For this special on-location episode of The Grape Nation, Sam Benrubi welcomes wine luminaries Rob Mondavi Jr. and Rick Rubel.


Rob Mondavi, Jr is a fourth generation winemaker who has been part of the industry for over thirty years. He was raised on a vineyard in the Napa Valley and worked in a variety of roles at the family winery while growing up. He is an entrepreneur who started bike tour and a cigar importing businesses and has also worked at a major wine distributor. He spent time in sales and marketing for the Robert Mondavi Corporation but transitioned back into winemaking in 2004 after he and his parents and sister started the Michael Mondavi Family Estate. He took over duties as head winemaker in 2012 and focuses on green winemaking and modern practices under the Isabel Mondavi, Animo and “M” by Michael Mondavi labels.

Rick Rubel began his career in wine at the ripe age of 21, speed tasting wines at England’s Glyndebourne Opera House—an establishment known for its fast fine dining. Tasting an average of 100 – 200 wines per night, Rubel’s curiosity grew with his palate. Upon returning to the states, he landed a job with the Unique Restaurant Corporation (now the Matt Prentice Restaurant Group), where he landed an apprenticeship under Madeline Triffon, the first female master sommelier in the United States. Rubel worked with Triffon for 10 years, honing his skills and together developing more than 14 restaurant beverage programs. Rubel is now the wine director at the Belmond Charleston Place and sommelier of the hotel’s Charleston Grill.