Preferred Citation: Pinney, Thomas. A History of Wine in America: From the Beginnings to Prohibition. Berkeley:  University of California Press,  c1989 1989.




The Southwest and California

Early Winegrowing in New Mexico

The earliest winemaking in the continental United States is credited to the Spaniards of Santa Elena, South Carolina, around 1568. The earliest successful viticulture and the oldest continuous tradition of winemaking, however, was established in the seventeenth century by the Spanish in those vast and barely populated regions of the Southwest that remained parts of the Spanish empire into the nineteenth century. Here the Jesuits and Franciscans planted grapes as they founded missions, and long before the days of Dufour, Adlum, and Longworth, the Spaniards and Indians of the widely scattered settlements from El Paso to the Pacific were drinking the wine of the country, though, to be sure, not a great deal of it. Even more important, this was wine from vinifera grapes, authentic wine as it had been known in Europe since the first apparition of Dionysus. In the dry, hot, stony soils of the Southwest the vine recognized something like its Mediterranean home and readily grew without suffering those afflictions of weather, disease, and insects that invariably devastated it in the East. All of this, however, went on invisibly so far as the United States was concerned. The great Spanish province of New Mexico, stretching from modern Texas to the Gulf of California, was wholly isolated from the developing country to the east; there was no line of' communication whatever between them, and foreign trade was forbidden in the Spanish possessions.

The first wine grapes in New Mexico were planted at the mission of Socorro, on the Rio Grande, by Franciscan missionaries about 1626;[1] the mission, abandoned in 1680 on the great Indian uprising of that year, has now vanished without


trace, but the valley of the Rio Grande has remained the site of a permanent viticulture. There is no record of the grape selected by the Franciscans in the earliest days; it may have been the same one they used later, the so-called Mission grape, grown wherever the missions might arise in order to provide wine for the celebration of the mass. This grape, so important in the history of wine in the Southwest, remains something of a mystery. It is, or is like, the grape called the Criolla in Mexico and in South America—"Creole," as we would say, meaning a New World scion of an Old World parent, adapted to the new conditions. The Criolla is not identified with any grape now known in Spain, though it must ultimately trace its origins to Spain; it is most likely a seedling of some Spanish variety brought over in the early days.[2] Whatever its origin, it is not well suited for making table wine, being too low in acid and without distinctive varietal character, so that its dry wines are fiat and dull. It was a good choice—or a lucky accident—for the early days, though, because it likes hot country, is very productive, and yields quite good sweet wines, much easier to preserve in difficult conditions than low-alcohol dry wines. The Mission is and will remain a significant grape in California for the production of sweet wines. Though one rarely or never sees the Mission grape identified on wine labels today, there were 1,800 acres of Mission vines in California in 1986, linking the modern industry to its origins.

Colonial New Mexico (including much of present-day west Texas and all of Arizona) remained Spanish until Mexican independence in 1821; not until that time was there any communication or commerce between this remote northern outpost of Spain in the New World and the United States. After 1821 the opening of the Santa Fe Trail brought Americans into the valley of the Rio Grande—the Rio del Norte as it was then commonly called—and reports of its grapes and wines began to make their way back to the East. Small vineyards were scattered along the hundreds of miles of the river from Bernallilo southwards, but there was no trade in wine. The New Mexicans had no transport, few wooden vessels, and even fewer bottles, so that the wine they made was strictly for local consumption. The methods of New Mexican viticulture were described in 1844 by Josiah Gregg, the historian of the Santa Fe Trail. The grape vines grew unsupported, and by being pruned back heavily were made to grow as low bushes; this allowed the grower to dispense with any complicated apparatus of posts and wires and trellises, and it also made it possible to cover the vines with earth in winter to protect them against freezing. For, though New Mexico is hot in summer, it lies high and dry and is subject to some sharp winter weather. From these low shrubs the Mexicans obtained "heavy crops of improved and superiorily-flavored grapes," as Gregg rather confusedly put it—though clearly he found them good.[3]

After the annexation of the New Mexico territory in 1848, making it supply the nation with wine was at least conceivable. As the young U.S. attorney of the territory, William Davis, wrote in 1853: "No climate in the world is better adapted to the vine than the middle and southern portions of New Mexico, and if there was a convenient market to induce an extensive cultivation of the grape, wine would



El Paso, Texas, whose "Pass wine" was known throughout the Southwest in the 
ear of the Santa Fe Trail. This was the first region added to the United States in 
which wine from vinifera grapes was produced. (From William H. Emory,  Report
 of the United States and Mexican Boundary Survey

soon become one of the staples of the country, which would be able to supply a large part of the demand in the United States."[4] The prospect was not necessarily illusory, but the history of New Mexico has not worked out that way. The production of wine in the state down to the most recent years cannot have been much greater than it was in colonial days. That is now changing, however, as New Mexico is currently the scene of large-scale investment—mostly of European money—in vineyards and wineries. It is far too early even to guess what the outcome of this sudden transformation of things will be, but it is particularly interesting as a renewal of winegrowing at one of its earliest sites in the United States.

