Congratulations, Mr. Mondavi

Me with Peter Mondavi Sr. in 2009 /Photo Eric Risberg

Think you’ve been at your job for a while? Take a gander at the career of Napa Valley vintner Peter Mondavi. He started out during Prohibition.

Sure, he was the ripe old age of 12; he and brother Robert used to nail together boxes for their dad, Cesare Mondavi, who made a business out of shipping grapes back East to be made into sacramental wine, permitted under Prohibition.

Still, that early start and his own longevity _ he turned 97 last November _ add up to an astonishingly long career in wine.

These days, the family’s Charles Krug Winery in St. Helena is run by Peter’s sons, Peter Jr. and Marc Mondavi. But Peter Sr. keeps an active interest in things. I recall going out to interview him a couple of years back and finding him busy sorting out the winery’s inventory of old wines.

Recently, Peter Mondavi was inducted into the Vintner’s Hall of Fame (full disclosure, he got my vote) and to mark the occasion, the winery is inviting friends and fans of Charles Krug wines to post their thoughts here. Comments will be printed up on an oversized card which will be presented to Mr. Mondavi after the induction ceremony Feb. 20 at the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone.

A quieter character than his brother Robert (and in fact the brothers’ conflicting styles led to a family feud that lasted decades) Peter Mondavi Sr. was nonetheless at the forefront of many of the changes that revolutionized California wine. As a university student in the late ’30s, he researched cold fermentation and his use of that and of sterile filtration improved the quality of white wines significantly. He was also among the first to use French oak barrels.

The winery will be celebrating its 187th anniversary March 3 with a party honoring Charles Krug, the Prussian revolutionary and entrepreneur who founded the winery. Tickets are available here.

They’ve got the usual, food, wine, etc. And a little bit of the unusual. A spirit medium will attempt to channel Charles Krug to send him birthday wishes and possibly ask a few questions.

Cheers, ethereally.

Peter Jr., Peter Sr. and Marc Mondavi /Photo Charles Krug Winery