Napa Valley Wine History
To the Wappo Indians who first inhabited the valley, "Napa" meant a land of plenty. Spawning salmon filled the waterways, clouds of migrating waterfowl darkened the skies and the valley floor served as home to wildcats, elk, black bear and grizzlies. Wild grapes also grew in abundance, but it took early settlers such as George Calvert Yount to recognize the valley's potential for cultivating winegrapes. Establishing the first local homestead in what is now Yountville in 1836, Yount was the first to plant vineyards in the valley. Other early pioneers included John Patchett, who planted the first commercial vineyard; Dr. George Crane, who promoted the planting of grapevines through a series of newspaper articles; and Hamilton Walker Crabb, who experimented with more than 400 grape varieties.
Charles Krug is credited with establishing Napa Valley's first commercial winery in 1861, and by 1889 there were more than 140 wineries in operation, including Schramsberg (founded in 1862), Beringer (1876) and Inglenook (1879). Before long, however, the rapid expansion of the new wine industry saw prices plummet amidst a sea of surplus grapes, and the arrival of phylloxera dealt vintners a stunning blow, as much of the valley's vineyard acreage fell victim to the destructive root louse.
An even greater threat to Napa Valley's wine business arrived in 1920, with the enactment of Prohibition. Vineyards were abandoned and many winemakers found other trades during the next 14 years, with a handful of wineries continuing to operate by producing sacramental wines. With the repeal of Prohibition in 1933, Napa Valley's wine industry began its renaissance: a period of recovery, then tremendous expansion and, finally, in recent years, refinement.
The early 1940's marked an important point in the Napa Valleys' wine history, when a group of vintners came together in 1943 to share ideas on grape growing and winemaking amidst a convivial atmosphere of shared camaraderie, good food and wine. This group laid the foundation for the Napa Valley Vintners Association, a dynamic trade organization dedicated to advancing Napa Valley's wines both domestically and abroad.
In 1975 the Napa Valley Grape Growers Association was organized and today both growers and vintners join forces on projects of common interest, devoting much of their time to an active marketing program.
A new chapter in Napa Valley's history was opened in 1981, when the first Napa Valley Wine Auction was sponsored at Meadowood resort. Over the years, this Vintners Association-sponsored celebration of Napa Valley wine and food has become the "world's most successful" charity wine event, drawing participants from around the globe. More than $42 million has been raised for local health care, youth programs, and affordable housing since 1981.
Present and Future
Today, Napa Valley is home to more than 260 wineries. Its growers and vintners combine cutting-edge science with traditional techniques, and its reputation for producing world-class wines is firmly established in an ever-growing global market.
from Napa Valley Vintners Association
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