Great, American wine is synonymous with Napa Valley. But, how did Napa Valley become the first place we think about as we sit and sip our glass of Cab or Chardonnay?

The California grape & the 1700s

Napa Valley is home to over 550 wineries, but it wasn’t always this way. Wild grapes have always been abundant in the Napa area, but it was the missionaries who gave these grapes a purpose—planting vineyards for religious use in the 1700s. When European settlers arrived around 1839 in the region, the first “official” commercial vineyards and wineries popped up.


Napa valley after prohibition

Prohibition was just one of the many challenges the region faced as it grew. But, once it lifted, existing wineries reopened, and many others came on the scene. In 1944, the Napa Valley Vintners Association formed. Most wineries in the area today belong to this group, which gives back to the community throughout the year.

An explosion of winemakers

Influential winemakers Andre Tchelistcheff and Robert Mondavi are really who put Napa on the global map. The owner of Beaulieu Vineyard, Georges de Latour, hired Tchelistcheff as chief winemaker. Using techniques he learned in France, he revolutionized the winemaking process throughout the region. Mondavi, the other wine king, had a vision for Napa to one-day become the top wine-producing region in the world. His grand ideas really transformed it to the high-caliber wine production we expect today.

Napa at the Paris Judgement

These groundbreaking changes were put to the test in 1976 against the rest of the world. It was at the Paris Judgement when the best Bordeaux and Burgundy from France opposed Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay from California in a blind tasting. The judges unanimously gave top distinction to a 1972 vintage Cabernet Sauvignon from Stag’s Leap, and a 1973 Chardonnay from Chateau Montelena, both from Napa Valley.

Napa exploded on the world scene after Paris. And now, it is the quaint home to the over 550 wineries we know today, and some of the world’s most celebrated, sought-after wine.

So raise your glass to the top wine region in America, and one who competes with the likes of Italy, Spain, and France.

What are your favorite wines and regions in the US? Let me know in the comments and don’t forget to subscribe for more exciting food and wine updates.