Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Robert Mondavi's huge legacy

So much wine envy in the American craft beer world, yet, in that small world, so little mention of Robert Mondavi's recent passing.

There was a time, and not that long ago, when American wine, mostly dreary stuff, had to fight to prove itself. And Robert Mondavi did that: not by saying that American wine was "as good'" as old world wine, but by making it so.

Mondavi did it first, and he did it for wine in America. A lesson for us in the American beer business.

I recently overhead a respected person in that business remarking that a local brewer in his early 40s was too old to consider opening a brewpub. Robert Mondavi was 52 when he was forced out of his family winery and began to build Mondavi. The brewer? He's doing just fine.

Robert Mondavi, 94, who built what is arguably America's most influential winery by improving the once-dismal quality of California wines, died May 16 at his home in Yountville, Calif. He had been in failing health for the past few years and had both pneumonia and shingles earlier this year.

Mr. Mondavi brought European winemaking techniques to the vineyards of the Napa Valley, introducing French oak aging barrels and cold fermentation. He also installed stainless-steel tanks, an innovation he borrowed from the dairy industry.

<...> "Fifteen years ago, California didn't belong [in] the company of the fine wines of the world," Mr. Mondavi told The Washington Post magazine in 1981. "Now, we in Napa can produce outstanding wines, which will give better value than the Europeans, who are limited by classification systems and government restrictions."

More from the Washington Post.

Well before Mr. Mondavi's death, Hugh Sisson of Clipper City Brewing blogged an essay about the similarities of the American craft beer world, as it stands now, to the American wine scene as it was several decades ago -- when Mondavi and others transformed it. Timely reading.

Tony Quinn manages a DC wine shop. Read here his heartfelt, almost stream-of-consciousness reflections on Mondavi.
[Once at a wine dinner, Mondavi] spoke beautifully and with warmth and sincerity as he shared many observations and anecdotes with us. My favorite was when he said : " please always remember - common sense - it really is not common."

From Eric Asimov, a friend of wine and beer at the New York Times:
[Mondavi's] vision of the good life — of wonderful food, loving family and great music, always accompanied by wine — became synonymous with the image of Napa Valley, never to be undone by the irony of his own family battles.

This Fumé Blanc is for you, Mr. Mondavi.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Comment here ...