Joining the ranks of venerated winemakers such as Charles Krug and Jacob Schram, H.W. Crabb’s prolific output at his 527-acre To-Kalon estate transformed Napa Valley into a premier wine region in California in the late nineteenth century. Under the To-Kalon label, Crabb’s wine won numerous awards at many national and European expositions. He also established an expansive distribution network, which allowed him to ship bulk and case goods to his wine agencies nationwide.
H.W. Crabb was known for his viticultural experimentation and for planting one of the largest varieties of vines, importing approximately 300 to 400 varietals from across the United States and Europe. He also tested various rootstock during the phylloxera crisis that ravaged the valley’s vineyards. His work attracted the attention of the Board of the State Viticultural Commissioners, the University of California, and later the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which each operated an experimental viticultural station within his To-Kalon estate. The University of California, Davis continues Crabb’s legacy of experimentation at its 40-acre Oakville Station vineyard.
To-Kalon Vineyard invoice, 1899.
Source: H.W. Crabb Will and Probate Records.
Crabb was regularly featured in newspapers, magazines, and trade publications both as a prominent winemaker and for his model winery, which grew to encompass a large winery building, distillery, cooperage, and steam powered crushers and water pumps. In addition to his vineyard and winery, Crabb planted an orchard and hay fields and operated a stock farm and horse track. In 1886, the St. Helena Star described To-Kalon estate as presenting “the appearance of a young town, in fact being more of a place than many a California city.” In addition to the St. Helena Star, he routinely appeared in other publications such as the Napa Register, Napa Daily Journal, San Francisco Chronicle, Pacific Rural Press, Pacific Wine and Spirit Review, San Francisco Merchant, and Breeder and Sportsman throughout the late nineteenth century. He was featured in every major publication on Napa County’s history from the 1870s to 1890s.
To-Kalon Stock Farm advertisement, 1891.
Source: Breeder and Sportsman 18, no. 5 (January 31, 1891): 101.
To-Kalon Vineyard vine cuttings advertisement, 1886.
Source: San Francisco Merchant 17, no. 4 (December 10, 1886): 55.
He served on many viticultural committees and boards, including the Board of the State Viticultural Commissioners; presented at viticutural trade meetings; and authored numerous publications, including a chapter in George Husmann’s American Grape Growing and Wine Making. He was regarded as an authority on viticulture, enology, and soil quality and sold his cuttings to winemakers throughout the state.
Following his death in 1899, H.W. Crabb was memorialized as a pioneer resident of Napa Valley and “one of the most successful and experienced viticulturalists” in California. Throughout the twentieth century, Crabb and To Kalon’s significance within the Napa Valley wine industry continued to be recognized in a wide array of publications. To-Kalon remains one of the most famed vineyards in the state’s viticultural history.