As told by GATEWAY Magazine.

Napa Valley is flanked on the East side by the Vaca Mountain range, with Howell Mountain rising, majestically from its ranks. At the top of Howell Mountain lies one of the best kept secrets of the Napa Valley—The quiet, rural village of Angwin. With its mild climate, extensive forests and fertile soil, this mountaintop village has attracted a rich history of settlers, health retreats, outdoor enthusiasts and award-winning vintners over the years.

This Mountain top terroir was considered so unique, that Howell Mountain was awarded the first sub-appellation designation in the Napa Valley in 1983. Today, Howell Mountain has taken its place as one of the most prized wine appellations in the World, winning awards as far back as 1889 for their big, bold red wines; Cabernet Sauvignon, Petite Sirah, and Zinfandel offering tannic structure and excellent aging potential.

The area is also renowned for its natural, healthy living. The historic Health Retreat established in the late 1800s has transformed over the centuries into a World-Class Hospital in the foothills above St. Helena—Adventist Health. Another group of Seventh-Day Adventists also bought The Angwin Resort in the early 1900s and established Pacific Union College (PUC), a 4-year liberal arts college which is continuously ranked in the top 10 colleges in the nation by US News and World Report.

Despite all of the town’s accolades and changes, Angwin surprisingly has remained secluded and remote by choice, with a population of approximately 3,179. Many young professionals and families choose to live in this village since it is a peaceful place to raise a family that still enjoys a sense of community. With over 1500 acres of hiking, biking, and horseback riding trails on PUC land, this town has become a haven for outdoor enthusiasts and nature lovers. We catch up with Golden Gate Sotheby’s International Realty agent, Jennifer Klingbeil, to discuss Angwin’s timeless appeal, community and its real estate market.

Jennifer, first off, do you have any reservations about bringing attention to this “secret” unique town in the Napa Valley to our attention?

I’m sure I will get many comments from friends in town about this subject. People who are attracted to this town all enjoy the solitude that this environment affords, along with the slower pace and quality of life. That is why they choose to live here. Many of them have worked to create Conservation easements and Land Trust preserves in efforts to keep this rural community insulated from overdevelopment. There are also county zoning restrictions in place to help maintain this community as well. So hopefully, I will just be shining a light on what a beautiful place this is to live.

What does the average neighborhood or house look like in Angwin?

There is literally something for every budget here in town. There are no planned developments/neighborhoods in town, so you will not see a bunch of model homes that all look alike. Instead, there is a surprising combination of quiet suburban neighborhoods, mixed with unassuming rural properties where houses are tucked into the forests or set in the vineyards. Many houses are older, built in the 1930s -1970s. Some have been fixed up to stunning cottages of the same size, where as others have been expanded to take advantage of the space around. There are still many opportunities to fix up properties that are being sold at reasonable prices. Then, of course, there are the newer builds that tend to be larger homes. Some of these gorgeous properties are built on the edge of the mountainside with infinity-edge pools hanging over their expansive valley views below.

Describe the vistas. What do these homes look down on from Angwin?

Angwin is at the top of Howell Mountain, so there are actually views in multiple directions. The front of the mountain as you drive up Deer Park Rd has breathtaking views. Houses on Crestmont, for example, have commanding views of St. Helena, The Culinary Institute and the vineyards of Charles Krug and Duckhorn. Residences off of Linda Falls Terrace and Rancho La Jota, face Southeast and can see the waters of Lake Hennessey as well as rolling hillsides. Over on Bell Canyon and Friesen Drive, some properties can see further Up Valley towards Calistoga and have a view of the Friesen lakes—Angwin’s water supply. Finally, the backside of the mountain drops down to reveal Pope Valley, which is still part of Napa County.

What are the price ranges of homes in Angwin?

In 2021 we had a record-breaking number of residential sales in the area (33 total) as well as top sale prices. The median price was $780,000 and the average price was $1,025,591. The lowest-priced home was $442,000, and the highest residential home sold for $3,400,000. Some homes set on large acreage with producing vineyards or wineries can sell in the $12-25 Million range.

