by Fred McMillin
for August 28, 1997

Mr. Mondavi Goes to Lodi

Prologue: In the Lodi district of California's Central Valley...

1923—Ten-year-old Robert Mondavi is nailing boxes together and filling them with grapes for shipment to home winemakers during Prohibition.

1979—Robert returns to the Lodi area, founds the Woodbridge-Mondavi winery and sells 500,000 cases of wine. (Woodbridge adjoins the city of Lodi.)

1996—Sales have risen to 4.5 million cases a year!

The Rest of the Story: When Robert Mondavi graduated from Lodi Union High School over 60 years ago, he was headed for Stanford University and a law career, little realizing that one day he would be back to create one of the USA's largest wineries. One of its favorite grapes would be the Zinfandel...when I last looked the Lodi district produced about 40% of all California Zin grapes.

My panel just tasted the 1995 Zinfandel... medium weight, much fruit, gentle oak, and an astonishing price...$6! It won Best Buy by a wide margin.

1995 Zinfandel (70% Lodi, 30% Coast & Foothills)
Woodbridge by Robert Mondavi
Food Affinities—Grilled meats, well-seasoned pasta.

Postscript: In 1923, when Robert Mondavi was making those grape crates in Lodi, three things were happening in my home town of Tacoma, Washington. 1) Almond Rocha candy was created. 2) Tacoma candy maker Frank Mars moved to Minneapolis and in the astronomical mode created the Milky Way candy bar. 3) I was born.

About the Writer

Fred McMillin, a veteran wine writer, has taught wine history for 30 years on three continents. He currently teaches wine courses at San Francisco State and San Francisco City College and is Northern California Editor for American Wine on the Web. In 1995, the Academy of Wine Communications honored Fred with one of only 22 Certificates of Commendation awarded to American wine writers.

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