Mar 052012
 
Charles Krug

Photo Credit: Charles Krug Winery

Traipse around St. Helena in the heart of Napa Valley today, and you will hardly feel sorry for anyone living there. The vineyard and mountain views are incredible, the streets are quaint, the restaurants are top notch, greenery is everywhere, and some of the world’s finest wines are made within stone-throwing distance.

But it wasn’t always praise and rainbows. The late 1800s were unkind to Napa Valley. The Mission grape being used in the wines was proving to be unpopular in the all-important East coast market, the country was going through a recession, French wines were popular and coming in via low tariffs, while the railroad fees for getting California wines back east were high. Add to that the phylloxera disaster, and things were looking very dark.

But our forebears were a tough lot. Gathering in December of 1875, Charles Krug, Henry Pellet and Seneca Ewer decided to pull up their bootstraps and do something about their impending fate.  With subsequent meetings, membership grew and the St. Helena Viticultural Club was established.  A Vintners Hall for offices and meetings, as well as a warehouse, were built between 1878 and 1880.

Important quality-changing pledges were made such as planting international varietals and stopping the practice of chaptalization (big move).

While the viticultural club has changed its name since, Appellation St. Helena continues to be a force in promoting the St. Helena appellation and its wines.  This truly is a reminder that, despite our industry’s youth, we have come a long way, baby.