Our History

Our History

Somerston, previously known as two individual parcels, Soda Valley and Elder Valley, located high in the hills above Napa Valley. In an area historically known as Rancho Catacula, it is more paradise than mere property. Only a ridgeline separates this now contiguous pristine property, which is unencroached, uninterrupted and perfectly secluded – but still very much a part of the Napa Valley and its rich history.

Soda Valley (Priest Ranch)
The eastern part of the Somerston property was originally settled by a young man of 23 named Joshua James Priest who arrived in California in 1849. Joshua married his wife Sarah, fathered 9 boys and after mining for 11 plus years he gained title to 638 acres of the Catacula land grant in a section called Soda Valley. For a time, the Soda Valley’s natural spring waters were marketed commercially but Joshua and his family’s main occupation was stock raising and farming. Priest and his descendents managed to hold on to most of the ranch for over a century.

Elder Valley (Lynch Vineyards)
This 990 acres of rolling, knobby, volcanic vineyards lies in the eastern portion of Rancho Catacula, originally part of an 8000 acre land grant belonging to one of California’s very first American pioneers, Joseph Ballinger Chiles who left Missouri and headed westward in 1841. In 1877 it was sold and became Elder Valley land. The Whittle family farmed Elder Valley for most of the 20th century, however a large grass fire altered the landscape dramatically in 1913 clearing away much of what might have remained from the days of the first pioneers. It wasn’t until 1970 that Elder Valley found its true calling when it was planted to its first grapes. In 1999 internet executive Dan Lynch recognized the land’s great potential and purchased and expanded the vineyards to include an additional 39 acres. Today, colorful vineyards of Cabernet, Merlot, Syrah, and Zinfandel surround the lake, the valleys and the rolling hills. To many locals it is still referred to as “Elder Valley”. Farmers have been tilling this region since the 1840’s, which makes this ranch one of the oldest agricultural sites in Northern California.

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