United States, Napa Valley, Charles Krug Winery

Sep 1, 2013
2013 / September 2013

The Charles Krug Winery is a tale of two immigrants. The first, Charles Krug, came to California from Prussia in the 1820s and in 1861 opened the first commercial winery in Napa Valley. The second was Italian-born Cesare Mondavi, who arrived in California in 1922 and bought the winery in 1943. After Cesare, his son Peter headed Charles Krug. Today, 152 years old, the winery is still owned by the Mondavis and now run by Peter’s sons, Peter, Jr. and Marc, with members of the fourth generation beginning to enter the picture — and with Peter, 98 years old, still coming to the winery daily.

Perhaps one reason for the winery’s longevity and success is that the Mondavis of Charles Krug are dedicated to what the Napa region does best, growing Bordeaux grapes and making Bordeaux-style wines. Another reason is that they’ve wasted little time chasing publicity. They have always put substance over style. Façade has never overtaken content.

Among the winery’s Bordeaux-style wines is Sauvignon Blanc 2012 ($17). Fresh and refreshing with the intense grass-like flavors of the grape and no oak barrel aging to mask those flavors, it is one of the more successful examples of that grape I’ve tasted from California.

Speaking of successful executions of a grape, Charles Krug Merlot 2010 ($22) is a particular pleasure: full, flavorful, rich, mingling the depth of a Cabernet Sauvignon and the velvety texture of Merlot.

Charles Krug Family Reserve Generations 2010 ($50) is a focused Cabernet Sauvignon-dominated wine, spice-driven with a tight structure, still young with a light tannic bite and a long finish. The Mondavis have been making Generations since 1991.

Peter Mondavi made the first Charles Krug Vintage Selection Cabernet Sauvignon in 1944, and the family considers it its flagship wine. But it is not made every year — only in vintages they consider of high quality, which is about seven years out of every decade. The year 2010 was one of those vintages producing an exquisitely balanced wine: round, satiny, with a long and memorable aftertaste ($90).

The “X” in Charles Krug Limited Release X Clones Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 ($110) refers to the 10 clones of Cabernet Sauvignon blended to make this wine. It is spicy, toasty, full-bodied, polished, rich and round.

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