Destination California: Exploring the St. Helena wine scene

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ST. HELENA, Calif. (KTXL) — The Beringer Vineyards opened in 1876. In 1934, it opened up wine tours to the public, creating the vast and iconic wine industry seen in Napa Valley today. 

It’s amazing to think a vineyard built in the 19th century could still be in operation today. After 145 years, Beringer Vineyards continues to be one of the leading winemakers in Napa Valley, and it all started with the vision of two German brothers, Jacob and Frederick Beringer.

“The wine industry was just getting established in the U.S. in the 1800s,” senior winemaker Ryan Rech told FOX40. “They came here knowing that they knew how to make wine, and then they found the place by traveling to St. Helena. So there was not anything established; they were definitely pioneers in a sense.

The now historic landmark was the first, in many aspects, of a booming wine industry. For example, they were the first to offer both cabernet and chardonnay wines, each winning Wine of the Year titles.

“We are the first gravity-flow winery. We were the first winery to build into the hillside and establish a cave so we could actually keep our wines cold,” Rech explained. “And we are one of the first wineries to establish hospitality and actually open it up.”

The Beringer estate is an excellent place if you want that authentic wine tasting experience that you can only get in Napa Valley. 

If you want something a bit more intimate, The Saint, a modern-day speakeasy along downtown’s bustling Main Street may be the place to visit.

“We were written up as the most romantic table in the Napa Valley,” owner Heidi Bamburg said. 

They serve over 40 different wines from the local area, with a history that is just as fascinating as its appeal.

“The tin tiles on the ceiling are all originals from 1890. They just don’t make things like this anymore. The bank vault that was put in 1905 came to be because the building that was originally built in 1890 was then sold to the Bank of St. Helena in 1905,” Bamburg explained. “We don’t have the 600 acres of beautiful vineyards to attract people, so we wanted to attract them with something more intimate.” 

The Saint is just one of many historical gems the town of St. Helena has to offer. Everything from its nostalgic movie theaters to the 100-year-old electroliers that line the streets gives a glimpse into the days of simplicity and sophistication.

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