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Napa-Solano - Notable Wineries By District And Region

( Originally Published 1955 )

This famous district is formed by the two counties bearing those names. Napa yields some of the finest of all California wines, especially table wines, while Solano, adjoining its exalted neighbor to the east, produces table wines of greater-than-average merit. In number of active bonded wineries Napa, with thirty-eight, rates third.

From a viticultural point of view Napa County and Napa Valley are interchangeable terms, for it is from the valley and its bordering hillsides that the county's famed wines originate. Only the Mayacamas Mountains separate Napa Valley from that of Sonoma, to which it lies parallel. Napa possesses its own romantic name, for in the Indian language it is said to mean "plenty:" Napa is indeed the "Valley of Plenty," one of abundant beauty and fertility. Even in ancient times grapes, though wild, are said to have grown here in profusion.

The Napa River which flows through the valley, is little more than a creek and empties, like its Sonoma neighbor, into the waters of San Pablo Bay, connecting with that of San Francisco. Dominating the valley to the north thrones Mt. St. Helena, christened after that saint by the Princess Helena Gagarin, wife of the onetime Russian Governor of Siberia and of the Russian Northern Pacific Colonies and daughter of the Czar of all the Russias.

The Napa Valley can be divided into two separate winegrowing areas, the uppper and the lower. The upper Napa Valley centers around the town of St. Helena, flanked to the north by Calistoga and to the south by Rutherford, as famed as St. Helena itself for wines of the highest quality. The vineyards are to be found both high and low on the hillsides as well as on the valley floor. The lower Napa Valley takes in the area northwest of the town of Napa in the Mayacamas Mountains toward the Sonoma County line.

NAPA COUNTY-UPPER NAPA VALLEY

California Champagne Corporation* (Schramsberg Vineyard Co.), Calistoga

This is the successor to the vineyards and winery of Jacob Schram, made famous in literature by Robert Louis Stevenson.

Jacob Schram (or Schramm, as he first spelled it) was a German barber from Johannisberg on the Rhine who did very well in his trade. In 1862 he bought the Mt. Diamond property on the steep hillsides just south of Calistoga, built himself a winery and a mansion, and had a number of cellars dug deep in the mountain. His Schramsberg wines became celebrated, not only in California, but in far-off places and are said to have been served at the Carlton Club in London.

The Robert Louis Stevensons, while honeymooning on nearby Mt. St. Helena, visited the Schrams and Stevenson related his impressions in the chapter entitled "Napa Wine" of his Silverado Squatters. Fanny Stevenson was entertained by the opulent Mrs. Schram on the veranda of the big house, decorated with a wondrous collection of stuffed birds, while Stevenson and his host tasted one wine after the other in the hillside cellars. He tasted them all, Red Schramsberger and White, Burgundy Schramsberger and Schramsberger Hock. There were varietal wines also and Stevenson dwells on the bouquet of Schramsberger Golden Chasselas. The charm of these wines must have been as great as that of their names, which roll so savorously over the tongue.

After Jacob Schram's death the property was inherited by his son Herman, whose family still live in California. Prohibition rendered Schramsberg useless for wine making and it was sold to a firm of investment speculators. In 1921 it was acquired by Captain Raymond C. Naylor, who used it as a summer home and one of whose daughters married John Daniel, Jr., one of the owners of Inglenook.

In 1940, Schramsberg was purchased by John Gargano, who had started his California Champagne Company in the early thirties and was the producer of well-known California champagnes. He wanted the property on account of the tunnels, which are among the largest hand-hewn wine-aging cellars in the state with a constant temperature of around 55 Fahrenheit. He also revived and replanted the original Schram vineyards on the mountain slopes. Gargano had great plans for Schramsberg, but was not able to carry them out, because of illness, and he passed away in the beginning Of 1952.

Shortly before, in December 1951, Schramsberg and the California Champagne Company were purchased by Douglas Pringle, well known in San Francisco, who had had general experience in various wineries over a period of years. He had always liked fine wines, having a catholic taste and possessing many other qualifications, not the least of which are his enthusiasm and charm. Besides the Schramsberg Mt. Diamond property the Pringles also own the neighboring Bear Flat Ranch and the Puerta Dorada Farms. The latter was the former Henry Harris winery and vineyards, where Georges de Latour, of Beaulieu Vineyard fame, is said to have made his first Napa Valley wine. Puerta Dorada is now the Pringle home, a beautiful residence and the scene of many social events.

Douglas Pringle has revived the once-celebrated Schramsberg label for both champagnes and table wines. Among notable plantings are those of Pinot noir and Johannisberg Riesling at Schramsberg and of Sauvignon blanc at Puerta Dorada, on a sunny slope by the Silverado Trail. The famous Golden Chasselas still grows at Schramsberg, but, being Palomino, is better suited for the production of Sherry according to present tastes. George Kay, of White Russian origin and formerly of Fountaingrove, is the winemaker.

Table wines under the Schramsberger label include: Cabernet and Burgundy; Sauterne, Chablis, Riesling, and Hock; Vin Rose.

L. Pocai & Sons, Calistoga A small family-owned and -operated winery, producing sound Napa Valley "country" wines. Libero Pocai, the founder, came from Eglio, near Lucca, in Italy and emigrated to the United States in the eighteen seventies. He went to California, where he helped plant the vineyards and olive trees of the Korbel Ranch near Guerneville, and later produced wine on a share basis at the Junker Ranch, some seven miles east of that town. He acquired the Calistoga property in the first decade of this century and established the vineyards there, aided by his sons Frank and Henry. Except during Prohibition, when grapes were sold to private families for the purpose of making wine at home, the winery, founded in 1912, has been in continuous operation down to the present time.

