The Charles Krug Winery of Napa is taking its wines upmarket with the first phase of a US$13m (€14.7m) replanting and building plan.

The winery – run by the Peter Mondavi family – farms around 325ha of vines in Napa. They are buying no more new land, proprietor Peter Mondavi Jr told, but are concentrating on building quality by replanting the entire vine stock, changing to new French oak barrels, and installing smaller fermentation tanks.

‘We’re not expanding,’ he said, ‘but we are continually improving the lines. We’re taking the winery upmarket.’

Mondavi – nephew of Robert Mondavi – is focussing on the core five wines in the Napa appellation Napa Vista range (called Charles Krug in the US). He has hired Bordeaux consultant winemaker Denis Malbec (who has worked for Château Latour amongst others ) – ‘for his winemaking expertise, not to change the style of the wine.’

The size of Mondavi’s investment is highly unusual for a winery of the size and style of Charles Krug. Although his cousins Tim and Michael in the nearby Robert Mondavi Winery would think nothing of investing US$13m before breakfast, Charles Krug’s reputation and sales figures are very different. It is known in America mainly as a producer of ‘jug’ wines – the CK commodity brand, under the California appellation.

The money is coming from the high-volume range. ‘CK is financing Napa Vista’s push upmarket,’ Mondavi said, adding that it would take 10-15 years to make the money back.

Written by Adam Lechmere15 March 2002