Tuesday, April 05, 2005


Part 1 --Charles Krug Era (Duration: 1860-1892)
(Now owned and operated by the Peter Mondavi Family)

Source (s): (1) History of Napa Co. California, 1881, Slocum, Bowen & Co. Publishers; (2) Memorial and Biographical History of Northern California, The Lewis Publishing Co., 1891; (3) History of Napa County, Wallace, W. E., 1901, Enquirer Print; (4) Wine Country - A history of Napa Valley - The early years: 1838-1920, Heintz, Wm., 1990, Capra Pres; (5) Old Napa Valley - The History to 1900, Lin Weber, 1995, Wine Ventures Publishing; (6) American Vintage - The Rise of American Wine, Paul Lukacs, 2000, Houghton Mifflin Co.
Charles Krug came to San Francisco, California from Philadelphia in 1852 and was a journalist-editor for Staats Zeitung, the first German newspaper published in California. It originated in New York in 1834. Krug remained at this position until 1854. {The German-American Herman Ridder bought out Staats Zeitung in 1892. Under his ownership it became an American corporate empire known as the media giant Knight-Ridder.}
Krug them moved to the Crystal Springs area of San Mateo where he worked a land claim in attempt to grow grapes. Colonel Agoston Haraszthy was also working grapes in the area. He would become labeled as the man who initiated California wine. How long, and the extent to which these two men knew each other in San Mateo, appears to be undocumented. They did however quickly learn that the cold, damp environment of the peninsula was not at all suitable to wine grape production. Then both men were next found working at the new San Francisco Mint constructed in 1855.
One can only presume that either Haraszthy or Krug, or both, conducted some sort of research in order to determine that they best move to the more agreeable grape growing conditions that could be found north of San Francisco, because that’s where they were subsequently found together in the Carneros area jointly shared by Napa and Sonoma Counties.
The origin of the great Charles Krug ranch begins with his introduction to the family of a man named "Dr." Edward T. Bale. Let me explain the importance of this introduction before going on any further about Krug himself. In 1840, Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo, the Mexican government’s military authority in the northern California area, appointed Bale to be the surgeon-in-chief of his Army. None of my research reference material reports on exactly how he became a “doctor.” Apparently Dr. Bale had no degree and had not been formally trained as a physician. However, there was sufficient evidence of his talents to give Vallejo the confidence to choose him as his surgeon-in-chief. In 1841, when Bale married Maria Guadalupe Soberanes, the niece of Vallejo, he received a 17,000-acre land grant from the Mexican Government via Vallejo’s authority. It was only the fourth land grant awarded since the Mexican's wrestled sovereignty over Mexico -- and its northern area known as Alta California -- away from Spanish rule. Bale’s property stretched from the northern boundary of George Yount's land (the first land grant made in the area), all the way to about Tubbs Lane (Named after the creator of Chateau Montelena winery) in Calistoga. Dr. Bale constructed a gristmill on the western side of his property along the gentle sloping portion of land at the foot of the Mayacamas range.

For those readers unfamiliar with this equipment, it a building in which wheat is separated to extract the grain which in turn is ground under a very large stone wheel to produce flour. During this timeframe, the primary source of power was stream water dropping onto a paddlewheel connected through special gearing that turned the grinding stone.

On the eastern boundary of his land grant, along the Napa River, he constructed a sawmill.
{California State Historical Landmark No. 359 - Old Bale Mill -- The restored gristmill can be visited in the historical park of the same name located on the west side of Hwy 29/128, between St. Helena and Calistoga. Federal listing - Bale Mill (added 1972 - Building - #72000240)}
In 1858, Isadora married a man named Louis Bruck. Following Bale’s death, she received the gristmill and surrounding property as part of her inheritance. The subsequent relatively rapid dilution of the land grant property resulted in the creation of a number of well known, and still standing, wineries including Ehlers Estate, Beringer Brothers, Lyman’s winery-now El Molino, Tychson’s winery-now Freemark Abbey, General Keyes’ Edge Hill winery & distillery-now owned by Leslie Rudd, Greystone-now Culinary Institute of America, and other wineries, White Sulfur Springs Spa & Resort, and the city of St. Helena itself.The Bruck’s would sell the gristmill property about the same time that Louis became aware of the winemaking talents of Charles Krug.
Bruck’s interest in Krug was generated by the latter’s efforts with a John Patchett located in the town of Napa. Patchett met Krug in 1858 when he took a trip to Sonoma. Krug was working with Colonel Agostin (also sometimes written as Agiston or Agoston) Haraszthy -- often called the “Father of California Viticulture” -- and others on a 20-acre vineyard site in Sonoma (eventually known as Buena Vista Society winery). He liked what he saw and asked Krug to come to his winery in Napa and make wine for him using Patchett’s grapes crushed in a cider press. The only other commercial wine production of any significance prior to Krug’s effort for Patchett was that conducted by Colonel Haraszthy in Sonoma in 1857 and Charles Kohler of the San Franciscan wine merchant firm of Kohler & Frohling in 1855 {The wine was probably made at their large Petaluma winery site). Although many writers credit Krug with the first commercial winery building in Napa County, it is probable that that honor should rightly belong to John Patchett since Krug would not build his own winery until two years later.

