How do you begin to comprehend nature? How do you begin to understand land this beautiful, this unique, and this accomplished at producing wines of this magnitude? Far Niente is a triumph. Of beauty. Of history. Of taking what nature has offered and accomplishing a standard of winemaking that mystifies even Mother Nature.
There’s not one aspect of Far Niente that isn’t touched by our passion and precision. From the moment we open our gates to your first sip of our wines, you are transported to a place and experience unrivaled in excellence.
Discover the timeless magic of Far Niente, the Napa Valley Wine Estate.
You’ll know it instantly. The moment you make that turn off of the Oakville Grade, you’ll sense a different world, lush with thousands of bright red and deep pink azaleas. Acacia Drive leads to the Far Niente Estate, but what it really does is take your breath away. The gently curved alleé is surrounded by more than 100 Autumn Gold ginkgo trees that lead you to stunning views of the Cabernet Sauvignon vineyards of western Oakville.
The Far Niente Winery was established in 1885 by John Benson, a forty-niner of the California gold rush and uncle of the famous American impressionist painter, Winslow Homer. Artistry clearly ran in the family because Benson hired Hamden McIntyre, creator of the former Christian Brothers Winery—now the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone—to design the building. The building itself is a piece of art designed to both astound the eye, and the palate, since it 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, whereupon it fell into disrepair. Sixty years later, in 1979, Gil Nickel purchased the winery and adjacent vineyard and began a three-year restoration process which resulted in its placement on the National Register of Historic Places.
Our first Chardonnay harvest took place in 1979. That vintage, along with the '80 and '81 vintages, were made off site. In 1982, winemaking returned to Far Niente with the first crush of Cabernet Sauvignon. Today, Far Niente remains focused on Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay so that it can continue to concentrate its efforts on creating two varietal wines of astonishing quality.
When John Benson built Far Niente in 1885, it was evident by the stone archway in the west wall of the cellar that he intended to chisel caves into the solid rock. But due to his death and Prohibition, that never happened.
Until 1980. That was the year Alf Burtleson was hired to dig a 60-foot wine cave in the hill behind the winery. The Far Niente Napa Valley wine caves thus became the first to be constructed in North America since the turn of the century. Over the next 21 years, the caves were expanded to 40,000 square feet using, in some instances, equipment used in England for digging coal mines. For Far Niente, the caves were not seen as a “nice to have," but rather a “must have,” all done in the name of making our wines age with grace, poise, and polish. As Dirk Hampson, our Director of Winemaking Emeritus said,
“Caves have qualities beneficial to wine aging that are impossible to capture in an above-ground building.”
Far Niente comes from an Italian phrase that romantically translated means, “without a care.” The name has been carved in stone on the front of our building since 1885. We felt obligated to preserve and honor the name with the hope that it would conjure up a bygone era when life was indeed without a care. Yet, the meticulous care, the craftsmanship and the attention to detail that goes into the making of our wine belies all that is inherent in the name. We love the idea behind the name. And we celebrate its relationship to drinking wine. It just has nothing to do with how we make our wine. And that, we assume, you’ll appreciate.
Our label needed to reflect the artistry of our wine, and so it does. The original label is said to have been designed by Benson's nephew, the artist Winslow Homer. With that as inspiration, the label today is an intricate art nouveau-style parchment label designed by artist Tom Rodrigues in 1979. It is one of the most beautiful and distinctive wine labels in the world, and perfectly sets the stage, before one even uncorks the bottle, for what is to come.
No detail is too small. No suggestion for improvement is ignored. No compromises are made at Far Niente. We are obsessed with what we do, and it is why our winery is like it is, and why no one leaves Far Niente unimpressed, uninspired or unmoved by all that our winery and our wines are. We are luxury in a bottle, we are the pinnacle of winemaking, and we say that not with conceit and arrogance, but with a work ethic and a standard that our land and our heritage deserve.
At Far Niente, we are as passionate about the planet as we are our wines. We are stewards of the land, honoring every season and every bit of soil across our Napa Valley vineyards. Far Niente went solar in 2008, with our ground-breaking Floatovoltaic™ system — the world’s first floating, grid-connected solar installation. From our winemaking techniques to our business practices, we maintain our commitment to minimizing our environmental impact.
• We are solar-powered, net-zero users of electricity
• We annually produce more energy than we consume
• We practice organic farming across our vineyards
• We recycle extensively across our wineries
• We collect process water from winery operations for vineyard irrigation and frost protectionLearn More