History - Page 2

How did early settlers find their way to Carneros? Many were initially drawn to the fertile lands and moderate climate of Sonoma. An influx of American, German, French and Irish settlers began in the 1840s. Arriving by boat or overland by wagon trail via the Santa Fe Trail, the Oregon route, or across the Nevada desert, many ventured from the town of Sonoma to Carneros in search of farmland.

Others traveled by horse, wagon or foot through Carneros on the well-traveled Sonoma Highway (known today as Routes 12/121) which connected the Napa and Sonoma Valleys. Many miners also passed through during the gold rush on their way to the Trinity Alps or the Sierra foothills. Throughout the 1850s and 1860s a stage coach traversed Carneros daily on its way from Sacramento to Petaluma.

As the population diversified, discontent with the Mexican government grew. In 1846, a group of American frontiersmen overthrew Vallejo's forces in the famous Bear Flag Revolt. For a brief one month period California existed as a republic until being annexed by the United States.

history3The relative proximity of San Francisco and ease of transport by water also played a role in the historic development of Carneros. As early as 1850, while hay was still free for the cutting, workers traveled by barge to Carneros where they cut and loaded hay and grain for transport to San Francisco.

Farmers flocked to Carneros to raise sheep and cattle as well as cultivate wine grapes, pears, plums, apples, and apricots. Such was the bounty of the region that wharves along the Napa River and Sonoma Creek as well as railway stations (Schellville and Buchli stations) were built in the late 1800s to accommodate the flow of fruit, milk, grain, cattle and hay to the markets of San Francisco.

Grapes played a prominent role in Carneros agriculture and noted wine historian William Heintz of Sonoma contends that Carneros may in fact be the second oldest vineyard area in northern California. In the late 1830s Jacov Leese planted a small vineyard on the Huichica grant. In the mid-1850s William H. Winter of Indiana purchased 1,200 acres of the Huichica Rancho from Leese and by the early 1870s, had not only one of the largest vineyard holdings in the area, but had also built the first winery in Carneros, Winter Winery.

The Winter Winery was sold in 1881 to James Simonton who changed the name to Talcoa Vineyards. Simonton became the first to experiment scientifically, under the direction of Missouri viticulturist George Husmann, to find Phylloxera-resistant rootstock.


Carneros Wine Alliance
The Carneros Wine Alliance is a non-profit association of wineries and grape-growers in the Carneros American Viticultural Area (AVA).  Carneros is the only appellation located at the crossroads of two major wine regions, the Napa and Sonoma Valleys.  Influenced by the maritime breezes and fog from its southern border with the San Pablo Bay, Carneros produces the region’s finest Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and sparkling wines. The Carneros Wine Alliance is committed to promoting the distinction, diversity and above all, quality, of the grapes and wines from Carneros.