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The House of Mondavi: The Rise and Fall of an American Wine Dynasty

The House of Mondavi: The Rise and Fall of an American Wine Dynasty

Written by Julia Flynn Siler

Narrated by Alan Sklar


The House of Mondavi: The Rise and Fall of an American Wine Dynasty

Written by Julia Flynn Siler

Narrated by Alan Sklar

ratings:
4.5/5 (11 ratings)
Length:
17 hours
Publisher:
Released:
Jul 16, 2007
ISBN:
9781400174805
Format:
Audiobook

Description

Set in California's lush Napa Valley and spanning four generations of a talented and visionary family, The House of Mondavi is a tale of genius, sibling rivalry, and betrayal. From 1906, when Italian immigrant Cesare Mondavi passed through Ellis Island, to the Robert Mondavi Corporation's twenty-first-century battle over a billion-dollar fortune, award-winning journalist Julia Flynn Siler brings to life both the place and the people in this riveting family drama.



The blood feuds are as spectacular as the business triumphs. Cesare's sons, Robert and Peter, literally came to blows in the 1960s during a dispute touched off by the purchase of a mink coat, resulting in Robert's exile from the family-and his subsequent founding of a winery that would set off a revolution in American winemaking. Robert's sons, Michael and Timothy, as passionate in their own ways as their visionary father, waged battle with each other for control of the company before Michael's expansive ambitions ultimately led to a board coup and the sale of the business to an international conglomerate.



A meticulously reported narrative based on thousands of hours of interviews, The House of Mondavi is bound to become a classic.
Publisher:
Released:
Jul 16, 2007
ISBN:
9781400174805
Format:
Audiobook

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What people think about The House of Mondavi

4.6
11 ratings / 7 Reviews
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Reader reviews

