Niebaum quickly rose through the ranks, and was captain of his own ship at age 21. He spent the next few years acquiring as many expensive furs as he could. This was an extremely lucrative trade at the time.
In 1868, he arrived in San Francisco with over $600,000 in sea otter pelts from Alaska. He founded the Alaskan Commercial Company and expanded his business ventures with his substantial profits.
In 1880, Captain Gustave Niebaum purchased an 1,110 acre property from William Campbell Watson named Inglenook. Inglenook was one of the few wineries to survive Prohibition without receiving a contract to make wine for the Catholic Church. Niebaum was able to persevere by selling table grapes.
Inglenook’s winery and cellar were completed in 1887. Niebaum was an early advocate of meticulous cleanliness in his winery and insisted on using only the best fruit. His great nephew John Daniel Jr continued his reputation for quality.