Nichelini Family Winery
Nichelini Family Winery is a family-owned winery located in the Chiles Valley District of Napa Valley in California. It is the oldest winery in Napa to have been in the same family's hands since its founding, by winemaker Anton Nichelini in 1890, and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Its 1886 Homestead Cabin, also on the property and currently under restoration, is believed to be the only one of its kind remaining in Napa County, and as such was recently placed on the Napa Valley Historical Society's "10 Treasures" list.
Nichelini Family Winery only produces about 2500 cases of wine a year, made by current head winemaker Aimée Sunseri, who is the seventh family winemaker in succession. Its wines include Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, Primitivo, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc, Sémillon and Muscadelle (formerly titled Sauvignon Vert), among others.
Nichelini Family Winery is located at 2950 Sage Canyon Road (State Hwy. 128), St. Helena, CA, 94574.
Anton Nichelini (1862-1937) was born in Verscio, Canton Ticino, Switzerland. He came to California in 1882 at the age of 19, where he first settled in Glen Ellen (Sonoma Cty.) and became a winemaker and grape grower for pioneer winemaker Joshua Chauvet. Two years later Anton homesteaded a 160-acre tract of rugged wilderness in Chiles Valley, converting about 30 acres to vineyards, and becoming the first Swiss settler in the area.
In 1890 Anton married Caterina Corda (1869-1952), another Swiss immigrant from Ticino, and shortly thereafter they moved out of their tiny homestead cabin and into the Greek Revival style house that Anton constructed on top of his stone winery. Mr. Nichelini was also a skilled miner, and patented new smelting techniques. His property in Chiles Valley was unusually rich in chromium and magnesite deposits, and he mined these for several years in addition to his ranching and wine production business.
Anton and Caterina eventually had twelve children between the years of 1891 and 1916, all of whom attended school at the Chiles Valley one-room schoolhouse. Their children were: William, Joseph, Josephine, Ida ("Edith"), Rose, Catherine, Mary, Frederic, Allen, Emma ('Virginia"), Antoinette, and Inez. The winery today is collectively owned and operated by the descendants of these twelve children.
Prohibition and Post-Prohibition
The Nichelini Winery "officially" closed during the years of Prohibition. However, the winery was well-known in the area as a source for bootleg wine, even supplying the governor's household. In 1920, a man named Clifford Clark wrote a letter to the sheriff complaining about rowdy drunken behavior in the nearby town of Monticello, citing locals having "good times, drinking wine", and that there was "no question, but what the wine comes from Nichelini's". After a warning fine was issued in 1923, Anton was finally arrested on January 8, 1924, and taken to the St. Helena jail. Despite the arrest, the Nichelini family continued to surreptitiously supply wine to local miners and Bay Area residents, sometimes through the cover of a sacramental wine delivery service.
Nichelini Winery was officially reopened by Anton's son William Nichelini after repeal of the Volstead Act. Nichelini family winemakers in succession, following Anton and William Nichelini, have been: James Nichelini, Jo-Ann Nichelini (Meyer), Gregory Boeger, Justin Boeger, and Aimée Sunseri. Aimée Sunseri was recently honored as the Woman Winemaker of the Year at the 2017 International Women's Wine Competition.
Nichelini Family Winery wines have been awarded dozens of prestigious medals in recent years, including:
|2011 Cabernet Sauvignon||GOLD, 2014 Critics' Challenge International Wine Competition|
|2012 Cabernet Sauvignon||GOLD, 2017 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition|
|2013 Cabernet Sauvignon||GOLD, 2017 Harvest Challenge Internat. Wine Competition|
|2012 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve||DOUBLE GOLD/ BEST of CLASS, 2017 Internat. Women's Wine Competition|
|2013 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve||GOLD, 2017 Harvest Challenge Internat. Wine Competition|
|2010 Merlot||GOLD, 2013 San Diego International Wine Competition|
|2014 Merlot Reserve||BEST of CLASS, 2017 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition|
|2010 William Block Zinfandel||GOLD, 2013 San Diego International Wine Competition|
|2010 Zinfandel Reserve||GOLD, 2013 San Diego International Wine Competition|
|2011 Petite Sirah Reserve||GOLD, 2013 International Wine Channel TV Awards|
|2014 Petite Sirah||DOUBLE GOLD, 2017 Internat. Women's Wine Competition|
|2011 Primitivo Reserve||GOLD, 2014 Sommelier Challenge International Wine Competition|
|2012 Primitivo||GOLD, 2015 West Coast Wine Competition|
|2014 Primitivo||GOLD, 2017 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition|
|2012 Muscadelle||GOLD, 2014 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition|
|2012 Roman Press White||DOUBLE GOLD/ Best of Class, 2014 Internat. Women's Wine Competition|
|Moscato Dolce||GOLD, 2016 Internat. Women's Wine Competition|
|2015 Sparkling Brut||GOLD, 2017 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition|
|2015 Sauvignon Blanc||GOLD, 2017 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition|
|2016 Sauvignon Blanc||GOLD, 2017 Harvest Challenge Internat. Wine Competition|
|2013 Cabernet Sauvignon Rosé||DOUBLE GOLD/ BEST OF SHOW, 2014 Internat. Women's Wine Competition|
|2014 Cabernet Sauvignon Rosé||DOUBLE GOLD/ GOLD/ BEST OF SHOW, 2015 Internat. Women's Wine Competition|
|2016 Cabernet Sauvignon Rosé||DOUBLE GOLD/ GOLD/ BEST OF SHOW, 2017 Internat. Women's Wine Competition|
- Shulman, Todd.Murder and Mayhem in the Napa Valley The History Press, 2012, p. 80.
- National Register of Historic Places."National Register #79000508".
- St. Helena Star."Threatened Treasures of the Valley" 30 Oct 2013.
- St. Helena Star."Nichelini: A Vintage of 122 Years" 25 Oct 2012.
- Sosnowski, Vivienne.When the Rivers Ran Red.Palgrave Macmillan, 2009, pp. 17-18.
- Monahan, Sherry A.California Vines, Wines and Pioneers.The History Press, 2013, pp.47-48.
- Kushman, Rick and Beal, Hank.A Moveable Thirst. John Wiley and Sons, Inc., 2007, pp.76-77.
- Monahan, Sherry A. 2013, p.48
- Kushman, Rick, and Beal, Hank. 2007, p.77.
- Kilgallin, Anthony Raymond.Napa: An Architectural Walking Tour. Arcadia Publishing, 2001.
- Dow, D.H. and Thayer, T.P. Geological Investigations of Chromite in California, U.S. Dept. of the Interior Geological Survey. 1946.
- Sosnowski, Vivienne. 2009, p. 17.
- St. Helena Star. "Nichelini Celebration." 1895.
- St. Helena Star. "Prominent Rancher Passes Away." 12 Nov 1937.
- Napa Valley Register."Swiss Visitors Find Roots at Nichelini Family Winery." 4 Oct 2012.
- Webber, Lin.Prohibition in the Napa Valley. The History Press, 2013, p.99.
- Monahan, Sherry A. 2013, p.48.
- Webber, Lin. 2013, p. 88.
- St. Helena Star. 17 Aug 1923.
- Webber, Lin. 2013, pp. 99, 104.
- Ibid., p. 113.