Napa Valley winemaker Peter Mondavi dead at 101

Mon Feb 22, 2016 2:31pm EST
 
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SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Peter Mondavi Sr., a pioneer of wine in California's famed Napa Valley who ran his family's Charles Krug Winery, has died, the winery said. He was 101.

Mondavi died on Saturday at his home in St. Helena surrounded by family, according to Wendy Lane Stevens, a director of the C. Mondavi and Family board. A private service will be held at the St. Helena Catholic Church.

Mondavi's parents in 1943 purchased the Charles Krug Winery, which was founded in 1861 and is now the longest-operating winery in Napa Valley. At the time, the area was best known for inexpensive jug wine, a far cry from its current reputation as an elite U.S. wine-producing region.

Upon his mother's death in 1976, Mondavi became president and CEO of the winery and led it through several decades of industry fluctuation. Among his innovations was the process of cold fermentation of white wines, which prevented oxidation that occurred when the wines were fermented at higher temperatures.

He also was the first in Napa Valley to import French oak barrels for ageing, a now-common practice in the industry, according to a biography provided by Stevens.

The Napa Valley Vintners Association in 1986 named Mondavi one of "twelve living legends in the Napa Valley" and he was honored by California Governor Jerry Brown in 2011 with a proclamation for his work in the industry. A year later he was inducted to the Culinary Institute of America Vintners Hall of Fame.

When asked late in his life what his greatest accomplishment was, Mondavi replied: "Never losing control of our family winery. If I could, I would tell my father: 'I did the best I could during the difficult years. I was determined and we held on.'"

His more famous brother, Robert Mondavi, founded his own eponymous winery in Oakville, California, in 1966, becoming an industry leader and philanthropist whose name adorns the winemaking and food science program at the University of California, Davis. Robert Mondavi died in 2008.

(Reporting by Curtis Skinner in San Francisco; Editing by Sharon Bernstein and Dan Grebler)