The House of Mondavi: The rise and fall of an American Wine Dynasty (2007) by Julia F. Siler is a book about the journey of a true entrepreneur Robert Mondavi, the growth and decline of a family business (Robert Mondavi Wine Company), and an American industry (the wine industry). The book is set in Napa valley, the center-stage of the American wine industry, and spans four generations of the Mondavi family. The story of the Mondavi Wine family starts in early 1900s when a young Italian immigrant Cesare Mondavi comes to the U.S. and enters the grape-shipping business, and concludes with the Robert Mondavi Corp.’s twenty-first-century battle over a billion-dollar fortune where the Mondavi’s lost the business they had created from scratch.
The book presents a great story about ambition, hardwork, vision, imagination, family feud, sibling rivalry, and business competitiveness. I find it fascinating that Cesare, the first generation of the Mondavi wine family, envisioned that “Americans would eventually start drinking drier table wines with their meals, in the European fashion”, and his son Robert devoted himself to convincing a skeptical American public that “wine is the temperate, civilized, sacred, romantic mealtime beverage recommended in the Bible, the liquid food praised for centuries…”. Today, wine is a must-have beverage with any fine meal in many American families. Entrepreneurs truly transform our lives in ways most people can not even imagine.
I would recommend this book whole-heartedly, were it not for its length. The book is long- more than 400 pages. At the same time, it also feels like a typical Hollywood movie or a soap opera with family drama, business intrigue, and betrayal. And, it also helped me learn much more about the wine industry, than I ever knew!