|The Robert Mondavi Winery celebrated its 40th anniversary last weekend in Napa, with hundreds in attendance to commmemorate the 1966 founding of the iconic winery. Mondavi is considered one of the grandfathers of the California wine industry. At the founding of his own winery in 1966, he believed that California wines could rival the greatest of European wines.|
During that period, Californian wines were recognized as inferior to old world wines. The French and Italians believed that no new world wine could compare to wines that had been produced from vineyards going back centuries. Mondavi proved them wrong.
Interestingly, Robert Mondavi’s parents bought the Charles Krug winery in 1943. Robert’s brother Peter became president in 1966. Following this, the brothers feuded with the mother supporting Peter. Robert Mondavi then left to start his own vineyard by buying the To Kalon vineyard in Napa Valley.
Mondavi was among the first in California to embrace several vinification techniques including the use of stainless steel for fermentation of both red and white wines. He was also a marketing genius and believed that a winery should truly espouse the brand.
Mondavi was one of the first producers to mention the grape variety on the wine label itself. This was during a time when all Californian producers tried to ape their European counterparts. Over the years his winery grew in fame. He also entered into a joint venture the Baron Philippe de Rothschild of Château Mouton Rothschild to create Opus One Winery. This was a crowning achievement for me as through that partnership he proved that a Californian wine maker was the equal of a European one. Since the 1990s has set up joint ventures with local partners in Europe, South America and Australia.
In the Grand European Jury Wine Tasting of 1997, a panel of European experts blind tasted three vintages (1989, 1992 and 1994) of 27 Chardonnays from seven countries. Seventy percent were from France. All other countries were represented by one wine except for Australia, which had two entries. Ranked number one in the wine competition was Robert Mondavi Chardonnay Reserve.
On December 22, 2004, Constellation Brands acquired the Mondavi vinery for nearly US$1.36 billion.