Anyone who shares a glass of wine with me might notice that, while clinking glasses together in a toast, I will search to make eye contact. Why? Because Margrit Mondavi once told me that if I don’t, I’ll be cursed with seven years of bad sex. That's the sort of impish humor she would surprise you with.
Margrit Mondavi’s death was yet another blow in a year that has seen too many of my favorite icons lost. Over the years, I’ve run into her dozens of times, and it was an honor to spend those moments in her presence. Whenever someone spoke to her, Margrit would brighten up and immediately smile. She was charming and warm, with a quick sense of humor and kind words for everyone.
Always the best-dressed woman in the room, Margrit was a style icon to me, and I recall with great affection the time she complimented me on my red patent-leather pumps and when, during Auction Napa Valley, she told me that if the necklace I was wearing were part of one of the lots, she would bid on it. There is no higher praise in my book.
Outside of wine events, I would also often see Margrit around Napa. She frequented Trader Joe's, buying fresh flowers and Campari and sweet-talking the baggers into helping her to her car. I’ve also been stuck behind her driving slowly on Napa’s country roads, only to realize, with a chuckle, who I was passing and give her a friendly wave.
A few years ago, I was assigned to review her book, Reflections on Wine, Food, Art, Family, Romance and Life, which gave me a deeper insight into her complex personality. She was an accomplished artist, an avid baseball fan and a home cook who could easily roast a chicken. But she also described herself as flawed: She was perpetually late, got involved in a tangled romance with the late Robert Mondavi and, as her public persona grew, found that her daughters felt neglected by her.
Whatever the complications of her life, Margrit was the ultimate hostess, and her influence on the culture of Napa—integrating art, music and wine—will be her legacy. It will be sad to not see that grin around town anymore, but I will honor her by roasting a chicken for dinner and always toasting with full eye contact.
We’ll miss you, Margrit.