According to The Wine Cellar Insider, "The first vines were planted in California as far back as the late 1700′s." The wine produced from these grapes were intended for religious purposes, as they were planted by Father Junipero Serra and his missionaries. Not long afterwards, in the mid 1800s, the commercial start to the wine industry took place. Abraham Lincoln was president when a small group of European Immigrants initiated it!
In the 1850s, a man named Joseph Osborne planted vines on "Oak Knoll" which was an 1,800 acre tract of land. That land has since been split over and over throughout time and has created some of the best bench land vineyards in Napa Valley. However, in Northern California in the 1930s, George Calvert Yount planted vineyards on land that the Mexican Government had granted him (California was still part of Mexico since it had not yet been awarded statehood at this time). Yountville is named after him and many credit him with the birth of Napa Valley. Not long afterwards, Calistoga was founded by Samuel Brannan who planted over 100 acres of vines and called it Agua Caliete Ranch.
But the real credit for creating vineyards in Napa Valley goes to John Patchett who, in the 1950s received the first official review of his wine, which is the first official review of any California wine. The positive review was published in the “California Farmer Magazine," and was composed by Robert Parker. Since wine country was so young at this point, most used an old cider press since they didn't even have grape presses yet.
For a full history of Napa Valley, visit The Wine Cellar Insider's article "Complete Napa Valley California Wine History from Early 1800s to Today"