Libero Pocai died in 1936 and Frank and Henry have carried on since. Most of the wine produced is sold privately. Under the L. Pocai & Sons label the following table wines are marketed: Burgundy, Claret, and Zinfandel; Sauterne and Sauvignon Vert.

Beringer Bros., Inc. (Los Hermanos Vineyards), St. Helena A famous winery continuously operated as a family concern since its founding, in 1876, by the brothers Frederick and Jacob L. Beringer. Jacob Beringer had learned the art of wine making in his native Rheingau in Germany as well as in France and after having come to this country his one ambition was to establish a winery and vineyards of his own, such as he had known in Europe. He found the ideal location for his purpose while on a visit to St. Helena and he persuaded his brother Frederick, who was already settled in business in New York, to come out to California and join him in his project. The result was the founding of the Beringer brothers' vineyards and winery and of a great name in the California wine industry.

The "Los Hermanos" name was aptly bestowed on the firm by a close friend of the Beringer brothers, Senor Tiburcio Parrott, a Spanish gentleman of the old school, who lived in St. Helena in a beautiful villa and was well known as a patron of the arts.

A special feature of the winery is the labyrinth of tunnels cut into the limestone hill behind it. There are a thousand feet of this tunneling, originally cut out by Chinese coolies with picks, as was the custom in the olden days. The tunnels provide an ideal storage space at a steady air-conditioned temperature for the aging of wines in fine old casks of oak.

Beringer Bros. was incorporated in 1914 with the descendants of Jacob L. and of Frederick Beringer as members. Charles Tiburcio Beringer, for long the president of the firm, died in 1954. Miss Bertha C. Beringer is now president of the firm with Miss Martha F. Beringer vice-president, Mrs. Olga Beringer secretary-treasurer, and Otto Beringer Jr. and Mrs. Agnes Beringer Young assistant secretary-treasurers. Los Hermanos carries on as of old. Miss Bertha Beringer has written the history of the winery and clearly remembers "the elegant carriage driven by a resplendent coachman, in which Senor Tiburcio Parrott and his lovely wife used to dash up the Beringer driveway to call at the winery."

The company has never closed its doors since the founding, not even during Prohibition, when a steady business was maintained for the production of sacramental wines supplied to the clergy throughout the country.

No discussion of Beringer Bros. would be adequate without mention of the manager of the winery and vineyards, Fred Abruzzini, well known also as a charming host and as an ambassador of good will.

Originally employed by the Cribaris at Madrone, Santa Clara County, as a truck and tractor driver, Fred Abruzzini soon gathered much valuable experience in the vineyards and wine cellars and he rose to become superintendent of the Cribari wine enterprise.

In July 1932, Fred, as he is familiarly known to his host of friends, became the manager of the Beringer Bros. establishment, a post he has held ever since. Soon after Repeal new buildings were erected to increase the winery's capacity. Later the Eschol winery and vineyards on the Napa Highway and the Garetto winery in the Los Amigos area of Napa were taken over by the Beringers. All three plants are under Fred Abruzzini's management, but the pride of the three naturally remains the Beringer winery itself, which Fred delights in showing to all visitors, whether they are celebrities or just plain folks.

The Beringer policy is to market well-aged wines, blended so that their character and quality remain continuous over the years. The featured brand is Beringer Private Stock, with Los Hermanos the secondary label. Beringer Family Bottling is used for older and more expensive wines.

Table wines: Family Bottling: Barenblut (a Beringer specialty, the "Blood of the Berry," made from selected dark grapes) ; Riesling;

Private Stock: Cabernet, Barenblut, Burgundy, Zinfandel, Claret; Riesling, Haut Sauterne, Sauterne, Dry Sauterne, Chablis, Moselle, Hock; Rose (mainly from Valdepenas grapes);

Los Hermanos: Burgundy, Claret, Zinfandel; Sauterne, Dry Sauterne, Chablis; Rose;

Sparkling wines (carbonated) : Beringer Sparkler Burgundy and Sparkler Moselle;

Aperitif and Dessert wines:

Family Bottling: Port

Private Stock: Pale Dry Sherry, Sherry; Port; Muscatel, Malvasia Bianca (a specialty); Tokay, White Port, Angelica;

Los Hermanos: Pale Dry Sherry, Sherry; Port; Muscatel; Angelica.

Beringer Bros. has been in the Sacramental Wine business since the end of the last century. Pure Altar Wines (available only to the clergy) include:

Table wines: Cabernet, Barenblut, Burgundy, Zinfandel, and Claret; Riesling, Haut Sauterne, Sauterne, Dry Sauterne, Chablis, Hock, and Moselle;

Sweet wines: Sherry and Pale Dry Sherry; Port; Muscatel and Malvoisie; Tokay, White Port, Angelica; Beringerber (a madeiratype wine).

L. Brendel, St. Helena A small winery and vineyard owned and operated by one man, Leon Brendel. Only one wine is produced, a Grignolino, marketed, appropriately enough, under the Only One brand.

Leon Brendel was born at Equisheim, near Colmar in Alsace, France, and comes of a family of winegrowers who also made only one wine, in their case Traminer. He studied chemistry at Besan~on and Rouffach in France and at Aschaffenburg in Bavaria. With Dr. Goettler he helped to organize a school for distillers in Basel, Switzerland. He went to Mexico at the request of the family of President Madero and became the wine maker and chemist for the Madero winery and vineyards at Parras, Coahuila, Mexico.