Far to the south, at El Paso, where the Rio Grande comes out of the mountains to flow through a warm, low valley, winegrowing was extensive enough to support a trade and to acquire a reputation. The region—the American part of which is now in Texas—saw its first settlement in 1659, on the site of the present Mexican city of Juarez. Here orchards and vineyards flourished under irrigation; the vines, a Franciscan reported in 1744, "yield abundantly and produce fruit of good flavor and a rich wine in no way inferior to that of our Spain."[5] Early in the nineteenth century E1 Paso wine was the only revenue-producing crop in the whole province of Spanish New Mexico: "In no other country in America (so travelers declare) can wine be found with the taste and bouquet of the wine of New Mexico, especially


that produced in the large vineyards of E1 Paso del Norte. Its abundance is shown by its price, which is one real per pint, two hundred miles from the place where it is produced."[6] The reputation of El Paso wines was perpetuated by the Santa Fe traders, though one may doubt that they were very discriminating judges. "Pass Wine," they called it, and gave it preference over the wines produced closer to Santa Fe. E1 Paso brandy—aguardiente —was also famous, and perhaps even more in demand among the men of a trader's wagon train.

Most enthusiastic of all about E1 Paso wine was a young Missourian named John T. Hughes, a private in Colonel Alexander Doniphan's military expedition to New Mexico in 1846 who afterwards wrote a history of the affair. In that book, Hughes prints a copy of a letter that he was moved to send to the War Department after he had had a chance to look around him in the "fruitful valley of E1 Paso," where Doniphan's troops had arrived in December 1846:

The most important production of the valley is the Grape, from which are annually manufactured not less than two hundred thousand gallons of perhaps the richest and best wines in the world. This wine is worth two dollars per gallon, and constitutes the principal revenue of the city. Thus the wines of El Paso alone yield four hundred thousand dollars per annum. The El Paso wines are superior, in richness of flavor and pleasantness of taste, to anything of the kind I ever met with in the United States, and I doubt not that they are far superior to the best wines ever produced in the valley of the Rhine, or on the sunny hills of France.[7]

It was obvious to Hughes, and so he advised the War Department, that an energetic American population should displace the languid Mexicans; production of wine would then increase tenfold, and a link—road, railroad, or canal—between the valley and the United States would take the wine to a ready market. Hughes favored the plan of canalizing the Rio Grande from the Gulf to the falls at E1 Paso.[8] What answer the War Department made we do not know. No canal was dug, and the vineyards of E1 Paso seem to have declined through the rest of the nineteenth century under gringo auspices. When the Patent Office's viticultural explorer H. C. Williams arrived in the valley in 1858, he found that very few vineyards had been established on the American side of the river, and that the production of the whole region was declining.[9] There were then three qualities of wine produced by the El Paso vintners: a first-quality light red wine; a second-quality darker wine, the one properly called "Pass Wine"; and a third-quality wine left to the poor.[10] Here is how Williams described the methods of production he found in E1 Paso:

An ox hide is formed into a pouch, which is attached to two pieces of timber and laid on two poles supported by forks planted in the ground-floor of the room in which the vintage takes place. The grapes are gathered in a very careless manner, and placed in the pouch until it is filled. They are then mashed by trampling with the feet. In this condition the mashed fruit, stems, and some leaves remain until fermentation takes place, which requires from fifteen to twenty days. An incision is made in the lower part of the pouch, through which the wine drips; it is transferred to barrels. The wine now


has a flat, sourish taste. Should it be desired to make sweet wine, grape syrup, made by evaporating fresh juice, is added until the wine has the desired sweetness. It is not afterwards fined, or racked off, but remains in the cask until used.[11]

It was just this pastoral simplicity that so annoyed the Americans who observed winemaking in E1 Paso. Colonel William Emory, who conducted the official survey of the Mexican-American border, saw the neglected potential with exasperation. He had, he wrote in his official Report , drunk wine in El Paso "which compared favorably with the richest Burgundy." But there was no control and so no consistency—the next wine might well be "scarcely fit to drink." The promise was great, for, he wrote, "in no part of the world does this luscious fruit flourish with greater luxuriance than in these regions, when properly cultivated." The reason that nothing adequate to develop the promise had been done was, in the colonel's judgment, quite simple:

No one of sufficient intelligence and capital, to do justice to the magnificent fruit of the country, has yet undertaken its manufacture. As at present made, there is no system followed, no ingenuity in mechanical contrivance practised, and none of those facilities exist which are usual and necessary in the manufacture of wine on a large scale.[12]

Despite the optimistic views of writers like Hughes, Williams, and Emory, the Americans never took hold of the chance to develop the winegrowing of the Rio Grande Valley. There were reasons enough for this state of affairs: the isolated, underpopulated character of the region, the imperfect harmony between the Mexican-Indian cuisine and wine (compare the relative unimportance of wine in Mexico itself); and most of all, no doubt, the quick growth of California and its wine industry within a few years of the transfer of New Mexico to the United States. The situation is now undergoing a rapid and dramatic change, and the development of winegrowing in Texas and New Mexico will be one of the most interesting ventures in the history of American wine in this decade.

