When I was expecting our first child, now over a dozen years ago, my husband and I made a trip to San Francisco.
I confess to having grumbled a bit when it was suggested that we do a day of wine-tasting, because it pretty much sealed my fate at being the "designated driver" for the day... and, being pregnant and unable to drink, what fun would be in it for me??
Luckily for both of us, I was feeling particularly magnanimous that day, and agreed to go along for the ride. Because Robert Mondavi's winery was at the top of our list of places to visit-- and what was intended to be a short stop on our journey turned into a wonderful day.
Robert Mondavi, who passed away yesterday at the age of 94, was a gifted wine-maker and teacher, whose tireless efforts brought the California wine-making industry to the fore-front of the world's stage. He was an advocate for what he called "gracious living", which included not only excellent wine and food, but the "fine arts", as well. Together with his wife, the formidable Margrit Biever, Robert became a tremendous patron of the arts, and the winery was bursting with paintings, photographs and sculpture. They began organizing concerts in 1969, and hosted such enormous talents as Ella Fitzgerald, Dave Brubeck, and Etta James. Proceeds raised from the concerts and rotating art exhibits were donated to the Napa Valley Symphony, and other local charities.
As we explored the beautiful property, I was especially taken with this sculpture: Saint Francis, by Benjamin Bufano. The glass mosaic of the birds glistened in the bright sunshine, and made it truly spectacular to behold. It is, most certainly, one of the most fitting pieces in the winery's permanent art collection, as it is the Franciscan Friars who are credited with bringing wine grapes to California over 200 years ago.
It was a memorable experience. And today, I fondly remember the man behind it all.
Grazie... e salute.