There are two distinct strands to the history of Napa Wine Company: that of our family, and that of a storied winery in the heart of Napa Valley.
Our family’s story begins with Joseph Pelissa, who emigrated from Italy to California in 1902. The son of Ligurian farmers and grape growers, Joseph married and moved to Calistoga in Napa Valley, purchasing 35 acres of land for a single $10 gold coin in 1903. Supporting themselves through what they grew and raised on the property, Joseph and his family prospered; they even owned one of the first automobiles in Napa Valley. They also grew wine grapes and made and sold wine, that is, until 1920 when Prohibition came along. After that, they only produced wine for the family’s personal use.
When Joseph died in 1924, his son Andrew (Andy) Pelissa became the family provider. Andy was an industrious young man; he was the first person in Calistoga to irrigate grapes by diverting water from the Napa River. He also attended business college, and used this acumen to great advantage the rest of his life. After marrying Veola “Babe” Hale in 1930, Andy started a dairy out of which grew a successful trucking enterprise known as the Golden State Trucking Company. He owned and grazed herds of sheep and grew thousands of acres of oats. He also acquired land in Napa Valley, including the historic George Yount Ranch in Yountville, and eventually planted wine grapes which he sold to area wineries.
“Grapes will be king in the valley for at least 500 years – for as long as people drink wine.”
- Andy Pelissa
Andy was a civic-minded fellow and an early champion of keeping Napa Valley in agriculture. As a Napa County Planning Commissioner for fourteen years, he was instrumental in the creation of the Agriculture Preserve Zone in 1968. Saving the valley from urbanization was a visionary act of planning. In Andy’s words, “If the county hadn’t passed the Ag Preserve, there’d be houses all the way to the top of Mount St. Helena today.” Instead, he added, “Grapes will be king in the valley for at least 500 years – for as long as people drink wine.”
Although he kept busy growing his various business enterprises, Andy was also a family man, raising two daughters with Babe: Marilyn and Dawne. When the girls married and had children of their own, Napa Valley became a place for the extended family to gather in summers and on holidays. Marilyn and her husband, Rennick (Ren) Harris, eventually settled in Napa Valley, acquiring vineyard land and starting a winery of their own. But it was Dawne’s first-born son, Andrew Hoxsey, who most closely followed in his grandfather’s footsteps.
Although he grew up in Modoc County where his grandfather owned a cattle ranch, Andrew (b. 1955) was always drawn to Napa Valley, where he spent many happy summers. He remembers his early years there as two-fold. As often as possible he’d tag along with Andrew DelBondio, the Pelissa family’s long-time and beloved ranch employee whom Andy Pelissa credited with much of the family’s success. DelB, as the family called him, taught Andrew how to tend vines and drive a tractor, although his football schedule prevented Andrew from participating in harvest as a youngster.
At other times Andrew spent time with his grandfather. Sometimes they’d go hunting for deer or rabbits - major pests in the family’s vineyards. But Andrew also recalls going to lunches with Andy, meeting up with wine luminaries such as Peter and Robert Mondavi, Louis Stralla (who owned the Napa Wine Company facility for a period of time), and John Daniel. All in all, his summers in Napa Valley were a lesson in both the agricultural and business sides of grapegrowing.
“My grandfather actively supported me, he told me ‘you can do this.’ He gave advice and counsel but allowed me to make decisions.”
- Andrew Hoxsey
After earning a degree at U.C. Davis, Andrew spent two years on active duty in the U.S. Air Force and several more years as a Reserve Officer. But the pull of Napa Valley and the wine grape business was strong, and in 1984 he returned to the valley to work side by side with his grandfather, who by that time was farming 635 acres of wine grapes. Andrew remembers the next seven years - until his grandfather’s death in 1991 - fondly: “My grandfather actively supported me, he told me ‘you can do this.’ He gave advice and counsel but allowed me to make decisions.” Andrew was elected to the Board of the Directors for the Napa Valley Cooperative, a member-based organization that crushed a significant portion of Napa Valley’s grapes. (His uncle, Rennick, was also a Director.) His experience there exposed him to the vicissitudes of the grape and wine business, to the volatile boom and bust cycle that put many growers out of business. “Let’s say you have a large crop one year, but the winery you’re selling your grapes to doesn’t have the tanks to accommodate them. You have about four days to get the crop off the vine; if you don’t have tanks somewhere, you’re sunk.”
Andrew was determined not to let that happen to his family’s grape business, and this is where our family’s story converges with the story of Napa Wine Company, the winery. That history begins in 1877, when two Frenchmen, Jean Adolphe Brun and Jean Chaix built Brun & Chaix Nouveau Medoc Winery in Oakville. It was the 9th bonded winery in California, and today, the building they constructed comprises the southern-most section of Napa Wine Company. In 1892 another winery was built on the parcel adjacent to Brun & Chaix. This facility, which eventually became known as the Madonna Winery, comprises the northern section of Napa Wine Company.
