You hear the name Mondavi, and you think: generational wines, the Napa Valley and maybe even internal family strife.
But the fourth generation of Napa Valley’s infamous wine family has had enough of the bad blood. After years of separation thanks to heavy grudges held by their grandfathers, the grandkids have said, “Basta.”
They are the closing the family circle and making wine together -- as their Italian immigrant great-grandparents intended.
Quick timeline -- because you need a family tree.
In 1943, Cesare and Rosa Mondavi bought the Charles Krug Winery, Napa Valley’s first winery, which was founded in 1861.
Their boys, Robert and Peter, ran the winery, though they constantly disagreed on business decisions. One day in 1965, they got into a massive argument, so intense that it literally came to fists and required the courts to sort things out.
Peter stayed with Krug, but Robert was exiled from the business.
And their families stopped speaking.
- In 1966, Robert opened the eponymous Robert Mondavi Winery. He had four children. Michael, his oldest son, (who started Folio Wines and was recently named Wine Enthusiast’s Wine Person of the Year) has two kids, Rob and Dina. They are the fourth generation of Mondavi winemakers.
- Peter continued to run Krug with his two boys, Marc and Peter, Jr. Marc has four daughters, and his eldest Angelina, is also a fourth-generation winemaker.
But young winemakers Rob and Angelina grew up not knowing each other thanks to their stubborn grandfathers. (I’m Sicilian; I had one of those too.)
Basta -- It’s time for wine.
But all that changed when Morton’s Steakhouse asked the third-generation Mondavi families to produce a wine together. Thankfully, they agreed. Siamo Insieme -- which means, “we are together” in Italian -- was created. It was a rare 27-liter bottle (equivalent to three cases of standard bottles) of a cabernet sauvignon-based blend.
The bottle was auctioned off, and the $6,000 proceeds were donated to the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
Morton’s then wanted the fourth generation to continue the project.
“The rest of the family was hesitant to be involved, so Angelina and I took it on ourselves,” says Rob.
“We didn’t know a lot about each other when we started. But through that process, we realized we should work together more,” says Angelina.
Both families were still telling the same story -- that there was a long lineage and passion for great wines.
And it was high time they told that story together.
Only look forward now.
I had the great pleasure of having lunch them recently, and an outsider would think they were brother and sister -- they seemed to know each other so well.
But Angelina says they are “still learning each others personalities.”
And while Rob is 10 years older, he showed much deference to Angelina and called her a rock star winemaker.
With good reason. She has worked around the world already, often times participating in dual harvests in Napa and Australia in the same year.
She now is heavily involved in her families projects, including Dark Matters Wines, which she works on with her three sisters, and Aloft, a high-end, small-production cabernet that is under the guidance of another rock star winemaker, Thomas Rivers Brown.
And Rob is knee-deep in his family’s portfolio as well. He is president of winemaking for the Michael Mondavi Family Estate. He makes wine under the Isabel Mondavi, Emblem, Animo and “M” by Michael Mondavi labels.
But the two oldest grandkids of Robert and Peter still wanted to make their own place, says Angelina.
So the Morton’s project morphed into Fourth Leaf Wines, a limited production joint venture between Rob and Angelina.
The grapes for the recently released 2011 wine are sourced from each of their family’s properties -- 50 percent from Angelina’s and 50 percent from Rob’s.
Together, the wine is beautiful.
We can all learn from our young.
Many of the fourth generation are still young, in college and out learning different aspects of the business. But there is hope that all return home and continue what Rob and Angelina have started.
“Everyone has preconceived notions and thinks they know us -- but they don’t,” says Angelina.
The fourth generation is ready to show the world that they are a force to be reckoned with.
And their wines prove it.
It’s funny, people often think they can learn from their elders. In this case, it is the Mondavi youth that is teaching the world a lesson.