Robert Mondavi, the pioneer of California winemaking, would have been 100 years old this year. He may no longer be with us, but his legacy–the Robert Mondavi Winery–lives on with his family.
His widow Margrit Mondavi, who is the vice president of cultural affairs at Robert Mondavi Winery, was on hand at a special dinner prepared by Chef John Sedlar of Rivera Restaurant in downtown Los Angeles to honor the life and legacy of Robert Mondavi.
Sedlar is a longtime friend of the winemaking couple, having met them when he participated in the Great Chefs of Robert Mondavi Winery program, the first winery-culinary program in the United States, in 1988. Sedlar and Margrit told tales of kayaking together, 16 people in all, with 18 cases of Mondavi wine, and feasting on culinary meals prepared by Sedlar by candlelight on the shores of Snake River.
As Margrit said, “Memories of wine and food bring us together.”
Margrit also spoke of how her late husband was ahead of his time when building his first winery. “With his passion, with his focus, with his pursuit of excellence, he knew quite early on that we could make wine in Napa Valley.”
Mondavi produced his first harvest in 1966, and created his signature Fume Blanc, recreated from Sauvignon Blanc, in 1967. Since the early days, the Mondavis were behind the culinary and wine movement for which Napa is now known. He was a great promoter of the winemaking region, and was willing to help anyone who asked, Margrit said.
“He promoted Napa to the nth degree,” his brother Peter Mondavi wrote in tribute to his elder brother. “He did more for Napa than anyone.”
To celebrate this legacy of wine and food, Sedlar prepared a special menu that included surprising combinations and textures. Under the dish labeled Mariscos, a dollop of slightly puréed green lentils, broccoli, and celery mixed with chunks of tender scallops looked like guacamole, but with a light flavor and slightly creamy texture interrupted by the scallops. It also had a strong spicy kick . Margrit’s response to the dish: “I like heat.”
The Salmon Mousse Tamal with the Cacahuate Salsa was another favorite. The tamal was the perfect texture–not too dry and not too wet–and the salmon was not overpowering.
The wines paired with the evening’s meal included a 2011 Fume Blanc Oakville, which was light and fresh, with just enough body to complement the tamal, and a 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve that, despite its youthfulness, was full-bodied with a smooth finish.
Rivera Restaurant was the perfect fit to celebrate Mondavi’s birthday and legacy, given the long and close relationship between Sedlar and the Mondavis, as well as the level of cuisine and classy, yet comfortable ambiance.
More information about Rivera. More information about Robert Mondavi Winery.