Over the years the two properties changed hands several times, and eventually were combined and sold to Heublein, Inc., which used the facility in the late 1970s and 80s to make Chardonnay under their Inglenook label. But in 1989 Heublein put the property up for sale, and Andrew and the Pelissa family put in an offer. It would take three years for the deal to go through – at which time the facility sat vacant – but in January of 1993 the Pelissa family took possession of the Napa Wine Company. Although Andy did not live to see the acquisition, he fully supported the family’s decision to make the investment, a decision which further cemented our roots in Napa Valley.
With Andrew in the lead, we spent the next year and a half completely renovating and upgrading the Oakville winery. The idea was to create a state-of-the-art custom crush facility, not only as a home for our family’s grapes, but as a place where other growers and wineries that needed processing capacity could crush, age and store their wine. Working with local construction crews, we cleaned and sanitized, installed catwalks, and lined the existing concrete fermentation tanks with new stainless steel. We brought in new equipment – crusher/de-stemmers, presses, and tanks. By the harvest of 1995, the Napa Wine Company was open for business, and we welcomed our new clients, among them Volker Eisele Family Estate and Marilyn Merlot.
During the next several years we continued to improve and refine the winery. The Napa Valley wine industry had been rapidly growing and changing and there were an increasing amount of fledgling producers with grapes, but no place – at least initially – to crush them. We made upgrades to accommodate these artisan wine labels, installing an underground press pit and conveyor belts which allowed grapes and wine to be moved by gravity and bringing in equipment to facilitate hand-sorting, whole cluster pressing and other techniques used to make luxury wines. In 1998 we opened our Tasting Room, expanding the services we offer to our customers with a sales outlet for their wines.
From 1993 onwards Napa Wine Company has specialized in custom crushing operations for several dozen clients ranging in size from 250 to 100,000 cases. Many of the wines made here have garnered garner critical acclaim in respected publications such as Wine Spectator and Wine Advocate. Some producers, including several who became known as “cult” wineries, went on to build their own wineries. Others have stayed with us, preferring the custom crush model and the freedom it affords. By providing winemakers with the “bricks and mortar” of a bonded winery, Napa Wine Company has become recognized as an incubator for fine wine brands, a tradition we feel sure would make Andy Pelissa proud.
“The fact that we’re family-owned lets our customers know that we’re here for the long haul. We’re not here just to make money and move on; this is what we do.”
Today the Napa Wine Company remains firmly in the Pelissa family’s control. In addition to Andrew, three generations serve on our Board of Directors, including Marilyn and Rennick Harris, Dawne Dickenson, David Hoxsey and Jennifer Harris Jackoby. More recently, Andy’s daughters, Kendall Hoxsey-Onysko and Morgaen Hoxsey, joined the business in operational and marketing/sales roles respectively. For our customers, many of whom are family-owned and operated themselves, family ownership makes a difference. As Andrew says, “The fact that we’re family-owned lets our customers know that we’re here for the long haul. We’re not here just to make money and move on; this is what we do.”
Our business is a family tradition and we pride ourselves on that reputation of quality, authenticity, consistency, and continuity. The people at Napa Wine Company help uphold those values year to year. Their loyalty, passion, and determination is the key to success here at Napa Wine Company.
Caryn Lederer, Controller
Sarah Caldwell, Director of Human Resources
Lance Miceli, Bottling Production Manager
Bonded Winery #9
Owned by the Pelissa family, Bonded Winery #9 comprises 635 acres of organically-farmed estate vineyards in Napa Valley as well as three family-owned wine labels: Ghost Block, Elizabeth Rose and Oakville Winery. All of the wines are produced at our family-owned Napa Wine Company, and the name pays tribute to the winery’s history as the 9th bonded winery in California and its status as the only single-digit bonded winery still in existence. Utilizing grapes from estate vineyards in Yountville and Oakville that have been farmed by our family for decades, each brand is a reflection of our heritage, our farming philosophy and the extraordinary quality that comes from these special sites and appellations.
TimelineFacility / Family
Frenchmen Jean Adolphe Brun and Jean Chaix build Brun & Chaix Nouveau Medoc Winery in Oakville; it was the 9th bonded winery in California. Today, this building comprises the southern-most section of Napa Wine Company.
A second winemaking facility is constructed adjacent to Brun & Chaix. Eventually known as the Madonna Winery and owned by the Bartolucci Brothers who produced wine and brandy there until 1969, this building comprises the northern section of Napa Wine Company.
Brun & Chaix sells their facility to the California Wine Association.
Covick Company purchases the facility from the California Wine Association and produces small lots of “sacramental” wine.
Louis Stralla, one of the founding members of the Napa Valley Vintners Association, purchases the facility for $14,500 in a foreclosure and renames it The Napa Wine Company. Stralla produced wines under the Betsy Ross label and grew the winery into the largest independent winery in Napa Valley.
Louis Stralla sells facility to John Cella of Cella Vineyards/Roma Wine Company.
John Cella sells facility to United Vintners.
The Bartolucci Brothers close their business; the lease goes to Alfred Von Loben Sels who produces Oakville Vineyards.
Von Loben Sels sells to United Vintners, uniting the two facilities into one.
