Mondavi Sisters: Alycia, Giovanna, Angelina and Riana, Photo Courtesy of the Mondavi Sisters

 

Sitting down with Angelina and Alycia Mondavi from Aloft Wines and Dark Matter Wines, it is clear they understand that in times of a crisis there is opportunity and a time for reinvention. From Prohibition in the 1920’s to the pandemic today, the Mondavi family has proven it can be successful in the face of tragedy.

“Many successful companies today have come out of times of crisis,” Alycia said.  My family’s successful Charles Krug Winery came out of Prohibition.”

The sisters are partners in Dark Matter Wines, where Angelina is currently the winemaker. The winery was launched in 2012 under the mentorship of Marc Mondavi, Winemaker Thomas Rivers Brown with their other two sisters, Riana who is a northern sales manager for C. Mondavi and Family as well as CR Cellars and Purple Heart and Giovanna (Gigi) who lives in Boston and works in the financial field by day.  Alycia is also the CEO and Co-Proprietor of Aloft Wine, a premium Howell Mountain cabernet sauvignon distinct from Charles Krug wines.

 

 

 

Courtesy of the Mondavi Sisters

 

 

Courtesy of the Mondavi Sisters

 

But in times of crisis, being a small, nimble company allows for a faster re-invention.  “Since people can’t come to Napa, we want to bring the Napa Valley to them without breaking the bank, said Angelina.  The Mondavi sisters had the idea eight months before the pandemic to do virtual tastings for the upcoming launch of their Chenin Blanc, but when the online and direct sales became the only way to sell wine, they knew they had to take immediate action.

It’s been a time of learning.  Their first tasting, which went live on March 17, was cut short by Zoom because of time limits.  But since then, they have used the sales of wine (three packs and up) to schedule customized individual tastings.  That’s right, if you buy three wines you will get a tasting with one of the Mondavi sisters!

 

 

Courtesy of the Mondavi Sisters

 

I asked them if that wasn’t a little ambitious as I see other wineries doing mass tastings for their customers.  They both told me how much fun they are having with the tastings.  “There is so much anxiety and stress in world,” said Angelina.  “These virtual tastings give people a time to switch off and relax.  These are customers who have been so supportive of us.  They are part of our family.”

They talked about tastings from long-time customers who had almost every vintage they hadn’t opened. Date nights.  Birthdays.  Happy Hours.  Anniversaries.  Dinner parties with friends from around the country.  Even a cooking demo.  The premise is simple – buy a three pack of whatever wine you want or even ones you have in your cellar.

Angelina also talked about the success of the public tastings on Instagram and how people who have never had the wines can sign up to buy them.  The two brands are now producing a limited addition four pack (only 100 sold) so people can try all of the wines.

Alycia and Angelina also talked about the effort in the local community to help their neighbors.  From giving older wineries advice on how to use technology to sell direct to consumers to how to band together to help raise money for charities like Giant Steps, Wine Country for Restaurants and Napa Valley Auction who no longer have the larger profile events scheduled to fund-raise.  Programs like The Wine Auction and Open the Cellar on Winebid have resulted and now include wineries who have the opportunity to move some library or allocated wines.

They also talked about their supply chain issues with the virus, which has delayed the debut of their Chenin Blanc.  Because there is a skeleton crew to get labels printed and the labels are complex, combined with the magnetic boxes being delayed due to China production, the launch was delayed by six weeks.  On a good note, the boxes have now arrived, and the labels are getting finalized and they will pick them up on Monday.

The Chenin Blanc is sourced from 74 year vines in Napa, right below Howell Mountain.  Alycia and Angelina believe their grandfather used to source from same vineyard since he made almost 200,000 cases with his brother.   Angelina described it as being completely unique than any other one she’s tasted — feminine, but bone dry with a creaminess.

I asked them both the lessons learned in the past 60 days.  Alycia said, “If you put your mind to it, you can accomplish anything.  We all had a business plan in place for the year that we had to scrap and edit quickly and rapidly.  Producers having success have been nimble and reinvented that plan.”

Angelina said, “Being compassionate to others and others to you is key.  We are all in same boat of uncertainty and react to it in different ways.  Keeping a calm, level head is key.”

We wrapped up our interview with them both talking about the opportunity to develop a deeper connection with their customers and how committed they are to providing that boutique, family Napa wine experience not only in today’s times, but in the future.