Do you know what the oldest winery in Napa Valley is? It’s Charles Krug, established in 1861. Its namesake, a German immigrant, started the winery and ran it until he died in 1892. After Charles Krug’s death, the winery was acquired by the family of James Moffitt who were wealthy San Franciscans. In 1943, a former saloon worker -turned- grocer, who successfully started a fruit distribution business called Cesare Mondavi & Sons, purchased the property for $75,000. Imagine what that money represented back them (versus now!).
Today, Charles Krug, more than 150 years later is under the stewardship of Cesare’s grandsons, Peter Mondavi Jr. and Marc Mondavi. Peter grew up on the wine estate and recently shared memories of his grandparents as well as his vision for the future of Charles Krug. #TheConnectedTableLive
Peter joined us on The Connected Table Live May 2. Listen to our visit with Peter Mondavi on iHeart. On the same show, here from author, Andrew Friedman.
We’re heartsick over the devastating fires that are still burning in Napa and Sonoma counties and southern California. So many industry friends have been impacted, and we’re still learning which wineries have been destroyed. I was just in Calistoga a few weeks ago celebrating at The Harvest Table with the local vintners. Despite the surprise heat wave, everyone was in a happy mood. And now this. Our thoughts and prayers are with everyone. If you want to send help for evacuees, Public Relations Pro Kimberly Charles has set up a GoFundMe Page. Here are the link and message from Kimberly:
Napa and Sonoma counties in Northern California are undergoing an unprecedented series of fires, over 60 recorded in the last 48 hours. One of California’s oldest wineries perished last night and several others have been completely lost. The wine community is one of the most giving, generous groups who give to charity constantly, now it’s our turn to help. We have worked with wineries in California closely for over 30 years and right now have identified a group of shelters in who are accepting evacuees. They need hard goods, not money -cots, sleeping bags, non perishable foods, hygienic items, kids’ pyjamas. We are raising money to buy these items and drive them up this week to the distribution center at Mentor Me at the Cavanagh Rec Center which is sheltering 500 evacuees currently. They are networked with 10 other shelters to distribute goods. We plan on raising funds, buying goods and delivering them right away this week. Link: https://www.gofundme.com/fire-relief-napa-sonoma-counties
And, if your emotions are as raw as ours from all the bad news, we encourage you to read Lettie Teague‘s October 5th Wall Street Journal article: “How Wine Sustains Us Through Tragedy and Helps Us Reclaim Joy.” Read here: link.
The spring buds are breaking in Napa Valley which puts everyone in a good mood after recent rains. Driving along Highway 29 gazing out at expansive wine estates, it’s hard to envision the ranch towns of the 1960’s when Napa Valley’s earliest vintners scooped up farmland for a fraction of what it would cost today.
It was an investment that paid off, and a gamble that hit the jackpot with international media attention from promotional stunts like the 1976 Judgement of Paris and numerous accolades for Napa Valley wines. Still, in spite of its international reputation, Napa Valley is still among the world’s smallest wine regions with just 4% of California’s wine grape harvest and only one-eighth of the planted acreage of Bordeaux, according to the Napa Valley Vintners Association.
Stewards and Successors
Napa’s first commercial winery was established in 1861. America’s first designated Agricultural Preserve in 1968, Napa was established as an A.V.A. in 1981; today there are 16. 95% of Napa Valley’s wineries family-owned. Meet founding families of Napa who are working hard to preserve their legacies: Janet and Hailey Trefethen, Trefethen Vineyards, and Bill and Will Phelps, Joseph Phelps Vineyards.
I have always had a fascination with cowboys after spending a few nights on a cattle station in the Australian Outback and at a dude ranch in Arizona. But I’ve never met a real-life cowgirl. Janet Trefethen is a top ranked equestrian and a member of the Cowgirl Hall of Fame. She’s also the first women CEO of an American Corporation. Janet and John Trefethen oversee the winery established by his parents Eugene and Catherine in 1968. The historic farm property located in Oak Knoll was originally built in 1868 as “Eschol,” which is a biblical term for “lush cluster of grapes.”
Janet’s daughter and son, Hailey and Loren Trefethen, have joined their parents in running the winery. Hailey has been overseeing the restoration of the original 1868 building which was damaged in the earthquake on April 24, 2014. The building is reopening this May (2017). Recently we spoke with Janet and Hailey on The Connected Table LIVE.
1973 was a big year for both the Trefethen and Phelps families. It was the first vintage for Trefethen and it was the year Joseph Phelps purchased a 600+ acre cattle ranch on the east side of St. Helena to create his namesake winery. Phelps, who owned a construction business, worked with architect John Marsh Davis to build the winery of his dreams to produce the wines he desired. He’s credited with being one of the first California producers to focus on Rhone style blends as well his signature Bordeaux blend, Insignia. We visited Joseph Phelps Vineyards for the first time this week. It was like visiting a sanctuary for fine wine.
Bill Phelps joined his father’s winery after a career in law and finance. Like his father, Bill takes a long-term strategy to producing wines and maintaining the Phelps legacy. One of his most notable initiatives was to transition the entire winery portfolio to estate grown. Bill will be joined by son, Will Phelps, who is the winery’s Director of Marketing.
Listen to our show with Janet and Hailey Trefethen and Bill and Will Phelps on iHeart.com
We met vintner Pam Starr through mutual friends and were instantly drawn to her engaging personality and highly pleasurable Bordeaux-style wines. Pam has been the co-owner, manager and winemaker of Crocker & Starr since its inception in 1997 when she helped resurrect the vineyards on the Crocker Estate in St. Helena and established a winery to create world-class wines. After toiling as a winery employee for 18 years, Pam’s transformation at a relatively young age into owner, manager and winemaker was unique and remarkable. It required a special mix of skill, passion and dedication.
Originally destined to go to dental school, her career path switched to wine after Pam worked a harvest as an intern. A life of drilling teeth turned to pruning vines. Pam enrolled in the University of California at Davis to study oenology, graduating in 1984. She worked her way through different roles and wineries at Edna Valley Vineyard, Carmenet Winery, Spottswoode Vineyard before partnering with Charlie Crocker to start Crocker & Starr.- Melanie Young