Charles Krug Winery in St. Helena
Interview with Peter Mondavi Jr. Co-Proprietor of Charles Krug Winery.
Charles Krug Winery is Napa Valley’s oldest winery (1861).
Charles Krug was a pioneer in the wine world who created the wine industry in Napa Valley from the ground up. After his passing in 1892, the winery was leased out to locals to continue bulk wine production, with periods of non-operation during prohibition while owned by the Moffitt family of San Francisco until 1943, when Cesare and Rosa Mondavi acquired the 150 acre estate to launch the Mondavi dynasty.
Today, they are still family owned and operated by the Peter Mondavi Sr. family.
We interviewed Peter Mondavi Jr. to learn more.
What wines are you known for?
Peter Mondavi Jr.: Napa Valley is known as a world class region for Bordeaux varietals (Cabernet Sauvignon, Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Petit Verdot…). We produce those varietals in blends, single varietal wines as well as vineyard designated bottlings. We also produce Chardonnay from vineyards in Carneros in southern Napa Valley.
What makes your wine unique?
Peter Mondavi Jr.: Every winery believes their wines are unique and special. That is as it should be.
Our major differentiation is that we are first and foremost farmers. We own 9 vineyards accounting for 400+ planted acres around Napa Valley.
We have full control of everything we produce from vine to glass. Many of our wines are smaller production (less than 1000 cases) wines and only sold in our tasting room and through our wine club.
The crafting of our wines is driven by four generations of the family’s experience and passion, which ties back to our grandparents heritage rooted in Italy: wine belongs on the dinner table with family and friends to complement the culinary experience and contribute to the conviviality of the occasion.
What is your winemaking approach?
Peter Mondavi Jr.: Balance, balance, balance. Mother Nature presents different challenges every year and our winemaking team headed up by Stacy Clark have many harvests under various conditions under their belts. They know our vineyards intimately and what to do with them under every conceivable growing condition.
Our wines reflect the varietal and our estate’s terroir with appropriate influence by our winemaker, Stacy, to bring out the best. We seek balance, varietal integrity and good acid structure. Our wines are crafted to complement and enhance the culinary experience.
What is your most popular tasting?
Peter Mondavi Jr.: Our outdoor Cabana experience has been very popular. Five fully furnished cabanas offer the perfect place for tastings, pizza and charcuterie, and comfortable outdoor experiences.
Tell us about your tasting center.
Peter Mondavi Jr.: Our hospitably center is now located in the historical Redwood Cellar, constructed by Charles Krug in 1872.
A few years ago, the family commissioned Napa Valley’s renowned winery architect, Howard Backen, to convert the space from a room of redwood wine tanks to what we have today. He did a beautiful job transforming the space, retaining its historical ambiance while giving tribute to the oldest winery in Napa Valley.
Favorite Food and Wine Pairing?
Peter Mondavi Jr.: The quintessential classic (with my twist): Our VS Cabernet Sauvignon with a dry-aged prime New York strip, simply salted with a generous drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.
BBQ’d cedar plank Salmon (I coat it with salt, pepper, brown sugar, maple syrup and extra virgin olive oil) and our Merlot, or perhaps Generations.
What do you love about Harvest Season?
Peter Mondavi Jr.: Seeing the oasis of light eerily floating over vineyards, designating night harvest activities. The aromatics of the pumice (grape skins) freshly spread in the vineyards as a soil amendment, moistened by the morning dews and encouraged to referment by the afternoon sun. Tasting the beginnings of a great harvest from the tanks or barrels.
Do you have any harvest traditions?
Peter Mondavi Jr.: Our annual harvest event is called Tastings on the Lawn. We have been doing this for the past 70 vintages in early October. This is our most popular event and sells out quickly every year.
What is most rewarding about being co-proprietor of Charles Krug Winery?
Peter Mondavi Jr.: Being an integral part of the stewardship of Napa Valley’s oldest winery while providing people with enjoyment and conviviality through our wines.
What’s one thing you wish more people knew about Charles Krug Winery?
We have a very complex, intertwined and evolving family story as it relates to the Napa Valley wine scene. I spend countless hours educating anyone who will listen about our family history.
For those who don’t know, Charles Krug, a Prussian immigrant and our namesake, was introduced to grape-growing and winemaking in the 1850’s in California. Fortuitously, he married Carolina Bale, whose parents gave the newlyweds a dowry of 600 acres in the heart of Napa Valley where he established his winery.
In 1943, my grandparents, Cesare and Rosa, purchased the Charles Krug winery. This was after immigrating from Italy in 1908 and developing a successful wine-grape shipping business for home winemakers during prohibition. They were quintessential entrepreneurs and very hard workers.
Today, we are still family owned and operated and have recently welcomed the 5th generation Mondavi, a legacy that few in our valley can claim. We are proud to be carrying on the family tradition in the oldest winery in the Napa Valley.