by Fred McMillin
Winery of the Week
A Honey of A Company
"I am 32 years old. I have no money. I have no knowledge of the wine business. But I do have a lot of ambition. I do have a lot of nerve, and I work very hard. Would you let me move into your idle Napa Wine Company plant with no money and get it going?" (from J. Lapsley's Bottled Poetry)
The Rest of the Story
The speaker was Lou Stralla, who, with his wife, had just arrived in Calistoga as Prohibition ended in 1933. He sensed that the Napa Valley was about to awake from its 13-year slumber.
The listener was Charles Moffitt, San Francisco paper company magnate, who liked what he heard.
Twelve vintages later, Lou owned the Napa Wine Company which was the largest independent winery in the Napa Valley. It purchased something like one-fifth of all grapes grown in the valley. One of Lou's first innovations was the "Betsy Ross" brand, the handy half-size bottles selling for 15¢.
Stralla sold and ultimately the Wine Company became primarily a custom winemaking facility for small Napa grape growers. It handles something like FIFTY brands...and they do a first-class job...when I last checked, three of those wines had made the Wine Spectator's TOP TEN of the year! I saw names like Pahlmeyer and Staglin (see Sept. 21, 1999 WineDay).
The Company's roots go back to 1877, when Frenchman Jean Brun founded the original winery, called Nouveau Medoc. Coincidently, the first wines were made from two of the varietals Randy is using today, Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Sauvignon!
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