These Vintage Napa Wineries Paved the Way for the California Wine Biz
Many of the original wineries are still in operation and uncorking for customers over a century later.
- CategoryFarm + Table
The Napa Valley is flush with wineries—some new kids on the trail and others time-tested favorites. Many of the historical wineries made their mark on the region decades before Napa became world-renowned for its bottles. Here are a few wine houses that have not only survived generations in the business, but continue to draw crowds for both their vintages and beautiful grounds.
“Finnish sea captain Gustave Niebaum came to Rutherford in 1879 with the intent of building a winery to rival the finest European estates. Under the helm of Niebaum’s grandnephew, John Daniel Jr., who inherited the property in 1939, Inglenook did win critical favor but eventually the chateau and vineyards became too costly to keep up and the property was sold. Inglenook was in a sort of limbo until 1975 when a Hollywood director stepped in to purchase more than 1,500 acres of the estate. Within a few years, Francis Ford Coppola had the winery humming again. Today, Inglenook has been restored and continues to produce sophisticated wines, some of which hail from the original vineyards planted in the 1880s, like the 2014 Rubicon, a cabernet sauvignon with a sweet, round nose and notes of dark berries, currant, spice, and vanilla. Inglenook offers tastings daily from 11am to 4pm ($45, reservations strongly recommended).”
1991 St. Helena Hwy (Rutherford), inglenook.com
“Schramsberg’s history dates back to the purchase of more than 200 acres by Jacob Schram in 1862. Thanks to the work of Chinese immigrant laborers, by the end of the decade Schram’s estate had 30,000 vines and Napa’s first hillside caves for storing and aging wines. Despite its promising beginnings, less than a century later Schramsberg’s vineyards and stately Victorian mansion were nearly unrecognizable, taken over by acres of tangled, abandoned vines. Jamie and Jack Davies purchased the decrepit property in 1965, hoping to one day produce world-class sparkling wines. Lucky for sparkling wine lovers, their perseverance paid off: Schramsberg is today churning out a huge portfolio of sparkling wines from their dry, crisp 2015 Blanc de Blancs—with aromas of apple, tropical fruit, and baked bread—to their elegant 2009 J. Schram Rosé with its aromas of pineapple, strawberry, peach, and mango. Cave tours and tastings are available daily ($70-125/person, advanced reservations required).”
1400 Schramsberg Rd (Calistoga), schramsberg.com
“Swiss homesteaders Anton and Caterina Nichelini arrived in Napa’s Chiles Valley in 1884 and quickly began planting the grapevines and olive trees that, within a decade, would become the lifeblood of Nichelini Winery. Hand dug out of stone, the winery’s original Roman wine press, as well as the seven-bedroom house built by the Nichelinis in the 19th century, are all still in use by the current owners…the Nichelinis…making it the oldest single-family owned winery in the Napa Valley.. Even their winemaker, Aimee Sunseri, is a Nichelini—the great-great-granddaughter of Anton and Caterina. Nichelini Winery produces sparkling wines, reds, and whites, including the 16 Roman Press White, a refreshing blend of muscadelle and sauvignon blanc with notes of green apple, starfruit, and citrus. Tasting at this scenic, off-the-beaten-track winery begins at $20 per person. Reservations are required on weekdays; walk-in tastings are available Friday through Sunday.”
2950 Sage Canyon Rd (St. Helena), nicheliniwinery.com
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Through his Culver City business, and a new nursery purchase in Malibu, Stephen Block brings a collector’s approach to garden design.