History: Peter Newton, an Englishman
who ran the San Francisco based paper company, Sterling International,
founded Sterling Vineyards in 1964 with 50 acres of vines. He was
convinced that varieties other than Cabernet
Sauvignon (for which the Napa Valley was becoming known)
would be important. Merlot
were included among the first plantings at Sterling.
Sterling's first wines were produced
with the 1969 vintage and the winery buildings were finally completed
in 1972. The winery was built at the top of a 300 foot volcanic
knoll. The exterior style of the buildings is reminiscent of the
look of the white villages on the Greek island of Mykonos. As a
reminder of Sterling's English roots, the design also includes the
church bells from St. Dunstan's Church in London. The church was
destroyed in World War II but it's bells chime on the half-hour
in the Napa Valley.
The original owners sold the winery
and vineyards to Coca Cola in 1977 when Coke decided to get into
the wine business. In 1982, Sterling was sold to Joseph E. Seagram
and Sons when Coke found the wine business a little less rewarding
that it had expected.
Vineyards became the 'crown jewel' among the wineries that Seagram
owned. By supplying the winery with talented people and proper funding,
Sterling became one of the top wine brands in the U.S. From 1982
to 2000, yearly sales of Sterling's wines moved from less than 60,000
cases per year to nearly 400,000. During that time of growth, wine
2001, Diageo (a UK drinks conglomerate) purchased Seagram and blended
Sterling Vineyards into their existing wine business. It will be
interesting to see if they continue with the quest for excellence
that was a hallmark of the Seagram ownership.