Thursday, March 08, 2012

Napa Vintners Revitalize an Old Ghost Winery Jackse Winery (1905-1951)

Southern facing side of the original Jackse Winery, located near the corner of Adams Street and Lbrary Lane, St. Helena, Ca. Construction started in 1905 and expanded over the next eight years until the building complex was finalized in 1913. It’s all in the timing because the Prohibition Era shut down all alcohol production from 1920 to 1933. During this period, stories circulated that the owner, Stephen Jackse, an immigrant from Austria, operated a bootleg operation from this site.

I photographed the modernized building complex in February 2012.


> Today the building is modernized into a large office complex housing all the staff of the large Napa Valley Vintners Association of almost 400 wineries. According to the literature I received from Aram Charkian, Office
Manager for the Napa Valley Vintners, the building was subsequently used as a foundry then basket-making operation and most recently as a storage shed.

The north facing side of the winery complex back in the early 1910s

The exterior lumber of the original winery was used for the new office interior walls.

                                  The restored old ceiling

Meet Office Coordinator, Michele Reynolds who assisted me to look around the facilities.

Aram told me that he is assisting in the fund raising efforts to restore the Jackse home located at the southern end of the winery building.

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Winegrowing Industry of Nevada County

History of and Guide to the
Winegrowing Industry of Nevada County

A booklet by John M. Olney

After 18 months of careful research on the internet, at Nevada County libraries and parks/museums, contact with the great wine industry libraries at UC Davis and Bancroft Library at Berkeley, local governmental agencies and hours of tasting interview visits with the owners and winemakers of most of the 23 bonded winery operations claiming a Nevada County address, our founder, John M. Olney, is about to publish what just might be the most thorough review of the Winegrowing Industry of Nevada county.

Mr. Olney first develops the arrival of wine grapes in California and how the gold rush period sped up the introduction of wine production to Nevada County. For the remainder of the booklet, Mr. Olney shifts from historian to tour guide providing the reader with the experiences he encountered in locating the mostly remote countryside vineyards and wineries, meeting directly with owners and winemakers and tasting their products with them. Mr. Olney commented, “What a unique experience compared to most of the more well known wine country regions surrounding the Bay Area.”

You will want to own and keep this special edition historical resource and tour guide to the "Winegrowing Industry of Nevada County." The first release will be a limited edition production run. It contains over 100 pages of color photography of the owners, winemakers, vineyards, wineries and tasting rooms of the facilities and grounds open to the general public. Plus it includes historical information about its beginning and growth of the industry since the gold rush days.

When interviewing Alan Haley, founder of the first modern era winery in Nevada County (1980), Mr. Olney found quite interesting the sidebar comment made by Alan as they closed out their visit: ”You know John, you have the distinction of having tasted more Nevada County wines than any other Bay Area wine writer I know.”

To read the full and detailed review of the booklet click here

To review the Table of Contents, click here

Monday, January 02, 2012

Barrel tasting and dining in the Borreo Building

The Borreo Building Third and Soscol

The comment on the Napa Register internet site about turning the 1887 Borreo Building on the corner of Third and Soscol into a winery is very interesting. Back in 1888, Borreo built the “Bay View Vineyards and Winery” (BVVW) on the south side of Soda Canyon Road (Shown left) where he grew crops and maintained farm animals which became the products he apparently sold out of the downtown Borreo Building. The Bay View winery building is located near the old site of the Napa Soda Springs ruins which was a very popular resort location for the wealthy of San Francisco in those early days.
The BVVW property (aerial view left) is now owned by the Ron and Diane Miller, owners of Silverado Vineyards located in the Stag’s Leap District just north of Napa. Diane is the daughter of Walt Disney and Ron is a former head of Disney Studios  
Turning the building into a resurrected“Bay View Winery” would be a very interesting concept. There are probably too many environmental impacts to actually build a fully operating winery, such as waste disposal; but perhaps it could be turned into a barrel storage and aging facility with restaurant, tasting room and event center. When wine tasting, there is nothing better than walking around a barrel room with all the fragrance of developing wine and tasting the wine from the barrel.

