This month’s issue of the Wine Spectator features a commemoration of the life, work, inspiration and innovation of the Godfather of the Napa Valley Wine Country - Robert Mondavi. (June 18, 1913 – May 16, 2008) I was reading the magazine today while riding a stationary bike at the gym. As I read the articles praising this American wine frontiersman, it brought to my mind my own encounter with this man who probably had more foresight and creativity in blending both old world traditions and new world advances in furthering the evolution of wine in California than anyone who has ever lived - or ever will.
It was on Monday April 23, 2001.
I had the day off from work , so I spent the afternoon in the Napa Wine Country. I was on a V.I.P. tour of the Robert Mondavi Winery in Oakville. It was a more personal tour than is what normally given and I was shown what was the new Reserve fermenting room which was under construction the last time I was there. At the end of the tour I was tasting some of Mondavi’s premium wines such as the Stagsleap Cabernet, the Oakville Cabernet, and then their Reserve Cabernet which sold for about $120. As we were tasting the wine a couple of older gentleman sat at a table near by and they were being served lunch. A man in a chef’s outfit kept walking back and forth carrying some delicious looking food and so I asked the tour guide, “Who is that over there?”
She replied, “That is Mr. Robert Mondavi.”
I didn’t want to interrupt his lunch but I thought I just had to take the opportunity to meet him and tell him how much I appreciated his wines. While I felt like I may have been intruding he was very gracious, soft spoken and he thanked me for visiting his winery. He then shook my hand and I departed leaving him to eat his lunch in peace.
I now wish I had asked him to sign a bottle of wine, but at the time I already felt like I was imposing myself on this hospitable man who made me feel like I was a welcome guest at his home.
To see more pictures of Robert Mondavi Winery, check out Erik Wait’s Wine Country Photography at: