Skip to content

5 Must Know Facts About Napa Valley’s History

How did the world be introduced to and be captivated by the wines from Napa Valley? There is no doubt that the event with the greatest impact is the Judgment of Paris, where California wines outperformed those of their French competitors in both Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay categories. Here are five essential facts about the history of Napa Valley before its 1976 Paris tasting which helped propel it to the status of one of the most sought-after Napa wine regions:

Charles Krug Winery becomes Napa’s first commercial winery in 1861. Charles Krug immigrated from Germany and, in the late 1800’s, became one of the first Napa settlers. He purchased land by marriage and then planted an 18-acre estate vineyard to start his own winery. Charles Krug’s cider press was instrumental in helping to modernize winemaking methods from primitive techniques. It should be noted that a lot of Napa’s top winemakers of the time began their career with Krug. Some of the most notable winemakers are Jacob Beringer and Jacob Schram who were both employed by Krug before establishing the wineries of their own.

Schramsberg Vineyards was the first winery in Napa Valley to focus on hillsides fruit. Jay Schram immigrated from Germany to the United States, where his family has an experience in winemaking in Rheinhessen. He was raised with the understanding that the most prestigious vineyards were situated in steep slopes. In 1862, he purchased the land of Diamond Mountain and established Schramsberg. The hillside wines, though and not sparkling in the 1862 vintage were among the top wines from California.

To Kalon To Kalon Oakville was among the first vineyards to be planted to Bordeaux as well as different French varieties. In 1868, viticulturist Hamilton Crabb purchased and cultivated Napa Valley’s most important historical vineyard. Crabb substituted his Mission grape with higher-quality grape varieties. In actuality, he planted hundreds of varieties on the Oakville estate. One of the finest grapes grown in Napa The price is To Kalon fruit today remains the highest value in the valley.

Inglenook was the first Napa winery Napa to label and bottle its own wines, which allowed to have better quality control. Gustave Niebaum was a wealthy Finnish sea captain who aimed to replicate the magnificent wine estates that the ship captain had visited across Europe. Before Niebaum’s revolutionary methods of business, the wines were delivered in barrels to brokers who blended and bottle the wines on their own. In keeping to his entrepreneurial ambitions Niebaum was also among the first labels to feature “Napa Valley” as well as the year on their labels.

Beaulieu Vineyard holds the distinction of the longest-running winery within Napa Valley. It was founded through Georges de Latour in 1900, BV was one of the few wineries to remain in operation during prohibition because of an association with the archdiocese of San Francisco and a loophole in the law allowing wines for sacrament to those in the Catholic church. Georges de Latour is also responsible for bringing famed winemaker Andre Tchelistcheff to Napa.

The five above facts are only the beginning of the iceberg regarding the background of Napa Valley. In the case of Napa Valley, for instance, following changes in ownership Charles Krug Winery became the first Mondavi family business to produce top wines. Schramsberg was able to establish itself as one of the best U.S. sparkling house served at the White House over multiple decades.