With Robert Mondavi's passing on May 16, the world lost a visionary and the single most influential force in American winemaking. "Wine to me is passion," he wrote of his life's work in his autobiography, Harvests of Joy. "It's family and friends. It's warmth of heart and generosity of spirit. Wine is art. It's culture. It's the essence of civilization and the art of living.” Through this trailblazing philosophy, Mondavi demonstrated to America—and the world—that Napa, California and the United States were capable of making some of the best wines on the planet. Mondavi was able to inspire Americans to contend in the competitive global wine market. And through wine, he showed that ancient European standards for life enriched with art, food and wine were attainable even for us in our young nation. In essence, he made us believe in ourselves and in our capacity to improve our own lives.
America’s entrance into WWII signaled the end of the Great Depression. As the war effort ratcheted up employment, the country was at last pulled out of its second-longest recession. Americans were relieved to once again have work, but food shortages meant there was little to purchase with their still-meager earnings. Ration cards dictated how much food was allotted to each person, while pocketbooks still directed what could be purchased, rationed or not.