Ilsley Winery Trade Page

Ilsley Vineyards


1954 Ernest and June Ilsley begin growing grapes in the Stags Leap region.

1962 Ed and Sandy Ilsley purchase a home and vineyard in the Napa Valley and begin growing grapes.

1963 Ernest and June Ilsley purchase an additional 114 acres in Napa's Stags Leap District. John Downey sold the ranch to the Ilsley's and continued to live there. This property has always been known as "The Downey Ranch."

1964 After a discussion with Robert Mondavi, Ernest Ilsley planted Cabernet Sauvignon grapes in his vineyard.

1966 Ilsley Vineyards had a contract to sell grapes to Charles Krug winery. Later, they chose to sell grapes to the Robert Mondavi Winery. The first Robert Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon contained Ilsley Vineyards grapes.

1968 Cabernet vines were planted to replace the Zinfandel vines on the Downey Ranch.

1971 The Downey Ranch, experiences a long frosty spring. From mid-March to mid-April, Ed Ilsley spent 19 of 21 nights in the vineyard working to protect the vines from the damaging frost. Many farmers lost their fruit. Water sources were pumped dry and farmers were so tired they slept through their frost alarms. With the help of family, friends and neighbors, the crops were saved.

1975 The second generation of the Ilsley Family, begins managing the grape growing operations in the vineyards.

1979 Ilsley Vineyards has been growing grapes in the Stags Leap District for 25 years.

1980 Cabernet vines are planted to replace the old Carignon vines that were no longer a desirable grape for winemaking.

1985 Ernest Ilsley is involved in the effort to designate the Stags Leap District an American Viticultural Area (AVA), which is approved in 1989.

1986 - 1988 Merlot vines are planted.

1988 Cabernet vines are planted on the Downey Ranch hillside.

1994 - 1997 Sangiovese vines are planted.

1996 Malbec vines are planted.

1997 Ilsley Vineyards Sangiovese grapes are chosen for the La Famiglia Di Robert Mondavi Winery "Bless the Grapes" ceremony.

1999 Ilsley Vineyards Sangiovese grapes are chosen once again for the La Famiglia Di Robert Mondavi Winery "Bless the Harvest."

1999 La Famiglia Di Robert Mondavi Winery chooses Ilsley Vineyards Sangiovese for the Napa Valley Premiere (barrel) Auction.

2000 The third generation of the Ilsley Family begins managing the grape growing operation in the vineyards and they start a new wine making venture. Ernie Ilsley heads up the winery operations, David handles vineyard management and Janice defines customer service. Together, with the support of their partners and families, they create the Ilsley Vineyards wines.

Craig McLean joins the Ilsley family as their winemaker and begins producing an Ilsley Vineyards, Stags Leap District Cabernet Sauvignon. This wine is introduced to the public in 2003.

2000 - 2001 More Cabernet vines are planted on the Downey Ranch hillsides.

2001 Cabernet vines replace the Sangiovese vines. Petit Verdot vines are planted.

2003 The inaugural release, Ilsley Vineyards, Stags Leap District, Napa Valley, 2000 Cabernet Sauvignon. A limited production of 489 cases were offered to the public.

2004 The Ilsley Family celebrates 50 years of grape growing in the Stags Leap District. For 47 years, Ilsley Vineyards grew grapes for the Robert Mondavi Winery. In 2004, Ilsley Vineyards began a new relationship. They are now growing cabernet sauvignon and merlot grapes for Shafer Vineyards.

A new wine is created, Seis Primas. This wine celebrates the forth generation of winemakers in the Ilsley family, the six girl cousins: Kimberly, Julia, Alyssa, Analise, Kate and Olivia. It's offered to the public for the first time in September 2007.

2006 Ilsley Vineyards releases the 2003 Cabernet Sauvignon with a new logo and label.

2007 Ilsley Vineyards introduces their new wine, Seis Primas (the six girl cousins).

2008 This year, Napa experienced the most serious spring frost since 1971. Fortunately, David and Ernie had the experience and information they needed to care for the vineyards to avoid any frost damage.

Later in the year, the Cabernet Sauvignon on the hillside vineyard was replanted.
2009   Heather Pyle joins Ilsley Vineyards as their winemaker. She has a long history with the vineyards having started working with the family in 1988 while at Robert Mondavi Winery.
For the first time Cabernet Franc vines are planted.
2009   Ilsley Vineyards prepares its first Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon
2011   In order to maintain a quality crop with good yields, older vineyard blocks are removed and new cabernet sauvignon vines are planted.
2012    Living in Napa Valley for the past 100 years, the Ilsley family is celebrating an American dream.