James Rigler's Filmmaker Review

On October 23, 2005 at the Sausalito Yacht Club with friends, I watched KRON4's documentary for the first time. No one tells the story of Robert Mondavi better than the man himself and no one can swirl a glass of wine with more style, grace and loving attention. I can't tell you how many opportunities we had to film Bob's nose in a glass smelling the bouquet and seeing the delight in his eyes as he described what he was experiencing in the moment — which would have been the culmination of a life's work. It is a creative "scrapbook" approach by Ken Schwartz.

It was wonderful to see Robert's brother Peter on camera. I had suggested several times over the years that we interview him as well as others that had crossed paths with Robert. I had met Peter at Robert's 90th birthday celebration and was aware that they had once again become close.

The whole reason for the last 5 years of my work in the wine country and the interviews of Mondavi that were taped was for the sole purpose of giving people the opportunity to see and hear the story of winemaking in the words of the winemaker himself. As my partner Chutkow said in the piece I made of him, Paul Chutkow: The Writing Life, "Let the artists have their say". More than anything Mondavi was an artist striving for the perfect glass of wine. The documentary tells Mondavi's story from the reflections of those around him. It is from these reflections that we see his expressions, passion, determination, spirit, emotion, honesty, and goodness of heart.

KRON's excellent production enables the viewer to see, feel and judge the man for himself. We experience Mondavi from the information woven into tapestry by the talented, Ken Schwartz. It is wonderful how closely he followed Chutkow's biography on Mondavi "Harvest of Joy" (Harcourt 1998).

This piece appears to be a direct reflection of the KRON team having spent some time with the man himself. Anyone that has shaken Robert Mondavi's hand and looked into his eyes is genuinely affected by his strength of character — the man emotes the "rock solid" essence of the American Spirit.


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