You’d be hard pressed to find a wine lover in the world who is not familiar with the Napa Valley or who’s dreamed of enjoying a Napa Valley wine tour. Widely considered the United States’ premier wine region, it is also one of the most historic. While each year more wineries open their doors to wine cruises and the wine-loving public, there are also a number that have stood the test of time and are still running today.
A Brief History of Wine-Making in The Napa Valley
The history of winemaking in Napa Valley can be traced right back to the 18th century, when the first grapes were planted in California by the Spanish. It wouldn’t be until about one hundred years later that they were plated in the Napa Valley, and began to be cultivated in a way we’d recognize today. By the end of the 19th century, the wine industry in Napa Valley was flourishing with almost 150 wineries.
Unfortunately, the industry would soon be hit by a double-whammy that spelled the end for many wineries. In 1910, the dreaded phylloxera virus spread through the valley, killing off more than 90% of the vines. Then in the 1920s, the Prohibition era kicked in, nearly bringing an end to Napa Valley all together.
Luckily, a handful of wineries managed to survive these tumultuous events and come out on the other side. Others were nurtured back to their former glory by passionate winemakers who saw the region’s potential. They formed the foundation for the new and rejuvenated Napa Valley, which is today one of the world’s premier wine regions.
The 5 oldest wineries in the Napa Valley
With more than 300 wineries nowadays, there’s plenty to choose from – but these old and historic ones are still amongst the most loved.
It makes sense to start with the oldest Napa Valley winery, the ever-popular Charles Krug. The vines were first planted in 1861, and the winery became the first to open its tasting room to the general public way back in 1882. So, anyone enjoying some amazing cellar door tastings in the Napa Valley can thank Charles Krug.
Not content to rest on its historic past, Charles Krug continues to be an innovative and dynamic producer of quality wines. Their tasting experience is also one of the most iconic in the region and is a much-loved stop during Napa Valley wine tours. As well as the wine tasting experience, they also offer scrumptious wood-fired pizzas to accompany your favorite vino.
One of the few wineries in the Napa Valley that managed to trade all through the early 1900s, Beringer Vineyards is in fact California’s longest continually-operating vineyard. The history of this winery can be traced back to 1875, when the grapes were planted by by the Beringer brothers. The brothers emigrated from Germany, bringing with them their knowledge of wine-making.
Ever since, the winery has been producing top-quality wines and offering a unique and charming experience to visitors. While the Beringer brothers eventually sold the winery, one of their descendants is still at the helm, making wine the Beringer way. As well as the wine, another highlight is taking a tour through the vineyard’s hand-dug tunnels.
The scourge of phylloxera means that only a handful of Napa Valley wineries enjoy vines that are pre-1900. Inglenook winery is one of these, boasting a small section of old vines that are still used in their wine today. A single varietal from these vines, like the 2014 Rubicon, is particularly sought after.
The history of Inglenook dates back from 1879 when a Finnish immigrant purchased the land and planted the vines. It has since changed hands, most famously finding itself under the ownership of the actor Francis Ford Coppola in 1975. It’s been on the up ever since, and consistently produces some of the best wines in the Napa Valley.
While Charles Krug may be the oldest winery in the Napa Valley, Hendry actually boasts slightly older vines. They were planted in 1859, pipping Krug at the post by just two years. Although it was at the forefront of the burgeoning Napa Valley wine industry, the winery was out of action for nearly half a century between the 1880s and 1930s.
In 1939, the winery was given a new lease on life when it was purchased by married couple Margaret Munn and George W. Hendry. Their plans to revive the winery were almost scuttered when George sadly passed away just five years after it was purchased – however, Margaret’s resilience saw her steer the winery through this difficult time and back to its former glory. Since then, it’s gone from strength to strength, producing exceptional wine, including some unusual varietals.
The story of Schramsberg Wines is one that is common throughout the Napa Valley. Its beginnings are traced back to 1861, when a German immigrant decided to plant a selection of grapes. Things went well, and the winery grew, boasting over 30,000 vines and the region’s first hillside cave, which was used to store and age wine.
Unfortunately, Schramsberg Wines, too, fell into disrepair during the bad luck of the early 1900s. It was largely “down and out” when an optimistic pair saw its potential and purchased the estate in 1965. Their belief in the vineyard paid off, and they nurtured the winery back to its former glory.
In particular, Schramsberg is known for its exceptional sparkling – perfect for raising a toast to the historic region.
From July 14-25, 2020, Schramsberg and Davies Vineyards will be venturing to Northern Europe on a wine cruise. Starting in Sweden, the cruise will dock in Estonia, Finland, Russia, Poland, Denmark, and England. The one-of-a-kind experience will be filled with wine receptions, dinners, events, and seminars on board. Contact us to reserve your spot now before it’s sold out!