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The Effect of Napa Carneros’ History on Modern Wine Production

During the 1840s, Nicholas Higuera and Jacob P. Leese were the primary beneficiaries of General Mariano Vallejo’s land grants in Carneros. These two men received thousands of acres and subdivided many of them for resale.

Leese is noted for planting the first vineyards in Carneros on his 18,000 acre Rancho Huichica. In 1848, Higuera sold part of his land to Nathan Coombs. Coombs proceeded to survey and establish the town of Napa.

William H. Winter bought much of Leese’s land in the late 1850s. He continued to plant vineyards and established Winter Winery in the early 1870s. The local wine industry flourished for a generation with San Francisco as their major market. Unfortunately, Phylloxera Louse began to devastate Carneros’ vineyards in the 1880s and 1890s.

In 1881, James Simonton bought Winter Winery and renamed it Talcoa Vineyards. He became the first vintner in the area to experiment with Phylloxera-resistant rootstocks. Unfortunately, by the turn of the century a large amount of damage had already been done. As if this was not bad enough, even harder times loomed on the horizon.

Prohibition appeared to be the last nail in the coffin for the Carneros Wine Industry. Without the dedication of a handful of visionary individuals, it may have been the end.

In 1935, John Garetto built the first Post-Prohibition winery in the region. Andre Tchelistcheff and Louis M. Martini also began to take an interest in the region’s unique climate during the 1930s. In 1942, Martini bought over 200 acres and began experimenting with cool-weather varietals. He was decades ahead of his time.

In 1983, the Carneros AVA was established. That same year, the Ceja Family bought their first 15 acres in the region. Acacia Winery and McKenzie Mueller were also founded during the 1980s.

> Napa Carneros Wineries

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