Iconic Spots: Napa Valley’s Grape Crusher
More than a quarter century after his Grape Crusher statue was installed atop the Napa Valley’s southern entrance as a tribute to vineyard workers, its creator – New Mexico artist Gino Miles – continues to count it among his greatest artistic achievements.
“I think the Grape Crusher was a great tribute to the whole wine industry,” said Miles, 62, from his New Mexico studio. “At the time, the Napa Valley was not what it is now. It really celebrated what was to become, and then the industry blossomed into what is represented by the Grape Crusher.”
Miles, a Colorado native, grew up on a farm near Grand Junction. He studied art in Italy and at the University of Northern Colorado, where he earned a master’s degree in sculpture in 1979. He returned to Italy, where he was influenced by the ancient ruins and works of the Etruscans, Romans and Greeks, and the works of Manzu, Marini, Modigliani, Greco, Wotruba and Moore. He helped found Italart, an art school for American and German students near Florence.
In 1983, Miles and his wife Donna returned to the U.S and settled in Santa Fe, N.M. Three years later he was contacted by the Napa Valley Corporate Park developer, Bedford Properties, to produce a sculpture overlooking the business park and the Napa Valley.
“It took a year to make it,” said Miles. Cast in 135 separate bronze pieces at the Shidoni Foundry in Tesuque, N.M., assembled in Santa Fe, and transported to Napa on a flatbed truck, the 3-ton, nearly 20-foot-tall sculpture was formally dedicated on May 19, 1988.
“I actually ran an old grape press in Italy, doing it the old-fashioned way,” recalled Giles, who still retains the original, 15-inch model of the Grape Crusher, which he says he would like to donate to a Napa Valley museum.
In 2003 Miles opened Sculpture 619, a gallery in the heart of Santa Fe’s art district. He can be reached at email@example.com or (505) 660-6166.
To visit the statue, go south on Soscol Ferry Road at the intersection of Highways 12/29 and Highway 221. Take Vista Point Drive west, then turn right on Napa Valley Corporate Park Drive.