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Napa-Solano - Notable Wineries By District And Region

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(Note: Information Originally Published In 1955 - Presented For Historical Perspective!)

NAPA COUNTY-LOWER NAPA VALLEY

The Christian Brothers (Mont La Salle Vineyards), Napa The Mont La Salle Vineyards and Novitiate of The Christian Brothers are located high in the hills of the southwestern part of Napa County in the so-called Napa Redwoods district, some eight miles northwest of the town of Napa.

The "Brothers of the Christian Schools," as The Christian Brothers are officially called, form a congregation of the Roman Catholic Church, dedicated to the education of young men and boys. The order was founded in i68o at Reims, France, by Jean Baptiste de la Salle, for the purpose of educating the underprivileged. Its headquarters are in Rome. Although not priests, the brothers lead dedicated lives, having taken the vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience.

The Christian Brothers first came to the United States before the middle of the nineteenth century. At present they operate one hundred and ten institutes of learning in the country, such as Manhattan College in New York City, La Salle Military Academy on Long Island, New York, St. Mel's High School in Chicago, Christian Brothers College in St. Louis, St. Mary's College at Moraga near Oakland in California.

Mont La Salle at Napa is The Christian Brothers' Novitiate for California and the Western States. Here young men are trained for the work of the congregation, while a school is maintained for boys of high-school age and a home for brothers who have retired after a lifetime of service. Here also the brothers proudly follow their wine-making tradition, a heritage dating back many centuries.

In California The Christian Brothers started making wine in 1879, at first for sacramental use only and later, with the growing demand by lay circles, for the public. Profits are exclusively used for the maintenance of Mont La Salle and in furtherance of the congregation's educational work. No personal compensation is received by the brothers, whether engaged in teaching or in winemaking activities. Brother Alfred (George Brousseau) is the visitor or president of the institute. Brother John is general manager for the wine and brandy production and Brother Timothy is the wine maker.

Besides the Mont La Salle winery and distillery The Christian Brothers operate the famed Greystone Cellars at St. Helena, a landmark once known as the largest winery of the world and now principally used for the aging of The Christian Brothers' table wines, though some altar wines as well as aperitif and dessert wines are aged there and a small amount of red table wine is produced there every year. In addition a winery and distillery is maintained at Parlier, near Reedley, in Fresno County.

All commercially available table wines as well as the even better- known aperitif and dessert wines are marketed under The Christian Brothers brand.

Table wines (mostly produced at the Mont La Salle winery and aged in oak casks):

RED: Cabernet (mostly from Cabernet Sauvignon), Burgundy, Claret;

WHITE: Sauterne, Dry Sauterne, Haut Sauterne, Riesling (mainly from Sylvaner), Rhine, Chablis;

ROSE: Napa Rose (slightly sweet, containing, unlike many roses, a small amount of residual sugar).

Aperitif and Dessert wines: Cocktail Sherry (aged longer in fifty-gallon oak barrels), Dry Sherry, Golden Sherry, and Cream Sherry; Treasure Port (an older Tawny aged in fifty-gallon oak cooperage), Ruby Port, and Tawny Port; Muscatel and Tokay; Vermouth: "Starlight Dry" and "Aperitif Wine," sweet.

Altar wines: The Christian Brothers produce a full range of sacramental wines, available only to the clergy. These are bottled under the Mont La Salle label and include:

Dry wines: Cabernet and Burgundy, Haut Sauterne, Dry Sauterne, and Chablis;

Sweet wines: Sherry, Port, Muscatel, Tokay, and Angelica. Two specialty altar wines are St. Benedict (medium sweet with a slight sherry character) and La Salle Special (high-quality sweet wine similar to muscatel).

Mayacamas Vineyards, Napa High in the Mayacamas Mountains, on top of Mt. Veeder, an extinct volcano some twelve miles west of Napa in the Lokoya district, lies one of the smallest wineries devoted to fine wines, the Mayacamas Vineyards. According to local authorities, Mayacamas means "Howl of the Mountain Lion" and comes from the language of the Lokoya tribe of Indians, who formerly inhabited the Mayacamas region.

