Friday, August 19, 2005

The Elegant Old Winery By Silverado Resort And Country Club


Morris M. Estee Creates
Hedgeside Winery & Distillery
(Now occupied by Del Dotto Vineyards)

Copyright by John M. Olney, May 9, 2005

The following historical review was first published under the purview of
Suite, in its History Category, under Elegant Old Wineries.
Sources: (1) Historical and Descriptive Sketchbook of Napa, Sonoma, Lake and Mendocino, Menefee, C. A., 1873, Reporter Publishing House (1993); (2) Illustrations of Napa County, California: Historical Sketch, Oakland, 1878, Smith & Elliot; (3) History of Napa Co. California, Palmer, Lyman L.-Historian, 1881, Slocum, Bowen & Co. Publishers; (4) History of Napa County, Wallace, W. E., 1901, Enquirer Print; (5) Wine Country - A History of Napa Valley - The early years: 1838-1920, Heintz, Wm., 1990, Capra Pres: (6) Old Napa Valley - The History to 1900, Weber, Lin, 1998, Wine Ventures Publishing; (7) California’s Napa Valley-One Hundred Sixty Years of Wine Making, Heintz, Wm., 1999, Scottwall Associates; (8) (Masonic lodge)

Morris M. Estee was born in 1833, within Warren County, Penn. He was a teacher in Pennsylvania before gold fever possessed his being. He came to California in 1853 first settling in 49’er country where he was a gold miner from 1853 to 1856. But his known oratory talents could not talk the gold out of “d’em dhar hills” to provide him a livelihood. He quit mining and returned to his former occupation as a teacher in the town of Volcano, California. He had been advised that his oratory talents made him an excellent candidate for a law degree so he undertook such study. Upon successful completion of his law education, he went to work for a law office in Sacramento (the state capital) during the period 1857-1859. He then broke away and established his shingle in the same town.

Politics became the next step in his illustrious career. In 1862, he was elected to the state Assembly representing Sacramento County. He served as the elected District Attorney for the City and County of the same from 1863 to 1866. He then relocated to the city of San Francisco. There, he campaigned for his friend, Newton Booth, to become Governor, which occurred in 1871. During this timeframe he was selected to be Secretary of the State Republican Central Committee, a powerful political force in California. Subsequently, 1875, Estee was elected again to the Assembly but this time representing San Francisco.

Meanwhile, Estee was establishing his law office, which had grown quite substantial, and he ventured into other business opportunities. Estee purchased about 600 acres of land to the northeast of the city of Napa. The land was adjacent to the property owned by General John F. Miller -- This latter site is now known as the very popular and prestigious Silverado Resort and Country Club. Estee and his family spent about two thirds of the year residing on the Napa property and the balance of time at their residence in San Francisco.

In 1869, Estee, along with his Napa neighbor, General John F. Miller (an associate of Gustav Niebaum founder of Inglenook Vineyard Co., and both owners in the Alaska Commercial Co.), and three others, formed the Napa and Vallejo Water Co. In the Slocum, Bowen & Co., Publishers book of 1881, “The History of Napa County, California,” Historian-Author, Lyman Palmer said, “He is one of the leading Horticulturists of Napa County, having at this time a vineyard of about 300 acres and owning in Napa Valley in one body about six hundred acres of land under a high state of cultivation.” -- I only mention this quotation because there are other historical books written in the 1990s which keep citing 1881 as the year Estee purchased the property. Vineyards require at least three to five years to reach maturity. Based on Palmer’s observations about “300 acres of vineyards” and “high state of cultivation, “ coupled with Estee’s involvement in a 1869 water company, it seems clear that the land was purchased well before 1881.

During the late 1870s and into the mid-1880s, Estee’s political career included two nominations for the U.S. Senate and one for Governor of the State of California; all were unsuccessful campaigns. During his tenure as Speaker of the Assembly, (1873-1874) he was an ex-officio Regent of the University of California Board of Regents.

The Napa Viticultural Society was formed in 1881 and Estee was selected to be its first president. In 1885 he completed construction of his “Hedgeside” winery and co-located distillery operations and caves. The design consultant for the complex was none other than Captain Hamden W. McIntyre who, in 1881 commenced winemaking in California at Captain Niebaum’s Inglenook Winery. McIntyre had been an “Agent” for the Alaska Commercial Co. prior to his arrival in Napa. He was involved in the final designs of a number of the great old graceful wineries built during the 1880s and 1890s. (Go to for more information on the Alaska Commercial Co. and Inglenook winery- now owned by movie mogul, Francis Ford Coppola- and

Estee was involved in the community in many ways. Deputy Grand Master Morris M. Estee laid the Corner Stone of the South San Francisco Masonic Lodge in 1888, and a year later, as Grand Master, he dedicated the temple. The temple and the adjacent South San Francisco Opera House, both owned by the lodge were located on the corner of Third and Newcomb streets.

