Napa’s Charles Krug Hosts PG&E and MusiKaravan Post #GlassFire

The bright lights of the temporary city at Charles Krug near St. Helena in Napa Valley. Note the 19 “Wellness Check” sign.

California is a pyrogenic landscape. That means it is prone to and defined by FIRE.

The indigenous plants and people here co-evolved with fire, using fire to create a complex and diverse mosaic of plants for food, shelter, and forage for animals.

But between climate change and the encroachment of development into the wild, fires are more damaging and destructive than ever.

On Sunday September 27, I was working on a cheery story about California Wine Month, and encouraging readers to visit Napa: that it’s open with beautiful outdoor spaces, and they have COVID precautions in place. Then the #Glassfire erupted.

We happened to be in the Bay Area checking out colleges for my teen. The following day, on a pleasure trip to the recently reopened  Alcatraz Island during an 80 degree heat wave, we watched in horror as the smoke billowed up above the hills to the north of us.

I held off on publishing the article as the news came out about the loss of vineyards, wineries, restaurants, and more.  It sounded like the entire valley was on fire and burning down. While there was indeed damages and losses including the destruction of  storage building at Castello di Amorosa, it’s not as bad as the media made it out to be.

Not to downgrade the devastation and the destruction, or to say it is not shocking to see brown where the tree and shrub covered hills  should be green, or to mitigate the discomfort of displacement that so many will endure– even the Mondavi family had to. move from their hillside homes to stay onsite at the Krug guest cottages due to smoke and ash–but as I know from living thorough the Thomas Fire in 2017 and subsequent fires, the skies don’t stay orange forever. The rains will wash the ash from the ground and the smoke from the air and revenant the hillsides. Unless you go looking, in a few years you won’t seen the signs of fire.
In fact, on Monday October 19, 2020 on Facebook, Jean-Charles Boisset posted “Let’s set the record straight: The 2020 vintage is not lost.
As it has done for over 150 years, the collective grit of Napa Valley will persevere, and our winemakers will continue to make world-class wines. So here it is, for the record:
  • 80% of our wineries are moving forward with their 2020 vintage and only wine worthy of being from Napa will make it into the bottle.
  • Tasting rooms have figured out how to host guests safely during a pandemic. Skies are blue and we are open.
  • Our amazing restaurants and hotels are once again hosting guests and the experience is as good as ever.

We’ve taken everything this year has dished out and made the best of it. Like we have done every year for over 150 years.”

I have a positive story to tell as well.

I connected MusiKaravan with Jim Morris VP of Guest Relations at Charles Krug where hundreds of first responders and PG & E utility workers established a tent city to operate out of during the recovery– where they would eat, sleep, shower during the duration.

The idea was for MusiKaravan to perform for the workers. Except when MusiKaravan arrived in their 71 VW bus, most everyone was in the field: the low humidity and high temperatures were a recipe for disaster of the fire kind.

Not to worry: they were able to brighten the day of many while they visited.

And I was even able to enjoy the magic myself, driving over from Healdsburg where I was housesitting (and checking out Sonoma State with my son), arriving just in time for a ZOOM call with TikTok’s NYC office that Jim had previous scheduled.
After the ZOOM call, Etienne Gara and YuEun Kim joined me for a picnic under one of several cabanas on the large Charles Krug lawn that serves as their COVID compliant tasting area.

In addition to the salad they made in their bus, and the hummus and cheese that I brought, Jim gave us a beautiful charcuterie platter which we paired with sparkling rose and Carneros Pinot Noir.

I have to admit, about 10 years or more ago I had bought a couple Krug Pinot Noir on sale which I found to be too heavily oaked for my taste. In contrast,  I really like the style and direction the winery is moving; the 2014 we sampled with our picnic is full of bright, lively fruit and the oak is nicely integrated.

But it was really the sparkling rose that hit the spot on that almost 100 degree afternoon. Both paired really well with the cheese platter. The cured meats on the platter were phenomenal, and so good with the refreshing rose. On Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, they get the outdoor pizza oven going and I hear they are as good as you imagine!

Lawn and cabanas at Krug from above in the closed indoor tasting room.

