Today’s words come to us from Napa Valley wine pioneer, Peter Mondavi, who passed away on Saturday at the age of 101.
Peter Mondavi was at the helm of his family’s winery, Charles Krug, from 1976 (when his mother Rosa died) until he retired last year, at the age of 100. Universally regarded as a California wine industry legend, he was known for his methodical and precise approach to both winemaking and business. Mondavi brought a number of innovations to the California wine industry. He was the first to import and use French oak barrels for aging wine, and he introduced cold stabilization for white wines. But, Mondavi considered his greatest accomplishment to be successfully sheltering the Charles Krug Winery, and maintaining it as a family business.
The Mondavi Family very nearly imploded (more than once) in spats over business. Peter and his more outgoing brother, Robert, came to blows (literal blows) in the mid-1960s, which led to Robert being fired from the family winery. Robert would start his own winery (the eponymous Robert Mondavi Winery) and Peter would remain at Charles Krug. Then came a series of costly and emotionally wrought lawsuits that would persist until 1978 (a decade of litigation isn’t good for anyone but lawyers). And then, in 2004, there was the somewhat astonishing board coup and hostile takeover, which resulted in the Robert Mondavi Winery being sold to Costellation Brands. If you’ve never read The House of Mondavi: The Rise and Fall of an American Wine Dynasty, it’s worth a few hours of your time. You’ll start to wonder if Falcon Crest was really more of a documentary.
Yesterday, I read an interview with Peter Mondavi in which he talked about the many changes in Napa Valley over his lifetime. Peter Mondavi rarely missed a glass of wine with dinner. And here, he’s talking about the shift to higher-alcohol wines: