NPR logo Peter Mondavi, Napa Valley Wine Pioneer, Dies At 101


Peter Mondavi, Napa Valley Wine Pioneer, Dies At 101

Peter Mondavi, a pioneer of the Napa Valley wine industry, died over the weekend in California. He was 101.

Mondavi and his more famous brother, Robert, joined their parents' business, the Charles Krug Winery, in 1943. Back then, the Napa Valley was better known for producing prunes, and its grapes were grown for cheap jug wine. The Mondavi brothers, sons of Italian immigrants, would become key players in making the valley one of the world's premium wine-producing regions.

Peter Mondavi was known for innovations that included the use of cold fermentation for keeping white and rose wines fresher and sterile filtration to prevent spoilage. The Charles Krug winery was also the first in Napa to import French oak barrels for aging wine. It was among the first to introduce dates on vintages of varietal wines.

In the 1960s, the Mondavi brothers had a well-publicized split over how to run their wine business. Robert Mondavi went off to establish a winery under his own name, while Peter maintained control over Charles Krug (named for the Prussian immigrant who founded the winery in 1861).

According to the Wine Spectator:

"As time passed, Robert Mondavi Winery moved forward dynamically. But Charles Krug remained known for quality under Peter's steady hand. 'Robert had a vision. Peter had a vision too, but went at a slower pace; he was more introspective and methodical,' said Tim Mondavi, son of Robert, who made wine at his father's namesake winery."

The Mondavi brothers finally reconciled in 2005, and Robert Mondavi died in 2008.

Peter Mondavi was committed to maintaining control of his family's business in the wake of corporate buyouts of many Napa Valley wineries. His sons, Marc and Peter Jr., still operate the family business on 850 acres of prime vineyards in the Napa Valley. Peter Mondavi died at his home in St. Helena, Calif.