History of Napa
Napa Valley is widely considered one of the top American Viticultural Areas in California, and all of the United States, with a history dating back to the early nineteenth century. By the end of the nineteenth century there were more than one hundred and forty wineries in the area. Of those original wineries several still exist in the valley today including Charles Krug Winery, Shramsburg, Chateau Montelena and Beringer. Viticulture in Napa suffered a setback when prohibition was enacted across the country in 1920. Furthering the damage was an infestation of the phylloxera root louse that killed many of the vines through the valley. These two events caused many wineries to shut down and stalled the growth of the wine industry in Napa County for years. But for many Italian and Swiss families in the vineyards, Prohibition offered the unique opportunity for the growing and shipping of grapes to immigrant homewinemakers across the country. Charles Forni rose to be a large shipper. The Mondavi family came West to Lodi to ship grapes to Minnesota immigrant miners. When Prohibition stopped in 1931, the price of grapes crashed. Then A.P. Giannini, founder of Bank of America at San Francisco, started to promote to rebuild the commerce of wine and viticulture. Following the Second World War, the wine industry in Napa began to thrive again.
In 1965, Napa Valley icon Robert Mondavi broke away from his family's Charles Krug estate to found his own. This was the first new large-scale winery to be established in the valley since before prohibition. Following the establishment of the Mondavi estate, the number of wineries in the valley continued to grow, as did the region's reputation. Consumer trends followed the 60s free lifestyle for experimentation. The old "paesano" customers of "dego red" gallon jug wines changed to young women who considered white wine, not beer, as their new drink of choice for romance. Robert Mondavi Winery attracted new wine aficionados by introducing the larger, 1.5 wine bottle for an image of affordable quality.
In addition to large-scale wineries, Napa Valley's boutique wineries produce some of the world's best wines. The producers of these wines include but are not limited to: Araujo, Bryant Family, Chimney Rock Winery, Colgin Cellars, Dalla Valle Maya, Diamond Creek, Dominus Estate, Duckhorn Vineyards, Dunn Howell Mountain, Grace Family, Harlan Estate, Husic, Kistler, Jericho Canyon Vineyards, Marcassin, Rutherford Hill Winery, Screaming Eagle, Sequoia Grove, Shafer Hillside Select, Spencer-Roloson Winery, Steltzner Vineyards and Vineyard 29.
Today Napa Valley features more than three hundred wineries and grows many different grape varieties including Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Merlot, Zinfandel, and other popular varietals. Napa Valley is visited by as many as five million people each year.
Napa County has maintained a rural agricultural environment in a large portion of the valley floor while neighboring Sonoma, Solano and Yolo counties have allowed large tracts of former farmland to be rezoned for commercial and residential development. In 1968 vintners and civic leaders in the county seized an opportunity to preserve farmland by taking advantage of the Williamson Act enacted by the California Legislature to give landowners property tax relief for designating their land for agricultural purposes. This agricultural preserve on the floor of the valley in unincorporated areas between Napa and Calistoga was the first of its kind in the state. Initially, the preserve encompassed 23,000 acres (93.1 km2), since founding it has grown to more than 30,000 acres (121.4 km2). In 2010, legislation was passed by the California State Senate and State Assembly and sent to the Governor for signing in the form of Senate Bill 1142. This bill was created to provide relief stream of funding to augment the Williamson Act.
The county has resisted encroachment on the preserve since it was created with voters reaffirming their desire keep it intact on several occasions. In 1990 voters passed Measure J adopting an initiative freezing all county zoning changes until the year 2020 unless there is a ⅔ majority vote to adopt such changes. Measure J was reaffirmed by a 5-2 vote of the California Supreme Court in 1995 in the case of Devita v. County of Napa.
The Land Trust of Napa County was founded in 1976 by a group of local citizens with a mission to protect the natural diversity, scenic open space and agricultural vitality of the county. The trust acquires conservation easements, facilitates land transfers to local, state and federal agencies along with accepting outright donations of land within and outside the boundary of the agricultural preserve. The trust now covers over 50,000 acres (202.3 km2). While establishment of the agricultural preserve and the land trust has slowed residential development in much of the county, residential growth within the incorporated cities has continued at a moderate pace. Several substantial homes have been built on the hills surrounding the valley in areas not covered by the preserve or the land trust. A large portion of the land south of the City of Napa remained undeveloped for many decades until the 1980s. Several wine bottling facilities and wine storage warehouses now stand on what was once vacant land. A number of light industries have also sprung up in this region as new business parks have been built. The growth of American Canyon, Napa County's southernmost and newest city; incorporated in 1992 has prompted the establishment of several new retail outlets in the southern end of the county in recent years. American Canyon has also established a green belt preserve of over 1,000 acres (4.0 km2) on the western and eastern sides of the city.