Winegrowing in the California Mission Period

Hundreds of miles to the west of the Rio Grande, along the Pacific coast, the widely scattered small mission communities and the great, isolated ranchos of Mexican California were beginning to be infiltrated by Yankee adventurers and traders at just about the same time as such people began to appear in New Mexico. Grapes and wine were among the first things to interest them there, as they had done in New Mexico, for there was in California, as in New Mexico, an already established tradition of winegrowing. Though of much younger date, it was, like that of New Mexico, developed in connection with the missions, was directed by the Franciscans, and was based on the Mission grape. Unlike that in New Mexico, it survived Americanizing and secularizing, flourished under alien hands, and grew rapidly


into a major economic force. Since the years just after the Civil War, the story of American wine has been dominated by California, and by an industry inherited directly from the Franciscan founders.

The first mission in Alta California—the region that became the American state—was founded by Fray Junípero Serra at San Diego in 1769, where, accompanied by soldiers and priests, he took the first step in the spiritual conquest of the Indians and towards the secular control of the coast, so long neglected by European powers, against all rivals. It is convenient to date viticulture in the state from this event; it was, indeed, so dated when the state celebrated the bicentennial of the wine industry in 1969. But that was a mistake. True, General Mariano Vallejo late in the nineteenth century affirmed that his father, who was among the first contingents of soldiers sent to Alta California, told him that Padre Serra brought the first vines and planted them at San Diego; another source (Arpad, son of the famous Count Agoston Haraszthy) says that this was done in 1769 or 1770.[13] These are both impressive witnesses. Yet such documentary evidence as exists for the earliest mission years plainly contradicts their testimony. As Father Serra moved back and forth along the coast, founding mission after mission in the chain that ultimately stretched north of San Francisco Bay to Sonoma, he regularly complained of the difficulty of obtaining a supply of wine for the celebration of the mass; such wine as he did get was clearly imported from Mexico or Spain, not the produce of local missions.[14] In the early part of the nineteenth century, for example, Mission San Gabriel was recognized as the largest producer of wines in California, yet as late as 1783, fourteen years after the first mission had been founded and twelve years after the founding of San Gabriel, Serra wrote that San Gabriel had no wine at all, the barrel sent to it on muleback from the coast having slipped and broken so that all the wine was lost.[15]

The first clear reference to the planting of grapes at a California mission comes from San Juan Capistrano in 1779, ten years after the arrival of the Franciscans in California.[16] These vines might have produced a small crop as early as 1781, but the evidence points to 1782 as the likeliest date for California's first vintage. In an original and important essay Boy Brady has not only established this chronology for the first California wine but has also plausibly identified the means whereby the vines were first brought to the state; they came, he suggests, in May 1778 on board the supply ship San Antonio under the command of Don José Camacho.[17] If so, the state has a neglected benefactor long overdue for public recognition.

The beginning made at San Juan Capistrano (and perhaps at San Diego in the same season) grew, in time, to include the entire system of missions, with uneven but substantial success. Santa Cruz, at the north end of Monterey Bay, was not successful in growing grapes. Neither was Mission Dolores in San Francisco, being too cool and foggy; yet the California pioneer William Heath Davis reported that in 1833 he had frequently drunk the wine of Mission Dolores, as fine a California red as he ever had, "manufactured at the mission from grapes brought from the missions of Santa Clara and San Jose."[18] Mission San Gabriel, a few miles east of



Mission San Gabriel, painted in 1832 at the height of its prosperity by the German 
Ferdinand Deppe—the only known painting of a California mission from so early 
a date. Its wine, for the celebration of the mass, for the occasional use of the fathers, 
and for the entertainment of visitors, was highly regarded in Spanish California. From
 the vines of San Gabriel developed the vineyards of Los Angeles, from which, in turn, 
the winegrowing industry of California grew. (Santa Barbara Mission Library-Archive)

Los Angeles, eventually developed into the largest and most prosperous of all the mission establishments; it stood first in the size of its winemaking operations, too, and for some judges at least, in the quality of the wine it produced. The original vineyard at San Gabriel was called the Viña Madre—"Mother Vineyard"—a name that has created some confusion by its implication that this was the original of all the mission vineyards. It was not that, but was, instead, the first of the several vineyard properties that the mission developed in the large surrounding valley it presided over.[19] Father José Zalvidea, a tough, capable Biscayan, is credited with developing viticulture at San Gabriel, over which he ruled from 1806 to 1827.[20] By 1829 the American merchant Alfred Robinson wrote that the San Gabriel grapes annually yielded from four to six hundred barrels of wine and two hundred of brandy, from which the mission received an income of more than twelve thousand dollars.[21] Robinson's figures are unquestionably exaggerated, but they tell us clearly that observers were impressed by what they saw being done under Father Zalvidea and his successors.


