Re Robert Mondavi, wine fan Geoffrey Samuels e-mails:
Although I'm sure there were other factors involved, Robert Mondavi helped to usher in a true revolution in California winemaking. When as a kid I first visited Charles Krug winery (around 1965), fermentation was done in huge redwood tanks; when one of the people taking the tour asked why there were no vintage dates on the wines the reply was, "Every year is good, so we don't bother."
The wineries that I visited in that period all seemed to still be recovering from Prohibition and seemed to be content to stick with what worked in the twenties. When I started tasting wine myself in the early 70's there seemed to be a slow improvement (at least in some of the wineries) and then the 80's came and Bam! It seemed that there was an explosion of wineries and the quality of the wines seemed to take a jump. I'm sure that's due to the efforts of Robert Mondavi and the folks he mentored, people like Warren Winiarski and Mike Grgich.
Although just about every shiny new winery these days has a kitchen and hosts culinary events, I believe Mondavi was the first to try to tie food and wine right at the winery. I believe it was no coincidence that the rise of "California Cuisine" in the 80's coincided with the steady rise of California wine. I'm sure there was a synergy between the food and the wine leading to dramatic improvements for both.
PS: This year's Napa Wine Auction will honor Mondavi.