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Tim's Wine Market

Yesterday I was sitting in the back yard with my wife, grilling a couple of tenderloins and sharing a bottle of wine when the news came across my iPhone that Robert Mondavi had passed away at the age of 94. (For you wives who cannot believe I was even looking at my iPhone at that moment, let me explain my wife was taking a phone call and I was just clearing out old messages.) With the wind blowing across the flower garden and the sun setting over my shoulder I took a moment to say a silent prayer for Mr. Mondavi and acknowledge that a lot of what I have accomplished in life would not have been possible without the foundation he laid.

That statement may come as a shock to those of you who know me. I have spent an entire career buying and selling wines that are not, “run of the mill, Mondavi-like wines,” but the truth is that without the innovations he spurred in the 1970’s the wine culture would not be what it is today. Before him there were few stainless steel fermentors used in wineries. Small oak barrels were rare and don’t forget he almost single handed promoted varietal labeling. He may have not been the innovator of all of these changes but he promoted them, sold them to the American public and raised expectations to those standards. Sure the Gallo boys surpassed him in the size of production and many other wineries made better wine, but no one increased the awareness of fine wine the way Mondavi did. And think of the culture that grew out of his efforts. Napa restaurants like Mustards Grill starting using local, organic product to create light, elegant meals and founded a whole genre we used to call California Cuisine. Turn on any FoodTV program and you see the impact of that revolution today.

So one day soon, go into the cellar and pull out a great bottle of wine. Prepare a nice meal, open the wine and take a moment to reflect on what Robert Mondavi has done for American culture. Wolfgang Puck may be the man who tells us to, “live, love and eat” but it is Robert Mondavi that gives us the reason.