Nov. 6, 2014 – Peter Mondavi, the patriarch of the Charles Krug Winery in the Napa Valley, will celebrate his 100th birthday on November 8.
Always courteous and gentlemanly, Peter Mondavi headed up winemaking at the Charles Krug winery purchased by the family in 1943. His effervescent brother, Robert Mondavi, led the sales and marketing efforts. In 1965 the two brothers had a famous fistfight resulting in Robert Mondavi leaving the family business to start his own winery.
The family history in America dates back to Cesare Mondavi immigrating to northern Michigan in 1906 to mine iron ore. He soon decided that opening a grocery store was more to his liking. He knew his fellow Italians in the area liked to make their own wines so he started looking for grapes in warmer climes. Prohibition worked in his favor as under the law, a family could make 200 gallons of wine each year for their own use. In 1922 the family moved to Lodi, California and Cesare supplied grapes to Italians across the country for home winemaking.
He bought Krug on the understanding that Robert and Peter would run it. Peter was in the Army Air Corps from 1942 to 1946 so it fell to Robert to restore the broken down winery, no small task with wartime shortages of materials.
Both Mondavis attended Stanford University, Peter majoring in engineering and chemistry. There he conducted experiments in cold fermentation of white wine. He went on to postgraduate studies in enology at Berkeley. He introduced cold fermentation at Krug producing crisp, fruity white wines. It was a challenge as refrigerated tanks had yet to be invented.
Peter Mondavi, Sr. still goes to the office every day climbing 32 steps to his office and while his sons Peter, Jr. and Marc run the operation, he signs the checks. The winery produces about 85,000 cases of wine a year and its tasting room and gardens are among the best in St. Helena. Birthday celebrations for the family and employees will be held at the winery November 8 and 11.