Our Roots

From the late 1800s until the early 1900s The Silverado Trail was home to cattle and horse ranching.  In the 1960s, Richard Tam and Ben Hardister built the Silverado Horseman’s Center covering 32 acres along the southern end of Silverado Trail.  The original facility featured an equestrian center with an indoor riding arena, 36 horse stalls, a grandstand for indoor riding events.  The property also included an outdoor arena with a grandstand that sat 3,000 people, a half mile race track, recreation buildings, private paddock, riding trails and a stallion breeding station.  The center thrived until the 1970s when it was sold to a local land developer.  In October 2005, Exclusive Estates Wine Group purchased a portion of the original parcel and began production on a state-of-the-art winery that opened in July 2007.  Inspired by the early history of the area and the equestrian center that once thrived on the property, the winery was named Black Stallion Winery.  Today, the original building that housed the indoor riding track sits directly behind the tasting room and barrel cellar and is used for the winery’s wine production.

Winegrowing in the Napa Valley

Napa Valley is known as the premier wine growing region of America.  Before there were grapes, Napa Valley was home to fruit and nut orchards.  By 1909, there were over 500,000 fruit and nut trees established in the Valley, predominantly pears, figs, and walnuts.  Early pioneer George C. Yount is said to have planted the first wine grapes in Napa Valley in the late 1800’s.  The combination of Mediterranean climate, geography and geology of the Valley were found to be extremely conducive to growing high quality wine grapes.  In 1919, with the enactment of Prohibition, vineyards were abandoned and many winemakers found other trades during the next 14 years, with a handful of wineries continuing to operate by producing sacramental wines.  With the repeal of Prohibition in 1933, Napa Valley’s wine industry began its renaissance.

The Silverado Trail

The first permanent road referred to as “the old back road” was built from Napa to Calistoga in 1952.  Around 1858, silver mining became popular in the hills at the northern end of the Valley.  Mr. Patchett, a local landowner, saw an opportunity to sell wine to the miners flocking to the area and began producing wine with the help of a cider press.  By 1872, elder miners moved to the southeastern corner of Mt. St. Helena creating Silverado City.  Several businesses and a hotel grew up around the claim and the population swelled to 1,500.  The silver vein had played-out by 1875 ending the short lived silver rush, and the miners moved on.  While on his honeymoon, Robert L. Stevenson found an abandoned shack in Silverado City in 1880, by then a ghost town.  Short on cash, he and his bride stayed for 3 weeks.  In 1883, he published Silverado Squatters, memoirs of his stay in Silverado City where he calls the old back road The Silverado Trail.  In 1921, the old back road was officially named the Silverado Trail.

The Chinese Laborers

After the 1849 discovery of gold in California, the first wave of Chinese immigrants started coming to the Napa Valley.  They planted and cultivated the land, as well as constructed the Napa Valley Railroad which operated between Vallejo and Calistoga.  The train was instrumental in the transportation of silver and mercury ore mined in the Upper Napa Valley.  They also dug by hand some of the Valley’s earliest wine caves.  When the railroad was finished in 1869, many Chinese laborers hoped to return to farming, which many of them had done in China.  While some of them were able to buy small plots in California, thousands found work for the next decade building the levees.

The Wappo Indians

The Native Americans known as the Wappo were some of the earliest inhabitants of Northern California and are believed to have settled in the Napa Valley beginning around 2000 B.C.  The Wappo made flour from acorn and also used roots, bulbs, and grasses in their diet.  They also fished and hunted for deer, elk and antelope to survive.  Their houses were dome-shared structures, made of grass thatch over bent poles.  Known for their basket making skills, the Wappo were a peaceful people with deep respect for their elders and devotion to their children.  By 1855, fewer than 500 Wappo remained in the Napa Valley.

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