The parking situation might be mitigated if a stilted parking deck and outdoor tasting/dining lounge along the west and northern ends of the building could be authorized (building show above right) , On the waterfront and city lights at night !-- food for thought?

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

My opinion:COPIA future in Napa Reg, Dec. 28,2011

Napa Regisyter Home / News / Opinion / Letters to the Editor / Letters to the Editor
Copia should be mixed-use development with high-end shops
Posted: Wednesday, December 28, 2011 12:00 am | 

On Jan. 2, 2009, I wrote my opinion, “A magnificent emporium from Copia’s ashes,” about the Copia facility and its surroundings and it was published in the Napa Valley Register. Since that time, I have been giving considerable thought to what this area could, and should, become.

First of all, this whole area was once known as “Little Italy.” There was no tourism along First and Third streets, between Soscol Avenue and Silverado Trail. Just about where Copia meets the Oxbow in the Napa River, old man Bacigalupi dumped his collected neighborhood garbage into the river to be carried away. The area was about as “local” as it could be. Those days are gone forever, never to be seen again.

The area has been turned into an exclusive visitor and tourism-oriented world with very expensive hotels (River Terrace and Westin), Napa Valley Wine Train excursions terminus and the Oxbow Public Market as major anchors. And, more exclusive visitor- and tourism-oriented businesses are salivating over the possibilities in the near future to be part of this “Park Place and (Boardwalk)” area of downtown Napa.

With the announcement of the Rogal + Associates partnership with owners of Copia to reopen the defunct building and grounds complex, there will be a horde of entrepreneurial business folks anxious to discuss the possibilities of their involvement in its rebirth. Unfortunately, there will be those who will strongly advocate that the complex should be turned into something community-oriented and, as such, would be a nonprofit activity. This should not be considered for such a primary tax revenue–oriented area for two reasons: The latter exclusive use of the facility would probably displease Copia’s neighbors, who pay healthy property tax, etc. and they would want a change in those taxes since a nonprofit would probably lower property tax values throughout the area; and the costs to remodel the facility, and subsequent annual operating and maintenance costs on such a large complex, would be too great for anything but a highly subsidized nonprofit to raise and keep in annual and long-term endowments from private wealthy interests and government agencies.

Remember that Copia was initially a highly endowed nonprofit business that could not sustain its endowments, nor raise sufficient revenues to keep its doors open.

Copia should become a mixed-use building and grounds complex. As I envision the building complex, the entire first floor would contain for-profit, high-end clothing, jewelry, art and other similar shops. It would have small cafes, wine-tasting bars, etc. All of these features would be designed around high-end products and goods.

The entire front garden area would be replaced by a spectacular glass-enclosed building containing additional high-end shops.

The second floor would become home to a five-star nightclub or restaurant seating 300 or so on the eastern third of the building overlooking Napa River and the downtown lights at night. The remaining two-thirds of the upper floor would contain the American Wine Industry Hall of Fame, Museum and Foundation. Within it could reside the California Vintners Hall of Fame, if they were so inclined to move the location from St. Helena.

Based on its accomplishments to date, Rogal + Associates has obviously displayed the forward thinking and business acumen to carry off such a project as I envision.

John Olney / Napa

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Table of Contents

Copyright information i

Acknowledgements ii

Table of Contents v



SECTION II "Quick Reference" to the Tasting Room Facilities 3

Getting Around the Wineries of Nevada County 3
Nevada City Tasting Rooms 3
Grass Valley Tasting Rooms 4

Other In or Near Town locations 5
Lake of the Pines 5
Truckee 5

Wineries Having No Public Tasting Room Facilities 6

Other Wineries not yet visited 6

How good are the Wines? 6

The Wine Competition Circuit 6

The Prestigious Winemakers 6

    JED STEELE - Indian Springs Vineyards 6
    JACQUES MERCIER - Solune Winegrowers 6
    MARK FOSTER - Nevada City Winery 7
    TONY NORSKEG - Nevada County Wine Guild 7

