Milestones and Memories
Terril Grigsby makes his first trip west and locates on the Occidental Vineyard Ranch, a property of 257 acres. At the time of purchase, 120 acres are planted to grain, 80 to grapes and the rest are used for pasture.
Grigsby, considered a winery pioneer constructs a state-of-the-art gravity flow three story winery out of stone hewn from the surrounding hillside. The winery has a capacity of 275,000 gallons and the new facility includes a still house for the production of brandy. In addition to the winery, Grigsby improves his vineyards, introducing the first Zinfandel, a varietal thought to be local to California, to the property. This vineyard is known today as Block 8.
Landing in San Francisco from the Italian-Swiss border region of Ticino, Gaetano joins a growing population of Swiss-Italian immigrants working in Northern California dairies.
Prohibition shuts down the wine industry in 1920. According to the news of the day, one-half million tons of grapes valued at $9,000,000, are lost to grape growers in California.
The young immigrant returns to Italy briefly to marry, and brings his bride back to the United States. Their first son, Angelo is born in 1926 and daughter Isabelle follows in 1929. To support their family, Gaetano and Livia establish their own milking barn in Napa Valley.
The country is thrown into economic disarray. The once thriving Occidental Winery has been shuttered by prohibition and the land is in foreclosure.
Gaetano cashes in his life insurance policy and purchases the 286-acre Grigsby estate from the heirs of T.L. Grigsby for $22,000. The family take up residence, and Regusci Ranch becomes home to the family’s dairy which remained in continuous operation until 1969.
Ever seeking new ways to carve a living from the land, the enterprising Reguscis add a slaughterhouse, silos, and a hay barn to support a new butchery enterprise which they name Countryside Meats.
In 1950, Isabelle marries Amador Simone. The young newlyweds take up residence on the family Ranch and have two daughters. Angelo follows suit, marrying Mary Gisler in 1951. The Regusci’s first three children, Martha, Bernadette, and Joe, are born. There are now three generations of Reguscis living and working on the Ranch, and Gaetano begins to hand over operations to his son.
Neighboring farmer, Nathan Fay, plants the first Bordeaux varietals in the area that will soon be recognized around the world as the Stag’s Leap AVA.
The patriarch of the family is laid to rest in Napa, the first of his line to be buried in America.
In 1967, a decade after their youngest son Joe was born, Mary and Angelo welcomed baby James to the family. Jimmy, as he would affectionately be known to all, arrived at a pivotal time in the history of the Napa Valley.
In 1970, for the first time since his family had acquired the land, Angelo leased out 120 acres on the South end of the ranch to a new neighbor, John Goelete (Clos du Val), for the purpose of vineyard development. He leased another 120 acres of the old dairy ranch on the West side of the Trail to Robert Mondavi for similar purposes, and kept 166 acres, with roughly 50 acres of prime land to be planted to Bordeaux varieties for his own purposes. These were the first new vines planted on Regusci land post-phylloxera. In 1976, Warren Winiarski’s Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon won the Judgement of Paris, and vaulted the Stag’s Leap region to international prominence.
Nineteen-year-old Jim Regusci was working various jobs when he establishes Regusci Vineyard Management with a single client. He and his first wife Diana welcomed daughter Alicia in 1989 and son James Jr. in 1992, making four generations of Reguscis on the Ranch.
Jim tackles the replanting of Block 6 Syrah and Block 7 also known as Angelo’s Hillside and oversees the inaugural bottling of Regusci cold-pressed, extra virgin olive oil continuing a family tradition of evolving farming to meet market demands.
Realizing the inherent value proposition, Jim and Angelo enlist the help of Charles Hendricks to produce the first vintage of Regusci Winery Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Zinfandel — returning winemaking to the property for the first time in 100 years. Charles Hendricks would lead winemaking for Regusci Winery until his retirement in 2016. Seeking to improve the Estate fruit, Jim begins to replants Block 2 Merlot, Block 4 Cabernet Sauvignon, and Block 5 Zinfandel. Over the next two years, additional redevelopments include Block 27 Cabernet Sauvignon and Block 3 Cabernet Sauvignon.
The old hay loft is converted into a modern tasting room, and opens its doors to guests just in time for the release of the first vintage.
Livia Regusci passes. “Matrona” is produced years later (2012) to honor the matriarch of the family.
Laura Cooper arrives to Napa Valley to teach sustainable agriculture at Santa Rosa Junior College and, soon after, establishes California’s first high school viticulture and winemaking program in St Helena (with support from the local industry).
Now farming 400 acres of vineyards in Northern California, RVM welcomes Jason Lauritsen as Director of Vineyard Management.
In 2010, Laura Cooper designs and plants the Culinary Gardens and launches the Farm Wagon, as part of an effort to create new and unique hospitality experiences at the Ranch. Her vision proves the perfect complement to Jimmy’s can-do approach and he invites Laura and her two sons, Jake and Andrew, to join the Regusci family on the ranch.
In 2011 the Regusci Wine Club is established along with Heritage livestock, including pasture-raised chickens, turkeys, and pigs, that are integrated into Regusci Ranch’s stewardship and sustainability practices. Expansion efforts begin, including renovations to the first and second floor of the historic Occidental wine cellar.
Alicia Regusci marries viticulturalist and longtime family friend Matt Hardin, joining two great local land families together. Winemaking continues to advance with the addition of multiple state-of-the-art steel tanks, allowing the winemaking team to harvest and ferment estate fruit block by block. Both Angelo and Mary pass.
Surrounded by friends and family, Jim marries Laura Cooper in the newly renovated historic stone wine cellar.
Beef cattle arrive as an extension of the heritage livestock family and for the first time in many years cows are once again part of life on the ranch.
Alicia and Matt Hardin welcome their first born son John Wallace, who represents the beginning of a fifth generation of Reguscis on the Ranch.
Following trials with Angelo’s Hillside Cabernet Sauvignon, a French oak barrel aging regimen is introduced for additional wines in the Regusci Winery portfolio.
In 2016 the family marks 20 years of winemaking on the Ranch, and Bertus Van Zyl, who worked alongside Charles Hendricks, takes over the program.
Alicia and Matt Hardin launch their wine brands, Matthew Wallace and Caterwaul, with Cabernet Sauvignon from Regusci and Hardin grapes.
A northern California firestorm threatened the livelihood of the Regusci property, burning dangerously close to structures and vineyards. The Regusci family, friends and neighbors fought painstakingly through the night to protect the Ranch.
Second son William James is born to Matt and Alicia providing a welcome chance to celebrate after a challenging year.
Rebuilding of fire damage begins with erosion control, habitat restoration, water system revitalization and the replanting of heritage oak trees, and the 2018 harvest goes off without a hitch.
Regusci Winery welcomes Bill Nancarrow as the new winemaker. Nancarrow is charged with continuing to refine the viticulture strategy for future vineyard replanting, driven by the estate winemaking model.