When you hear the name “Charles Krug,” what comes to mind? You may think of the summer night you first had the crisp Sauvignon Blanc or the visit you made to the estate on your romantic getaway to Napa Valley. But do you think about the people behind the name or the multiple generations that the Peter Mondavi family has been building the brand of which we have become so fond?
Peter Mondavi, Sr. parents, Cesare & Rosa Mondavi, acquired the Charles Krug winery 69 years ago. The 150th anniversary of the estate itself, however, was celebrated last year and this is largely due to the success from Peter Sr., says Riana Mondavi, Peter’s 25-year-old granddaughter.
“He’s kept it going through thick and thin,” she says. Still alive and well at 98 years of age, Peter Sr. has kept the winery very much a family affair. Although the CK Mondavi line, the Charles Krug line and The Divining Rod line all have separate unrelated winemakers, nothing at the winery gets done without the family approval. Peter Mondavi, Sr. and his two sons, Peter Jr. and Marc, all work hand in hand with the winemakers, are present for all the tastings, and every decision made is finalized with at least one of the three.
Marc’s four daughters are next in line to move the winery and brand forward, but there is no rush to push the men out. “At 98, my grandfather still goes to the office every day,” says Riana. She is the third of four sisters and the first of her generation to start working for the family business. It’s a Mondavi family rule that you have to work outside of the Mondavi/Krug estate and gain experience elsewhere before starting with the family. This brings more experience and fresh outlooks into the winery. The idea is that outside knowledge will help take the winery to the next level and “not necessarily [make it] better, but different,” says Riana. “They also don’t want us to start here and then feel like we’re stuck.”
Riana’s oldest sister, Angelina, is currently a winemaker, however she does not work for the family. After college, she moved to Australia where she trained in Adelaide Hills and Margaret River with big names such as Kate Mattel and Peter Leheman. She then worked for Pine Ridge for 3 years and now works for Hundred Acre wines in Napa Valley. It is not that she doesn’t want to work for the family, Riana says, or that she never will, but right now she is out in the world making a name for herself.
Before coming into the family business as the Pacific Northwest Area Manager for C. Mondavi & Family, Riana worked for Southern Wine and Spirits in Miami, Florida. Her older sister Alycia, 28, now works for the family as well doing Napa Valley sales and is also the family’s Brand Manager for their high end Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon, Aloft. Her youngest sister, Giovanna a.k.a. Gigi, 20, is currently in her 3rd year at college and starting to show an interest in the family business.
“I thought I’d be some bigwig in San Francisco doing corporate marketing and advertising,” she laughs. “I had to leave to realize what I had.” Growing up in Napa Valley was a challenge with her background. People judged her and assumed she was a spoiled brat. Riana attended Villanova University in Philadelphia, PA, where she realized the impression her family made, before moving back to Napa Valley. “As a kid, it was no big deal. As an adult, now I get it.”
Even though there are currently no set “next generation” plans since none of the kids are married or have children, the sisters have vouched that the estate won’t leave the family. With the rise of women in the wine industry, it will be interesting to see what happens when the Mondavi sisters take the stage.
Riana believes that women are more aware of certain fine nuances and details that men tend to overlook. “We handle [the business] differently,” she says. “We’re booming! We’re kicking butt and taking names.”