If he had lived, Robert Mondavi would observe his 100th birthday on Tuesday, June 18. In a way, it’s not really fair to say IF he had lived; his legacy is very much alive, not only in his wines, still atop the list of most marketable, but also in the wines of Napa Valley and California. Much of the success of wine from the Golden State attribute their status from Bob Mondavi.
I don’t know yet where I’ll be on Tuesday, traveling (again),but at 12:00 noon Pacific Time I shall pause to render him a toast. His wife, Margrit, at that time will be leading a public toast for some invited guests at the winery. Following the toast, she will oversee the re-naming of a special block in the To Kalon Vineyard to “Robert’s Block.” That same day, she will unveil the Robert Mondavi Centenary Table, designed by Frank Pollaro, for display in the winery’s Vineyard Room.
It will be the first time I have ever toasted Mr. Mondavi outside his presence. I was privileged to be with him on several occasions in Strasbourg and to have dined at the winery. I hosted him at appearances before special committees of the European Union to testify against proposed draconian wine-labeling legislation. I arranged for him to present his wines at a leading French restaurant and took heat from the chef when Margrit insisted their Pinot Noir accompany the salmon. (Afterward, the chef admitted it was a good match.)
It’s hard to believe he’s been gone for five years. My cellar still boasts his wines. My palate still salivates at the suggestion of a Reserve Cabernet. I still treasure his personal, hand-written notes. I appreciate Margrit’s initiative, as well as that of the Napa Valley vintners, to celebrate his centenary in a public way. After all, Robert Mondavi established the foundation on which the California wine industry lives today.
Wherever you are on Tuesday, please take a moment to raise a glass and say “Here’s to you, Bob.”