Robert Mondavi & the Mondavi Family: American Wine Royalty

When talk turns to Napa Valley royalty, Robert Mondavi and the Mondavi family indisputably qualify as the ruling monarchy of the Napa Valley –and frankly the US- wine industry. With an almost biblical or Shakespearean flair, the Mondavi family story of the last 100 years is one of passion, pettiness, family squabbling, wild success, dramatic failure, and of course, wine. In her new book, The House of Mondavi: The Rise and Fall of an American Wine Dynasty, author Julia Flynn delivers a masterful narrative on the Mondavi clan. IntoWine.com recently had the privilege of chatting with Julia about the book and the evolution of the Mondavi family story.

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What inspired you to chronicle the Mondavi family wine story?

“The House of Mondavi: The Rise and Fall of an American Wine Dynasty,” began as a front page story for The Wall Street Journal which ran in June of 2004. A publisher contacted me a day or two after the story ran, asking me if I would consider writing a book based on the story. At that point, the company was in turmoil but it had not yet been taken over by Constellation Brands. I agreed to write a book and found myself in the fortune and very unusual position of being able to report closely on the company throughout the summer and fall of 2004, when the board stripped the family of voting control and Constellation mounted its takeover. One of the last scenes of the book takes place at the Oakville winery, shortly after the sale had been announced. I could report that employees were crying at their desks because I was there that day to witness this end of an era in the Napa Valley.

In researching the book, what were you surprised to learn about Robert Mondavi?

I was fascinated to discover how Robert Mondavi brought a lawsuit against his elderly mother, his younger brother, and his two sisters, for his share of the family business in the early 1970s.

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