At the time of Repeal, Brendel came to Southern California, where he established himself as a chemist and wine consultant. Later he became connected with the Ahern wine enterprise and was the wine maker and chemist at Freemark Abbey.

In the meantime Leon Brendel had decided to establish his own winery and vineyards and chose his present location in St. Helena. He wanted to make only one kind of wine and after experimenting with many grape varieties he finally chose Grignolino, probably the only one made in Napa Valley. His Grignolino wine is darker in color than most other California Grignolinos and has a distinctive flavor and charm of its own. The grapes are crushed at Freemark Abbey, but the wine is aged at the Brendel winery and clarified naturally.

Leon Brendel can relate most interestingly his adventures in Mexico and elsewhere. He is also the inventor and perfecter of various tools useful to the wine industry. Among these are an electromechanical wine-hose-cleaning unit and a bench budding gadget which simplifies the grafting of vine cuttings and is used by growers both in this country and abroad.

Freemark Abbey, St. Helena

A family concern devoted mainly to the production and marketing of quality table wines. Michael Ahern is general manager in charge of the plant at St. Helena, while executive offices are maintained in Santa Monica. A retail store is operated by Freemark Abbey in San Francisco, featuring only Freemark Abbey wines and wine jellies, probably the only outlet of its kind in a metropolitan area in the United States owned and run by a winery.

Freemark Abbey was purchased by the Ahern family in 1939 and at that time was a corporation of which the members were Albert M. Ahern (nicknamed Abbey), Charles Freeman, and Mark Foster, from whose names that of the winery was derived. Before purchasing the St. Helena winery the Ahern family had owned vineyards in Southern California, where they still have other agricultural interests.

Table wines are the specialty, marketed under the Freemark Abbey brand. These include: Pinot Noir, Zinfandel, Burgundy, and Claret in the reds, and Semillon, Traminer, Chablis, and Sauterne in the whites, as well as a Vin Rose.

Chateau Freemark is the brand name used in marketing a medium-dry bottle-fermented Champagne and Sparkling Burgundy. Aperitif and Dessert wines, including Pale Dry Sherry, Ruby Port, and Dry and Sweet Vermouth, also carry the Freemark Abbey label.

A special feature of Freemark Abbey is the production of jellies made from Freemark Abbey wines, which was started in 1951- Made in a factory directly behind the winery, these wine jellies come in the following varieties: Pinot Noir, Zinfandel, Burgundy, and Claret; Semillon, Traminer, Sauterne, Chablis, and Rhine Wine; Vin Rose; Sherry and Port.

Charles Krug Winery (C. Mondavi & Sons), St. Helena Cesare Mondavi and his sons, Robert and Peter, are the worthy successors to Charles Krug, one of the great figures in the development of the California wine industry.

Charles Krug was born in Trendelburg, Prussia, in 1825 and emigrated to America as a young man. He returned to his fatherland to take part in the democratic uprising of 1848 and, on the failure of that movement, returned to the United States for good. He came to California and devoted his energies to a study of viticulture with the aim of establishing his own vineyards and winery. During this period he worked for General Valleja and Colonel Haraszthy in Sonoma and became convinced of the desirability of planting European grape varieties. In 1858 he purchased some acreage of his own and made viticultural history by producing, from the grapes of John Patchett of Napa, some zaoo gallons of wine with a small cider press, the first wine obtained in Napa County by more modern methods. The press is preserved at the Krug Ranch today, a treasured memento of its founder.

Krug built his original winery at St. Helena in 1861. The fame of his wines soon spread throughout the country and beyond. By r88o the Krug Ranch was considered one of the most beautiful and productive in the Napa Valley and Krug himself was well established as a leader of the wine industry. Such men as Carl Wente and the Beringer brothers worked with him and obtained valuable experience at his winery. After the death of Charles Krug in i8gq., the ranch was purchased by his close friend and admirer, James K. Moffitt, who used the residence and gardens as a country home. The vineyards and winery were leased until Prohibition forced them into a dormant period.

When Repeal came the Mofhtt family was willing to sell the ranch, but only to some wine-making family capable of reviving the fame and prestige of the Krug wines. With a feeling of accomplishing this purpose the property was sold, in 1943, to Cesare Mondavi and his sons, the present owners.

Cesare Mondavi came to America from Ancona, Italy, and also personifies the story of successful enterprise. He first went to work in the ore mines of Minnesota. There he was chosen by a group of Italian home wine makers to select and buy grapes for them in California. He stayed on and engaged in the wine-grape-shipping business, expanding his operation later to include fruits. After Repeal he entered the wine-making field, first producing dessert wines at the Acampo Winery in Lodi. Later he began to produce dry table wines in St. Helena at the Sunny St. Helena winery. Anxious to concentrate on the production of high-quality wines the Mondavi family found in the Krug Ranch the worthy means to achieve their goal. His sons, Robert Mondavi, the general manager of the company, and Peter Mondavi, the production manager and wine maker, have been familiar with the wine industry since their earliest years and both are graduates of Stanford University, majoring in viticulture and enology. Cesare Mondavi, their father, remains president of the firm.

Since 1943 the Mondavis have renovated the whole Krug plant, modernizing the winery and cellars and re-equipping the buildings. Gradually the older vines on the ranch were replaced, always with the finest varieties. The name of Charles Krug was revived and maintained in order to restore it to its honored place in the California wine industry. Actually the names of Charles Krug and of C. Mondavi & Sons are interchangeable today.

