Well the times have changed, and with it the wines made by the Mondavi’s, at Charles Krug, the Robert Mondavi Winery, and most recently, at Folio Fine Wine Partners. Well, that might not be the best way to state the facts. I guess the truth is, after tasting the most recent releases from the Mondavi’s, that these are wines, while made by different branches of the family, that share a connection to the past and revel in the glory of the great wines made by the first generation of Mondavis to get a bit of Rutherford dust under their fingernails.
Gregory Dal Piaz is a proponent and admirer of a broad range of wines and styles. During his decades of collecting and tasting he has discovered that a wine need not cost a fortune to drink well. Feel free to ask him questions at the Snooth Forums where he regularly engages with beginners and experts alike.
Before we get on with the tasting notes and a bit about Charles Krug today let’s begin with the story of Cesare Mondavi, the Mondavi who started it all,. Cesare arrived at New York’s Ellis Island from the Marches region of Italy with $14 in his pocket and hopes of making a new, better life here in the US. Without much to go on, Cesare found his way to Minnesota in 1908.
After toiling for several years in the mines with his fellow immigrant Cesare decided to make a go of it on his own, opening a small saloon, grocery store and boarding house to service the community.
Within a few years the Mondavis had a son, Robert, and another Peter, who would grow up and revolutionize winemaking in Napa Valley but that’s a story for another day. In the 1910s Cesare was still working had to make a living in Minnesota. Ironically the enactment of prohibition in 1919 turned out to the big break for the first family of Napa Valley wine
Cesare was a member of his local Italian social club back in Minnesota and the members were determined to not have to suffer the ignominious fate of becoming teetotalers. Under the laws of prohibition each male head of a household was entitled to produce 200 gallons of wine per year. Now being in Minnesota most people were probably turning out fruit wines, but for this group of Italians that simply wouldn’t do.
So, the Italian Social Club looked around for someone to send to California and buy grapes for their production of real wine. They looked around and saw an awful lot of miners, and one saloonkeeper. Well the choice was obvious and off Cesare went to California in search of grapes suitable for making the table wine everyone so desperately wanted.
After several years of heading off to California on this annual pilgrimage Cesare finally decided it would make more sense to just move to the warm, fertile valleys of California, and he did, in 1922 he settled down with his family in Lodi.
Life in Lodi was all about grapes. Finding the best, shipping them across the country, and of course making wine. It wasn’t long before Cesare realized that the best wine came from the best grapes, and the best grapes came from Napa Valley.
Fast forward to 1943 when Cesare and Rosa Mondavi purchased the famed (first winery in Napa Valley) , but run-down, Charles Krug winery for some $75,000. 147 acres of land and some old buildings were the humble beginning of what would, in time, emerge as forces to be reckoned with. But back to the beginning.
Through a steady hand, and fine attention to detail, the Ck Mondavi family slowly rebuilt the winery and nurtured the vines back to health. By the middle of the 1950’s Charles Krug’s wine were among the very finest in the country.
By the 1960’s Charles Krug was consistently turning out great wines under the Vintage Selection label. Wines that help to rebuild the reputation of Napa Valley and establish a particular style. Those wines continue to drink well to this day and are among the greatest values in the world of mature, fine wine. Not that I really should be sharing that bit of information, though these wines of Charles Krug, the great vintage selections, somehow continue to fly under the radar and get neither the accolades they deserve nor the prices of their peers.