Friday, May 16, 2014

Charles Krug Winery – St. Helena, California

My last California Winery Review article was posted about 8 months ago in September 2013. In October 2013 I began going through the Intensive Sommelier Training at the International Culinary Center in Campbell so I was not traveling around California (or Oregon) on the weekends as I was too busy studying for Unit exams and I graduated on March 12, 2014. Two weeks later I passed the Certified Sommelier Exam for the Court of Master Sommeliers on March 26th. During that time I was posting my notes and reviews of the wines we tasted in class in the World of Wine Review and I am now posting notes on that site for wines that I taste in preparation for the Advanced Sommelier Exams.

In May 2013 I was re-visiting a number of Mondavi-family related wineries such as Robert MondaviWinery, Opus One (founded by Robert Mondavi and Baron Philippe de Rothschild) and Michael MondaviFamily Estate. I was planning to visit Charles Krug Winery (which is owned by Peter Mondavi) but at the time it was undergoing renovation. The restoration of the historic winery is now complete and the new tasting room is now open so with sunny weather in the forecast I decided to return to the Napa Valley and revisit the winery.

Charles Krug
The winery was founded by Charles Krug (1825-1892) who was one of the original pioneering winemakers of the Napa Valley. Charles Krug had first visited the United States from Prussia in 1847 and in 1851 he served as an apprentice winemaker for Agoston Haraszthy, the famous founder of Buena Vista Winery in Sonoma, before establishing his own winery. He then became a U.S. citizen in 1852. In 1860, eight years later, he married Carolina Bale the day after Christmas. His wife was the daughter of early Napa Valley pioneer and miller Edward Turner Bale who gave her a dowry of 540 acres north of St. Helena. In 1861, a year after they were married, Charles Krug planted a vineyard on the estate, founded his winery and began making wine using a cider press.

In 1894, following Krug’s death, the winery was purchased by James Moffitt Sr. but due to the prohibition (1920 to 1933) it became a non-operating winery. 
Cesare and Rosa Mondavi
Ten years later, in 1943, Robert Mondavi persuaded his parents, Cesare and Rosa Mondavi, to purchase the inactive winery from Moffitt for $75,000.
Peter and Robert Mondavi
Cesare died in 1959 leaving Rosa as President with sons Robert as General Manager and Peter as Vice President. In 1966 Robert Mondavi left the family business and founded his own winery further south in the Napa Valley in Oakville. In 1976 Rosa’s passed away at which time Peter became President of the winery.

Marc Mondavi and Peter Mondavi Jr.
Peter Sr. and his sons Marc and Peter Jr. continue to improve the family business which was initiated with a  9 year, $22 million investment program. 

This included replanting over 400 of the winery’s 850 prime acres in Napa Valley and a renovation of the winery, which was complete in 2013, which included a restoration of the historic building with state-of-the-art winemaking equipment and a new tasting room.
The Wines

Charles Krugg winery offers three flights, a Classic Tasting which consists of 5 of their more widely distributed wines, a Family Reserve Tasting which consists of 5 of their small production wines and a Limited Release Tasting which consists of 5 of their best Cabernets. I chose to taste the Family Reserve wines as it offered their highest quality wines with a wider selection of varieties.
2012 Estate Sauvignon Blanc

This is a clear white wine, youthful and brilliant with moderate viscosity. It has almost pronounced aromas (but it is not as powerful as your typical New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc) of grapefruit, green apples, lemon-lime, white flowers, lemon pith and a minute amount of chalk but nearly as much as a Sancerre so it is clearly a New World styled wine. On the palate the nose is confirmed, it is dry with mouth-watering medium+ acidity, it is medium- in body with moderate alcohol (12.5 abv.) and a medium+ length finish. It is well balanced and refreshing, one of the better Sauvignon Blancs I have tasted from the Napa Valley but it is also one of the more expensive as this wine sells for $35 per bottle.
2012 Dr. Galante Pinot Noir – Russian River

This is a clear ruby-red wine, low concentration with moderate viscosity. On the nose it has medium intense aromas of ripe cherries, intense strawberry preserves, dried roses, a hint of mocha with a seductive bouquet of smoked bacon, dried meat, damp earth and a hint of spice. On the palate it has medium- tannins, medium+ acidity, it is very soft with a full mouth feel and moderate++ to high alcohol (15.3 abv.) and a very long finish. A lovely wine and my favorite in the line-up so I brought one home. This wine sells for $50 per bottle.
2011 Zinfandel – St. Helena
This is an opaque dark red wine, purple at the core to violet-pink at the rim with medium+ viscosity. On the nose it has moderate intense aromas of dried plums, raisins, ripe cherries, raspberry jam and a hint of black pepper. On the palate it is dry with medium to medium+ tannins, medium+ acidity, medium+ body with high alcohol yet it is well-balanced without any excessive heat and it has a moderate length finish. It is definitely a better-than-average Napa Valley Zin but a bit steep at $60 per bottle.
2011 Family Reserve Generations

The first vintage of Generations was in 1991, a blend crafted by Marc Mondavi. This wine is a Bordeaux style blend with 87% Cabernet Sauvignon, 6% Petit Verdot, 4% Malbec, and 3% Merlot. It is opaque, dark ruby-red at the core with only minor rim variation and moderate+ viscosity. On the nose it is clean and the first thing you pick up are green notes of bell pepper, green herbs, mint and eucalyptus followed by an under layer of black currants, dusty black cherries and a minute amount of black pepper and only a miniscule amount of vanilla. On the palate it is dry with medium+ tannins, medium+ acidity, medium body, moderate+ alcohol (13.9 abv.) and a long finish. The year 2011 was a very cool vintage and many wineries were challenged to get sufficiently ripe grapes so the green notes are not a surprise. With swirling the green notes diminish and the fruit comes to the front. If you don’t mind a little green in your Cabernet blend this wine is actually fairly well balanced as it doesn’t come across as overly oaked even though it was aged for 20 months in new French oak. This wine sells for $55 per bottle.

Lot XVII Zinfandel Port
The final pour was a Port-style wine made from 100% Zinfandel made in a Solera style processing resulting in a blend of sixteen vintages aged in French and American oak. This wine is opaque, dark purple at the core with no rim variation and high viscosity. On the nose it has moderate intense aromas of raisins, boysenberries, dark chocolate, maple and dates. On the palate it is sweet (RS: 7.56 g/100ml) but not cloying or syrupy, it is soft and silky with a moderate+ length finish. Personally, I prefer Port wines made with the traditional Portuguese grapes such as Touriga Nacional, Tinto Cão, Tinta Roriz and Bastardo as they tend to have more complexity, especially when aged. This wine sells for $35 per 375ml bottle.

To see more pictures of Charles Krug Winery, check out Erik Wait's Wine Country Photography:

To visit or for more information:
Charles Krug Winery
2800 Main Street
St. Helena, CA 94574
Phone: (707) 967-2200


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