He reached the political high of being elected chairman of the 1888 Republican National Convention held in Chicago where he shepherded the candidacy of Benjamin Harrison through the floor successfully gaining him the party nomination. Estee was the nominating speaker. In 1889, Harrison subsequently won the Presidential election becoming the 23rd President of the United States (His grandfather was William Henry Harrison, the 9th President). In 1890, Estee was rewarded for all his efforts with appointment to the U.S. District Court in Hawaii. (Hawaii became a Territory of the U.S. in 1900 and the 50th state in 1959).

Morris M. Estee died in the year 1903 in the Territory of Hawaii.

The history of the use of Estee’s building complex is murky during the timeframe from his death until Prohibition, implemented in 1920, forced its shut down. Similarly, I have not yet identified what was happening to the site during the entire 14 years Prohibition prevented it from producing alcohol. At the start up of WW II, the government took over the site (1944) and produced pure alcohol for use in the war efforts.

In 1954, the Buller family purchased the site. They converted the distillery into their home and subsequently leased out the winery buildings to a number of enterprises.

Hedgeside Winery & Distillery
Becomes Home to Other Winegrowers
(Now occupied by Del Dotto Vineyards)

Copyright by John M. Olney, June 8, 2005
First published under auspices of, an online University.
Reference and Bibliography Materials (1) Ghost Wineries of Napa Valley, Haynes, Irene w., 1980, Sally Taylor & Friends. (2) The Pocket Encyclopedia of California Wines, Thompson, Bob 1980 Simon & Schuster . (3) A Sunset Book Guide to California's Wine Country, Thompson, Research & Text, Sep 1982 (3rd ed 1st Pub), Lane Publishing Co. (4) Pocket Encyclopedia of Wine, Johnson, Hugh, 1985, Simon & Schuster (5) Vintners' Choice, Lee, Hilde Gabrial, 1986, Ten Speed Press. (6) Wine Country - A history of Napa Valley - The early years: 1838-1920, Heintz, William, 1990, Capra Press. (7) Wine Spectator’s California Wine, Laube, James, 1995, 1st ed., Wine Spectator Press. (8) The Connoisseurs' Handbook of the Wines of California, Robby, Norman F. and Olken, Charles E., 1998, Alfred Knopf ( 9) Wine Spectator’s California Wine, Laube, James, 1999, 2nd ed., Wine Spectator Press.
( 10)

As I reported in the first part, the winery and distillery operations were shut down by the implementation of Prohibition in early 1920. In the mid 1940s the government reopened it to produce industrial grade alcohol during World War II. This production lasted a short period.

In the mid-1950s, The Buller family purchased the property but no wine was fermented nor brandy distilled in the building compound from the 1950s until about 1975 (3) To date, my research efforts have not identified any commercial winery operations at the Hedgeside complex between the U.S. Governments’ production efforts during WW II until 1975, when a John Beckett refurbished the winery building and caves for his wine operation. However, Beckett’s tenure was short lived and he ceased operations after about two years.

The history of wine operations at the building complex started up again with the arrival of Quail Ridge. This winery was founded in 1978, by Elaine Wellesley and her husband, Jesse Corello, but was operating to the west of the City of Napa, in the Mt. Veeder area. Wellesley is related to Richard Colley Wellesley (1760-1842), the first Duke of Wellington. Corello was a movie production manager.(5) She and her deceased husband had started their winemaking careers as home winemakers in the Los Angeles area. They then moved to Napa in 1976. She went on to UC Davis and earned a related degree.

Their future was promising. This is what renown wine writer, Bob Thompson, had say in 1980, " After one stunning success with a basement lot, Jesse Corello decided to launch a winery devoted principally to Chardonnay. First crush, 1978,..released 1980 to instant acclaim." (2) Then in 1981, while tending to a controlled burn in the vineyard some sort of change in wind conditions occurred and Corello was caught in the fire and died. (5) Wellesley was unwilling to stop what the two off them had started. She acquired a new partner.

