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Remembering Robert Mondavi

On Friday, Robert Mondavi passed away, and throughout the weekend, myriad memorial articles followed the death of the man called the wine patriarch of California. Though most of the pieces below share similar biographical recaps of his life (which frankly, reads like a Hollywood script), and here are some choice highlights from the various publications:

1) On His Rise: "Mr. Mondavi primarily made his name as a marketing mastermind, especially after his decision in 1968 to make wine from Sauvignon Blanc, at the time an obscure varietal, in oak barrels. Recognizing the appeal of a fancy name, Mr. Mondavi christened the wine 'Fumé Blanc' and watched sales skyrocket." [Chron]

2) On Competition: "Rivals occasionally resented his innate gift for public relations. Some complained that he took too much credit for shaping the industry and Napa Valley. Others contended that he took too little blame for the elitism and commercialism that eventually vexed both, and snidely nicknamed his Opus One winery 'O Pious One.'" [LAT]

3) From the Chancellor of UC Davis: "We at UC Davis wish to pay tribute to a magnificent man of compelling vision, Robert Mondavi ... Much has been written about his entrepreneurial spirit. Indeed, we at UC Davis have been honored by our association with Mondavi and our parallel paths of progress and innovation. In 2001, Mondavi and his wife, Margrit, gave $25 million to help establish the Robert Mondavi Institute for Wine and Food Science, which is scheduled to open in October, and $10 million to help launch the Robert and Margrit Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts, which opened in 2002 and is now a regional performing arts landmark." [Chron]

4) On good living: An Italian immigrant’s son, Bob Mondavi, as he chose to be called, battled puritanical tradition, a hidebound wine industry, a skeptical public and even opposition within his own family as he fashioned himself into a symbol of America’s mid-century affluence and cultural coming of age. With other promoters of good living like Julia Child and Alice Waters, he tried to lead the country away from shopworn Old World ways, insisting that Americans were second to none in creating elegance and enjoying it. Few did that better than he: he lived like royalty." [NYT]

5) On his legacy: "I believe that he was a good man and an earnest believer in the value of wine, food and community. I think it's regrettable that over the last 20 years his company had to balloon to an outrageous size, exploiting the name Mondavi by incorporating brands and countries of such diverse geography and quality that it served to undermine the very basic message of the simple, good life through gastronomy and agriculture about which he had always reputedly evangelized about. Nevertheless, it's hard to find anyone in Napa who wasn't in some way touched by his generosity--in time, advice, and money for charitable projects--and his belief in the spirit of wine and friendship." [7x7]

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