Mayacamas Vineyards is strictly a family affair, owned and operated by Jack F. M. and Mary Catherine Taylor. Jack Taylor, an Englishman and a graduate of the University of Cambridge, was for many years with the Shell Oil Company and contributed much to its development in California. He is still oil consultant for various Central and South American countries. Mary Taylor, who comes from an editorial family, has published two books on that charming form of song called rounds, and has recently written the story of the Mayacamas Vineyards. Among her other talents she is an extremely gifted cook, a true "Cordon Bleu."

The Taylors became winegrowers for the simple reason that they had always liked fine wines. They decided, in 1941, on the Mt. Veeder property because of its beautiful setting, its perfect grapegrowing location, and because there was an old winery and distillery, dating back to 1889, known for a number of years as Mount Veeder Vineyards. The distillery, completely remodeled, is now the hospitable Taylor home. The old vineyards were all ripped out, terraced at great expense, and replanted mostly to Pinot Chardonnay, yielding the wine in which the Taylors specialize, with justified pride.

The Taylors are ably assisted in their enterprise by their daughter Judith (Judy) and her husband Rodney Revett (Rev) Cant.

The following vintage table wines are produced either from home-grown grapes or from Napa Valley selected varieties and carry the Mayacamas brand with the Napa County appellation of origin on the label:

WHITE: Chardonnay (nearly exclusively from that grape with a slight addition of Pinot blanc to bring out the full flavor), White Pinot (from the Chenin blanc) ;

ROSE: Gamay Rose (from the Napa Valley Gamay).

Two table wines of Napa County origin are aged at the winery and marketed under the Lokoya brand: Lokoya White (of the rhine wine order) and Lokoya Red (a light claret type).

To round out their wine list, Mayacamas Vineyards selects a number of wines which they like in other wineries and market them under the Lokoya brand with the California designation:

Table wine: Zinfandel;

Sparkling wines (bottle-fermented) : Pinot Champagne (from Pinot varietals) and Sparkling Burgundy;

Aperitif and Dessert wines: Black Muscat, Dry and Sweet Vermouth.

SOLANO COUNTY

Cadenasso Wine Company, Fairfield Adjoining Napa County to the east lies the county of Solano and here, at Fairfield, in the Suisun district, is to be found the Cadenasso winery, producer of some of the finest grignolino and zinfandel in the state.

The Cadenasso wine enterprise was founded in i9o6, when Giovanni Cadenasso, who had emigrated from Italy shortly before, started his own vineyard and winery on the Rutherford ranch in Green Valley, north of Cordelia. In 1916 Cadenasso moved to Fairfield and planted vineyards on the site where the Solano County Hospital now stands. With Prohibition wine making came to an end and the winery was dismantled in accordance with the Eighteenth Amendment. Cadenasso sold his property to the county, but wine making remained in his blood. And so, undaunted, in 1926, he started a third vineyard, across the road from his former location in the belief that Prohibition would be repealed. He had judged rightly and soon after Repeal his vineyards were prospering once more.

Giovanni Cadenasso is still the president of the company, but his son Frank is now the wine maker and vineyard manager. Other members of the Cadenasso family are the senior Mrs. Cadenasso, Louisa, and the couple's other children, Leo Cadenasso and Mrs. Mae Balestra. Giuseppe Cadenasso, a brother of Giovanni, was the well-known painter who taught art at Mills College.

Table wines only are produced, from grapes grown on the home ranch as well as from others purchased in Solano and Napa counties. The featured brand is Cadenasso and the wines include the following:

RED: Grignolino (the house specialty), Zinfandel; Burgundy (from Petite Sirah and others), Claret (mostly from Carignane, blended with Zinfandel) ;

WHITE: French Colombard, Sauvignon Vert, Dry Muscat; Sauterne and Haut Sauterne, Chablis;

ROSE: Vin Rose (dry) and Chateau Rose (semi-sweet).

A number of Aperitif and Dessert wines are purchased, aged and bottled at the winery for local marketing.