SECTION III History Overview - Arrival of the Wine Grape in Nevada County 8

Land Possession Before the Gold Rush 8
Land Possession Following the Gold Rush 9

Introduction of Winegrowing 9

The Beginning Wine Industry in Nevada County 11

Pre-Prohibition Years: 1840’s-1930’s 11

A Little Historical Commonality Between Napa, San Francisco & Nevada Counties 15

My Speculations About the Early Winegrowing Industry 16

Background On The Modern Nevada County Wine Industry 16
Wine Producers 18
Grape Growers 17

Marketing and Advocacy Organizations 18

Media Exposure 18

SECTION IV Local Perspectives - The Future of the Nevada County Winegrowing Industry 20

Sierra Vintners - Interview with President Alex Szabo 20
   Recent expansion 20
   Re-branding 20
   Quality of wines produced 20
   Master Plan and Budget 20
   Near future expansion 20

Sierra Wine and Grape Growers Association - Interview with President Tom Besemer. 21

Nevada County Agriculture Commissioner 21
Some Views from Other Winery Owners - Responses to questions asked by John Olney 22

“What do you see happening for this area in the near as well as in the distant future.” 22
Rob Chrisman - Avanguardia 22
Mark L. Henry Montoliva 22
Lynn Wilson - Pilot Peak 22
Jacques Mercier- Solune 22

How do you plan to increase consumer visitation and thus retail sales, or do you even wish to increase these? 23
Rob Chrisman - Avanguardia 23
Mark L. Henry Montoliva 23
Lynn Wilson - Pilot Peak 23
Jacques Mercier- Solune 24

SECTION V Nevada City - Downtown Wineries & Stand-Alone, Second Tasting Rooms 25

The Town of Nevada City 25
Wineries Located Downtown 26
Wineries with a Stand-Alone Tasting Room 31

SECTION VI Grass Valley Area - 
Downtown Wineries and Stand-Alone, Second Tasting Rooms 34
The Town of Grass Valley 34
The Holbrooke Hotel 34
The Famous Ladies 35

“Collective” Tasting Rooms 36 151 UNION SQUARE - Event Center and Retail Wine Tasting Room- 36Coufos Cellars 38 Double Oak Vineyards and Winery 38
Montoliva Vineyard and Winery 38
Naggiar Vineyards 38

Bent Metal Winery 39
Pilot Peak Vineyards and Winery 39
Solune Winegrowers 39

Hwy 49 Near - Lake of the Pines 39 BEAR RIVER WINE TASTING 40

Bear River Wine Tasting Facility 41
The Narrow-gauge Train - Began in 1876 - Colfax- Grass Valley 49
The Transcontinental Railroad - Completed 1869 - Cape Hood 50
Chicago Park 50
Empire Gold Mine 56

The Community of Penn Valley 65
 The Town of Rough and Ready 72

Bridgeport Wooden Covered Bridge 80
French Corral - Site of 1st Long Distance Telephone Call 81

Hydraulic Mining Scars 85
Washington Township - The Gold Discovery in 2011 Was a Hoax! 86
Almost Lost in the Sierra's 87
The Town of Truckee 89

SECTION XII The Growers 92
Sierra Grape Growers Association 92
The Current Association 93
Largest Vineyard in the County - S and L Vineyards 93
Other growers Not a Member of Either the Grower or Vintner Associations 93
An interesting Unattended Vineyard 94
Sierra Wine and Grape Growers Association Annual Picnic 95


History of and Guide (continued)

History of and Guide to the
Winegrowing Industry of Nevada County
By John M. Olney


Mr. Olney incorporates interesting notes and tales of the people and places since wine grape vineyards were first planted in the Gold Rush days in the 1850’s, right up to the Fall season of the year 2011. You will meet the richest of families as they amassed great fortunes in gold mining, water supply and distribution systems, introduction of mechanization with associated energy resources and many more tools that helped transform America from an agrarian society into a mechanized one.

