lifestyle Napa

Entertaining Margrit Mondavi Style

November 2, 2017

They say imitation is the finest form of flattery…

…and with this post about home entertaining, I hope I will do the great Margrit Mondavi justice.

But before we get into that, I want to take a quick second to acknowledge the current state of our dear home and community. As I’m sure you’re aware, the North Bay has been battling incredible wild fires for the last 2 weeks. While our house was spared, these fires have devastated entire neighborhoods, homes, and livelihoods. The flames destroyed more than 200,00 acres, almost 8,000 homes and took 42 lives. While these numbers are staggering and hard to wrap your head around, Napa and surrounding regions are proving to be incredibly resilient. We are receiving aid from all over the country and leaning on one another for financial and moral support.

The good news is that Napa’s spirit is stronger than ever, and eagerly ready for visitors! So start booking those vacations up to wine country, and steal one of these recipes below to recreate a true, Napa meal!

Joe and I have a special place in our hearts for the Mondavi family, not only because Joe works at the winery, but because Margrit and Robert were champions in establishing a vibrant food, wine, and art scene in the Napa Valley – the glorious place we now call home.

I had the pleasure of meeting Margrit several times, and it was clear within minutes of speaking with her that she had a natural desire to share her passions with others. She remains an inspiration, and when I’m entertaining (as we did recently at our home in Yountville), I try to emulate her way of effortlessly bringing together tasty food, wine, and great company –the essential ingredients of a life well lived.

Please follow along to replicate this meal at home:

To start the night off, we began with a flatbread appetizer from one of Margrit’s many books, Annie and Margrit, Recipes and Stories from the Robert Mondavi Kitchen (available on Amazon). The cookbook offers memories and recipes from Margrit and her daughter, Annie, plus photos, tips, and stories from their time cooking together. What I love about making flatbreads and pizzas is that you can get as creative as you like, and use whatever ingredients you have on hand. Here, the flatbread’s cheesy, salty, and tomato-ey flavors, marry well with a soft Napa Valley Pinot Noir. We opened up this 2014 Robert Mondavi Winery Pinot Noir Reserve, Carneros as we dug in.

Grilled Flat Bread Pizza

Flat Bread Pizza Dough
  • 1 tablespoon active dry yeast
  • 3/4 cup warm water (105° to 115°F)
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 cups all purpose flour, plus more for kneading and rolling
  • 1 1/2 red onions, sliced
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for brushing and drizzling
  • 1/4 pound fresh cremini mushrooms, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded fontina or Monterey Jack cheese
  • 2 tomatoes, thinly sliced
  •  Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

To prepare the dough, sprinkle the yeast over the water in a bowl. Let stand for 5 minutes and the stir in the oil, salt and flour. Gather into a ball and knead on a floured work surface, adding more flour if necessary about 2 to 3 minutes. Lightly oil the dough and return to bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside in a warm place for about 40 minutes. Punch down the dough. Use right away or refrigerate overnight.

Preheat oven to 400°F. In a baking dish, combine the onions, vinegar, and 1/4 cup oil. Toss to coat. Cover with aluminum foil and roast until soft, 15 to 20 minutes. Set aside.

Heat the 1 tablespoon oil in a sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add the mushroom and salt and sauté until wilted. Set aside.

Prepare a medium-hot fire in a charcoal grill or preheat a glass grill to medium-high. On a lightly floured work surface, divide the dough into 2 or 4 sections. Roll each out in a 12 or 8 inch round. Brush the rounds with oil on both sides and place on the grill. When the surface bubbles up, 30 seconds to 1 minute, turn and grill on the other side until the bottom is browned, about 1 minute. Arrange the onions, mushroom, cheese and tomatoes on top of the pizzas. Drizzle oil over the tomatoes and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cover the grill and cook until the cheese is melted and the crust is browned. 6 to 7 minutes. Serve!

(^our lemon tree was exploding with lemons, so we whipped up an easy lemonade with mint)

One of the things I absolutely adored about Margrit were her hand-painted menus. According to Margrit’s friends and family, her whimsical paintings of flowers, vegetables, fish, fowl and other foods would routinely appear on the menu at any home cooked meal, picnic, or bbq, along with detailed descriptions of the foods and wines served. The practice extended to the winery, too: Having attended quite a few Robert Mondavi dinners with Joe, I was happy to discover that, Margrit’s handiwork often appeared on their menus. Her joyful renderings brought an aspect of originality and family to each event — much to the delight of those of us attending. Being an artist myself, I couldn’t get enough of this personal touch and decided to paint my own menus for our meal.

