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Winemaker's Career to Have Rich Aftertaste

In addition to more than $1.5 million, an executive will leave Mondavi with cases of any wines he wants.

September 18, 2004|Roger Vincent | Times Staff Writer

As Michael Mondavi's golden parachute deploys over the Napa Valley, the former president of Robert Mondavi Corp. can gaze down at cash, baseball and a cellar full of his favorite wines.

Mondavi resigned from the landmark California wine company as vice chairman this week. His severance agreement includes more than $1.5 million in cash, the right to buy the winery's six season tickets to San Francisco Giant games at fair market value and as many as 50 cases of wine, according to a document filed Friday with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

The 60-year-old Mondavi, who will remain on the Napa-based company's board, has until the end of next month to select his stash; he is limited to 10 cases per vintage.

Mondavi says he wants wines from the reserve cellar that carry memories for him, such as the company's first Cabernet Sauvignon in 1966 that tastes slightly of cement dust because the winery was still under construction, and the 1968 version that was the first vintage he created without the help of his father, Robert.

Other vintages won certain prizes or represent a meaningful year at the winery.

"I'm not just looking at the blockbusters," Mondavi said. "I want a spectrum of wines for emotional reasons and wine-stylistic reasons."

Setting a value on his selection may be impossible because several of the vintages are seldom, if ever, for sale anymore.

Free wine is not just an executive perk at Robert Mondavi; company employees receive four cases of free wine every year.

Potable parting gifts are not unheard of.

Workers laid off at a Guinness beer plant in Ireland three years ago got cash settlements and free beer for as long as 10 years at the rate of two bottles a day.

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