He was an icon, quality pioneer, visionary, trendsetter and wine cosmopolitan but, above all, a tireless ambassador for the merits of Californian wine. The sheer charisma with which he combined a passion for wine with expert knowledge was virtually unique among vintners. With his Napa-Cabernet, his Chardonnay and his Fumé blanc, he almost single-handedly defined the stylistics of Californian flagship wines and was a proponent of wines that unite sensuous, abundant fruit with palatable elegance.
A latecomer to a career in wine, he was 53 years old when, in 1966, he left the Charles Krug Winery that was owned by his family and founded his own winery in Oakville. Here, he was able to realize his aspirations for quality-driven production without compromise. A few years later, the Mondavi name was synonymous around the world with superior wines from California. In 1990, he passed the fast-growing business on to his two sons, who went public in 1993. The company was sold to Constellation Brands in 2004.