The main accent of the Krug (Mondavi) production is on that of fine table wines. A few Aperitif and Dessert wines are also included. The finest-quality wines are marketed under the Charles Krug brand, while Napa Vista is used for the winery's mediumpriced vintage table wines and CK for table and dessert wines of commercially competitive grades. The Charles Krug table wines include:

RED: Cabernet Sauvignon, Gamay, Zinfandel, Burgundy, and Claret;

WHITE: Traminer (limited production and generally recognized as outstanding, Johannisberger Riesling, Grey Riesling, Riesling, Rhine Wine; White Pinot (Chenin Blanc), Chablis; Dry Semillon, Haut Sauterne, and Dry Sauterne;

ROSE: Vin Rose (from the Gamay grape)

The Aperitif and Dessert wines under the Charles Krug label include Sherry, Port, and Muscatel.

The Charles Krug Winery, from time to time, "uncorks and pours" an informative and chatty pamphlet entitled "Bottles and Bins."

Louis M. Martini, St. Helena The wines produced by Louis Martini rate among the very best of California. Born in Pietra Ligure on the Italian Riviera, Louis Martini came to San Francisco as a boy and first assisted his father, Agostino Martini, in his mussels, clams, and fish business. In i9o6, the year of the earthquake, the decision was made to enter the winemaking field. A small plant was built in San Francisco, some for-y by seventy-five feet, the modest forerunner of the modern Martin: winery in St. Helena today.

Louis Martini returned to Italy to study wine making at the University of Genoa and in Piedmont, and then returned to this country to practice the knowledge he had acquired. He worked for various wine makers, including the famous Secundo Guasti, founder of the Italian Vineyard Company at Guasti in the Cucamonga district. Later Louis Martini acquired a plant of his own at Fresno for the making of grape juice, and then built a winery and distillery at Kingsburg in the southern part of the San Joaquin Valley for the production of sweet wines and brandy. His ambition, however, had been steadily directed toward producing top-quality table wines. When he sold the Kingsburg plant for a good price, he settled in St. Helena to fulfill his ambition, armed with the necessary know-how, drive, and capital.

Martini's St. Helena winery was built in 1933 and he successively acquired three vineyard complexes. The Villa del Rey, or St. Helena vineyard, is situated on light, well-drained soil along the Mayacamas foothills near St. Helena and is planted mostly to Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley Gamay, Chenin blanc (for White Pinot) and Sauvignon blanc. The Napa, or La Loma, vineyard, part of the former Rancho Rincon de los Carneros, lies on the rolling, gravelly, southern end of the Mayacamas range, southwest of the town of Napa. It specializes in Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot noir, and Zinfandel.

Most famous of the three vineyards is, undoubtedly, the one formerly called Goldstein, planted in the early eighteen eighties, and by Martini renamed Monte Rosso after its red volcanic soil. It is situated at an altitude of over iooo feet on the crest of the Mayacamas Mountains in Sonoma. In this cool location most wine grape varieties attain their peak of perfection. The Monte Rosso varieties include Cabernet Sauvignon, Barbera, Zinfandel, and White Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Sylvaner, Pinot Chardonnay, Folle blanche, and Semilllon. The wines produced from these grapes are truly "mountain" wines and usually carry that designation on the label.

Louis Martini, a colorful, vital, and forceful figure, is president of the Louis M. Martini Corporation. He is ably assisted in the family enterprise by his son Louis P. Martini, the vice-president, and a graduate of the viticultural department of the University of California at Davis, Yolo County.

The Martini wines are marketed under the Louis Martini brand and include the following:

Table wines: RED: Cabernet Sauvignon (vintage, one of the great California clarets, and available in especially fine years as Cabernet Sauvignon Special Reserve), Mountain Pinot Noir (also bottled in magnums), Mountain Barbera (vintage), Napa Cabernet, Mountain Zinfandel (vintage). "Monte Rosso," named after the Sonoma vineyard, is a specialty, a red chianti type of top quality, put up in the traditional Italian fiaschi. Generic red wines produced are: Napa Burgundy, Mountain Claret, Mountain Chianti, and Mountain Red.

WHITE: Mountain Johannisberg Riesling (vintage), Napa White Pinot (vintage), Mountain Folle Blanche (vintage), Mountain Sylvaner (vintage), Mountain Dry Semillon (vintage) in the varietals, and Dry Sauterne, Napa Chablis, Mountain Rhine, and Mountain White in the generics.

ROSE: Napa Gamay Rose. A number of older-vintage varietal table wines are also available at times, but in very limited quantities. They have been set aside on account of their special distinction and carry the words "Private Selection" on the label. Such vintage specialities have included Cabernet Sauvignons, both from the Monte Rosso and Villa del Rey vineyards, Zinfandels from Monte Rosso and La Loma, Gewurztraminers from Monte Rosso, and from the same vineyard Pinot Chardonnay, Folle Blanche, and Sylvaner.

Aperitif and Dessert wines: Port, an older Tawny Port and a Muscatel. At one time a light Moscato was produced and it is entirely possible that such a Moscato Amabile will again be marketed.

An outstanding aperitif is the Pale Dry Sherry with the character of a Spanish Fino and the product of Louis Martini's own adaptation of the Solera system.

