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Tasting Room, Deli & Marketplace:
Open Daily 9:00-6:00pm
Outside food and wine are not allowed on property. We have everything you need for a wine country picnic!
1111 White Lane (at Hwy 29)
St. Helena, CA 94574
Italian winemaker Vittorio Sattui arrived in San Francisco in 1882 with his new bride, Kattarina, to begin their life in America. Born in Genoa, Vittorio, like his father before him, was by trade a baker from the small hilltown of Carsi. In San Francisco, Vittorio at first worked as a baker, making wine in his spare time, while Kattarina took in washing. Soon the industrious Sattui family had saved enough money to start a boarding house in the Italian colony of North Beach.
Vittorio continued to make wine, serving it to his patrons at the boarding house. By 1885, the reputation of Vittorio's wines allowed him to quit the bakery and devote himself full-time to his real passion, winemaking. Vittorio quickly established a thriving commercial venture (located at 722 Montgomery, now Columbus Avenue) called St. Helena Wine Cellars, taking the name of the small, bucolic, Napa Valley town were he obtained his grapes. Vittorio always said, "there is nothing like St. Helena grapes!" He would personally select the grapes during the harvest and then haul them by horse-drawn wagon to Napa for transfer to San Francisco by ferry.
When Vittorio moved his expanding winemaking business and family (Kattarina and Vittorio eventually had six children) to the Mission district at 2507 Bryant Avenue, near the corner of 23rd Street, he adopted the new name, V. Sattui Wine Company. Vittorio continued to ferry his grapes from St. Helena, crushing them at his new winery. The V. Sattui Wine Company's high quality wines were sold directly to the customers and delivered to their houses in barrels and demijohns (usually one to 25 gallon sizes) throughout the Bay Area by horse-drawn wagon. Eventually, Vittorio's clients reached as far north as Oregon and Washington state. The family business thrived.
But in 1920, Prohibition sounded the death knell for Vittorio Sattui's family business. "I'll do nothing against the law." Vittorio said, and V. Sattui Wine Company lay dormant for the next sixty years, a dream deferred and half-forgotten.
Dario Sattui remembers visiting Vittorio, his great-grandfather, who continued to live upstairs at the long dormant Bryant Street winery until his death at age 94. "As a small child, my first recollection was the aroma of wine emanating from the old building as soon as I entered," he says. He played among the barrels and ovals in the cellars, stories of the old family wine business ringing in his ears. It was then, Dario believes, that the dream of reopening the winery began.
In 1972, after two years in Europe beyond college, Dario began his apprenticeship at various Napa Valley wineries. He still had his dream, the same dream he'd had as a child. Dario pledged he "would reestablish V. Sattui Winery to its former glory."
But just how to do this was the problem. Dario
had almost no capital and little practical knowledge of the wine industry. So he dedicated himself to developing the tools and skills he'd need to make the dream become a reality. Soon Dario had developed a business plan and began looking for prospective investors. Later, he found a parcel of land for sale that had a small walnut orchard with an old house on it. Dario remembers bringing prospective investors to the property telling them, "'Here is where we will build our winery,' all the while afraid that the people living on the property would throw me off for trespassing." Since he couldn't afford to purchase the property outright, he managed to get a lease-option for $500 a month. "The house was in such bad condition we lived in my VW bus for more than a month while making it suitable enough to live in."
Time passed as Dario continued to look for investors, but there were no takers. With his last $500, he paid for one more month on the property. Dario had only raised half the capital he needed to begin the winery, but he managed during that "last" month to talk a Napa real estate broker into buying the property, building a small winery on it, and then leasing it to Dario with an option to purchase it back sometime in the future. Still short of funds, Dario enlisted investors without money, but with the skills needed to help him create the winery building. That summer, July of 1975, they began construction, and it was finished in early 1976.
Renting the winemaking equipment he needed, using his great-grandfather's hand-corking machine and Vittorio's original design for the wine labels, the winery was open for business.
When Dario had lived in Europe, he'd remembered seeing small, family-run neighborhood delis filled with freshly made foods and wonderful selections of cheese. He was able to convert this memory into what was to become the perfect match for great wine, V. Sattui's famous Cheese Shop and Deli. Years passed and the struggle continued. Slowly, the winemaking process improved and success came. However, in those first few years, times were hard and Dario lived frugally, sometimes spending his nights sleeping on the floor of the winery so he could put what money he had into the new business. The original winery building is now the Tasting Room, Cheese Shop and Deli and Gift Shop.
As business grew, Dario began to be able to accumulate the best equipment available.
By 1985, V. Sattui Winery was able to build a beautiful stone winery amid the venerable 250 year-old oaks, reminiscent of the late 19th century wineries in Italy and France. With its two stories, tower, wine caves and underground aging cellars, its completion was a fitting tribute to help celebrate the centennial of Vittorio's dream. That same year, the 34-acre vineyard adjacent to the winery became available.
Renamed Suzanne's Vineyard, after his wife, it was soon joined by Carsi Vineyard in Yountville, followed in 1993 by the 556-acre Henry Ranch property in the Carneros grape-growing region, and then in 1998, a 128-acre ranch in Solano County. These, along with other acquisitions, will in the near future allow V. Sattui Winery to supply over 85% of its grape needs from five very distinct microclimates.
From the very beginning, Dario refused to compromise on the quality of the wine. The production and retailing concept offers insight into the reasons for V. Sattui Winery's success. Dario's vision has always been to fully integrate the process of winemaking from the grape to the consumer. This vertical control over all aspects of viticulture, winemaking, and sales is the future for V. Sattui Winery. It is because of Dario Sattui's dream that it has been able to provide the finest wines possible while continuing to sell them at a fair price directly to its customers.