"You either have it or you don't," Mondavi, 58, says of the skill that takes him to neighboring vineyards in northern California to find places, without the aid of science, to dig industrial-size wells. "If you have it, you have to take time to develop it."
Although no scientific evidence exists to support the practice of using sticks or metal rods to divine the presence of underground water, dowsing, or water witching, has been used since the 15th century, and is still a common practice in rural America, the San Francisco Chronicle said Monday.
"Some water exists under the Earth's surface almost everywhere. This explains why many dowsers are successful," a statement from the U.S. Geological Survey says.
Mondavi, whose late uncle, Robert, made California wine famous and, with his brother Robert Jr., is responsible for day-to-day operation of the Charles Krug Winery, has become the local industry's go-to person for finding water.
After saying, "Find water," to two copper rods he was holding, Mondavi walked down a row of grape vines, until the rods began to move, then crossed over each other, the newspaper said.
"Here," Mondavi said. "Here is where you'll find water."
"I don't know how he does it, and I'm not going to learn," said John Franzia, whose Bronco Wine Co. in Ceres, Calif., has employed Mondavi to find water. "I'm a believer, because I have water."