Heading north out of St. Helena, the town’s namesake mountain looms at the top of Napa Valley.
Vineyards line each side of Highway 29, the picturesque, two-lane road that winds its way up to Calistoga and Mount Saint Helena, while wineries of different eras and architectural styles dot the landscape. It’s a stretch of Napa Valley that embodies California wine country.
Just a few miles out of town, past a slight incline of 29 that levels off at Tychson Hill Road, sits one of the valley’s most historic properties, Freemark Abbey. The 19th century stone building practically hugs the road, a graceful and solid presence for over 130 years. Among St. Helena wineries, Freemark Abbey is as familiar to visitors as any.
Classic Napa Valley Wines: Tychson to the 2000s
Back in 1886, making Napa Valley Cabernet wasn’t the mission of the property’s founder, Josephine Tychson. That distinction went to the trailblazing winemaker’s Riesling, Zinfandel, and “Burgundy,” which Tychson and subsequent owners produced successfully up until Prohibition. Those wines may have fallen out of production decades ago, but they’ve contributed to the overall reputation of this iconic estate.
In the late 1960s, a group of seven distinguished partners came together to purchase the property. Since then, Freemark Abbey’s classic Napa Valley wines, revolving around Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay, have been a draw for wine enthusiasts everywhere.
Napa Valley Wine History in a Glass
Starting with the post-WWII construction of one of Napa Valley’s first “sampling rooms,” Freemark became a destination for Napa Valley visitors seeking the thrill of a jaunt up the (then) dirt road to St. Helena and the reportedly delicious wines that awaited. Two decades later, in 1967, the partners’ acquisition coincided with a growing recognition that Cabernet Sauvignon represented the greatest potential for high-quality Napa Valley wine.
The following decade saw an international spotlight fall directly on the winery’s Cabernet and Chardonnay after the famous Judgment of Paris in 1976. These and other dates in Freemark Abbey’s history have always made it one of the must-visit wineries in St. Helena.
The Friendliest of Wineries
Today, the iconic estate enjoys a well-earned reputation around the U.S. and worldwide. Meanwhile, back at the old stone winery in St. Helena, hospitality is the ongoing focus, with a wide range of tasting experiences designed for visitors to the Historic Tasting Room, Great Hall, and other venues.
Freemark Abbey prides itself on being incredibly group-friendly: reservations are available for intimate, sit-down tastings, corporate gatherings, and most everything in between.