Reliable statistics for the mission period do not exist. San Gabriel is said to have had 170 acres in vines and to have produced 35,000 gallons a year[22] —a modest figure if the acreage is accurately given: but then a good deal of wine was turned into brandy. Father Duran, a Franciscan who enjoyed a good reputation for the wines and brandy that he produced at his mission of San Jose, thought that the best wines of the whole mission system were those of San Gabriel.[23] But it was not without competition. General Vallejo is reported by Haraszthy as saying that the wine of Sonoma, last and most northern of the missions, "was considered by the Padres the best wine raised in California."[24] But then Vallejo had taken over those Sonoma vineyards and had an interest in promoting their reputation (so, too, did Haraszthy for that matter). The Sonoma Mission vineyard was tiny, so that not many can have known its wines, whatever their reputation may have been. Another judgment on mission wines was delivered by an observant Frenchman, Captain Auguste Duhaut-Cilly, who in 1827 decided that it was at San Luis Rey, between Los Angeles and San Diego, that there were "the best olives and the best wine in all California." He acted on his judgment by taking some of the mission's wine back with him to France: "I have some of it still," he wrote in 1834. "After seven years, it has the taste of Paxaret, and the color of porto depouillé."[25] This makes it clear that the wine was of the sweet fortified kind, on the model of angelica. Paxeret or Pajarete is an intensely sweet Spanish wine of the Pedro Ximénes grape grown in the town of Paxarete. Porto depouillé means literally a well-fined port, perhaps suggesting one that through age has begun to lose color. It is not clear to me whether Duhaut-Cilly's description indicates a red wine grown pale with age, or a white one grown brown—the latter, I suspect, for that would agree with the report described below of the mission wine drunk by a curious gourmet in the twentieth century.

After San Gabriel, the next largest of the mission vineyards was at San Fernando, also in the region of Los Angeles. San Fernando had only about a fifth of the winemaking capacity of San Gabriel, yet it was considerably larger than those next in line, the missions at Ventura and San Jose.[26] Many of the figures on the missions are more than ordinarily untrustworthy, being taken from inventories made after the secularization of the missions, when the vineyards, along with the other temporal interests of the Franciscans, had long been neglected or even abandoned. It is enough to say that at one time or another almost all of the missions made wine both for the table and for religious purposes, and that at a few the production of wine and brandy was a business of modest significance.

At San Gabriel, about which more seems to be known than any other of the missions, there were four sorts of wine produced, described in a letter from Father Duran to Governor José Figueroa in 1833. Two were red—one dry, "very good for the table," the other sweet. Two were white, one unfortified and the other strengthened with a quantity of grape brandy.[27] In all probability, though the description is not as clear as one would like, the fortified white wine of San Gabriel is the original of the wine called angelica, once the most famous produce of the Los


Angeles county vineyards. Angelica, as it used to be made (and apparently is no longer), was not so much a wine as a fortified grape juice, such as the French call mistelle and the Spanish mistela: this is a drink that properly belongs to the class of cordials rather than of wine (compare the Scuppernong wines of North Carolina). To a must that has not yet begun to ferment, or has only partially fermented, brandy is added in such quantity as to arrest the action of the yeast. This was an effective way to handle the Mission grape, which under the hot skies of southern California gave a fruit almost raisined, rich in sugar but low in acid, so that its dry wines were flat and unpalatable. With the sweetness retained, and the preserving alcohol supplied by the addition of brandy, the juice, christened angelica after the City of the Angels, became a popular wine—some will say deservedly, others not.

The methods used in the missions were of the simplest, though such descriptions as exist do not always agree and are not always very clear. As in New Mexico, the ready availability of cowhides and the relative scarcity of wood determined the choice of materials. The standard method of crushing seems to have been by pouring grapes onto a cowhide, perhaps suspended over a receptacle, and then setting an Indian to treading the grapes with his feet. The juice expressed by this means was caught in leathern bags, in barrels, or in brickwork cisterns (some of these remain at San Gabriel), where it fermented; red wine, of course, fermented on the skins and stems of the crushed grapes; for white wine, the juice was drawn off to ferment separately. The skins might then go into a primitive still for brandy.[28] Most of the Franciscan fathers were natives of Spain and may be supposed to have had at least a general notion of how wine was made. We know that at one mission there was a copy of a winemaking guide, the second part of Alonso de Herrara's Agricultura general , in an edition published at Madrid in 1777.[29] The work was originally published in 1513, a fact that sufficiently indicates the conservative instincts of the Spanish, whether in the Old World or the New.

