It all started in 1966, when Robert Mondavi arrived in Napa declaring that he could make wines that could stand up in the company of fine wines. In 1967 he released the Robert Mondavi Fumé Blanc, a term he invented. The following year it was Cabernet Sauvignon and it wasn’t much longer before one of the largest and most well-known wineries in Napa was established.
Robert Mondavi’s parents emigrated from Italy, but he was actually born in Minnesota. The Midwestern boy went back to his roots to build a winery that was about more than the drink, it was about his love of food and art. He called in architect Cliff May to put together “California Ranch and Frank Lloyd Wright Modern,” according to Visitor Center Manager Jocelyn Hoar. There was also a Vineyard Room created with an entertainment concept in mind to showcase the French cuisine that was becoming popular in the 1960s and 70s. Mondavi invited friend Julia Child along with other chefs to the “Great Chefs Program.” It would continue for many years, showing the public Robert Mondavi wines with gourmet food.
Even though the Robert Mondavi Winery was purchased by Constellation Wines in 2001, the traditions and family involvement continue. There are still food events at the Robert Mondavi Winery as part of special events. Their popular Garden to Table Brunch allows visitors to gather and prepare their own food. Art and music were other loves of Robert Mondavi, who died in 2008, and his family continues the tradition. The art exhibits at the winery change every two months and concerts take place throughout the year at the vineyard.
In the end, it is about the wine at Robert Mondavi and you will find no shortage here, with over a dozen varietals of grapes grown here. It is worth the trip as you will find a selection of wines, like the 2008 Pinot Noir, a smooth blend with hints of vanilla and nutmeg, that are only sold at the winery and to winery club members. It is also a good place to try their more expensive “spotlight” wines, like the Stags Leap District Cabernet Sauvignon, a rich wine with dry fruit notes.
The Robert Mondavi Winery is located in the town of Oakville, within the Napa Valley. It is open for visitors every day except major holidays. There is a charge for tours, which include tastings. Check the winery website for current pricing and details, as well as special food, education and music events.