Viticulture and wine making started in northern California in the mid 19th century. Today, there are over 400 wineries in what is called the wine country of the US, north of San Francisco. They include Napa Valley, Sonoma Valley, Alexander Valley, Dry Creek Valley, and many others.
Napa Valley is is located in Napa County, about 50 miles from downtown San Francisco and just over a one hour drive, it is. In 1976, through the local wineries such as Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars and Chateau Montelena, it rose to the first rank of wine regions with France, winning the “Judgement of Paris” wine competition.
During the 18th century, this region was inhabited by the Patwin Native Americans. By the early 19th century, the first Europeans came to explore Napa Valley and by the early 1830s the first white settlers arrived. In 1838, there was a smallpox epidemic that killed many of the native inhabitants as well as settlers. Between the years of 1836 and 1846, California was a province of independent Mexico. The following year, the town of Napa was established by Nathan Coombs. After the Mexican-American War in 1846 and the Mexican Cession in 1848, Napa County was formed and became one of the original state counties when California became part of the US.
The first ever commercial winery in Napa was opened in 1859 by John Patchett. This was followed by another winery founded by Charles Krug, a former employee of Patchett, who started his own winery in St Helena in 1861. From then on, the county’s population grew tremendously, as pioneers and entrepreneurs moved in, set up residence, and started to grow not only wine, but also farmed grain, fruit crops, and cattle. Napa county also became a centre for silver and quicksilver mining.
Among the well-known wineries in Napa Valley are: Duckhorn Vineyard; Stag’s Leap Winery; Chateau Montelena; Etude Wines; Beringer Vineyard; Robert Mondavi Winery; Castello Di Amorosa; and many more. Many of them are open to the public, and wine tasting are by appointment only.
a. Duckhorn Vineyard: Situated in St Helena, this boutique vineyard was founded in 1976 by Dan Duckhorn. Greatly influenced by the wines from Pomerol and Saint-Emillion in Bordeaux region of France, he introduced the vintage-dated Merlot to California. To this day, this vineyard specialises in premium Merlot wines, and Cabernet Sauvignon. It also well-known for its Sauvignon Blanc. During the year, they produce a total of 100,000 cases from its several estate vineyards in the area.
b. Castello Di Amorosa- Dario Sattui established an authentic medieval castle and winery in Calistoga in 2007 to honour his Italian heritage and exceptional wine-making techniques. The castle itself is built stone by stone, and is based on 1th and 13th century medieval architecture. It has 107 rooms on 8 levels above and below ground. 95 of these rooms are used for wine-making and wine storage. The castle also has a torture chamber, along with its paraphernalia such as prison chambers and other torture devices. The great hall has frescoes painted by Italian artists, as well as a 500-year old fireplace.
The wines consistently earn high points during the year. Among its well-known produces are: Pinot Grigio; Pinot Bianco; Muscato, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot. It produces about 16,000 cases per year.