Robert G. Mondavi, founder and chairman of Robert Mondavi Winery in the historic Napa Valley of California, has enjoyed a unique and successful career as a businessman and a true patron of the arts. His philosophy, for many years, has been that good wines, good foods, music and all artforms create a marriage of all the elements of the good life, the satisfying lifestyle. Throughout its more than three decades of existence, the Robert Mondavi Winery has celebrated the pleasures of wine, food, the arts. In addition to tours and tastings at the winery and its vineyards, the Oakville, CA landmark has proved to be a creative setting for jazz and classical music concerts, art exhibits and culinary programs.
Now in his mid-eighties, Robert Mondavi and his wines are world renowned. He is a major supporter of the culture through musical performances and events that have benefited such prominent art entities as the Napa Valley Symphony, Napa Opera House and the Napa Valley Music Associates. The latter is dedicated to establishing a school for the arts for the children of Napa County.
Robert Mondavi was raised in the Midwest by parents who emigrated from the Marche region of Italy. With this background, he was greatly influenced by the traditions of the Old World, traditions that sparked a passion that in turn helped him create a revolution in the American food and wine experience.
In 1936, upon graduation from Stanford University in Palo Alto, CA, with a degree in economics and business administration, he joined his father at the Sunnyhill Winery in St. Helena and later at the Charles Krug Winery. He soon learned that marketing was as critical as winemaking in achieving success in the wine industry.
A major facet of the public relations aspect of marketing. the Robert Mondavi Winery Music Festival, presented outdoors during the summer season, features artists like Tony Bennett, Dave Brubeck, Robert Cray and Harry Belafonte, among many others. In like manner, a winter series of classical concerts continues annually, with proceeds earmarked for numerous local cultural entities.
The winery’s comprehensive wine and food program, introduced during the ‘60s, includes a private dining room, The Great Chefs at the Robert Mondavi Winery, The Robert Mondavi culinary ally sponsored wine and food events, and The Robert Mondavi Wine and Food Center in Costa Mesa, CA.
In 1967, Robert Mondavi also instituted regularly changing art exhibits, involving paintings, sculptures and photographs of featured artists in the Winery’s expansive Vineyard Room. The showings are available and open to the public without charge.
As America’s foremost ambassador of wine, Robert Mondavi is the founding co-chairman of the American Institute of Wine and Food with Julia Child, and a member of the American Wine Society (1982 Winemaker of the Year). He has served as President of the International Wine and Spirits Competition of London and serves on the Advisory Council of the American Conference of Chefs. His current mission is helping to establish The American Center for Wine, Food and the Arts, a unique educational, culinary and performing arts center, in Napa Valley, CA. The Center will be the culmination of his dream to celebrate the role of wine, food and the arts in American culture.
In 1998, Robert Mondavi received the Vinitaly International Prize and the European Wine Council Lifetime Achievement Award. The California Historical Society honored him at the 1998 “Hats Off” luncheon as a Californian who has made significant contributions to California and its history. In 1997, Mondavi was the recipient of many prestigious awards including: “Wine Spectator’s Critics Choice” Award for the person who has done the most to enhance wine’s image; the 1997 Harvard Business Association’s “Business Leader of the Year Award”; the International Achievement Award given by the World Trade Club; and the “Winemaker of the Decade Award” from New York’s Smith & Wollensky restaurant on its 20th anniversary. Robert Mondavi was named “Man of the Year” by Decanter Magazine in 1988 and by Wines and Vines Magazine in 1986.