Distinguished Travel Hacker: How Winemaker Michael Mondavi Drinks on Planes
At Bloomberg Pursuits, we love to travel. And we always want to make sure we’re doing it right. So we’re talking to globe-trotters in all of our luxury fields—food, wine, fashion, cars, real estate—to learn about their high-end hacks, tips, and off-the-wall experiences. These are the Distinguished Travel Hackers.
Michael Mondavi co-founded the Robert Mondavi Winery in Napa Valley 50 years ago with his father, Robert, and since then he’s grown into one of California’s most well-known global ambassadors of wine. In a given year, he spends more than one-third of his days on the road.
More recently he established another standalone winery, the Michael Mondavi Family Estate, with his wife and two children, as well as Folio Fine Wine Partners, an importer of top vintages from Italy, Spain, Austria, and Germany. He lives in Napa Valley with his wife, Isabel.
Here's his advice on world travel:
How to Survive The Security Lines
"Before 9/11 and the TSA, I used to try and be the last person on the plane. I didn’t want to be at the airport too early and waste the time. Now I allow plenty of time, and before even arriving at the airport, I start a very mild meditation. Sort of, OK, it’s going to take a while to get through security. I see other people getting upset, and I’ve just decided that I have to go through airports so often that I’m not going to let it bother me. Plus, before I even open the car door, I’m ready for security: I don’t have a wallet or a money clip in my pockets, just my ID and my boarding pass on my iPhone."
How to Drink Well in the Air
"I will have a glass or two of wine, but sadly it’s not of the quality I like. Even on great international airlines, the wines are still just adequate—well, except for Emirates. They’re considering serving my wines. Emirates is the gold standard for the airline industry, because they have a very talented master sommelier and a big budget. Prior to the TSA ban on liquids, I would bring six bottles of wine on board whenever I traveled: three reds, three whites. I’d give them to the lead flight attendant and say, “Please share these wines with anyone in first or business, and also, I would like a glass of each before you run out.” Now, selfishly, that’s one of the things I miss about travel."
The One Thing You Should Always Pack
"A flashlight. I’ve been in two hotels where we’ve had fire alarms in the middle of the night, so I make sure I have my trusty high-intensity flashlight with me in my backpack. The P12GT is very small but does about 300 lumens. It’s so useful—for example, on an airplane, if you ever drop your cell phone between the seats and can’t find it, a flashlight helps you find it right away. And it has a button that if you push it, the light keeps blinking in SOS: dot-dot-dot, dash-dash-dash, dot-dot-dot."
How to Sleep on a Plane
"I always bring earplugs, to supplement my noise-canceling earphones. The earphones do a nice job if you’re listening to music or watching a movie, but what if you’re trying to sleep, and some people are talking around you in the galley, or a baby’s crying? I put the earplugs in, unplug the headphones to turn off the noise-canceling function, and lean back to try and go to sleep. I use the same little foam earplugs we use for our bottling line at the winery, which are good for about 33 decibels. They’re soft, squishy, and very comfortable."
The One Place He'll Always Come Back To
"Florence, Italy. It’s a walking city, and I love to walk. And you’d have to work hard to find a bad meal in the bistros or trattorias there. Ristorante 13 Gobbi is wonderful. The owner’s name is Enrico, and the bistecca alla Fiorentina or their pastas are off the charts."
The Secret Guilty Pleasure of World Travelers
"Staying in the hotel room, relaxing and ordering room service. I will never put the menu on the door, though. I want to talk to a person. I’ll ask them, “Is it frozen or fresh?” I sometimes bring my own food when I get on an airplane, and if I’m leaving from a hotel that has good room service, I’ll say, “Will this still be good four hours from now?” If you politely question the people on room service duty, you can generally end up happier and have fewer disappointments."
The Most Interesting Man in the West
"Hernando Cartwright, the [former] owner of the Beverly Wilshire hotel. I was this 35-year-old kid, and he was the nicest man, who wanted to take perfect care of you and welcome you to his “large home,” whether you were a no-name or Elvis Presley. I learned one very nice travel tip from him, because he had to go to a lot of black-tie dinners. He had a plain black suit made, in two different weights—summer and winter—which looked like a double-breasted tuxedo but did not have satin lapels. So he could use it as a dark business suit or with a ruffled shirt and a bow tie—it was the perfect black-tie outfit—that way he didn’t have to travel with an extra tuxedo. He even told me, Hey, kid, since you’re going to be in Hong Kong, you must go to my tailor. It’ll cost you about 30 percent of what you’ll pay in the United States."