael had called to say it would be just fine to use the name and by the way, could he taste a bottle! I was very happy and relieved. He sent a lovely handwritten note after, which I still have today.

I truly wish the remaining heirs much success, health and happiness. May their father's hopes and dreams continue to live on. 
| | Comments (4)


Jay Ehret said:
May 26, 2008 5:26 AM

About 5-6 years back I interviewed Michael Mondavi for a local wine & food radio show I hosted and produced. It was close to Easter and Michael said he had intentions of sipping some White Zinfandel over ice that weekend. On our next trip to Napa he put us up in his place at Silverado Resort. He was engaging, generous and humble.

JohnLopresti Author Profile Page said:
May 27, 2008 2:37 PM

The images of RAMondavi usually accompanying articles are dignified, thoughtful. Once in a local paper I saw a photo of RMondavi during his time studying in a temple patio which was nicely landscaped, in Asia, in garb looking quite the student of asceticism, lanky, and surprisingly, very energetic and distinctly optimistic. It gave me insight into the source of the passionate interest in personal excellence which he brought to US winemaking soon following those formative young adult years.

Kim (aka Wilma) Author Profile Page said:
May 27, 2008 10:06 PM

You're right. I don't think I've ever heard a negative word said about this iconic man. I'm still planning on reading Julia Flynn Siler's book on him and maybe I'll have a different opinion following that. In the meantime, we should all be greatful for his life's work...I know it greatly influenced my family and countless others in the wine industry today.

Dave said:
May 30, 2008 9:27 PM

Thank you for mentioning the other pioneers in the domestic wine business. I had the opportunity to spend a meal with Rodney Strong and it ranks as one of the highlights of my 16 years in this business. Truly and enjoyable man and one of the 'characters' of the industry.

I would be remiss if I didn't also mention Mr. Strong's good friend Todd Williams (Dr. Toad of Toad Hollow). I was saddened to learn of his death a while back.


Leave a comment

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Kim published on May 22, 2008 1:55 PM.

The Case of the Overweight Bottle was the previous entry in this blog.

A Night Out with Wine Spectator is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.


This is a blog about what it's really like to be in the wine industry...so sit back, take a sip and enjoy!

about me

our wines

our winery

our events

contact me

privacy statement

favorite posts

A Lifetime in Wine

Top 10 Traits of the Successful Family Winery

The Dreaded Family Meeting

Board Meeting Jitters

Is the Future of the Winery in Danger?

The Case of the Overweight Bottle

Wine and Dementia

Wanted: Talented (Normal) Individual for Family Owned Winery

A Sea of Wine

The Heroes of Our Industry

monthly archives


Hopes & Dreams

Owning a Coastal Cottage

Sailing for 6 Months

Getting a 100 Point Score

Favorite Haunts

Coast of Maine

Dry Creek General Store

Dry Creek Kitchen

Healdsburg Bar & Grill


Sonoma Country Antiques

Baci Cafe & Wine Bar

The Farmhouse

Istanbul's Grand Bazaar

Bad Ass Coffee

Bistro Ralph

Bits of Press

Food & Wine Magazine

The Wine News

Wine Enthusiast

Wine Spectator

Press Democrat

Sunset Magazine

Connoisseurs' Guide

Dan Berger's Vintage Experiences

Cruising World Magazine

Oprah Magazine

The Washington Post

Coastal Living Magazine

Wine & Spirits Magazine

People Magazine

SAG Awards Magazine

Forbes Magazine

Favorite Magazines

Coastal Living

Down East


Country Living

Quarterly Review of Wines

Wines & Vines

Wine Spectator

Wine Enthusiast

California Grapevine

Connoisseurs' Guide

Practical Winery & Vineyard


Vineyard & Winery Mgmt

Blog Buddy List


Hip Tastes

Pinot Blogger

All The Best

Julia Flynn Siler


Winery Web Site Report

The Pour - Eric Asimov

Dr Vino

Steve Heimoff

Start Up Ladies

Good Wine Under $20

Blind Muscat

The Wineroad Blog

Gabe's View

Wine Peeps

Vici Vino

Cellarmistress' Cellar Talk

Uncork Life

WineVine-Imports Blog

The Wine Witch


Honorable Mentions

Wilma Hits The World of Blogs
Most Intriguing New Wine Blogs of 2008
Midwest Wine Guy
Winery of the Month
Julia Flynn Siler
Meritage wines - and a fascinating glimpse into family business
Winery Web Site Report
New Winery Blog: Wilma's Wine World
Start Up Ladies
Insider's View of Family Owned Dry Creek Vineyard
The Glue that Keeps the Whole Thing Going
Atlanta Dish
Blog of the Week
Blind Muscat
The Merits of Meritage
Boston Wine Expo exhibitors, and the reason why winemakers are so darn happy