Yes, this is late.  Two and a half months to be exact. 

By some standards it may seem a day late and a dollar short writing a tribute to someone I didn’t even know.

But for me, the words needed to be right.  It took a while for them to come.

Robert Mondavi’s death did not come as a shock to me, considering his age, but it did stop me in my tracks and cause me to pause on the indirect affect he has had on my life.

As part of the wine industry I am grateful to be the beneficiary of some of this wine patriarch’s greatest gifts.  It is through his passion, his incredible work-ethic, his insatiable restlessness to per-fect all things wine and his ambitious goal-setting that much of the American wine industry evolved into what it is today.  Yes, of course there were other fledglings in the beginning too, but none like Robert.

Robert Mondavi was a legendary American vintner, a pioneer of sorts and probably the most important if not influential person in the United States wine industry.

There is no doubt Robert Mondavi was at the epicenter of what is now a very prized and successful business here in the states, especially in California.  Through his eyes he saw the potential of the Napa Valley and set in motion the beginning of what is now one of the world’s greatest winemaking regions.  It took incredible forethought and tenacity to make that happen.  He accomplished it.

Mondavi’s gifts were many.  It is difficult for me to narrow them down to a few worthy accomplishments.  However, I would love to thank him for what I feel are his most memorable contributions to the wine world today.

Robert, thank you for never conforming to a cookie-cutter way of thinking.  While so many other vintners during your time were set on making cheap, uninteresting jug wine you had better ideas.  Your expertise in matching grape varieties to specific growing sites and conditions changed the character of California wine, elevating it to levels never thought possible.

Thank you for believing in your own wines enough to ambitiously taste them blind against wines from top French producers.  Your wines spoke for themselves, an incredible eye-opener for the wine industry as a whole.  In your own way, you leveled the playing field.

Your pioneering spirit and willingness to try new wine blends using varying processing methods brought about new styles of wine.  Thank you for introducing and making successful a new blend, Fumé Blanc, as a result of your efforts.

Thank you for your constant craving to move forward technologically; trying new techniques to improve old ways of doing things.  You were never afraid to leave old traditions behind if it meant finding a better way to craft a superior wine.

You believed wine was for everyone not just the wealthy.  You showed others how to incorporate it into daily living and to be enjoyed with meals, something Europeans had done for years.  Thank you for your non-elitist attitude in regards to this beverage.

Mostly, thank you for having the vision of sharing information, knowing it was not just important for you to do well but all of your colleagues too. 

Thank you for making one of the largest private donations to my alma mater, the UC Davis Department of Viticulture & Enology.  The new building, winery and laboratories currently being built immortalize your conviction that each new generation of winemakers must train the next ones.  As I have benefited from the teachings of others, I too hope to pass on my knowledge to those who come after me.

Thank you, Robert Mondavi, for the risks you took, the failures you endured and the victories you triumphed.  It was your knowledge and perseverance in this industry that wine professionals, wine enthusiasts and wine consumers today have a lot to be thankful for.  I know I am.

“Wine to me is passion.  It’s family and friends.  It’s warmth of heart and generosity of spirit.  Wine is art.  It’s culture.  It’s the essence of civilization and the art of living…When I pour a glass of truly fine wine, when I hold it up to the light and admire its color,when I raise it to my nose and savor its bouquet and essence, I know that wine is, above all else, a blessing, a gift of nature, a joy as pure and elemental as the soil and vines and sunshine from which it springs.”‘
-Robert Mondavi, Harvests of Joy

I invite all of you, from everywhere, to join me in raising a glass to a man who has had such a positive influence on an industry he so passionately loved.

Thank you for paving the way for the rest of us.


Robert G. Mondavi
June 18, 1913 – May 16, 2008

Post a Comment


  1. Leah Q 1

    well said….

  2. Beautiful tribute Cathy. I raise my glass to him as well…

  3. Cheers…

  4. JulenaJo 4

    Beautiful elegy. Mondavi made a difference. Back in the 70s and 80s when my interest in food and wine first sparked I remember scouring wine stores and literature and being impressed by the labels, advertising–the marriage of artwork, text and recipes–as well as the quality of Mondavi wine. He did for American wine what James Beard did for American cuisine. I do raise a glass.

  5. Barbara with a T 5

    Very well written. I am thankful for Bob’s endeavors and thank you for pointing them out to us.

  6. Kiki 6

    That was lovely. I enjoyed reading about Bob & all the families that grew Napa into the wine region it is now in the book Napa I’m sure you have read it, but if you haven’t go get it! It is fascinating!

