Far Niente was established in 1885 by John Benson in Oakville in the Napa Valley. He was a forty-niner of the Californian gold rush and the uncle of Winslow Homer, the famous America impressionist; the labels used for Far Niente's original wines are said to have been designed by him. The impressive gravity fed winery was designed by Captain Hamden McIntyre, the now legendary Napa Valley winery designer. The property stayed in the Benson family until 1976, when it was acquired by Gil Nickel, who also purchased the nearby vineyards. The estate had suffered under Prohibition and fallen into disrepair, but Gil restored the winery and vineyards in a labour of love, and the building is now on the National Register of Historic Places. Gil made his first Cabernet Sauvignon wine there in 1982. There was a stone archway in the west wall of the cellar, and from this Gil deduced that when Benson built the winery he intended to chisel caves into the solid rock, but due to a combination of his death and Prohibition, this never happened. Gil hired Alf Burtleson, a wine country cave digger, to dig a 60-foot wine cave in the hill behind the winery, thus becoming the first to be constructed in North America since the turn of the 20th century. These have now been expanded to 40,000 square feet, and here the Far Niente wines age with grace. Benson had the name Far Niente carved in stone on the front of the building - it is an Italian phrase which translates to “without a care” - and Gil kept the name, hoping to capture the essence of the bygone era of the historic estate. The grapes come from five different organically farmed vineyard sites, regarded as some of the best in the Napa Valley. The 57 acre Martin Sterling Vineyard in Oakville is planted with Cabernet Sauvignon and a little Petit Verdot. The John C. Sullenger Vineyard, also in Oakville, has 42 acres of Cabernet Sauvignon. The 18 acre Barrow Lane Vineyard is located in Coombsville in a cooler climate, and is planted with Chardonnay. John's Creek 50 acre Coombsville vineyard is also planted with Chardonnay, as is the 25 acre Carpenter Vineyard, at the foot of the Vaca Mountains. Far Niente are passionate about the environment, and in 2008 they went solar with a ground-breaking Floatovoltaic system; the world's first floating grid-connected solar installation. The beautiful art nouveau style wine labels were designed by the artist Tom Rodrigues in 1979, taking inspiration from the original labels used by Benson. The wines are made with the utmost precision and are of astonishing quality, aged in hand-selected French oak barrels This iconic estate is a benchmark for Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay, producing elegant multi-layered wines of unrivalled excellence.