Scope and Content
Arrangement of the Collection
Title: Robert G. Mondavi Papers
Collection number: D-533
University of California, Davis General Library, Dept. of Special Collections
Language of Material:
47.6 linear feet.
Date (bulk): Bulk, 1970-2008
Date (inclusive): 1925-2008
The Robert G. Mondavi Papers document the life and work of California
winemaker and innovator Robert Mondavi (1913-2008). Mondavi was highly influential in redefining the
place of wine in American food culture and promoting California wines throughout the world. The
collection includes extensive correspondence from winemakers, family members, employees of the Robert
Mondavi Winery, and contacts worldwide. The collection also includes biographical material, his speeches
and travel files, and information on COPIA: The American Center for Wine, Food, and the Arts.
Researchers should contact Special Collections to request
collections in advance.
Mondavi, Robert, 1913-2008
Robert G. Mondavi (1913-2008) was a winemaker based in Napa Valley, California. He was one of the most
influential figures in the American wine world of the late twentieth century. Robert Mondavi was born in
Minnesota to Cesare and Rosa Mondavi, immigrants from the Marche region of Italy. He was one of four
siblings: two older sisters, Mary and Helen, and a younger brother, Peter. The family later moved to
Lodi, California, where all four Mondavi children attended Lodi High School. After high school, Robert
Mondavi went on to Stanford University, where he graduated in 1936 with a degree in economics and
business administration. After graduation from Stanford, Robert worked for a time at Sunny St. Helena
Winery (now Merryvale Vineyards), which his father Cesare had bought in 1935. In 1940, Robert Mondavi
married Marjorie Declusin; their children Robert Michael, Marcia, and Timothy were born in 1943, 1947,
When the Charles Krug Winery in St. Helena, California, came up for sale in 1943, Robert convinced his
father to buy it. Robert and his younger brother Peter worked there with Cesare, but after their
father’s death, disagreements on the running of the winery became too great. Robert left Charles Krug
and founded the Robert Mondavi Winery in 1966. In 1979, Robert and Marjorie Mondavi divorced.
With his sons Michael and Tim and his daughter Marcia, Robert Mondavi focused the work of his new
vineyard on creating California wines that reflected the winemaking traditions of Europe. In 1980 Robert
married long-time friend and colleague Margrit Biever; their shared love of art and music led to a
flourishing of the cultural life of the winery and of the city of Napa. Robert traveled to Europe
extensively during this period and built strong personal ties with many of the winemakers he met during
his travels. Among these winemakers was Baron Philippe de Rothschild of Château Mouton Rothschild. In
1980, Robert and Baron Philippe teamed up to create the Napa-Medoc joint venture, later known as Opus
One. The goal of Opus One was, as described in a photo caption, to create a wine that "brought together
the best of France and California." The joint venture elevated the international status of California
wines: according to the Opus One website, "Opus One … became the first ultra-premium California wine to
be sold in France, the United Kingdom, Germany and Switzerland."
One of Robert Mondavi’s largest contributions to the American food landscape came about as a result of
the Mission Program. Launched in 1988, the Mission campaign was intended to redefine the place of wine
in daily life. Robert Mondavi noted:
"At Robert Mondavi, we view wine as an integral part of our culture, heritage and
the gracious way of life. We believe wine is the temperate, civilized, sacred, romantic mealtime
beverage. Wine has been praised for centuries by statesmen, philosophers, poets, and scholars. Wine
has been with us since civilization began and will be with us indefinitely. Now it is up to us to
educate ourselves about what wine really is."
Robert Mondavi was concerned about what he referred to as "neo-Prohibitionism" gaining a foothold in the
1980s. Mondavi wanted to turn the conversation away from alcohol as a vice and towards the idea of wine
as food. He worked closely with the Wine Institute, which advocates for the California wine industry, to
promote the health and social benefits of moderate wine consumption; the ubiquitous press coverage of
the "French Paradox" -- the then-current idea of a causal link between red wine consumption and lower
incidence of heart disease -– was a boon to their efforts.
In addition to promoting wine as a part of "the good life," Robert Mondavi was a great supporter of the
arts. He and Margrit Mondavi felt that visual, auditory, and culinary arts all had a place in daily
life. The Robert Mondavi Winery has been host to the Summer Music Festival since 1969 and to the Great
Chefs program since 1986. In 1997, Robert and Margrit Mondavi, along with Ann Hatch, founded the Oxbow
School in Napa, California. The school is a single-semester residential arts school for high school
students. It admitted its first students in 1999 and continues to provide opportunities for young
artists. As Vice President of Cultural Affairs at the Robert Mondavi Winery, Margrit Mondavi has
continued their efforts in art and education.
In 2001, COPIA: The American Center for Wine, Food, and the Arts opened its doors in Napa. COPIA was
designed to showcase California’s contributions to wine, fine food, and the visual arts. Three major
organizations came together to create the Center: UC Davis; the American Institute for Wine and Food;
and Cornell University’s School of Hotel and Restaurant Administration. Chef Julia Child was also a
supporter of the project; the restaurant at COPIA was named "Julia’s Kitchen" in her honor. COPIA closed
in 2008 after difficult years of declining financial support.
Robert and Margrit Mondavi have also made significant contributions to the arts and to wine research at
UC Davis: through their major contributions and support, the Robert and Margrit Mondavi Center for the
Performing Arts opened in 2002; and the Robert Mondavi Institute for Wine and Food Science opened in
2008. Margrit Mondavi continues the family’s extraordinary philanthropic leadership. She made an
inspirational lead gift to the Jan Shrem and Maria Manetti Shrem Museum of Art at UC Davis, and has
provided support of undergraduate and graduate students in the colleges of Agricultural and
Environmental Sciences and in the division of Humanities, Arts, and Cultural Studies in the College of
Letters and Sciences.
