Napa County Information
The Napa Valley, while famous for it's wines, is relatively new to the wine business. Many European countries have a history of wine-making dating back to the times of the Romans and Celts. The history of wine making in the Napa Valley is less than two hundred years in the making.
The Wine History of the Napa Valley
The Napa Valley was inhabited solely by the Wappo Indians until 1823. The abundant land, rivers and streams in the area catered to the Indians lifestyle and provided the resources they needed to live. The valley floor was covered wild oats and the surrounding mountains were home to large populations of deer and bear. In 1823, the Napa Valley was visited by Father Jose Altimira who was scouting the area as a possible location for a new mission, but he ended up building it in the current city of Sonoma in Sonoma County. Many explorers made their way thru the area, but it was George Yount in 1831 who first wanted to permanently settle in the area. When he first saw the valley, his words reflect what many people still feel today, as he said "In such a place, I would like to clear the land and make my home; in such a place, I would like to live and die."
Most of the useful land in the area was unavailable to the few settlers that passed thru the area, obtainable only thru Mexican land grants. George Yount succeeded in getting a Napa land grant from General Mariano Vallejo, and began to build in 1836. He is credited with building the first structure in Napa and for planting the first grapes in the area. The grapes he planted were the native Mission variety, which he planted just so he could have some wine to drink at home, and not as a big business venture.
Settlement in Napa increased following the overthrow of Mexican rule and the subsequent California statehood. It was in 1858 that one of the settlers, Charles Krug, decided to first grow grapes and produce wine in the Napa Valley commercially. He began his venture with the Mission variety grapes. Two years later another grower, George Belden Crane, proposed that German grapes were a better choice. Wines with a German flavor were predominant from the 1870's to the beginning of the 20th century. An increasing interest in Napa wines grew during the 1880's and 1890's, leading to the construction of many elegant and impressive winery buildings. The Culinary Institute of America currently occupies one of the great buildings of the time, Greystone Cellars, which was built in 1889.
Prohibition and the Depression put a damper on the Napa wine industry for a time, but several wineries did survive and went on to achieve great success. These wineries were Beringer, Beaulieu and Inglenook. (The elegant Inglenook winery building is now home to Rubicon Estate). It was not until after World War II, that the Napa wine industry slowly began to recover. By 1963, Napa was recognized as THE American wine region once again. It was at the 1976 Paris Wine Tasting, that Napa wines rose to world-wide acclaim. In the mid 1970's, the Napa area was home to about fifty wineries.
Over the years, there has been a shift in the types of wineries being developed. The Napa wine industry is not just limited to successful large wineries, as many smaller and more specialized wineries have emerged and been successful as well. This change is in response to the demands of a more sophisticated wine-drinking public.
The Wine Industry and Wine Tourism of Napa County
Napa County is thriving today with it's wine industry and related wine tourism. There are currently over 200 wineries in the Napa Valley, which produce more than 6 million cases of wine and over $1 billion dollars in sales. Wine is the number one finished agricultural product in California and the third most valuable agricultural commodity that is exported from California. Napa Valley wines have always been a significant part of the California wine industry, but their status rose to world wide acclaim after the historic Paris Wine Tasting of 1976.
Before 1976 California wines were not taken seriously in the world market, no matter how excellent they were. That changed, however, when top members of the French wine establishment held a blind taste-test of California wines and French wines. Much to their surprise, the first place winners in both the red wine and white wine categories went to California wines. Since that tasting, the number of wineries has increased dramatically in the Napa region.
With the interest in Napa wines, wine tourism has become the top economic industry in the Napa Valley. There are about five million visitors to Napa Valley each year, making it the second most popular tourist destination in California after Disneyland.
Napa Valley Wine Train
Enjoy gourmet food and fine wine as you travel through the Napa Wine Country on the Napa Valley Wine Train.
Napa Valley Places to VisitHow to get there?
Where to Dine?
Where to Stay?
Napa Wine Tours
Napa Valley Golf
The French Laundry
One of the top restaurants in the world, treat yourself to culinary excellence at The French Laundry in Yountville.
Napa Bed & Breakfast
Experience the true charm of the valley when you stay at a local Bed & Breakfast.
Wine Country Wine Tours
Information on wine tours to help you plan your trip in the Wine Country.