Charles Krug is Napa Valley’s first winery, founded in 1861 by Prussian immigrant Charles Krug. He came to America at age 22 with nothing but willpower and proceeded to become a major player in establishing the entire California wine industry.
When Krug died in 1882, the winery was purchased by his close friend, James Moffitt, a San Francisco banker. Moffett was a big city banker and loved the thought of retiring to the countryside and starting a family business, but his daughters and their husbands were not interested in Krug or the wine business. Moffitt owned the winery through prohibition, then began looking for a winemaking family to carry on the Krug tradition. Both Robert and Peter drove down to meet their father at Crocker First National Bank, where Moffett was the director, and the Mondavi’s were mere bumpkins from sleepy little Saint Helena. It only took a few minutes to convince Moffitt that the Mondavi’s were a perfect fit to carry on the Krug tradition.
Cesar Mondavi was sixty years young when he and his wife, Rosa, purchased the winery for $75,000. His two sons, Peter and Robert, were both attending Stanford at the time, when they finished with school they came back to run the winery. Cesare died in 1959 and Rosa became president, then passed the torch on to Peter in 1966. With obvious differences of opinions Peter and Robert decided to take separate paths in the wine industry. The two brothers could not have been more different in terms of personality, Peter is private and relaxed and Robert inevitably attracts publicity and is constantly fired with energy. Peter was content to tend the family business, while Robert was driven by a need for attention and bravado. Peter avoids making waves; Robert rocks the boat. Peter and Robert barely spoke to each other for the better part of twenty-five years. One of the major disputes they had in the early seventies was lost in court by Peter and cost him some of his most prized Cabernet vineyards in Oakville.
On June 13th 1985 two wine collectors Tawfig Khoury and Barney Rhodes staged an improbable reunion of the two Napa Valley winemaking brothers. The two collectors had amassed a historic retrospective of Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignons form Charles KrugWinery, 1944 to 1965, and Robert Mondavi Winery, 1966 to 1984, and invited both Mondavis to attend. This not only brought the two powerhouse California vintners together under one roof, but had also apparently helped ease the tension that existed between the two since their breakup in 1966.
The Mondavi family is responsible for some of the most important innovations in California winemaking history. Way back in 1937 peter Mondavi, Sr. developed cold fermentation, this enabled winemakers to produce exceptionally crisp, fruity white wines. Charles Krug Winery was one of the first to use vintage dated varietal wines. They are credited with the first winery newsletter Bottles and Bins. Today, Napa Valley is the second largest tourist attraction in California, the first winery to initiate tastings on the lawn was Krug back in 1951. Peter Mondavi Sr. was the first to adapt sterile filtration to winemaking. He was also the first to use small French Oak barrels and glass lined tanks, providing safe, neutral storage for young wines. It’s no wonder to us how they became one of the twenty largest wineries in the United States.
Today, Peter’s two sons, Marc and Peter, Jr. have taken over the responsibilities of running Charles Krug and C.K Mondavi. Marc attended UC Davis, he oversees the vineyard management and winemaking duties. While Peter, Jr. went to Stanford and manages the marketing, sales and general winery functions, sound farmiliar? The two have no doubt seen their father and uncle’s life change due to their differences as young men. They have learned that there is great importance in being a family winery first, but you should always follow your dreams. This family has a history that is unparalleled in the California wine industry.
Charles krug has focused on the major varietals grown in California. They make a Sauvignon Blanc from the home ranch in Napa, a Chardonnay from Fracchia and Willow Lake Ranch in Napa, a Pinot Noir from Willow lake Vineyard in Carneros, a Zinfandel from both Napa and Sonoma fruit sources, a Merlot from Krug Ranch, Voltz Ranch and Mondavi/Lincoln Ranch, a Cabernet Sauvignon from Mondavi/Lincoln Ranch and Stinsen Ranch, a Sangiovese form Krug Ranch, and a line of reserve wines in all of the above varietals when vintage permits. The “Vintage Select” designation for the best lots of Cabernet was introduced in 1946, at that time the wine was aged in old oak barrels and sometimes even in whisky barrels. In 1991 Krug introduced a wine called “Generation” this is a blend of three of the traditional Bordeaux varietals; Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot. The term generations signifies the continued tradition of innovation and excellence of the Peter Mondavi family.
The press has always been somewhat lukewarm on these wines. Some of the first vintages of Krug “Vintage Select” Cabernet Sauvignon were considered among the finest red wines coming from California in the late forties and early fifties. In James Laube’s Book entitles, California’s Great Cabernets, Krug gets several pages of tasting notes but only 2 scores over (90) points. After tasting through the entire line-up of Krug wines earlier this summer we scored all of the wines (88) points or more and were shocked by the incredible value that these wines present.