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The House of Mondavi: The Rise and Fall of an American Wine Dynasty | [Julia Flynn Siler]

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

Set in California's lush Napa Valley and spanning four generations of a talented and visionary family, The House of Mondavi is a tale of genius, sibling rivalry, and betrayal. From 1906, when Italian immigrant Cesare Mondavi passed through Ellis Island, to the Robert Mondavi Corporation's 21st-century battle over a billion-dollar fortune, award-winning journalist Julia Flynn Siler brings to life both the place and the people in this riveting family drama.
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Publisher's Summary

Set in California's lush Napa Valley and spanning four generations of a talented and visionary family, The House of Mondavi is a tale of genius, sibling rivalry, and betrayal. From 1906, when Italian immigrant Cesare Mondavi passed through Ellis Island, to the Robert Mondavi Corporation's 21st-century battle over a billion-dollar fortune, award-winning journalist Julia Flynn Siler brings to life both the place and the people in this riveting family drama.

The blood feuds are as spectacular as the business triumphs. Cesare's sons, Robert and Peter, literally came to blows in the 1960s during a dispute touched off by the purchase of a mink coat, resulting in Robert's exile from the family - and his subsequent founding of a winery that would set off a revolution in American winemaking. Robert's sons, Michael and Timothy, as passionate in their own ways as their visionary father, waged battles with each other for control of the company before Michael's expansive ambitions ultimately led to a board coup and the sale of the business to an international conglomerate.

A meticulously reported narrative based on thousands of hours of interviews, The House of Mondavi is bound to become a classic.

©2007 Julia Flynn Siler; (P)2007 Tantor Media Inc.

What the Critics Say

"The House of Mondavi's cast rivals that of the 1980s wine-country melodrama Falcon Crest, with episodes of sex, violence, greed, envy, nepotism, and betrayal...[and] a King Lear-like storyline." (Wine Spectator Online)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

3.7 (210 )
5 star
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4.1 (60 )
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3.9 (57 )
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Performance
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  •  
    08-27-07
    08-27-07 Member Since 2004
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "The House of Mandavi"

    This is a great book for anyone interested in the evolution of the Napa Wine Industry. Interwoven is the high and complex price paid by highly motivated family members driven by some times mutually exclusive goals. It is a fasinating story written in a very entertaining manner. It is also very well read. One of my best non-fiction selections.

    7 of 7 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Victoria B. Mitchell Austin, TX 08-22-07
    Victoria B. Mitchell Austin, TX 08-22-07 Member Since 2007

    StickyWikit

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    "Could have been shorter"

    Although a fascinating story, the author tended to include too much detail (do I need to know what color the sleeves of Michael Mondavi's bride's dress were, really?), which tended to slow the story down. I think if I were reading it, rather than a captive audience during my commute, I might have finished a lot sooner with skimming. I also found the story skipped around a lot: even though the chapters were titled by date ranges, they often included lengthy material from other decades, both before and after. It made it quite confusing to follow.

    On a totally un-related note: the actor who *read* this book is fabulous. He could make the User Guide for a Coffee Pot sound enthralling.

    6 of 6 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Amor Canton, CT, USA 07-22-07
    Amor Canton, CT, USA 07-22-07 Member Since 2005
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    "an American Saga"

    What a story. Boy meets girl and marry. Couple builds family and migrate to Napa. Children carry on the business, engage in a fist fight and in courtroom battle. Two families part ways, each build wineries and empires. Grandchildren take over and deliver revenues, bitter divorces, corporate drama, collapse of wine empire, reunion, joint venture to make wine, sold in stratospheric price at auction. Never did I finish a book with a happy ending.

    6 of 6 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Andy Westport, CT, United States 08-26-07
    Andy Westport, CT, United States 08-26-07 Member Since 2002
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    "beyond the vines"

    This book provided a very deep dive into the history of the Mondavi family, and its rise and fall in the wine business. Full of details, you get a great taste of the family dynamics as well as a glimpse into how the wine industry works. Solid narration and well flowing story.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Roger N. Bryan Ooltewah, TN USA 01-06-10
    Roger N. Bryan Ooltewah, TN USA 01-06-10 Member Since 2005
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    "Disorganized and way too long"

    I have only listened to the first six hours but have given up. I can't imagine what 10 more hours would be about. The most interesting thing about the Mondavi story is the legal battle between members of the family and that's over now. The author has done a lot of research, and it supposedly is written from earliest to latest times, but it skips around so much it's hard to keep track of when and where you are in the story. There is also too much unrelated minutiae (do we really need to know what one of the lawyers wore on stage when he performed with his rock band?). Add to this, the reader's pompous tone and his mis-pronunciations make this book barely tolerable. He correctly pronounced the last name Mon-day-vi in the beginning because, according to the author, that's the way the family pronounced their name. After Robert formed his own winery and broke away from his brother and mother, he started pronouncing his surname Mon-dah-vi, and now this reader started
    pronouncing every family member's name as Mon-dah-vi. I don't remember anything saying they all decided on this new pronunciation. Especially egregious, is his mis-pronouncing the name of the prominent town, St. Helena. As a former resident, you couldn't be anywhere in the Napa Valley and not know that the town name is pronounced Saint Hel-eena. All in all, I'm sorry we bought this book.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Mo Palo Alto, CA, USA 12-27-09
    Mo Palo Alto, CA, USA 12-27-09
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    "Is this worth a listen?"

