As Charlotte Wine and Food Weekend (CWFW) quickly approaches, we have vineyards and wine on our minds. In anticipation, we spoke to two industry legacies — fourth-generation winemakers Riana and Alycia Mondavi — who will not only be in the Queen City for the big event, but who come from one of the most renowned vineyards in the country: Charles Krug.
You’d be hard-pressed to talk about Napa Valley without mentioning Charles Krug, the oldest winery in the area, which was founded the same year President Lincoln was inaugurated back in 1861. That makes it over 150 years old! In 1943, Riana and Alycia’s family took over the iconic vineyard and still continue making wine on more than 700 acres of land. “Our great-grandparents, Cesare and Rosa Mondavi, purchased the winery. Our great-grandfather, who had been selling grapes successfully in Minnesota for years during prohibition, relocated our family to California. So after buying Charles Krug, our family started replanting the vineyards and renovating the old winery, which is still known as the first winery in Napa Valley,” says Riana.
Years later, the sisters’ grandfather, Peter Mondavi, Sr., took over and began trying new winemaking techniques that are still in use today. “He was heavily involved in research and was the first to begin experimenting with cold-fermentation of white wines, a process now used worldwide. He was also the first to import small, French oak barrels to age wines. We are very proud to be a part of our grandfather’s legacy and very honored to be given the chance to continue it,” says Alycia. “Throughout our lifetimes, we’ve had the opportunity to witness countless changes, from implementing sustainable farming practices, to renovating our family’s tasting room, to welcoming our current winemaker, Stacy Clark. We know that the direction of the winery and the wines we’re producing would make my great-grandfather and grandfather proud. The best part is knowing that we have owned Charles Krug for almost 75 years and that we will continue to see firsthand how the winery will evolve for another 75 years,” she adds.
The sisters admit staying relevant in the wine industry can be a challenge, even when you’ve been in the industry a long time, but they’ve managed to stay on top of it and have no plans to slow down. “What keeps Charles Krug relevant is our approach to winemaking and producing wines that are consistent in quality and yet always evolving,” says Alycia. “Our winemaker, Stacy Clark, has done an amazing job optimizing each growing season and harvesting to harness the potential of our family-owned and farmed vineyards. Our family and our winemaking team is 100% dedicated to continuing our traditions and heritage.”
While Mondavi roots run deep in the wine industry, they want people to know that it doesn’t have to be intimidating. “Many find wine daunting because they simply don’t know much about it. My advice is don’t be afraid to ask questions – talk to the wine salesman at your local wine shop or the sommelier at a restaurant to learn more. The key to understanding wine is experience and education,” says Riana.
Riana and Alycia will bring plenty of knowledge and a taste of their family’s Napa traditions to the CWFW. “We are most looking forward to sharing our wines with all the people attending. From what I have heard, the CWFW brings together a wonderful group of passionate people, and we are excited to have the chance to share great wines and food with great company,” says Riana.
Since they’re heading east, we had to ask them what they thought about East Coast wine compared to Napa Valley’s. “The biggest difference is the type of wine being produced on each coast. While Napa Valley is well known for producing delicious Cabernet Sauvignons and Chardonnays, the East Coast has proven to produce some very appealing icewines, Rieslings, Barberas and more,” says Riana.
One North Carolina winery is already on their radar. “We have heard about one in particular — RayLen Vineyards & Winery. Apparently, the winery was built on a dairy farm after a hurricane destroyed the farm. We will not have much free time out of Charlotte during this trip, but one day we hope to get a chance to explore. We love learning about wine regions outside of ours,” says Alycia.
We can’t wait to see Alycia and Riana at CWFW and learn more about their wine region! You can also spend an evening with them, accompanied by unparalleled views of the Queen City and the innovative food of Fahrenheit, during CWFW. The sisters will host a wine pairing dinner, pouring vintages from Charles Krug on Thursday, April 20. Tickets for the event can be purchased here.
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