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California wine veteran Peter Mondavi dies

Peter Mondavi, part of the Mondavi wine family and one of the most significant individuals in the development of the California wine industry, has died aged 101.

Peter Mondavi died at his home in St Helena, Napa, on 20 February, said Charles Krug Winery, the family estate where he served as chief executive for nearly 40 years. Mondavi died surrounded by family members, the estate said.

He will be remembered as one of the leading lights of California wine of the last century and his time at the helm of Charles Krug Winery has coincided with the US sunshine state – and Napa Valley specifically – establishing itself on the global fine wine scene.

In 1986, the Napa Valley Vintners Association named him one of ’12 living legends in the Napa Valley’. He was the last survivor of that group.

He was particulatly known for innovation, a character trait that extended from his student days when he studied the effects of cold fermentation on white and rosé wines – a controversial approach at that time.

Mondavi was also happy to speak his mind. When asked by Decanter in 2010 whether wine had become too expensive, he said, ‘Basic wines no, but the premium wines are just crazy. There’s enough multi-millionaires who make so damn much money who created the problem.’

He added that wine should not be just an income for those making it. ‘You have to love the wine business, period. If you don’t, then get out.’

After studying economics at Stanford University and oenology at the University of California Berkeley, Mondavi served in the US military during World War Two and returned to the US in 1946. During his absence, the Mondavi family had acquired Charles Krug Winery, one of the oldest in California and established in 1861.

Peter initially worked with his brother, Robert Mondavi, but the two went their separate ways after a reputed falling out in 1965. The pair were reconciled later in life, several years before Robert Mondavi died in 2008.

Among his achievements, Peter Mondavi bought more than 320 hectares of premium Napa Valley vineyard land in the late 1960s and early 1970s, helping Charles Krug to establish itself as a family-owned, estate wine producer.

Mondavi also spent a further $22m to plant around 160ha of land with Bordeaux grape varieties in the first decade of the 21st Century.

Peter Mondavi was preceded in death by his wife, Blanche, and his siblings, Robert, Mary and Helen. He is survived by a daughter, Siena, two sons, Marc and Peter Jr, nine grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

The family has requested that, in lieu of flowers or gifts, those wishing to pay their respects to Peter Mondavi should donate money to one of the following three organisations:

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