Skip to content

Facts About Napa Valley Wines

How did the world become aware of and become enthralled by the wines from Napa Valley? It is no doubt that the event with the greatest impact is the Judgment of Paris in which California wines surpassed those of their French competitors in both Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay categories. Here are five essential facts about Napa Valley’s past before its 1976 Paris tasting, which helped to propel it into one of the most sought-after 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 settlers in Napa. He purchased land by marriage and established 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 is worth noting that many of Napa’s top winemakers of the time began the careers they pursued with Krug. Some of the most notable include Jacob Beringer and Jacob Schram who were both employed by Krug before establishing his own wineries.

Schramsberg Vineyards was the first winery in Napa Valley to focus on hillsides fruit. Jay Schram immigrated from Germany where his family was an experience in winemaking in Rheinhessen. He was raised with the understanding that the most prestigious vineyards were situated on the sloping slopes. In 1862, he bought the land on Diamond Mountain and established Schramsberg. The hillside wines, though and not sparkling in the 1862 vintage were among the top wines in 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 oldest and most significant vineyard. Crabb substituted his Mission grape with higher-quality grape varieties. In reality, he cultivated hundreds of varieties on the Oakville estate. One of the top grapes grown in Napa and the cost for To Kalon fruit today remains the highest value in the valley.

Inglenook is the very first in Napa to label and bottle its own wine, allowing to have better quality control. Gustave Niebaum was a wealthy Finnish sea captain who aimed to replicate the magnificent wine estates that which he had seen during his travels across Europe. Prior to Niebaum’s ingenuous business model, wine was delivered in barrels to brokers who blended and bottle the wine themselves. In keeping to his entrepreneurial ambitions Niebaum was one of the first labels to feature “Napa Valley” as well as the vintage on their labels.

Beaulieu Vineyard holds the distinction of the longest-running winery within Napa Valley. It was founded in 1900 by Georges de Latour in 1900, BV was one of the few wineries to remain open throughout prohibition due to 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 the famous winemaker Andre Tchelistcheff to Napa.

The above five essential facts are only the beginning of the Napa wine history. In the case of Napa Valley, for instance, following the change in ownership, Charles Krug Winery became the first Mondavi family business to produce top wines. Schramsberg became one of the best U.S. sparkling house served at the White House over multiple decades.