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Arguably the first family of wine making. The Mondavi’s history is anything but peaceful and affable. In fact, it’s downright nasty. Stretching back to the early 1900’s, the Mondavi legacy is a tale that is fascinating, tumultuous and rife with power driven decisions that have changed the world of California wine making. Some people have referred to them as the Kennedys of American wine, a dysfunctional clan that spans 4 generations. This is by no means an easy read. By that, I mean you will not breeze through this in an evening and think, “that was a nice little story”, No, you will turn page after page and realize that this is a real life soap opera, playing out in the vineyards of Napa and abroad. So lets take a closer look at this century of genius, innovation and heartbreak

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Beginning in 1906 with Cesare Mondavi, an Italian immigrant who began his wine journey in Minnesota of all places, before later moving to California’s Central Valley. It was here that the true legacy began with the production of table wine that the San Juaquin Valley is famous for. However, in the early 1940’s Cesare bought a run down winery in Napa and moved the family to a region that would eventually become known to the world as one of the richest wine producing areas ever. Following Cesare’s death in 1959 the brothers Robert and Peter would clash repeatedly until all finally came to a head (and blows) with Robert being banished from the family business. With Robert no longer a part of Charles Krug, he was free to put his own ideas in to action, and that he did

For the next 50 years, Robert Mondavi often lead the California wine industry through his sometimes genius and sometime disasterous ideas. Just as Robert and Peter had done years earlier. Robert’s sons, Michael and Timothy, as passionate in their own ways as their visionary father, would wage battles with each other for control of the company before Michael’s expansive ambitions ultimately led to a board coup and the sale of the business to an international conglomerate

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As mentioned earlier, the book is quite long and very detailed, which some my find objectionable. I on the other hand, appreciated the thorough examination and insight, in not only the family’s trials and tribulations, but the growth of the California wine industry. Without this attention to detail, I believe the book would have suffered. Also, as with any saga, (think The Godfather, Rich Man Poor Man etc.) the in-depth survey of both the family and the inner workings of each characters mind, makes for a more complete and comprehensive story. Julia Lynn Siler does an excellent job in corralling all of this history and detail. Does it start to come off the rails every now and then, sure. But overall it is compelling and riveting volume. This is the second time I have read this book and no doubt I will read it again in 10 years. Highly recommended

The House of Mondavi receives 4.5 out of 5 glasses. Excellent

To grab your copy click here: THE HOUSE OF MONDAVI

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