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Robert Mondavi Puts California Wine on the Map

Robert Mondavi (right) with his son Tim (left) and grandson Carlo during an awards ceremony on Ellis Island, NYC in 2005. The awards are given annually to Ellis Island immigrants or their descendants who excel in their professions.

Stephen Chernin/Getty Images

Winemaking in Napa Valley was nothing new in the 1960s, but it was around this time that California wine started getting some global cred, thanks to Robert Mondavi's marketing efforts.

Napa's first vineyard dates back to 1836, and some of the region's most well-known vineyards, such as Beringer, have been around since the late 1800s. Prohibition put a bit of a kink in the California wine industry, but after its repeal in 1933, winemaking in California began to make a comeback [source: Golden Haven]. Groups like Napa Valley Vintners tried to market Napa wines to a larger market, but it was Robert Mondavi who truly put Napa Valley and California wine on the map.

Mondavi launched his winery in 1966, and what set his wines apart from other Napa varieties was his use of European winemaking techniques [source: Robert Mondavi]. Mondavi didn't keep these methods close to the vest, either. He happily taught other regional winemakers these techniques, and that education paid off.

The seminal moment for California wines was probably a 1976 international wine tasting event in Paris. Two California winemakers won first prize in that competition, and both of them trained under Mondavi [source: Robert Mondavi].

California is now one of the major wine-producing regions in the world. It produces 90 percent of the wine made in the U.S. [source: Napa Now].

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