Robert Mondavi is one of the most popular wine brands in America. While the winery may be known for producing excellent Cabernet Sauvignon and the signature, critically acclaimed Fumé Blanc made with Sauvignon Blanc grapes, there is much more to be discovered about this Oakville, Calif., brand.
The man behind the label is an icon in the American wine industry, especially through his impact in introducing California wines to a global audience. Read on for 10 more things you should know about Robert Mondavi Winery.
A feud led Robert Mondavi to launch his namesake winery.
The story of Robert Mondavi Winery begins long before its launch in 1966. Mondavi’s parents, Cesare and Rosa, immigrated from Northern Italy, bringing along a passion for winemaking. Cesare moved his family to Lodi specifically because of the region’s wide availability of grapes, and launched a grape-shipping business. The couple purchased Napa’s Charles Krug Winery in 1943, and sons Robert and Peter worked together until the 1960s. A feud over the business led Robert to go out on his own and open Robert Mondavi Winery in Oakville, Calif.
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But the brothers later reunited to make wine together again.
Forty years later, in 2005, Robert and Peter reunited to make one barrel of a Cabernet blend. The two opted to use grapes from half of Peter’s Yountville vineyards and half of Robert’s Oakville To Kalon Vineyard. The wine was appropriately named “Ancora Una Volta,” which means “Once Again.” It sold at the 25th anniversary of Auction Napa Valley in 2005.
Robert Mondavi sparked innovation and growth for the American wine industry.
Launched in 1966, Robert Mondavi was the first major winery to open in Napa post-Prohibition. Mondavi employed many European techniques, such as French oak aging barrels, cold fermentation, and stainless-steel tanks. He would go on to grow the winery into a $500 million per year business. In 2004, it was acquired by Constellation Brands, the world’s largest wine company.
While embracing Old World techniques, Mondavi also pioneered new wine concepts and marketing strategies.
One major concept that Robert Mondavi pioneered was varietal labeling. Opposed to European traditions where wine was named by location (Chianti, for example), Mondavi campaigned to have wines identified by their grapes instead — Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, and so on. This was considered excellent marketing for the wine industry and became the standard for New World wines. He also helped put American wines on the world’s stage by initiating blind tastings of California wines and pioneered California wines internationally.
Part of Robert Mondavi Winery is on the renowned and historic To Kalon Vineyard.
To Kalon Vineyard, ancient Greek for “The Beautiful,” is a 440-acre parcel providing grapes for Mondavi’s Reserve Fumé Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Red Blend. The grand cru vineyard is one of the most well known in the world; it helped identify Napa Valley as a prominent grape-growing location. The vineyard was established in 1868 by H.W. Crabb.
Sustainability is a priority at the winery.
Robert Mondavi, a Napa Green Certified winery, was the first winery to receive an Innovator Award from California’s Environmental Protection Agency. The winery created the Napa Sustainable Winegrowing Group (NSWG) in partnership with the Napa County Resource Conservation District. This group hosts annual workshops on water conservation, erosion control, quality improvement, and more. To Kalon Vineyard has achieved organic certification through California Certified Organic Farmers (CCOF).
Robert Mondavi also makes a budget-friendly line of wines.
Woodbridge by Robert Mondavi launched in 1979 as an affordable alternative to Mondavi’s eponymous label. The brand offers 15 varieties — including Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Grigio, Pinot Noir, and rosé — all for around $10. The winery also produces resealable boxed wines in five varieties and a bourbon-barrel-aged red blend. It was the first major winery to use the “direct-to-press” method for making white wine on a large scale and is the official partner of Major League Baseball.
Despite Mondavi’s rich history, the team still embraces industry trends.
Woodbridge offers many new and popular wine and beverage concepts, including 500-milliliter grab-and-go resealable wines in six varieties. Its wine-based seltzers are 70 calories and come in three flavors: Peach Mango, Wildberry Watermelon, and Cranberry Apple. Woodbridge Sessions are lower-calorie, lower-ABV wines (Red Blend and Sauvignon Blanc) with just 80 calories per serving and 8 percent ABV. Also offered are ready-to-drink white wine-based Wine Sodas at 7 percent ABV each (Lemon Lime, Orange and Grapefruit) and the fruit-flavored lines Fruitful Blends and Sparkling Infusions.
Robert Mondavi Winery regularly tops popular travel websites for wineries to visit.
The Oakville winery is a popular tourist destination (booked by reservation only) and offers a variety of on-site experiences. These include a three-course lunch with a brief tour; a Taste of To Kalon featuring food pairings with Fumé Blanc Reserve, Red Blend Reserve, and a limited-production Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve; and a Caviar and White Wine Pairing. The Legacy Dinner includes a five-course menu with wine pairings from To Kalon Vineyard. Guests also have the opportunity to taste To Kalon Reserve and The Estate Collection. Outdoor patios welcome leashed dogs, too.
Robert Mondavi helped establish a leading wine education and research center.
The Robert Mondavi Institute for Wine and Food Sciences at the University of California, Davis was established in 2001 with a $25 million contribution from Robert Mondavi. The 129,000-square-foot complex serves as a teaching and research facility for winemaking. In 2009, 5,000 vines comprising 300 wine grape varieties were planted on-site.