In 1859, Krug made wine for Louis Bruck on the Bale Mill property and a year later for the county’s first Caucasian settler - George Yount. Making wines for the early pioneers David Hudson, John York, George Tucker and Henry Owsley quickly followed these efforts, all located in or near the heart of the “Hot Springs Township“ now divided into the two towns known as St. Helena and Calistoga. Based on all of these efforts, it could be said that Charles Krug can lay claim to being the “First Consulting Winemaker in Northern California.”

{California State Historical Landmark No. 564 - George Yount ‘s original settlement - Located off Hwy 29, go north of Yountville, turn on to Yount Mill Road and follow it easterly as it bends back towards Yountville along the banks of Napa River. There you will find the marker and across from it still stands remnants of the old sawmill}

{California State Historical Landmark No.’s 682 & 683 - Sites of the York and Hudson cabins originally erected in 1845. They were both located on the SW corner of the intersection of Kortum Canyon Rd.-Lincoln Ave. and Hwy 29/128 in Calistoga. You may have to move the bush branches and weeds around to read the plaque. York is credited with discovering the White Sulphur Springs, which later became the first California resort spa. Hudson would buy property from Dr. Bale that would become part of the Beringer Brothers winery compound}.
About the time Krug was working with Louis Bruck, he met the other Bale daughter, Caroline, and in 1860 they married. The dowry for this marriage included over 500 acres of the Bale land grant bordering Napa River just north of the town of St. Helena, which included the Bale Sawmill. Krug built his first winery on this land in 1861. It was a small facility, half dug into the earth and having only a straw roof over the interior. In 1868, he started construction of a second and much larger complex on the property. It was to include a two-story stone winery, distillery, stables and homes. Then in 1874, the interior of the second winery building was destroyed by fire. His general manager/winemaker at the time was a young aspiring vintner named Jacob Beringer who would in turn become a well-known figure in producing quality wines. Beringer was reported to have personally attempted to extinguish the fire but to no avail. Because of Krug’s strong drive he immediately began reconstruction of the facility. Jacob Beringer would leave the Krug ranch in 1878 to work exclusively with his brother, Frederick, on the development of his own winegrowing business. Somewhere about this timeframe, Louis Bruck became Forman of the Krug ranch.

{California State Historical Landmark No. 563 - Founded in 1861 by Charles Krug (1825-1892), this is the oldest operating winery in Napa Valley. The pioneer winemaker of this world-famous region, Krug made the first commercial wine in Napa County at Napa in 1858. Federal Historical listing -Krug, Charles, Winery (added 1974 - Building - #74000542)}

Krug would, over the remaining 18 years of his life, become a major keystone to the development of the winegrowing industry of not only Napa Valley, but for all of California; indeed, for the nation itself. In 1875, Charles Krug founded the St. Helena Viticultural Society along with other prominent winegrowers of the time. One of those men included Seneca Ewer. {Ewer was co-owner of Ewer & Atkinson winery that would eventually be purchased by Georges de Latour and become Beaulieu Vineyards. It is now owned by Diageo, plc, which is the result of the merger of Grand Met and Guinness; two British giants.} Krug was the first president of the Society that would swell in membership over the next few years. Although the Society was originally formed to spread the word about the tiny louse, Phylloxera, and its catastrophic damage to the sensitive European varietals, it appeared to grow into a technical information sharing organization as well as a marketing arm for the encouragement of new people to join in on winemaking in upper Napa County. The Society could be viewed as a forerunner of the present day Napa Valley Vintners Association as well as the Wine Institute.

In the late 1870s, the industry had grown to such size that most knowledgeable growers and vintners were concerned with over-production, use of inferior varietals, misrepresentation in labeling and even wine diluting by eastern brokers, and the news of the tiny louse, Phylloxera, that was destroying the great vineyards of France. Political forces were at work pushing the legislative bodies in Sacramento to come to the rescue of the vineyard owners and winemakers. Along with other important men of the industry, Krug spoke to the body in February of 1880 to encourage them to support creation of a state board to look out for the interest of this rapidly growing agricultural economic base. They met with success and in the spring of 1880, and the Board of State Viticultural Commissioners was created. There were seven districts throughout California, each with a Commissioner appointed by the Governor plus two at-large Commissioners. Therefore, it can be said politics probably played an important role in the selection process for designation of each Commissioner. Krug was the first Commissioner to represent the Napa-Solano-Contra Costa district. He was also selected to be one of the three officers of the Board: he was chosen to be Treasurer.