Whether the missions had wine in sufficient quantity to make it an item of commerce, how extensive that commerce was, with whom it was carried on, and how long it lasted, are all questions without distinct answers.[30] Until the overthrow of Spanish rule, all foreign commerce was forbidden, so at best the trade in mission wine was restricted to the brief span from the beginning of Mexican rule in 1821 to the secularization of the mission properties in 1833. The reports of travellers from the 1820s and afterwards make it sufficiently clear that mission wine then was at least available for the priestly table as well as for the altar—"plenty of good wine during supper" is the remark of one of Jedediah Smith's party at San Gabriel in 1826;[31] and we have seen how in the next year Duhaut-Cilly was able to take wine from San Luis Rey to France, and how, in 1829, Robinson could speculate on the large income brought to Mission San Gabriel by its wines. There is nothing coherent or distinct in all this, however. Father Payeras, president of the missions, made a contract in 1823 with an English firm trading to Lima to supply mission produce for a term of three years.[32] Among the goods listed as items of trade, wine and brandy are named; but no price is attached to them, and it is not likely that




Wall painting in the  sala  of the fathers' dwelling, c. 1825, Mission San Fernando, California, 
showing the Indian "neophytes" harvesting grapes—a unique combination of native American 
art and the Mediterranean tradition of winegrowing. The painting was destroyed in the earthquake 
of 1971. (Courtesy Dr. Norman Neuerberg)

much can have been shipped to Peru. At best one may cautiously suppose that during the 1820s a few of the missions could afford to manage an intermittent trade in wine, largely with and through the ships that coasted the shores of California.

Whatever trade the missions may have had in their hands came to an end beginning with the decrees of secularization passed by the Mexican government in 1833. By this act the Franciscans were stripped of their temporalities and restricted to the spiritual care of the missions, presidios , and pueblos of Alta California. The decree did not take effect at once or uniformly: the work of expropriation proceeded unevenly; some missions held out longer than others; and California was in any case far distant from the central authority in Mexico. Thus we find that years after the decree some missions were still cultivating their vineyards.[33] But the back of the enterprise had been broken. At San Gabriel, to take that place again as an


image of the whole, the father superintendent ordered the large vineyards of the mission to be destroyed in the face of the decree of secularization. His order, so the tradition goes, was refused by the Indians, who, one supposes, were not about to destroy the source from which their aguardiente flowed.[34] Nevertheless, the good days were over. By 1844, so a modern historian of the Franciscans in California writes, "the mission had nothing left but some badly deteriorated vineyards cared for by about thirty neophytes" (Indians attached to the missions).[35] And at San Diego, a couple of years earlier, a French traveller had sadly observed vineyards stretching around the ruined mission that were "capable of furnishing the best wine in California" but that now lay uncared for and idle.[36]

Mission wine, which thus became practically extinct in the second quarter of the century, nevertheless had a curious survival in an unlooked-for part of the world. In the 1920s, in Paris, an English wine lover encountered an expatriate Pole who told him that, at the turn of the century, at Fukier's, the best restaurant in Warsaw, "the choicest and most expensive dessert wine" came from California. The Englishman, finding himself not long after in Warsaw, remembered what he had been told, went to the famous restaurant Fukier and asked for its California wine. He naturally supposed that it must be California wine such as other restaurants had, and was curious to know how it could be both the most expensive and the best available in a distinguished restaurant. The waiter told him that, fortunately, there were a few bottles still left, some of which were brought to the curious diner: "Imagine my surprise when I found that they were of wine from the Franciscan missions of California grown during the Spanish period, a century and a half or so ago. The wine was light brown in colour, rather syrupy, resembling a good sweet Malaga in taste, and in good condition."[37] The age is a bit exaggerated—in all likelihood the wine was from the 1820s and therefore just a hundred years old—but the recrudescence of such a wine in so unexpected a place is sufficiently surprising and pleasing. The description is pretty much what one would expect if the wine were an angelica type such as described earlier. And it is curious to note that this latter-day description agrees with one of the earliest accounts of mission wine: the German traveller Langsdorff, calling at Mission San Jose in 1806, noted that the wine of the place is "sweet, and resembles Malaga."[38] It is not likely now that anyone will ever have a chance again to taste the Franciscan wine of Old California.

The Beginning of Commercial Winegrowing in Southern California

Even before the expropriation of the mission lands, a small, very small, beginning of a secular viticulture, parallel to that of the missions, had been made. There is indirect evidence of vineyard planting in the pueblo of Los Angeles in the first decade of the nineteenth century or even earlier.[39] After Spanish rule, with its jealous exclusion of all foreigners, had been replaced by the loose, inefficient, and


more hospitable Mexican rule, outlanders began to arrive in small numbers in California, some of them planting vines and making wine along with their Mexican neighbors. Los Angeles, in the brief interval between California's Spanish and American phases, became a quite cosmopolitan village, including miscellaneous Yankees and a sprinkling of Irishmen, Englishmen, Frenchmen, Italians, and Germans, not to mention Hawaiians, who were the most sought-after crewmen for ships in the Pacific trade.

