On Wine


7 New Napa Valley Pioneers

by Touring & Tasting


Named "Napa" by the area's native Wappo Indians for its abundant natural resources, this fertile valley boasts a long list of dedicated pioneers. The first was George Calvert Yount who, nearly 190 years ago, established the region's first homestead and planted its very first grapevines.

The Napa Valley pioneers of today are leaders—not only in industry, but in the environment, and community initiatives as well. We congratulate these seven and ask, "Why do you love the Napa Valley?"


1. Kit Crawford, Clif Family Wine

As Co-CEO of Clif Bar & Company, Kit works as an advocate for Slow Food and the local community. Her love affair with the Napa Valley began when she and her husband Gary purchased a home and farm here. She is a parent of a St. Helena High School student, participates in many fundraising activities for the local community, and relishes her work on the family farm, along with hikes and bike rides.

KC: "Go beyond the natural beauty and great wines of Napa Valley and you will find a community that cares deeply about sustaining its agricultural and natural resources. Napa Valley fosters our own commitment to local organic food sources, as well as the environment and our passions for food and adventure."

2. Philippe Melka, Cliff Lede Vineyards, Melka Wines, etc.

Philippe is recognized as one of the wine industry's leading winemakers and was recently named by Robert Parker as one of the world's top nine wine consultants. He currently consults for more than a dozen wineries in the region.

PM: "I love the Napa Valley because it is culturally diverse, very safe for children, extremely community-minded, gastronomically incredible, and of course it has a fantastic soil for winemaking."

3. Eileen Crane, Domaine Carneros

The founding winemaker and president of Domaine Carneros has spent more than 30 years in the industry. Eileen supervised the building of the Gloria Ferrer Champagne Caves and Winery, and more recently, the landmark Domaine Carneros château, vineyards, and its two winemaking facilities. Eileen is actively involved in many wine and civic organizations, including the Carneros Quality Alliance, and currently serves on the Board of Napa Valley Hospice.

EC: "One of the things I love about the Napa Valley is its people and their willingness to share with each other. We're farming based and farmers need to help each other out. We share equipment, we share ideas. We're all in this together. I also love the beauty of the valley and the amenities of downtown Napa. And the seasons here! It's paradise on earth."

4. Marko Karakasevic, Charbay Winery & Distillery

Marko graduated from St. Helena High School and grew up working in various Napa Valley vineyards and wineries. He worked as an apprentice under his father Miles, and now represents the thirteenth generation of winemaking and distilling Karakasevics. Marko conceived the idea of Charbay's whole-fruit flavored vodka program, which is considered to be a modern American artisan distillery movement.

MK: "I love Napa Valley because it's friendly and upbeat. Here at the distillery or in the restaurants, I meet people from around the world. I've been here all my life—Rutherford Nursery School through high school, plus 20 years in the family business. Now my son will be born here this summer. The Napa Valley is home."

5. Donald Hess, The Hess Collection

Born in Bern, Switzerland, renowned vintner Donald first purchased vineyards on Mount Veeder in 1978. In 1989, just two years after his first vintage was released, Donald initiated public access to his art collection housed at his winery in the Napa Valley—open to everyone and free of charge.

DH: "There is a passion and enthusiasm you feel instantly when you spend time here, and it is inspiring. Mount Veeder was recognizable to me as a place where world-class grapes could be grown, and I have not been disappointed. I'm pleased to be able to combine my passion for art and wine here, and share both."

6. Delia Viader, Viader

Delia brought the Bordeaux style of vineyard cultivation to the Napa Valley by planting her vines in rows going up and down the side of the steep slopes of Howell Mountain for optimal sun exposure in 1986. Her winery is now a leading first growth winery in the Napa Valley, known for consistently producing high quality, limited production red wines.

DV: "What I love about the Napa Valley is that it is the place where the extraordinary can become everyday drinking."

7. Robert deLeuze, ZD Wines

Robert has been running a sustainable, 100 percent organic winery for more than 10 years. His farming practices include water recycling, use of bio-diesel in the company's tractors, solar power, and energy efficient machinery like electric forklifts. He recently added a Chevrolet Volt, a plug-in electric vehicle with extended range, to his company's fleet.

RD: "I love the small town friendliness of the people and the small planet appreciation of our community. Our winery in Rutherford is part of a community that has the highest per capita solar generation in the United States. The people of the Napa Valley know that we have something very special here and are willing to put out the extra effort and make the right decisions to keep it that way."



Copyright © 2012, Touring & Tasting. All rights reserved.

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