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Brotherly Rivalry?

Since I have a twin brother, I feel eminently qualified to comment on sibling rivalry.  And while I don’t want to suggest anything that would be construed as inflammatory, what, with the shadow of death still lingering from his early summer entreaty in Napa, but, the unedited press release below regarding Peter Mondavi, Sr. and the refurbishment of Charles Krug winery does make one wonder if the passing of brother Robert and the lavish treatment he received posthumously might not be fueling a more aggressive stance from that side of the Mondavi family in burnishing Peter’s legacy onto the Mount Rushmore of wine figures.

With no disrespect intended, Charles Krug winery hasn’t been that relevant in the wine world in years and the somewhat extraneous details in the release about Peter Sr.‘s contribution to the wine world, particularly a “living legends” reference from a Napa Valley winery association 22 years ago, seem a little, well, shoe-horned in.

I’m not saying, I’m just saying ... reconciliations in old age are more for family peace of mind and brotherly grudges die hard.  I would be surprised if a very delicate conversation hasn’t taken place about a living Mondavi wanting to climb out of glancing footnoted reference into a full chapter when the Napa wine story is told about the latter half of the 20th century.

RESTORATION OF birthplace of napa wine industry complete
Charles Krug Landmark Work Dedicated to “Living Legend” Peter Mondavi, Sr.

ST HELENA, CA, July, 2008— Nearly two years and $8 million after it began, restoration of two national historic landmark buildings at Peter Mondavi Family’s Charles Krug Winery are now complete.  Founded in 1861, Charles Krug is Napa Valley’s first winery, and the historical structures represent the birthplace of the Napa Valley wine industry.

On September 27, family, cherished friends and honored colleagues will gather to unveil the winery’s 1872 Redwood Cellar and the 1881 Carriage House at a formal dedication to Peter Mondavi, Sr., 93.  Mr. Mondavi is the last of the “12 Living Legends of Napa Valley,” so honored by the Napa Valley Wineries Association in a historic decree in 1986.

The tribute to Mr. Mondavi commences on the magnificent expanse of lawn under a canopy of heritage oaks that are hundreds of years older than the winery itself. The soiree will include tours of the cathedral-like Redwood Cellar, a working winery building normally closed to the public, and the elegantly preserved Carriage House, a popular venue for special events.  Both are registered national and California historic landmarks. 

Patriarch of one of Napa’s great wine families, Peter Mondavi, Sr. brought numerous groundbreaking innovations to California wine over the last 62 years. After experimenting with cold fermentation at U.C. Berkeley, he instituted the process at the family winery, the first in California to do so.  The family published the first winery newsletter in California (Bottles & Bins, 1949) and, in 1953, Life Magazine declared that Charles Krug produced the “best California white wine” of the year.  The winery’s Tastings on the Lawn, now in their 56th year, are believed to be the first wine celebrations of their kind and went on to inspire a myriad of other wine tasting events.  In 1963, Charles Krug was the first Napa Valley winery to import French oak barrels to age wine and they were among the first to vintage-date varietal wines.

The monumental renovation project at Charles Krug is part of a complete recasting of the venerable winery. Having extensively replanted its vineyards with a focus on noble red Bordeaux varietals, the Peter Mondavi Family is now practicing 100% organic and sustainable viticulture on its 850 prime Napa Valley acres, and has earned organic certification for seven of its vineyard properties. 

As part of the weeklong festivities to celebrate the dedication of the renovations, an open-house for the winery and hospitality trade is scheduled for Tuesday, September 23 at 5 p.m., and Charles Krug’s popular annual public “Tasting on the Lawn” will take place on Sunday, September 28 from 2 to 5 pm. The afternoon features tastings of Charles Krug new releases, barrel tastings in the Redwood Cellar, food and wine pairings, picnicking under the oaks, and dancing to music by The Revells.  For more information, visit

Please contact Karen MacKenzie or Christine Piccin at the MacKenzie Agency (.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address), .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address), 707.545.3280) for additional details on the restoration project, photo opportunities, or for scheduling interviews with the Mondavi Family.



Posted in, Good Grape Daily: Pomace & Lees. Permalink | Comments (5) |


On 07/30, .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) wrote:

It’s easy to write off a lot of the early accomplishments in labeling and promotional activities at Krug to a Mondavi named Bob. And it is hard to overlook lawsuits, union strikes and picketing, misadventures, colossal mistakes, and considerable craziness at the winery over the last four decades. But at UC Davis in 1969 I tasted a’68 Chardonnay that had been sent to the profs, a one barrel experiment with French oak at Krug. Everyone loved it.  Winemaker was Bill Bonetti who left a year later to eventually put Sonoma Cutrer Chardonnay on every winelist in America. A host of leaders and winery owners in the industry got their start at Krug. You may ask did they find success because of…or in spite of…(a fair question), but don’t ignore the fact that Peter still owns his winery and his kids will inherit it. It is producing excellent wine at great prices. He owns 850 acres of grapes. Has a beautiful property, a beautiful lawn, still works (perhaps a little disfunctionally) with his two boys, shares his beautiful lawn with his community and his family. He may not have paid for his name on some buildings with donations, but his impact is more than a footnote, I think.

Maybe a year ago when gas prices were still cheap I was pumping gas into my truck at the sleazy, cheapo, discount gas station outside Napa. The one where half the pumps don’t work. Anyway, who roars in but ninety year old Peter (still called Babe by the family) and he proceeds to pump regular into his dusty, American made, fullsized, mid-priced sedan. Felt a kinship to the guy ever since. I personally will drink a toast to the guy and the revolutionary Chardonnay his winemaker made four decades ago.

On 07/31, Jeff wrote:


Very thoughtful comment.  Thank you.

My impression is that right now Krug is a part of the Robert Mondavi legacy, and not a stand-alone aspect of Napa history.  That’s what I was alluding to. 

Only time will tell, I suppose.  Nikola Tesla was a brilliant inventor, but rarely gets any credit.  It seems to me that Peter’s family may be pre-emptively trying to prevent that.

Thanks again for the well crafted comment,


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