From Italy to Napa
Giacomo Migliavacca and the founding of Migliavacca Wine Co.
Industrialist. Innovator. Family-man. Community builder.
Born on Aug. 16, 1833, in Pavia, Italy, Giacomo’s aspirations to become a world class winemaker developed early as he worked alongside his father — an extensive manufacturer of cordials and liqueurs. Giacomo received his formal education at the University of Pavia before entering into the Noble Guard de Milano. It was in 1857, after concluding his time in the service with high honors, that Giacomo left his native Italy for America.
Arriving in the U.S. via the steamer Golden Gate, Giacomo made his home in San Francisco, owning and operating a lucrative vinegar factory. He later moved to Mariposa County where he met and wed Miss Madelena Semorile. It was in 1866 the Migliavacca family settled in Napa City, and it was this same year the Migliavacca Wine Company was born.
In a few short years, Migliavacca Wine Co. became an award winning winery, a household name, and was considered one of the largest and most extensive manufacturing enterprises in California.
A History of Honorable Awards
Migliavacca Wine Co. began winning awards shortly after it was established in 1866...
1869 First Premium California Red Wine from the Mechanics Institute (one of the first California wines to receive this award)
1889 Gold Medal from the Paris Exposition in France (only one of three California red wines to be awarded a gold medal)
1892 Dublin Ireland Exposition
1893 Chicago World's Fair
1895 Atlanta Exposition
The Migliavacca Timeline
1866 - Today
Napa Becomes Home
Giacomo, his wife Madelena and their growing family, which would eventually include 10 living children, settle in Napa. Later this same year, Migliavacca Wine Co. is established. During this time, Giacomo owned a grocery at the foot of Brown Street in Downtown Napa; he began buying grapes and making wine at this location before constructing an official winery.
First Napa County Resident to Receive U.S. Patent
Giacomo becomes the first Napa County resident to receive a U.S. patent for his “Wine Bottling and Corking Apparatus.”
Winery is Constructed in Downtown Napa
An official winery was constructed of brick in 1874 on the Napa River at Fifth and Main. The winery site occupied an entire city block, which is now home to the present-day Napa County Library site. It was an 80 foot by 100 foot two-story brick building and there was a distillery in connection with it. Giacomo later expanded the winery, growing capacity to over 500,00 gallons of wine.
Migliavacca Mansion is Constructed
Designed by local architect William H. Corlett in the Queen Anne style, the Migliavacca Mansion was constructed of select redwood and Italian slate shingles. The Mansion originally stood on Division Street, on the same property as the winery, but in the 1970's was moved to 4th St. The home has a three-story turret, and a ballroom on the third floor.
The Migliavacca Commercial Building is Constructed
Constructed in 1904 by Giacomo Migliavacca, with architect Luther M. Turton, and builder J .B. Newman, the Migliavacca Building sat at 1116 First Street (now Dwight Murray Plaza).
During its time, the Migliavacca Building was considered to be the largest commercial stone building in the City of Napa and possibly in the county outside of Greystone Cellars (CIA at Greystone, St. Helena). The building housed several of Napa’s pioneer businesses and was the office location for the G. Migliavacca Investment Company and the Migliavacca Wine Company. The Migliavacca Building was demolished in 1973 as part of downtown Napa's redevelopment.
Giacomo Retires, Passing Business to Sons
Giacomo turned the business over to his four sons, who operated until Prohibition.
Giacomo Passes Away
November 22, 1911, Giacomo passes away at home. His remains were taken to the family mausoleum at Tulocay Cemetery.
The Past and the Future Coalesce
Relegated to a piece of Napa's history, this story of an ambitious entrepreneur whose passion to create exemplary wines that helped shape Napa Valley's eventual reputation as a world class wine growing region, can be told once more. Five generations later, his great-great-granddaughter Katie Migliavacca is writing a new chapter in this narrative by resurrecting this once-prolific business to carry on a family legacy.