Napa Valley’s Robert G. Mondavi, who is credited with helping bring international attention to California wines, died May 16, 2008, at the age of 94. He began Robert Mondavi Winery in 1966, a time when American vino was regarded as cheap imitations of wine from well-established regions like Bordeaux and Burgundy, France. Along with implementing the use of cold fermentation, stainless steel tanks and French oak barrels in California winemaking, Mondavi helped to successfully promote dry-fermented, oak-aged Sauvignon Blanc as Fumé Blanc in the United States. In 1981, Mondavi, along with Julia Child, Richard Graff and others, founded The American Institute of Wine & Food, a non-profit organization dedicated to advancing the understanding, appreciation and quality of food and drink.
After his 500,000-cases-a-year wine empire was bought out in 2004, Mondavi and his family launched a new wine brand called Continuum in the Spring of 2008. Wine was not Mondavi's only passion, though, as he gave generously to various cultural and educational institutions. Mondavi and his wife Margrit were the founders of the Napa Valley Wine Auction, and one of their charitable gifts was to fund the establishment of the Robert Mondavi Institute for Wine and Food Science at the University of California, Davis. Mondavi is survived by his wife; three children, Michael, Marcia and Timothy; nine grandchildren; and his brother, Peter.