The Power of Suggestion
"My name is Robert Mondavi. M-O-N-D-A-V-I. I'm in the wine business," said the seventy-nine-year-old man in the tan jacket, limping slightly as he took the stand on behalf of Gary Ramona. This craggy, still-handsome witness needed no credentials. The courtroom was full, expectant. Word was out that father and sons stood opposed in this trial; Tim and Michael would take the stand the following week. Nearly thirty years earlier, another Mondavi family feud had spilled into public view. Then it was the struggle of two brothers for the loyalty of their mother and the control of the family's winery, Krug. Robert had lost that struggle. His mother had died before they could reconcile, and he had been forced out of the family winery to start his own.
Now another deep and emotional division within the family was on view, this time over the fate of the man Michael Mondavi feared his father loved more than he loved his own sons. Again Robert Mondavi had lost, for he had seen his protégé banished, a tragedy he would tell the jury was "one of the worst things that ever happened in the winery." To his wife, Margrit Biever, sitting in the front row in court, it was worse than the death of a loved one, because a man had been condemned to a living death without trial or proof.
Mondavi would try to redeem some of the loss here in court. His answers forthright, blunt, and strong, he told the jury the intimate story of Gary's and the winery's interwoven rise to success. The Gary Ramona he knew was not the omniscient manipulator the defense had painted in its opening statements; he was a man who displayed "a lot of affection," who "was always open to suggestion, and would always