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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.



january 19th, 2023

Napa County Historical Society
Native Sons Hall
Coombs Street
Napa, CA 94559

Thursday, January 19, 2023, 6:00 PM
Link to event:

january 25 2023

St. Helena Historical Society
1255 Oak Avenue
St. Helena, CA 94574
ednesday, January 25, 2023, 4PM
Link to event:

February 7, 2023

Walnut Creek Library
Oak View Room
1644 N Broadway
Walnut Creek, CA 94596

Tuesday, February 7, 2023, 7PM
Link to event:

March 2, 2023

Lafayette Rotary
Oakwood Athletic Club
4000 Mt. Diablo Blvd
Lafayette, CA. 94549
Thursday, March 2, 2023, Noon
Link to event:

March 11, 2023

Sharpsteen Museum
1311 Washington St
Calistoga, CA 94515
Saturday, March 11, 2023, Noon


Covenant Presbyterian Church

1226 Salvador Ave

Napa, CA 94558

Thursday, April 20, 2023, 6PM


Chinese Historical Society of America

965 Clay St

San Francisco, CA 94108

Saturday, April 22, 2023 5PM


Walnut Creek Library Foundation Gala

Walnut Creek Library

1644 N. Broadway

Walnut Creek, CA 94596

Saturday, April 29, 2023, 7PM


Upvalley Women's Club

The First Presbyterian Church

1428 Spring St

St. Helena, CA 95574
Wednesday, May 3, 2023, Noon


Napa County Library

580 Coombs St

Napa, CA 94559

Wednesday, May 10, 2023, 6:00PM

May 11, 2023

St. Helena Library

1492 Library Ln #1143,

St Helena, CA 94574
Tuesday, May 9, 2023, 4:30PM


Chapel at the Sonoma Mission

114 East Spain Street

Sonoma, CA 95476
Thursday, May 18, 2023, 7PM


Lafayette Library and Learning Center

3491 Mt. Diablo Boulevard
Lafayette CA 94549
Tuesday, May 23, 2023, 7PM

News and Events

Contact John

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