By Andy Young

Peter Mondavi Snr, a Napa Valley innovator who led his family's Charles Krug Winery for more than 50 years, has died aged 101.

Mondavi died on February 20 at his home on the Charles Krug estate in St. Helena, California surrounding by his family.

Known for introducing a number of significant advancements to California winemaking, Mondavi earned legendary status among Napa Valley vintners. As a student, he studied the effects of cold fermentation on white and rosé wines, which were then being fermented at higher temperatures and losing their distinct characteristics through oxidation. His revolutionary research and practical methods resulted in the production of exceptionally crisp, fruity white wines.

Fiercely determined to keep the winery family owned in the midst of corporate buyouts happening up and down Napa Valley, Mondavi led an effort to preserve the family’s estate vineyards. During a nine-year period ended in 2010, Mondavi invested $22 million in replanting 400 prime acres of vineyards with primarily red Bordeaux varietals, instituting sustainable farming practices and implementing state-of-the-art winemaking equipment in the process.

Mondavi invested a lifetime in building, growing and protecting his family’s business. Asked late in life to note his proudest accomplishment, he 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.”

In the late 1960s and early 70s Mondavi purchased more than 800 acres of premium Napa Valley land, at a fraction of the current land prices. These purchases established the foundation for the winery's estate-driven wines.

In 1986 the Napa Valley Vintners Association named him one of “Twelve Living Legends in the Napa Valley,” and he was the last survivor of that group. In 2009, he received the Lifetime Achievement Award for Napa Valley vintners from the California State Fair. In 2011, Governor Jerry Brown honoured him, along with the legacy of the Charles Krug Winery, with a proclamation for his contributions to the wine industry.

The US Congress acknowledged him and the winery on his 97th birthday in the Congressional Record. His lifetime achievements were recognised in 2012 when he was inducted into the St. Helena-based Culinary Institute of America Vintners Hall of Fame for his industry contributions in cold fermentation and sterile filtration. “I share this award with my parents,” Mondavi said at that time.

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 Jnr, nine grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. 

The Shout Team

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