September 9, 2016
“Sometimes history has a funny way of knocking on your door. Last summer I received an email from a gentleman in the Midwest doing ancestry research on a family known as the Brockhoffs. This fellow happened to know that the house now occupied by John and Carrie Komes on the Flora Springs Estate property was, in the 1880s, known as the Brockhoff Winery. When Jerry and Flora Komes purchased the property, the house was all but abandoned, but John converted it to his family’s residence.
Because of this historical connection, this fellow was looking at the Flora Springs website and happened to see my information on the team page. He also happened to know that the Brockhoff daughter (Minnie Brockhoff) married a Justin Werle, and he had a hunch: could I be related to Justin Werle, and therefore the Brockhoff family? The answer is yes: Justin Werle was my first relative from Germany to arrive in Napa Valley in 1889!
I’d known about Justin Werle. I grew up in St. Helena right by the St. Helena cemetery, and I’d often seen the graves for Justin and Minnie. I always thought the name Minnie was so funny. My parents knew we were related to them, but weren’t sure exactly how. Of course as a kid the thing that fascinated me most was that right next to the Werle’s grave was a headstone with the name “Frankenstein.” My friends and I got a kick out of that, and often went over to the cemetery to see if Frankenstein’s hand might come out of the ground. We spent a lot of time there, especially in the dog days of summer, when the constantly rotating sprinklers provided welcome relief from the sweltering heat. Plus, there were lots of places on the old, paved roads where the large, raised tree roots made for cool bike jumps.
Anyway, I was blown away to know that I actually have a distant connection to the original Flora Springs property. Perhaps that’s why I’ve been here for over thirteen years – could it be a past life connection that drew me here? Something to contemplate during the Halloween season!”
—Flora Springs Wine Club Director Kenny Werle, September 2016