  • (4/5)
    Amazing story about the rise and fall of the Robert Mondavi wine empire. Family infighting, mismanagement, and greed all played a part in the demise of the business. It's sad that even in the face of loosing the winery completely to outsiders, members of the family still couldn't agree on a plan of action. Good lessons to be learned here for those who are considering embarking in a business involving family.
  • (4/5)
    Starting with Ceasare Mondavi's first ventures in the valley after World War II, through the family's tumultuous history, to ultimate riches but personal dissatisfaction, House of Mondavi by Julia Flynn Siler is a mesmerizing tale. Like any family business saga, the story of who started the business, who ran it, and who runs it now is one that could be told adequately on the back of a restaurant menu. The Mondavi story itself could have been told well in a Vanity Fair-style magazine article. At close to 500 pages, this is a long book. But the details and diversions Siler includes add depth and richness that bring the reader right inside the Mondavis' world.
  • (5/5)
    Julia Flynn Siler has accomplished something amazing with the House of Mondavi. It is clear the book was meticulously researched. Her experience as a reporter for the Wall Street Journal obviously guided her writing. Unlike some nonfiction books in which the author speculates where the facts end, Ms. Flynn Siler supports each element of the story with multiple sources. The book is not about Ms. Flynn Siler's opinions of what could have happened. It is about the complex, fascinating web that is the Mondavis. That said, the story reads almost like a novel, and at times is a page-turner. Some reviewers have complained about typos in the text, but any typos are due to a lapse at the copyediting stage and have little if anything to do with Ms. Flynn Siler or the quality of the story being told. The House of Mondavi is an engaging and a compelling read which deserves accolades for its substance.
  • (5/5)
    This is a fascinating history of the most famous (and infamous) American wine dynasty, the Mondavis, and the rise and fall of their empire. The book spans 4 generations, and is divided into four parts: Foundation, Construction, Expansion, and the stunning finale, Demolition. The meticulously researched text reads like a Greek tragedy; the reader can see disaster looming, however the characters are unable to control the events from unfolding. Siler weaves an epic tale of ambition and hubris, rage and betrayal, pride and lust, extreme success and ultimate heartbreak. She systematically reveals the sibling rivalries, infighting, and unwise business decisions that led to the family's magnificent failure. I was amazed to learn of the enormous impact that the icon and visionary, Robert Mondavi, had on the acceptance of wine, California production, and American culture in general. He was responsible, more than any other individal, for giving the maligned American wine industry the worldwide respect it now enjoys. This is a must read for those interested in business, the world of winemaking, and biographies.
  • (5/5)
    Having recently returned from a trip to Napa, I was interested in learning more about the famous Mondavi family, which has been an icon in the wine industry for several decades. Julia Flynn Siler’s portrayal of ‘The House of Mondavi: The Rise and Fall of an American Wine Dynasty’ was a mesmerizing account of the enigmatic members of the Mondavi clan, especially Robert Mondavi, who sought to transform the wine industry into one of finesse by pairing fine wines with delicious food. The author precisely recounts the many emotional conflicts within the family, with almost a cast of characters that might typify a soap opera. Because these people are all so real, with many still living today and working in the wine industry, the book was so very interesting! In order to have written this work, the author must have done some serious research, and she portrays the events with such exacting detail that I felt like I was almost there witnessing all the sibling rivalry and bitterness, as well as the passion for wine-making and success. If you love fine wines and the stories that accompany them, this book is a must read! Incidentally, the book describes the Robert Mondavi Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon as an exquisite wine, as confirmed by Paul Lukas in ‘The Great Wines of America: The Top Forty Vintners, Vineyards, and Vintages.’ However, although the Opus 1 was designated as Mondavi winery’s prized wine produced in collaboration with the Baron Philippe Rothschild, of the Premier Grand Cru Mouton Rothschild, the author states that the Robert Mondavi Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, is a wine of distinction and quality, possibly even exceeding the Opus 1.
  • (5/5)
    The story of the Mondavi family and its wineries spans three generations and is the stuff of mini-series or novels: greed, jealousy, sibling rivalry, extra-marital affairs, male chauvinism . . . it's all here. Julia Flynn Siler's well-researched, well-documented history is a fascinating look at the Mondavi family and its lasting influence on the U.S. wine industry.Cesare Mondavi, born in Italy, arrived at Ellis Island just after the turn of the last century. After a brief stint in Minnesota, he moved his family to California's Napa Valley. There Cesare started a small family-run winery, which he hoped to pass along to his sons, Robert and Peter. Unfortunately, the brothers' approaches to the business were incompatible. Peter never lost sight of economics, and Robert focused on quality and innovation.The young men's differences eventually led to lawsuits and Robert's being ousted from the family and its winery. Once on his own, Robert was able to put his vision of American wine production into practice, gaining the respect of European vintners and famous restaurateurs.Robert's sons, Michael and Timothy, followed in the footsteps of the older generation in their inability to find common ground. Their conflicts and quarrels ultimately caused the downfall of the entire Robert Mondavi empire. Only a hundred years after their grandfather landed on Ellis Island, they had lost the wineries to a hostile takeover.If this book were a novel, then the main themes would be fathers vs. sons, brothers vs. brothers, and the subjugation of women. Readers follow the Mondavi men from Old World to New and back again, from courtroom to vineyard, and--in some cases--from wife to wife. The women, whether wives or sisters, were generally relegated to the kitchen or reception desk but were expected to be gracious and stylish hostesses when required.Tucked between the drama of the family's business and personal lives is the history of how Robert Mondavi's foresight, innovations, and persistence built one of the country's most successful and well-respected wineries.If you've ever tasted a California wine, then you've likely had a wine made by or influenced by the Mondavi wineries. Here are just a few brands made directly by the family or by one of its former employees: Woodbridge, Robert Mondavi, Opus One, Stags' Leap Wine Cellars, Grgich Hills, I'M, Charles Krug, and La Famiglia. I'm not sure there is a U.S. wine producer that doesn't owe its success, at least in part, to Robert Mondavi's lifelong love of the art of wine making. Robert died at the age of ninety-four in spring 2008, about a year after this book was published.
  • (4/5)
    Absolutely fascinating. At least to me as a big California wine drinker. So many things we take for granted were Robert Mondavi innovations. He was a huge influence on the region, improving quality and helping to establish California as a fine wine appellation. I am truly grateful. Also, unbeknownst to me, I bought and started listening to this just after Robert Mondavi died on May 16, 2008. An eerie little touch.What struck me most is the fact that the Mondavi family seems genetically programmed to fight with itself. No one can get along, reach an accord or even a compromise. I have no sympathy for what happened to them (Robert’s branch especially) since they brought it on themselves. Even in the end after the RM Winery had been sold and the Mondavi family forced out, they could have purchased the Oakville winery if they could have stopped fighting long enough to get their shit together. Alas, they couldn’t. Even amidst their hand-wringing and whining about losing their family legacy, they couldn’t. Amazing. The author does a great job of giving us facts without creating monsters or heroes. No one gets special treatment and no one is dragged through the mud. She gives equal time for kudos and for dressing down and there’s plenty of both.