The Salminas

The Salmina family arrived in the Napa Valley from Switzerland in the 1860s, and in 1892, bought a wooden winery and vineyards. Felix Salmina had learned to make wine in Switzerland and set about converting the old wooden winery into a much larger winemaking facility, built of stone quarried from the nearby hills and expanding the vineyard into Larkmead Vineyards.

Poster

Advertisement in Wines & Vines 1947

In the early days at Larkmead, wine grapes sold for $14 a ton and wine for a penny a bottle. Prohibition hit hard, but Larkmead Vineyards was able to survive by selling grapes and making sacramental wine. By the late 1930s, releasing wine under its own label again, Larkmead had built an impressive reputation, regarded as the smallest of the 'big four wineries' in Napa Valley alongside Beaulieu, Inglenook and Beringer. Indeed Andre Tchelistcheff, the legendary Russian, French-trained enologist who worked at Beaulieu in 1938, talked of four "outstanding wine processing plants: Inglenook, Beaulieu, Larkmead and Beringer".

Felix Salminas

Felix and his sons produced between 100,000 cases of quality wine each year with blends such as 'White Chianti', 'Chablis' or 'Burgundy' and also varietal wines including Cabernet and Zinfandel. Significantly in 1937 Larkmead gained several first places at the California State Fair, and during the same year was awarded a 'diplome d'honneur' from the Paris Exposition, delighting locals that Napa Valley wines could compete so well with the French. Clearly industry leaders of their time, the Salminas chaired many local wine organizations and contributed much to the development and promotion of Napa Valley wine. After Felix's death in 1940, the family sold Larkmead Vineyards in 1943 to a Chicago based bottler and distributor, Bragno & Co. The property was later resold to National Distillers and, in 1948, to the Solaris.


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