In 2007, Robert Mondavi was inducted into both the California Hall of Fame and the Culinary Institute of
America's Vintner's Hall of Fame. He died at his home in Yountville in 2008.
Selected Awards and Recognitions
Among Robert Mondavi's many awards are:
Los Angeles Times Vintner's Tasting selects Robert Mondavi Winery's
1969 Cabernet Sauvignon as top wine
||Commandeur de Bordeaux, Grand Conseil du Vin de Bordeaux
||Winemaker of the Year, American Winemaker Society
||Man of the Year,
Wines and Vines
||Man of the Year,
||Hall of Fame, California Restaurant Association Educational Foundation
||Merit Award, American Society of Enology and Viticulture
||Wine and Spirits Professional of the Year, James Beard Foundation
||Recognized as an "Ambassador" by Culinary Institute of America, granted "Master of
Aesthetics of Gastronomy" award
||National Business Hall of Fame, Junior Achievement, Inc.
||Invited to join Primum Familiae Vini
||Honorary Master of Wine, Institute of Masters of Wine
||Inducted into Bay Area Business Hall of Fame
||Honorary Degree "Associate Member of Cornell Society of Hotelmen" from Cornell
||Torch Bearer, 1996 Olympic Games
||Reader’s Choice award,
||California State Fair Lifetime Achievement Award
||International Achievement Award, World Trade Club
||Recognized by California State Assembly for lifetime contributions to California wine
||"Order of Merit of the Republic of Italy," Republic of Italy
||Distinguished Honorary Member of the Agricultural Leadership Alumni, U.S. House of
||Award of Merit – Winemaker of the Century, Confrerie de la Chaine des Rotisseurs
||Robert and Margrit Mondavi awarded UC Davis Medal
||Legion d'Honneur, Republic of France
||Ellis Island Family Heritage Award
- Laube, James. Robert Mondavi Dies at Age of 94.
Wine Spectator, May
16, 2008. http://www.winespectator.com/wssaccess/show/id/40906 (accessed August 29, 2012).
- Mondavi, Margrit Biever, and Janet Fletcher.
. Oakville, 2012.
- Mondavi, Robert.
Harvests of Joy. Orlando: Harcourt Brace &
Opus One - Our History - Our Story. n.d.
http://www.opusonewinery.com/Our-History/The-Story (accessed August 30, 2012).
Robert Mondavi Wines - History. n.d.
http://www.robertmondavi.com/history (accessed August 30, 2012).
- Sipchen, Bob. "Mondavi's Mission : Vintner Mobilizes to Battle 'Neo-Prohibitionists' but Some
Credit His Fervor to Lagging Sales."
Los Angeles Times. October 14,
1987. http://articles.latimes.com/print/1987-10-14/news/vw-9327_1_wine-sales (accessed August 31,
Scope and Content
The Robert G. Mondavi Papers consist of the personal papers of Robert Mondavi in his role as winery
spokesman. Corporate papers remain with their respective businesses. The papers span the years from
1925-2008, with the bulk of the material falling between 1970 and 2008. The collection includes
extensive correspondence from winemakers, family members, employees of the Robert Mondavi Winery, and
contacts worldwide. Among the correspondence are letters from notable public figures such as Newt
Gingrich; Presidents George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush; California governor Gray Davis;
and chefs Alice Waters and Julia Child.
The collection also includes clipping files; daily calendars and schedules; promotional materials;
speeches; travel files; photographs; and media such as DVDs, CD-Rs, and a VHS tape. The photographs
present in the collection are largely formal portraits and photographs from events, but some are images
from visits to other wineries and photographs of visiting friends. Also present are copies of a few old
Robert Mondavi's influence in redefining the place of wine in American food culture and promoting
California wines throughout the world is reflected well in the collection. There is a significant amount
of material relating to the Mondavi and Rothschild Opus One joint venture, as well as extensive
correspondence and subject-file material regarding the potential health benefits of wine. The Mission
Program, which was an effort to place wine on an equal cultural footing with food, is also heavily
The Robert G. Mondavi Papers also include biographical material; extensive information on COPIA: The
American Center for Wine, Food, and the Arts; speeches; and travel files.
Arrangement of the Collection
The collection is arranged into five series: 1. Biographical Materials; 2. Correspondence and Subject
Files; 3. American Center for Wine, Food, and the Arts (ACWFA); 4. Speeches; and 5. Travel.
Collection is open for research.
Manuscript Archivist Liz Phillips processed this collection with the assistance of student employee
Kelley Liang. Processing of the Robert Mondavi Papers was funded by generous donations from the Robert
Mondavi Trust, Margrit Mondavi, and supporting friends, 2011.
Gift of The Robert G. Mondavi Trust, 2011.
[Identification of item], Robert G. Mondavi Papers, D-533, Department of Special Collections, General
Library, University of California, Davis.
All applicable copyrights for the collection are protected under chapter 17 of the U.S. Copyright Code.
Requests for permission to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the Head of
Special Collections. Permission for publication is given on behalf of the Regents of the University of
California as the owner of the physical items. It is not intended to include or imply permission of the
copyright holder, which must also be obtained by the researcher.
Subjects and Indexing Terms
Mondavi, Robert, 1913-2008 -- Archives
Rothschild, Philippe, baron de, 1902- -- Correspondence
Food habits--United States--History--20th century
University of California, Davis--History.
Wine and wine making--California--Napa County