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Walnut Creek Magazine

St. Helena’s Salvestrin Winery Keeps it All in the Family

Jan 09, 2019 10:31AM ● By Fran Miller

The Salvestrin Family: Emma, Hannah, Shannon, Tessa, and Rich

BY FRAN ENDICOTT MILLER

As the number of Napa wineries continues to increase, it seems that the number of old-school, family-owned wineries decreases. Rarer and rarer it is these days to encounter a vineyard or winery whose proverbial and literal roots are closely tied to the evolution of the Valley itself. Rarer still is it for those vineyards and wineries to find familial continuity in ownership and operation. By these accounts, St. Helena’s Salvestrin Winery is a rare gem. A Napa anomaly, Salvestrin has, since 1932, remained in the hands of three generations, with a fourth ready and poised to one day continue the tradition.

First planted in 1850 by Dr. George Belden Crane, the vineyard, in the shadows of Spring Mountain, is one of the oldest and continually operated in Napa Valley and has been maintained by the Salvestrin Family since patriarch John emigrated from Northern Italy in the 30’s. He, and then his son Ed, sold their grapes to local wineries. These days, Ed’s son Rich serves as winemaker and manager of the sustainably farmed estate that is certified Napa Green.

It wasn’t until 1994 – the same year that Rich married Calistoga native Shannon - that the family created their own label and bottled their own wines. And it wasn’t until 2001 that he and Shannon opened an on-property venue in which to taste those wines – a cozy, second story retreat overlooking the vineyards and a stone patio below where al fresco tastings take place. With a deep commitment to the land, to the vines, and to sustainability, Rich now produces 4,500 cases annually of five varietals – Sauvignon Blanc, Petite Sirah, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and a Super Tuscan blend called Retaggio. He readily admits that he makes wines that he likes to drink, and that he never chases the ratings. But despite his insouciance, his wines garner the accolades: The Wine Advocate awarded his 2015 3D Cabernet (named in honor of his three daughters) a 96+ rating and his 2016 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon a 94+ rating. 

Even more unique, the vineyard also serves as the Salvestrin home. Three generations currently live on the property – Ed and his wife Susanne, Rich and Shannon and their three girls, Hannah 21, Emma 20. and Tessa 15. While each daughter currently pursues varied interests, Rich and Shannon hope that each will one-day return to carry-on the stewardship of this land that they so treasure. Despite numerous offers and inquiries, and despite the trials and tribulations of private winery ownership and operation in today’s competitive and high-cost world, the Salvestrins plan to keep it ‘all in the family.’

And a family operation it is. Rich’s sister runs the Salvestrin wine club and communicates regularly with its devoted members, many of whom will join Rich and Shannon on a summer 2019 South Pacific winemaker cruise, and many of whom take advantage of club member pricing at the on-site, three-room historic B&B – the former Dr. Crane home, built in 1879 and fully restored and modernized by the Salvestrins. Likely to peek-in during breakfast are Shannon or her father-in-law Ed, who might also be seen on-property driving one of his vintage tractors.

The Inn at Salvestrin

It’s also not uncommon for Shannon to personally conduct a wine tasting now and then, her faithful golden lab in tow. But, guests might have to excuse her if her phone pings with a text, often a sign from Rich that he’s especially pleased with a blend. “I love receiving texts from Rich when he’s crafting wines,” says Shannon. “When I get one that says, ‘come to the barn!’ I know he’s created something special.” 

For information on by-appointment-only tastings, click here. For information on the warm, hospitable, and centrally located Inn at Salvestrin, click here.

Salvestrin Winery
387 Main St.
St. Helena, CA
707-963-5105