My friend Robert Mondavi would have turned 100-years-old today.
To commemorate his 100th birthday, and acknowledge how much he influenced the lives of so many of us living in Napa Valley, Margrit Mondavi, and Bob’s eponymous winery, hosted a birthday party of sorts this afternoon.
Some 200 guests assembled on the lawn at the foot of Bob’s favorite vineyard, To Kalon, and toasted to his memory with a glass of perfectly chilled Robert Mondavi Fume Blanc. Bob would have loved it.
Margrit spoke and said that her 28 years married to Robert were among the most cherished of her life.
Genevieve Janssens, Director of Winemaking at Mondavi, spoke and said that going forward, all Mondavi Reserve Cabernet bottlings would, for the first time, be made exclusively with fruit from the To Kalon vineyard, which Bob identified as being the most important, best producing, vineyard in the valley.
“Mr. Mondavi always urged us to keep improving our wines,” said Genevieve. “From now on, we will only use fruit from To Kalon in our reserve Cabernet... which is one more way to keep improving our wines,” she added.
To make better wine, to make wine as good as, or better than, the wines coming out of the Old World, that was Bob’s passion.
And boy, did he make a difference and prove his point.
I remember nights in the winery’s Vintage Room, well beyond 1 am, spent with Bob and one of his visiting Great Chefs of France, like Jean Troisgros, or Paul Bocuse, sipping and comparing Mondavi Cabernets, or Mondavi Pinot Noirs, with French selections from Bordeaux, or Burgundy, respectively.
The chefs always agreed that Bob was on to something... that his wines complemented their dishes equally as well as any wines they brought over from France, and quite a few chefs agreed, off the record in our late night tasting sessions, that they liked Bob’s Napa Valley wines more.
Happy Birthday, Bob, wherever you are. I raised a glass to your memory this afternoon, and I shall do so again tonight. It’s an ideal occasion to pull an old Mondavi Cabernet out of the cellar and thank you, one more time, for having introduced me to Napa Valley.