Wednesday, March 25, 2009

A Historical Brief on Napa Valley Wine

"Will there be wine?"
-Henry Chinaski

There wasn’t much discussion about wine circulating in San Francisco at the turn of the 20th century. That changed dramatically after the 1906 quake when thousands of residents fled the city and settled in the neighboring Salinas and Napa Valleys. It wasn’t until a bright eyed Italian, Calvo Bartozzi, left North Beach for firmer ground that he saw the potential of the alluvial fans that bled from Napa Valley’s north hills. Bartozzi, a fisherman by trade and by way of Ancona, Italy, took his limited knowledge of Tuscany’s rolling hills and imagined the same vineyards stretched across the Valley’s floor. He purchased 10 acres of land west of the Napa River and planted his first Sangiovese grapes (later to be renamed the California Zinfandel). His first harvest was a disaster; the fruit flourished and produced overripe, sugary and highly alcoholic wine. By 1909, Bartozzi had figured it out. He did not need his vines to flourish; he needed them to compete for resources making the exact fruit desired for the Sangiovese he wanted. By planting each row one meter from the next, the vines competed for the rich nutrients that the alluvial fan provided. Along with the cool fog that the bay brought in at night, the combination lead to Bartozzi’s first vintage in 1910. His experiments went on to be standard practice in the Valley leading it to become the greatest wine producing region in the world by 1978.

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