History And Development In Napa Valley


History and Development of Mount Veeder in Napa Valley

The weather in Mount Veeder tends to be rainier than the rest of Napa Valley. This is because of the Redwood and Round Creek watersheds. The great majority of the vineyards in Mount Veeder are situated near either Round Creek or Redwood Creek. Due to the abundance of large redwood and oak trees, in this region it is one of the most picturesque in Napa Valley.

The startling elevation of the Mount Veeder AVA also contributes to its stunning beauty. The mountainside slopes of Mount Veeder ranges between 400 feet above sea le vel to 2,600 feet above sea level. While a number of regions in Napa Valley receive some protection from the winds of San Pablo Bay, Mount Veeder is more exposed to the winds. As a result, the afternoons tend to be very breezy and far cooler than other areas. This lends well to a long growing season.

When you tour the wineries in Mount Veeder you will discover that a very small percentage of the land in Mount Veeder is planted with grape vines. The actual area of Mount Veeder covers some 25 square miles; however. Still, the area that is planted is ideal for the growth of mountain grapes that are rustic in nature. The roots of the vines in this are are able to extend deeply into the ground.

The terrain and climate of Mount Veeder is particularly well suited for Rhone varietals. Jade Mountain became the first winery in the area to take advantage of these elements for the production of Rhone varietals. The Paras Vineyard Syrah is considered to be one of the best Rhone varietal wines produced in Mount Veeder.

In addition to Rhone varietals, you will also find that a number of red Bordeaux varietals are also planted in Mount Veeder including Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot.

Many vineyards in the area produce grapes in low quantities. Most of these grapes are thick skinned and have an intense flavor concentration. In fact, the wines produced from Mount Veeder are known to be among the most flavorful wines in the entire Napa Valley region. As a result, most of the vintners in Mount Veeder find it necessary to balance that flavor with other elements.

Historically, the vintners in this area have been able to achieve this with remarkable aplomb. A significant portion of the development of Mount Veeder as a wine region is due to European mountain vineyard production. The first wines were produced in Mount Veeder as early as the 1860s. By the 1870s, German immigrants had begun to settle in the area and by the end of 1889 Mayacamas Vineyards had been firmly established. The owner of the vineyard had a broad range of commercial interests; however, and he went bankrupt at the turn of the century. Rumors persist that while other vineyards in Napa Valley were shut down during Prohibition, Mayacamas was used by bootleggers. Regardless, the vineyards were eventually purchased and restored in the late 1960s.

The modern day Hess Collection Winery was established after the turn of the century by Colonel Thomas Gier. Eventually, he found it necessary to sell the property as a result of the Depression. The vineyards were purchased by the Christian Brothers, who used it for the production of sacramental wine throughout Prohibition. Today, the production facilities that were used by the Christian Brothers are leased to Donald Hess; where an extensive art collection is also housed.

Brother Timothy, in particular, is believed to have been one of the most instrumental individuals in the development of Mount Veeder as a leading wine region. Both he and Brother John proved to have an important role in the development of Mount Veeder as an AVA. The region was granted AVA status in 1990. Prior to 1935, the region was known as Napa Redwoods. Of course, today it has gained a sterling reputation in its own right. More than a dozen wineries are located on Mount Veeder.

 

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History and Development of Rutherford as a Premier Napa Valley Wine Region

The first local grapes were planted in Rutherford by Thomas Rutherford in the middle of the 19th century. This began the illustrious history of the Rutherford Wineries. The name of this region was derived from Thomas Rutherford, who contributed so much to the history and development of the region. Today, the original land on which those first grapes were planted is owned by Provenance Vineyards, a winery respected in its own right. The Rutherford family held strong ties throughout the Napa Valley wine region as Rutherford married one of the granddaughter’s of George Calvert Yount; Elizabeth Yount. For their wedding present, Thomas and Elizabeth were presented with a large parcel of land in what was at the time a northern tract of Caymus Rancho, belonging to Yount. Significant time, as well as energy, were spent developing the vineyards there and producing wine. As a result of their efforts, the Rutherfords gained a strong following.

