The influential wines of Charles Krug

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Entertainment,Food and Drink,Scott Greenberg

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.

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.

Following Krug's death in 1892, the estate was purchased by James Moffitt, a banker who had little use for a winery and the operation fell into disuse. However, 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.

Cesare died in 1959 leaving Rosa as president with sons Robert as general manager and Peter as vice president. Unfortunately, a dispute between Peter and Robert led to Robert's departure from Krug in 1965. However, Charles Krug continued on with Peter Mondavi Sr. at the helm and sons Peter Jr. and Marc learning the ropes.

Today, the third generation is at the helm of Charles Krug. Peter Jr. is responsible for running the operations at Krug, while 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. Retail prices are approximate.

The 2012 Charles Krug Sauvignon Blanc ($18) 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. QR 9.5

Fruit grown in the Carneros region -- which straddles the Napa and Sonoma valleys -- is the beneficiary of the maritime effect that cools the region every evening. The grapes used in the 2011 Charles Krug Pinot Noir ($27) 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. QPR 8

The 2008 Charles Krug Zinfandel ($25) from the St. Helena region is a delightful blend of zinfandel, petite sirah and carignane and is a charming example of this varietal. The wine features a fragrant nose of black raspberry and blueberry jam. Rich flavors of blueberry, blackberry cobbler and ripe black plum are balanced by silky tannins. Classic notes of crushed black pepper combine with a hint of vanilla on the hearty finish. QPR 9

Twenty months of aging in French and American oak barley tames the powerful 2010 Charles Krug Cabernet Sauvignon ($29) from the Yountville region of Napa Valley. The bouquet is dominated by aromas of blackberry, dark plum and cocoa. Flavors of dark red and black fruit 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. QPR 9.5

Note: QPR is a rating system that compares the quality a wine delivers relative to the price. A QPR of 10 is considered an excellent value.

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