As it goes up for auction, there’s a lot about the Robert Mondavi estate on a knoll in Napa Valley that might interest potential buyers, including the panoramic views, the ancient coast live oaks that cover much of the 56-acre property, the home’s classic Cliff May latigo and timber-beamed ceilings and its fully loaded kitchen. But what caught our attention? Solar panels. The auction brochure doesn’t mention a solar setup, but a bird-eye photograph seems to indicate its existence (see below).
It appears, as well, that the winning bidder would have plenty of space on that terra cotta roof to put up more panels to soak up the famous Napa sunshine. The house could probably use additional power – if only to keep the indoor pool warm and the touted “extensive wine storage space” cool.
May had already designed the iconic Robert Mondavi Winery, a few miles away, when he went to work on the Mondavi estate project in 1979. The home that emerged several years later touches on May’s hallmarks, with vast open spaces – it sprawls 11,500 square feet – under a great, spreading gable roof.
As leaders in Napa society, Mondavi and his wife, Margrit, were constantly entertaining, and the home is built for just that purpose: The kitchen that looks west over the valley is “equipped with a counter-height fireplace/Tuscan grill, a wood-fired pizza oven and restaurant level appliances,” according to auctioneer Sheldon Good & Company. Entertaining space is extensive outdoors, as well, with several terraces, all with killer views, we’re assured.
Then there’s the 50-foot-long pool, uniquely right at the center of things. Mondavi wrote in his memoir, Harvest of Joy, that this stemmed from a request he and Margrit made of May for the simple reason that they both loved to swim. But since the house has just two bedrooms, it’s apparently now seen by real estate people as an oddball feature that a buyer could ditch to create additional family or guest quarters.
Mondavi died in 2008 at age 94. The Napa estate was listed in 2010 at $25 million, but evidently found no buyers in the rotten real estate market market. Sealed auction bids, set at a minimum of $13.9 million, are due by November 16.