Well, it wasn't that long ago.
Almost a century has passed since Prohibition knocked out a thriving wine industry. Going back to the mid-1960s the wine industry still had not recovered. There was Beaulieu, Christian Brothers, Heitz, Inglenook, Charles Krug, Louis Martini, Mayacamas, and Stony Hill. Some of these were the old guard from the 19th century. A couple were post-war start-ups like Heitz and Stony Hill. There were maybe a dozen wineries you could visit. Now there are over 200 (out of the 450 total wineries in Napa). Very few people outside of the local population knew anything about California wine.
|Inglenook Winery, in 1881 and today|
So then what happened? Well, Mondavi Winery is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year--that's what happened. Robert Mondavi came in with a vision that wasn't just about the farming and production of wines, but about attracting visitors. He built a big, fancy building and spent lots of time and money talking up Napa wines. Within ten years Napa Valley was off-and-running. By the 1980s Napa Valley -- and Sonoma -- were "boom towns" with wineries springing up everywhere.
Many will point to the Judgement of Paris in 1976 as the key. This helped, but it was the tireless promoting of Robert Mondavi that really put Napa Valley on the map.
|Napa as a sleepy little town|
Not a wine bar to be found anywhere!