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Napa County Historical Society opens new exhibit on the local wine industry

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The Napa County Historical Society just opened its newest exhibit at the Goodman Library, which seeks to show both visitors and locals the trajectory of the valley’s wine industry. As the first deep-dive exhibit of the “Who Tells Our Story?” series, the “Wine: Our Story” installment will be on display through the fall and includes photos, artifacts and other educational materials about the industry’s reach in Napa.

“We put out a call to all 500 wineries, and we got 53 answers,” said NCHS’s Executive Director Sheli Smith. Photos of Napa’s founding families, children playing in vineyards, and more line the walls of the library’s exhibit space, with each winery contributing the images that meant the most to them personally.

“I wanted to see how people would see themselves and the story they would tell,” said Smith. “And to me, that was really exciting.”

The exhibit also details tangential industries like cork production and barrel-making, as well as teaching visitors which glass should be used with which types of wine. Smith and the NCHS research librarian, Kelly O’Connor, wanted to help demystify the wine industry, as many visitors may be otherwise embarrassed to ask basic questions about wine and the area as a destination. With this exhibit, though, they can learn about each region, American Viticultural Areas (AVA), and types of wine in a visually stimulating way.

“It makes me happy to know that the people in my valley and in the big juggernaut of industry here have a story that is really wonderful and rich and robust,” said Smith. “We’re trying to focus on those kinds of stories … Not the story that has just been told about the white guys, but it’s got other people in it, too.”

Smith said that of the 53 featured wineries, a whopping 95 percent are family-owned.

As a result, when walking around the exhibit, you will see that the photos aren’t of the wineries’ fanciest bottles or most extravagant parties, but are of the people actually supporting the operation with their hard work. And for those who may view wine as a dark and mysterious luxury product, this is a refreshing way to see the valley before (or between) tastings with an educational, local flair.

The Goodman Library is located at 1219 First St., Napa, and is open Tuesday - Thursday from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. and Friday - Saturday from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Learn more at

You can reach Sam Jones at 707-256-2221 and

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