Though I don't carry wines from any of the companies he fathered, I believe everyone in the industry - whether grower, producer, retailer or wine fan - owes Robert Mondavi a debt of gratitude. Long a supporter of California wines, Mondavi spent much of his career inveigling his fellow winemakers to cooperatively promote wine as healthful food product for everyday consumption with meals.
Mondavi was already 52 years old when he forced a nasty split with his family winery, Charles Krug (owned by C.K. Mondavi). The resulting ill will lasted well into late adulthood for both Robert and his Brother Peter, who took the helm at C. Krug.
Robert and Peter had worked together for 22 years before the 1965 rift, which resulted in the founding of Mondavi winery a year later, notably marked by the innovated and showy winery facility (well, for the time anyway, now it seems quietly tasteful in comparison to the architectural monstrosities in the neighborhood). Mondavi wanted a facility that typified California architecture, so he hired noted architect Cliff May ("Father of the California Ranch House"). It was the first big new winery built since prohibition, and announced to the world that California wines were entering the world stage.
Over the next 30+ years, Mondavi built a wine empire, resulting in the 6th largest winery in the U.S. at the time of its 2004 sale. Over these years, Mondavi advocated the adoption of quality European winemaking techniques, including the use of French oak barrels, stainless-steel fermentation tanks and temperature-controlled fermentation to preserve delicate aromas.
Here's to you, Robert.
Dave the Wine Merchant