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Mondavi and the American Center for Art, Food & Wine

Robert Mondavi holding a glass of wine, image
Photo caption
Robert Mondavi toasts his new endeavor, Copia, in Napa.

Napa Valley has long been fertile ground for the marriage of fine wine and food. Now the two are forming a ménage à trois with art, a natural next step, at Copia, the American Center for Wine, Food & the Arts. Opening November 18, the $50 million building rises in sleek stone, metal, and glass from the banks of the Napa River. Two of Copia's principal founders, Robert Mondavi and his wife, Margrit, believe Copia will foster "widespread interest in America's winemaking, culinary, and cultural excellence." Copia promises a cornucopia of information on wine, food, and art, from scientific and historic to epicurean and entertaining.

The center also has galleries; a theater; a demonstration kitchen; a dining room named for honorary trustee Julia Child; a tasting area with select American wines; an outdoor amphitheater; and organic gardens. The inaugural art exhibition, Active Ingredients, features installations by seven renowned artists, including Lee Mingwei, Miralda, and Lucy Orta. Information: call (707) 259-1600 or visit

The 88-year-old winemaker Robert Mondavi and Margrit, his art-loving wife, crossbred their passions in founding Copia, the American Center for Wine, Food & the Arts in Napa. He shared his recipe for the sweet life—wine-country style.

Q: Why celebrate wine, food, and the arts?
People who enjoy food, art, music, also enjoy fine wines, and they enjoy them more together.

Q: What will you do for Copia?
Teach people that wine is more than a drink. It's a culture. It's been here since the time of the Assyrians.

Q: Do you drink wine every day?
My wife and I share a bottle each evening. I've been drinking wine since I was 3. I didn't see uncivilized drinking until I attended Stanford and saw beer busts.

Q: What's the perfect Napa meal and wine?
A ratatouille made from the great local vegetables; a farm-raised chicken or rabbit; and pasta. The wine, let's say pinot noir or zinfandel. If it's hot, you can chill them.

Q: Has a glass of wine ever changed your life?
Yes. In 1943, the year we bought Charles Krug Winery, I was given a local cabernet sauvignon and a pinot noir. Their bouquet filled the room. Before then, I thought French wines were the best. I said to myself, I could get this style and character. I knew then I could make great wine.

Q: Do you have words to live by?
As I say in my book, "All things in moderation—with a few glorious exceptions!"

Photography by Avis Mandel/courtesy of Robert Mondavi

This article was first published in November 2001. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.