Monday, May 19, 2008

Toast to Robert Mondavi

As most of you know by now, Robert Mondavi, Napa and America's Ambassador for Wine, recently passed away at the age of 94. Mondavi changed the course of the U.S. wine industry which, in 1966 (when he started Robert Mondavi Winery in Oakville) was made up primarily of generic jug wines.

In 1968, Mondavi introduced Fume Blanc (1966 vintage) as a varietal. It (Sauvignon Blanc) is the grape of Pouilly-Fume and Sancerre in the Loire Valley, France, but Mondavi's rendition revealed a unique, gorgeous ripe fruit quality that was exciting to experience, and which was the forerunner of the great Sauvignon Blanc wines now coming out of California and other parts of the new world.

His reserve Pinots and Cabernets rivaled the greatest early Napa wines such as Heitz Martha's Vineyard and B.V. Private Reserve. He was an indefatigable visionary and marketing genius. I remember numerous occasions in the late '70s and throughout the'80s when he or his son Michael would open one of these great reds alongside a Grand Cru Burgundy or a First Growth Bordeaux, not to obtain flattering remarks, but to see what I thought about how they were doing by comparison. Proof of their success came when we entertained Isabel and Michael Mondavi in our home in the '90s, and among other wines served Robert Mondavi Pinot Noir Reserve 1985, Robert Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 1985 and Chateau Margaux 1985. Although very different wines, all agreed there was no perceptible difference in quality!

The next time you have a glass of wine with a friend, please raise a glass to toast Robert Mondavi. There may never be another one like him!

Written by Denman Moody, President of

1 comment:

Personal Wine said...

I raise my glass and toast this great pioneer. Robert Mondavi is more of an icon to the United States wine industry. He was a man of class, taste and was super involved in philanthropy.

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