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By Liam Mayclem, the KCBS Foodie Chap
Margrit Biever Mondavi is Vice President of Cultural Affairs at Robert Mondavi Winery. A pioneering woman of the modern-day California wine industry, she joined the winery in 1967, pursuing a life-long interest in uniting wine with fine arts, music and culinary artistry. With the enthusiastic support of her late husband, Robert G. Mondavi, she created a showplace for painters, sculptors, photographers, jazz and classical musicians and the great chefs and winemakers of the world.
A native of Appenzell, Switzerland, Margrit was raised in her family home overlooking Lake Maggiore, in the canton of Ticino. She founded the winery’s popular Summer Music Festival in 1969 as a benefit for the Napa Valley Symphony. Headliners have included Ella Fitzgerald, Harry Belafonte and Tony Bennett..
“Wine to me is life.”
– Margrit Mondavi, V.P. of Cultural Affairs
In 1984, the Festival of Winter Classical Concert Series was created, with the proceeds benefiting local musical organizations like the Napa Valley Opera. In 1998, the opera raised significant funds for the restoration as part of a challenge grant from Margrit and Robert Mondavi; the renovated opera house opened in October 2002.
After ten years at the winery, Margrit introduced a program of cooking classes to develop guests’ appreciation of great food paired with fine wine. Respect for California wines resulted from the Great Chefs at Robert Mondavi Winery programs, especially among European chefs like Paul Bocuse and Jean Troisgros.
In May 2003, Margrit and her daughter Annie Roberts, then the Robert Mondavi Winery’s executive chef, released a collection of their recipes and stories called Annie and Margrit: Recipes and Stories from the Robert Mondavi Kitchen (Ten Speed Press) and took home the 2003 Gourmand World Cookbook Awards’ “Best in the World” distinction in the “Best Easy Recipes Book” category.
Married to Robert Mondavi from 1980 until his passing in 2008, Margrit traveled with him around the world. Upholding the family’s philosophy that all the arts contribute to an enhanced quality of life.
Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts, which opened in October 2002. In addition, the couple continue to support the Oxbow School, a new art school in Napa that gives grants to and provides instruction for art students in their junior year of high school. In 2011, Margrit was honored as “Citizen of the Year” by the Napa Valley Chamber of Commerce for her endless support of the arts, philanthropy and the Napa Valley community.
Margrit Mondavi is also a working artist and an accomplished linguist. To spend time with Margrit is to be in the presence of JOY for she is just that pure unadulterated JOY.
The Summer concert series pairing legendary artists with legendary wines continues at Robert Mondavi today. Upcoming concerts: David Foster & friends, Chris Isaak and K.D.Lang. See you at a concert this summer perhaps over a lovely glass of Mondavi cabernet or chardonnay. For now please enjoy this entertaining Foodie Chap podcast with Napa’s great treasure, the brilliant and spirited Margrit Mondavi.
5 Tasty Questions with Margrit Mondavi
1.Define your relationship with wine.
With wine, you turn a meal into a feast. You can have a celebration everyday! You can have yesterday’s leftovers with a glass of wine and it gets better, right?
2. What is your favorite music memory?
My favorite musical memory was actually in Paris and they gave a concert celebrating Opus One and it was conducted by Leonard Bernstein. The concert was magnificent and afterwards I sat with him drinking wine for a long itme just listening to an icon telling about many wonderful things.
3. Who has been your biggest inspiration?
My husband, Robert Mondavi.
4. Who have you enjoyed cooking with most?
Well, of course it was a great honor to have Julia Child in the kitchen, who then also became a friend. As I cook along, I love to cook with my daughter Annie, who is a fabulous chef and has also helped me write a cookbook.
5. At your last supper, who would be at the table and what would you eat?
I hope my family and my friends and we would have a ’74 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve and a little pasta in brodo.
Liam: Thank you, Cheers!
Wine Notes: Mondavi Cabernet 2008
“It is an honor to work in Oakville for the winery that really put this appellation on the map. Since the moment Robert Mondavi chose Oakville for his vineyards and winery, his vision of gracious living and world class winemaking has extended all the way down into its soils.”
- Genevieve Janssens – Director of Winemaking
This Oakville Cabernet Sauvignon opens with intense aromas of juicy ripe plums, black cherries and blackberries. The flavors expand to include black tea, licorice and fresh bay leaf. Broad, ample tannins remind us that this is an Oakville wine and the experience concludes with a lengthy, persistent dark cherry finish.
88% Cabernet Sauvignon
8% Cabernet Franc
1% Petite Verdot
The 2008 vintage began with above normal rainfall but then was followed by one of the driest springs on record. April frosts threatened but vigilant vineyard managers protected the crop from severe damage. Dry winds during bloom and berry set reduced yields and then, finally, Mother Nature looked kindly on our vines and provided an excellent ripening season. Because of the lighter crop, harvest came a bit early with the last Cabernet Sauvignon grapes ripening in mid-October.
At the heart of the Napa Valley lies the Oakville appellation, a district that boasts conditions perfectly suited to classic Bordeaux grape varieties. Our renowned To Kalon vineyard is situated at the base of the Mayacamas Mountains on the western side of the appellation. During the growing season and into the fall harvest, early morning fog gives way to sufficient heat that allows the grapes to ripen fully.
Suggested Retail Price: $45
(Copyright 2011 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Wire services may have contributed to this report.)