Napa Valley - History
Napa Valley History
Wine grapes were introduced to California in the 1760s by Father Junípero Serra, who planted the so-called 'Mission' variety (a descendant of Sardinian vines brought to North America by the Conquistadors) at the San Diego Mission. European vines were first introduced by Hungarian count Ágoston Haraszthy, who established a commercial vineyard in Sonoma Valley in 1857 and is credited with founding California's modern wine industry. By the late 1860s there were already 50 vintners in the Sonoma and Napa valleys. Later in the century things started to go badly for wine growers, a double assault from cheap imports and the arrival of the deadly root louse phylloxera, fresh from devastating the vineyards of Europe.
The wine business was still stumbling from these attacks when Prohibition was enacted in 1919, forcing the closure of all but a handful of vineyards dedicated to the production of sacramental wines.
Prohibition ended in 1933, but it was not until the 1960s that wine production regained its momentum. The wine produced in the Napa and Sonoma valleys received a crucial vote of confidence at the famous 1976 blind-tasting competition in France.
In recent years the region's wineries have helped fuel an industry that contributes $33 billion each year to the California economy. It's continued to produce wine that, at its best, is good enough to earn the region the title of America's premium wine-producing area, and among the world's most famous. The wine industry has attracted investment from some of Europe's most famous names, although currently corporate mergers and acquisitions threaten to push out the small, family-owned winery on which the famous Napa name was built.