The success story of this probably most famous Californian winegrowing family began when Cesare Mondavi (1883-1959) emigrated from the Marche region to Virginia in the US state of Minnesota in 1906 and two years later his wife Rosalia Angela (1890-1976). After a short career in iron mining, Cesare opened a saloon. The family grew with the addition of two sons, Robert Gerald (1913-2008) and Peter Rudolph (1914-2016). In 1922, the family moved to California and established a wholesale grape trade in Lodi in the Central Valley. They also produced wine for their own use. In 1943 the winery, founded in 1861 by Charles Krug (1825-1892), was bought for $75,000. The two sons shared the responsibility, Robert was responsible for marketing and Peter for the vineyards and vinification. They were assisted by the famous oenologist André Tchelistcheff (1901-1994).
The Charles Krug Winery was the first winery in America to introduce temperature controlled fermentation. After the death of their father in 1959, the two brothers fell out. The main reason was that the two could not agree on the direction and future of the winery. In 1965, the conflict escalated with allegedly violent clashes between the two (only 40 years later in 2005 was there a reconciliation). Robert Mondavi then founded the "Robert Mondavi Winery" in 1966 with his son Michael in Oakville in the Napa Valley. This was the first new foundation of a winery in Napa Valley since the American prohibition (1920-1933). The buildings were designed in the Spanish mission style with a bell tower. Peter Mondavi continued the Charles Krug Winery alone with his mother Rosa.
The new property in Oakville has been greatly expanded and now includes the To-Kalon vineyard (Oakville), which was acquired at the time of its foundation, the Wappo vineyard (Stags Leap), which was acquired in 1969, and the Huichica Hills vineyard (Carneros), which was acquired in 1988. The company subsequently became the Californian and also American benchmark in terms of completely new cellar techniques. Special experiments were carried out in barrique ageing, which Robert Mondavi researched specifically after a visit to Europe. The famous "Fumé Blanc" was created, a dry white wine made from Sauvignon Blanc (on the Loire "Blanc Fumé") and matured in barriques.
Today, top wines are also produced from the red wine varieties Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petit Verdot and Pinot Noir, as well as the white wine varieties Chardonnay, Riesling and Sémillon but also others. A consistent "natural winegrowing/farming" (with European standard of organic winegrowing) has become the defining Mondavi philosophy since 1970. Nevertheless, the most modern, innovative production methods are used, which have become popular with many other large companies under the name of precision winegrowing. For example, satellite images are used to determine the heat values of various vineyards in order to determine the optimal ripening times for the grapes. Biotopes and forest patches are planted in the vineyards, nesting birds are expressly desired.
Today, the Mondavi empire consists of a dozen different labels and companies, which are connected in a confusing and different way. These are the parent company and headquarters Robert Mondavi Winery (Oakville, Napa Valley), Robert Mondavi Coastal, La Famiglia di Robert Mondavi and Colmera, the former cooperative winery Woodbridge in the town of the same name, bought in 1979, the Arrowood Vineyards & Winery with the two labels Arrowood and Grand Archer (Glen Ellen, Sonoma County), bought in 2000, and the Vichon Mediterranean Winery in the French Languedoc, founded in 1997. In addition, there are also investments such as in Chile (joint venture with the Chadwick family, see Errázuriz) and the Australian Rosemount Estate (joint venture with the Oatley family). Together with Baron Philippe de Rothschild (1902-1988), the owner of Château Mouton-Rothschild, Robert Mondavi started the 50:50 joint venture Opus One with the top red wine of the same name in Napa Valley as early as 1979.
The vineyards comprise a total of 1,300 hectares of vines, including vineyards under contract for many years. The wines are produced under different labels with different qualities or price ranges. For the most part they are Varietals (varietal). Under Woodbridge, around 75 million bottles are produced annually, which is about three quarters of the wines. This brand represents the lowest price segment. The Twin Oaks series also produced there is the upper class. Under Coastal Wines, low-priced Californian varietal wines are sold (8.5 million bottles). Under Io, wines in the Rhône style (Syrah) are vinified. Under Vichon, young wines from the Languedoc are matured in the cellar in Oakville (5 million bottles). And under the label La Famiglia di Robert Mondavi, wines are produced from Italian varieties grown in California. In total, the Mondavi empire produces 100 million bottles of wine annually.
From the mid-1980s onwards, Robert Mondavi gradually withdrew from the day-to-day business, but retained the function of "brand ambassador" (brand ambassador). Among other things, he represented the company in the PFV (Primum Familiae Vini) family winery association. Mondavi left this illustrious circle in 2005 when he was sold to CB. His memoirs were published in 1999 under the title "Harvest of Joy". Together with his wife Margrit, he founded the "Galeria Copia" as the "American Center of Wine, Food and the Arts" in the city of Napa in 2001. This was to show the public that wine and food can influence culture and contribute to the quality of life.
Robert Mondavi probably set himself a monument with it already during his lifetime. In 1994 he appointed his son Michael as Chief Executive Officer, son Timothy became Managing Director and daughter Marcia became a member of the board. At the same time, the company was also converted into a listed public company. A major renovation program for the Napa Valley estate was launched in 1991. By 2001, a modern winery was built, retaining the original architecture, in which the grapes are moved by gravity without the use of pumps, are gently pressed using basket presses and fermented in French oak barrels.
At the end of the 1990s, sales problems arose, especially for the high-priced top brands, which caused major changes. After Timothy Mondavi had retired from the management in 2003 due to internal family disputes, in January 2004 Ted Hall (who came from the business consulting firm McKinsey) became the first non-family member to be appointed Chairman and Michael Mondavi was demoted to second rank. One hundred employees were laid off. In mid-2004, the shareholding of Mondavis was reduced from 85 to 40% through conversion. Shortly thereafter, Michael Mondavi also resigned from the management as Vice-President. The family aria came to an end.
As a result, there were rumors that Mondavi was to be split up and that the company would only concentrate on the production of inexpensive Kosnum wines under 15 dollars per bottle. This means that mainly the parent company, the wineries Arrow and Byron, as well as the holdings in California, Italy and Chile were to be sold. In December 2004, Mondavi was finally taken over by the world's largest wine group, Constellation Brands. The purchase sum of 1.36 billion dollars that was circulated illustrates the size of the deal. This caused some changes. For example, the former participation in the Luce della Vita and Ornellaia wineries in Italy was given up and both were now completely taken over by the former partner Frescobaldi.