Tradition & Technology: The Enduring Legacy of Robert Mondavi Winery
Modern winemaking can be a curious craft: how should a contemporary vintner honor the techniques of the past, while utilizing new technological advances? The late Robert Mondavi was a master of marrying winemaking tradition with burgeoning technology. Robert Mondavi opened his Oakville winery – the first major winery built in Napa Valley after the 1933 Repeal of Prohibition – in 1966, pioneering the California wine movement. He honored centuries-old European winemaking techniques, yet was one of the first to use innovations such as cold fermentation, stainless steel tanks, and French oak barrel aging.
Pushing the boundaries of the winemaking world, Robert Mondavi also sought out collaborations with experts in the arenas of food, music, art, and science. He started a classical music concert series, and co-founded the American Institute of Wine and Food with Julia Child. He partnered with NASA to solve a pest problem plaguing the wine industry, utilized aerial imaging and data analysis to measure important variables in cultivating wine grapes, and developed vigor maps to measure vine stress. By the time he died at the age of 94 in 2008, Robert Mondavi had achieved four decades of winemaking innovations.
Today, the Robert Mondavi Winery continues to thrive in this spirit. This month, it releases the 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve. This premier wine is crafted with grapes from the To Kalon Vineyard, named Vineyard of the Year by the California State Farm Bureau in 2011. And taking a cue from its Silicon Valley neighbors, Robert Mondavi Winery is introducing its newest technological advance: an exciting app featuring Bluetooth and iBeacon technologies. The interactive program will give users a virtual tour of the winery so that oenophiles across the globe can tour the vineyards, learn about the winemaking process, and take in the iconic architecture (designed by the architect Cliff May and built in 1966, the Mission-style structure is a Napa Valley landmark). Users will also get the chance to explore the renowned works of sculpture and photography in the collection built by Mr. Robert Mondavi and his wife, both lifelong supporters of the arts.
Implementing Apple’s new location-based iBeacon technology, the app will share information about points of interest to in-person visitors as they pass them on the grounds, allowing them to discover each at their own leisurely pace. That means when app users stroll by a historic sculpture of St. Francis of Assisi, they’ll learn that Robert and his wife, Margrit, selected the work in honor of the saint because his order of Franciscan friars is credited with bringing grapes to California for the first time, some 200 years ago. The app (now available through the Apple App Store) is just one more example of how Robert Mondavi Winery is leveraging technology to enhance the experience of the wine lover, in the innovative spirit of its beloved founder.