In Napa Valley Change is the Constant

Family and friends around the Staglin dinner table. Bottom: A bottle of Stagliano Sangiovese, named after Garen Staglin’s father, Pasquale Stagliano

In a world filled with ancient and historic wine regions, Napa Valley, the heartland of premium California winemaking, may be considered something of a Johnny-come-lately. The first mention of vines in Napa appeared only in the 1700s, and referred to wild vines. European vines appeared only in the 1800s with the immigrants who brought them along when they came to prospect for gold in California’s Gold Rush. Vitis vinifera soon found a natural home in Napa and, through the efforts of pioneers like Charles Krug, George Latour, Andre Tchlischcheff and others, modern Napa established and grew, interrupted only by the phylloxera scourge and Prohibition before hitting its stride again.

Geographically, Napa Valley is blessed with multiple positive aspects, but it only really made it to the headlines with the historic Judgement of Paris in 1976, when the hitherto unknown wines of the region beat the top names in French winemaking. This gave the necessary impetus to the region’s winemakers to up their ante and harness Napa’s bounty — diverse, ancient soils (from sedimentary to volcanic, with everything in between, allowing almost any grape to grow); ideal topography (the valley is nestled in the protection of two mountain ranges) and a dry Mediterranean climate, ideal for premium viticulture.

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