Our picnic time gave us a chance to chat and catch up on what had transpired in the month since they stayed in my driveway and played in the vineyard at Clos des Amis while we picked. Read more about that adventure here on Wine Predator in “Music in the Malbec” as well as Rhone Roam #1 (El Dorado County), Rhone Roam #2 (Ventura County Grenache Day),  Rhone Roam #3 (France), and in the “Fugues on the Farm” article I wrote about MusiKaravan for the VC Reporter.

Then we went into the Charles Krug library — a room where the wines are so special only two people have keys — two brothers by the name of Mondavi.

There, Jim lined up more than a half dozen bottles of open wine. The idea was to taste and talk about he wine, and then the duo would determine a song to pair with the wine, play it, and record it. They are in conversation with Warner Classics to produce a CD about the MusiKaravan project which would use recordings from he various site, including one or more from spaces at Charles Krug, like the library and the barrel room.

They even managed too make a young couple’s engagement extra special!

Recordings of the wine and musical pairings are also in the works, with something special for wine club members on the drawing board. At the conclusion of two days, they’d paired six wines with six songs, and as this project moves forward, I will be sharing the wines and the songs they are paired with along with food pairing ideas!

For now, here’s the menu and the Charles Krug cabernet we paired with it from the During Time of Covid 19, but in the Before time of the Glass fire.

Menu

2016 Charles Krug Cabernet Sauvignon  Cold Springs Vineyard Howell Mountain, Napa Valley

  • Cheese Board: blue cheese, prosciutto, ripe pear, Marconi almonds
  • Salad: spring greens with grilled pear, blue cheese, pomegranate
  • Grilled eggplant
  • Grilled filet mignon with blue cheese

2016 Charles Krug Cabernet Sauvignon  Cold Springs Vineyard Howell Mountain, Napa Valley
ABV 15.4%; SRP $135; sample for my review
82% Cabernet Sauvignon, 18% Petit Verdot; 19 months in new French oak barrels

HISTORY The Prussian born Charles Krug apprenticed with several winemakers before he began making his own wine not long after he became a US citizen in 1852. After marrying Carolina Bale –who had a dowry of 540 acres of prime Napa Valley land — he planted grapes and established his winery there in 1861.

INNOVATIONS As a pioneer in the wine industry, Charles Krug’s innovations included using a cider press, carefully selecting rootstocks, and paying attention to vineyard sites.  He also created the first tasting room in the Napa Valley.

MONDAVI When Krug died, James Moffitt Sr bought the property, but it wasn’t until 1943 when Robert Mondavi convinced his parents to buy the defunct winery that wine was made again on the property. They resurrected the Charles Krug name as an homage to the man who they see started it all. Today the winery is owned by Robert’s brother Peter and his family.

The Cold Springs Vineyard sits above the fog line on Howell Mountain which rises 1,650′ about the floor of Napa Valley, with volcanic and iron-rich red soils; go here for more details and check out the winery video about the vineyard.

Here you’ll find our article about my 2019 visit along with tasting notes and pairings.

Color: Garnet with a mauve rim

Nose: Cherry, cherry pie, baking spices, cherry ricola, anise, fennel.

Palate: Cherry on the palate and rhubarb as well, complex, so many layers of flavor. Enjoyable when sipped and contemplated alone; so satisfying. It helps you relax and take comforting deep breaths.

Sue: “This is what an expensive wine should be. “

Pairing: No surprise it was EXCELLENT with the filet mignon: rich wine, rich food. This wine by far went with every aspect of our meal this evening, and was also our favorite (we tasted quite a few wines that night!). This is such a fantastic wine.  It is so crazy when we get to the end of the meal and realize that the wine we loved the most has the least comments about it.  But

that is how it works sometimes — this wine took us out from our heads and put us on the planet of pure appreciation.

Sometimes Sue gets stuck on a favorite wine as we tasting and taking notes and she stops typing. The world slows down. We might even lose track of what we are trying to accomplish. That’s okay. This is one of those wines where it’s good to just stop everything, notice, and appreciate that–

Life is short. Listen to the music. Drink the good wine. Join a wine club. Relax and enjoy the ride.

2 thoughts on “Napa’s Charles Krug Hosts PG&E and MusiKaravan Post #GlassFire

  1. I enjoyed learning the history of the Krug winery. Fantastic Mondavi resurrected it. That Cabernet Sauvignon seemed to be the real cherry on top the day of tasting and beautiful music. Lots of links I plan to open and explore.

    Liked by 1 person

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