Giveaway: House of Mondavi by Julia Flynn Siler

Julia Flynn Siler wrote an excellent book, House of Mondavi: The Rise and Fall of an American Wine Dynasty, which came out last year. In it, she chronicled the compelling saga–complete with sex scandals, business success and failure, courtroom drama, and a brawl–of one of America’s leading wine families. The book is currently shortlisted for a 2008 James Beard award in the wine and spirits book category. (As is George Taber’s To Cork or Not to Cork, which we previously gave away.)

I have two paperback editions of the book to give away. To qualify, post a comment here about which American wine family or company you’d like Julia Flynn Siler to put under her journalistic microscope next. Post your comment by midnight Sunday and check back here or your email to see if your name was selected at random as one of the two winners.

UPDATE with winners: Scroll down to this comment for the winner announcement. Congrats TH and Tyler!

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45 Responses to “Giveaway: House of Mondavi by Julia Flynn Siler”

  1. I think something about the Gallo or Beringer families, or perhaps Heidi and Bo Barrett.

  2. Gotta be Mike Grgich and Grgich Hills.

  3. I don’t know if any could be as sprawlingly dynastic as Mondavi, but perhaps something digging back, like andre Tchelistcheff, though there may be something out there already. Maybe even older, to the roots of the industry in the post Gold Rush days.

  4. Gallo family, that family has a broad role in the wine industry

  5. Rochioli: the family thing, the Pinot…would be glorious

  6. Sebastiani!

  7. I’ll second a look at the Sebastiani family and suggest that a look at the Chaplin family of Southern Wine and Spirits fame would be interesting.

  8. Having gone to high school with one of them (who made our Latin class interesting) and having met others, and knowing a bit of the history, I’d go for the Sebastiani family. But I know I can’t get the prize because I’m at least the third to mention them. I’ll have to come up with a good second choice. Hmmm.

  9. Rich and others –

    Even if the family/company you’re interested in learning more about has already been mentioned in the comments, feel free to mention them again! It will show a strong degree of interest for subject!

    Will update this post to clarify. Sebastiani seems like a popular choice.

    I like BB’s suggestion about more research on Southern Wine & Spirits.

  10. Maybe a history of a famous winery like Chateau Margeux?

    As for wine makers, I’d love to hear the history of Franzia.


  11. More Kermit Lynch, please.

  12. All the preceding are great suggestions, but I have to throw my superdelegate vote to Franzia. To me Fred Franzia and Robert Mondavi are the yin and yang of California wine. Both are iconoclasts, with huge impacts on the wine world, albeit in very different ways.

  13. Columbia Crest of Washington State, I like their wines well the ones the BC liquore store brigns in.

    Oh and Fetzer Winery, helped my chef in one of the sponsored fetzer contest at the wine festival. Might as well and see what they are all about.

  14. There was an exellent (even if dated) bio of the Gallos called Blood & Wine, check it out if you haven’t already.

    I would love to read more about Mike Grgich, the roles of Croatian influences and the judgment at Paris tasting.

    Hmmm upon further reading, it would be a fun read about the Franzias and their boxes, and the continuing soap opera that is the Sebastiani family tree.

  15. I think the Benziger family would be a good story: quirky, passionate & pioneering bioD & other sustainability initiatives and a true family run operation.

  16. I would like to Warren Wanarski of Stag’s Leap. Bet he has a story to tell!

  17. Could I really be the first to mention Jess Jackson?

  18. Why not Francis Ford Coppola along the lines of…

    In order to make a small fortune on making wine, you have to spend a large one.

  19. I’d be interested in reading about the Sands family and how they grew Canandaigua Industries into Constellation.

  20. I also would find the Franzia story interesting.
    Of course, you then would have to include Trader Joe’s who made “2 Buck Chuck” famous!

  21. Hey all, how about the Chuck Family.
    The creators of the infamous 2BUCKCHUCK
    or if you happen to live further east of California 3BUCKCHUCK!
    The wonders they have done for the wine world.

  22. Jess Jackson: He’s built an international empire (US, France, Italy, Chile, Australia) and made himself into the one of the new titans of wine in 25 years–a period equal to that of Bob Mondavi, whom he bids fair to replace. And his wines cover the market, ranging from the well-priced and reliable K-J standards to the unusual and distinguished (and pricy!) stuff he produced at Tenute d’Arceno in collaboration w/Pierre Seillan.

    The Gallos’ candidacy is I think undermined by a certain hollowness behind the headlines. That is, although there’s bound to be lots of juicy stuff in E. & J.’s innumerable lawsuits, it’s mostly about personal feuds. Gallo made itself a giant in marketing but otherwise for too many of its 75 years stood apart from the development of American quality wines.

    One comment on the Mondavi book, which I’ve had but a glance at, and other, briefer Mondavi profiles: Since per conventional wisdom parental abuse are inherited I wonder why Cesare, the grandfather, is always painted a saint. Maybe he was one; nevertheless there is the astonishing fact that both of his sone turned out to be monstrously abusive toward both of THEIR sons.

  23. The Gallo family – how DID they build such a vast empire? But then, will it strike back if anything too discomfiting is unearthed?

