Joie de Vivre! Margrit Mondavi Shares the Secret to Enjoying Life

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Joie-de-Vivre

Margrit Mondavi knows that enjoying wine is key to enjoying life — and she practices what she preaches

When Margrit Mondavi was young, her parents would give her a little water with a tablespoon of wine and sugar before bed — to stay healthy. As she got older, the sugar and water was replaced by more wine.

 “I think it is important to combine music and art,” Margrit said. “Wine is a form of art too. If you have a great shop opening and everybody has a little wine and cheese, it makes a happy event.”

Throughout Margrit’s entire youth, wine was always at the table. To her, it was a natural thing. Her Swiss family had a wine cellar and always enjoyed a nice glass of wine with a good meal. It only made sense for her to continue her passion for wine in the rest of her endeavors.

In 1961, Margrit came to Napa Valley to work in cultural affairs at her future husband’s winery — Robert Mondavi Winery — uniting wine with art. Eight years later in 1969 she founded the Summer Music Festival in Napa, bringing stars such as Ella Fitzgerald and Lena Horn to a culturally barren area. To Margrit, she was just at the right place at the right time — because it was the wine that created all of the great moments.

“I think it is important to combine music and art,” Margrit said. “Wine is a form of art too. If you have a great shop opening and everybody has a little wine and cheese, it makes a happy event.”

Many years later, Margrit is busier than ever at Mondavi Wines as the Vice President of Cultural Affairs. She is constantly checking her e-mail, voicemail and other correspondences, finding new artists for shows, making art and music selections for the summer festival and supporting the Robert Mondavi men. But to her, that’s the easiest part of her job.

The hardest? Going home at night, when the talk of wine and art finally stops.

“I love working so much,” Margrit said.

But, the talk doesn’t have to stop after hours. To keep the conversation of art and wine going strong even when she’s at home, Margrit paints in her spare time.

“I’m no Picasso or Matisse, but I’m deeply into watercolor, everything from abstract to still life,” Margrit said. “I love painting flowers, and I love color.”

Frank Teller is one of Margrit’s favorite artists. To Margrit, art has been a lifelong love affair. As a child, her father would play the piano and take her and her siblings to concerts and art shows — and later after countless doodles in notebooks, her parents sent her to art school. Margrit always jokes that she spent half of her lifetime falling in love with beautiful works of art — and the other half trying to get them.

In 2001 Margrit started COPIA: The American Center for Wine, Food and Art, the natural extension of both of her passions. For her philanthropy, she created new spaces and events to introduce people to the joy of wine and art. From cooking classes to classic movies and jazz concerts on the lawn, people from all backgrounds came together to experience good wine, good art and good living.

Margrit is no stranger to writing.  Her first book, “Annie and Margrit: Recipes and Stories from the Robert Mondavi Kitchen” is already out in print, and her second book is in the works.  In the next year, Margrit intends to release a biography of her life. Janet Fletcher is helping her put together the biography, sketches, and recipes in order to share her story and zest for life, art and wine with the rest of the world.

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