Just south of the City of Napa high on a hill is an iconic statue called The Grape Crusher. People passing by on Highway 29 can’t miss this giant depiction of a vineyard worker wearing a wide-brim hat straining to operate a grape crusher, both hands on the handle and one foot braced against the basket, frozen in a dynamic depiction of the original winemaking process. More than just an Instagram-worthy photo-op, The Grape Crusher is the largest sculpture cast west of the Mississippi, measuring three times life size and weighing 6,000 pounds. It is 15 feet high excluding a six-foot base. If the figure were standing upright, it would be 18 feet tall. The hat measures four feet in diameter and the left foot of the figure measures three feet from heel to toe. The barrel of the wine press measures nearly six feet in diameter and the press stands eight feet high.
The artist, Gino Miles of Santa Fe, New Mexico worked on the sculpture for almost ten months, and the total cost was $250,000. The sculpture was cast in bronze, a copper alloy, using the lost wax process. This process, also called cire-perdue, is a method of metal casting in which a molten metal is poured into a mold that has been created by means of a wax model. Once the mold is made, the wax model is melted and drained away. The Grape Crusher was cast in 137 separate pieces and assembled by welding. Shidoni Inc. of New Mexico (a fine arts foundry and gallery near Santa Fe) did the casting. The statue was brought to the Napa Valley by truck, and unveiled at its permanent home as part of Napa County’s sesquicentennial celebration in May of 1988.
The Grape Crusher figure is hollow and supported inside by a framework made of 175 feet of stainless steel rod and angle iron. Molds for the casting of the figure were made using a prototype sculpted from polyurethane foam and 5,000 pounds of clay. Sculpting of the prototype took three months.
Insider tip: See if you can spy the writing on The Grape Crusher. Read only by the eagle-eyed, some of the words are “Grape crusher,” “Napa Valley” and “Made in the USA.”
To visit the statue, go south on Soscol Ferry Road at the intersection of highways 12, 29 and 221. Take Vista Point Drive west, then turn right on Napa Valley Corporate Park Drive.