For thirty-five years Woodbridge by Robert Mondavi has been holding an annual Blessing of the Grapes, and Thursday, July 31, 2014 was no exception. The Blessing of the Grapes is a tradition began by the winery's founder, Robert Mondavi, at the iconic Robert Mondavi Winery in Napa Valley in 1966. When he opened Woodbridge by Robert Mondavi in Acampo in 1979, the tradition carried over.
The annual Blessing of the Grapes is a gathering of family, friends and employees to kick-off the harvest season. Father Sam, who was on-hand last year to do the blessing, returned to preside over this year's blessing, quite possibly the earliest ever in the 35 years! Making this year's event at Woodbridge by Robert Mondavi even more special, was the return of Margrit Mondavi.
Having been absent from this event since 2007, it was truly a glorious day as she stepped onto the makeshift podium and spoke in front of the crowd. She spoke of the family that is Woodbridge, touched on the history of Robert's (Bob, as she lovingly calls him) arrival in Lodi as a young child, and asked the Father to include a prayer for "El Nino and a season full of rain." Margrit ended her speech by quoting Robert: "Drink wine in moderation, with glorious exception."
"Today," she said, "is definitely a glorious exception."
A bin load of white wine grapes harvested from Esparto was the ceremoniously dumped into the auger as Father Sam sprinkled them with Holy Water and lead the prayer for a bountiful harvest. After the Blessing of the Grapes, Father Sam, accompanied by Margrit and a couple of Woodbridge's management team, went into their community garden. There, as Margrit savored a fresh out-of-the-garden tomato, Father Sam blessed the garden, which is raised and tended to by Woodbridge Winery employees. Food harvested from the Garden is then passed on to the Emergency Food Bank of Stockton/San Joaquin.
As summer continues, more and more grapes will be arriving at the winery, several weeks ahead of the typical harvest season. What 2014 wines will turn out to be like, given this early and hot drought-ridden growing season, remains to be seen. But rest assured, the harvest has been blessed, as was everyone in the Woodbridge "family" who attended 2014 annual Blessing of the Grapes.