Leon Santoro’s mother had made wine back when Leon was but a boy growing up in Villa Santa Maria, Italy. He was trained as a chemist but never made wine before.(10 ) He migrated to California, and specifically to Napa California the year after he heard about Steve Spurrier’s French tasting results of 1976. He bounced around several vineyards and wineries, doing odd jobs, anything he could to learn how to make the best wines. His last position was a brief stint at Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars with Warren Winarski.

The next step for Wellesley and Santoro was to move the business into the former Hedgeside winery in 1981. This writer was fortunate enough to met them at this winery site in 1986 when I was searching for labels to include on my wine label -poster-map of Napa Valley. They were quite delighted to let me use their label. When I met with them, they were using only the half of the winery building that lead to the caves. The other side was leased to a wood worker. There was nothing elegant about the interior of the old stone winery, especially on the woodworker’s side, where wood chips and dust were flying and adhering to everything. The poster-map was printed and released in 1987, the same year they decided to take their winery operation public via the Toronto Stock Exchange. This is where conducting historical research becomes important. There are two versions about why Quail Ridge was sold the following year.

In the first version, by 1988 the old stone winery building required renovation and improvements were needed to the winemaking equipment. These capital-intensive requirements were beyond the financial means of the Quail Ridge owners. Meanwhile, The Christian Brothers were shopping for a small volume winery with a “hand-crafted image.” Quail Ridge and The Christian Brothers winery operations were a match. (8) No sooner had The Christian Brothers decided to purchase Quail Ridge and make improvements, plus purchase additional vineyard lands, then they alternated their whole business strategy and sold all of their Napa Valley holdings to Heublein, Inc. of Connecticut. Heublein already owned two of the other great wineries of Napa Valley: Inglenook Vineyard Co. (Now known as Niebaum-Coppola Estate Vineyards) and Beaulieu Vineyards. Heublein owned a vast amount additional property in other winery-oriented counties.

In the second version, Leon Santoro describes the sale as coming about following the collapse of the Toronto stock market in November of 1987 which resulted in the subsequent financial collapse of the winery. It was then taken over by The Christian Brothers in the spring of 1988. (10 ) Shortly after that, The Christian Brothers sold off all their Napa Valley holdings to Heublein. Wellesley was retained to continue making the Quail Ridge wine. Santoro moved on to other winery endeavors.

What happens next was a second tragedy for Wellesley. Heublein no longer wanted to continue with the Quail Ridge label. It, along with others, was sold to a new start-up operation called “Rutherford Benchmark” which operated for about three years and then went bust. Wellesley had already moved on to other wine ventures. The label was eventually sold off to Bronco Wine Co. and became one of the six defunct Napa Valley wine labels -- one of which includes the now famous “Two-Buck Chuck” (Charles Shaw) label.

The next winery operation to occupy Hedgeside is that owned by David and Yolanda Del Dotto. They opened their retail winery operation in 1995 at the Hedgeside winery site on a lease, but their 11 acre vineyard estate is located on the southwest corner of the intersection of Zinfandel Lane with Hwy 29/128 which is situated just south of the City of St. Helena. It appears that the actual owner of the property is his father, John Del Dotto. ( 9)
The Del Dotto winery web site is short of spectacular but that should not surprise anybody! This is the same David Del Dotto who ran afoul of both state and federal laws including Hawaii and Wisconsin and the internet is filled with pages and pages discussing the ventures of David Del Dotto. What his winery web pages do not show are the many court documents exposing general unpublished facts about Del Dotto Some of these facts are: (1) The IRS lien on his Hawaii house in 1993. (2) Hawaii sued him for nonpayment of $5,000,000 in loans in 1995. (3) In 1995, he filed for Chapter 7 personal bankruptcy. (4) In the same year, his corporation filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. In 1996, he agreed to pay a $200,000 fine to the Federal Trade Commission of the U.S. Government for misrepresentation in his real estate “get rich quick schemes.” All of this, and he still lands on his feet in Napa Valley producing highly rated and respected wines on some of the most expensive property in the valley.

The Del Dotto’s have invested heavily in renovating the Hedgeside facility into an absolutely spectacular hospitality tool by which to sell their very expensive wines. Just a view of their website will show you what I mean. You can find out all you want to know about David Del Dotto by just running a general internet search on his name. Be prepared to click on to many sites to read and draw your own conclusions.


Anonymous Anonymous said...


Seems I remember Hedgsiide processing potatoes for alcohol. The by-product mash was then pumped about two miles north on Atlas Road to a feed lot where the steers would become intoxicated but gained weight quickly. The old feed lot was directly west of Silverado Golf Course on the first rise in Atlas Road.

I didn't see any comment in your history concerning this venture.

9:04 PM  

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