When I had watched Mondovino, I was in the class of wine economics, in Montpellier, in 2013. Our professor found it essential to watch this documentary to have a broader understanding of the globalization of the wine business. This documentary was shot in 2004, since than the globalization is continuing with full speed; many big wineries has branches in different continents, New World and Old world are becoming closer to each other, flying winemakers are conquering everywhere, wine critics are well-known universally and wine lovers are travelling and tasting wines all over the world, which makes the wine sector richer, wider but smaller in the sense of accessibility. To be honest, at that classroom that day, I didn’t really realize how small the wine world was.
In 2016, I decided to experience being a flying winemaker. In February, I travelled to Chile to work in Caliterra Winery. This winery was established as a result of the partnership between Robert Mondavi and Eduardo Chadwick, in 1996. (We can already see a big step of the globalization). In May, I travelled to United States to work in Inglenook Winery, which is owned by Francis Ford Coppola. When I was going to work, every morning I was passing by Opus One Winery which was established by the partnership between Robert Mondavi and Baron Philippe de Rothschild and then by Robert Mondavi Winery. I was absolutely amazed by the world, you watch a documentary and you become a part of it after a couple of years.
Mondovino, Chile and Napa… I told you all these because I needed to make a small introduction, until I can reach to the part that I actually want to share with you.
Before actually visiting Robert Mondavi Winery, I found a treasure in the Napa County Library*, Harvests of Joy, the book written by Robert Mondavi, in 1999. If you ask me to name one single book that affected me the most, that would be it! Firstly, because it is a piece of history, to understand success of Napa Valley as winegrowing country, starting from 1950s. Secondly, it is not only a book about winemaking, but also about life itself, simply because Robert Mondavi had dedicated his life to wine.
The part that affected me the most was the foresight of Robert Mondavi about Napa Valley. In 1950s the wine business was very limited in Napa Valley, it was a small community with no sophistication, with not more than 20 wineries. Moreover, there wasn’t an actual market for wine in the USA at that time. So, let us think, there was neither quality wine production nor wine drinkers who demand that, but Robert Mondavi was dreaming Napa Valley as one of the great wine-growing regions of the world next to Bordeaux or Bourgogne. Everybody thought he was crazy, with his own words, even his friends and his family.
We know the end of the story, that Napa Valley did take its part in the most successful wine-growing regions, and Robert Mondavi had a great role in this success. When he moved to Napa Valley, his dream was to make fine wine and spread his passion of California wines to everyone. He believed in himself, he believed in his land, moreover he was a great believer of research and innovations. With all this background, he bought a vineyard in To Kalon, to build a winery, but not only that. As he came from an Italian family, he knew the importance of food and wine which makes a family unite around a table. With this knowledge, he was able to connect with people; he started to talk, educate and share the benefits of drinking fine wine in moderation as a part of the daily life. Soon, as he was able to produce the high quality wine that he wanted, he also created his own market; people who demand quality wine.
I cannot explain you my feelings when I actually entered to the land of Robert Mondavi Winery, and when I saw the statue of him in the entrance. As I entered to the main garden, it gave me a quite strange sensation of peace that I didn’t expect. Then I remember the words of Robert Modavi during the construction of the winery:
‘I want the building to declare: Here is a heart and soul, I want something that tells people this is not a factory; this is a home, a place with real character and feeling’.
Well, I am not here to judge the architectural qualities of the winery, but I can say out loud that this place definitely has its own soul. After spending some time in the garden, just breathing and feeling the atmosphere, we also made a small winery tour. During the tour, I felt like he would show up from somewhere and tell me:
‘If you want to succeed, you have to listen to yourself, to your own heart, and you have to have the courage to go to your own way.’
I started my story as a curious student who wanted to learn the wine business. During my flying winemaking experience of 2016, I learned many things, mostly about winemaking, global wine world and also about life. Now, I see myself as a young winemaker, with the faith of being able to turn her dreams into reality, no matter what others say. I consider myself as lucky and blessed to be able to accept this challenge to be a part of the wine sector.
* Napa County Library is the richest library that I’ve been in, considering the wine publications. It is possible to find many books, from viticulture to serving the wine, wine magazines, wine themed movies etc. It is like a heaven for the wine lovers – Just to keep in mind, if you pass from Napa.
All images © 2017 by Neslihan IVIT. All rights reserved.