Monday, May 19, 2008

Robert Mondavi (1913-2008)

When Magrit and Robert Mondavi invited Ted and I to lunch at their eponymous winery in Napa I knew exactly what I was going to wear—semi-casual with a bit of artsy frou. Ted on the other hand paced in our hotel room, parading a couple of outfit options after I said, “Aren’t you a bit casual?” Ready to walk out the door, he turned around saying,” I cannot wear this. I don’t feel comfortable!” So off with his brushed silk shirt and linen pants; and on with khaki, braided belt, and classic pastel cotton shirt. “Whatever,” is my retort. Here is a photo we took that day. Ted is so pleased he opted for a relaxed look. Robert and Ted are wearing almost identical outfits--while Magrit and I both feel quite comfortable in our semi-artsy frock. Venus and Mars for certain.

Ted received the Robert Mondavi Culinary Award of Excellence in 2001. It was given for his knowledge of pairing food with wine. Instead of a small, framed notation, Robert and Magrit chose to have commissioned portraits for each recipient painted by Rise Oechsner. For approximately seven years a total of about 50 award portraits were given to American chefs. Unable to attend the yearly ceremony, Robert and Magrit kindly invited us to lunch at a more convenient time for our schedule. Hence our sartorial anecdote.

Robert Mondavi was also generous in the development of our local American Institute of Wine & Food (AIWF) Vermont chapter. Along with Julia Child, primarily Robert and Richard Graff created this non-profit organization in 1981 to advance the understanding, appreciation, and quality of what Americans eat and drink. Their mission belief is that through continuing education, caliber of life is enhanced.

The AIWF Vermont Chapter is one of many across the United States. Along with sister chapters and the national organization, an exchange of ideas through publications and programs benefits both professionals and dedicated enthusiasts. Membership is open to all. Attendance to most events is open to the public as well. It's a wonderful way to meet knowledgeable, like-minded people, providing an opportunity to network with industry professionals and consumers.

Robert Mondavi, a true visionary, understood California was capable of producing world-class wines, and that Americans would appreciate the pleasures of the table and the marriage of wine with food.