A Conversation With Michael Mondavi

Posted on: November 11th, 2013 by

mondavi vineyard

A couple months ago I had the chance to have lunch with Michael Mondavi, set up by Glodow Nead Communications. Naturally, I expected to discuss wine, the history of Napa Valley, and family. (I had met his daughter, Dina, earlier in the year. A recap of our time together is on Foodista.) We ended up covering that ground and so much more. In fact, Michael turned the tables a bit on me and ended up asking me some very thoughtful questions about where I was in life and what I hoped to accomplish in the future. It turned out to be a conversation that had quite an impact on me, not just as someone who writes about wine, but also in relation to my personal, non-wine goals.

michael mondavi

Michael Mondavi, enjoying a glass of the eponymous M by Michael Mondavi

As I sat down to compose a post about this lunch and some of the things Michael and I talked about, I thought, “Why don’t I just get him on my podcast?” Michael was gracious enough to say yes, and there are links to our conversation at the bottom of this post. (And don’t forget to check out past episodes of Wine Without Worry. You may have missed midnight wine-inspired cocktails, bathtub wines, and sylvan glades. Not all in the same episode. Sorry)

But lest you think this conversation is akin to an episode of As Jameson’s World Turns, fear not. It rather highlights Michael’s knowledge of wine, exploring Napa Valley from the floor to the highest vineyards, and his engaging enthusiasm when it comes to discovering new wines and appreciating old ones. Some of the topics covered:

Jam jars

Look at all these wine glasses.

  • My narcissistic questioning about the vintage of my birth year, 1972. It was Michael’s 7th harvest in Napa, highlighted by 13 consecutive days of rain in October. Yikes! Though two words Michael uses to describe the vintage are “memorable” and “resilient”. I’d be happy with being considered either the former or the latter.*
  • Cabernet that tastes like Cabernet. And what makes a Napa Valley Cabernet distinct?
  • His grandfather’s low-key summertime wine drinking involving Lodi Zinfandel, water, Mary Ellen jam jars, and a 25 pound block of ice.
  • How our wine culture has developed.
  • Pairing jambalaya and Cabernet.
  • A detour to Italy, where we discuss the wines of Dal Forno Romano, which are now represented by the import arm of Michael Mondavi Family Estate, Folio Fine Wine Partners. Their sweet wine is one of the best I ever drank. It’s in my Hall of Fame that includes all of my favorite wines, sweet or not.
  • The extremes of working in a family business.
  • Trusting your palate. “If you like red wine with fish and white wine with steak, enjoy it!”
  • How Michael discovers new wines.

One of the memorable moments from my lunch with Michael that we discuss in the podcast concerned removing the intimidation factor from wine while maintaining all of its wonder. To paraphrase, he stated we need to remove the mystery surrounding the wine, but keep the magic. After listening to this episode, I think you’ll agree that Michael conveys the magic of wine from its storied past to an exciting future.

Wine Without Worry Episode 23 on iTunes: Michael Mondavi: A Conversation About The Magic of Wine

I have a Facebook page dedicated to wine. It’s full of vineyard photos, Led Zeppelin homages, links to noteworthy blogs, and more! Please give it a “Like”.

*I’m going to find out what 1972 is like in the glass. At lunch, Michael was kind enough to offer to send me a bottle of 1972 Robert Mondavi Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. It recently arrived, and I look forward to sharing it with my mother over the holidays. Mom, I trust you read all the way to the bottom of each post….

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