Feb. 17, 2021



Art, comedy, food, movies, performance art, outdoor cabanas, food and wine pairings...are some of the draws that bring people to Charles Krug winery in Napa Valley. President & CEO of C Mondavi & Family (parent company of Charles Krug) Judd Wallenbrock t

Art, comedy, food, movies, performance art, outdoor cabanas, food and wine pairings...are some of the draws that bring people to Charles Krug winery in Napa Valley.  President & CEO of C Mondavi & Family (parent company of Charles Krug) Judd Wallenbrock tells us about the history of innovation at Charles Krug and the Mondavi family.  As the first winery and first tasting room in Napa Valley, Charles Krug has spearheaded many different elements of hospitality and now drives them virtual.  Hear all about their programs and what has worked in the virtual space on this episode of XChateau!

Detailed Show Notes: 

  • Judd’s background - 41 years in the wine industry
    • He visited Napa as a 16-year-old in 1974 (Charles Krug, Mondavi, BV)
    • Did stints in retail, restaurants, a winery rep, and has his own backyard winery
    • 4 years ago - became President and CEO of C Mondavi
      • The original Mondavi family business
      • Founders - Cesare & Rosa, who settled in Virginia
      • Did hospitality for miners in 1908
      • Got into wine in 1928 - their saloon closed due to prohibition, and they bought and sold grapes and yeast for home wine kits
      • Sons - Peter and Robert Mondavi
      • 5th generation of Mondavi’s was just born
  • Charles Krug Winery
    • Founded in 1861, oldest winery in Napa
    • 1965 - Peter & Robert split, Robert founded Robert Mondavi Winery; both were running winery before, then just Peter
    • 1882 - 1st tasting room in Napa
    • Charles Krug - created a legacy of innovation
      • Introduced wine press to Napa, taking the idea from apple cider
      • 1st to bring Cabernet to Napa
      • Started the 1st wine club, took wine into San Francisco to sell wine
      • Mondavi innovations - brought in French oak barrels, did cold stabilization
  • Hospitality at Charles Krug
    • Wedding - grandfathered in, limited to ~20 per year
    • The aim is to create the cultural hub of Napa Valley - present wine as part of the arts
      • Culinary, art, comedy, host the Napa Valley film festival, “SIP” - series of interesting people, like TED talks, music, performing arts
      • Wine is food, but not in the restaurant business
        • Provide a “teaser” for guests
        • Partnership with Pete Seghesio - makes world-class salumi with C Krug wine
        • Pizzas - hand made in the outdoor pizza kitchen
        • Has the same sourdough starter from the 1940s from the Mondavi family
    • See 40,000 guests per year, 10,000 delivered from Napa Valley Wine Train
      • Small relative to ~300,000 visitors/year at Robert Mondavi winery
    • Event-based marketing
      • Use events as a discovery vehicle for the brand
      • It gives a reason to come, confident that wines will speak for themselves
      • Events ticket-based, sometimes include wine
      • Some events curated but not put on by the winery
      • Events targeted to break even, then winery’s job to convert people to sales and club members
      • Help generate word of mouth and 3rd party endorsements
      • Build customer database - for follow up marketing
      • Events themselves not always a good selling opportunity, but do post-event marketing (e.g., free tasting for event attendees that come back)
  • The GAME plan - a method for measuring and evaluating programs
    • Goal, Activities, Metrics, Enhancements (after post-mortem)
    • Key metrics for Charles Krug
      • Conversion rate to sale
      • Conversion to wine club
      • Club retention rate
      • Referrals (from all categories - events, hotel, restaurants, social media, etc.…)
    • Found more intimate and focused events do better for conversion, e.g., outdoor cabanas doubled wine club conversion
  • Virtual hospitality
    • pre-Covid started in-home tasting groups
      • Revolved around club members in their homes, up to 20 people
      • Blew away goals for sales and club membership
      • Also did recruiting for next tastings
      • Moved to virtual during the pandemic
    • Doing virtual for consumer, distributors, and country clubs
    • Building comedy and trivia night virtually
    • The entertainment part is still evolving
    • Corporate tasting packs for customers been a big virtual business 
    • Have a 360-degree virtual tour
  • Marketing virtual
    • Started with the wine club
    • Leveraged social media
    • Word of mouth and referrals
    • Not a lot of advertising, just limited digital (Facebook and Instagram)
  • Digital best practices - need to keep pace with constantly evolving technology, content matching to the audience is important
  • Important to always keep things fresh - future release - chocolate truffles that look like the soil from various Napa appellations, with flavor profiles to pair with wines
  • Other digital programs
    • Telesales - none pre-Covid, now a big business - not hard sales, but courtesy calls, customers enjoy hearing from the winery
    • E-commerce - release more content, find its building customer relationships
    • Website chat box - has been very effective
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