Before Napa, There was Carne Humana

Prior to Napa becoming a county and even before California was a state, a vast rancho called Carne Humana encompassed the stretch of Napa Valley from Rutherford north to Calistoga. The land was first deeded to English surgeon Edward Bale who had the misfortune to be shipwrecked off the coast of Monterey, but the good luck to do so precisely when General Mariano Vallejo was in desperate need of a surgeon-in-chief for his troops upon those shores. Bale went on to marry Vallejo’s daughter and in 1841, Carne Humana was given to him both as a dowry and as a reward for his work as a doctor.

Present-day maps exclude any lines or other references to this 17,962-acre rancho. But there remains indisputable logic to its historic boundaries. The climate in the upper reaches of Napa Valley is warmer than in the south, making possible the successful cultivation of red grape varieties renowned for richness, concentration and backbone, and white grapes with bright acidity, tangy backbone and lush tropical flavors.

Today, most of the vineyards planted on the original Carne Humana rancho produce sun-loving reds including historic field blends of nearly forgotten varieties, old-vine Zinfandel, Petite Sirah and heritage types such as Charbono.