In that barrel room filled with the pungent aroma of the wines aging, listening to Bob Levy talk about them makes Omar Khayyam come alive:

             A Book of Verses underneath the Bough,

            A Jug of Wine, a Loaf of Bread–and Thou

●●●

How could one even begin to talk about California wines without talking about the Mondavi family and the invaluable contribution made by the patriarch Robert Mondavi for putting American wines on the world map? He not only makes some of the best California wines but he is also the ambassador at large for the entire wine industry of the United States. Robert Mondavi will also go down in the history as having forged the joint-venture with Baron Philippe de Rothschild of Mouton-Rothschild and establish Opus One winery right across the street from his own.  In the true family tradition, working with him are his wife Margrit Biever, his sons Michael and Timothy and his daughter Marcia.

His striking mission style winery complex leads you in through an imposing archway flanked by the wine tasting room, a souvenir shop and the administrative offices. Inge Heinemann of public relations gives us a quick tour of the winery before we settle down for leisurely tasting of their wines paired with some exquisite dishes created specially for us by Margrit’s daughter, Annie Roberts, who is the chef at their elegant, airy and spacious Vineyard Room.

During the course of the meal, we are joined by the younger Mondavi son. Lanky, debonair, tall, brooding, gaunt and bearded with full head of black hair, Timothy is the family winemaker – though he prefers to be called the wine grower.  He differs slightly with his father’s philosophy of making good wine is a skill, fine wine an art, to making good wine is a skill, growing good wine is an art   Because; the three most important things that give its personality and noblesse to an artistic wine are; soil, climate and philosophy of the people involvedOne needs to grow grapes in synchronization and harmony with nature. As he talks to us about wine and good life, he turns his head in a circle and looks around the room; this room is about celebration of good life.  Wines are civilizing aspects of being a part of a meal and therefore of  good life. And then he continues: artistic wine’s purpose is to express its personality in a pristine way. After all, life is too short to drink bad wines”. Timothy Mondavi somehow seems to echo the sentiments of the wine country’s madman, the Rhône Ranger, Randall Graham.

© Haresh Shah 2014

Illustration: Celia Rose Marks

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ON FRIDAY, JANUARY 10, 2014

UNEMPLOYMENT BLUES

It wasn’t until after more than a  year later that I show up at the unemployment office to apply for the benefits I was entitled to. This in itself was enough for David M. to wonder about during our initial interview. There were other things about my application that he couldn’t quite put in the standard slots. What followed was enough to drive him up the wall.

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