At those lower prices, I bet those houses are flying off the shelves. What is the average time on market? And who do you see buying these homes?

Compared to SF Bay Area prices, you might think that. However, average on market is 97 days, and it’s not unusual to see well-priced properties on the market for longer in Angwin. Remember, it is a unique, rural community that is tucked away at the top of a mountain range, which does not make it conducive to everyone’s commuting patterns or lifestyle.

Many people have been leaving densely populated areas in favor of smaller towns where houses have more land surrounding them. Angwin has definitely benefitted from this migration with sales figures nearly double from the previous year. A total 33 homes were sold in 2021 as compared to 21 properties the last year. We find many young families moving in from other parts of the Napa Valley since real estate prices are more affordable here than in the Valley below. The residents’ age is below the national average, due partially to this fact. Due to the wineries and vineyards, we see many contractors, viticulturists and other employees of the wine business making their home on the Mountain. Also, because of the proximity of the college and hospital, the town has many teachers, doctors, nurses and students living in this rural village.

Exactly how small is this rural village, does it have any restaurants, hotels, or cafes?

Angwin is 4.87 square miles and there are no restaurants or hotels in town. However, there is a grocery store, post office, bank, Chevron gas station and laundry mat. PUC also opens up the use of their pool, track and tennis courts to the community, as well as 1,500 acres of hiking, horseback riding and single-track mountain bike trails behind the college and around the airport’s runway. There are also several wineries in town that offer tours and tastings, but these are generally by appointment only and have greater limits on the number of visitors per day as compared to the Valley below.

With the Valley below so close, what makes the vineyard conditions on Howell Mountain so different than in St. Helena that would warrant its own sub-appellation?

The elevation raises the town above the fog line, where the evening temperatures are warmer and daytime temperatures much cooler, the climate has fewer spikes in temperature. Howell Mountain AVA vineyards must be planted above 1,400 feet elevation—some vineyards are planted as high as 2,200 feet above sea level. The Mountain’s volcanic soils tend to be dry and lacking in nutrients. But this is actually a favorable condition for growing grapes, since it forces the vines to produce small, intense fruit, rather than supporting leafy foliage. This is why Howell Mountain reds are notorious for their complexity and depth.

Are there any famous vintners/wineries in Angwin?

If we are talking historically famous, we would have to go back to 1889 when Howell Mountain made history when Brun & Chaix won a bronze medal at the Paris World Competition. During those early years, we saw Charles Krug, W.A.C. Smith, Frederick Hess (La Jota Vineyard Company), and W.S. Keyes bring more attention to the AVA. Famed Vintners and Wineries that have continued the tradition in the Mid 1900s and beyond include: Abreu Vineyards, Mike Beatty, Beringer, Black Sears, Robert Craig, DANA, Dunn Vineyards, Del Dotto, Kendall Jackson, Outpost Vineyards and O’Shaughnessy Wines. But the most famous today would definitely be CADE Vineyards, owned by California’s Governor Gavin Newsom and philanthropist/entrepreneur, Gordon Getty.

Speaking of celebrities, The Angwin airport probably sees quite a few private jets, bringing some of these big names to town. It sounds like the secret might be out about this town?

Actually, this airport is still fairly low-key and sounds a bit more glamourous than it really is. This airport serves as PUC’s aviation program. There is still one simple building, surrounded by some metal hangers. But the runway is set in a lush mountaintop setting, with hiking trails around on all three sides. On a hike there a few weeks ago, I was surprised to see some larger, more luxurious jets landing at the airport. So, change is definitely filtering through.

What is the best part of living in this town?

Even though the people in this town come from different beliefs and backgrounds, they all seem to have one thing in common. People here really do care about each other as human beings. If you are stopped on the side of the road, it’s still the type of place where you might have one or even two people stop to see if you need help. And during times of natural disasters, we saw neighbors reaching out to help protect each other’s homes and share meals with strangers who have no power or generators. For a community of people who enjoy being solitary, it’s amazing how much they do band together when needed.

Jennifer Klingbeil
Lic.# 02067543

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