Then after the flash of surface (or “placer”) mining was quickly over he reviews the rebirth of the gold industry as corporations began subsurface operations (also known as “hardrock”) mining. Some of the names you may already be familiar with such as the William Bourn Family of the peninsula who eventually controlled the Empire Gold Mine of Grass Valley (the richest producer in the state), vineyards and the largest stone winery located in Napa’s wine country, the entire water supply to San Francisco County and many more businesses. The notorious Sam Brannan, the exiled Mormon leader, who proclaimed the discovery of gold and continued advertisement of it that led to the mass migration of mostly men and a few women from the states east of the Mississippi River to California thereby upsetting and shifting the power basis in Congress. Brannan built merchandise stores before his proclamation so he could sell mining equipment and food stocks at greatly inflated prices while amassing large land holdings and possibly becoming the first millionaire of California. He was also involved in the wine business in Napa Valley among his many and substantial business endeavors. And, there are more exciting characters of those old days gone by with roots simultaneously in Nevada, Napa and San Francisco Counties.

Mr. Olney traces the major events associated to the very first production of wine in the state of California pointing out the important players and their contribution to the California Winegrowing Industry, indeed for all of America, leading up to the commencement of grape growing and wine production in Nevada County. Then came the disasters! Wine grapevine disease such as Phylloxera, surface gold depletion, and the failed social experiment of the Prohibition era calling for the halt of alcohol production and consumption. All these major factors led to serious declines in the Nevada County population as well as the economy but the subsurface mining continued. This failed economy wiped out the fledging winegrowing agriculture from about the late 1890s through 1940’s.

But A few bright farmers recognized that the fertile soils and moderate climate of the lower Nevada County lands were well suited to fruit and wine grape growing. Slowly wine growing was being re-introduced through a cottage industry type approach in the 1950s through 1970s.

Then a very bright guy was born and raised in Nevada City who went off to law school to find his path in life. Enter one Alan Haley. He acquired a taste for fine wines during his collegiate years at Harvard. He commenced his legal career in Honolulu, Hawaii and noticed that fine wines were not readily available; only ordinary wines, That meant he needed to form an import & distribution system so he could once again enjoy fine wines at home and supply his favorite restaurants with these products too. Bacchus Imports was born. Then he noticed there were no refrigerated facilities available to properly store all the imported wines of not only his business but that of other broker distributors. He leaped into action and built the first refrigerated wine warehouse in Hawaii. But yet another discovery would come to his attention that he found totally unacceptable. Hawaii was taxing imported wines but not locally produced wines. Talented, young and ambitious he feared no one! He attacked the Hawaii laws that taxed imported wine but not domestic wines. He found a very large adversary in Hawaii but like David he eventually slue Goliath taking his unfair taxation case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. Along the monotonous court procedures and legal interpretations road he found new friends to support him in his quest for equal playing ground rules such as the giant Gallo Brothers operation of the Central California Valley. They prevailed and taxes that had been withheld over all the long years of court battle were returned to non-resident alcoholic beverage distributors on a percentage basis. By the time of the Supreme Court decision, the amount in escrow that Hawaii could not spend exceeded $100,000,000. That’s correct, over $100 million!. Alan was a hero in the wine business and a key precedent was set because of his tenacious attack of the unfair tax law which is still cited in legal hassles today.

But as would be expected, Alan’s days of successful law practice in Hawaii were numbered. It was time to go home. Hawaii did not need such a rabble rouser! Once back in Nevada City in the late 1970’s Alan discovered that wine was being produced on a very small scale. He made some inquires and eventually got a chance to taste locally made wine from locally grown grapes. During these sessions he realized that Nevada County could support commercial grape growing and wine production. All the essential ingredients were there - soil, climate and interest among locals. He asked what was needed to launch such an industry and the responses were all the same - a locally based grape crushing and production facility. That was all that Alan needed to hear. He responded,
“Maybe I can do something about that!”

With that local wine tasting experience, the first modern era winery in Nevada County was born. When completed about two years later, Alan and partners blessed the rebirth of the winegrowing industry in the county by appropriately naming their facility “Nevada City Winery,” 100 hundred years after the first one to be so named which was also located in the downtown area. Then Mr. Olney provides you with descriptions of how the wine grape growing and wine production facilities have experienced rapid growth since the early 2000s going from just over a handful before that timeframe to the current number of 23 bonded wineries.

