Robert Mondavi Winery

There are few names more revered in the Napa Valley than Robert Mondavi. The late great man was not only the namesake and force behind the coveted winery, but a character who revolutionized the wine industry in California and beyond. This makes his iconic winery a must-visit in the Napa Valley.

Whether you’re an amateur wine enthusiast looking to learn more, or a master sommelier familiar with the Mondavi legacy, a visit to Robert Mondavi Winery is a masterclass in winemaking. It’s also an homage to the man who left his mark on the American wine scene.

History of Robert Mondavi Winery

The story of one of California’s most famous winemakers didn’t actually start in America, but instead in a small town in Italy. This is where Robert Mondavi’s parents were born, and although Robert was born in America, Italy would have profound influence over his chosen career.

Robert was born in Minnesota, but the Mondavi family moved to California soon after. Growing up, he worked on the family business, which packed grapes to be used mainly for home winemaking. It was his first (but certainly not his last) foray into winemaking.

In 1943, the family purchased a Napa Valley winery together, but eventually Robert chose to step out on his own. In 1966, together with his two sons, the Robert Mondavi Winery was founded.

The winery’s first release was a Sauvignon Blanc. At the time, this was seen as an almost bizarre choice, as this variety was very unpopular in California. However, Robert Mondavi’s Sauvignon Blanc - called Fume Blanc - proved a roaring success. It remains one of the label’s best-known and best-respected wineries.

Shortly after the release of Fume Blanc, an elegant Cabernet Sauvignon was added to the lineup.

1969 Summer Concert

Some wineries take decades to perfect their craft and collect any accolades. Not Robert Mondavi Winery. In 1972, the winery’s 1969 Cabernet Sauvignon was named the top wine of the year by the Los Angeles Times. It was an incredible award for a wine produced just three years into the winery’s life.

Many more accolades would follow, both for the winery as well as its charismatic owner and namesake. Robert Mondavi was never content simply to operate his own winery, he wanted to shake up the entire industry - and that he did. Through his own winemaking as well as education and other ventures, he became synonymous with Californian winemaking.

All the while, Robert Mondavi Winery remained one of the top places to visit in the Napa Valley. Despite its success, Robert Mondavi Winery never rested on its laurels, and instead worked to always be at the cutting edge of the wine industry. For example, it was one of the earliest wineries to embrace environmental sustainability, way back in 1992.

In 1997, longtime friend and employee of Robert Mondavi Winery, Genevieve Janssen, took over as head of winemaking. She remains at the helm to this day, assisted by a number of Mondavi family members.

Although the winery was extensively renovated around the turn of the millennia, it has remained true to its values and identity. It seems clear that it will remain a key part of the Napa Valley for many years to come.

What to Expect

A visit to Robert Mondavi Winery is first and foremost a journey in incredible wine. Although a number of labels have been added over the years, at its heart, the winery is a luxury producer that’s best known for its sumptuous Cabernet Sauvignon and, of course, the Sauvignon Blanc that made it famous.

The beautiful winery is the ideal setting to discover these beautiful wines. Surrounded by rolling hills and seemingly endless vines, it certainly adds even more pizazz to the experience.

Tours of the winery are available, which offer the chance to sample the incredible wine and learn more about the history and production process. Robert Mondavi Winery has long held international links, so it’s no surprise that they also offer tours in languages including Mandarin, Spanish and French.

Robert Mondavi Winery is also famously associated with art and has been since its earliest beginnings. Today, an artist in residence is generally onsite, allowing visitors the enjoy beautiful art and wine.

Throughout the year, the winery also plays host to a number of fabulous events. Most famously, there’s the Summer Concert Series. This legendary event has seen a number of amazing performers - such as Ella Fitzgerald - perform at the property. It’s not to be missed if your visit coincides with a performance!

Awards and Accolades

Both Robert Mondavi Winery and its namesake are amongst the most awarded identities in Californian winemaking. From the French Legion of Honour to induction in the Californian Hall of Fame, Robert Mondavi certainly has a glittering trophy cabinet.

Genevieve Janssen had big shoes to fill, but she’s certainly risen to the challenge. In 2011, she was named as Wine Selector’s winemaker of the year.

The wines themselves have also run up a slew of awards and accolades. The wines are consistently ranked amongst the industry’s best, notching up 90+ points from some of the world’s premier wine critics.

Just a selection of recent high scorers includes the 2014 Reserve Ta Kalon Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon Oakville Napa Valley (98 points), 2015 BDX Red Blend Oakville Napa Valley (96 points), and the 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon Oakville Napa Valley (94 points).

Wines to Try

This winery has no shortage of distinct wines, but there are two varietals in particular that you just can’t miss.

Firstly, there’s the Fume Blanc Sauvignon Blanc - the wine that brought respect to Californian Sauvignon Blanc. Before this wine came to be, this variety was known to be underperforming and underappreciated… but Robert Mondavi’s complex, elegant Sauvignon Blanc changed it all. It remains a top seller for the vineyard, some fifty years later.

Then there’s the Cabernet Sauvignon. The winery has one of the densest vineyards of Cabernet Sauvignon in the Napa Valley, and this red is famous worldwide. Their flagship Cabernet Sauvignon regularly notches up 90+ points and cannot be missed. Expect to be wowed by its intense yet elegant flavors.