Robert Gerald Mondavi (June 18, 1913–May 16, 2008) was a leading American vineyard operator whose technical improvements and marketing strategies brought worldwide recognition for the wines of the Napa Valley in California. From an early period, Mondavi aggressively promoted labeling wines varietally rather than generically. This is now the standard for New World wines.
After a feud between himself and his younger brother Peter, Mondavi was fired from Krug in 1965 and subsequently started his own winery in Oakville, arguably out of spite.
In 1966, he founded the Robert Mondavi Winery in the Napa Valley with the goal of producing wines that would rival the finest wines of Europe. Robert Mondavi is the first major winery built in Napa Valley in the post-Prohibition era. Part of Mondavi's original vineyard land included the To Kalon (a Greek term meaning "the beautiful") vineyard originally established by Napa Valley pioneer H.W. Crabb in 1868. The winery bearing Mondavi's name produced high quality wine in the California mission style.
In 1967, the woman who would later become Robert Mondavi's second wife, Margrit (Kellenberge) Biever Mondavi, joined the winery. They married in 1980 in Palm Springs, California, almost immediately after his divorce from his first wife, Marjorie Ellen (Declusin) Mondavi.
Mondavi successfully developed a number of premium wines that earned the respect of connoisseurs and vintners alike. In 1979, he built the Mondavi Woodbridge Winery in Lodi, California developing it into a leader of popular-premium wines. He also entered into a joint venture the Baron Philippe de Rothschild of Château Mouton Rothschild to create Opus One Winery, and since the 1990s has set up joint ventures with local partners in Europe, South America and Australia.
In the Grand European Jury Wine Tasting of 1997, the Robert Mondavi Chardonnay Reserve was ranked number one.
In 2005 Robert Mondavi and his younger brother Peter made wine together for the first time after their feud. Using grapes from both family vineyards, they produced one barrel of cabernet blend, which was sold under the name "Ancora Una Volta" ("Once Again").
In 2003, Mondavi expressed regret and criticized his sons for the business strategy that emphasized the inexpensive Mondavi lines, Coastal and Woodbridge, over the premium wines, allowing the company name to lose its association with fine wine it held in the past. He said, "We've got to get our image back, and that's going to take time."
In the 2004 documentary film Mondovino, the Mondavi family featured prominently, in close application to its theme of globalization. At the time, the Mondavis had recently acquired the Italian "cult wine" Ornellaia winery, Tenuta Dell'Ornellaia.
On December 22 2004, Constellation Brands acquired the Mondavi winery for nearly US$1.36 billion in cash and assumption of debt. Following the sale of the company, Mondavi traveled the world as an ambassador for wine.
The two are founders and major benefactors behind COPIA: The American Center for Wine, Food and the Arts, which opened November, 2001 in the city of Napa, California. Robert and Margrit are also founding supporters of the restoration of the 19th-century Napa Valley Opera House and the Oxbow School, a new art school in Napa that provides grants and instruction to art students in their junior year of high school. They have contributed to the restoration of the Lincoln Theatre in Yountville, California, and have supported the Cantor Arts Center at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California.
On December 5 2007, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and First Lady Maria Shriver inducted Mondavi into the California Hall of Fame, located at The California Museum for History, Women and the Arts.
Inductions with Robert Mondavi on March 7 2007 included Agoston Haraszthy, Andre Tchelistcheff, Georges de Latour, Charles Krug, Gustave Niebaum, Brother Timothy, Maynard Amerine, Barbara Tropp, and Harold Olmo.