Napa, the world famous wine growing region, is one of the most beautiful places on the face of the earth. The entire valley spans aproximately 30 miles and through several towns, each one unique. The Valley is host to thousands of visitors each year, coming to experience not only the wineries, but the beauty and richness of the land. Locals and vistors alike can find quiet rest and relaxation – or a myriad of activity – all in a near perfect climate. Napa, indeed has it all.
In 1850 California became a state and it was around that time that the wine industry got its roots. Falling in love with the climate and soil, a Hungarian aristocrat named Agoston Haraszthy started the first winery in Sonoma: Buena Vista ("Beautiful View"). He then inspired a German apprentice by the name of Charles Krug, who established Napa's first winery in 1861. Between the 10-year span of 1850 and 1860, Napa County's population grew from 400 to just under 5,000. Jack London made his home in the nearby town of Glen Ellen and Robert Louis Stevenson fell in love with Napa, calling the wine "bottled poetry."
The town of Angwin is named for Edwin Angwin (1841–1919), a native of St. Agnes, Cornwall. He purchased a parcel of 200 acres in 1875 on a part of Howell Mountain called Rancho La Jota. Howell Mountain - now an American Viticultural Area (AVA) - is a mountain range that took its name from the Isaac Howell family who moved to the mountain range in 1846. Back in the day, Mr. Angwin established the Angwin Resort and by the 1900s he owned almost 1,600 acres of land in the area. Nowadays, its vineyards produce grapes grown in land that is rich in Aiken soils. In addition to the unique vineyards of Angwin, it can be a wonderful area to explore, with hiking areas and magnificent views of the Valley.
The Wappo tribe - an indigenous people of the region - were the first to discover natural volcanic hot springs near the base of Mount St. Helena more than 500 years ago. The first American settlers began to arrive in the area in the 1840’s and would soon also experience the “healing powers” of the springs. Samuel Brannan came to the north Napa Valley in 1859 and decided to build a hot springs resort similar to Saratoga Springs, New York, which attracted wealthy visitors from all over the world. He purchased more than 2,000 acres and sold off plots of land to finance his dream – Calistoga, Hot Springs of the West. Many San Francisco-area travelers journeyed to Calistoga during the summer months to relax and enjoy the natural volcanic hot springs. This then prompted Brannan and a group of businessmen to build a railroad that streamlined travel to the area. Visitors now come to Calistoga from around the world to enjoy the wineries and restaurants, to relax in natural hot springs and volcanic mud baths, and to enjoy outdoor activities amidst the beautiful Mayacamas Mountains.
The city of Napa - the now world-famous wine growing region - was founded by Nathan Coombs in 1847. In the mid 1850s, Napa’s Main Street came alive, rivaling many of the larger cities, with as many as 100 saddle horses tied to the fences on an average afternoon. Hotels, saloons, and gambling emporiums were numerous. The Lyceum movement established a facility and reading room and an agricultural society was started. The current newspaper, The Napa Valley Register, began publication in the 1850s. Many cattle ranches were started, and the lumber industry and sawmills flourished with much of the timber shipped out on the river. In the 1860s, mining was prevalent, with quicksilver mines operating in many areas of Napa County. In 1869 the Sawyer Tanning Company was created and went on to become the largest tannery west of the Mississippi River. The Napa State Asylum (for many years, one of the main things Napa was known for) opened for patient care in 1876. In 1880, the Opera House made its debut. Napa was incorporated in 1872 and reincorporated again in 1874 as the City of Napa. Now Napa is host to visitors from around the world, coming to experience an amazing place filled with beauty and culture.
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The Oakville/Rutherford part of the Napa Valley exists in a small area between Yountville and St. Helena. Oakville began in the 1860s as a water stop on the steam train line between ferry boats that docked in Vallejo and the resort town of Calistoga. The little village gained its name from the dense groves of dark green valley oaks of the area. In 1868, H. W. Crabb turned Oakville into a rich wine-growing region. Cabernet lovers will find some of the best wineries in Napa Valley here, from tiny boutiques to some of the largest names in the industry. Crabb called his vineyard “To Kalon” (Greek for "the beautiful"). Today, grapes are produced here for Mondavi Winery, as well as PlumpJack and other producers. Pay a visit to the well-known Oakville Grocery, Kalon Vineyards and the beautiful landscape. The population is small - under 100.
In 1938, Rutherford was founded on the nearly 12,000-acre Mexican land grant, Rancho Caymus, which was deeded to early settler George C. Yount from General Mariano Vallejo. The name came from Yount’s granddaughter, Elizabeth, after she married Thomas Rutherford in 1864. He had given her a small portion of the land and thus the name came into being. The areas is famous for its Cabernet wines and the well-known “Rutherford Dust”; wines with uniquely infused flavors. Also a small population, at last count the number was under 200.
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The St. Helena area was home to the Wappo people, a Yukian-speaking group who were the area’s earliest inhabitants. Early settlers arrived in the 1850s and opened a town store and then soon after, more stores and then a hotel. There is a lovely Main Street which is reminiscent of earlier days. Here you can find the Cameo Cinema, said to be one of the oldest continuously running single-screen theaters in America. The city is in the heart of the Napa Valley American Viticultural Area (AVA), which includes well over 400 vineyards, encompassing nearly 7000 acres. Many famous wineries call St. Helena home including Charles Krug Winery and Beringer Vineyards. The railroad came to town in 1868, providing an important shipping nexus for fruit, grain, and mining products. There are two theories about how the town was named. One says it was after the local branch of the Sons of Temperance; another gives credit to Mount St. Helena, a prominent landmark to the north. On March 24, 1876, St. Helena was incorporated as a town and by 1886 the population was 1,800. People from many lands and walks of life continued to relocate here, all adding to the town’s complex and diverse history.
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During the early part of the 1800’s, Yountville was owned by Mexico until George C. Yount, in 1836, received an 11,887-acre land grant from the Mexican government. He was the first permanent Euro-American settler and the first person to plant grapes in the Napa Valley. Yount originally named his land, Caymus Rancho, after a tribe of Native Americans in the area. In the early 1850s Yount laid out a six- block area and created a small village that he called Yountville. By 1868, railroad service had begun and attracted an immigrant by the name of Gotteib Groezinger. In1870, he purchased twenty acres of land and by 1874, built a winery, barrel room and distillery. The buildings remained a winery until 1955, but for eleven years lay dormant until they were brought to their present state. For many years, it was known as Vintage 1870 which was then transformed into V-Marketplace; a collection of specialty shops and restaurants. Yountville is considered by many food critics to be home to some of the finest restaurants in the world. It became a California municipality on February 4, 1965, and hosts thousands of visitors every year.