In 2013, Tim Mondavi celebrated 40 years of making wine. In 1974, he graduated from UC Davis with a degree in viticulture and oenology and joined the winemaking team at Robert Mondavi Winery. While there, he made wines that have been enjoyed, admired and respected by thousands of wine lovers worldwide. In 2005, along with his father, Robert, and sister, Marcia, he founded Continuum with the aim of making a truly great wine from this estate high-up on Pritchard Hill.
Where were you born?
St. Helena, California.
What was your best memory growing up?
One was going to visit the vineyards of Charles Krug with my great uncle Pietro Bellardinelli. Also, two other memories are playing hide and seek as child in the cellars of Charles Krug and playing on the winery pomace piles at harvest.
What did you want to be when you grew up?
I toyed with the idea of architecture or marine biology.
Any formal wine training?
Yes, both at university and on the job!
Who was your mentor?
There have been many, but foremost is my father, Robert Mondavi. I have been fortunate to work with Warren Winiarski, Mike Grgich and Zelma Long at Robert Mondavi; Lucien Sionneau at Mouton-Rothschild – I refer to him as my vinous French Father; in addition, Mouton gave me the opportunity to work with Patrick Léon and Phillipe Dhalluin. Henri Jayer of Vosne-Romanée also inspired me greatly. The entire Burgundian philosophy of wine growing changed my views of wines – I visited a number of times.
A young Tim Mondavi and his father, Robert.
What are your views on agriculture: Sustainable? Organic? Biodynamic?
Elements of all are important but clearly we moved forward to embrace organic farming at Robert Mondavi in the 1970s and 1980s. I believe the most important element for viticultural success is boots on the ground: a hands-on and intimate connection with the vineyard, which is certainly what biodynamics inspires and practices. Sensitivity to the vineyard is key to growing great wine.
What was the best advice you ever received?
My father advised me “To embrace new things with an experimental attitude towards wine and life – be open to new things.”
What instantly brings a smile to your face?
Being at Continuum Estate and taking in its beauty and promise.
Outside wine, what is your passion?
The ocean and everything about it – scuba, snorkeling and in general, being in nature. Also great food.
What was the last music you downloaded?
I listen to many types of music, but Yo-Yo Ma’s purity of playing is very soulful for me.
Who was the first person you spoke to today?
Mindy, my partner.
Early to rise, late to bed; burn the candle at both ends?
No, I do exercise frequently, swimming in particular. Overall, I practice a moderate lifestyle and diet.
How do you keep in shape?
Diet or eat everything?
Eat it all! Try to enjoy a balanced and healthy diet but one that is broadly based.
Tim Mondavi and Marcia Mondavi Borger of Continuum.
What are you reading now?
Just finished a book on Ban Ki-Moon and am now going back to one of my favorites, John Steinbeck’s Cannery Row. I also have a great passion for biographies about our great statesmen and founding fathers; Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, Truman, etc.
My partner Mindy Kearney.
My five wonderful children – Carissa, Chiara, Carlo, Dominic and Dante.
Favourite place to vacation?
One to relax – a tropical sandy island with great diving or a culturally rich place like Prague for music.
Favourite local hotel?
Mandarin Oriental in San Francisco.
Favourite restaurant locally?
Favourite city to visit?
Favourite wine/vintage from your winery?
Favourite wine/vintage, that is not yours?
1985 Cros Parantoux in barrel from Henri Jayer.
Two – one, to have secured the land and developed it to create Continuum Estate, setting us on the course to be a world class property…and to have four of my children and our great team to be working with me here. Finally to have helped establish the framework for and the appellations of Napa Valley.
That I was not able to communicate more effectively with the board at RMW during our last years there… and yet it was this disappointment that allowed for my greatest achievements.
If you could choose your perfect last supper before leaving this world, what would it be, who would it be with and what would you drink with it?
My perfect last supper would be with my family, past and present. Henri Jayer would bring his Cros Parantoux, and the Dalai Lama and Pope Francis would join us for inspiration and dispensations for the next life. My first vintage at RMW, the 1974 Cabernet reserve, the 2011 Continuum and the 1991 Opus One would be served too. Of course we would have all the greatest wines and cuisines of the world too, but especially Mindy’s cooking and Carissa’s apple pie for dessert.