A recent Open House at the Charles Krug Winery in St. Helena made it quite apparent that many wine enthusiasts around the United States and even some in California do not associate Charles Krug Winery with the Mondavi name. Truth be known, it is THE original winery owned and operated by the Mondavi family. In 1943, Peter and Robert’s parents, Cesare and Rosa Mondavi, purchased Charles Krug Winery, the oldest winery in Napa Valley which is located in St. Helena, California. The purchase price of $75,000 was reasonable as the winery had fallen into a state of neglect and disrepair following the years of prohibition and the great depression. In the next 10 years, Cesare and his two sons reestablished Charles Krug as one of the five premier wineries in the valley. As the oft told story goes, in 1959, Cesare passed away and several years of family dynamics ensued resulting in Robert leaving and Peter Sr. taking over the family operation.
The weather in Napa, and all of northern California, was totally cooperative as one drove along Highway 29 toward St. Helena, home of the Charles Krug Winery. The mustard flowers must have received the invitation. They were truly brilliant reflecting the golden California sun. The wines offered for complimentary tasting were also quite brilliant. The Yountville 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon, 2011 Carneros Chardonnay, 2009 Napa Valley Merlot, 2008 St. Helena Zinfandel, and 2011 Carneros Pinot Noir were all available for complimentary tasting. A limited release tasting was also offered for $25 in the VIP room.
All of the wines available with this complimentary tasting were value priced and all below $30. Not something you often find in Napa Valley. Especially striking in both flavor and value were the following:
The 2012 St. Helena Sauvignon Blanc, first wine from the 2012 harvest, offered a bouquet of passion fruit and lime complementing flavors of melon, citrus and grapefruit. Acidity and crispness matched the accompanying flavors. $18.00.
Also pouring exceptionally well was the 2011 Carneros (Napa Valley) Pinot Noir. True Pinot flavor profile and very reasonable at $27.
The 2010 Family Reserve Generations, (Limited Release tasting) which is legally a Cabernet Sauvignon (77% CS), was exceptional and fairly priced at $50.
To add a little celebrity to the event, family members Peter Mondavi Jr. and niece, Alycia Mondavi, brother Marc’s daughter, were on hand. Peter Jr. was signing bottles to commemorate the event. The Open House also served as a sneak peek at the new Charles Krug Hospitality Center, currently under construction and scheduled to open in the fall. The Hospitality Center will be located inside the west wing of Charles Krug’s historic 1872 Redwood Cellar building (see previous posting on this subject). Architectural renderings of the project, designed by renowned architect Howard Backen, were on display.
One cannot leave the subject of Charles Krug Winery and Peter Mondavi Sr. without reflecting on the potent impact this ‘other’ Mondavi has had on California and thereby US winemaking on a broad front. He is responsible for advances in cold fermentation, cold sterile filtration, other fermentation processes, winery and wine making newsletters (“Bottles & Bins” first published in 1949), winery based tasting events (Tastings on the Lawn concert series at Charles Krug beginning in 1951), the use of small French oak barrels for aging and pioneering the effort to plant Pinot Noir and Chardonnay in the Carneros region of Napa Valley. He is one of 12 Living Legends of the Napa Valley by the Napa Valley Vintners Association.
Keeping the continuity of their history alive is exactly what Peter Mondavi Sr., son’s Marc and Peter Jr. and the 4th generation grandchildren are all about. Sadly for many in the family, the old cramped wooden tasting room will be torn down upon completion of the Redwood Cellar remodel. With another historic building, the Carriage House, also recently renovated, the Charles Krug Winery ‘campus’ will have transitioned beautifully to this modern era of winemaking…just in time for the great-grandchildren of Cesare and Rosa to make their own history and legends on this historic property!
The winery is located at 2800 Main Street, Highway 29, in St. Helena. Tasting room hours are 10:30 a.m. until 5:00pm.