In the early 1880s, Krug and others formed the Napa Valley Wine Company. It was designed to market the company’s wines on a national basis to counter the often fraudulent (watering down) and deceptive (using European names on labels) practices of eastern wine brokers and wholesalers.The winegrowing business had been good to all, especially in the north valley area around St. Helena. All of the directors of the newly formed Bank of St. Helena in 1882 came from the winegrowing industry. They included Krug, Ewer (of Ewer & Atkinson - now Beaulieu), Judge Serranus Clinton Hastings (of Nook Farms in Rutherford, which was also purchased by Georges de Latour and absorbed into Beaulieu, and Hastings Law College at UC Berkeley), William Whittingham Lyman (now El Molino winery), William Scheffler (of Edge Hill winery/distillery - now owned by Leslie Rudd), Gustave Niebaum (of Inglenook - now owned by Francis Ford Coppola), Henry W. Crabb (of To-Kalon vineyards - now owned mostly by the recent Robert Mondavi/Constellation merger), and other major winery and vineyard owners of the times.

{Today, the Bank of St. Helena building is one of the hot nightlife clubs in Napa County. It is called the “1351 Lounge” and named after the street address. Even the original bank vault door remains in the back of the club.}

However, the 1880s saw the influx of the dreaded phylloxera and year-by-year large acreage of vineyards were producing seriously lower tonnage or just simply died off. Winegrowers were challenged by the costs to replant and then wait for commercial yields to be produced, which amounted to four to five years of growth. By the middle of the decade, like many other great winegrowers of the time, Krug was suffering economic set back. By the beginning of the 1890s about half of the vineyards of Napa County had been lost to this tiny bug. Many winegrowers were over-extended relying heavily on loans to carry them through and Krug was no different. The Napa County Reporter newspaper published an article in 1885 listing all of the debts owed to others by Krug including personal loans from some of the original directors (Carver, Ewer and Niebaum) of the Bank of St. Helena as well as the bank itself. Add to these creditors, the Bank of Napa, Jacob Levi, Sr. (of Levi-Straus), Alfred Tubbs (Chateau Montelena winery) and many more.Wineries began to collapse. Scheffler bellied up in 1887, Krug finally was forced to insolvency in 1891, about year before his death. Other great winegrowers in financial trouble were Gottleib Groezinger’s winery & distillery operations in Yountville (now known as Vintage 1870 Stores) which went under in 1891, Alfred Tubbs’ Chateau Montelena winery discontinued operations in 1899 and Ewer’s partner, J.B. Atkinson’s vineyard (now part of St. SupÈry winery), also went down in 1899. H.W. Crabb’s To-Kalon winery (vineyards now mostly owned by the R. Mondavi -Constellation merger.) went bankrupt.

Compounding the Phylloxera problem was the growing temperance movement. Even in Napa County, where so much of the economy had become based on the production of wine, there were serious candidates running under the banner of the Prohibition Party. Maine was the first state to vote itself dry in 1851. However, the real struggle to abolish alcohol as an evil beast of mankind had begun in the post-civil war era. It took a strong hold on the public’s conception of alcohol consumption in the mid 1870s with the formation of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU). It gained its most significant notoriety with the axe-welding Carrie Moore Nation. Kansas was the second dry state (1880), and over the decade, at least five more state would vote to go dry.

In 1888, William B. Bourn, II, and Everett J. Wise envisioned a sort of communal economic approach to solving the dreadful social and economic dilemmas that seemed to be facing the industry. They began construction of the Bourn & Wise Winery; probably the largest and most expensive stone winery to be built in California, if not the entire wine world. It was the first to use the newly discovered source of power called electricity and light bulbs to provide continuous and safe illumination after dark fell. What the partners offered was to build a facility in which they would crush the grapes and the participating growers could store their wine in their own space, until Bourn & Wise found a buyer at the price that grower could accept. The grower would be paid when Bourn & Wise were paid from the buyer. Alternatively, the grower could go ahead sell the grapes directly to Bourn & Wise for immediate payment. However, the growers were not fond of this method of resolving the agricultural crisis of the time and it was never implemented. In 1891, Wise sold his interest to Bourn.{The Bourn & Wise Winery probably became best known when it was under ownership of the California Wine Association, then by The Christian Brothers, and today by the Culinary Institute of America.}

Charles Krug died in November of 1892, just a couple years shy of the formation of the great California Wine Association (CWA). The original membership in the Association consisted of the Napa Valley Wine Company (which included Charles Carpy and all of his holdings -- Uncle Sam winery, Greystone - now the Culinary Institute of America, and C. Carpy & Sons -- Krug and others), the four major wine broker-merchants located in San Francisco (Kohler & Frohling, Kohler and Van Bergen, S. Lachman & Co. and B. Dreyfus & Co.), and others. The formation of the CWA would ensure the failure of the Bourn and Wise scheme and thus their winery. Bourn himself had given up and sold “Greystone” to Charles Carpy in the year the CWA was formed, although the Bourn family continued to own their original family estate and winery south of St. Helena.




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