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Napa Valley: A Look Back

Posted on April 09, 2018

It’s 2018 and Napa Valley is a world-famous wine country destination. But how did this come to be? The Napa wineries we know and love today looked much different 100 years ago. We’re looking back at the rich history of Napa, from its humble beginnings to its current state as a leader in the wine industry.

Early Napa

The region had an abundance of wild grapes, but settler George Calvert Yount was the one who really sparked Napa’s cultivation of wine grapes. In 1839, he was first to plant Napa Valley grapes and eventually, innovators like John Patchett and Hamilton Walker Crabb initiated the first vitis vinifera grapes to the region.

In 1861 the first commercial winery established by Charles Krug brought about a new wave. By 1889, there were over 140 Napa wineries, including Schramsberg, Beringer, and Inglenook.

The 20th century unfortunately brought a surplus of grapes and phylloxera, a destructive route louse killing over 80% of the valley’s vineyard acreage. Soon after, 1920 Prohibition era was here and the wineries took a hit. Most abandoned the industry but a few Napa wineries continued to work illegally or produced sacramental wines.

The Recovery

1933 meant Prohibition was over. Napa wineries started to recover – slowly. During this time, Ingelnook was brought back to life by John Daniel Jr., Beaulieu Vineyards was re-established by Georges de Latour, and the Charles Krug Winery was bought by the Mondavis. A Russian immigrant known as Andre Tchelischeff, after working in France, arrived in Napa Valley and became one of the greatest figures in the Napa’s wine history.

The Napa Valley Vintners trade association was created in 1940, when 7 vintners came together to develop Napa Valley’s success. Today there are over 525 wineries in the association. Together, they helped put Napa wineries on the map.

If Napa Valley could credit its fame to one event, it would be the Paris Tasting of 1976. It was a  blind, comparative tasting between French and California wines: Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay from California versus the best wines of Bordeaux and Burgundy. The judges voted for Chateau Montelena Chardonnay and Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon. Napa Valley saw a drastic change from that point on – a few Napa wineries then became several hundred today.

Napa Valley Today

With a rich history and booming wine industry, Napa Valley has become one of America’s most popular tourist destination. People from all over the world come to try famous wines from Napa wineries. Platypus Wine Tours is proud to be part of such a unique and innovative town. Discover Napa wineries in the best way – join a Platypus Wine Tour and get access to some of Napa’s most beautiful and exclusive tastings.


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