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Napa Valley is a beautiful diverse area that offers so many delights for tourists from all over the world. It is one of the most famous regions of California and filled with plenty of exciting things to do. Amongst this scenic and picturesque area there are many hotspots and activities. The wine country is known for its range of great vineyards that have grown in the excellent volcanic soil deposited over millennia. There are also geysers and hot mineral springs where the weary visitor can relax and soak in hot mineral baths or have mud treatment baths after a day of visiting the various wineries.

These days it has hundreds of unique wineries that produce some of the best wine celebrated around the world. If you visit this area today, then you will try a whole host of top quality wines from Napa Valley. There is also a large amount of modern hotels in wine country, and the entire area is very cosmopolitan and contemporary. But, it was not always like this. This area of California has a long and rich history, which shows how Napa came from humble beginnings to become one of the main areas in the country.

the history of napa valley

The story starts in the 1800s where Napa Valley saw its first-ever vineyards. Before this time, most of the wine in the US came from New York or Virginia. But, in 1838, a man George C Yount planted the first vines in what we now call Napa Valley. He was the first person to seriously start growing vines in North California. His name is known across the land by wine lovers young and old. George C Yount soon realized the potential for the area, and he went on to plant more and more vineyards. The locals also saw what he was doing, and a lot more people got involved.

Many people see Yount as one of the founding fathers of wine in Napa Valley. There is even a town called Yountville named after him, with a host of famous wineries and Michelin star restaurants!

While Yount created vinery trend here, it was not until 1861 that the first commercial winery was started in Napa Valley. The man to open it was named Charles Krug, and he is the guy that everyone looks to as the commercial start point of wine in North California. He started his career as a winemaker for a local wine magazine, but he saved up to buy his own land to plant vines and make wine to sell across the land.

Beringer Vineyards

His success inspired other people to open their own wineries, including Hamilton Crabb in 1868. He purchased over 240 acres of land from George C Yount’s family, and this became the famous To-Kalon vineyard. Crabb and Krug both enjoyed a lot of success, but Krug would also had another role to play. He employed two brothers; Jacob and Fredrick Beringer, who started their own winery called the Beringer in 1875. Many more wineries were started, and by 1890 there were nearly 11 million cases of wine made in Napa Valley! It proved to be a landmark moment, and things began to spiral out of control as the industry grew in the 1900s.

By the end of the 19th Century, Napa Valley had gone from having about 3,000 acres of vineyards to more than 20,000! Now what many people do not know is most of this growth was between 1890 and 1900.

1904 saw the opening of one of the most famous wineries in Napa – Beaulieu Vineyard. It is still open to this day, and it makes lots of Cabernet Sauvignon wines with top flavour profiles. People come from far and wide just to enjoy the taste of this vintage wine.

The 20th Century rolled on, but problems started to occur. Over 200,000 acres of vineyards were now in place, but the demand for wine started to fall. The Great Depression saw sales drop, and then the Prohibition Act in 1919 made it even harder for wineries to make a living. At this stage, there were over 2,500 licensed wineries in the whole of America. When prohibition ended in 1933, less than 100 were left! Many wineries in Napa Valley closed down, and the land was left.

Things started to perk up again, but it was not until 1965 that things finally started looking up. At this point in time, we are now aware of the true pioneer of wine in Napa Valley – Robert Mondavi. This man is seen as a VIP in the evolution of Napa Wine in the 20th Century. His family owned the Charles Krug winery, but he left to form his own winery with two friends in 1965.

Charles is a pioneer due to the fact he started selling wines that were made of a few type of grapes. This started a new era, as more and more people realized that this was the way go. Now, you will find many wineries in Napa Valley focus on using just a handful of grapes to create unique wines.

The impact of Robert Mondavi is clear for all to see. In 1970, there were only around 17 wineries in Napa Valley. There used to be more, but prohibition and the Great Depression – not to mention two World Wars – took its toll. In this decade, we saw the rise of Mondavi and how he improved the wine industry. It grew and grew, and there are now over 450 wineries in Napa! Not only that, but there are over 550 places for small-time winemakers to buy grapes and make their own wines. 7 of these places even have custom crush facilities, making it easier for wine lovers to start their own winery.

top destinations around Napa Valley!

wine from Napa Valley is world class!