Wine of the week: Influential wines of Charles Krug

When you have the most famous family name in California winemaking and also own the oldest winery in Napa Valley, the word that comes to mind is “stewardship.”

Stewardship for the land, stewardship for the wine, and stewardship for the legacy. That is the fundamental philosophy at the core of Charles Krug Winery.

Originally founded in 1861, Charles Krug, a German immigrant who moved to San Francisco during the gold rush, was the first to recognize the tremendous potential of the region’s rich soil and climate for growing wine grapes.

In 1861, he moved to Napa Valley, purchased 170 acres of land and founded the Charles Krug Winery, using a cider press to crush his grapes. He soon became a major influence throughout the Napa Valley region, developing many cutting-edge winemaking concepts and techniques.

After Krug’s death, the winery fell into disrepair until Cesare Mondavi, an Italian immigrant who was in the grape-shipping business, decided that he could restore the winery to its former glory. So in 1943, Cesare and his wife, Rosa, purchased the Charles Krug Winery and, along with his two sons, Peter and Robert, they began a mission to reinvent the Napa Valley wine movement.

At the helm of Charles Krug is Peter Jr., who is responsible for running the operations at Krug. His brother Marc concentrates his efforts at CK Mondavi. Together, they have ushered in a new era of grape-growing under the Charles Krug label, replanting most of the 850 acres of vines now owned by the family.

In addition, the winemaking operation has undergone a major renovation, including state-of-the-art temperature-controlled fermentation tanks and new crush pad facilities. Their efforts and investments have paid off and the proverbial proof is in the bottle.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Peter Jr. recently for an episode of The Vine Guy. Hear more about the history of Charles Krug and how you can taste “love and passion” in their wines.

The 2018 Charles Krug Sauvignon Blanc from the St. Helena region of Napa Valley is a perfect example of how good this varietal can be when the fruit is ripe and the acidity is high. Fragrant scents of tropical fruit and grapefruit dominate the nose and are repeated on the palate, where flavors of passion fruit and honeydew melon glide across the tongue. The bright acidity keeps the flavors focused and the finish — featuring a touch of lemon/lime citrus — clean and refreshing. $14

Fruit grown in the Carneros region — which straddles the Napa and Sonoma Valleys — is the beneficiary of the maritime effect that cools in the region every evening. The grapes used in the 2017 Charles Krug Pinot Noir come from Carneros and produce a wine with a perfumed nose of wild strawberries and bright red cherries. Delicate flavors of fresh strawberry, plum and ripe cherry float delicately across the palate, all the way through to the elegant finish, which has just the right amount of acidity to keep all of the flavors in balance. $28

Twenty months of aging in French and American oak barley tames the powerful 2016 Charles Krug Cabernet Sauvignon from the Yountville region of Napa Valley. The bouquet is dominated by aromas of blackberry, dark plum and cocoa. Flavors of ripe dark cherry and black fruit jam join in with hints of mocha and vanilla on a full-bodied frame. The powerful-yet-elegant finish is supported by notes of tobacco, toasty oak and fine tannins. $39

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