On Wednesday, September 7th, 2016, world-renowned artist, epicurean, and wine enthusiast Margrit Mondavi passed away. To those of you outside the wine world, her name might sound familiar, or at least her last name might. She was the wife of Robert Mondavi, one of the “founders” of Napa Valley Wine and a pioneer in his own right.
While the tradition of women working in wine certainly didn’t begin with Mrs. Mondavi, she did have quite a hand in shaping how women evolved into the American wine industry. French winemaker Veuve Clicquot (in French, “the widow Clicquot”, and actually named Barbe-Nicole Ponsardin) broke onto the scene as France’s first female Champagne producer.
Margrit Mondavi continued, in a way, Clicquot’s mission of female inclusion in the wine industry, though she did it through the inclusion of art, food, and music in the industry: facets that her late husband ignored, but that she insisted were necessary for the full enjoyment of wine. She began a summer music program at the Robert Mondavi Winery (the most recent of which, celebrating 50 years of the winery’s existence, featured Ingrid Michaelson, O.A.R., Blues Traveler and American Authors as their musical acts), and started cooking classes at the winery which helped to elevate not just wine country itself, but many young and talented chefs.
More important than what she actually created herself was the impact her career had on many young, promising young women who viewed her as a role model. At the time of her death, I asked a young woman I worked with (who prefered to stay anonymous) about her feelings on the death and what Margrit Mondavi’s legacy meant to her:
“She broke certain barriers few men were willing to acknowledge, and her progress in wine has undoubtedly opened the floodgates for women in wine, whether they be winemakers, wine educators, or even just artists or chefs who work with wine in their day to day lives. She impacted all of us and made our dreams more feasible just by doing what came naturally to her.”
If you make your way to the Napa Valley, make sure to pay a visit to the Robert Mondavi Winery. If you’re interested in coming during the summer festival, I recommend booking early and making sure you get your tickets because that concert series fills up quickly! Otherwise, be sure to enjoy their beautiful wines and their stunning property. And stay tuned, because next week I am going to be discussing wineries with talented young women heading up their winemaking programs in part 2 of “Women in Wine”!