The Napa Valley
Rob Mondavi's Comfort Food Feast
The son of Michael Mondavi and grandson of Robert, Rob Mondavi is firmly rooted in the family tradition of wine.
Rob is the winemaker for Michael Mondavi Family Estate. The company produces wines under the M, Isabel Mondavi, Medusa and Spellbound names, in addition to making the Tyler Florence Wines.
He is also, with his parents, a founder of Folio Fine Wine Partners, which produces the brands Oberon, Emblem and Hangtime. They also import an array of fine wines from Italy, Spain, Argentina and elsewhere, including the famed wines from Frescobaldi.
Since Mondavi’s wife, Lydia, hails from Georgia, his summertime menus have evolved into proper Southern-style barbecue, centered on a slow-cooked pork shoulder with all the fixings.
“I think you can have a warm, welcoming dinner and still have Italian linens and heirloom utensils and enjoy lovely conversation,” Mondavi says.
Recreate the Region
Mondavi gets heritage pigs from local grape grower and farmer Lee Hudson. The day before cooking the meat, he brines it in a mixture of vinegar and herbs. Finally, he slow-cooks it for 15–20 hours at 210–220°F.
Mondavi loves to highlight the Napa Valley’s abundance of produce. Meals might include squash and tomatoes from his garden, which he’ll season with vinegar, anchovies and feta, or a juicy panzanella salad.
While the grill’s going and the pork is resting, he’ll slip on a bunch of Italian sausages to cut up and pass around as appetizers. He’ll also grill a few pizzas to nibble on before the main meal.
Grilled Fatted Calf Italian sausage
Slow-roasted heritage pork
Tomatoes with vinegar, anchovies and feta
Mondavi lives in a house at Wappo Hill built in 1914, near where his famous namesake and grandfather used to live in the Stag’s Leap District of the Napa Valley.
The mature gardens around his house were designed by John McLaren, one of the founders of Golden Gate Park, the perfect setting for dining alfresco under mature cedar trees.
He adorns his dinner table with fine Italian linens he’s picked up in Florence through his travels. With more than 120 different hydrangeas planted in his yard, the table always includes a beautiful flower arrangement.
Mondavi loves to have a great table presentation, piecing together customized Deruta tableware with heirloom utensils from his wife’s Southern heritage. His glassware of choice is Riedel Magnum or Overture glasses, though he’s a fan of serving his dark Cabernet Sauvignon Rosé in tumblers over ice.
If Mondavi’s buddy, soul singer Chris Pierce, is in town, he’ll grab his guitar and play. Mondavi is also friends with Jennifer Nettles of the band Sugarland, who’s known to come by and play, too. If not, he’s got plenty of her early bootleg stuff, or he’ll throw on some classic albums from the Rolling Stones to keep things moving.
Villa Sandi Extra Dry (Prosecco di Valdobbiadene)
Isabel Mondavi Deep Cabernet Sauvignon Rosé (Napa Valley)
Spellbound Reserve Petite Sirah (Napa Valley)
Macauley Vineyard Late-Harvest Botrytis Sémillon (Alexander Valley)
Most of Mondavi’s parties center around a lot of wine, since so many fellow winemakers are usually around the table, but he makes sure there’s plenty of Sierra Nevada Pale Ale on hand. He’ll occasionally enjoy a Bourbon on the rocks, pouring Pappy Van Winkle’s Family Reserve 15 Year Old.—Virginie Boone