In writing about early California—that is, California at any time before the Gold Rush—one must be careful to emphasize how tiny the extent of settlement throughout the state was. At the beginning of the century there were, through all the hundreds of miles of the state's length, only the missions, plus four presidios (army posts) at San Diego, Santa Barbara, Monterey, and San Francisco, and three pueblos (civilian communities)—Los Angeles, Santa Cruz, and San Jose. A few families would also have lived on the great ranchos belonging to the missions. The total number of inhabitants, exclusive of the Indians (fast dying out under the fatal impact of the West), could be counted in the hundreds.[40] After the end of Spanish rule, this number of course grew, but not by much. If we keep this circumstance in mind, it is clear that to talk about the development of a wine industry before the 1950s is a bit comic, the term industry having an absurd grandiloquence when measured against the actual scale of things. Nevertheless, there were interesting beginnings, some quite distinct phases of development, and a good many names that deserve to be perpetuated.

Since the situation is very different now, it is worth stressing the fact that commercial winegrowing in California after the mission era began around Los Angeles, and that southern California continued to dominate the scene for the next fifty years. The dusty pueblo of Los Angeles, founded in 1781 on the bank of the Los Angeles River, lived, like the missions, mainly on the trade in hides and tallow. The town stood at the foot of bluffs, but on three other sides the land was a flat plain, easy to irrigate, so that fruit trees, olives, and vines did well. To travellers coming up over the flatlands leading from the landing place at San Pedro on the south, or from the east through the mountain passes, Los Angeles was a green oasis, its low-roofed adobes embowered in willows, vines, and fruit trees. The vines were from the missions, and those who grew them had probably learned what they knew of viticulture from the missions too, so that California winegrowing is continuous with the mission tradition; there was no hiatus between the end of the one and the beginning of the other, for they had overlapped for a long time before the missions came to an end.

When the men of Gaspar Portola's expedition came, in 1769, to the site along the river where, later, Los Angeles was to be settled, they found growing there "a large vineyard of wild grapes and an infinity of rosebushes in full bloom,"[41] so the indications for grape growing were excellent from the start. We do not know who it was who planted the first vineyard in or around Los Angeles not belonging to a mission. He would certainly have had a Spanish name, though, and he must have


planted before the end of the eighteenth century. A possible candidate is José Maria Verdugo, who planted a vineyard before 1799 on the Rancho San Rafael north of the pueblo .[42] Antonio Lugo, who planted a vineyard not long after 1809, is the earliest vineyardist in Los Angeles itself whose name we know.[43] By 1818 the town was reported to have 53,000 vines, and ten years later an official report noted that a succession of good vintages had given encouragement to winegrowing there.[44]

The name of the first American grower in Los Angeles, and therefore in California, is on record. He was Joseph Chapman, from Massachusetts, who came to California on a buccaneering expedition to Monterey in 1818, was captured and jailed by the Spanish, and, on his release, drifted to the southern part of the state. At San Gabriel he became a general handyman, functioning as carpenter, blacksmith, and apothecary at the mission.[45] In return, Chapman—called José Huero, "Blond Joe," by the Californios[46] —learned at the mission whatever he knew of grape growing and winemaking. By 1822 Chapman had moved to Los Angeles; in 1826 he bought a house there and set out 4,000 vines.[47] Here, for the next decade or so, Chapman grew grapes and, presumably, made wine, for there was no other economical use for his harvest. After the secularization of the missions, Chapman moved on to Santa Barbara, and then to property in Ventura County; he died at Santa Barbara in 1849. A vineyard in Los Angeles remained in the hands of Chapman's son Charles as late as 1860, however, so that this first American vineyard had a reasonable longevity.[48]

As California began to draw Americans both by sea and overland, others took up vine growing: Richard Laughlin, who had arrived overland as early as 1828 in Los Angeles, at some time unrecorded set out a vineyard; so did William Logan in 1831 and, later in the decade, William Chard and Lemuel Carpenter.[49] But in polyglot Los Angeles the Americans were merely one element among several in the general activity of vine growing. Besides, most Americans moved on to other parts of the province after only brief stays, and most tried their hands at all sorts of enterprises, among which viticulture had no very important place. At least one grower in Los Angeles was a Dutchman, going under the name of Juan Domingo (John Sunday). His real name was Johann Groningen; he was a sailor, whose ship had been wrecked in San Pedro Bay on Christmas Day, 1828, a Sunday. When he reached the shore in safety, he sensibly resolved to abandon the sea and to settle where he found himself. The locals gave him his name as a symbol of his experience. So the story goes; but since Christmas fell on a Thursday in 1828 it must need adjusting in some details.[50] Juan Domingo worked as a carpenter, planted a vineyard, married, raised a family, and spent the rest of his days in Los Angeles. Several growers were French: Louis Bouchet (or Bouchette or Bauchet—the spelling varies), a cooper by trade and a veteran of the Napoleonic wars, came to California in 1828 and must have been among the earliest of the newcomers to plant a vineyard. On his death in 1852 the inventory of his property included two vineyards and such winery equipment as a still, some casks, and earthen jars.[51] Victor Prudhomme and Jean Louis Vignes were other Frenchmen established among the


