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Inventory of the Robert G. Mondavi Papers D-533
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Collection Details
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  • Biography
  • Scope and Content
  • Arrangement of the Collection
  • Access
  • Processing Information
  • Acquisition
  • Preferred Citation
  • Publication Rights

  • Title: Robert G. Mondavi Papers
    Collection number: D-533
    Contributing Institution: University of California, Davis General Library, Dept. of Special Collections
    Language of Material: English
    Extent: 47.6 linear feet.
    Date (bulk): Bulk, 1970-2008
    Date (inclusive): 1925-2008
    Abstract: 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.
    Physical Location: Researchers should contact Special Collections to request collections in advance.
    Creator: 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, and 1951.
    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:
    1972 Los Angeles Times Vintner's Tasting selects Robert Mondavi Winery's 1969 Cabernet Sauvignon as top wine
    1983 Commandeur de Bordeaux, Grand Conseil du Vin de Bordeaux
    1982 Winemaker of the Year, American Winemaker Society
    1986 Man of the Year, Wines and Vines
    1988 Man of the Year, Decanter Magazine
      Hall of Fame, California Restaurant Association Educational Foundation
    1990 Merit Award, American Society of Enology and Viticulture
      Wine and Spirits Professional of the Year, James Beard Foundation
    1991 Recognized as an "Ambassador" by Culinary Institute of America, granted "Master of Aesthetics of Gastronomy" award
      National Business Hall of Fame, Junior Achievement, Inc.
    1993 Invited to join Primum Familiae Vini
      Honorary Master of Wine, Institute of Masters of Wine
    1995 Inducted into Bay Area Business Hall of Fame
      Honorary Degree "Associate Member of Cornell Society of Hotelmen" from Cornell University
    1996 Torch Bearer, 1996 Olympic Games
    1997 Reader’s Choice award, Wine Spectator ;
      California State Fair Lifetime Achievement Award
      International Achievement Award, World Trade Club
    2002 Recognized by California State Assembly for lifetime contributions to California wine industry
      "Order of Merit of the Republic of Italy," Republic of Italy
    2003 Distinguished Honorary Member of the Agricultural Leadership Alumni, U.S. House of Representatives
      Award of Merit – Winemaker of the Century, Confrerie de la Chaine des Rotisseurs
    2004 Robert and Margrit Mondavi awarded UC Davis Medal
    2005 Legion d'Honneur, Republic of France
      Ellis Island Family Heritage Award


    1. 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).
    2. Mondavi, Margrit Biever, and Janet Fletcher. Margrit Mondavi's Sketchbook . Oakville, 2012.
    3. Mondavi, Robert. Harvests of Joy. Orlando: Harcourt Brace & Company, 1998.
    4. Opus One - Our History - Our Story. n.d. http://www.opusonewinery.com/Our-History/The-Story (accessed August 30, 2012).
    5. Robert Mondavi Wines - History. n.d. http://www.robertmondavi.com/history (accessed August 30, 2012).
    6. 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, 2012).

    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 family photographs.
    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 documented.
    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.

    Processing Information

    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.

    Preferred Citation

    [Identification of item], Robert G. Mondavi Papers, D-533, Department of Special Collections, General Library, University of California, Davis.

    Publication Rights

    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