Each year a so-called "annual blend" is made on the basis of aroma and taste to duplicate, as closely as possible, the sherry of previous years and to supply continuity of character and quality. This annual blend, produced in a quantity sufficient to meet the current year's estimated requirement, is then in turn blended with an equal volume of the previous year's blend. About one half of the resulting master blend is set aside to be bottled during the year and the balance is retained as the base to which the following year's blend will be added.

Any annual blend is composed of some thirty-five different-aged sherries, each with its own particular character, ranging in age from six to twenty years. Together they compose the Solera system. As certain types used in the blend become depleted, they are replaced by others of the same general character. To ensure continuity, a system of sub-Soleras has been developed for the various types. Important among the latter are the flor sherries, which contribute their typical ftor character to the final product.

Stony Hill Vineyard, St. Helena

Some seven hundred feet above the floor of the Napa Valley, on the steep hillsides between Spring and Diamond mountains, lies the Stony Hill Vineyard, the name of which speaks for itself. They are planted mainly to three varieties, all white: Pinot Chardonnay, Pinot blanc, and White Riesling.

Frederick H. McCrea, vice-president of the internationally known advertising agency of McCann-Erickson, Inc., for long had the ambition to see what he could do about producing good wines in small quantities. He purchased the Stony Hill property in 1943 and built a small but very modern winery in 1951. Crushing of the grapes is done by hand power and the wine is fermented in fifty-gallon barrels.

Production is limited to a small output, some of it going to Souverain Cellars across the Napa Valley. Pinot Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc, and Johannisberger Riesling are bottled under the Stony Hill brand, carrying the vintage on the label as well as the Napa Valley appellation of origin.

Souverain Cellars, St. Helena On the slopes of Howell Mountain, overlooking the upper Napa Valley from the east, are to be found the ranch and vineyards of J. Leland (Lee) Stewart. It was in 1943 that Lee Stewart, always appreciative of fine wines, decided to enter the winegrowing and wine-making fields himself. Originally headed for Ukiah, he happened to detour by way of Napa and St. Helena and ended up by purchasing the old Peter Stark place above the Silverado Trail. Gradually he modernized the winery and replanted the vineyards. His aim is to combine the best traditions of the European winegrower with the most modern California methods. A feature of the winery is the handsomely carved entrance door, depicting a vintage scene, the work of Merrill Abbott of St. Helena.

What had first started out as a hobby soon became a steady business. The accent of production is on the choice table wine varieties, for which Cabernet Sauvignon, Grenache, and Zinfandel are grown on the Howell Mountain property. Lee Stewart feels that certain varieties like the Rieslings, Pinot blanc, and Gamay are of superior quality when grown on the opposite side of the valley. Three of his friends, who came to the Napa Valley about the same time and with the same desire to own vineyards of fine varietals, are, to quote Lee Stewart, "enthusiastically growing these varieties on such steep and rock-lain slopes as would scare less timid souls out of their wits." And so the A1 Menasco, Jerry Draper, and Fred McCrea Spring Mountain vineyards contribute to the Souverain Cellars vintages every fall.

The name Souverain Cellars owes its origin to the simple fact that it headed the list of suggestions submitted to Lee Stewart at the time he was looking for a suitable brand and name. It rang true and was adopted forthwith.

Souverain is the brand name for all the choicer wines, with Villa LeGlen the secondary label.

The following Souverain table wines are produced:

RED: Cabernet Sauvignon, Gamay, Mountain Zinfandel; Burgundy;

WHITE: Johannisberger Riesling (featured), Pinot Blanc, Sylvaner. Green Hungarian (one of the very few produced), Dry Sauterne;

ROSE: Grenache Rose.

Beaulieu Vineyard, Rutherford

A true California chateau with a name for its wines as great as it is justified.

It was just before the turn of the century that a young Frenchman, Georges de Latour, came to California, desirous of producing table wines comparable in quality and character to the finer ones of his native France. He had heard much about California's favorable climate and soil and he came to see for himself. He stemmed from a family well known in both the Bordeaux and Burgundy regions and was already familiar with many of the problems of viticulture and of the difficult art of wine making. He was, besides, gifted with an exceptionally fine taster's palate, an attribute of primary importance to all those engaged in the wine business, and especially in the producing end of it.

Georges de Latour traveled through California searching for the ideal location suited to his purpose and found what he sought in the Rutherford area in the Napa Valley. It was here, in iqoo, that he founded the Beaulieu estate and vineyards, as he named them so appropriately. Beaulieu, enlarged and modernized at various times, has remained in the family's hands ever since and is today one of the show places of the valley.

For some forty years Georges de Latour devoted his energies to the production of the finest wines the favored climate and soil of the Napa Valley were capable of yielding. He proved himself eminently successful in his endeavor and established a solid reputation for the Beaulieu wines throughout the United States and abroad.

During Prohibition the winery continued to operate, producing sacramental wines, to which a part of the Beaulieu industry is still actively devoted.

Beaulieu is one of the few wineries in California where the accent in wines and wine production is very distinctly inspired by the French taste; the whole atmosphere is that of "la belle France," completely at home in the Napa Valley.

After the death of Georges de Latour in 1940, Madame de Latour presided over Beaulieu in her husband's place. Known to so many for her grace and charm, she had become the "grande dame" of California viticulture. With her demise, in 1951, another great figure had passed on.

