|NAPA VALLEY MUSEUM HONORS MARGRIT MONDAVI
By Jeanne Lawrence
The annual Angel Gala, a benefit for the Napa Valley Museum in Yountville, honored art patron Margrit Biever Mondavi. Swiss-born Margrit married vintner Robert Mondavi (founder of the Mondavi Winery in Oakville) almost 30 years ago and they are dynamite together.
Fittingly, the Bejeweled gala’s venue was at Copia: the American Center for Wine, Food and the Arts in the town of Napa. The Mondavis were instrumental in founding the Center with a leading $20 million gift.
Margrit works tirelessly, traveling the world, promoting the local wines, side-by-side with husband Bob, long considered the Ambassador for California Wines.
In 2003, the Mondavi family sold the company to Constellations Brands for $1.35 billion, not bad for a local boy.
The couple has hosted top international winemakers from the French Rothchilds to the Italian Frescobaldis. Bob’s goal for the Mondavi Winery was to make American varietals equal to the world’s best– which he did.
For herself, Margrit, now Mondavi Winery’s VP of Cultural Affairs, always dreamed of uniting wine with fine art, music and culinary talent so, in 1969, she founded the popular Summer Music Festival to benefit the Napa Valley Symphony. Headliners have included the greats — Ella Fitzgerald, Harry Belafonte, and Tony Bennett.
She also introduced the Great Chefs of France and America cooking classes at Mondavi, bringing Paul Bocuse, Jean Troisgros, Alice Waters, and Thomas Kellar to share their genius.
|Mondavi’s art program attracted the likes of Richard Diebenkorn, Wayne Thiebaud, and Nathan Oliveira. “She created a showplace for painters, sculptors, photographers, jazz and classical musicians and the great chefs and winemakers of the world,” according to Bob.
I’ve been privileged to be a guest at their intimate dinners in their home designed by architect Cliff May, credited by many as father of the California ranch style house. Sitting atop a crest with panoramic views of the vineyards, the white house boasts an indoor swimming pool where the two swim daily.
Margrit, an artist herself, hand paints the invitation and menu cards, often with Swiss wildflowers. Her chef daughter, Annie Roberts, prepares the gourmet meals, while Bob decants the best wines from their cellar and gives the most heartfelt and welcoming toasts.
|A few years ago, as their guest for the Summer Music Festival’s Boz Scaggs concert, I marveled as the crowd lined up to pay tribute to this extraordinary couple that has added so much to the cultural life of Napa Valley. At the time Bob was in his 90’s, but was as engaging and charming as ever.
Margrit and Bob are involved in many other philanthropic ventures: the Oxbow School for art in Napa; The Robert and Margrit Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts; The Robert Mondavi Institute for Wine and Food Science at University of California Davis; and the 19th Century Napa Valley Opera House just to name a few.
Several years ago Bob became a Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur, the highest French civilian award, established by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1802. He joins the ranks of Julia Child, Robert Parker, Jr., Leonard Bernstein, Duke Ellington, and Ronald Reagan. This dynamic duo, along with the other pioneering families of Napa Valley, have left their mark and will always be remember for their contributions.
|SFMOMA HOSTS DIRECTOR’S CIRCLE DINNER
The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) invited the heavy hitters — the ones who had donated $15,000 plus — for an intimate lecture/dinner at the Museum. Fair enough, since all this encourages bigger donations.
Trustees Norah Sharpe Stone and Gretchen Leach were again in charge of this 22nd annual event. Held in the Wattis auditorium, sculptor Martin Puryear spoke for an hour before the delicious dinner in the atrium lobby, designed by Swiss architect Mario Botta.
Top flight artists like Jeff Koons, Brice Marden, Matthew Barney, architect Frank Gehry, video artist Bill Viola, and ‘Picasso’ biographer John Richardson have addressed the VIP’s in recent past.
|Art lovers in attendance: director al Benezra; the Chairs’ hubbies Norman Stone and Howard Leach, former American Ambassador to France; art dealer John Berggruen; Helen Schwab; Pitch Johnson; and Don and Trish Stephens.
And more: Carolyn and Preston Butcher; Daniel Roure; Susie Coleman; Susan Swig; district attorney Kamala Harris; Allison Speer; Carla Emil; Nancy Bechtle; Cathie Johnson; Charlotte Shultz; Maria Manetti Farrow and Alex Chases.
Recently, the Museum officially announced it will build an “urban oasis” — a 14,400-square-foot rooftop garden over its garage on Minna Street. The demolition party is slated for April. Should be a real blast.
|STONESCAPE AT HOME OF NORAH AND NORMAN STONE
While Norah Stone co-chaired the SFMOMA Director’s Circle dinner, I was reminded of an earlier event she produced at her 1887 farmhouse retreat near the town of Calistoga in Napa Valley. Many have been asking about it, so I’ve decided to include it here.
The locals know that the Stones are fun loving modern art collectors, fashionistas, philanthropists, food and wine connoisseurs, and health fanatics. While their friends in the wine country thought wine caves, this art loving couple thought art cave instead.
Into the hill they build vaulted art galleries, designed by architect Bade Stageberg Cox, to display their evolving cutting-edge collection, curated by New York art advisor Thea Westreich.
For their christening party - Works to Inaugurate A Space- they featured artists such as Vito Acconci, John Baldessari, Monica Bonvicini and Jan De Cock, Bruce Conner, Dan Flavin, Donald Judd, Mike Kelley, Sol Lewitt, Richard Serra, Robert Smithson, Rirkrit Tiravanija, Keith Tyson, and Christopher Wool from their collection.
|Cocktail hour was beside Stone Sky, 2005, featuring an infinity pool, pavilion and sky space created by artist James Turrell. Nearby, Cady Noland’s outdoor sculpture, Log Cabin Blank with Screw Eyes and Café Door, memorialized the Stone’s good friend, the late John Caldwell, former director of SF MOMA.
Oh, these were lucky guests – the very first to see the unveiling. In May, the Stones will host another event for their international friends. So if you start campaigning now, you might be able to finagle an invitation to see this extraordinary collection, setting and vision firsthand.
|Photographs by Tom Gibbons, Drew Altizer, and Jeanne Lawrence|