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Spreading His Wings

Photo: Marc Mondavi, dining at the Regent Beverly Wilshire Hotel

Sitting down for lunch with Marc Mondavi, proprietor of Charles Krug Winery, enabled me to get an introspective look at a lineage that continues to persevere in a time when others have become too big to call themselves a family winery.

“This is about ‘the wine business,’ but we remain a day-to-day, hard-working family (with his father Peter Mondavi, Sr. and his brother Peter, Jr.), associated with a historical name. We kick the dirt and taste the wines every day.”

When asked outright if they would change their business practice and go public for more profit, Mondavi insisted, “Not this generation. My father’s brother (Robert Mondavi) was one of the best marketers of wine and to see him build, develop and then, in his lifetime, have it disappear…well, that’s very sad. I think it hurt him. He was 91 when it happened – that’s like nurturing your child to adulthood and then letting go. Forever.”

But Marc Mondavi does have stakes in the next generation. His daughter Angelina is attending graduate school in Australia’s Roseworthy College, where she’s studying enology at the campus in the Barossa Valley. “She graduated college with a Chemistry degree. I told her she can’t work for the family without a few years experience at other wineries. She’s already worked some harvests in California and in Australia.”

 

Stretching Out

Excited to talk about their latest project, a 20-acre planting of Cabernet Sauvignon at Marc and Janice Mondavi’s house in Howell Mountain, he augments the family’s 850 acres of vineyards from Carneros, Yountville, and St. Helena with the addition of mountain fruit.

“I was going to leave it as forest,” he offered, “but if we don’t plant now, I may never have the opportunity again.” He referred to the red tape and rising costs associated with expanding vineyard sites, having to answer to government departments of Fish and Game, Water Quality and other agencies that require policy and paper trails when it comes to restructuring any hillside developments in Napa Valley.

When he explained that this was once land owned by Charles Krug himself in the 1880s, who owned a whopping 240 acres on Howell Mountain, he knew it was kismet that would lead him to add these vines to the family’s repertoire. A new Howell Mountain label will be created, yet unnamed, to develop and enhance it as a project unto itself.

Spreading his wings further, Mondavi convinced his family to opt for another 60-acre parcel (he just received his permits in June) where he was tempted to plant some Petit Verdot, but vetoed that rich blender for the sturdy Cabernet Sauvignon that grows so regally in Napa soils. Muses Mondavi, “In the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, the highest price my dad paid for land was $3,000 an acre.” This land is certainly their land, and the lush textures, concentrated fruit and Technicolor hues of the wines are a testament to, as well as a definition of, a pride of ownership.

 

The Wines of the Peter Mondavi Family’s Charles Krug Label

2003 Charles Krug Chardonnay, Carneros (INSERT LABEL IMAGE)

One of the more textures, brilliant Chardonnays. Subtle toasted oak takes form as burnt caramel pudding. The bright acidity leaps in gracefully with a lemon drop finish. (SRP $14) “We only do partial ML – 15 to 20 percent,” says Mondavi, “because any more may tend to drop out the natural acidity. The wine is 85% barrel fermented to retain its vibrant fruit.

Charles Krug Generations 2001 (BOLD) was originally created in 1991 when Marc’s father was out of town. “By the time he came home, I blended all the Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc in one tank. I thought he would kill me.”

A blend of the three exists today as “Generations,” a deliriously aromatic wine that lures you in with chocolate covered blueberries and lands you in a soft, round cloud of coffee, vanilla and generously sweet red berries. (SRP $38)

Distributed by Southern Wine & Spirits