Michael Mondavi, vice chairman of the Robert Mondavi wine corporation, has taken an extended sabbatical – citing his father’s ‘presence’ as a factor.

One month after stepping down as chairman of the board, Michael Mondavi decided to take a sabbatical, as his brother Tim did last year. He is expected to be back in time for the 2004 harvest, a spokesperson for the company said.

He took the decision after returning from a holiday trip to Hawaii, Hilary Martin, vice president of communications and public relations for Mondavi, said.

Martin quoted Mondavi as saying Robert Mondavi, the founder of the company and patriarch of Californian wine in his early nineties, was still casting a long shadow over the business.

‘Michael said that, if you have someone of great presence, it can shadow others and make it difficult to grow,’ she said, adding that Michael thought a sabbatical would ‘give both him and senior management the chance to gain a new perspective and come back with a different state of mind.’

As recently as 9 January 2004 Michael Mondavi announced his decision to step down from being chairman of the company and to join Tim, brother and company winemaker, as a vice chairman.

At the time he said, ‘personally, I look forward to spending even more time in the marketplace …this is an exciting moment for me, my family and our company.’

Tim Mondavi also took a sabbatical last year as the company underwent a large-scale restructuring in May, taking six months out before returning to the winery for the 2003 harvest.

Written by Oliver Styles