United Vintners sells facility to Heublein, Inc., new owners of the Inglenook brand. The facility is refurbished and expanded, becoming the Chardonnay production cellar for Inglenook Wines and one of the first temperature-controlled cellars for barrel fermentation.
The entire property is purchased by the Pelissa family who invest over $1 million to convert the large-volume production facility into the specialized, custom crush production facility Napa Wine Company is today.
Napa Wine Company opens facility to custom crush clients in time for harvest. Among the first clients are Volker Eisele Family Estate and Marilyn Merlot.
Three of Wine Spectator magazine’s Top Ten Wines of the Year are produced at Napa Wine Company.
Napa Wine Company opens Tasting Room and sales outlet on the property. The Tasting Room is host to 24 Alternating Proprietors, brands that make their wines at Napa Wine Company.
Napa Wine Company constructs an underground press pit, a cement-lined cavity with French crusher/de-stemmers, presses, hoppers and conveyor belts to gently transport fruit. Kristi Koford joins the company as Production Winemaker.
Napa Wine Company is first facility in Napa Valley to install a screw cap bottle line.
Napa Wine Company installs an Ultra Premium Sorting System coupled with the LeTrieur™ designed by P&L Specialties.
Two new presses incorporating a CIP (clean in place) system are installed.
Joseph (Giuseppe) Pelissa emigrates from Liguria, Italy to the San Francisco Bay Area.
Joseph marries Mary Louise Petronave, also of Italian heritage. With a single $10 gold coin, the couple purchases 35 acres of land in Napa Valley’s Calistoga and begins to grow grapes and produce wine.
Joseph and Mary have a son, Andrew (Andy) Lee Pelissa, on January 14. He joins his older sister, Anna Katherine, born in 1904.
Joseph Pelissa dies, and Andy becomes the family provider. He becomes the first person in Calistoga to irrigate his grapes by diverting water from the Napa River to the vineyard.
Andy marries Veola “Babe” Hale on August 30. They operate a family dairy and establish a trucking business known as Golden State Trucking Company.
Andy and Babe have a daughter, Dawne Pelissa, born on April 14. She marries Jerome Charles Hoxsey in 1954.
Andy and Babe Pelissa purchase the George Yount Ranch in Yountville for $75,000, in part with savings Babe had tucked away from the dairy business. For the next several decades, Andrew and Babe farm beans, tomatoes, oats and other crops, and continue to operate the dairy.
Andy and Babe have a daughter, Marilyn Pelissa, born on October 17. Marilyn marries Rennick Harris in 1965. The couple purchases Paradigm Vineyard in 1975 and starts Paradigm Winery in 1991.
Dawne Pelissa Hoxsey and her husband Jerome have a son, Andrew Hoxsey, born on March 24th. Andy Hoxsey marries Nancy Lee Hennessy in 1984.
David Hoxsey is born on November 8th to Dawne Pelissa Hoxsey and Jerome Hoxsey. He married Angela Souza in 2000.
With the help of Brother Timothy, cellarmaster at Christian Brothers, Andy plants Chardonnay vines near the site of George Yount’s old blockhouse. He eventually expands his varietal plantings to nearly a dozen, and ultimately acquires 635 acres of vineyards in Yountville and Oakville.
In the same year, Andy becomes a Napa County Planning Commissioner, a position he held for 14 years. He was the only farmer on the Commission, and with his guidance, the Napa County Board of Supervisors created the Agricultural Preserve Zone covering the entire Napa Valley in 1968.
Marilyn Pelissa and Rennick Harris have a daughter, Jennifer Harris Jakoby, on January 8.
Andrew and Nancy Hoxsey have a daughter, Kendall Hoxsey, on May 24.
Andrew and Nancy Hoxsey have a daughter, Morgaen Hoxsey, born on November 16.
Andrew “Andy” Pelissa passes away. His estate, including the 635 acres of Napa Valley vineyards, is left to his wife, Babe, and their heirs: daughters Dawne Pelissa Dickenson and Marily Pelissa Harris, and grandchildren Andrew and David Hoxsey and Jennifer Harris Jakoby.
The Pelissa family with Andrew Hoxsey in the lead orchestrates the purchase of the Napa Wine Company from Heublein, Inc. In addition to the purchase price, the family spends $1 million to upgrade and modernize the property as a custom crush facility. Andrew becomes managing partner while the remaining members of the family take on roles as owners and partners.
The Pelissa family starts producing its own wines, utilizing grapes from its 635 acres of organically-farmed estate vineyards. The company is eventually named Bonded Winery #9 after Napa Wine Company’s status as the ninth winery in Napa Valley to receive its bond, and the only single digit winery still operating in California today.
Babe Pelissa passes away at the age of 91.
The family releases its first Bonded Winery #9 wines under the brand names Oakville Winery, Elizabeth Rose and Ghost Block.
Kendall Hoxsey, Andrew Hoxsey’s daughter, joins Napa Wine Company as Business Manager.
Kendall Hoxsey marries Jeff Onysko. In 2017, Jeff is named Assistant Winemaker at Napa Wine Company.
Morgaen Hoxsey joins Napa Wine Company as National Sales Manager.