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The House of Mondavi: The Rise and Fall of an American Wine Dynasty

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Overview

In early January 2004, Wall Street's demands were about to collide with the Mondavi family's dynastic dreams. Michael Mondavi, a son of the famous vintner Robert Mondavi, got a morning phone call from his younger brother Timothy. Heads up, his sibling warned him. You're about to get your ass handed to you in a sling.

Michael, as chairman of the Robert Mondavi Corporation, had planned to lobby the two members of the company's board of directors he was lunching with that day to ...

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The House of Mondavi: The Rise and Fall of an American Wine Dynasty

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Overview

In early January 2004, Wall Street's demands were about to collide with the Mondavi family's dynastic dreams. Michael Mondavi, a son of the famous vintner Robert Mondavi, got a morning phone call from his younger brother Timothy. Heads up, his sibling warned him. You're about to get your ass handed to you in a sling.

Michael, as chairman of the Robert Mondavi Corporation, had planned to lobby the two members of the company's board of directors he was lunching with that day to rein in Mondavi's CEO. His bravado faded as he walked through the Oakville winery's famous arch. After some small talk, the directors told him that they thought it best if he'd step down. Michael asked what his new job would be as vice chairman. "We'll figure it out," they said.

Then sixty, Michael pushed his chicken breast around his plate with a fork. He'd spent decades building a wine empire spanning five continents for his heirs. Now, he'd been fired from the only company where he'd ever worked. Waves of anguish and disbelief swept over him after he learned that his sister, Marcia, had backed his ouster.

He felt betrayed by his sister's decision. But his father hadn't protested his removal either. In fact, a closely guarded secret involving his father's personal financial problems had helped trigger the board coup that began that day. Within months, the directors would strip the Mondavis of control and begin dismembering the billion-dollar wine empire they had created.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
For decades, talk about feuding members of the Mondavi vineyard dynasty has been a staple of wine gatherings. Wall Street Journal contributing writer Siler fills in the stories with scintillating details about contentious battles in and out of wine company boardrooms that include a momentous fistfight over a mink coat and the sibling battle for corporate control that ultimately brought down the prestigious winery.
Eric Asimov
Call it Greek tragedy or Shakespearean drama, Biblical strife, Freudian acting out, or even soap opera. . . . Compelling. (Eric Asimov, The New York Times)
BusinessWeek
A fascinating chronicle . . . a twisted tale filled with big egos, beautiful backdrops, and charismatic-yet-flawed characters who pull off towering feats and then throw them all away.
Seattle PostIntelligencer
A first-rate job of creating a balanced view of this epic A merican drama. . . . T he book reads like a novel and her crisp style makes the book compelling regardless of whether the reader has an interest in wine. . . . It's a great summer read but it also belongs on the reference shelf of any wine library.
James Laube
Explores the Mondavis' bumpy journey in grand and fascinating detail. . . . Fluid and well-written.
Wine Spectator
NPR Day to Day
A riveting story that is part soap opera, part Shakespearean family drama.
Barrons
Based on exhaustive research and interviews, each page is packed with facts and footnotes which, by dint of superb writing, manage to engage the reader and avoid the data brain-lock that would have plagued a less-talented journalist.
From the Publisher
"A fascinating history filled with charismatic yet flawed characters." —-BusinessWeek
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781400154807
  • Publisher: Tantor Media, Inc.
  • Publication date: 6/1/2007
  • Format: MP3 on CD
  • Edition description: MP3 - Unabridged CD
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 8.10 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Julia Flynn Siler writes front-page stories for The Wall Street Journal from San Francisco.

Alan Sklar is the winner of several AudioFile Earphones Awards and a multiple finalist for the APA's prestigious Audie Award. Named a Best Voice of 2009 by AudioFile magazine, his work has twice earned him a Booklist Editors' Choice Award, a Publishers Weekly Listen-Up Award, and Audiobook of the Year by ForeWord magazine.

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Table of Contents


Author's Note     ix
Prologue: Blaze 2004     1
Foundation
The Valley 1906-1952     9
France 1943-1963     27
East of Eden 1963-1965     43
To Kalon 1965-1966     57
Construction
Crush 1966-1972     75
Gunslingers 1972-1975     97
Judgment 1975-1976     113
The Heirs 1976-1978     125
"That Woman" 1978-1980     145
The Baron 1978-1981     161
Father and Sons 1982-1984     179
Thicker Than Water 1984-1990     193
Heart and Soul 1990-1992     205
Going Public 1992-1993     221
Expansion
Regency's End 1993-1994     235
Disinherited 1994-1996     249
Michael's Show 1996-1997     261
Waterloo 1998-2001     277
Demolition
Mondaviland 2001-2003     297
The Board Coup 2003-2004     315
Brothers 2004     331
The Takeover October to November, 2004     347
Damage Control December 2004 to April 2005     361
Billionaires' Ball June 2005     377
Epilogue: 2006     391
Acknowledgments     395
Notes     397
Sources and Bibliography     435
Index     439
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 14 )
Rating Distribution

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(4)

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Sort by: Showing all of 14 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 5, 2008

    A Non-Fiction Page Turner!

