One of our top wine picks recently was the 50th
anniversary wine from Robert Mondavi, probably the most renowned winery
in California's Napa Valley.
The 50th anniversary is an important milestone to be sure, but
longevity alone is not what makes the occasion significant. Many among
the current generation of California wine enthusiasts weren't born yet
when Robert Mondavi parted ways with the family winery, Charles Krug,
and founded his namesake winery in 1966.
It was a time when California wine was regarded with suspicion and
seldom found on the best restaurant wine lists of the day. Mondavi made
it his mission in life to bring California wine to the best tables in
Toward that end, he hit the road, zigzagging across America with his
first cabernet sauvignons. His favorite tactic was the head-to-head
tasting during which Mondavi would sit down in a top-notch restaurant
with a major influencer and challenge that person to order any wine he
or she desired off the wine list.
They would then taste the two wines side by side. More often than not
the other wine was a famous French red, either a Bordeaux or Burgundy.
The objective wasn't necessarily to "win" the tasting as much as it was
to prove the Mondavi cabernet belonged in such refined company. Rest
assured, however, Mondavi won its share of the tastings.
Robert, never the winemaker, made his mark as the most dogged
salesman in the history of California wine. More than anyone before or
since, he put California wine on the map and made it fashionable in the
toniest restaurants and wine shops.
Thus, this 50th anniversary of the Mondavi winery is also the 50th anniversary of the modern era of California wine.