On June 15 I read on line, “On June 18, Robert Mondavi’s birthday, friends and fans from around the globe will gather to celebrate his passion and vision by raising a glass and sharing the stories that created his legacy.”

When I wrote what’s below on June 12, I had forgotten that June 18 is Robert Mondavi’s birthday. I scheduled this for June 18, so that it would run through Father’s Day Weekend… He means that much to me… Little did I know that this was going to be a worldwide day to celebrate the legend. This blog celebrates him though his living legacy… His children Tim, and more specifically Michael, who is carrying on in his father’s footstep, as another father and son team. I wrote:

The father figure who’s most impressed me, during my 18 years in the wine business, is Robert Mondavi.

I had the privilege of working with Mr. Mondavi at Robert Mondavi Winery (RMW). Then, Robert was in his 80s, but don’t let that number fool you. I’d see him darting across the winery like white lightening. He was that agile. It wasn’t until years later that I heard of his health becoming fragile.

At the winery, while I was educating guests about wine, son Tim would pull up in his car, headed for the wine cellar. I’d point him out, and he’d come over and say a bright smiling, “Hello,” and then be off to work. I remember how electric he would be to guests. [Today, Tim Mondavi owns Continuum Estate.]

At internal events, son Michael would appear as head of the winery, to personally greet the winery’s employees. Michael would greet us all, until the last of us arrived… Always the ambassador, just like his father, standing tall and stately.

The kids (Michael and Tim) had appointed jobs. I never saw the grandkids, but one of my colleague/friends Molly married one; and I remember thinking to myself, what a gifted life she’s now going to live. It couldn’t have happened to a sweeter person.

Their family was growing, and life for us all was moving on.

The day that Robert Mondavi passed away I knew that I was going to miss that father figure. The imprint that fathers share during their lives with us, lives on… in our hearts and minds forever. Fathers (mostly) do the best they can, given their own circumstances… And so, on the third Sunday each June, we take the day to share a little extra love with our dads.

I made my husband a father on Father’s Day on June 15, 1980. Before that happened, he used to chase me around on Mother’s Day, saying, “Come here. Let me make you a mother.” I got the last laugh, and a lovely laugh that one turned out to be.

And so, I’m now looking at the next generation of Mondavis… Tim is off living his winemaking dreams, and Michael is building his own empire with wine as a producer, importers with Folio Fine Wine Partners.

It’s interesting to note that Michael seems to have his father’s energy for growing a business. In 2004, Michael established his business, and today there are approximately 50 employees at his company, with his son Rob as a founding partner.

Now, even though I’m not working for the Mondavi family anymore, I’m still on their list as their samples arrive on my doorstep. Each package ties me back to Robert, one of California’s greatest wine proponents. Robert’s in the same category as André Tchelistcheff, another one of the wine industry’s iconic figures.

Folio has brands from around the world, from places like Argentina, Austria, Italy, New Zealand, Spain, as well as many brands from the US. Michael’s living the international life that his father put before him, and enjoying many of the relationships which his father began.

This Father’s Day, I’m raising my Italian glass to the entire Mondavi family.

Opening act, starting with this Venetian gem…

  • 2009 Masi’s Masianco Pinot Grigio (RSP $18.00)

This is the estate’s exclusive blend of 75% Pinot Grigio, 25% Verduzzo [Great Wine Century Club addition for me].

NOSE: Bright citrusy nose, lemons, star fruit, just bright and refreshing without even tasting.

PALATE: Summer lemonade without the sugar, crisp without the ice, refreshing as all get out.

FINISH: Puckered so much from all the lemon that I wanted someone to kiss on the spot, and not the cat sleeping in my office. Grape seed oil on the back end. [Positive puckering, by the way, not from an overly acidic wine. This wine is in perfect balance.]

OVERALL: I loved this one, because I was actually able to taste the Verduzzo over the Pinot Grigio. I’ve had enough PG to know it’s flavors well, so the over-riding Verduzzo just introduced itself to me. Having now just tasted Verduzzo for the first time, I have a very clear idea of its flavors. It’s markedly different from a PG, but adds so much vitality to a Pinot Grigio, that it’s a gorgeous summer wine.

FOOD & WINE: This wine will work really well with dishes that have a cream or cheese sauce. Also, get ready for serving this one with a final cheeses course. It will cleanse your guests’ palates, while being really well complemented by a cheese selection. It has simple flavors, so select cheese that are a bit more complicated. (Yin Yang)

Segueing into…

  • 2006 Nipozzano Riserva ~ Chianti Rufina Marchesi de’Frescobaldi ($21.00)

This beautiful wine is the most famous wine from the Frescobaldi estate. Defining the appellation, it’s a classic Chianti Rufina, comprised mostly of Sangiovese, with small amounts of Malvasia Nera, Colorino, Merlot, and Cabernet Sauvignon. Aged for 24 months in oak, this wine’s color is garnet with edges of ruby around the rim…

NOSE: Brimming with red fruit, just so inviting.

PALATE: Black fruit and currants that are big an opulent, dripping with flavor, almost to the point of having to wipe your chin from its drippingly unctuous flavors.

SERVE WITH: Hearty red dishes. I’ve got a beef stew recipe that I loved with this one.

Grand finale…

  • 2007 LaVite Lucente, Toscana, Indicazione Geografica Tipica (SRP: $25.00)

While at the winery, I occasionally tasted Mondavi’s Luce wine, because of the relationship that existed during those days. It was gorgeous wine. The tradition continues with Michael, with Lucente emerging as the perfect reflection of Luce.

This wine expresses its unique terroir, with exceptional varieties being crafted into wine. It’s a blend of Sangiovese and Merlot, with that kick of Cabernet Sauvignon to place it into the Super Tuscan category. This wine is going to be enjoyed by my Jose today, as his Father’s Day wine. Our kids will raise a glass to this exceptional father… Thanks, Michael for sharing.

Here’s to all fathers, everywhere… My you have a very happy Father’s Day, too.

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