vine growers of Los Angeles in the 1830s.[52] Most were of course Mexican: Manuel Requena, Tiburcio Tapia, Ricardo Vejar, and Tomas Yorba are among the names of notable early vineyardists in the Los Angeles region.[53]

Theirs was strictly a cottage—or backyard—industry. One estimate gives Los Angeles 100,000 vines so early as 1831, but this is almost certainly too high.[54] By an exceedingly moderate computation, such a quantity of vines would have yielded 30,000 gallons of wine a year, and it is hard to see how the local market of a few hundred men, women, and children could have blotted up all that liquid, even supposing that much of the vintage was converted into brandy, as it must have been. There is no reason to think that the wine and brandy produced in early Los Angeles was destined for any but a purely local trade, including the ships that put in at San Pedro at not very frequent intervals. The wine, coming as it did from the Mission grape, and handled under conditions of primitive simplicity, could not have been good. One judgment, expressed in 1827, was probably fair enough: the grapes of Los Angeles, Captain Duhaut-Cilly wrote, were quite good, but the wine and brandy made from them were "very inferior . . . and I think this inferiority is to be attributed to the making rather than to the growth."[55] Yet even had the making been better, the result would still have been limited by the inherent defects of the Mission grape.

Winemaking in Los Angeles was raised from a domestic craft to a commercial enterprise by a Frenchman with a name too good to be true, Jean Louis Vignes—because of his name, a French compatriot has written of him, "he seemed predestined to become the Noah of California."[56] Given his destiny, Vignes was not only well named but well born, for his native place was Cadillac, a winemaking community in the Premieres Côtes de Bordeaux, where his father was a cooper. Jean Louis learned the cooper's trade, married, and lived quietly until 1826, when, at the age of forty-seven, and for reasons still quite obscure, he left home, wife, family, and trade to go to Hawaii. He could not get satisfactory work in the islands, however, and he had to live from hand to mouth for a time. At last, in 1831, he left for Monterey. The precise date of his arrival in Los Angeles is not known, but he was established in that town by 1833, perhaps drawn there by the reputation of its vineyards and the presence of a Frenchman or two.

He was somehow able to buy a hundred acres of land.[57] The property lay on the east side of the pueblo , along the river, and was marked by a great sycamore tree of venerable age called E1 Aliso, to give it the capital letters that all observers agreed that it deserved. Vignes himself came to be called Don Luis del Aliso in honor of his splendid tree. Here Vignes laid out a vineyard that ultimately occupied thirty-five acres and began the manufacture of wine and brandy.

It did not take him long to recognize the inadequacy of the Mission grape, for in 1833 Vignes imported European varieties from France, sent to him by way of Boston and then around the Horn.[58] Vignes thus lays claim to be the first to take the crucial step of obtaining better varieties. We do not know what varieties he imported, however, nor what success he may have had with them, nor whether they




Edward Ord's map of Los Angeles, 1849, from the copy in the Huntington Library. This is 
the earliest map of the town after the American annexation. The fields between the town 
and the river shown closely dotted are planted in vines. Just above and to the right of the 
island in the river are the vineyards of Jean Louis Vignes.

entered importantly into the wine he made. The high reputation that his wines established in competition with others from Los Angeles suggests that perhaps they did, but it is also clear that the Mission continued as the overwhelmingly dominant variety in Los Angeles vineyards. If Vignes did actually show a better way, no one yet troubled to follow him. For many years in California it was the custom to call all grapes other than the Mission "foreign." The Mission is an unquestioned vinifera, and so just as "foreign" as any other European grape: but the distinction made by the locals is an interesting reflection of their experience.

By making acceptable wine in considerable quantity, Vignes was able to take


another step forward in 1840, when, through the agency of his nephew Pierre Sainsevain, newly arrived from France, he made the first recorded shipment of Los Angeles wines. Sainsevain loaded a ship at San Pedro with white wine and brandy and took it to Santa Barbara, Monterey, and San Francisco; at each of these places he was able to get good prices for his cargo.[59] This venture does not seem to have been regularly followed up, but it at least showed the way to an important -later trade.

