Vintner Robert Mondavi, regarded as the single most influential figure in California's and America's modern wine trade, was totally over the moon about his product, not least when it came to that product's long-range health benefits. He regaled audiences all over the world with his claims about wine's positive effects on longevity and stamina—and since he was past 90 when he was doing it, it's kinda hard to argue the other way. He also got into a legendary fistfight with his brother Peter over the company's business practices; even then he was in his mid-50s, which only fuels the idea behind wine as an elixir of youth.
Mondavi died at his Napa Valley home on May 16 at age 94, leaving a legacy for scores of California vintners to emulate. His stainless-steel casks, pioneering fermentation processes and use of oaken barrels may have turned some heads as he launched his first winery in 1966, but a curious and thirsty public resoundingly endorsed the practices, many of which exist to this day. An expert pitchman, Mondavi was persuaded that Napa product could hold its own with the best the French had to offer—and now, it's expected that U.S. per-capita wine consumption will surpass France's in 2010.
I'm sippin' the 2005 Mondavi Private Selection Johannisberg Riesling as I write. I bought it at BevMo for a smelly ol' $9.99, even as some of the Mondavi selections go for three and four times the price. This one's pretty sweet, the way I like it, and it's great with just about whatever cheese or fruit you'd care to name (and maybe some you wouldn't).
The least I could do was tip a bottle skyward as a nod to California's illustrious wine history and the figurehead who helped forge it. Bottoms up, Bob. Good product y'got there, to say nothing of that mean right cross.