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The History of Chiles Valley Wine Country

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Production of wine in the Chiles Valley dates to the mid 19th century. In 1844, Colonel Joseph Ballinger Chiles received the region as the Rancho Catacula land grant from General Vallejo. The Colonel began to develop the land, establishing a grist mill as well as planting vineyards on his property.

In the subsequent decades, the valley’s isolation was both a curse and a blessing for its viticultural production. The distance of the region from the rest of the Napa Valley largely excluded it from boom years of the late 19th century. At the same time, the vineyard development that did occur was largely protected from the devastation of Phylloxera.

A few Pre-Phylloxera Zinfandel vines are still alive and thriving to this day. These century-old vines are some of the most prized in the entire AVA. They have low yields, and produce grapes of dense, concentrated flavor.

From the time Prohibition was signed into law until the early 1970s, very little wine was produced in the Chiles Valley. The region was too small and out of the way to be a significant contributor to the mass-produced fortified and jug wines made in the decades immediately following Prohibition.

The History of Chiles Valley Wine Country

In 1972, the Meyer Family purchased a large tract of land that had previously been used solely for raising thoroughbreds. The Meyers began planting Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Riesling, Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon. In 1985, they founded Rustridge Ranch and Winery. Despite the fact that about 90% of its grapes are sold to other wineries, it is currently the largest producer in the valley. AVA status was granted in 1999.