by Fred McMillin
Winery of the Week
St. Helena Wine Cellars
Gastronomic events of 1885...
The Rest of the Story
You haven't heard of the St. Helena Wine Cellars? Well, here's what happened.
1920—Prohibition arrives and the winery goes down the tubes.
A Formula for Disaster
The sentimental revival sounded wonderful, but there was a problem. Daryl had no money, no land, and no winemaking experience, a formula for disaster. His training was in economics, not enology. So, he went with his strength, arranged about $50,000 in financing, and made winemaking arrangements. But there were no funds to get the bottles to the customers, so he brought the customers to the winery. He set up picnic tables (see photo), a cheese shop, etc. The first year he sold more food than wine. It all worked so well, that Daryl never did hire a marketing-distribution firm. By the early 1990s he had more than a quarter million visitors a year, and profits to buy vineyards and build a handsome winery.
Since it was a stop-and-shop winery, the wines were made for immediate enjoyment at first... I recall one of my S.F. State students bringing an off-dry Sattui rose (roh-zay) that the beginners loved. The veterans went for the Zins and Cabs. The Chardonnay scores well with my panel, and also the dessert Madeira. They are carefully crafted, and have provided the funds for the acquisition of top Napa land. I have a hand-written note from Daryl that reflects the quality: "Our Mt. Howell was just voted BEST ZINFANDEL IN THE WORLD in London. Our Suzanne's Vineyard Cab just picked up a gold." To order, (707) 963-7774.
Daryl invested in Napa at the right time. How many acres of a typical Napa vineyard would that $50,000 buy today? Less than ONE!
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