It’s safe to say the California wine industry would be very different without the contributions of Peter Mondavi, Sr., and his family. As president/CEO and lead ambassador of C. Mondavi & Family and the Charles Krug Winery, Mr. Mondavi is a familiar face in the North Bay, especially in Napa Valley. But many may not know how far-reaching his contributions are.
After earning an economics degree at Stanford in 1937, Mr. Mondavi pursued graduate studies in enology at UC Berkeley. There, working with pioneering food and wine scientist Dr. William Vere Cruess, Mr. Mondavi conducted important research on cold fermentation that eventually led to the crisp, fruit-forward white wines that are now an industry standard.
The family’s transition from grape shipping to wine in 1943 led to innovations in vineyard planting and management, enhanced winemaking techniques and increased marketing and educational efforts. In 1963, he introduced French oak barrels to the Napa Valley wine industry and, under his watch, Charles Krug Winery was among the first wine producers in the state to label wines by varietal.
Now 99 years young, Mr. Mondavi is still intimately involved in his family’s wine interests.
Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Lodi, Calif., but now I live on the Charles Krug property in St. Helena.
How many family members are currently working for your wineries?
Six family members are presently employed by Charles Krug Winery.
Describe one of your happiest life moments.
My happiest life moment was when I married Blanche [Hurtzig] on June 10, 1950. Unfortunately, she passed away January 13, 2010, after 59.5 years of marriage.
What do you like and dislike most about the wine industry?
I like the annual challenge of quality each harvest. I dislike bad weather at harvest time.
What change in the wine industry has had special significance for you and/or your company?
The obvious major change in the wine business took place about 15 years ago, when premium winegrapes were harvested well above 24 degrees brix, which resulted in premium wines with alcohol contents well above 14 percent.
If you could go back in time, what year would you visit?
If I could go back in time, it would be to the day in 1946 that I was released from the army at the end of World War II.
What do you do when you want to relax?
When I want to relax, I enjoy professional football games and professional golf games. I also enjoy fishing.
What’s the most interesting country you’ve ever been to?
My two most interesting countries are Italy and France, because they’re outstanding for both food and wine.
What’s your favorite dessert?
My favorite dessert is Crêpe Suzette.
What personal trait of yours is most responsible for getting you where you are?
I’ve never had any other desire than to produce top-quality wines. I’ve never gotten tired of the wine business.
What was your first job? How old were you and what did it pay?
My first job was hand making grape-shipping boxes for my father when I was about 10 years old. The hourly wage was about $1 to begin with. The money was set aside for my college years.
What are the most important things your parents taught you?
My mother always taught me to be aggressive. She saw that we always had good meals and made certain we took care of our responsibilities. My father always provided working responsibilities while my mother saw that we carried out our responsibilities.
What controversial topic do you enjoy debating?
A subject worth debating is the minimum hourly wage.
What’s one activity you enjoy too much to give up?
I love winemaking too much to give it up and will participate whenever I see help is needed.