Napa Valley extends 30 miles from San Pablo Bay in the south to Mt St Helena (4349ft) in the north. Ranges from 1 to 5 miles wide.
The temperature can vary 10-12 degrees from one end of the valley to the other (warmer in the north).
Today there are 32,000 acres in Napa Valley. Diverse soil conditions, variety of micro-climates create ideal growing conditions. State of the art technology and leading edge agricultural and winemaking techniques are imported from the research at the famed School of Enology in the University of California at Davis.
Until 1823 inhabited by Wappo Indians. The first settler was George Yount in 1831. He was given a land grant by General Vallejo and built the first structure in 1836. He also planted the first vines (Mission Variety) at this time much of Napa was wild oats and populated by dear and bears. Many of the gold miners came to the area after the Gold Rush. In 1858 a German, Charles Krug started using the fist German grapes.
The Silverado in 1874 and 1875 was the largest silver mine in Napa. Quicksilver or cinnabar was discovered in 1860. It was used to recover gold or silver from ore, and in the production of paint and explosives. Napa was one of the countries largest producers of cinnabar from 1864 to 1903.
There was a large increase in winemaking in the 1880s and 1890s Greystone Cellars was built in 1889 (Now Culinary Institute). Inglenook (Niebaum Coppola) was also built at this time.
Two events almost wiped out the wineries:
Phylloxera: microscopic aphid decimated 3000 acres by 1900. In 1875 it was realized that European wines could be grafted
onto Mission grape stumps to create a disease resistant vine.
Prohibition: By the time it was repealed in 1933 Napa was mostly orchards. Acreage did not reach 1880 levels until 1960s. The Beringer, Beaulieu and Inglenook wineries all survived. 60 wineries were started after prohibition. Only three of those have survived; Christian Brothers, Louis Martini family and Mondavi family (Charles Krug’s old winery)
Wartime brought new residents to Napa with the Mare Island Naval Shipyard. Napa was again the top wine-making region by 1963. In 1975 there were 50 wineries; todayover 200. There is a trend to smaller, specialized wineries.
By the 70’s the best Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay were competing with reds of Bordeaux and whites of Burgundy.
In 1976 for first time French and California wines went head to head in a blind tasting in France. California won.