Historic Wineries of California Wine Country
This tour of California's wine country includes stops at wineries that date back to the late 19th and early 20th century. More will be added soon.
The Chateau Montelena Winery is one of the most historic wineries in Napa Valley, California, dating back to 1882. Located near the base of Mount St. Helena, the estate house was designed in the style of a European chateau. This quaint stone structure overlooks a Chinese-style garden. The landscape is also complemented by Jade Lake. Beyond these decorative elements, the property gives way to the vineyards.
In 1885, Vittorio Sattui, an Italian immigrant, founded St. Helena Wine Cellars in San Francisco's Mission District. Three generations later, in 1993, his great grandson, Dario Sattui, purchased land in Calistoga on the site of a vineyard that had been established in 1846. Dario began building a 13th century-style Tuscan castle on the property. After 15 years of construction, the castle finally opened to the public in 2007 as the Castello di Amorosa Winery.
In 1862, Jacob Schram, an immigrant from Germany, arrived in California. He began homesteading and planting a 200-acre vineyard on Diamond Mountain. This would become Schramsberg Vineyards. A century later, under the ownership of Jack and Jamie Davies, Schramsberg Vineyards was restored. It has since become known for its premiere sparkling wines.
Ballentine Vineyards was founded the families of Libero Pocai, who arrived in Napa Valley from Lucca, Italy in 1906, and John Ballentine, who arrived from Tyrone County, Ireland in 1922. When their descendants married in 1953, their wineries merged to become Ballentine Vineyards. It is currently in its fourth generation as a winery.
The Charles Krug Winery was founded in 1861 by Charles Krug, one of the earliest winemakers in Napa Valley, California. In 1943, the Krug estate was purchased by the family of Peter Mondavi, Sr. The Mondavi Family has continued to own and operate the winery since that time. The Charles Krug Winery is the oldest winery in Napa Valley.
Dave and Yolanda Del Dotto own and operate the Del Dotto Estate Winery & Caves in St. Helena, CA. The Del Dotto family traces its heritage back to a tradition of family winemaking that began in Venice, Italy, in the 1400s. After purchasing the property in St. Helena, CA, the Del Dotto family built a Venetian-style estate building that features marble floors, fresco paintings, gold inlay, chandeliers, and other elements of a Venetian-style palace. The family also owns the Historic Del Dotto Winery and the Piazza Del Dotto Winery located in Napa, CA.
Gustave Niebaum, a Finnish immigrant and sea captain, arrived on the West Coast of California in 1879. After purchasing land from a California law professor and judge, he founded Inglenook Winery. Over the next several decades, Captain Niebaum experimented with identifying the ideal temperature for aging wine. Inglenook’s grand chateau was completed in 1879.
Beaulieu Vineyard was founded in 1903 by Georges de Latour and his wife, Fernande. The pair set out to establish a thriving wine industry in Northern California that would be on a par with the esteemed wineries of France. Seeing opportunity in the growing California winemaking industry, the family sold their successful Cream of Tartar business in order to devote their funds to winemaking. Fernande named this property "Beaulieu," which means "beautiful place." Similar to many wineries in this region, Beaulieu is known for its Cabernet Sauvignon. The company has also devoted significant resources to research in the area of grape cloning, opening a new state-of-the-art facility within one of the winery's original buildings from the early 1900s.
Anton and Caterina Nichelini arrived in Napa Valley on horseback in 1884. Immigrants from Switzerland, they settled in Chiles Valley and began homesteading. After planting olive trees and grape vines, they founded a winery that has remained in the family for 127 years. The Nichelini Family Winery is the oldest continuously-owned family winery in Napa Valley.
Trefethen Family Vineyards was established in Napa in 1886 by Captain Hamden McIntyre, a Scottish sea captain. McIntyre originally named this vineyard and winery "Eschol." In addition, he also designed several other wineries in Napa during the late nineteenth century. These included Inglenook, Far Niente, and Greystone, which later became the Culinary Institute of America.
Monticello Vineyards was founded by Jay Corley upon his arrival in Napa Valley in 1969. Corley purchased approximately 80 acres of land in the southern part of Napa Valley, currently known as the Oak Knoll district. Today, the vineyards and winery are owned and operated by his three sons. The property features a tasting room in the estate house which was built to resemble Thomas Jefferson's Monticello estate house in Virginia.
Bob and Laura Ackerman moved to Napa in 1994 to open a winery and vineyard. In 2010, the Ackerman family also purchased a 1888 Queen Anne style mansion on Randolph Street in Napa. The Ackermans restored the historic Victorian property and renamed it the "Ackerman Heritage House" with an on-site tasting room, state of the art kitchen, private dining room, and chef's garden.
In 1939, George O. Hendry arrived in Napa Valley as a child with his family. He began learning how to run a ranch while tending the cows and goats, and looking after the fruit orchard and vines. By the 1970s, he was overseeing the family business, an expanding vineyard with high-profile clients such as Robert Mondavi. A winery building was constructed in 2001. Since that time, the Hendry Ranch has included all aspects of grape-growing and winemaking on-site. Today, Hendry Ranch Wines is a family-owned and operated winery. It has been consistently cultivating grapes for the past 80 years. The Hendry Ranch contains several portions of the vineyard from the 1800s. These remain among the earliest ever planted in Napa Valley.
Winemaking at this historic Sonoma vineyard dates back to 1904, nine years after Samuele Sebastiani arrived in California from Tuscany. One of the oldest wineries in the area, Sebastiani was able to survive the prohibition area by focusing on agriculture and other businesses. The business was owned and operated by Sebastiani's children and grandchildren before the company was acquired by Bill Foley. The winery offers daily tours that emphasize the history of the Sebastiani family and winemaking in Sonoma.