Wine, passion and Lamborghinis yield a pretty good story
For generations, the wineries of California have been cloaked in the mysteries of families and histories, legacies and legends, dramas and romances. If only the vines could talk. What tales they could tell.
Making wine is romantic, but it is also an agricultural business that requires generational patience -- from the growing of the vines to the fermenting in the barrels. It is a long-term, patient capital investment.
Winemakers are well-known for the slow science and intricate art of making great wine. But beneath the cloak, it is fast becoming an industry rich with NextGen leaders, thinkers and innovators.
Lucio Mondavi – like the three generations before him – is a winemaker and an innovator. That famous last name tells a story. C. Mondavi and Family is a fifth-generation wine company steeped in a history that Lucio is both proud of and humbled by. These days, Mondavi divides his time between the wine business as a board member and a brand ambassador for C. Mondavi and Family —- and as an engineer most recently for Lamborghini.
“My great-grandparents, Cesare and Rosa, were born in the small Italian town of Sasofferrato, Italy. They immigrated to the U.S., first to Minnesota and eventually to California. They founded a grape shipping business to ship grapes from California to people across the East Coast to make homemade wine, and this gave them a broad view of the different growing regions in California. Napa Valley stood out as exceptional for the quality of its grapes. They purchased Charles Krug Winery in 1943,” explains Mondavi.
Charles Krug is 160 years old and is the oldest winery in Napa Valley and one of the oldest in California. Napa is a place known as much for its innovation as it is for its traditions.
“The research my grandfather did here [in Napa] in cold fermentation techniques resulted in fresher, fruit forward white wines, a technique that is now replicated around the world. This was a critical piece of innovation that can be traced to our winery and can still be seen in winemaking today,” Mondavi says.
Innovation clearly does not skip generations in the Mondavi clan. “With the onset of the pandemic, we needed to innovate rapidly to maintain these personal interactions with consumers. Rather than welcoming the consumer to Charles Krug, we’ve brought the winery to them by conducting over 170 virtual tastings serving approximately 4,500 people over the past 12 months,” Mondavi says.
Like many NextGeners, Lucio embraces both the legacy of the past and the promise of the future, “It is the spirit of entrepreneurship that pushes us toward innovation and the history of entrepreneurship that guides us.”
Amy C. Cosper
Twitter me @AmyCCosper
What are your experiences with NextGens and innovation? How is your family business staying relevant? Let me know. We’d love to hear from you. Amy.Cosper@familybusinessmagazine.com
Oh! Don’t miss Lucio Mondavi’s fireside chat at the NextGen Summit, April 16 at 2:30 p.m. Eastern Time. We’ll be talking innovation, family, staying relevant and Lamborghinis. Register here: https://nextgen.familybusinessmagazine.com