Sunday, July 26, 2009

The House of Mondavi: The Rise and Fall of an American Wine Dynasty

The House of Mondavi, written by Julia Flynn Siler, is an excellent book that retells the rise and fall of Napa Valley's most famous wine family. You might known Robert Mondavi Wines for their iconic label of a spanish adobe-style winery with grand arch but do you know the drama and scandals that unfolded behind this serene setting?

Beginning with Robert Mondavi's father Cesare and his dream to create a wine empire for his family, Siler recounts how Cesare Mondavi purchased the Charles Krug winery and turned it into a family business. After his death, his two boys Robert and Peter threaten to tear apart the family company with their constant fighting. Rosa, the mother of the boys is faced with a choice, let the business crumble or cast-off one of her sons. After a truly explosive fight, she sends Robert, the eldest son, packing. Faced with no other alternative and already in his 50's, Robert sets out to buy his own vineyard and create his own family run winery for his sons Michael and Timothy to inherit. With fierce determination and an unwillingness to compromise, Robert soon creates one of the most famous and iconic wineries in all of America. However, the family troubles of his past still haunt him and his family, from lawsuits and affairs to sibling rivalry and corporate take-overs, Robert Mondavi is plagued throughout his career with trouble that overshadows his fame.

Siler does a splendid job weaving multiple accounts of the events that transpired and gives a balanced point of view of the family squabbles that seemed all-too common for the Mondavi family. The House of Mondavi is not only an excellent history lesson about Mondavi wines, but also of the Napa Valley and it's rise to prominence. I highly recommend this book for anyone interested in wine or the trials and tribulations of running a family business.

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