Stelling Era


In the mid-1930s, Martin Stelling Jr., a dashing San Francisco real estate magnate, began investing in winery properties in Napa Valley and eventually moved to a residence north of Oakville with his wife Caroline (Bishop) Stelling. The couple later welcomed their two children, Doug and Cara Stelling. In 1943, Martin Stelling Jr. purchased the 527-acre To-Kalon estate, retaining all but 90 acres that he immediately sold to Beaulieu Vineyard. The following year, he acquired the adjacent 1,700-acre McGill ranch with a vision of establishing a vast winery estate and reviving the To-Kalon name. He began planting vines (including the Robert Mondavi Winery’s renowned I-Bock and Monastery Block within the former McGill ranch) and selling grapes, although he never produced wine. In 1950, Martin Stelling Jr. tragically died in a car accident, leaving his development plans unfulfilled. His wife Caroline Bishop Stelling assumed control of the Oakville estate.

“Funeral Services Today for Martin Stelling Jr.” San Francisco Chronicle. May 8, 1950.
Lapsley, James T. Bottled Poetry: Napa Winemaking from Prohibition to the Modern Era. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1997.
“Martin Stelling Buys Large McGill Ranch.” St. Helena Star. March 31, 1944.
“Mrs. M. Alice Churchill Sells Famed Tokalon Vineyards to Martin Stelling.” Napa Journal. July 23, 1943.
“Services Set for Caroline Landry Today.” San Francisco Chronicle. August 11, 1960.
Tchelistcheff, Andre. Grapes, Wine, and Ecology. California Wine Industry Oral History Project, Regional Oral History Office, The Bancroft Library. Berkeley: The University of California, 1983.
Image: Galen Schoch/Wine Fellas
Vintner, Jeremy Nickel's "History of To-Kalon"