In 1966 Robert Mondavi founded his iconic
winery on Highway 29 with the goal of pro-
ducing wines that would rival the finest wines
of Europe. Mr. Mondavi’s renowned marketing
strategies brought worldwide recognition to
Napa Valley and its wines. He believed in wine
hospitality and graciously welcomed visitors
to the winery’s public tasting room. His vision
helped propel Napa Valley’s position in the
world of wine and was a major factor in Napa
Valley’s 20th-century Renaissance.
Another important part of Napa Valley’s his-
tory is its Hispanic heritage. In 1942, facing
a labor shortage brought on by World War
II, the US and Mexico together created the
“Bracero” program bringing guest laborers
from south of the border to work in Ameri-
can agriculture. Many of these laborers land-
ed in the California and Napa Valley wine
industries and, over time, become incred-
ibly skilled in techniques related to premium
grape growing. Some went on to own their
own vineyard management companies, while
others have become Napa Valley vintners in
their own right, moving from the vineyard to
winemaking and winery ownership.
While the vintners of Napa Valley believed
themselves in the quality of their appellation,
and in the early 1970s Napa Valley’s reputa-
tion was growing, it was a pivotal endorse-
ment from another part of the world that
helped put Napa Valley on the map. The 1976
Judgment of Paris wine tasting, chronicled
recently in the movie “Bottle Shock,” set the
wine world on its ear: few could have imag-
ined that California wines would win such
a competition. Yet Napa Valley wines rated
best in each category. The hard work of the
vintners was starting to pay off.
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