D.W. Kreger

D. W. Kreger is a clinical psychologist, author and researcher in the fields of psychology, archaeology, and ancient spirituality.

Author | Psychologist

Research in the fields of

Psychology . Archaeology . Ancient Spirituality

D. W. Kreger is a clinical psychologist, author and researcher in the fields of psychology, archaeology, and ancient spirituality.

D. W. Kreger is a Author, Psychologist, Archeologist



Are You Smarter Than A 5th Grader

A Brief History of Napa Valley

by D. W. Kreger

Many think of Napa Valley as being the big-leagues of the wine industry. When you think of Napa, you might think of massive, corporate-owned wineries, making big money, producing the lion’s share of wine in California, one of the most sought-after wine-growing regions in the world. But, where did it all begin? There must have been a rag-tag group of hearty, intrepid pioneers that started it all. At one point, the winemakers of Napa Valley were what we today might think of as garagiste, or micro-chateau winemakers. There were, to be sure, small-lot wine producers all over the country. But the wine labels of Napa would go on to become legend. Names like Charles Krug, Beringer, Inglenook, and Chateau Montelena, to name a few. So, it might be interesting to explore the roots of Napa Valley Wine.

The first thing you will discover is that the real history and heart of Napa Valley began in the town of St. Helena. There, to this day, is located the Napa Valley Vintner’s Association, and the Napa Valley Wine Library, located within the St.Helena Public Library. The library is a wonderful resource with many rare and limited edition books on the history of the area and the early wine industry. But, what you discover there might just surprise you. It was not at all what many might expect.

Napa Valley did not start out to be a wine or grape growing region at all. Once the Native Americans were rounded up and moved to the mission, one of the first major land-owners was Dr. Edward Bale of England. In the late1830’s, he was convinced that the Napa Valley would be a highly desirable place for immigrant settlers, growing wheat and corn and raising livestock, and that would mean big money for whoever owned the mills and the infrastructure. At that time California was still part of Mexico. In a very shrewd move, he became fluent in Spanish and became a Mexican citizen. He then befriended General Vallejo, Governor of California, and eventually married his daughter. As a dowry, he received over 18,000 acres of land in Napa Valley. The first thing he did was to build two mills, a saw mill, and a grist mill for milling grain. In doing so, he thought he’d make a fortune off of the flood of people moving here, building farms, and growing grains. But it never materialized. Immigrants arrived and began farming, but not quickly enough. Eventually, in 1848, gold was discovered in California, and Dr. Bale went off in search of gold! But, he soon died of a fever, never to return.

Not long after that a young Prussian immigrant, a journalist named Charles Krug, settled in the area. He had some experience in making wine with an immigrant vintner in the area, named Agoston Haraszthy, and Krug saw the potential of Napa Valley to be a wine growing region. In a move similar to that of Bale, he courted and married Bale’s daughter. As his dowry, he received 540 acres of prime real estate just north of St. Helena, CA, on land that is still to this day owned by the Charles Krug Winery.

Surprisingly, many of the early settlers in Napa Valley were survivors of the Donner Party, or the party that immediately preceded it. You will remember, that this is the train of covered wagons that left Missouri, headed for San Francisco, that got caught in an early winter storm and resorted to cannibalism to survive the winter. Their camp was at the top of what is now known as Donner Pass. This grizzly back-history was shared by many early settlers in Napa Valley, and so formed the foundation of the society that flourished here. Perhaps they were haunted by being survivors of such a scandalous affair, and were just looking for a place where people would not gossip about them or judge them. In Napa Valley, they found refuge among other survivors of that ill-fated group.

Perhaps the most surprising thing about Napa Valley has to do with the wine industry itself. First, the myth that Napa Valley Wine is big business. Well, if you are referring to quality and price-point, that may be true, but regarding the business statistics, Napa is surprisingly small. Only 4% of California wine comes from Napa Valley. But, it’s still owned by big corporations, right? Wrong. 95% of wineries in Napa Valley are family owned. And, unlike most other grape producing areas, the average yield in Napa Valley, is approximately only 1.5 tons/acre. Napa wine is very good, but it’s neither very big nor corporate. That was a surprise.

So, with this new information, you’d think it should be easy to find many small winemakers from the 1800s, the winemakers who first began making wine in this region. And since it is still to this day, mostly small yield, family owned operations, this must truly be the home of the garagiste/micro-chateau winemaker, right? Wrong again!

Charles Krug was the first real commercial winemaker of any size in Napa Valley. He made his first batch of Napa Valley wine in 1858, producing about 2000 gallons of wine for his patron George Yount (founder of Yountville). That’s a little more than 600 cases. And, that was likely the smallest batch of wine every made in Napa Valley. The wine industry quickly took off. Charles Krug made 5000 gallons of wine in 1859. If you are a home winemaker, can you imagine making 5000 gallons of wine in your garage? That’s pretty big. And, then Krug built a massive winery on his property, near St. Helena in 1861. His winery was capable of producing over 100,000 gallons of wine a year, and did so for years to come.

Charles Krug’s cellar master was a young man named Jacob Beringer. When the winery burned down in the 1860’s, Jacob nearly lost his life trying to save the cellar. Krug never forgot it, and later helped Beringer start his own winery. After his brother from Germany joined him, the Beringer Brothers began making over 200,000 gallons of wine a year. Over the years, others came to Napa seeking their fortune in the wine business. In 1879, a former sea captain, Gustov Niebaum, who made his fortune in the Alaska fur trade, bought the Ingelnook Estate in Rutherford. He was soon was making 65,000 gallons a year. And, still the business grew.

