Like many winery tours, the tour of the Robert Mondavi Winery ends by design at the gift shop, where they sell wine and other items. While my wife perused the wine shelves, my eyes migrated to a table with copies of Robert Mondavi’s autobiography, Harvests of Joy, published in 1998 and in its tenth printing. She bought the wine—a rosé and a Fumé Blanc—and I bought the book.
In today’s world, a book that remains in print after 15 years is a notable achievement, and Harvests of Joy deserves its success. This is not the book for those in search of scandal and intrigue about America’s most famous wine personality and his family. But if you’d like to learn a little about Napa Valley history and get a sense of one of the men who helped shape it, this book, co-written with Paul Chutkow, delivers. It provides a window into Mondavi’s optimistic, risk-taking personality, so similar in this regard to other successful entrepreneurs in and out of the wine business.
Another thing I liked about it was how quotable it was. Ever a promoter for his winery, Napa Valley and wine in general, Mondavi by his own admission was seldom at a loss for words (he died in 2008). He proves equally adept in Harvests of Joy, providing insights on wine, life and how to succeed in business. Here are some choice Robert Mondavi nuggets:
Always taste the wine, not the label.
The finer the grapes, the finer the wine.
There is no secret: Great wine begins in the vineyard.
The greatest leaders don’t rule, they inspire.
Always remember that business is, first and foremost, about people.
No one makes wine alone.
No matter what business you’re in, there’s always going to be turmoil.
In life, as in wine, excess and imbalance are no virtues, even in pursuit of a noble goal.
What it took ages for me to learn was really very simple: Don’t be negative, dogmatic or judgmental. Be positive and flexible. —On managing people
Making wine is a skill, fine wine an art.—One of Mondavi’s most famous lines, used as a motto for Robert Mondavi Winery
In the art of making fine wines, the quest for greatness always comes down to this: the artist and his gifts.
My husband always said, ‘If something is good, don’t talk about it. Do it.’ —Margrit Mondavi, recalling one of her husband’s sayings at a Robert Mondavi Winery concert
Always leave time for playfulness and laughter. There is no better tonic for keeping love alive and vibrant than laughter and good cheer.
All things in moderation, with a few glorious exceptions. —Perhaps Mondavi’s most famous line, widely repeated