Mondavi and Spielberg on This Week’s “Wine & Film, A Perfect Pairing” Podcast


This week’s show, “Wine and Film, A Perfect Pairing” on reVolver Podcasts Gary and I discuss two masters of their crafts, the late, great Robert Mondavi of Robert Mondavi Winery and the ground-breaking, Oscar award winning Director, Steven Spielberg. Both icons in their industry, both headstrong and tenacious, and both deeply, deeply passionate. To listen to the show, just click here and listen to “Episode 16,” follow the jump for more of our thoughts on each of these two artists. Cheers!


The Icon: Steven Spielberg

I gush when I talk about Steven Spielberg.
His have a work has always been important in my life as a film-critic and as a kid growing up in Oregon with a sense of wide-eyed wonder and cinematic optimism. Spielberg movies always existed on a higher level and in my adult years I became privileged to interview him on multiple occasions, giddy about our our mutual admiration for the great David Lean and his 1962 Oscar winning epic, “Lawrence Of Arabia.”

Steven Spielberg grew up fascinated with trains and his affection is on full display in “The Sugarland Express,” but it’s the 1975 blockbuster, “Jaws,” that earned my respect through multiple viewings taking every everyone I knew. Roy Scheider had more tension in the veins of his neck than most ten actors and the movie literally made me afraid of the water.

“Close Encounters Of The Third Kind,” convinced me to think differently about aliens, “Indian Jones” made me smile from pure theatrical joy,  “E.T” transported me back to my own childhood wondering what would I do if I befriended a creature from a distance galaxy, and “Jurassic Park,” put the fear of velociraptors into my cinematic bloodstream.

Then there is “Saving Private Ryan,” and “Schindler’s List,” two of the finest films ever made. After writing more than ten thousand opinions of movies, “Schindler’s List” remains the best film I have ever reviewed, and I’m still trying to figure out how, “Shakespeare In Love,” beat out Spielbergs monumental WW II epic for Best Picture.

“Lincoln,” “Amistad,” “Catch Me If You Can,” “The Color Purple,” “Munich,” “Empire Of The Sun,” I could go on and on but I would just end up gushing.


From the 50th anniversary vertical tasting of 50 wines celebrating 50 years; all wine photos by Hayley Hamilton Cogill

The Icon: Robert Mondavi


The term legendary and iconic are thrown around quite a bit in the world of celebrity as some would call anyone who has their 15 minutes of fame an icon. However, the two celebrated artists in this week’s show easily earned the title because not only have they produced remarkable products, in both wine and film, but the work they created influenced the generations of winemaker and filmmakers after them.

The late Robert Mondavi, along with his beloved wife, Margrit, changed the face of Napa Valley both within the region as well as the world, as he led the charge for people to drink Napa Valley wine in the international market, always taking a bottle of his Napa Valley Robert Mondavi Winery in his travels, to taste it next to the finest Bordeaux wines in the world, or toasting with Italian or German greats. Robert Mondavi Winery is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. Sadly, just a few weeks ago we also mark the passing of Margrit Mondavi, a lover of the arts, along with being an artist herself.


50 years ago, Robert Mondavi, the son of an Italian immigrant changed the face of wine in the United States, and the world, developing a place where the knowledgeable and the curious could come to learn, to taste, to think or simply enjoy, mainly to experience what he liked to call a gracious way of life. And not only for wine, but for music, art, food, an overall elevated lifestyle.

When Mondavi began his namesake winery he was determined to prove that the wines of Napa Valley could rival even the best Bordeaux in the world, showcase not only his wine, but all of what Napa Valley was becoming.

1966-rmw-wineMondavi, along with his beloved wife Margrit, had a vision in the 1960’s with the goal to bring the beauty of the vineyards into the winery. Unique to other properties at the time, he built his mission style winery to include a reception and tasting area instead of just a place that wine was made. He and Margarit wanted to teach guests about wine in a welcoming, harmonious, art filled atmosphere, helping them understand the unique place and the wines they were making, and how all were intertwined with each other.

The first Cabernet Sauvignon wine in 1966 from To Kalon Vineyard fruit on the Oakville Bench between Rutherford and Yountville. He had purchased the vineyard in the 1950’s when he was a part of his father’s company, C. Mondavi and Sons, knowing the granite, sandy and clay soils could deliver powerful yet soft wines. He mastered the art of the blend, taking not only the Bordeaux hallmark, Cabernet Sauvignon, but also small quantities of Merlot and Cabernet Franc to round out the dusty, earthy, hearty variety, to soften the palate, showcasing the terroir, delivering Napa Valley in a glass.


Today the To Kalon Vineyard still has a far of the original vines planted in 1945, now producing highly concentrated fruit, though in quite small quantities. Over the years the portfolio of the wines has changed a touch, as alcohol levels and ripeness of fruit have increased, matching a more American palate. But, the story hasn’t changed. Robert Mondavi Winery is still a place where you can experience a gracious lifestyle, as the great lawn outside the tasting room hosts summer concerts, there is a continuous rotation of local and international artists works, from paintings to sculptures to gardens, displayed throughout the grounds, and their on-sight chef creates tasting bites to full scale dinners to pair with the seasons, and with the wines.

Margrit Mondavi roses
Margrit Mondavi roses

If you are traveling to Napa and have never stopped in at the iconic place, take the time to stop by for a tasting, and raise a glass to the man that did so much for this beloved region of Napa Valley.

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