Officially it was a party for the 40th anniversary of the founding of Robert Mondavi Winery. The subtext was a tribute to The Man himself, who sat with patient dignity in his wheelchair for hours, in hundred degree temperatures, greeting strangers and friends alike and smiling for the camera.
A thousand people gathered under the fabled arch and campanile, and on the central lawn surrounded by Mondavi’s beloved To Kalon Vineyard, to pay their respects to the man who, in 1966, with his son, R. Michael Mondavi, founded the Robert Mondavi Winery.
Mondavi, now 93, basically retired from the winery’s helm in 2004, when the company was acquired by New York-based Constellation Brands. Although he retained the official position of winery "ambassador," in reality Mondavi had increasingly little responsibility over day-to-day affairs, although his wife, Margrit, remained active in running the wineryÂ¹s cultural activities.
At the party, Margrit Mondavi was doing the talking for her husband. "He obviously has slowed down in many ways," she said, sitting on the edge of a picnic table in a shaded garden. Asked what she thought has been her husband’s greatest contribution, she replied, "To bring American wine to the forefront. He believed in it, he was passionate, it was the right time." Then, she added, "And generosity of spirit. He helped everybody. If somebody wanted a case of glasses, a truck, if they needed a crusher, he always had time for everybody."
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