For the remainder of the booklet, Mr. Olney shifts from historian to tour guide providing the reader with the experiences he encountered in locating the mostly remote countryside vineyards and wineries, meeting directly with owners and winemakers and tasting their products with them. Mr. Olney commented, “What a unique experience compared to most of the more well known wine country regions surrounding the Bay Area.”

He often describes the wines he tasted in terms of how they pleased his palate as opposed to trying to fit them into some sort of subjective point system as if the wine was in a beauty contest. You will also frequently read the reactions of his friend who often accompanied him on his winery visits and who lives in the Grass Valley community of “You Bet,”

The wineries are typically separated by an average of 30 minute drives between them and/or the major towns of Grass Valley and Nevada City. Because of the travel time and perceived loss of wine sales, the majority of wineries have opened a second individual or collective tasting room away from the original winery building in and/or near the major cities of Grass Valley and Nevada City. Mr. Olney provides the reader with plenty of photographic visual aids to assist the reader in knowing how to find these downtown tasting rooms and what readers can expect once there. Additionally, he provides the reader with a hefty amount of color photography designed to give the reader sufficient visual record of what he or she will encounter as they elect to make the associated vineyards and wineries destination and tasting sites for future visits to the area. The interviews with the owners and/or winemakers will provide you with interesting reading as he and his friend get them to open up and tell us how and why they selected Nevada County to become their winegrowing home.

When interviewing Alan Haley, founder of the first modern era winery in Nevada County (1980) Mr. Olney found quite interesting the sidebar comment made by Alan as they closed out their visit. ”You know John, you have the distinction of having tasted more Nevada County wines than any other Bay Area wine writer I know

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Robert Craig 19th Anniversary & 6th Annual Holiday Party Dec. 3, 2011

Last Thursday, December 1, 2011, I stopped at Cuvee Napa Restaurant (  )on way home from a business meeting with my associates and had the pleasure of meeting Rachel Miller, Director of Wine Club and Retail Sales at Robert Craig Winery
( ) who was just sitting down to have her dinner. (Pictured here)

She had a long day at the winery tasting room preparing for the Saturday, December 3, 2011, celebration of their 19th anniversary of operations. We discussed their wines in general and the location of the vineyards and winery all of which certainly perked my interest to know more about the vineyards and winery. She invited me to attend the celebration and I quickly accepted. It was held for wine club members and other invited guests.                                           

When I returned home I immediately went to their web site and learned that the event was also their 6th Annual Holiday Party to be held at their downtown Napa tasting salon (625 Imperial Way at the intersection with Jordon Lane), just a long block off Soscol Avenue and very close to Cuvee Napa. From the web site I learned that their winery facility is located high up Howell Mountain on Summit Lake Drive close to the town of Angwin.  

The event started at 2 pm and by 3 pm it was filled elbow to elbow with well wishers and wine
tasters a bunch.

They were offering tastes of new releases -- the 2010 Durell Chardonnay, 2008 Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon and 2009 Zinfandel-Howell Mountain --, in addition to their current releases and some library wines all of which was presented with great appetizers and a four piece group playing soft jazz-like music in the background.  The first wine tasted was the new release 2010 Durell Chardonnay, (Sonoma Valley) lightly oaked and no Malolactic Fermentation which was very much to my liking. This is the style of Chardonnay I find most enjoyable as the fruit is still recognizable.

All the rest of the wines I tasted were reds. They included from their current releases the 2008 Affinity Cab (Magnum), 2008 Howell Mountain Cab (Magnum), 2008 Mt, Veeder Cab (Magnum) and new release 2009 Zinfandel from Howell Mountain. From the Library wines I tasted 2006 Affinity Cab, 2006 Howell Mountain Cab and the 2006 Mt. Veeder Cab. To my palate I was wowed by the 2006 Mt. Veeder Cab. My next favorite wines where the Chardonnay, 2008 Mt. Veeder Cab (Magnum) and the 2009 Zinfandel from Howell Mountain. However, all of the wines tasted were very good.

