20 questions with winemaker Carlo Mondavi
The Steeple Times shares “wit and wisdom”. What’s your guiding force?
The continued belief that we can make wine that sits along side the finest in the world. The belief that we can strive for excellence and no matter how far we have come, the truth is that we have really just begun.
“Don’t get even, get medieval” is, in our humble opinion, a great motto. What’s yours?
Making good wine is a skill, fine wine is an art.
Kerry Katona was considered unacceptable in 2007. Who or what is unacceptable in 2013?
Any bully and anyone who hurts animals, humans or the environment for personal gain or satisfaction. I suppose that would sum up Monsanto.
Tony Blair misses being Prime Minister. What do you miss most in your life?
I am actually very content with my life. As one can imagine I do miss people that are no longer with us like my grandfather and some of my friends that passed away far too young. On a lighter note, I find myself thinking of the idea that I missed perfect waves or powder days when I am stuck working… But you really can’t think like that or you will lose where you are right now. We have to embrace the now.
What might you swap all your wealth for?
Most of my wealth is not in the form of money. I have been told from a young age that if I wanted to be rich I should study to be a lawyer or investment banker but if I wanted a life full of great food, wine and the arts then the wine business might be for me. For that matter, I took a rather large pay cut from my last job and have been making wine ever since. Where I come short in dollars, I make up for in the wealth of what I do. So, if I had to trade this wealth then it would have to be for something like the ability to create world peace or cure sick people or something to make this world genuinely better.
Donald Trump was once a case of: “If you owe the bank a thousand, they close you down; but if you owe the bank a billion, you own the bank”. What’s your view on the banking crisis?
I don’t have a credit card if that helps on my view.
What phrase or word do you most loathe?
“No, that’s impossible”.
In the UK, some people consider charity to “begin at home”. What’s your view and what causes do you personally support?
As a family we support several charities all around the country and have a strong commitment to uphold that. In terms of organisations for me personally I get attached to those helping children with life threatening challenges. I think life can be unfair, but as an adult we have already been fortunate to live a little. I also think if we can find a cure for these children then somehow it will translate directly to adults.
The judge in Law Abiding Citizen states: “I can pretty much do whatever I want” before being blown up whilst answering her mobile phone. What’s your view on the appropriate use of such devices?
My view is that for the time being having a phone helps with what I am doing and in all phases and stages: In the vineyard, cellar and on the road. With that said, I hope there is a day when I have the luxury to not have a phone.
If you could fill a carriage on The Orient Express, who would be your fellow passengers?
Friends, family and lots of wine.
If you were unfortunate enough to end up on death row, what would be your last meal and where would you eat it?
In that case, I hope it would be during summer so I could have a nice mix from the garden. The food would be something my mother would cook and I would probably try and enjoy several wines from Continuum and our neighbours and several from all the great wine regions of the world. For that dinner, I don’t think I would consume in moderation.
What time is it acceptable to consume the first drink of the day?
There really is no unacceptable time: I taste wine in the morning quite often. In fact I am about to go to a tasting and it is 8am. Granted I am working and not drinking. With that said I have never seen my grandfather or father “drunk”. They both enjoy wine during lunch and dinner as a part of the meal and in moderation.
A Negroni, a martini or a cup of tea?
A Negroni before dinner and coffee in the morning. I can’t live without those two tonics.
Whose parties do you enjoy the most and why?
Any party that is a bit over the top with good music and people. I like to see the younger scene in Napa tearing it up. For me a good party puts classical music and punk rock in the same room clashing together in unison. Erin Martin and the Scribe brothers do that well.
Who is the most positive person you know?
My grandfather was and now my father is. They have a calm, peaceful cool about them and both are on an incredible mission. It’s cool to see my father lifting my grandfather’s vision up to new heights.
What’s your most guilty pleasure?
Surfing or snowboarding when I should be working and buying fine wine when I should be saving.
If a tattoo were to sum you up, what would it be of?
It would probably be the tattoo my brothers and I already have.
If you were a car, what marque would you be?
Good question. Probably a café racer of sorts or an old vintage FJ40.
Cilla Black presented Surprise, Surprise. Tell us the most surprising thing about you.
I support gay rights and diversity in our culture and I love wines from all over the world. I do have an overwhelming preference for the Cabernet blends of Napa Valley’s Vaca Range (Howell Mountain and Oakville Hills East) and many of the exciting Pinot Noirs coming from the true Sonoma coast.
What’s currently sitting on your mantelpiece?
Photos of my dogs, brothers and sisters, a photo of my wife and a bunch of other family photos. There are also some masks I picked up on a surf trip to Indonesia along with a bunch of books on wine and some inspirational bottles.
Carlo Mondavi is a winemaker and farmer based in California’s Napa Valley. Together with his family, Mondavi produces wines under the Continuum Estate label.
Follow him on Twitter at @carlomondavi.
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