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The Napa Valley Wine Estate
Far Niente History
Far Niente was founded in 1885 by John Benson, a forty-niner of the California gold rush and uncle of the famous American impressionist painter, Winslow Homer. Benson hired architect Hamden McIntyre, creator of the former Christian Brothers winery – now the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone – to design the building. Constructed against a hillside in western Oakville, Far Niente functioned as a gravity flow winery, gently moving the grapes through each stage of production.
Far Niente prospered until the onset of Prohibition in 1919, when it was abandoned and left to fall into disrepair. Sixty years later, in 1979, Gil Nickel purchased the winery and adjacent vineyard and began a three-year restoration of the property. During restoration, the original name, Far Niente, from an Italian phrase that romantically translated means "without a care," was found carved in stone on the front of the building where it remains to this day. We felt an obligation to preserve the name with the hope that we could recapture a bygone era when life was indeed without a care. Read more about the history of Far Niente
- The Napa Valley Wine Estate.
The Far Niente winery is surrounded by 13 acres of beautifully landscaped gardens, thought by many to be among the most stunning landscapes in the Napa Valley. Described as "southern" in style, with an emphasis on texture and foliage, the highlight of the Far Niente gardens is the thousands of southern azaleas that bloom every spring, carpeting the estate in brilliant hues of bright red and deep pink. It is said to be the largest single planting of this particular variety of azalea in California, and possibly throughout all of the west coast. At the height of bloom, colorful patches of azaleas are visible from nearly a mile away on Highway 29. Read more about the beautiful gardens of Far Niente - The Napa Valley Wine Estate.
When John Benson built Far Niente in 1885, it was evident by the stone archway in the west wall of the cellar that wine caves were to be chiseled into the solid rock. Unfortunately, as a result of Mr. Benson's death and the forced closure brought on by Prohibition, these caves never materialized.It was in 1980, one year after Far Niente was purchased by Gil Nickel, that Alf Burtleson was hired by Gil to dig a small 60-foot wine cave in the hill behind the winery. Little did the two men know at the time, that the Far Niente wine caves would become the first to be constructed in North America since the turn of the century, spawning a new industry in Napa wine country. Read more about the wine caves of Far Niente - The Napa Valley Wine Estate.
Far Niente is home to a diverse assortment of significant and classic cars that are housed in the Carriage House on the winery grounds. The collection was assembled by Gil Nickel, who revived Far Niente in 1979 and was an avid car collector and race driver. The fleet includes GTs and fast sports cars as well as track-hugging racers that have been driven in vintage racing competitions all over the world.
The collection is comprised of treasures from Italy, Britain, Germany and America, plus a number of vintage BMW motorcycles. Some of the most significant cars include a 1966 Ferrari 500 Superfast and a 1961 Corvette roadster. The cars are hardly treated like a museum collection. In fact, they're driven regularly along the wide open spaces and curvy hillsides of the wine country.Visitors to Far Niente are treated to a viewing of the cars, as the Carriage House is included in the winery tour. Read more about the car collection at Far Niente - The Napa Valley Wine Estate.