  24. I don’t know anyone in the industry who deserves the abusive intrusion Julie forced on the Robert Mondavi family. If he were an Italian home winemaker, perhaps Benito Mussolini.

  25. I think that Robert Mondavi was a legitimate focus for two reasons. Firstly, Mondavi revolutionized the CA wine industry after Prohibition decimated it. Until Mondavi, CA wines were not taken seriously at all. Despite folks like Hanzell and Martini, CA wine never really attained any prominence until Mondavi changed the direction or at least the perception. Secondly, Mondavi did what he did using a combination of quality and self promotion. That kind of self-promotion is always deserving of a look behind the curtain.

    Guys like Jess Jackson and Fred Franzia are astute businessmen, but the Mondavis and Gallos revolutionized the American wine industry.

  26. hard to look past the baretts namely the Peterson-barrett of the duo. For 25 years they have set and reset the benchmark for California wine on several levels.

  27. “Forced on”?? Please. People who don’t want to be interviewed say no and stick to it. Siler apparently hit a journalist’s jackpot: a time when calamitous events mean EVERYBODY wants to get his side of the story in print.To say nothing of the fact that the Mondavis thrived on publicity and self-promotion.

  28. I’d have to agree with the comment on Kermit Lynch or perhaps another maverick like Bonny Doon’s Randall Grahm…folks that have made wine history by thumbing their noses (or flipping the bird, I guess) at the status quo.

  29. I think it might be difficult to do a book length treatment of many of the interesting folks in the wine biz. I think that Paul Draper from Ridge has made any enormous contribution to the wine industry over the years, but may not warrant an entire book. Some of these folks just make really good wine, but don’t have the drama associated with them that folks like the Mondavis do. Randall Grahm, Draper, and many others would make for good chapters however.

  30. bb is onto something. Maybe the better idea is a book with a chapter of appropriate length for each of several or a dozen notable folks. I think it would have wider appeal. And it wouldn’t be subject to inflation in the sense once a book is planned on a given person, that book MUST by god, be ‘book-length,’ and that’s getting longer all the time, as if WEIGHT is what counts most.

  31. To take things over to the other coast, how about Konstantin Frank or Walter Taylor. Two certainly very interesting figures in American wine history.

  32. There’s never been a biography of Frank Schoonmaker. Aren’t we about due?

  33. If you’re looking at the greatest impact on the American wine industry I’d definitely like to know more about the role of UCDavis and the early struggles to establish the United States as a credible wine producer.

  34. Thank you! So many good suggestions. What a fascinating industry filled with larger-than-life characters…

    Julia Flynn Siler

  35. I’d honestly like to read a full-blown expose of Yellowtail.

  36. How about (another) bio of Robert Parker? Heck, pair it with bios of Stephen Tanzer, James Laube, and James Suckling, to create a portrait of the four most influential critics in wine?

  37. I’d love to read a bio of Andy Beckstoffer. He’s a native of my adopted hometown, and went to the same high school as some of my wife’s family. As he’s more of a behind-the-scenes guy, I’d love to read more about how his name has become known for top-flight Napa Cabs without ever producing a regular vintage of his own.

  38. Gotta agree with JDWebster on Walter Taylor also….Bully Hill was the most fun I have ever had inside a tasting room. The atmosphere was so laid back and unpretentious I actually called a wine a little “flacid” and the men didn’t turn and stare at me in horror.

  39. This might be stretching the “American” angle a bit, but Miramir Torres and the Torres family.

    Cheers, Boyce

  40. I think the world is finally ready for an expose on Bartles and Jaymes.

  41. The Golitzin family from Quilceda Creek

  42. Fetzer, or one of the other pioneering organic vintners

  43. I just surfed over to, which I use for all my random number needs, and generated a winner: Julia Flynn Siler! Seriously, I just plugged in 1 – 42 (the number of comments) and her number (35) came up.

    So I deleted Julia and me from the list of eligible names as well as any duplicate comments and generated a new pair of winners: TH and Tyler, come on down! Your names were selected as winners of the prize so shoot me an email with your mailing address and I will send a copy out to each of you.

    This was a great thread and there are lots of good ideas here for future research and writing.

  44. I am wondering if I am the only person out here who thought that this book was terribly written. I cannot recall any time in my life where such a fascinating and dynamic story has been burdened with an author who clearly has no place writing a narritive of this size or importance. I know it can be easy to overlook such a thing, but seriously, this book could have been much better with a writer who has a grasp of style.

  45. I give Siler credit for doggedness–for example, other versions of the Mondavi Brothers’ Fistfight have passed it off as just that, with the two brothers then simply going their separate ways. Per Siler, who read through the apparently all the court documents, the fight devolved into a vicious legal wrangle in which over a period of 10 years(!) Peter and Ma Mondavi set out to cheat Robert out of his share. That said, and as I’ve said elsewhere, Siler’s prose could stop a clock. Books that conclude, as hers does, with the author’s fulsome praise for editorial helpers, are almost always badly damaged in one way or another. (In her book, Alice Feiring, also concludes with an emetic spate of praise for her editor and copy editor, both of whom are, on the evidence, lazy and incompetent.)


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