    Will return to posting soon. I think… :)

  7. I had no idea he had passed away. What you wrote was beautiful and very touching. I raise my glass to Robert.

  8. WTG Bob!

    I love the Mondavi wines.

  9. Marcy 9

    Nice tribute Cathy.
    Please go my blog, my BFF is holding a contest and she asked me to get the word out for her:))

  10. Cheryl 10

    Lovely, lovely eulogy. I will indeed raise a glass in his honor/memory…suppose I’d better wait ’til afternoon…. ;)

  11. I don’t know anything about wine–but it sounds like he had an amazing life and made an incredible contribution to the wine industry.

    Just curious–what did you think of that movie Mondo Vino? It’s been a long time since I saw it, but I seem to remember it being “down” on Mondavi

  12. James 12

    Unbelievable career, great contributions. Thank you Mondavi, we appreciate your vision.

  13. Mike 13

    It would be hard to imagine the state of wine without his contributions. I imagine we’d all be drinking imports exclusively…or trying to make it ourselves in our backyard, lol. Good tribute

  14. Sorry to be all light on such a wonderful and serious post, but,

    Hi. I’m back. :)

  15. Kristen 15

    Cheers. This is a fantastic tribute. Well done!

  16. Candy 16

    In the early 80s, when I was in my early 20s and trying to decide if I even liked wine or not, I tried a glass of Mondavi’s Chenin Blanc. No idea what year the bottle was. I loved it. I was hooked. I was saddened by his death.

  17. Very nice tribute!

  18. Daisy 18

    Thank you for the introduction. I realize that a tribute of this kind is more for those who were familiar with the person who has passed, but I enjoyed reading about someone influential in wine history… actually, even the larger, history-in-general. Thank you!

  19. tj 19

    …Beautifully written…”Cheers”…

    …Blessings… :o)

  20. krysta 20

    when he passed away, i noticed you didn’t do a post on him which i found strange… he is the godfather of the american wine making, i’m glad you did such a beautiful post about him.

    i still think he’s a really good looking man!

  21. I have the same birthday as him. Interesting.

  22. Liz C. 22

    Very sad to see the end of an era and the man. Who knows what will happen when the family inherits it all. I hope he instilled his beliefs in them as well.

  23. Simply put and simply beautiful.

    Cathy, you are a gem. I am learning so much from you. You carry the Mondavi spirit of winemaking, I see.

    I raise my glass along with you … and to you. : )

  24. ALF 24

    I went to a winery this weekend. I thought you would be proud.

  25. Egghead 25

    This is a wonderful tribute. I didn’t know all this about him so I learned something very interesting. Nice job!

  26. What a nice tribute that only a person with your knowledge could give.

  27. Syrie 27

    Beautifully written.Thank you for sharing this.

  28. giz 28

    What a great tribute Cathy – I’m so sure he would have felt entirely humbled by youo words.

  29. Sarah 29

    My kid is entering the viticulture program at UCD in the fall! Thanks Bob!

  30. Dragon 30

    R.I.P., Mr. Mondavi.

  31. jules 31

    MentalPMama, TSannie and I have been saluting him every night since then…haha…May he cheers in peace:)

  32. Rayrena 32

    Very lovely tribute. I learned a lot about his influence on the California wine industry. Sounds like an amazing person.

  33. Well written Cathy. Very nicely put.

  34. Salud, Mr. Mondavi.

  35. melly~ 35

    I hadn’t heard. I’ve enjoyed many a bottle of Robert Mondavi, to be sure. Nice eulogy, Cathy. Bravo.

    Here’s to you, Bob. Thanks a million.

  36. Tipper 36

    A very touching tribute.

  37. Thank you for such a nice tribute!
    I have wanted to post something about it as well but you’ve done so with such ELOQUENCE and THOUGHTFULNESS!
    Here, here!

  38. Maureen 38

    Very well written.

    I think we will have the Mondavi Fume Blanc that’s lingering in the wine fridge tonight. :) Thanks for the reminder and lovely tribute.

  39. Cathy,

    A nice tribute. While I didn’t know him personally my family is involved in the napa wine industry located closely to his original vineyards. I was fortunate enough to dine at the French Laundry a few years back and brought a bottle of 1975 Reserver Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon my father gave me. The wine totally outshined the dinner and I am not kidding. That bottle represented everything about California winemaking in a bottle and Robert’s influence on food is as large as it is wine.


  40. Josh 40

    I’ll add to the chorus! A great tribute to a great man, and in my opinion the timing is perfect. Sometimes we say our kind words and then slowly, gently begin to forget. It was nice to be reminded again what an inspiration Robert was.



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