A native Floridian, Mendelson went to Harvard and then fell in love with wine while doing post-graduate work at Oxford. From there, he immersed himself in Old World wine culture and history during a year-long apprenticeship at Bouchard Aîné et Fils in Burgundy. Fascinated by the crucial intersection of wine and law, Mendelson earned his law degree from Stanford and then headed for the exciting new frontier for American wine and food: the Napa Valley.
Mendelson joined Napa’s leading law firm, Dickenson Peatman & Fogarty, and over the next three decades he helped vintners, grape-growers and policy makers evolve a New World system of appellations, one that promotes Napa’s emerging wine industry and at the same time builds and protects the valley’s agricultural and cultural wealth. He helped growers and vintners establish such iconic Napa Valley appellations as Oakville, Rutherford, Stags Leap District, St. Helena, Spring Mountain District, Oak Knoll District, Yountville, and Atlas Peak. In the process, he earned a reputation as one of the preeminent wine lawyers in America.
Mendelson has published three seminal books on wine law: “From Demon to Darling: A Legal History of Wine in America,” published by University of California Press in 2009; “Wine in America: Law and Policy,” published by Wolters Kluwer in 2011; and Appellation Napa Valley: Building and Protecting an American Treasure,” published by Val de Grace in 2016.
Mendelson also is a metal sculptor, crafting works large and small from welded steel and stainless steel. He has written a book on his art journey, “Spirit in Metal,” published by Val de Grace in 2011.
Mendelson continues to practice law and directs the program on Wine Law and Policy at UC Berkeley Law School. He and his wife Marilyn live in Napa.