From their web site I learned that the winemaker is Stephen Tebb. Tebb’s holds a B.S. Degree from University of California, Davis. Stephen started his winemaking career with atesa Vineyards & Winery  located in the Carneros District within Napa County. He then moved to Clos LaChance of the Central Coast where he guided all winemaking and the estate vineyard programs. Stephen returned to Napa Valley in the Fall of 2008 to become winemaker at Robert Craig Winery

If you would like to learn more about his philosophy, you can read an interview with him conducted by “Behind the Burner” at
Quoted from web site:
“Behind the Burner is an emerging culinary media brand that creates expert-based content about food, wine, mixology and nutrition. We package the best tips, tricks and techniques from our network of over 500 master chefs, mixologists, restaurateurs and other culinary visionaries and serve them to our viewers in the form of videos, articles and blogs. Our videos are syndicated on TV to NBC New York Nonstop as well as 49 online media properties.”

Founder/Owner Robert Craig (pictured above talking with the guests) comes from a distinguished career in the wine industry. While he was serving as General Manager for the Hess Collection Winery on Mt. Veeder during the 1980’s, he developed 300 acres of vineyard land. While there he was a major player in developing the Mt. Veeder Appellation application and review process and then he provided consulting services on the development of the Spring Mountain Appellation. He started his own winery in 1992 with three others. His first wine, a Cabernet Sauvignon, was released in 1995. Seven years later in 2002, they completed their state-of- the-art winery on the summit of Howell Mountain. Tours of the winery site are arranged by appointment only and I am certainly anxious to visit the site.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Wine Tourism Conference - Tourism and Costs - Part 2

By John Olney, Nov 29, 2011

Mr. Gregory, President & CEO of Napa Valley Destination Council (, e-mailed me (11/28/2011 4:00:27 P.M.) his comments regarding my blog posting of Nov. 27, 2011, ( ).

Mr. Gregory thoughtfully provided me a copy of the Tourism fact sheet for Napa County which I have included below. He also suggested I might want information about TID’s which can be reviewed at:

I thank him for this information and I pass it on.

Although Mr. Gregory says that the promotional campaign is “strategically” targeting off-season, off-peak days to improve tourism numbers, it is nevertheless a promotional campaign, and as such it increases the general awareness by the reader/viewer audience of the subject location of that campaign, no matter the day of the week or season of the year. I understand the use of special and reduced rates, etc. as incentives to pull in visitors at select times of the year, but those visitors who become enchanted with that destination will likely return and that could be during the regular season as well as off-season.

The community should not lose awareness that a successful promotional campaign not only gives rise to increased visitor numbers but it also excites the businessperson who sees opportunity to sell his/her goods to that visitor total. More hotels, more restaurants, more shops, etc., soon follow.   That translates to impacts on the infrastructure for which maintenance and expansion must be considered.  That is not to say this is bad but rather it should be fully understood what impact tourism - indeed, increased tourism - is likely to bring and plan for it in advance.

I reiterate my comment about not being against tourism. But, it does not come for free.! There are associated costs to a community attempting to attract it.
Fact Sheet

Tourism is Everybody’s Business in Napa County
Tourism in Napa County generates over $1.3 Billion in economic impact annually

The visitor serving industry is the second largest sector of Napa County’s economy.

Every 24 hours, guests of The Napa Valley spend approximately $4 million in local businesses. The

Tourism dollar has a tremendous reach - Tourism spending affects 196 different industries in Napa County.

Tax revenue generated by tourism spending is $125 million annually.

Tourism-generated tax revenue directly supports Napa County and its jurisdictions to provide police, firefighting and numerous social services.

If tax revenue generated by the visitor serving industry was to disappear, the annual tax bill of each resident of Napa County would increase by over $1,000.

The visitor serving industry employs 17,500 people in Napa County.

Over $500 million in Payroll is generated by visitor serving businesses in Napa County.

The potential returns generated by effectively managing and marketing tourism in Napa County are enormous. If the NVDC’s targeted marketing activities were to stimulate the spending by just 1.5%, $20 million in additional direct visitor spending would be the result.

A study conducted by California Travel & Tourism Commission indicates that every $1 invested in targeted destination tourism marketing results in $203 in visitor expenditures and $13 in tax revenue.