Margrit Mondavi exudes an infectious energy. As the Vice President of Cultural Affairs for the illustrious Robert Mondavi Winery, Margrit pioneered the original cultural and culinary arts programs, uniting wine with the arts, that now serve as benchmarks for the industry. Not only is she a grand dame of wine, but also a storied traveler with a collection of experiences as vibrant as her personality. With a knack for recounting her tales with equal parts wit and vivacity, Magrit retains a wonder for the world that is both rare and catching.
Right now I’m in New York City.
Though I would much prefer to be in New York City! I am only here for a short visit and I’d very much like to stay a bit longer. I’d love to walk in Central Park and visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art and my favorite, the MoMa, and the other galleries because I’m so deeply connected to the arts. I also wish I had the time during this trip to see a Broadway show and of course eat at a number of fabulous restaurants. It is always fun to walk down 5th Avenue and see how the fancy stores look and see the newest fashions!
Occupation: Vice President of Cultural Affairs, Robert Mondavi Winery.
My next trip is to: Switzerland with friends that have taken me to Greece twice, so it is my turn to show them “my Switzerland!” We are flying into Zurich and doing the whole trip on the train; the trains are fabulous in Europe and especially in Switzerland. And I have to remind people that when the train leaves at 8:14, the train really leaves at 8:14! We are going to see Zurich first and a little bit of Appenzell, the German part of Switzerland, where my family came from and I was actually born. Then I will show them the area near where I studied and then over to the Italian part where I grew up. So we will do Switzerland in three phases. We only have a week so we will do each part in two days, although you really do need more time!
Two polychrome angels I bought on the streets of Sassoferrato, Italy are my most treasured travel souvenirs.
How has travel impacted your life? Travel has broadened my view on everything. Travel is geography, history and just a way to learn about other cultures; it is very enriching.
Is there an experience that has specifically transformed your life? Yes! The experience that has specifically transformed my life was meeting my husband, Robert Mondavi.
What’s your biggest airline pet peeve? Lost luggage. That happens to me often. One time when Bob and I were flying to Sardinia we stopped in Milan to get on a small plane and I not only had everything packed for the wonderful trip at a resort but also for the 80th birthday party gala of Ueli Prager, the founder of Mövenpick, where guests were required to wear Black Tie or Swiss Costume. His black tie and my costume were lost in the luggage; it was terrible!
Favorite alcohol you can’t get in the U.S.—One of the cordials of Alsace. You may be able to get it in certain places but I’ve never seen it here, like Mirabelle or Kirsch—those are wonderful.
Favorite shopping destination: Some of my favorite shopping destinations are to visit the antique shops in Arezzo, Italy or to find wonderful treasures someplace in Vietnam or Cambodia – which you can’t take away with you on the airplane, but they are lovely to dream about! And, of course, Paris for the highest fashion.
Street Food is the best way/place to connect with locals. You share food and a little conversation and it is a wonderful way to get to know about the culture
Best memory of a trip with kids—either from your own childhood or with your own kids: I took my children and grandchildren to Switzerland as I’m going to do again very soon by train – all 11 of them – and that was unforgettable.
Most out-of-character travel experience? The tour that we took to follow Marco Polo’s footsteps from Kashgar to Denjuan in Western China was definitely out of character. It was a little over 20 days and most of the travel was on army jeeps, camels, country trains, trucks and some hiking. Any way we could get around over the mud piles. This was about 20 years ago, I don’t know that I’d be able to do it now! There were 18 of us. Bob was a very good sport. He never backed down. Everything was conquerable to him, so we did the trip and it was a fabulous adventure!
Favorite foreign word or phrase: ‘Please’ in any language.
Favorite foreign tradition: The variety of ways and customs for people to toast in different countries.
Travel has taught me to accept humbly other traditions and ways and admire the differences.
Title photo courtesy of Margrit Mondavi