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Margrit Mondavi: California wine and food pioneer dies

Margrit Biever Mondavi, who alongside her husband Robert Mondavi helped to spearhead the rise to prominence of California wines and in particular its association with food and travel, has died aged 91.

Margrit Mondavi died from cancer on 2 September, said the Robert Mondavi winery.

Margrit’s death follows that of Peter Mondavi earlier this year. Her husband, Robert Mondavi, died in 2008.

They were all three part of a generation that brought California wine to the attention of the modern world.

Margrit, especially, pursued links between wine and food, art and travel.

Video: Margrit Mondavi on her association with UC Davis

Read about the Mondavi family

Margrit recognised early on that wine is rarely enjoyed in isolation but alongside life’s other pleasures.

She created culinary and cultural arts programmes at the Robert Mondavi winery after joining the business in 1967. And she started the winery’s summer music festival in 1969.

She was vice president of cultural affairs at the winery at the time of her death, even though the winery is now owned by Constellation Brands.

‘The rites of the table express our humanity’

In 1977, Margrit introduced cooking classes to help wine tourists match fine wine and food.

‘Like painting and music, wine and food speak to the heart,’ she said.

‘By honoring the world of the senses, of memory and emotions, the rites of the table express our humanity.’

Wineries outside of California paid tribute to Margrit, including Smith Haut Lafitte in Bordeeaux.

Margrit also released cookery book alongside her daughter, Annie Roberts, in 2003.

And, two years earlier, Margrit and Robert helped to found the Robert Mondavi Institute for Wine & Food Science.

They were founding patrons of Copia: the American Center fo Wine Food and the Arts, based in Napa. They also created the Robert and Margrit Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts in 2002.

Ralph Hexter, acting chancellor of UC Davis, said, ‘Throughout my tenure at UC Davis, Mrs Mondavi offered kindness and warmth.

‘She was a remarkable friend to this institution. We will miss her spirit and passion.’

Margrit married Robert Mondavi in 1980 and the pair remained together until Robert’s death in 2008.

She leaves behind three children, Philip Biever, Annie Roberts, and Phoebe Holbrook, and six grandchildren.

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