Founded in Napa Valley in 1885, Far Niente is one of Napa Valley’s original stone wineries, and it remains a testament to the valley’s winemaking legacy more than 125 years later. The original winery was built by John Benson, a San Francisco real estate investor who came to California during the Gold Rush and fulfilled his dream of building a large stone winery in the heart of Napa Valley. He commissioned architect Hamden McIntyre, who created the wineries that house the current Culinary Institute of America and Inglenook winery. It functioned as one of the original “gravity flow” wineries, which moves grapes through production in a stress-free, gentle manner; this authentic style of winemaking has become popular again in recent years.
Benson took the winery’s name from the Italian phrase “il dolce far niente,” or “the sweetness of doing nothing.” Far Niente flourished until the start of Prohibition, which began on January 17, 1920, when it became something of a transportation hub as the San Francisco, Vallejo & Napa Valley Railroad had a stop there (listed as Benson) and an airstrip was cleared in 1927. After Prohibition ended, Martin Stelling, Jr. acquired the ranch and combined this property with his adjacent land along the west side of Highway 29. Tragically, he was killed in a car accident in 1950, and his son sold Far Niente to Gil and Beth Nickel in 1979. The Nickels lovingly renovated it to its 19th-century elegance, which earned it an appointment to the National Register of Historic Places. The vineyard on the Far Niente Estate is named after Martin Stelling, Jr.
Under the Nickels’ guidance, winemaking returned to Far Niente in 1982. Since then, the winery has been focused on the expressions of two Napa Valley wines: cabernet sauvignon and chardonnay. Far Niente’s dedication to its precise house style includes crafting wines made by Far Niente Winemaker Nicole Marchesi, who works with fruit grown in Far Niente’s own vineyards and other pedigreed vineyards throughout Napa for their Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon and Oakville Cabernet Sauvignon, two sumptuous bottlings that build upon forty vintages of growing grapes and producing top-tier Napa wine. Far Niente’s highly acclaimed cabernet sauvignons are considered among the finest examples of wine from Napa Valley by critics, the wine trade, and collectors alike.
Far from doing nothing, the team behind Far Niente has expanded their Napa holdings over the years to include three additional wineries. With a meticulous approach to highlighting Napa Valley cabernet sauvignon, the offerings from each winery have their own distinct personalities. In addition to the painstaking attention to vineyard management and winemaking, there is a through line to all the bottlings in the characteristic label design. They all echo Far Niente’s art nouveau-style lettering and grapevines in shades of gold, green, and purple while allowing their own identity to shine through on the label and in the bottle.
The first addition to the Far Niente family was Nickel & Nickel, founded in 1997 and built on a legacy of remarkable winemaking. The spotlight here is on single-varietal, single-vineyard wines from sites throughout Napa Valley, each of which must meet Winemaker Joe Harden’s rigorous specifications. In addition to chardonnay, Harden produces 19 different expressions of single-vineyard cabernet sauvignon from locations farmed with care to bottle the most authentic expressions of place. Located in Oakville, the winery’s centerpiece is the original John C. Sullenger home, built in 1864 and flawlessly renovated in 2002. The vineyard located on the historic homestead is called the Sullenger Vineyard, a tribute to the property’s founder. In addition to a Sullenger Single Vineyard from this site, all 19 Nickel & Nickel Cabernet Sauvignons are sourced from notable vineyards in renowned AVAs such as Howell Mountain, Rutherford, St. Helena, and Yountville.
In 2012, Far Niente and Nickel & Nickel partners launched Bella Union Winery in Rutherford. Named for the historic Bella Union Railway, Bella Union combines Cabernet from their Rutherford Estate vineyards with classic Bordeaux varieties like malbec, cabernet franc, and petit verdot. Under the steady hands of winemaker Brooke Price, Bella Union Cabernet Sauvignon is noted for its structure and finesse.
Joining the esteemed Far Niente family of wineries, Post & Beam introduced its 2018 vintage in 2020 and has since garnered widespread acclaim. Here, winemaker Michael Accurso builds on the essential components of time-honored techniques to produce classic Napa Valley wines in the spirit of Far Niente and its sister wineries. Created to be enjoyed upon release, Post & Beam 2021 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon offers delightful cherry, raspberry, coffee, and leather flavors; the wine seamlessly unites tradition and innovation and showcases pure varietal expression.