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Charles Krug Winery to Add Attractions

150-year-old Napa Valley winery plans deli and history museum

by Paul Franson
charles krug winery
Cesare and Rosa Mondavi, parents of Robert and Peter Mondavi Sr., bought the Krug winery and property for $75,000 in 1943. It is pictured (above left) in 1870 as well as today (above right).
St. Helena, Calif.Charles Krug Winery, marking its 150th anniversary this year, plans to add a delicatessen and a Napa Valley wine history museum to its restored 1861 Redwood Cellar.

Located within the city limits, the 1.35-million-case winery was able to win its delicatessen permit from St. Helena. Wineries in unincorporated Napa County are prohibited from running restaurants and delis, and only 40,000-case V. Sattui, grandfathered in commercially zoned space, has one. Its enormous popularity has been a sore point with many other valley wineries.

Domaine Chandon, the 652,000-case sparkling wine specialist, operates an upscale restaurant, étoile, within the town of Yountville. It also predates the winery definition ordinance that outlawed restaurants, lodging and weddings, among other activities, from wineries in unincorporated areas.

No other wineries in the valley provide restaurants or delis, although many serve meals for special events and an increasing number offer limited food pairings with wine tastings.

New attractions for old winery
The Krug additions will be part of a remodeling program that will demolish the existing, modest tasting room and relocate it in the two-story, aboveground, 10,000-square-foot Redwood Cellar. The redesign will include a picnic area for visitors and an inside lounge.

Proprietor Peter Mondavi Jr. emphasized that the focus of the winery will continue to be on wine. He told Wines & Vines that the project wouldn’t be completed before the end of 2013. The winery is now selecting an architect for the project.

“It’s a huge undertaking,” Mondavi admitted. It had been planned earlier, but the weak economy delayed the process.

This effort complements a $22-million investment in winemaking that began in 1999. Krug replanted more than 400 of the winery’s 850 acres in Napa Valley and added state-of-the-art winemaking equipment.

In addition, the Mondavi family has spent more than $4 million to restore the Redwood Cellar and 1881 Carriage House. Both are federally registered national landmarks.

A museum of Napa Valley wine history
Mondavi said that the winery also is considering creating a history museum of Napa Valley wine history, not just Krug, which holds a prominent role in the valley’s winemaking saga. The Napa Valley Museum in Yountville had a small space dedicated to the valley’s wine history, but that space is now being repurposed.

The Redwood Cellar was the original winery building, built in 1861, although it was badly damaged by fire in 1874. Only a few people preceded Krug. George Yount planted vines in the 1850s in Yountville, and John Patchett opened the first commercial winery in Napa County in 1859 in what is now Napa. According to Napa historian Floyd Stone, however, Patchett probably bought his vineyard from Nicholas Higuera, who had planted it in Mission grapes sometime before 1847.

David Fulton Winery, a 400-case winery in St. Helena, claims that its vineyard was originally planted in 1860 and is the oldest continuously owned and operated family vineyard in Napa Valley.

Krug certainly has the oldest winery building still used as a winery in Napa County, and one of the most impressive. The historic property was featured in two films: the 1959 Rock Hudson/Jean Simmons epic of wine and passion, This Earth is Mine, as well as A Walk in the Clouds with Keanu Reeves.

Krug winery under the Mondavis
Cesare and Rosa Mondavi, parents of Robert and Peter Mondavi Sr., bought the Krug winery and property for $75,000 in 1943 from James Moffitt, who’d purchased the winery in 1893 after Krug’s death.

Peter’s sons Marc and Peter Jr. now run the winery, although at 96, Peter Mondavi Sr. remains CEO.

Peter Mondavi Sr. has always been a quiet innovator. Based on his research at Stanford and the University of California, Berkeley, he introduced cold fermentation, enabling the production of exceptionally crisp, fruity white wines.

He pioneered efforts to plant vineyards in the Carneros region when it was thought to be too cold, introduced cold sterile filtration techniques and aging wine in small, French oak barrels.

Another advantage—weddings
Charles Krug Winery is one of the few in Napa Valley permitted to host weddings on winery property. The 1881 Carriage House offers a renovated ballroom/dining room and an expansive, park-like lawn surrounded by vineyards.

It should be noted that Charles Krug Winery lies at the end of the valley’s train tracks and would be a huge draw if the Wine Train or proposed vine train light rail system were allowed to disembark passengers there. It could potentially host shuttles to the nearby Culinary Institute of America, another major historic and current attraction. The Mondavi family has rejected that possibility in the past, however.

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