Today Beaulieu is owned by the daughter of its founders, Helene de Pins, who, together with her husband, the Marquis de Pins, continues the great tradition set by the De Latours. The Marquis de Pins is a landed proprietor in France; he has a thorough knowledge of fine vintages throughout the world and is known in this country and in France as an outstanding connoisseur and judge of wines. The De Pins divide their time between Beaulieu and San Francisco, where they are leaders of society, and periodically visit France, often touring the various French winegrowing districts. Their daughter Dagmar, a wine expert in her own right, is married to a prominent San Francisco real estate investor, Walter H. Sullivan, Jr., and Beaulieu's distinguished heritage will continue through them and their children.

The reputation of Beaulieu's wines has progressed with the times, their quality the result of a happy blending between the traditional subtleties of French taste and know-how in the modern California manner. To this philosophy fully subscribes French-trained Andre Tchelistcheff, who joined Beaulieu in 1938 and is the production manager in charge of the winery and vineyards. He skillfully adapts New World techniques of quality-wine production to his store of Old World wine-making experience.

There are four Beaulieu vineyards, two of them located at Rutherford and the other two at Oakville, each being planted with the grape varieties best suited to its particular soil and location.

The brand name under which all wines are marketed is Beaulieu Vineyard. As some have difficulty in pronouncing the name, the labels also carry the letters B V, and it is by this name that the wines are also widely known. All table wines are labeled with the Napa Valley appellation of origin.

The Beaulieu (B V) family of table wines includes the following: RED: Georges de Latour Private Reserve (a vintage Cabernet Sauvignon, produced exclusively from that grape only in the better years, and considered by many to be the premier claret of California), Beaumont (a vintage Pinot Noir produced exclusively from that grape and only in the favorable years), Cabernet Sauvignon (a vintage wine principally from that grape, but, as is the case with many of the better Red Bordeaux of France, with small proportions of Merlot and Petit Verdot added), Burgundy (from Pinot noir, Napa Valley Gamay, and Mondeuse de Savoie) ;

WHITE: Chateau Beaulieu (a vintage sweet Sauterne from latepicked Sauvignon blanc and Semillon grapes with a touch of Muscadelle du Bordelais added), Pinot Chardonnay (a vintage wine from that grape, the production of which is very limited), Beauclair (a vintage Johannisberger or White Riesling), Dry Sauternes and Sweet Sauternes (both from Semillon and Sauvignon blanc grapes), Chablis (from Pinot Chardonnay, Chenin blanc, and Melon de Bourgogne), Riesling (from Johannisberger or White Riesling and Sylvaner);

ROSE: Beaurose (from Cabernet Sauvignon mainly);

Sparkling wines (bottle-fermented) : The Beaulieu Champagnes (dry and medium dry in character) became available for the first time in 1955; a Sparkling Burgundy of high quality is also in production.

Aperitif and Dessert wines:

Although Beaulieu's renown has primarily been based on its table wines, some very good Aperitif and Dessert wines are also produced at the winery. These include: Pale Dry Sherry, Sherry XXX (medium sweet), Cream Sherry (sweet); Port XXX; Muscatel XXX and Muscat de Frontignan (from the vines of that name, cuttings of which were imported by Georges de Latour from France in the early part of the century).

The Beaulieu Vineyard Pure Altar Wines (available only to the clergy) include:

Table wines: Cabernet Sauvignon and Burgundy in the reds, and Chateau Beaulieu, Sweet Sauternes, Dry Sauternes, Riesling, Rhine, and Chablis in the whites;

Sweet wines: Muscat de Frontignan and Muscatel XXX, Tokay XXX and Angelica XXX.

Inglenook Vineyard Company, Rutherford The great, castlelike, vine-covered winery of Inglenook, home of its famed vintage table wines, lies in the heart of the Napa Valley at Rutherford, with Beaulieu its immediate neighbor.

Founder of Inglenook's viticultural renown was that colorful Finnish seafarer, fur trader, and winegrower, Captain Niebaum. Gustave Ferdinand Nybom (later Americanized to Niebaum) was born in 1842 in Helsinki, Finland, at that time under Russian domination. He went to sea as a boy and received his master's papers when only nineteen. Two years later he had his own command and in 1864 sailed for Alaska, then also part of the Russian Empire.

For three years he ranged Alaska, the Aleutian chain, and the Asiatic shore as far as Kamchatka, bartering for furs and acquainting himself thoroughly with the region. Negotiations by the United States for the purchase of Alaska had been started and Niebaum realized that America would have economic as well as political interests in the territory. He decided to make full use of his opportunities and amassed a vast collection of sealskins and other valuable furs. When the sale of Alaska to the United States was completed in March 1867, Niebaum lost no time in loading his precious furs aboard a ship bound for San Francisco. He was no more than twenty-six when he sailed through the Golden Gate, the owner of a cargo worth well over half a million dollars.

Captain Niebaum's knowledge of the seal country was invaluable to the Alaska Commercial Company, organized to obtain exclusive fur-sealing rights in the Alaskan waters and he became their youngest partner. The company proved so successful that it' paid the United States Government considerably more in rights than the total cost of the Alaskan purchase.

The captain was now ready for a less rigorous mode of life, and as Mrs. Niebaum did not share his love for the sea he turned his thoughts to the land and to an enterprise they both could enjoy.

On his various trips to Europe in the interests of the Alaskan company he had become increasingly interested in viticulture and wine making. He had visited many of the European winegrowing regions and collected a large number of books on the subjects. His hobby finally became his life's destiny. With enough time and money to accomplish his purpose he decided to attempt to produce in California wines comparable to Europe's finest.

