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Robert Mondavi - His Marche origins

Luigi Silvestri

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Robert Mondavi’s family roots were in our land. 

Born in 1913 in Minnesota (USA), he was the son of Italian immigrants from our region, from the town of Sassoferrato, to be precise, and although he lived his life in the United States, he maintained ties to this part of the country. Robert’s father, Cesare, had left the Marche in 1905 and moved to California where, for decades, he worked to improve his family’s financial situation.

Then, in 1940 the Mondavi family bought a winery in the Napa Valley with the intention of producing a quality wine. Robert continued to work for the company his father had founded until 1966 when he made the decision to branch out on his own, opening a winery in Oakville. This was the start of a string of successful ventures and Mondavi wines earned recognition for quality even at the international level.

In Europe, Mondavi reached a pinnacle of success thanks to his joint venture with Baron Philippe de Rothschild to produce Opus One, one of the most famous and sought after wines in the United States and abroad. Through this alliance, Robert Mondavi gave proof of his great talent and capacity to forge relationships in the world of wine and he went on to repeat this feat in other parts of Europe as well.

Convinced that in order to make a great wine, a great “terroir” is needed, in 1966 Mondavi signed an agreement with Marchesi de’ Frescobaldi (Tuscany) and thus, Luce (“Light”), made from Sangiovese and Merlot grapes, was born. Mondavi earned high international acclaim and today, thanks in no small part to his work, many California wines are excellent. Considered to be “the godfather of American wines”, he served as a role model for Californian winegrowers over the last few decades.

When he passed away last year at the age of 94, we paid a tribute to this man who, more than any other, influenced the world of California wine for the last 50 years and, we must say, we also felt a flush of pride in the fact that he was a native son, albeit distant, of our region.

Photo: 1930s photo of father, son in graduation robe and mother posing

Robert Mondavi and his parents at his graduation from Stanford University in 1936. (UC Davis/photo)

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