One of northern California’s great historical sites, the Bale Grist Mill in Napa is not only a wonderful and informative resource about stone milling but also an important part in the settling of wine country and northern California’s history with grain growing.
We were fortunate to get a private tour at the kind invitation of Jeanne Marioni, Volunteer and Community Outreach Coordinator, who called our office out of the blue this past summer and invited us up.
Also on hand was the incredibly informative and well-versed Mario Scalise, who gave us a tour of the mill, a fascinating explanation of early patent law, the adventure-filled life of Edward Turner Bale, a glimpse into the wild wild west, the capture of Sonoma, the Bear Flag Revolt, a brief overview of milling phrases (milling about, run of the mill, grist for mill, etc.), an overview of dressing french burr millstones, AND a corn milling demonstration…among other things!
We were all struck by how much the mill, even though no longer in use, felt like a central meeting place for community, and how symbolically the Bale Grist Mill represents much of our recent work in trying to restore a regional grain economy here in northern California. It was sweet to imagine farmers from around the area gathering at harvest time to have their grains milled and to realize, in those days, enough corn & wheat was being grown in what is now “wine country” to merit a mill being built in the first place.
If you are curious about milling or a connoisseur of regional history we can not recommend a visit to the Bale Grist Mill enough. It is an excellent way to break up back to back wine tastings next time your in-laws are in town. And with the swanky Bothe-Napa campground right next door you might has well make a weekend of it.