Soon, many of the wealthy inhabitants of San Francisco made it a point of prestige to own a winery in Napa Valley. Some were gold or silver tycoons, or men like Sam Brennan who made his fortune selling supplies to miners in the gold rush. A man by the name of Alfred Tubbs made his fortune in making rope for miners in the gold rush. In 1886 he built what is now Chateau Montelena. The same year, the socialite Mrs. Josephien Tychson built what is now Freemark Abbey, producing 25,000 gallons a year. Nearby, Larkmead winery was established, now known as Rombauer, and soon they were producing 150,000 gallons a year. Meanwhile, the vineyards now known as Mondavi, were producing a whopping 250,000 gallons a year! All in all, just the area of St. Helena produced nearly two million gallons of wine in the year 1886.That does not include Rutherford, Yountville, Napa, Oakville, Calistoga or Conn Valley. The surrounding area produced another two million gallons a year.

Then there was the Greystone Co-op. The owners built the winery to get around the oligopoly of large wine merchants based in San Francisco. These merchants controlled the volume of wine produced and the market price per gallon for wine. They thrived while Napa Valley producers made more and more wine, for less and less money. Two men, William Bourn II and Everett Wise formed the Greystone Wine Co-op for small Napa Valley wine producers to make and sell their wine. You might imagine that it was like an early custom crush facility, helping small grape growers in Napa Valley to produce their own small batches of wine, independent of the large wineries. Well, not exactly.

Actually, it appears Greystone bought grapes from local producers on some kind of profit sharing plan; this is what they meant by the term “co-op”. This got around the San Francisco wine merchants, and offered a fairer rate of return for the growers. Then all the grapes collected went into making the Greystone wine. But, this was anything but a small winery. Greystone, when completed in 1889, was the biggest winery in the world, producing a whopping 350,000 gallons a year under a single roof!

Eventually, the Napa Valley wine industry collapsed under it’s own weight. Over production continued to drive falling prices, in spite of their best efforts. By 1887 Charles Krug was bankrupt. The Greystone Co-op only lasted a few years and sold out in 1892. The Napa Valley wine industry in the 1880s was what we might today call a “bubble”, and it eventually burst. Soon after this there was a devastating blight by the phylloxera aphid, and just when they were recovering, prohibition hit. In the span of several decades the Napa Valley wine industry was all but wiped out. In 1891 there were 110 wineries, and only 8 produced less than 10,000 gallons per year. By 1977, that number was down to about 51, and most were significantly smaller than their ancestor’s wineries.

In conclusion, the history of Napa Valley wine was not at all what you might imagine. You’d expect the California vineyards to start small, and then grow and grow, and eventually blossom to greatness. Not so in Napa. They started dismally, populated by several members of the doomed Donner party. Then, almost from the very first vintage, wine was big business in Napa Valley. In a few short years, it became an incredibly huge business. Then, just as quickly, it collapsed and then went through a few smaller boom and bust cycles, and was almost wiped out, before being banned by federal legislation. Only after nearly 100 years did Napa wine make a significant rebound. Napa wine survived Prohibition and saw the rebirth of the wine industry after World War II, leading to their rise to prominence once again in the 1970’s and 80’s. But that is another story.


D. W. Kreger is a clinical psychologist, an expert on the occult, and a researcher in the fields of psychology, archaeology, and ancient spirituality. His work has been presented at major academic conferences, and appeared in both research and popular media. And, he is the author of 6 books.


D. W. Kreger is a clinical psychologist, an expert on the occult, and a researcher in the fields of psychology, archaeology, and ancient spirituality. His work has been presented at major academic conferences, and appeared in both research and popular media. And, he is the author of 6 books.

Dr. Kreger’s focus, since his doctoral dissertation, has been on interdisciplinary research in the fields of archaeology and spirituality. He has investigated archaeological sites in 17 countries around the world. His research on the role of sexual imagery in Neolithic shamanic petroglyphs was presented at an annual meeting of the Archaeological Institute of America. And, his research into an ancient Mayan goddess cult on the island of Cozumel was featured in Caribbean World Magazine.

Of all his research interests, his most passionate and enduring, has been deciphering the Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu. After spending 15 years intensively studying this ancient text, he published his startling research on the history and origins of Taoist beliefs in the context of late Neolithic shamanism. He also painstakingly created a revised translation of the Tao Te Ching, which he has been reading and studying for his entire life.

He holds a Ph.D. in psychology, from the Wright Institute in Berkeley, completed his post-doctoral training in neuropsychology, and is a Diplomate of the International Academy of Behavioral Medicine, Counseling, and Psychotherapy. He has worked in the field for over 30 years. His psychological research has been published in Psychological Reports, and abstracts published in the Archives of Clinical Neuropsychology; his research has also been presented at the annual meetings of the National Academy of Neuropsychology and the California Psychological Association.

Currently, Dr. Kreger is a consulting clinical psychologist at Loma Linda Psychiatric Medical Group. He lives with his wife and son, on a small organic vineyard north of Los Angeles, CA, where, in his spare time, he also owns and runs a small craft-winery, Domäne Kreger Vineyards.