Historic Napa winery Far Niente was started by a gold rush forty-niner and abandoned after Prohibition, only to rise from the ashes in the 1980s to reach international renown...

Far Niente was established in Napa Valley’s Oakville AVA by John Benson in 1885. He was a ‘forty-niner’ — one of those who sought their fortune in the 1849 gold rush in California.

The estate produces Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon wines. There are two Cabernet vineyards, 23 and 17 hectares in size. Both border the prestigious vineyards of Robert Mondavi, such as To-Kalon and the Opus One winery. The Chardonnay fruit comes two vineyards in Coombsville AVA, further south in Napa Valley.


View all of Decanter’s Far Niente tasting notes


Far Niente’s imposing winery building was the work of architect Hamden McIntyre, commissioned by John Benson. Its design uses gravity to move the grapes on through each stage of production. Far Niente was hit hard by the Prohibition in 1919 and the winery was abandoned until 1979, when Gil Nickel bought the estate. It returned to fully functioning use in 1982.

Despite the gap in their history, Far Niente still claim to be behind the oldest intact bottle of California wine still in existence today — a bottle of Far Niente Sweet Muscat from 1886, discovered in a private cellar in Marin County.