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In 1871, Clark Foss, a daredevil stagecoach driver and entrepreneur, founded the town of Fossville in Knights Valley.

Foss conceived of the town as part of a tourism business offering trips to the geysers on Mt. Saint Helena, an attraction growing in popularity. He started a stagecoach line to bring passengers from Calistoga and Healdsburg to Fossville to stay before their trip to the geysers.

Fossville offered luxury amenities for tourists and everything needed to service Foss’ stagecoaches, including horse stables, a blacksmith, and a hotel. The hotel was as magnificent as the town, hosting 25 deluxe rooms furnished with red plush drapes, verandahs, a piano, and a bar. Prominent visitors included JP Morgan, William Randolph Hearst, President Ulysses S. Grant, and Mark Twain.

In 2019, we purchased a 27-acre vineyard property that sits on a portion of Fossville and named it Brookshire Vineyard to honor the original name of the hotel at Fossville.


Etching of Fossville

Archival photo of Clark Foss
Clark Foss

Archival photo of Foss with passengers in horse-drawn cart
Foss with passengers


Our Story

We dreamed of having a wine country home but had no plan to own a vineyard until we acquired 621 acres in Knights Valley at the base of Mt. Saint Helena. While studying the land to determine its best use, we learned the property was ideal for grape growing and designed a 22-acre vineyard we named Helena Vista.

Devoid of traffic and populated by rolling vineyards and cattle, Knights Valley is pastoral and idyllic. Located in the northeast corner of Sonoma County, just above Napa Valley, the soils are fertile and well-drained.  The area enjoys warm days followed by evenings cooled by maritime breezes, making it perfect for Bordeaux varietals. Our growing fondness for Knights Valley became the catalyst for more investment in the wine industry.

It was then that we acquired Brookshire Vineyard and subsequently several properties adjoining it to create a 565-acre parcel we named Brookshire Ranch, in honor of the land’s history. In addition to Brookshire Vineyard, the Ranch includes a grape growing business supplying local wineries, a cattle-raising operation, and 500 acres of pristine conservation land.

As grape growers and wine collectors, we have an interest in the connection between land and wine and agreed the natural evolution of our business would be to make wine. We hired winemaker Julien Fayard and produced our first vintage of Brandon Gregory Estate in 2019 from Brookshire Vineyard.

In 2020, we added a third Estate property to our portfolio and planted it to Cabernet Sauvignon.  Dean York Vineyard is in the town of Saint Helena in Napa Valley, and we anticipate our first vintage in the coming years.


Brookshire / Fossville Hotel
Brookshire / Fossville Hotel

Lot 18: Fossville, 1870
Lot 18: Fossville, 1870


Brookshire Vineyard History:
Clark Foss

In 1871, the geysers on Mt. Saint Helena were a must-see destination in the western U.S. and the fare to travel to it was affordable by only the wealthy. A stay in the town of Fossville and a stagecoach ride to the geysers driven by Clark Foss were as highly sought-after as the geysers themselves.

Foss became a star, earning the reputation as an entertainer who coaxed his horses to go too fast on the winding road. Passengers were both thrilled and frightened by the experience. His stagecoach trips are memorialized in Silverado Squatters, a book by Robert Louis Stevenson documenting his honeymoon in Napa Valley. He describes how Foss “launches his team with small regard to human life or the doctrine of probabilities.”

The Fossville Hotel (originally named Brookshire Hotel) had one of the first telephones. One night while at the Magnolia Hotel in Calistoga, Stevenson was asked by the owner if he’d like to interview the famous Foss. Answering yes, the owner then phoned Foss at Fossville, surprising Stevenson, who had never seen or spoken on a phone. Foss cut the interview short, returning to his evening drink because the still-stunned Stevenson “found myself with nothing in the world to say.”

Fossville continued until 1910, when competition from automobile travel made the stagecoach obsolete. What remains are relics found on Brookshire Ranch and the neighboring property.

Brookshire Ranch was also the site of one of the early wineries in Knights Valley called the Pratt & Teale Winery. It was built in 1895 and was operated for several years before closing, with the property subsequently being divided into three parcels and sold.  Brandon Gregory Estate acquired the original parcels, reassembling the Pratt & Teal winery estate.  We then expanded the property to include the adjacent 500-acre Hafey Ranch, and the combined four parcels totaling 565 acres are known today as Brookshire Vineyard and Ranch.



Cottage at Brookshire


The original vineyard was planted several decades ago by Dan Duckhorn for the Hassan family. The crop, made up of mostly Merlot, was sold to area wineries including Duckhorn, Newton, and Ferrari Carano. The 1985 vintage of Duckhorn Merlot, which included grapes from the vineyard, was named Merlot of the year by wine & spirits magazine. In 1987, the summers family purchased the vineyard and planted additional bordeaux varietals expanding it to a total of 26.6 acres. In 2019, they sold the property to Brandon Gregory estate and an additional 13 acres were planted to cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, merlot, petit verdot, sauvignon blanc, and chardonnay.


Inscription in rock: 1878


Helena Vista Vineyard History

The land of Helena Vista Vineyard and Ranch was settled in 1850 by William M. McDonnell and his wife eleanor graves, a survivor of the donner party. William was born in New York and served in the Mexican War under General Fremont. In 1846, he made the perilous journey to California on a team of horses and lived in Calistoga until settling his homestead in Knights Valley. McDonnell was one of the earliest settlers in northern California and came before the arrival of thomas knight, for whom Knights Valley would eventually be named.

In the book, history of Sonoma county, volume ii, published by the S. J. Clark publishing co in 1926, the author credits McDonnell as “one of the most remarkable men who aided in opening up and developing this section” (of California).

His homestead was the first made and not connected with any spanish grants. At the time, McDonnell and a family in alexander valley were thought to be the only american ranchers living between northern Sonoma and the oregon border. His homestead started as 160 acres and eventually grew to 3,200 acres.

The McDonnell ranch location was convenient for travelers coming from healdsburg to visit the geysers. It became a popular rest stop, and the friendly McDonnell became a guide to the geysers using his stable of horses. Further, the road to the geysers used by travelers coming from Calistoga via stagecoach driven by the famous Clark Foss ran through the helena vista ranch property.

The McDonnells had ten children. The ranch was later renamed the mccord ranch when the granddaughter of William and eleanor married charles mccord and took over the residence.

A number of years ago, a previous owner of the land now encompassing helena vista ranch relocated a ghost winery called the hood from a neighboring parcel. The hood winery was Knights Valley’s first winery and built in 1878 by george hood, a pioneer in early Sonoma county retail. It was disassembled and reassembled on the ranch over a modern steel structure using the original stone façade and keystone. It currently functions as a rustic family gathering spot.

The property also includes an historic barn next to Clark Foss' original stagecoach route that was repurposed for an entertainment venue in recent years.  The structure, affectionately known as the Party Barn, was sadly destroyed in the 2019 Kinkade Fire, along with most of the buildings on the property.  It has since been lovingly rebuilt, in replica of the original, honoring its past.





Our purpose is to showcase the very best of our three Estate vineyards, totaling 65 acres.  Our portfolio includes the Illation and Brandon Gregory wine brands with offerings featuring the unique terroir of Brookshire Vineyard.  Future bottlings will include wines crafted from select blocks at Helena Vista Vineyard and Dean York Vineyard (St. Helena). Our intentionally low-production wines are offered to the mailing list, and sold in select restaurants and specialty wine stores.

Together, we forged a path of unlimited possibilities with nearly 1,200 acres of land and 65 acres of vineyard. We plan a gradual expansion of our wine production and the fostering of close relationships with other vintners sharing the fruit from our Estates.