After George Yount died in 1864, the rest of his land was sold to numerous individuals including Judge Hastings and Gustave Niebaum. Niebaum eventually became the founder of Inglenook Winery, which has become legendary. Other land was purchased by Georges de Latour and Beaulieu Vineyard was established on that site. Latour took preventive action and imported rootstocks from Europe that were resistant to the phylloxera pest during the late 19th century. As a result of his efforts, he became one of the foremost experts in replenishing the vineyards in California that were decimated.

While many of vineyards in the area were falling victim to Prohibition, Latour also proved to be forward thinking in that regard as well. He was able to negotiate contracts directly with the Catholic Church as a result of his personal relationship with the Arch Diocese in San Francisco. While other vineyards in the area went under after Prohibition went into effect in 1919, Latour managed to continue operating Beaulie Vineyard by producing sacramental wine for the Church.

After Prohibition was repealed, Beaulieu as well as Inglenook became the two premier wineries in not only Napa Valley but also in the entire state as well. Some of the most superb wines during that time were produced in those two vineyards. For the most part, most of the wines produced during that time period were jug wines and fortified wines; however, Beaulieu and Inglenook managed to produce wine with an emphasis on excellence. In fact, the 1941 Inglenook Cabernet Sauvignon is still considered by many to be the best wine ever produced in the state of California.

Andre Tchelistcheff, a protégé of George de Latour, would also make numerous contributions to the region and the state as well. Born in Russia in 1901, Tchelistcheff fought in the Russian Civil War and then relocated to France. In the 1930’s he began his study of viticulture and became acquainted with de Latour. Soon thereafter he was recruited by de Latour to come to work at Beaulieu Bineyard in Rutherford. It was Tchelistcheff who advanced the idea of planting varietals according to the specific terroir of the land in Napa Valley. At the time the majority of the production in the country was comprised of wines that were poorly made and undistinguished. It was Techelistcheff who became a strong advocate for planting Cabernet Sauvignon in the region. The process of cold fermentation was also engineered by Tchelistcheff as well as various vineyard management strategies, including fastidious winery sanitation for the prevention of contamination.

In summary, the Rutherford region has become one of the premier wine growing regions in the United States. The dedication and passion for the production of quality wines of the numerous individuals who settled this region ushered the region through the dark days of the phylloxera pest infestation as well as Prohibition. While other vineyards in Napa Valley during these time periods fell into disrepair and neglect that took decades to repair, Rutherford soldiered on into modern times, becoming a world class wine region.

 

History of the Carneros Wine Region

In the eastern part of Napa Valley, you will find Carneros. While Napa Valley has certainly become famous around the world in the last thirty years, Carneros has become decidedly unique. While you will certainly find plenty of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay in Carneros, you will also find plenty of Syrah and Merlot as well.

Some of the most well known wineries in Carneros include Talisman Cellars, Etude and Truchard Vineyards. One of the reasons that the wineries in the Carneros region have become so successful is widely attributed to the cooling by the fog and the wind from the San Pablo Bay. Still, you will typically find that compared to numerous other wine regions in California, the weather in Carneros is still rather warm. On the Napa side of Carneros, the weather tends to be warmer than on the Sonoma side.

The rolling, low hills of the terrain in the Carneros region have also contributed significantly to the way in which vineyards are developed in this region. Due to the fact that the soil in this area is quite shallow, the vineyards tend to grow at a slower rate. As a result, you will typically find that the vineyards will only measure two or three inches in diameter even when they are more than ten years old.

The Carneros region was originally developed from both Mexican and Spanish land grants. The rugged pioneers in this region were determined to develop the area despite the unfertile soil. The great majority of the Carneros region in Napa Valley was granted to Jacob Lease in 1840. The thousands of acres that were received by Jacob Leese, as well as Nicholas Higuera, were then subdivided and sold. Grapes have been grown in this particular region for more than 150 years; however, it was not until the middle of the 19th century that this part of the Napa Valley became involved in winemaking. Jacob Leese is credited with planting the first vineyards in this region on Rancho Huichica, an 18,000 acre parcel of land. Several years later, Higuera sold a portion of his land to Nathan Coombs. The land was then surveyed by Coombs and the town of Napa was established.

