From Italy to Napa
Giacomo Migliavacca & the founding of Migliavacca Wine Co.
Born in Pavia, Italy, in 1833, Giacomo attended the University of Pavia before going into business with his father - a large producer of liquors and cordials - in his native Italy.
Giacomo eventually made his way to the U.S., arriving in 1857 via the steamer Golden Gate. He made his home in San Francisco, operating a lucrative vinegar factory, until he moved to Hornitos, California, to embark in the grocery business.
Hornitos had a large population of Italian immigrants at the time; many well known Italian families from Liguria (Giacomo was Lombardian) had settled in the area - Giannini, Chichizola and Ghirardelli to name a few. It was in Hornitos that Giacomo met his wife, Miss Madelena Semorile, an Italian immigrant from Zoagli; as the story goes, Madelena selected Giacomo out of a lineup of men, to be her husband. They were married on February 16, 1860, in Merced, California.
In 1866 the Migliavacca family moved from Hornitos to Napa and the Migliavacca Wine Company was born. In a few short years they became an award winning winery, a household name and one of the largest producers in California.
Giacomo and Madelena created a significant life in Napa, growing their family, their businesses and their real estate ventures over the years.
Napa was home for the remainder of their lives; today they rest inside the family mausoleum at Tulocay Cemetery.
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 (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
1866 to Today
Napa Becomes Home
Giacomo, his wife Madelena and their growing family settle in Napa.
The first business Giacomo owned and operated in Napa was a grocery store located on Brown Street. Shortly after the store’s opening, he set up a wine making operation in the back and began making wine to sell to his customers. With increasing demand convincing him the wine business could be lucrative, Giacomo established the Migliavacca Wine Company. (A brick and mortar winery was later constructed.)
First Napa County Resident to Receive U.S. Patent for "Bottle Corking Apparatus"
Giacomo becomes Napa County’s first U.S. patent holder for his “Bottle-Corking Apparatus.” The prototype from 1869 still exists today and was recently on display for the Napa County Historical Society’s exhibit “Wine: Our Story”.
Migliavacca Wine Company Builds Winery in Downtown Napa
An official winery was constructed on the Napa River at Fifth and Brown. The winery occupied an entire city block (the present-day Napa County Library site).
The winery was an 80 foot by 100 foot two-story brick building with a distillery attached. Giacomo later expanded the winery, growing capacity to over 500,000 gallons.
Migliavacca Mansion is Built
Designed by local architect William H. Corlett in the Queen Anne style, the Migliavacca Mansion was constructed of redwood and Italian slate shingles. The Mansion originally stood on Division Street, on the same property as the winery, but was moved in the 1970s and today can be found on Fourth Street. The home has a three-story turret, and a ballroom on the third floor.
The Migliavacca Mansion is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The G. Migliavacca Investment Company is Formed
With real estate holdings growing in Napa, San Francisco and surrounding areas, as well as investments in several different industries, Giacomo created the G. Migliavacca Investment Company.
The Migliavacca Commercial Building is Constructed
Built 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 the largest commercial stone building in the City of Napa and possibly the county, outside of Greystone Cellars (CIA at Greystone, St. Helena). The building housed several of Napa’s pioneer businesses (Goodman Bank, Bank of Italy, Bank of America, Napa City Water Company, Napa Chamber of Commerce) 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 plan.
Giacomo Retires, Passing Business to Sons
When Giacomo retired, he left the wine company to be run by four of his sons. With the unknowns of Prohibition and their hands in several other business ventures, they closed the winery in 1919.
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.