The Food Journal and Food, Nutrition & Science

An alliance between The Lempert Report and The Center for Food Integrity

Sustainability Series: Charles Krug Winery

Sustainability Series: Charles Krug Winery


August 30, 2009

Charles Krug is Napa Valley’s first winery, as well as the first major vinter to apply scientific method and European technique to American winemaking. Founded in 1861 by 24-year-old revolutionary Charles Krug, the Mondavi family purchased the winery in 1943 and eventually replanted the vineyards with a focus on noble red Bordeaux varietals. Today, the winery practices sustainable viticulture on their 850 prime Napa Valley acres. We talked to Peter Mondavi, Jr. about the importance of leading by example.

How does your business define sustainability?

At Charles Krug Winery, we are dedicated to practices that "sustain" our local environment in a healthy manner, so that our winery and vineyards will retain their natural beauty, health and diversity for generations to come.

How are you incorporating sustainable practices into your business? 

We’re doing a lot of work in the vineyard since this is the largest "footprint" on our local environment. We are also working it into the winery itself with recycling and energy conservation efforts. For example, we have added ample, perhaps excessive, amounts of insulation on our barrel cellars in order to reduce our refrigeration and thus electricity demands. 

What are your short term and long term goals? 

We are striving to produce our wines, from grape to bottle, in a manner that first stops any negative impact on the local environment and then reverses and bring back to life any degradation that has occurred in years past. A good example is the Napa River. As kids, we would go down to the Zinfandel Lane Bridge over the Napa River and watch the fish jumping up the small falls to migrate upstream to spawn. Over the years, this wonderful sight diminished. Today it is rebounding! This is thanks to so many growers’ efforts to minimize agricultural runoff and to preserve the riparian areas.

Where do you think you’ll have the biggest impact?

As grape farmers, we clearly see the greatest impact in the vineyards, and how they relate to and impact the Napa River. They are so intimately intertwined that any action in the vineyards has a reaction in the river. This can be either positive or negative. We want that to be positive.

How do you measure your progress?

The ultimate gauge will come in future generations. With that said, we already know that the steelhead trout and salmon runs up the river are increasing, and the birds are becoming more prevalent in the vineyards, especially around sunset feeding time. It's beautiful to see all the birds darting about after all the bugs. We just hope they leave more of the beneficial bugs than the divisive ones!

How do retailers factor into your efforts?

Our primary drive for sustainability is the preservation of the Napa Valley. We casually talk to our retailers about all of our efforts and we feel that, if they like what we’re doing, they will keep us more top of mind when they talk to their customers.  

Why are sustainable business practices important to the consumer?

We all have to practice sustainability in order to have the necessary positive impact on the environment around us.

Why are sustainable business practices important to the food industry?

They are important in all aspects of human life, not just the food industry or industry alone. The earth is a finite resource and we must take care of it every way we can, it’s that simple. This is the basis for sustainable behavior.

In upcoming issues, we will feature interviews with food companies that are making strides in their sustainability efforts. If you are interested in telling us more about what your company is doing to get involved please contact Allison Bloom