    Julia Flynn Siler's The House of Mondavi starts with everything that makes a great story: a wonderfully complex and larger-than-life character, a lush wine-country setting, a conflicted family, and a great undertaking. She brings the story to life with a journalist's eye for the telling detail and a fine fiction writer's sense of plot, pacing, and instinct for the great tragedy that so often results from excesses of pride. The result is a page-turner that leaves the reader not just with the sense of having enjoyed a satisfying story, but also with a deep knowledge of the history of the rise of California's wine industry and a better understanding of human nature. I would recommend this book to anyone.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 1, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    A Dysfunctional House

    I couldn't finish this book. I was halfway through and just couldn't bring myself to read any more pages detailing the dysfunction of the Mondavi family. The sibling rivalries, the raw greed, the marital affairs, and the suffering children who repeated this dysfunctional cycle across several generations.

    What a sad, pitiful tale Julia Flynn Siler has crafted in "The House of Mondavi: The Rise and Fall of an American Wine Dynasty". If you can get past Siler's overlapping sequence of events, you'll find a story that leaves little to be desired.

    There is chapter after chapter of family members suffering from the dysfunctional relationship between Robert and those around him including his brother, sister, mother, wife, kids, nephews and nieces. It seems no one was spared in the suffering surrounding Robert Mondavi, which he either ignored or was oblivious to.

    There was little, if anything, to be inspired by here, which created a struggle for me to get through the remaining chapters.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 6, 2014

    Great book, great wine, hooorrrrrrrrible family

    Great book, great wine, hooorrrrrrrrible family

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  • Posted April 24, 2010

    Excellent historical account of the inner workings of a family of wine "wine royalty" within the US

    I have always been intrigued by the Mondavi family, and the strife between brothers Robert and Peter. I am a champion for "the underdog", and Robert Mondavi was certainly such a character after having been tossed out of the Mondavi family. On that point alone I would purchase Rober Mondavi wines - in addition to the fact they were excellent.

    For years all I really knew of the Mondavi family was learned through media reports once in a while, and the wisps of "insights" of how deep the gap had become when Robert Mondavi's own brand of wines hit the marketplace. Julia Siler's research into the Mondavi dynasty and the dynamics of its inner workings was excellent on all points. Then again, if I were one of the subjects I may not have been as excited to have seen such an insightful account of my life.

    I received this book as a gift, and upon learning a client was interested in good wines, and enjoyed traveling to vineyards that included those in the Napa Valley, I purchased a copy for her. I know she loved the book as much as I did. I have yet another client who wants to visit Central California, and visit Napa Valley. I am going to purchase yet another book for him to read before he goes there, as this is as important as a road map (or GPS) to get a sense of where one is within the pages of the rich history in the region, and the continuing impact of the Mondavi family in Napa Valley and the wine industry as a whole.

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  • Posted September 25, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    A Legacy Lost on the Vines of Wine

    Having read the latter parts of the events from this book real-time as they unfolded I was eager to learn what had occurred leading up to the climatic loss of a once powerful and legendary force in the wine industry. While I found the beginning difficult to get into and several sections feel to become somewhat static the pace starts to pick-up as Flynn Siler starts to gain a rhythm.

    It truly feels as if the reader is there in the living room of the Mondavi's or watching the interaction at the winery or gazing on as the events unfold. The only slight is the focus tends to steer towards Michael and his portion of the family giving short thrift to Peter and the sisters. Understandably, Michael was the most forceful personality and no doubt would have been proud to inadvertently or not be the sun in which the plot of the book revolves but it would have provided the reader a broader look at the Mondavis and not just Michael.

    That being said, the book is an excellent read with its richness of detail, easy flowing style and unique ability because of the authors profession to provide us with intricate details into the family, the company and the industry.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 22, 2008

    A fascinating read

    This book is for anyone who is even remotely interested in wine and anyone who has fallen in love with Napa Valley. There are quite a few characters so it was at times difficult to get them straight but all in all I would highly recommend this book. I couldn't put it down.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 30, 2007

    Take notes and read everything twice...

    'House of Mondavi' was my first entry into wine literature, and it is spectacular reading. Some of the stories of a fractured and dysfunctional family read like fiction because you might not believe that blood relatives would do some of the things they did to each other. My admittedly meager wine knowledge did not come into play - I was shocked as I continued to read (captivated, might I add) that I did not need to be the stereotypical 'wine snob' to follow the happenings in the book. What I did need was a notepad and several looks at the family tree on the inside covers. Between people's names, vineyard names, and brand names, this book likely invites 'War and Peace' jokes for how many names and references you have to keep straight. Having said that, if you read slower than your normal speed, which I would highly recommend, you'll read a fantastic family and business story that is aptly summed up by the quote on the back cover: 'Think 'Barbarians at the Grape''. The similarities to the RJR Nabisco story are telling, and while F. Ross Johnson and Co. weren't dealing with family members, one could argue that the different branches of the Mondavi family weren't dealing with family members either. Blood might be thicker than water, but it's apparently thinner than wine.

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    Posted June 15, 2009

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