Generations in a Glass: Celebrating the 75th Anniversary of Charles Krug Winery

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Generations in a Glass

Riana and Peter Mondavi Jr 

When Peter Mondavi celebrates a milestone, it is always done with pomp and circumstance with a focus on family.  But when prepares for a family milestone — the 75th anniversary – how do you truly showcase what has happened over the generations?  In Peter’s case, you take the show on the road in Napa, New York and Dallas and show the evolution of your family in the glass over the generations.  I was lucky enough to be part of the stop on the tour.

Generations in a Glass

Charles Krug remains one of the three wineries left in the Napa Valley that have been owned by the same family since World War II.  The Mondavi family bought the Charles Krug Winery in 1943, which was founded by Prussian-born Charles Krug.  Charles was a journalist of a German language newspaper before he was a winemaker and also worked at the U.S. Mint.  His passion for wine was ignited by friends and he married a woman who brought a dowry of what is now the land of Charles Krug winery.  He established the winery in 1860.

Cesare Mondavi first came to Minnesota from Italy in 1906 and became a miner.  In 1908, he returned to Italy to marry Rosa Grassi and started a boarding house and saloon.  In 1922, as Prohibition hit, the Mondavi’s and their four children moved to California and started C. Mondavi and Sons, which was a grape shipping business.

Cesare didn’t set out to be a winemaker – just an accidental entrepreneur who wanted to take care of his family.  After success in the grape shipping business, he decided to purchase the Charles Krug winery.  Cesare Mondavi was an innovator and introduced the cider press for winemaking and many other advanced winemaking techniques that were unheard of during that time.  Back in the day, Charles Krug was making more than 27 different wines including ports and sherries until over time, the family decided to focus on key varietals.

Generations in a Glass

Today, Charles Krug Winery is run by third-generation brothers Peter Mondavi Jr. and Marc Mondavi, as well as fourth-generation members of the Mondavi family.  It is surprising to me how involved the family continues to follow the DNA of winemaking. Angelina, Alycia, Riana and Giovanna, who are Marc’s children and Lucio and Lia, Peter Jr’s children, are all actively involved in in the operations of the winery.

Back to the Dallas event … Peter led the Vintage Selection Library Masterclass, which focused on the iconic red stripe bottle that Krug is known for producing. As part of the 75thanniversary, the family is putting together a special three pack from the from the Vintage Selection offerings – 1974, 1991 and 2003, which featured some of the favorites from the tastings.  Visit the website for more details.

The library tasting showcased the following vintages: 1964, 1966, 1974, 1983, 1991, 1998, 2003, 2015 and a barrel sample of 2016.  I enjoyed the older wines and found that they had aged well.

The 1964 had notes of leather, cedar, dried plum, currant, brown sugar, orange skin, dried rose and brown sugar.

The 1966 had notes of cedar, spice, coffee, dried cranberry and a bright acidity.  This was one of my favorites.

Generations in a Glass

The 1974 had notes of eucalyptus, lavender, spice, black fruit, coffee, wood and caramelized fruit.  There were two Vintage Selections made in 1974; the F-1 designation refers to a bottling made from the Fay Vineyard in the Stags Leap District.  This was another favorite.

The 1983 had notes of leather, cedar, cocoa, red fruit, black fruit and dried herbs.

The 1991 had notes of oregano, blackberry, herbs, licorice, flowers, blackberry, tobacco and cocoa.

The 1998, while poorly rated, was delicious.  It had notes of olive tapenade, meat, coffee, spice, chocolate, black fruit, dried fruit and plum.

The 2003 was the first endeavor into blends with Syrah added.  It had black fruit, black pepper, meat, plum, cassis, flower and spice.

The 2015, which will be released in November, is still very tight and you could tell the jump in alcohol, which clocked in at 15.8 as compared to the 14 percent from the other wines.  I tasted blackberry cobbler, health bar and chocolate.

Peter Jr talked about how the wine has evolved, but that they are still focused on elegant and balanced wines, that reflect where they are grown.  The jump in alcohol was noticeable and prompted discussion.

We also tasted a barrel sample of the 2016, which is the first time Howell Mountain Cabernet has been used in the blend.  I tasted blackberry pie and vanilla, but it was way too concentrated and soon to deconstruct.

It was also fascinating to break down the winemaking differences of Peter Mondavi, Sr. and Peter Mondavi, Jr.  Peter Mondavi, Sr. was a fan of single varietal wines, so until 2003, the Vintage Select Cabernet Sauvignon was 100 percent Cabernet Sauvignon.  But once Marc Mondavi pulled his “secret blending experiment” that first resulted in the Reserve Generations Red, a Bordeaux blend, and finally Peter Mondavi, Sr. agreed to blending, you started to see blended wines after that year.

Seventy-five years later, Napa’s oldest winery and one of Napa’s first families of wines are still going strong.  Winemaking is clearly an important part of the family’s DNA and it is clear that the family’s vision to be recognized as “one of the world’s best family owned wineries” is clearly attainable over the generations.

The Fabulous Crew from the WWET at Charles Krug 

Judd in the barrel room

Stacey with the awesome team sales, marketing and operations team at Charles Krug

After the tasting was over, I had the opportunity to attend the Wine Writers’ Educational Tour (WWET), an inaugural conference for wine writers, which took at deep dive into Napa.  We spent half a day touring Charles Krug and had the chance to sit down with Winemaker Stacey Clark, General Manager Judd Wallenbrock and Vice President of Estate Management and Guest Relations Jim Morris as well as well as the fabulous sales and marketing team.  It is clear that while Charles Krug is a big winery, it still keeps its family vibe and makes you feel at home.

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