In the late 19th century, a large percentage of Napa Valley’s vineyard workers were Chinese.

Answer: True.

True. Although the history of Chinese in Napa Valley has largely been erased, a significant number of Napa Valley’s vineyard and winery workers in the decades after the Gold Rush (1948—1859) were Chinese immigrants. There were small “Chinatowns” in St. Helena, Calistoga, and in the town of Napa. Chinese workers cleared land, planted vineyards, built wineries, excavated caves by hand, and harvested grapes. By the early 1880s, as the Chinese population in the Napa Valley grew, so did anti-Chinese sentiment. Chinese workers—paid a fraction of what white workers were paid—were accused of taking winery jobs from white workers. In 1882, the federal law known as the Chinese Exclusion Act forbade all Chinese immigration to the U.S. for more than a decade. (An earlier U.S. law—the Paige Act of 1875—banned Chinese women from coming to the U.S., under the rationale that the absence of women would be a deterrent to Chinese men planning to emigrate). By 1900, with racial bias against them at an all-time high, most of the Chinese in Napa Valley had fled. With the exception of old ledgers from a few wineries built in the 1800s, virtually no trace of Chinese history in Napa Valley remains. A new book documenting the role Chinese immigrants played in Napa history—Chinese in Napa Valley: The Forgotten Community that Built Wine Country by John McCormick (The History Press, 2023)—has just been published.

Get WineSpeed

Join tens of thousands of other wine lovers. Get each week’s edition of WineSpeed delivered to your inbox every Friday. It’s fast. It’s free. It’s the smartest way to stay up to speed on wine.
Email address
First Name
Last Name
Other Way You Heard About Us
Be sure to check your inbox to confim your subscription.