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Copyright © 2018
Forkmedia LLC


by Fred McMillin
for June 15, 2000


Sunday Is Father's Day

Fathers and Sons

"My father, Cesare Mondavi, was a very quiet man. His idea of a conversation was a shrug of the shoulders," said Robert Mondavi.

Robert Mondavi with sons.

Robert Mondavi with sons Tim (left) and Michael.

"My father, Robert Mondavi, always set standards that were incredibly high. He measured everything against the image of perfection he carried in his mind. He'd say, 'This wine is wonderful but...' and then go on for 20 minutes about its shortcomings," said Michael Mondavi.

Father Robert about son Tim—I found this in the California Wine Institute archives. "Timothy John Mondavi born April 11, 195l. Asked for a statement, his father, Robert, said, 'Looks like he has the makings of a good cellar man." Was Robert ever right. Tim went on to lead the winemaking at The Most Important Winery in the United States, according to last year's poll by the Wine Spectator.

The Most Popular Winery and the Most Popular Wine

Then, today's wine must be from California's most popular grape made by the most popular winery. That means a Mondavi Chardonnay, for Chardonnay production in California exceeds all other varieties. For example, our latest data show Chardonnay acreage is nearly twice that of Cabernet Sauvignon. Such was not always the case. Let's go to the winery when it was 11 years old.

Robert Mondavi with Fred.

Robert and your author preparing for program at the winery

OCT. 25, 1975: My wife and I presented a food and wine progran. Robert carefully checked every bottle (pictured) that was to be served. (Remember what Michael said about his dad's dedication to perfection.) During the cooking lesson we poured three Mondavi whites, a Riesling, a Johannisberg Riesling (off-dry) and a 1972 and 1974 Fume Blanc (Sauvignon Blanc). no Chardonnay! The sales explosion had not started. Acres of Chardonnay were roughly one-tenth of what they are today. There was nearly three times as much French Colombard, for example, as there was of the great white grape from Burgundy. Today the ratio is nearly reversed, and our white wine for Father's Day is...

1997 Robert Mondavi Carneros Chardonnay
Tim's Comments: Pear, cinnamon and citrus. Hand stirring during barrel aging added a creamy complexity.
Food Suggestions—Paired nicely with Thai marinated shrimp deep fried in rice paper wrap from San Francisco's Som Tum Thai Kitchen, (415)922-2829, FX (415)922-2481.
Data—100% Chardonnay, dry, substantial alcohol of 13.5%
My Taster's Rating—A solid RECOMMENDED
Contact—Office of Mary Ann Vangrin (very sharp; she's helped me for years), (707)251-4483, FX (707)251-4386.
Price—$23 range


So, this year's Father's Day vintner is Robert Mondavi. I like the tribute Frank Prial wrote in the New York Times a decade ago. "Mr. Mondavi put his wines in restaurants and shops across the nation, making a single fine wine label recognizable from coast to coast for the first time!" 'Way to go, Robert!

Note—Unabashed name dropping: In his Napa Wine, A History, author Charles Sullivan writes, "My special thanks for their suggestions go to...Fred McMillin, Robert Mondavi..." That's my sole claim to fame!

About the Writer

Fred McMillin, a veteran wine writer, has taught wine history for 30 years on three continents. He currently teaches wine courses at San Francisco State and San Francisco City College. In 1995, the Academy of Wine Communications honored Fred with one of only 22 Certificates of Commendation awarded to American wine writers.


This page created June 2000