Frequent visitors to Napa Valley could drive by the cheery sign “Sunny Acres” on the west side of Highway 29 in Saint Helena several times and never drive in. It has a “by appointment” sign after all, and one can’t really see anything from the road. It’s one of those smaller wineries that are overshadowed by the bigger properties so visible right off the highway. But the long driveway and stand of mature trees is a clue that down the road is an historic estate. Sunny Acres is the name of the original homestead of Dr. George Belden Crane, who was the first man to plant vines in Saint Helena in 1859 and among the first to extensively plant European varieties. He is also credited with making the first wine in Saint Helena in the early 1860’s.
In 1932, Italian immigrants John and Emma Salvestrin purchased 26 acres of the larger ranch from Crane descendents including the Victorian home built in 1879 and became growers. Their son Ed was born and raised in Saint Helena, working at the local post office while farming the family vineyards. After Ed’s son Richard received his viticulture degree from Fresno State, they decided to make their own estate wines beginning with the 1994 vintage and built a modern winery in 2001. Today, Richard is the vineyard manager and winemaker of Salvestrin Winery which produces about 4,000 cases of wine, the flagship wine being the Salvestrin Estate Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon. The 2006 has lifted black currant and boysenberry fruit with hints of vanilla and tobacco. It is full-bodied but fresh, with concentrated black fruit, youthful tannins and long finish with a good life ahead of it. At $52, it is a great value for its place of origin. Salvestrin also makes sauvignon blanc, petite syrah, and limited production of Italian varietal wines.
The Salvestrins take pride in the heritage of the original Crane homestead and have invested in the renovation of the Victorian home over the years. The parlor features some of Dr. Crane’s original property including a piano, paintings and artifacts recovered from a time capsule hidden under the front porch. Ed’s wife Susanne is the Vice President of the St. Helena Historical Society and was a major contributor to the history book Images of America – St. Helena published by Arcadia and released this past March. Part of the historic home has been converted to a bed & breakfast with three rooms furnished in period decor.
Salvestrin Winery is a real, family-run winery with hospitality to match, where three generations live on the property and where one is likely to run into Ed maneuvering around on his tractor and grandchildren running about. It is situated on the original homestead of Dr. George Crane, and it still is very much a homestead today.
Salvestrin Winery 397 Main Street, Saint Helena, CA 94574. Open for visits by appointment (707) 963-5105 or firstname.lastname@example.org . The bed & breakfast has three charming rooms with petite bathrooms and is steps from the winery. $240 + tax or $199 + tax for wine club members. Contact email@example.com.