June 18 2011
Today marks what would have been Robert Mondavi’s 98th birthday, a day before Father’s Day, which is symbolic in its own right not only for the paternal leadership Mondavi provided to the wine industry, but also the lessons he imparted upon his children, the heirs to his legacy, faithfully carried on.
On a recent visit to Indianapolis, at an Italian restaurant that belies its location, tucked between a Junior Achievement and a Wal-Mart in a part of town in need of gentrification, I had lunch with Bob’s son Tim and his sister and partner in Continuum Estate, Marcia Mondavi Borger.
We would dine that day in early April at Capri Ristorante—the progeny of an Indianapolis institution, Amalfi, both opened by Arturo Dirosa who strives to bring the ‘Old Country’ to Indianapolis. Amalfi was Robert Mondavi’s favorite Indianapolis restaurant. He was simpatico with Arturo’s authentic Italian way.
It’s perhaps appropriate that even when they’re not trying, the younger Mondavi’s honor legacy and relationships.
I expected to join a large group of people, maybe a dozen I figured, some distributor hanger-on’ers, a retailer or two and a couple of writerly types. Color me surprised (and a little bit nervous) when I found out I was their only guest.
I’m not much of a star-gazer. Michael Jordan, Frank Sinatra, Lou Holtz and, well, the Mondavi’s are the only people, aside from my own parents, that I put on a pedestal worthy of exemplary admiration.
As Tim held court with Marcia acting as the conversational re-direct when Tim strayed too far afield, as he’s wont to do, we had a delightful lunch that typified why Robert Mondavi, and by extension his family, are my wine touchstone.
Utterly free of any pretense, affable, focused on wine that exhibits where it’s grown, reaching for the pinnacle in quality, a part of the table, family-focused, and exhibiting a sensibility that is concerned with helping your neighbor and doing the right thing, there’s a lot to like about the Mondavi tradition as its carried on by Tim, Marcia and their brother, Michael, a fact that I’ll explore in greater depth in a future column.
While carrying on the family legacy is important, as they’re all involved in new projects, never far from thought though, I imagine, is the sheer impact that their father had on the industry they inherited. By donating over 40 boxes of the elder Mondavi’s papers to UC Davis this week, in a small way, they ensure that Robert Mondavi’s thoughts and ideas, as captured in his ephemera, is accessible in the widest manner possible for the wine industry’s future. I’ve appended a couple of examples below – some personal notes on business and a speech to the Wine Institute circa 1981.
To Robert Mondavi, let us raise a glass of wine in honor of him on this day, what is quickly becoming a national wine holiday.