After a thorough search for the most suitable location Captain Niebaum purchased, in 1879, a portion of the old Mexican Caymus Rancho grant, extending from Rutherford up the slopes of Mt. St. John, highest peak of the Mayacamas range. The property had already been called Inglenook (Scottish for fireside corner) by the former owner, W. C. Watson. The name appealed to Niebaum and he retained it.

Niebaum devoted the following years to planning, building, and planting. Further trips to the winegrowing regions of Europe were made, where he studied every aspect of viticulture. Cuttings of the choicest wine grape varieties were shipped home. At Inglenook he established the vineyards with the utmost care and always with due regard to the beauty of nature. The cellar and winery were built according to the most modern specifications. Inglenook had become Captain Niebaum's ship and the vineyards his sea.

By 1890 Inglenook had become a model winery and vineyard. So particular was the captain that he used to inspect the cellar wearing white gloves and woe the culprit if the least speck of dirt was observed. In wine production his motto was "quality and not quantity." Inglenook's vintages soon achieved the highest reputation.

When Captain Niebaum died, in ryo8, Inglenook was inherited by his widow. John Daniel, her niece's husband, ably directed operations for her until the advent of Prohibition. His knowledge, in turn, was passed on to his son, john Daniel, Jr., who has been in charge of the winery and vineyards since Repeal, first on behalf of Mrs. Niebaum and, after her death in 1936, on his own behalf and that of his sister, Mrs. Hawkins.

Inglenook was the first winery to label many of the better-known varietals as such, pioneered such wines as White Pinot (known at one time as White Zinfandel), Red Pinot, and Charbono and was one of the earliest producers of Vin Rose in the state.

John Daniel, Jr., is as justly proud of Inglenook today as his greatuncle, Captain Niebaum, was in his day. Production is concentrated on high-quality varietal vintage table wines; with a few exceptions each is the product of the single grape whose name it bears. The policy is to give the vintage designation greater value than simple age dating, the practice being to eliminate any wine of a given variety which does not live up to the Inglenook standard.

The following table wines are produced, all derived from the single grape unless otherwise noted. They are marketed under the Inglenook brand and carry the Napa Valley appellation and the vintage year on the label.

RED: Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Red Pinot (from the Pinot St. George grape and fuller-bodied than the Pinot Noir), Gamay (from the Napa Valley Gamay), Charbono (from the grape of that name and one of the very few produced);

WHITE: Pinot Chardonnay, White Pinot (from the Chenin blanc grape), Traminer, Riesling (from the Franken Riesling or Sylvaner grape), Semillon (principally from that grape), Navalle White Wine (a medium-dry blend to be vintaged again) ;

ROSE: Navalle Rose (predominantly from the Napa Valley Gamay and named, like the Navalle White Wine, after the creek which winds through the Inglenook vineyards).

Inglenook also markets a few Aperitif and Dessert wines, which are purchased, blended, and aged in its cellars and include a Dry Sherry and a Ruby Port.

The Inglenook Palomino Sherry, produced entirely from Palomino grapes grown in its own vineyards, has become a collector's item, as its production has been discontinued until such time as separate facilities for its renewed production have become established.

NAPA COUNTY-LOWER NAPA VALLEY

The Christian Brothers (Mont La Salle Vineyards), Napa The Mont La Salle Vineyards and Novitiate of The Christian Brothers are located high in the hills of the southwestern part of Napa County in the so-called Napa Redwoods district, some eight miles northwest of the town of Napa.

The "Brothers of the Christian Schools," as The Christian Brothers are officially called, form a congregation of the Roman Catholic Church, dedicated to the education of young men and boys. The order was founded in i68o at Reims, France, by Jean Baptiste de la Salle, for the purpose of educating the underprivileged. Its headquarters are in Rome. Although not priests, the brothers lead dedicated lives, having taken the vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience.

The Christian Brothers first came to the United States before the middle of the nineteenth century. At present they operate one hundred and ten institutes of learning in the country, such as Manhattan College in New York City, La Salle Military Academy on Long Island, New York, St. Mel's High School in Chicago, Christian Brothers College in St. Louis, St. Mary's College at Moraga near Oakland in California.

Mont La Salle at Napa is The Christian Brothers' Novitiate for California and the Western States. Here young men are trained for the work of the congregation, while a school is maintained for boys of high-school age and a home for brothers who have retired after a lifetime of service. Here also the brothers proudly follow their wine-making tradition, a heritage dating back many centuries.

In California The Christian Brothers started making wine in 1879, at first for sacramental use only and later, with the growing demand by lay circles, for the public. Profits are exclusively used for the maintenance of Mont La Salle and in furtherance of the congregation's educational work. No personal compensation is received by the brothers, whether engaged in teaching or in winemaking activities. Brother Alfred (George Brousseau) is the visitor or president of the institute. Brother John is general manager for the wine and brandy production and Brother Timothy is the wine maker.

Besides the Mont La Salle winery and distillery The Christian Brothers operate the famed Greystone Cellars at St. Helena, a landmark once known as the largest winery of the world and now principally used for the aging of The Christian Brothers' table wines, though some altar wines as well as aperitif and dessert wines are aged there and a small amount of red table wine is produced there every year. In addition a winery and distillery is maintained at Parlier, near Reedley, in Fresno County.

All commercially available table wines as well as the even better- known aperitif and dessert wines are marketed under The Christian Brothers brand.

