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by Fred McMillin
for July 21, 1997

The Charles Krug Winery, Napa's First

Prologue: As the fortyniners poured into the Sierra Foothills, Charles Krug was in jail in Germany. Yet, twelve years later he became Napa's first commercial winemaker. As to the rest of his career, here's what one of his contemporaries, Frona Wait, wrote a few years before his death in 1892: "Charles Krug, the pioneer wine-maker of the Napa Valley,...has been associated with every venture for the promotion of the industry throughout the state, from its inception to the present, giving a lifetime and a fortune to the work."

The Rest of the Story: So, in the 19th century, the winery was led by one of the state's very top vintners. Happily, in the 20th century, the winery was purchased by another top winemaking family, the Mondavis. Today, Peter Sr. with sons Peter Jr. And Marc run the show...and it's a very big show, with 800 acres of Napa Valley vines and over 600,000 cases a year production. If you're not familiar with this venerable label, we suggest starting with one of the reasonably-priced Cabs or Chardonnay's, such as this deftly-oaked '95...

1995 Chardonnay (100%), Napa Valley
Charles Krug Winery
Owners: Peter Mondavi Family
Food Suggestion: Sensational with crab quiche (use Julia Child's recipe)

Postscript: About that time in the German slammer: Charles was anything but a thug. Rather he was a highly- educated journalist who was locked up for his advocacy of progressive political ideas. Later he became editor of the first German-language newspaper on the West Coast, with headquarters in the Bay Area. However, Bacchus put an end to that.

About the Writer

Fred McMillin, a veteran wine writer, has taught wine history for 30 years on three continents. He currently teaches wine courses at San Francisco State and San Francisco City College and is Northern California Editor for American Wine on the Web. In 1995, the Academy of Wine Communications honored Fred with one of only 22 Certificates of Commendation awarded to American wine writers.

Read more articles by Fred McMillin in the eGGsf

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