A young mother traveling west from Pennsylvania with an ailing husband in the 1880 probably doesn’t fit the image of a Napa Valley wine pioneer. But that’s exactly who Josephine Tychson was when she arrived in St. Helena: one of the first ladies of the California wine industry.
In 1881, Josephine and her Danish husband, John, purchased nearly 150 acres of property just north of St. Helena from a sea captain, William Sayward. With a shared dream of becoming vintners, they planted Zinfandel, Riesling, and “Burgundy” vines on the estate. Five years later, Tychson Cellars was established, but not before John’s affliction with tuberculosis caused him to commit suicide.
After this tragedy, the undaunted Josephine continued to nurture the vines she and her husband had planted together, and with the help of a foreman she oversaw the construction of an impressive redwood cellar, large enough to contain up to 30,000 gallons of wine. As one of the first female winemakers on record in Napa Valley, she operated the cellar and continued to cultivate the land.