AP PHOTOS: Museum toasts history of California wine

At a spacious Victorian in the heart of California’s Napa Valley, light glows from the windows as guests inside study old tools and taste new wines.

1881 Napa, a wine history museum and tasting salon, opened this month in Oakville, about 60 miles (97 kilometers) north of San Francisco.

It offers self-guided tours on Napa Valley’s history and early pioneers, along with a collection of rare winemaking tools such as scalders, filters, spigots and soil injectors. A giant reproduction of an 1895 map of Napa County adorns the ceiling.

The Boisset Collection, run by French-born wine mogul Jean-Charles Boisset, bought the 145-year-old redesigned house earlier this year. It also purchased the adjacent Oakville Grocery, reportedly California’s oldest continuously operating grocery store.

1881 Napa looks out at the Mayacamas Mountains and the famous To Kalon Vineyard across the highway at the Robert Mondavi Winery.

The upstairs museum is open to the public, and admission is free.

The ground floor holds a tasting room, where guests can examine soil samples and read about vineyards in different parts of the Napa Valley. Tastings contrast wines from cooler and warmer areas and those from hillsides vs. the valley floor. One option, called “Embark on a Journey Throughout the Valley,” features 12 cabernet sauvignons.

“An extraordinary amount has been accomplished in this enclave in a short amount of time,” Boisset said. “We want to create a destination that celebrates Napa’s long history and its pioneering founders while exploring Napa’s incredibly diverse terroir in one destination.”


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