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Chinese men in front of Sang Lai store in Napa's Chinatown

Chinese in Napa Valley

The Forgotten Community That Built Wine Country 

John McCormick

The Video


The Book

Unearth the origins of Napa Valley's prosperity.


Chinese laborers were once the backbone of Napa Valley. Throughout the late 1800s, they toiled in the grape fields, mines, hop farms, leather tanneries and laundries, and carved out neighborhoods in towns throughout the Valley. These contributions did little to deter discrimination and Anti-Chinese Leagues sprang up to harass and intimidate immigrants like Chan Wah Jack, who ran the successful Sang Lung store in Napa's Chinatown. In 1882, the Chinese Exclusion Act hastened the decline of local Chinatowns and these once vibrant communities disappeared while the industries they helped to foster flourished.


Join author John McCormick as he uncovers the forgotten contributions of the Chinese people in California's most famous wine region.

Front cover of Chinese in Napa Valley book

Barnes and Noble




Why Write This Book?

I wrote the book as a result of my bucket-list History Masters program at Harvard. As part of that program, I stumbled across a short article about Chinese workers in St. Helena vineyards in the late 1800s. As I researched, I discovered that Chinese workers were critical in many industries between 1870 and 1900 throughout the Napa Valley. There were Chinatowns in Napa, St. Helena, and Calistoga. Chinese workers were eventually driven out, and their businesses and homes were razed.


I grew up in Napa, and there was no mention of any of this in the local history we were taught in school. This is a very important part of our community that has almost completely been erased from local memory. My goal is to have this book be a very belated acknowledgment and "thank you" to all the Chinese workers who lived, worked, and - in some cases - died, making the Napa Valley a world-class destination.



Without Chinese Labor, Napa Never Would Have Become a World Class Wine Region

New book highlights history of Chinese immigrants in Napa Valley

Book toasts Chinese who helped grow Napa Valley

哈佛碩士著書 彰顯納巴酒鄉華工貢獻

(Harvard master's book highlights the contribution of Chinese laborers in Napa Wine Country)

In The Press


picture of author

John McCormick grew up in Napa and is descended from five generations of Napa Valley residents. He received his bachelor’s in engineering from the University of California, Berkeley while playing in the Cal Marching Band. He received his master’s in history from Harvard University.

After thirty years in the software industry, John left tech in 2018. He and his wife own Lamorinda Music in Lafayette, CA. He joined the Lafayette Chamber Board of Directors, serving as its president for two consecutive years during the global pandemic. During that time, he worked closely with local businesses to help them survive unprecedented changes. He continues to serve on the Chamber’s Executive Committee and was named Lafayette’s Businessperson of the Year for 2021.

Outside of Lafayette, John is an active volunteer with the American Red Cross and the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano. He also serves on the Board of Directors for the Park Theater Trust, a non-profit dedicated to the restoration of the Park Theater in Lafayette, CA.


Book Talks

January 6 2023

Napa County Historical Society

January 25 2023

St. Helena Historical Society

February 7 2023

Walnut Creek Library

March 2 2023

Lafayette Rotary

March 11 2023

Sharpsteen Museum, Calistoga

March 11 2023

Sharpsteen Museum, Calistoga

April 20 2023

Covenant Presbyterian Church, Napa

April 22 2023

Chinese Historical Society of America, San Francisco

April 29 2023

Walnut Creek Library Foundation Gala

May 3 2023

Upvalley Women's Club,
St. Helena

May 7 2023

Sonoma Depot Park Museum, Sonoma

May 10 2023

Napa County Library

May 11

St. Helena Library

May 18

Chapel at the Sonoma Mission

May 23 2023

Lafayette Library and Learning Center

August 17 2023

Museum of the San Ramon Valley

Sept 19

Napa Valley Retired Teachers Association

October 21 2023

Vineyard Trails Daughters of the American Revolution

Nov 11

Schramsberg Winery, Calistoga

Nov 24 2023

SingTao Chinese Radio AM1400

Dec 13 2023

Paradise Valley Estates, Fairfield, CA

April 9 2024

St. Helena Rotary

April 11 2024

Orinda Masonic Lodge

Sept 5 2024

History and Culture Club of Rossmoor

News and Events

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