On This Day 1978, Opening of the French Laundry

In 1979, Carolee Luper reported on the success of the local Yountville restaurant the French Laundry in the Napa Valley Magazine. This is an excerpt describing the original owners, the Schmitt family. Print copies of the entire article are available in the NCHS archives.

Napa Valley residents have watched the Schmitt family children grow up. The Schmitts came to Yountville eleven years ago, from the hot regions of central California. For ten years they were the managing partners of Vintage 1870, the complex of shops forged from the old Groezinger Winery. The decision to leave the security of the banking business with a family of five children to renovate the old building was not an easy one, but it offered an opportunity for the family to be involved in a business together. It was a tremendous project, and one which never became boring . It was also a fantastic training ground for what the Schmitts would do later in The French Laundry. The “Schmitt kids” were always around the Vintage as it grew, working in every phase of the operation. Today, in The French Laundry Restaurant, their friendly presence provides a true feeling to diners of being guests in a, big, warm home. AII the children lend a hand, from dishwashing to serving, and even the art work and floral arrangements are by a Schmitt daughter. Menus are hand-printed by the Schmitt children.

The restaurant building itself has been beautifully restored under the supervision of Don Schmitt. When the Schmitts left the Vintage and bought the building, it was in a state of disrepair. The two story native fieldstone and frame building, built around 1900, has had a somewhat checkered past. Among its varied uses had been that of a French laundry, for 29 years. Today it is an outstanding example of early Napa Valley architecture and has been registered in the National Register of Historic Places.