The history of the family reads like a classic American success story: Cesare Mondavi emigrated from Marche, Italy in 1906, to Minnesota and worked in the iron mines. In 1908, he returned to Italy to marry Rosa Grassi. The couple moved permanently to the United States and settled in Virginia, Minnesota where they operated a boarding house and saloon. They didn’t bring much with them: a love of wine, food and gatherings around the family table. They also brought with them the European tradition of home winemaking. Four children were born to the couple: Mary, Helen, Robert and Peter. In 1922, at the beginning of Prohibition, the family journeyed to Lodi, California where Cesare built the lucrative grape and fruit shipping business, C. Mondavi & Sons.
Cesare and Rosa’s passion for wine and winemaking led to the purchase of the Charles Krug Winery in 1943. As they set higher standards for the production of quality wine, this same passion rubbed off on their son Peter, who eagerly took to improving winemaking techniques. He graduated from Stanford University in 1938, and then studied enology at the University of California, Berkeley.
Since the mid-1940s the family established and developed an extensive program to improve vineyard quality and enhance winemaking techniques. Under Peter’s stewardship, the winery set milestones for innovations – including cold fermentation for white wines, and sterile filtration techniques – that produced crisper, livelier wines. In light of his many contributions, Peter was named a “Living Legend” by the Napa Valley Vintners Association in 1995.
On February 20th, ,Peter Mondavi Sr. passed away at 101. He remained active in the day-to-day winery operations until the last six months of his life. He increasingly relied on his sons, Marc and Peter Jr., educated at UC Davis and Stanford respectively. Both are active in all aspects of viticulture, winemaking and marketing. The brothers continue to implement the vision and values of their grandparents and father with an eye toward eventually handing over the cellar keys to their children (the fourth generation) as they enter the family business. Interestingly, each of the six members of the fourth generation is showing an affinity for different roles, ensuring the family legacy continues to thrive.