1861 Napa Valley History – Rewind!

Charles Krug Winery is noted for being Napa’s first winery.  Established in 1861 by Charles Krug, a Prussian immigrant, and subsequently purchased by Cesare Mondavi and his wife Rosa, in 1943, the Charles Krug Winery is not only historic but it is beautiful and expansive.  Located in the St. Helena appellation, The Krug winery and the C. Mondavi Family, which encompasses four (4) generations of Mondavis remains one of the iconic grape growing and wine making families in California and perhaps America.  What is clearly apparent here is the passion, love and sense of place (historic and physical) that each and every family member present exuded…a trait sadly absent in many corporate by-outs of family wineries.

Charles Krug Winery (Mondavi Family and team) Linda C.

Charles Krug Winery (Mondavi Family and team) Linda C.

Keeping the continuity of that history alive is exactly what Peter Mondavi Sr. (Robert Mondavi’s younger brother) and his sons Marc and Peter Jr. are all about.  Tuesday, August 7th, witnessed the historic ground breaking for the renovation of the 1872 Redwood Cellar on the grounds of the family owned Charles Krug Winery.   The project was conceived a couple of years ago but has been held in abeyance due to financial realities expressed in the national recession.  Tuesday, however, marked the official kick-off for the project which is scheduled to be completed in the next 14 months or so.

Peter Mondavi Sr remembers his parents (Linda C)

Peter Mondavi Sr remembers his parents (Linda C)

Surrounded by his sons, their wives and his grandchildren, Peter Sr. took great pains to recognize the hard work, good luck and work ethic of his father and mother, Cesare and Rosa Mondavi, who immigrated to the US from the eastern central part of Italy known as the Marche (along the Adriatic Sea) in the early 1900’s via Minnesota.  Displaying a well-earned pride and his love of family, the 97-year-old patriarch beamed as he and his sons donned hard hats and a shovel for the photo capture of this significant event.

Marc, Peter Sr and Peter Jr Mondavi (Linda C)

Marc, Peter Sr and Peter Jr Mondavi (Linda C)

Granddaughters Angelina and Alycia, two of Marc and wife Janice’s four daughters (Riana, and Giovanna  were not present), participated in this family event as well.  Angelina and Alycia are both deeply involved in the wine industry in their own right.  Angelina is a winemaker who has earned her chops via Australia and several California wineries like Pine Ridge, Hundred Acre and Dark Matter, a joint venture with her sisters and mom, Janice.

The Peter Mondavi Sr. family (Charles Krug Winery)

The Peter Mondavi Sr. family (Charles Krug Winery)

The exterior of the Redwood Cellar was originally constructed in 1872 and is so named as it housed over 30 redwood storage tanks of various sizes throughout the building.  Much of the redwood from those old tanks remains in storage on the third floor.  The cellar had been previously renovated in 2009 for an earthquake retrofit and other esthetic reasons. 

Peter Sr and Howard Bachen (Architect) - Linda C

Peter Sr and Howard Bachen (Architect) – Linda C

This major remodel, designed by renowned architect Howard Bachen of Bachen, Gillam and Kroeger, will create a state of the art, modern tasting facility and hospitality center that will support tasting, educational activities, special reserve tasting and most significantly an operational barrel room that will be visible from anywhere in the building through glass walls and openings.  A full kitchen is included to support special events and smaller reserve tasting rooms, again with full visibility of the barrel room are included.  A Napa Wine making Museum is contemplated on the 2nd floor of this 3 story building although specific plans are still evolving.  A vintage bird-cage style elevator will be added to provide accessibility for all without use of the 2 sets of stairs that will be added on the flanks of the building.

P. Mondavi, Bachen and Adams Thornley Project Staff (Charles Krug Winery)

P. Mondavi, Bachen and Adams Thornley Project Staff (Charles Krug Winery)

The overriding concept for the renovation is that no matter where you are in the Redwood Cellar, you will never lose sight of the fact that you are enjoying a historic wine making operation in a historic wine making setting.  If the execution is anything like the plans, which is highly likely, they will have achieved this goal.

Sadly for many in the family, the old cramped wooden tasting room will be torn down upon completion of the Redwood Cellar remodel.  With another historic building, the Carriage House, also recently renovated, the Charles Krug Winery “campus’ will have fully transitioned to this modern era of winemaking…just in  time for the great-grandchildren of Cesare and Rosa!


About John Compisi

John Compisi is a freelance travel, adventure and lifestyle writer focusing on California, Italy, France or where ever life takes him. He is a published member of the SF Bay Area Travel Writers and the Redwood Writers Club. John, and photographer wife Linda, reside in Sonoma County and love nothing more than getting out there and experiencing the world, no matter if it’s a destination close to home, a road trip, or a journey to romantic international destinations.
This entry was posted in Day Trips, Napa Valley, Wine, Wine Country, Wineries and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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