Outside of work, our connection to the Mondavi family and legacy continues: Since moving to the valley, we’ve become close friends with Margrit’s grandson, Phil Holbrook and his wife, Dani Hill. Since neither Joe nor I were raised in Napa, it’s been fun to learn about the valley, its wine culture, and specifically the Mondavi family through Phil. Hearing his colorful stories about his grandmother’s artwork, her annual Valentine’s Day dates at the French Laundry, and her expansive collection of wine and art are a treat !

(^ Look at these studs! )

As we moved into our second course and finished off the Pinot Noir, we decided to grab a new release, the 2014 Robert Mondavi Winery ‘The Reserve’ Cabernet Sauvigon, To Kalon Vineyard! An elegant, fruit forward wine made with grapes from the famous To Kalon Vineyard, it pairs perfectly with our main entrée, a juicy, roasted chicken that was a favorite of Mr. Mondavi. I’m sure you’ve heard that ‘Cab is king‘ in the Napa Valley, so we were most excited about this beauty.

Bob’s Roast Chicken

  • 1 whole chicken, 4 pounds
  • 1 large lemon, halved
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons minced fresh rosemary, or 4 sprigs
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme, or 4 sprigs

Preheat oven to 425°F. Cut the chicken into quarters (2 drumstick-thigh pieces and 2 breast-wing pieces). Save the backbone for broth. Squeeze lemon juice all over the chicken.

In a small bowl, combine the salt, several grinds of black pepper, minced rosemary, and minced thyme. Season the chicken all over with the mixture. 

Set a flat rack inside a rimmed baking sheet. Arrange the chicken pieces, skin side up, on the rack. Roast until the skin is well browned and crisp and the juices run clear when a thigh joint is pieces, about 50 minutes. Let cool a few minutes before serving.

When listening to Phil (and others who knew Robert and Margrit), talk about the couple, there’s one common theme that always gets mentioned: they both loved bringing great food, wine and people together. Reading Margrit’s cookbooks and the stories that she shares in them, I can well imagine the lively conversations and memorable moments these convivial gatherings must have sparked.

Cognac Pound Cake with Kumquat Compote

For the Pound Cake:
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 4 large eggs plus 1 large egg yolk
  • 2 tablespoons Cognac
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
  • 2 cups sifted unbleached all-purpose flour
For the Compote:
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 pound kumquats, thinly sliced and ends discarded
  • Whipped cream for garnish

To make the cake, preheat the oven to 325° F. Butter and flour the bottom and sides of a 9x5x3″ loaf pan.

In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and salt on a medium speed until very creamy. Gradually add the sugar and beat until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition until fully incorporated. Add the Cognac, vanilla and lemon zest and beat. With the mixer on low speed, gradually add the flour. Stop the mixer, scrape down the sides of the bowl, and then beat on low speed just until well blended.

Spread the batter evenly in the prepared pan, smoothing the top. Bake the cake until golden brown, about 1 hour and 10 minutes. A skewer inserted into the center should come out clean. Let cool in the plan on a rack for 5 minutes, then invert the pan onto the rack, lift off pan, turn the cake right side up, and let cool completely. 

To make the compote, put the sugar and water in a saucepan over medium heat and bring to a simmer, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Add the kumquats, cover, and adjust the heat to maintain a gentle simmer. Cook until the kumquats are tender, 15 to 20 minutes. When the fruit is soft, uncover and simmer until the compote is reduced to about 1 cup. 

Serve the pound cake in thin slices with a spoonful of warm compote. Top with whipped cream.

To end the meal, we tried Margrit’s homemade pound cake with a kumquat compote (it looks super fancy but it’s actually not as hard as it sounds!). We also opened up a little bottle of a lesser known wine, the 2015 Robert Mondavi Winery Moscato d’ Oro, Napa Valley. This sweet wine is incredibly tasty and the perfect post-dinner sipper for teaming with all kinds of desserts. I’m always bugging Joe to bring me home a few bottles because it’s so delicious!

You can find both the roast chicken and pound cake recipes in Margrit’s other cookbook called ‘Margrit Mondavi’s Vignettes, Stories and Recipes from a Life in Wine‘.

For any questions about these dishes, the wines, or about Napa Valley in general, feel free to drop me a note at



Thank you Robert Mondavi Winery for sponsoring this post.












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