During the 1850s a good portion of Leese’s land was purchased by William H. Winter. Winter Winery was then established during the early 1870s. For a long time San Francisco served as the primary market for the wines produced in this region. Beginning in the 1880s the Phylloxera Louse devastated many of the vineyards in the Carneros region.

The Winter Winery was purchased in 1881 by James Simonton and it was renamed Talcoa Vineyards. This winery became the first to experiment with a specific type of rootstocks that were resistant to Phylloxera. A significant amount of damage had already been done to the vineyard; however. By the time Prohibition was enacted, it seemed as though the Carneros region was doomed. In fact, the region might very well have ended if it had not been for the commitment of several people.

John Garnetto constructed the first winery in the region following Prohibition in 1935. Louis M. Martini purchased more than 200 acres in the region in 1942 and began to experiment with a number of varietals that were suited for cool weather. By 1983, Carneros had become established as an AVA.

 

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History of the Oak Knoll Wine Region in Napa Valley

Oak Knoll has had a reputation as a fine wine producing region for many generations. You will find Oak Knoll in the southern part of Napa Valley. When you visit this region you will discover that it is typically less crowded than many other regions in the area. One of the reasons for this is the fact that most of the wineries in the region are located off of Highway 29 rather than directly on the highway. This can be a tremendous advantage for the tourist; however, as it typically means that the tasting rooms will be less crowded.

The climate in this region is somewhat transitional due to the fact that it receives the cooler winds from San Pablo Bay in addition to the warmer air coming from the North. This area has often been described as a ‘sweet spot,’ a term that was coined by John Trefethen. As a result of the transitional climate a wide variety of different grapes can be grown in this region.

One of the most interesting aspects of this region is the terrain of the Oak Knoll wine region. Each individual vineyard plot can be somewhat unique and different and contain a different soil composition. This is the reason you will find a tremendous amount of variation in this region.

Prior to 1968, most of the region was actually not used for growing grapes at all. There had been some wine production but certainly not to the point that it has reached today in Oak Knoll. Eugenio Trefethen was the first to realize how much untapped resource this region might hold. He purchased 600 acres in the region and the rest is now history. In 2004, Oak Hill was designated as an AVA.

The first winery built in Oak Knoll was Eshcol Winery, built in 1886. Gravity flow technology was used in this winery in order to make production more streamlined. Some of the earliest wines produced in this winery became highly acclaimed. Cabernet Sauvignon was particularly well known.

In the 1920s the Biale family moved to area and began producing wine. Eventually they opened a winery as well as a tasting room on Big Ranch Road. In order to visit this winery you need to make an appointment.

When Treffethen purchased his 600 acres in 1968, part of the land he purchased encompassed the old Eshcol property. Several years later, in 1973, Trefethen Winery was established by John Trefethen. It was a long and difficult process; however, he set about restoring the once historic property. Today, his winery is still a fine example of gravity flow technology in use in a winery.

The 1970s proved to be a tremendously vital time period in the development of Oak Knoll as a premier wine region. In 1970s, Jeff Corley arrived and began to establish a number of vineyards. In the beginning he planted Chardonnay and Pinot Noir; however, since that time he has shifted his attention to planted many varietals that are much fuller bodied. For a number of years, Corley sold his grapes to other wineries; however, beginning in the 1980s he began his own wine production. His winery now produces a highly acclaimed Pinot Noir.

Other well known wineries in the Oak Knoll region include Darioush Winery, Andretti Wineery, Laird Family Estate, Koves Newlan, Sedna and Broodale Vineyards. Robert Biale Vineyards and Trefethen Vineyards continue to stand out among the vineyards in this region.

Jason Smith

Former Marine, IT Guy & Builder of Websites.  I have 5 US states left to visit. I enjoy hot springs, adventures, hiking, photography, sci-fi, wine, coffee & whiskey.  I am fluent in sarcasm, name that tune, & speak in movie quotes.  I spend most of my time building websites, fixing computers, metal detecting, magnet fishing and gaming occasionally.

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