Table wines (mostly produced at the Mont La Salle winery and aged in oak casks):

RED: Cabernet (mostly from Cabernet Sauvignon), Burgundy, Claret;

WHITE: Sauterne, Dry Sauterne, Haut Sauterne, Riesling (mainly from Sylvaner), Rhine, Chablis;

ROSE: Napa Rose (slightly sweet, containing, unlike many roses, a small amount of residual sugar).

Aperitif and Dessert wines: Cocktail Sherry (aged longer in fifty-gallon oak barrels), Dry Sherry, Golden Sherry, and Cream Sherry; Treasure Port (an older Tawny aged in fifty-gallon oak cooperage), Ruby Port, and Tawny Port; Muscatel and Tokay; Vermouth: "Starlight Dry" and "Aperitif Wine," sweet.

Altar wines: The Christian Brothers produce a full range of sacramental wines, available only to the clergy. These are bottled under the Mont La Salle label and include:

Dry wines: Cabernet and Burgundy, Haut Sauterne, Dry Sauterne, and Chablis;

Sweet wines: Sherry, Port, Muscatel, Tokay, and Angelica. Two specialty altar wines are St. Benedict (medium sweet with a slight sherry character) and La Salle Special (high-quality sweet wine similar to muscatel).

Mayacamas Vineyards, Napa High in the Mayacamas Mountains, on top of Mt. Veeder, an extinct volcano some twelve miles west of Napa in the Lokoya district, lies one of the smallest wineries devoted to fine wines, the Mayacamas Vineyards. According to local authorities, Mayacamas means "Howl of the Mountain Lion" and comes from the language of the Lokoya tribe of Indians, who formerly inhabited the Mayacamas region.

Mayacamas Vineyards is strictly a family affair, owned and operated by Jack F. M. and Mary Catherine Taylor. Jack Taylor, an Englishman and a graduate of the University of Cambridge, was for many years with the Shell Oil Company and contributed much to its development in California. He is still oil consultant for various Central and South American countries. Mary Taylor, who comes from an editorial family, has published two books on that charming form of song called rounds, and has recently written the story of the Mayacamas Vineyards. Among her other talents she is an extremely gifted cook, a true "Cordon Bleu."

The Taylors became winegrowers for the simple reason that they had always liked fine wines. They decided, in 1941, on the Mt. Veeder property because of its beautiful setting, its perfect grapegrowing location, and because there was an old winery and distillery, dating back to 1889, known for a number of years as Mount Veeder Vineyards. The distillery, completely remodeled, is now the hospitable Taylor home. The old vineyards were all ripped out, terraced at great expense, and replanted mostly to Pinot Chardonnay, yielding the wine in which the Taylors specialize, with justified pride.

The Taylors are ably assisted in their enterprise by their daughter Judith (Judy) and her husband Rodney Revett (Rev) Cant.

The following vintage table wines are produced either from home-grown grapes or from Napa Valley selected varieties and carry the Mayacamas brand with the Napa County appellation of origin on the label:

WHITE: Chardonnay (nearly exclusively from that grape with a slight addition of Pinot blanc to bring out the full flavor), White Pinot (from the Chenin blanc) ;

ROSE: Gamay Rose (from the Napa Valley Gamay).

Two table wines of Napa County origin are aged at the winery and marketed under the Lokoya brand: Lokoya White (of the rhine wine order) and Lokoya Red (a light claret type).

To round out their wine list, Mayacamas Vineyards selects a number of wines which they like in other wineries and market them under the Lokoya brand with the California designation:

Table wine: Zinfandel;

Sparkling wines (bottle-fermented) : Pinot Champagne (from Pinot varietals) and Sparkling Burgundy;

Aperitif and Dessert wines: Black Muscat, Dry and Sweet Vermouth.

SOLANO COUNTY

Cadenasso Wine Company, Fairfield Adjoining Napa County to the east lies the county of Solano and here, at Fairfield, in the Suisun district, is to be found the Cadenasso winery, producer of some of the finest grignolino and zinfandel in the state.

The Cadenasso wine enterprise was founded in i9o6, when Giovanni Cadenasso, who had emigrated from Italy shortly before, started his own vineyard and winery on the Rutherford ranch in Green Valley, north of Cordelia. In 1916 Cadenasso moved to Fairfield and planted vineyards on the site where the Solano County Hospital now stands. With Prohibition wine making came to an end and the winery was dismantled in accordance with the Eighteenth Amendment. Cadenasso sold his property to the county, but wine making remained in his blood. And so, undaunted, in 1926, he started a third vineyard, across the road from his former location in the belief that Prohibition would be repealed. He had judged rightly and soon after Repeal his vineyards were prospering once more.

Giovanni Cadenasso is still the president of the company, but his son Frank is now the wine maker and vineyard manager. Other members of the Cadenasso family are the senior Mrs. Cadenasso, Louisa, and the couple's other children, Leo Cadenasso and Mrs. Mae Balestra. Giuseppe Cadenasso, a brother of Giovanni, was the well-known painter who taught art at Mills College.

Table wines only are produced, from grapes grown on the home ranch as well as from others purchased in Solano and Napa counties. The featured brand is Cadenasso and the wines include the following:

RED: Grignolino (the house specialty), Zinfandel; Burgundy (from Petite Sirah and others), Claret (mostly from Carignane, blended with Zinfandel) ;

WHITE: French Colombard, Sauvignon Vert, Dry Muscat; Sauterne and Haut Sauterne, Chablis;

ROSE: Vin Rose (dry) and Chateau Rose (semi-sweet).

A number of Aperitif and Dessert wines are purchased, aged and bottled at the winery for local marketing.