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Mondavi family donates Robert Mondavi Papers to UC Davis University Library

June 14, 2011

(Editor’s note: The Robert G. Mondavi Papers collection is now available to the public through University Library Special Collections. University Library will feature a special exhibit on the papers, Robert G. Mondavi: Celebrating the Good Life, from June 18 through December 2013 at the Peter J. Shields Library during library hours. The exhibit is free and open to the public.)

The family of the late Robert Mondavi — the winemaker who helped turn California into one of the world’s premier wine regions — has donated his professional and personal papers to the University Library at UC Davis.

The Robert G. Mondavi Papers include Mondavi’s correspondence with industry colleagues, international travel files, photographs, writings and speeches, and historical records of the Robert Mondavi Winery. The collection, which comprises more than 40 boxes worth of materials, will serve as a research asset for scholars around the world and provide insight into Mondavi’s work and life as a winemaker, business leader and philanthropist. The collection will enhance the library’s renowned viticulture and enology collection.

“Robert Mondavi has a tremendous legacy as a winemaker and as a philanthropist,” said UC Davis Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi. “By giving Robert’s papers to UC Davis and making his work available to researchers around the world, the Mondavi family extends this remarkable legacy of discovery and generosity.”

The Department of Special Collections in UC Davis’ Peter J. Shields Library will be the repository for the collection. Once cataloged, the papers will be accessible as research resources for both the university and the public.

The gift of the collection to the library reflects the longstanding relationship between UC Davis and the Mondavi family. Robert Mondavi regularly consulted the research of UC Davis faculty members such as Maynard Amerine, the late viticulture and enology professor whose work on taste perception and home winemaking methods helped promote the consumption of wine as a popular beverage.

“UC Davis is thrilled to be the new home of the Robert G. Mondavi Papers,” said Acting University Librarian Randolph M. Siverson. “This collection will provide a window into the connections and activities of one of the world’s most notable winemakers. We greatly appreciate that the Mondavi family has entrusted UC Davis with this marvelous collection.”

The collection includes documents such as Mondavi’s speech at Julia Child’s 90th birthday celebration; a transcribed oral history of Robert Mondavi; a photo of Robert with his parents on his college graduation in 1936; and Mondavi’s correspondence with then-Gov. Gray Davis.

“The collection will be an excellent resource for faculty, students, and researchers writing dissertations, theses, and publications,” said Head of Special Collections Daryl Morrison.

The collection also includes speeches that convey Mondavi’s philosophy about wine, such as the following excerpt from a 1989 speech:

“My purpose is to educate people for what wine is… It is the temperate, civilized, romantic meal-time beverage recognized in the Bible. The liquid food praised since civilization started 8,000 years ago by rulers, philosophers, physicians, scholars and statesmen for life, happiness and longevity. It is the only natural beverage that feeds not only the body but the soul and spirit of man.”

The papers were donated by Mondavi’s children: Marcia Mondavi Borger, a partner at Continuum Estate, a newly established vineyard estate in Napa Valley; Tim Mondavi, also a partner at Continuum Estate; and Michael Mondavi, the founder of the Michael Mondavi Family Estate and Folio Fine Wine Partners.

“Like UC Davis, my father believed passionately that learning is lifelong and a shared knowledge of wine and food elevates all our lives,” said Mondavi Borger. “We are very pleased to be able to honor Dad’s accomplishments with this gift, and hope that his papers will be a source of knowledge and inspiration.”

Michael Mondavi commented on the teaching and research value of the collection: “It is a special honor to share my father’s papers with students and scholars who are interested in the history of California wines.”

For Tim Mondavi, the gift of the papers is in keeping with the example his father set to share his winemaking knowledge. “From 1936, when my family first came to Napa Valley until his passing in 2008, my father amassed a lifetime's worth of knowledge and expertise,” he said. “He was always ready to share his experience with all who came to see him at the winery he built in Oakville. It is an honor to know that his work will continue to teach and guide students at UC Davis now and in the future.”

Robert Mondavi is credited with bringing worldwide recognition to California wine through his use of new technology and his management and marketing expertise.

“Robert Mondavi brought a new understanding to the wine industry,” said Andrew Waterhouse, chair of the Department of Viticulture and Enology at UC Davis. “He encouraged his Napa neighbors to learn about new technology from UC Davis and other research centers worldwide, so that the overall quality of Napa wine rose dramatically. Robert’s support of UC Davis teaching, research and extension demonstrated his commitment to elevating the quality of all California wines.”

After heading Charles Krug Winery with his brother for 23 years, Mondavi, together with son Michael, founded Robert Mondavi Winery in 1966. He was 52 years old at the time. The first major winery built in Napa Valley since Prohibition, the Mondavi enterprise introduced several fine winemaking techniques to California, including cold fermentation, stainless steel tanks and the use of French oak barrels. Mondavi also started blind tastings in Napa Valley, allowing consumers to evaluate wine quality. In the 1970s, the winery was among the first to export premium wines.

The Robert Mondavi Winery grew to include multiple wineries and extensive vineyard holdings in California as well as partnerships with prominent wine families in France, Italy, Chile and Australia. Mondavi died in 2008 at the age of 94.

“This great historical collection — reflecting Robert Mondavi’s contributions to the California wine industry — is a rich mine of inspiration for those who, like me, are driven to excel in winemaking,” said Warren Winiarski, the founder of Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars and owner of Arcadia Vineyard in Napa Valley. Winiarski worked with Robert Mondavi beginning in 1966. He joined with members of the Mondavi family in providing philanthropic support to the library for the preservation of the collection.

Robert and his wife, Margrit, were also generous supporters of the university. In 2001, the couple gave $35 million to UC Davis to launch the Robert Mondavi Institute for Wine and Food Science and to help build the Robert and Margrit Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts. The institute includes the world’s first LEED Platinum winery, brewery and food sciences facility, which was constructed entirely with philanthropic funds. It officially opened its doors in January.

Margrit Mondavi continues to be actively involved at UC Davis, serving as honorary co-chair of the university’s first-ever $1 billion fundraising initiative, The Campaign for UC Davis. Last year, she pledged $2 million toward the design and construction of a planned UC Davis Museum of Art.

“It is very fitting that Robert’s papers have been given to UC Davis, as Robert was incredibly proud of his association with this university, and grateful for the outstanding teachers and researchers in viticulture and enology,” Margrit Mondavi said. “I know he would have shared his children’s joy in making this gift to such a great university, a university that has produced graduates who have contributed immensely to the California wine industry.”

UC Davis’ University Library is already home to one of the finest collections of grape-growing and winemaking literature in the world. The holdings of the research collection include more than 29,000 volumes with nearly 7,000 rare books from the 16th century on and more than 70 manuscript and archival collections. More than 40 languages are represented. The viticulture and enology collection includes manuscripts from many esteemed leaders in the field, such as Amerine and the late Harold Olmo, a UC Davis professor who established the first grapevine quarantine facility in the 1950s, enabling California growers to import foreign vines, and in turn leading to an expansion of the state’s wine industry.

About UC Davis

UC Davis is a global community of individuals united to better humanity and our natural world while seeking solutions to some of our most pressing challenges. Located near the California state capital, UC Davis has more than 34,000 students, and the full-time equivalent of 4,100 faculty and other academics and 17,400 staff. The campus has an annual research budget of over $750 million, a comprehensive health system and about two dozen specialized research centers. The university offers interdisciplinary graduate study and 99 undergraduate majors in four colleges and six professional schools.

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