History of Wine Making in Napa Valley
To the Wappo Indians who first inhabited the valley, "Napa" meant a land of plenty: a place where spawning salmon filled the waterways and the valley floor served as home to wildcats, elk, black bear, and grizzlies. In 1836, George Calvert Yount established the first local homestead in what is now Yountville, being first to plant vineyards in the valley. Other early pioneers included John Patchett, Dr. George Crane, and Hamilton Walker Crabb, who experimented with over 400 grape varieties.
Charles Krug is credited with establishing Napa Valley's first commercial winery in 1861. By 1889 there were over 140 in operation, including Schramsberg (founded in 1862), Beringer (1876), and Inglenook (1879). Before long, however, the arrival of phylloxera, a destructive vineyard pest that kills grapevines, dealt a stunning blow to most of the valley's vineyards.
An even greater threat arrived in 1919, 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 and expansion. During the struggling years of World War II, a group of vintners came together 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, a dynamic trade organization dedicated to advancing the valley's wines, devoting much of their time to marketing programs that reach out to wine enthusiasts everywhere.
During the 50s and 60s, Napa Valley continued to gain notoriety in wine circles, and attracted a whole new generation of winemakers - creating a unique repository of natural and human resources that came of age in the 1970s with the overnight success generated by a very public victory for the small California wine region at an international wine tasting competition in Paris where Napa Valley Cabernets went head to head with legendary French Bordeaux in a blind tasting and won critical acclaim.
In addition to producing great wines, Napa vintners have proven to be leaders in the industry, constantly working to develop and share knowledge and best practices, cultivating land and community with equal vigor. In 1968, vintners helped to establish the first-ever national Agriculture Preserve Ordinance, and have supported the wellbeing of the local community by creating signature events such as Auction Napa Valley, which has raised more than $60 million for local health care, youth development and affordable housing organizations since its inception in 1981.
In 1982 Napa Valley was officially designated as a recognized American Vitcultural Area (AVA). Since that time 13 sub AVAs have also been designated. Extensive science research recently completed by the NVV reveals that a unique combination of complex topography, diverse bedrock and surficial geology, a wide variety of defined soil types and climatic variation combine to form one of the most beautiful and geologically complex wine regions in the world.
Today, the Napa Valley is home to more than 300 wineries, and is recognized the world over as a leading wine region.