In wake of the sad news of Peter Mondavi’s passing (peacefully and surrounded by family), we thought it would be a fitting tribute to re-publish the Interview we conducted with this unquestionable wine pioneer. We at Drink Me thank Peter for his wisdom, love and passion to an industry and way of life that touches so many peoples hearts on a daily basis.
Today, we raise a glass to you Peter Mondavi Senior. Thank you.
Peter Mondavi Sr., patriarch of one of the most storied wine families in the world, has arguably witnessed and impacted more of California’s wine history than anyone else alive. And while the family’s past may be illustrious, the future is looking just as bright. Wanting to learn more about the man behind the legend, we asked him to speak about the passion that this nearly 100-year-old wine genius has exhibited throughout the course of his life and career.
You have witnessed countless trends in wine throughout your long career. What are your thoughts about where California wine is today, as well as the world of American wine in general?
The U.S. wine scene has come a long way from my early years of research and winemaking. Napa Valley is a proud member of the most prestigious wine producing regions of the world, a position we could have only dreamed of when my brother and I started in the business.
Stylistic trends come and go. How would you define Napa Valley wine?
Today, the Napa Valley has producers who believe in the more opulent, powerful style and those in the more restrained or finessed style. The pendulum is starting to swing towards the latter. We have refined our style over decades and generations and truly stick to our heritage of layered wines with finesse and structure that belong on the dinner table alongside a wonderful meal. Drinkability is the final measure. With that said, there is a need for more than one style. Style is ultimately a reflection of the person behind the wine.
Charles Krug was the Winery of the Year in our Drink Me Magazine Elite 150 this year. What do you attribute Krug’s success to?
I greatly appreciate the honor that you have given our family winery and I thank you for that. Unrelenting determination to produce the highest quality wines from unique blocks in our vineyards backed by the love and dedication of a family business has led to our success.
It seems as if a new generation of serious wine lovers is re-discovering Charles Krug. Tell us a bit about your winemaking team.
I have passed the responsibilities of the Charles Krug wines and vineyards to my son Peter, Jr. who, along with his brother Marc, carries the torch from where the foundation that has been laid. He works closely with our winemaker Stacy Clark and her team.
Which Charles Krug wines are the most special to you, and why?
All of our cabernets, particularly Generations and Vintage Selection. We are blessed with our own vineyards in the Napa Valley appellation, which are so incredibly well suited for these wines.
I’d imagine that you have a pretty deep library of back vintages of Charles Krug. Which years do you find yourself going back to either for reference points or for personal enjoyment?
I have very fond memories of our ’65 Vintage Selection Cabernet Sauvignon; it was tops in those early years. It would be interesting to see how today’s wines would stack up against it when it was in its youth. I really enjoy our newer releases, if not only to stay on top of what we are producing today. The 2011 vintage represented the 150th harvest at Charles Krug: Amazing.
Which other up and coming producers in Napa excite you the most right now? Are there any that you tend to drink with regularity?
There are so many new ones in the Napa Valley that I don’t keep up with them all. I’m preoccupied and focused on our own.
Family is obviously one of the most important aspects of your business, and you are widely considered to be a patriarch to so much of California’s extended winemaking family. What advice would you offer to a young winemaker or grape-grower just getting into the business?
One must have a passionate and unwavering love of wine – not just the lifestyle – and know quality to survive in this business.
When you get together with family and friends to enjoy a meal and great wine, do you open up Charles Krug? If so, what is the most memorable Krug-and-food pairing you’ve ever had?
Yes, always. It’s a way of sharing my passion and love for our wines. My mother, in her Old World ways, had a knack for Italian foods she made from scratch, which paired with our wines in magical ways. Her meals and our wines were always memorable.