Napa Area Bike Tour

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There are no public services in this part of the valley. There is street parking in the residential neighborhoods.

Brief History of Viticulture and Agriculture in Napa

Napa has long been famous for its agricultural products. Its numerous valleys are surrounded by several volcanic mountain ridges, providing fertile soil perfect for raising livestock and grains, fruits, nuts, and, of course, grapes. When Napa was still part of Alta California, the Mexican government divided the land into thirteen ranchos. The prominent rancho owners often used their lands for grazing cattle, sheep, and horses.

Napans planted just about everything. Besides wine grapes, farmers dabbled in growing hops, operated large prune orchards, and even planted mulberry trees for silk production. Rice fields were laid out around what is now Meadowood in St. Helena. Anna Brannan, wife of Sam Brannan, founder of Calistoga, tried to grow tea plants. Rudolph Boysen invented the boysenberry on Atlas Peak before moving to Southern California, and just a few years before that William Hartley developed the Hartley walnut on his Sausal ranch.

Rancho Napa

Big Ranch Road
Former Site

The 22,718-acre Rancho Napa was granted to Colonel Salvador Vallejo, brother of General Mariano Vallejo, in 1838 by Governor Juan Alvarado. On his property he constructed three adobes, one of which was down by Trancas and Old Soscol Avenue but burned in 1919. Vallejo also owned the rancho to the east of Napa, Rancho Yajome. He was described by Myrtle McKittrick as “An educated young gentleman was well skilled in many arts and handicrafts. He could ride, of course, as well as the best cowboy of the Southwest, and with more grace: and he could throw the lasso so expertly that I have never heard of any American who was able to equal it. He could also make soap, pottery and bricks, burn lime, tan hides, cut out and put together a pair of shoes, make candles, roll cigars and do a great number of things that belong to different trades.”

The name “Big Ranch” was the name the early Napa pioneers gave to Vallejo’s rancho. His name also pops up on Salvador Avenue and Salvador Elementary. There was also a one-room schoolhouse named “Salvador” that used to stand someone on Big Ranch Road.

Trefethen Family Vineyards

1160 Oak Knoll Ave.
Built 1886
Ghost Winery
Tastings by appointment only: website

Hamden McIntyre was hired to design George Goodman’s Eschol Winery in 1886. It is particularly unusual because it is the county’s only example of a gravity flow ghost winery built of redwood (Goodman had recently foreclosed on a lumber yard and needed to use up the surplus stock). The winery was abandoned during Prohibition, but today is operated by the Trefethen family.

Oak Knoll Ranch

Oak Knoll Avenue West
Built ca. 1850
Historic SiteClosed to the Public/No Access

J.W. Osborn, a former sea captain from Massachusetts, established Oak Knoll in the 1850s. He used the land for ranching, orchards, and growing world-famous wine grapes. In 1863 he was murdered by an ex-employee over a disagreement over payment, and the property was bought up by Robert B. Woodward, owner of the famous San Francisco landmark Woodward’s Gardens. The Melones inherited it, but the Great Depression hurt the family’s fortunes and they were forced to sell. Lenore Sterns, a former Hollywood starlet, bought the property and built its grand plantation-style mansion.

Trubody Ranch

Trubody Lane
Built ca. 1860
Historic SiteClosed to the Public/No Access

Trubody Ranch was established by John Trubody in the 1860s, and he grew grain crops and blackberries. In the 20th century, cattle grazed next to wine grapes. Minnie, an ancestor of the current owners was the cook for the Trubodys, and her daughter Lillie was best friends with Clara Trubody. Clara willed the ranch to Lillie in the 1960s, and today it is owned by the Page family. For several years the ranch was a B&B, but today is a private residence starting where Trubody Lane splits in two. Across Highway 29 near where the train tracks stood Trubody Station, and somewhere in the vicinity stood Trubody Post Office.

Regusci Winery

5584 Silverado Trail
Built 1878
Ghost Winery
Tastings by appointment only: website

The Grigsbys were one of the pioneering families in Napa County, and many participated in the Bear Flag Revolt in 1846. In 1878, Terrill L. Grigbsy built Occidental Winery made of two-foot-thick lava stones quarried from neighboring hills. Near the entrance is a patch of zinfandel vines that trace back to the 19th century. The Winery was used as an abattoir after Prohibition by Gaetano Regusci. They also farmed corn, hay, walnuts, and plums, as well as dairy and beef cattle. In the 1960s Angelo Regusci planted grapevines and today it operates as Regusci Winery.