California Wine Pioneer Margrit Mondavi Dies At 91

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Philanthropist, artist, and pioneer of modern California wine culture Margrit Mondavi died this week at the age of 91.

Margrit Mondavi was the widow of Napa Valley winemaker Robert Mondavi and the Vice President of Cultural Affairs at the Robert Mondavi Winery. She joined Robert Mondavi Wines in 1967, and back then Napa Valley was not the luxurious and tourism-friendly place it is famous as today. In order to bring together her interests in food, fine art, and wine, Margrit Mondavi started developing cultural and culinary arts programs that are now the hallmarks of Napa Valley wine culture.

"I had a dream to show wine with art, music and food," she said.  "We began modestly, with a Sunday art show under the arches, accompanied by wine and food."

She founded a summer music festival and a winter concert series that brought some of the greatest musicians in the world to Napa Valley to benefit local musical organizations like the Napa Valley Symphony and Napa Valley Opera.

In addition to her efforts to promote music and art, Margrit Mondavi also introduced a series of cooking classes and culinary series at the winery. She brought world-famous chefs to cook in California, and many of them left with a newfound respect for California wines.

In 2003 Margrit Mondavi published a cookbook called Annie and Margrit: Recipes and Stories from the Robert Mondavi Kitchen with her daughter, Annie Roberts, who at the time was the winery's executive chef.

Margrit and Robert Mondavi were married from 1980 to his death in 2008. Margrit Mondavi remained an active force in Napa Valley arts and wine culture until her death this week after a battle with stomach cancer.