When most of us look back at our lives, we sometimes forget the incredible impact our parents have in making us the people we turn out to be. From an early age they help set us on our life’s course, and subtly influence our personality and tastes. However, at least in our families, it seems Mom always gets a bit more credit than Dad. . . But today, that’s going to change! We’re giving Dad his due as we look at four fathers who each had a significant impact on the world of wine, whether they knew it at the time or not.
Mayer Amschel Rothschild
An enterprising banker in the city of Frankfurt, Rothschild sent his five sons to cities across Europe to establish banking dynasties. One of those sons, Nathan Rothschild, would have a son Nathaniel who would move to France and purchase the second growth Bordeaux winery Château Brane Mouton, which he would rename Château Mouton Rothschild and found the winemaking branch of the Rothschild family that has impacted wine across the globe. Decades later, under Nathaniel’s great-grandson Philippe de Rothschild, Château Mouton Rothschild would become the only Bordeaux château in history to be elevated from a second to a first growth. An astounding accomplishment.
Mondavi immigrated to the US in 1906 and while looking for work, saw an opportunity to become a grape salesmen in the area of Lodi, CA. Realizing he had a penchant for the grape business, he was convinced by his sons Robert and Peter to purchase the Charles Krug Winery in 1943 for only $75,000. Both Robert and Peter would go on to become some of the most influential names in American wine, with Robert leaving the winery in 1966 after a falling out with his younger brother to found his own winery and Peter staying at Krug, which he still runs to this day at the age of 99! Robert was considered the ultimate salesman, and many credit his astute marketing strategies for bringing worldwide attention to California wine, specifically Napa.
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The father of the most well known Barbaresco wine in the world, Gaja founded the Gaja winery in 1859, building on the success of his family’s tavern in Barbaresco. He is credited with the decision to emblazon his family’s name in large letters across the front of the bottle, thereby creating an iconic label that is recognized the world over. Two generations later, his great-grandson Anjelo took over the business and is credited with revolutionizing winemaking in Italy.
Orphaned at age 18, Ricasoli inherited an estate and vineyard that was crippled with debt in the heart of the Chianti Classico region of Siena. Determined to restore the winery, he worked tirelessly to perfect the wine, determined to produce a wine in Chianti that could compete against the top wines of France. In 1872, the “Iron Baron,” as he was known, ultimately created what would become the recipe for Chianti wine, which included a blend of three Tuscan grapes: Sangiovese, Canaiolo and Malvasia. The winery now owned by a 32nd generation family member, Baron Francesco Ricasoli.