    I am listening to this recount of the trials and tribulations of the famous California wine family and their dysfunction. This is a true story culled from interviews with the principals and other verified sources by the author. It reads like a novel. We experience dramatic highs and lows, legal wranglings, adultery and betrayals. Unfortunately, the narrator for this recording was not good. He narrates the story as though it is his first read through with emphases and pauses in all the wrong places. He has a pleasant enough voice, but his inflections and voice modulations are the same for most of the phrases and sentences and is very distracting and annoying. The content is however worth it. My choice were I to do this again would be to skip the audiobook and read the book on my Kindle.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Linda Lou Cave Creek, AZ USA 11-27-09
    Linda Lou Cave Creek, AZ USA 11-27-09 Member Since 2007

    Obsessive reader, 6-10 books a week, chosen from Member reviews. Fact & fiction, subjects from the Tudors to Tookie, Harlem to Hiroshima, Huey Long to Huey Newton.  In-depth fair reviews - from front to BLACK!!! 

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    "LESS EXCITING THAN WATCHING GRAPES GROW"

    I lived about 5 miles from the Napa Valley for many years and loved to tour the many wineries in the area. It's one of the most beautiful and agriculturally unique places in the US. I was sure this would be a fabulous story of the people who set out to compete with countries like France and Germany, wine makers for many centuries. However, this story is as flat as last night's champagne, with mind-numbing minutiae that requires a bottle of cheap wine to get through. The Mondavis were an incredibly boring! The "blood feud" is nothing more than the normal conflicts that any family has - even a family without money and/or the legacy of an iconic winery. The author spends the entire book trying make up conflict. She'd wastes time describing a minor person's wedding dress rather than give some indepth character development. Family attorney - and former San Francisco mayor - Joseph L. Alioto's personal foibles (about which the author goes into much detail) overshadows everything done by the whole Mondavi clan put together. My own research failed to find anything worth knowing on this family other than it did what was expected of them as world-class vintners. Brother Timothy, a member of the Christian Brothers, who maintained a winery right down the road from the Mondavis, lived a more exciting life than these people. The "four generations" live at the same time on the same land doing the same things. No mavericks, no scandals, no black sheep. The big legal battle ends predictably in a whimper rather than a bang. The only "fun fact" is that second-generation Robert Mondavi left the family's business to start the first post-Prohibition winery. This whole story could have been told in 30 minutes. Use your money to buy a 6-pack of Dos Equiis and read quotes from "The Most Interesting Man In The World".

    5 of 7 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Kevin mercer island, WA, United States 04-11-13
    Kevin mercer island, WA, United States 04-11-13 Member Since 2009
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    "Compelling strory of a family's self distruction"
    Would you consider the audio edition of The House of Mondavi to be better than the print version?

    A very interesting story of the first family of wine in Napa Valley. A very interesting story about the Valley and all the wine makers. The family story is very sad on a multi generational level. Very compelling listening. The narrator is a little boring.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Charlie USA 04-04-13
    Charlie USA 04-04-13 Member Since 2011

    Charlie

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    "Well researched, written and narrated."
    What did you love best about The House of Mondavi?

    ms. siler did an excellent job of researching and writting this book. As did mr. skla in narrating it. A book for anyone interested in California's history re wineries and the mondavi family, an integral part, quite generous in spirit, despite family squabbles, like the rest of us, in that process.


    What was one of the most memorable moments of The House of Mondavi?

    when a seaoned mondavi executive was confronted by a young mondavi kid saying in jest...i think i'll keep you all...similar to when young prince harry said...look at all the peasants, when he was 3 yrs old....the exec said...i'd like to take him out back and beat the shit out him....it was priceless.


    Which scene was your favorite?

    every aspect of the lovely scenary that accomplies a book about vineyards.


    Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

    my reaction to this book is that i found it be an excellent selection and couldn't recommend it more highly.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    jill Gladwyne, PA, United States 12-09-12
    jill Gladwyne, PA, United States 12-09-12 Member Since 2007
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    "Interesting recounting of dynastic dysfunction"

    Julia Flynn Siler does an excellent job chronicalling the lives and events relative to the dynastic Mondavi famly. It's really well done, although it helps, as she is very detailed, to have a true interest in the CA wine scene. This is not a 'happy ending' saga - if anything it could be a morality play on the corrupting influence of money coupled with blind ambition. While the story held my interest, the narrator did not improve the experience, coming off to me as stilting, stuffy and patronizing - a sorry choice for an otherwise interesting story.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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