The Change Behind the Mondavi Label

The Mondavi family continues to make superior, elegant wines under their Continuum label

FIRST PUBLISHED March 2017 Edible Communities, Edible Indy

It’s not every day you get a chance to sip wine with a member of one of the country’s—let alone the world’s—most renowned wine-making families. But later this week, Dante Mondavi, grandson of legendary winemaker Robert Mondavi, will be in town to help promote the estate’s tenth release, the Continuum Sage Mountain Bordeaux-style red (sometimes called a proprietary red in the U.S.). Last week, I was fortunate enough to catch up with Dante for a few questions about the wine, the estate and the Mondavi name.

SN: How’d you come up with the name Continuum?

DM: Continuum as a name comes from the Latin, ’to change gradually in character or in very subtle stages without any clear dividing point.’ It implies our ongoing role in wine, from one generation to the next, without end.

SN: Continuum wines are single-estate, correct, meaning they are grown, bottled and produced in their entirety within the confines of the Continuum Estate.

DM: Correct.

SN: Tell me about the wine?

DM: It’s our tenth release and that’s exciting. We’re getting high accolades and the wine’s being recognized all over the place.

SN: And it’s a Bordeaux-style red.

DM: Yes, it’s a blend with 65 percent cabernet sauvignon, 15 percent cabernet franc, 15 percent petit verdot and 5 percent merlot.

SN: You have four siblings (Carissa, Chiara, Carlo, Dominic) and all five of you are involved in Continuum along with your father, Tim and aunt Marcia. Are any of your cousins involved as well?

DM: Marcia’s son Brian is now part of our sales team, based at the estate on Pritchard Hill.

SN: Pritchard Hill, on the east side of Napa, where the Continuum Estate is located … is that family land from Robert’s days or something your family acquired?

DM: The Continuum Estate on Pritchard Hill was purchased by Tim and Marcia in 2008. There was no previous family wine or involvement before then.

SN: I’ve read that some people think Pritchard Hill could become an appellation in the future. Why is that? What makes Pritchard Hill so great for winemaking?

DM: It’s in Napa with 1300ft elevation. The soil and climate and farming capabilities on the property are ideal to make amazing wines. Good wine starts in the vineyard with the soil. We’ve really elevated our game (with the Pritchard Hill site) and have created a dynamic vintage. 

SN: It’s only been in recent years that I realized the Mondavi label was no longer part of the Mondavi family. Nonetheless, the family is making amazing wines … how’d it all begin?

DM: My great grandfather, Cesare Mondavi, came to the U.S. in 1906. An Italian immigrant … he settled in Minnesota, worked in the iron mines … in 1919, during Prohibition, he started having grapes from California shipped to Minnesota to make wine. There was a loophole in the law (the Volstead Act) allowing the head of household to have 200 gallons of wine each year. Later he moved to California where my grandfather (Robert) went to Stanford on a scholarship to play rugby and study enology.

SN: And then what?

DM: My grandfather visited the great regions of Bordeaux and Burgundy in the early 60s. Realizing how similar the climate and soil was (in California), he had the idea to start making wine here (in CA).

SN: That’s a pretty amazing endeavor let alone accomplishment.

DM: It’s really a true American success story. Cesare was an immigrant. He encouraged his son … my grandfather was a great visionary.

Nowadays, Dante is following not only in the footsteps of his great grandfather and grandfather, but also in those of his own father, Tim, as the Mondavi family continues to make superior, elegant wines under their Continuum label. 

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