Why a Funky Old Gas Station in Napa Valley Is Now a Mecca for Millennial Wine Drinkers


Some entrepreneurs plan out their next business venture in their heads and on their laptops. James Harder spotted his from behind the wheel of his car.

It was 2012, and Harder was driving Foothill Boulevard, a meandering ribbon of asphalt that threads the tiny Napa Valley town of Calistoga, Calif. With a population of 5,311, Calistoga has little in the way of major industry, except of course for wine.

Chateau Montelena, the Kenefick Ranch Winery, Castello di Amorosa—these and scores of other vineyards nestle in the rolling countryside surrounding the town. Wine was the reason Harder was there, too. He and business partner Jim Regusci, scion of the highly respected Regusci Winery, had already collaborated on a number of successful ventures including the T-Vine Winery. But Harder was looking for a new project, a departure from what he’d already done.

That’s when he spotted the abandoned gas station.

It was a filling station from the 1930s, complete with streamlined trim, a big garage and an overhang to shelter the pumps. But it had been decades since the place had pumped any gas. The building was a mess, stuffed with old boxes, a truck parked in the garage, the pumps long ripped out, but Harder didn’t care. For the longest time, a thought had been knocking around in his head.

“Man,” he would say to himself, “I have to find a garage.” And now he had.

Harder wanted a garage as a home base for a new idea he was sure would be a hit. Actually, it was an old idea, at least in the wine world.


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