“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
St. Helena in Napa County, California — The American West (Pacific Coastal)

Chalet Bernensis

Chalet Bernensis Marker image. Click for full size.
By Loren Wilson, September 29, 2012
1. Chalet Bernensis Marker
Inscription. In 1858 Swiss-German John Thomann arrived in California and, by 1874, had built this winery. He built his family home next to the winery in 1884. The Sutter family purchased a small vineyard nearby in 1891 to supply their wine and spirits business in San Francisco and after the earthquake of 1906, decided to move to the Napa Valley. They purchased the Thomann holdings for $10.00 in gold according to county records and named the house after their canton in Switzerland. Closed by Prohibition, the winery produced no wine until 1947 when it was sold to the Trinchero family. In 1986 Sutter Home Winery purchased Chalet Bernensis, reuniting the historic home and winery.
Erected 1997 by Sam Brannan Chapter #1004 E Clampus Vitus.
Marker series. This marker is included in the E Clampus Vitus marker series.
Location. 38° 29.456′ N, 122° 27.248′ W. Marker is in St. Helena, California, in Napa County. Marker can be reached from St. Helena Highway (State Highway 29/128) south of Lewelling Lane. Touch for map. The marker is located to the right of the front door of the Sutter Home Winery Victorian building. Marker is at or near this postal address: 277 St. Helena Highway, Saint Helena CA 94574, United States of America.
Other nearby markers. At
Chalet Bernensis Marker image. Click for full size.
By Loren Wilson
2. Chalet Bernensis Marker
The marker is mounted on the front of the building to the right of the entrance door.
least 8 other markers are within 3 miles of this marker, measured as the crow flies. NSGW & Historic District (approx. 1.1 miles away); Richie Block (approx. 1.3 miles away); Stonebridge (approx. 1.4 miles away); Robert Louis Stevenson (approx. 1˝ miles away); Hudson House (approx. 2 miles away); Beringer Brothers Winery (approx. 2 miles away); Sophie Alstrom Mitchell (approx. 2.3 miles away); White Sulphur Springs (approx. 2.4 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in St. Helena.
Additional comments.
1. Additional Information Regarding the Marker Dedication
Rick Reilly was Noble Grand Humbug when this marker was dedicated. Plaque wording by Loren Wilson.
    — Submitted April 22, 2012, by Loren Wilson of Sebastopol, California.

2. Sutter Home Winery/Chalet Bernensis
The world-renowned Sutter Home Winery as we know it today seems to have always existed as a major force within the Napa Valley wine industry, but it, like the industry itself, has gone through a tremendous roller coaster ride during its long and sometimes turbulent history. In 1858, a mere eight years after California's statehood, Swiss-German John Thomann arrived in California to assist his uncle, who owned one of the first vineyards in Napa Valley not owned by the Franciscan monks. John Thomann took to the Napa Valley much as the wine grapes did. He put down roots in St. Helena, where he began building his own winery.
His hard work and intuitive feel for the soil made him one of the largest producers of wine and brandy in the Valley. In 1884 his success was reflected by the impressive Victorian he built next to the winery. All seemed right with the world. He and his wife and four daughters thrived in the benign valley.
Buoyed by his success, Thomann decided to visit his Swiss homeland in 1900. Tragically, he died while on the trip. His wife and daughters were devastated and never seemed to recover from the loss. The Victorian and winery began to decay around them and the business went downhill fast. The Victorian and winery were eventually sold in 1906 to the Sutter family.
The Sutters, not related to J. Sutter of Sutter's Fort, had been operating a vineyard on Howell Mountain since 1891. The vineyard supplied their thriving wine and spirits business in San Francisco. However, when the Great Earthquake of 1906 rocked The City, the Sutters looked for a more seismic-friendly environment, and moved to St. Helena, where they purchased the Thomann property, reportedly at a sheriffs sale on the county courthouse steps for $10 in gold. They renamed the Victorian Chalet Bernensis after their home Canton in Switzerland and went to work restoring the property.
Unfortunately, another earthquake was on the horizon. In 1919, Prohibition was passed, and the Napa Valley wine industry was virtually wiped out. Sutter’s daughter Caroline and her husband Emil Leuenberger continued to live in Chalet Bernensis until her death in 1947.
Mario and John Trinchero purchased the Sutter Home Winery in 1947 and worked valiantly to help restore the wine industry, but the post-World War II years were not glory years for wine. Sutter Home produced red and white jug wines and several varietals. In the 1960s, Mario Trinchero and his son Bob bought out John and Bob became the winemaker. In 1968 Bob scored a success by introducing Zinfandel made with Amador grapes, and in 1972 the winery introduced White Zinfandel, which gradually spawned an entire new blush wine phenomenon.
The incredible success of White Zinfandel allowed the Trincheros to fulfill one of their long-standing dreams: On January 1, 1986, Sutter Home Winery purchased Chalet Bernensis, thus reuniting the historic John Thomann/Sutter Home estate. As 1997 dawns, the Trinchero family celebrates 50 years of hard work and success in an industry ever more rich with potential.
Rich Benyo, NGH #28
    — Submitted April 22, 2012, by Loren Wilson of Sebastopol, California.

Categories. Industry & Commerce
Credits. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016. This page originally submitted on April 22, 2012, by Loren Wilson of Sebastopol, California. This page has been viewed 417 times since then and 37 times this year. Photos:   1. submitted on September 29, 2012, by Loren Wilson of Sebastopol, California.   2. submitted on April 22, 2012, by Loren Wilson of Sebastopol, California. • Syd Whittle was the editor who published this page.
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