One of Vignes's most enthusiastic admirers was the pioneer California merchant William Heath Davis, whose classic Seventy-Five Years in California is the source of much detail about Vignes and his E1 Aliso vineyard. Davis regarded Vignes as "one of the most valuable men who ever came to California [he and Davis had arrived on the same ship in 1831], and the father of the wine industry here." Davis, who dealt in wines among other commodities, gave a present of "fine California wine" from Vignes's cellar to the American Commodore Thomas Ap Catesby Jones when the latter was at Monterey after his premature capture of the city.[60] Later (1843), when Jones was in Los Angeles, he and his officers called on Vignes at E1 Aliso: they inspected his cellars, sampled his wines, and accepted a gift of several barrels of "choice wine." Vignes asked them to save some of their gift wine to present to the president of the United States, "that he might know what excellent wine was produced in California."[61] On an earlier visit to Vignes in 1842, Davis, too, had been impressed by the cellars and the old vintages they contained. Vignes himself was full of prophetic enthusiasm about California as a wineland. It would, he said, rival "la belle France," and he had urged a number of his relatives and of "his more intelligent countrymen" to come to California and enter the business of winegrowing.[62]

How many Frenchmen Vignes may have enticed to California is not known (estimates vary widely as to the French population of those days), but when Captain Duflot de Mofras called at Los Angeles in 1842, Vignes, "on behalf of the French colony," presented the captain with a barrel of California wine to be offered to Louis Philippe. Unluckily, as we learn, the wine, having survived the hazards of shipment from California, was destroyed by fire in Hamburg before it could be presented to the king for his royal judgment.[63]

Vignes, who was born in 1779, continued to cultivate his vineyard and make wine until 1855, when he sold his property to his Sainsevain nephews for $42,000, one of the greatest commercial transactions that Los Angeles had ever seen.[64] Seven years later, Vignes died. The huge sycamore, E1 Aliso, that stood at the gate of his property, lasted some years longer, but was cut down before the end of the century; the remarkable grape arbor that ran from Vignes's house down to the river, perhaps ten feet wide and a quarter of a mile long, has long since been displaced by industrial building. It was, while it stood, one of the public places of Los Angeles, where receptions could be held and parties given under the grateful shade. Vignes himself is still remembered for his effective pioneering, a fact that would have pleased his friend Davis, who wrote in affectionate memory of Vignes


that "it is to be hoped that historians will do justice to his character, his labors and foresight."[65]

Almost as prominent as Vignes in the same generation was a winegrower of very different origin and background. William Wolfskill was a frontiersman, born in Kentucky but growing up in Missouri at a time when the territory was still Indian country.[66] In 1822 he accompanied the first American trading expedition to Santa Fe, and for some years afterwards he lived and traded in New Mexico. At one point he travelled to E1 Paso to buy "Pass Wines" and "Pass Brandy" for trade, and so established the only link I know of between the winemaking history of Mexican New Mexico and Mexican California. In 1830 Wolfskill led an expedition for the purposes of fur trapping from New Mexico to California, along what later became known as the Old Spanish Trail, through Colorado, Utah, and Nevada, and into California across the Mojave to the Los Angeles basin, where the party arrived in 1831. Fur trapping was no longer particularly rewarding—around Los Angeles the prey was the sea otter—and after an unremunerative effort in the first ship known to have been built in Los Angeles, Wolfskill decided to try another line. He bought land already planted with vines by an anonymous Mexican and settled down in Los Angeles in 1833. Three years later he added more land, and then, in 1838, traded for a hundred-acre tract on the southeast outskirts of the town, where he developed a substantial vineyard and produced wine steadily until his death in 1866[67]

By that time his vineyards and orchards covered 145 acres; the vineyards had been recognized as "best in the state" at the California State Fair in 1856 and again in 1859, and his wine production was up to 50,000 gallons.[68] Besides that, much of his produce went to market as fresh grapes, some he sold to other winemakers, and another part went into brandy. Wolfskill and Vignes were neighbors—everyone was in the Los Angeles of those days—and presumably friendly rivals for the lead in Los Angeles winemaking. Wolfskill had his partisans. Edwin Bryant, whose visit to California in 1846 resulted in one of the first in the long string of books boosting the Golden State, paid a call on Wolfskill at his rancho, by then one of the small town's showplaces. Wolfskill, Bryant wrote, "set out for our refreshment three or four specimens of his wines, some of which would compare favorably with the best French and Madeira wines."[69] And as Vignes had sent wine to President John Tyler, so Wolfskill sent wine, including the sweet red wine called "Port" for which Los Angeles was then gaining a reputation, to President James Buchanan in 1857.[70] There is no evidence that Wolfskill made any effort to introduce new and better varieties into California, as Vignes is said to have done.

When, as an episode in the Mexican War, American forces occupied California, the wines of Los Angeles found a new clientele. The Americans entered the town in January 1847, having among them the Lieutenant (later Colonel) Emory whose remarks on New Mexico viticulture we have already met with. "We drank today," Emory wrote on 14 January, "the wine of the country, manufactured by Don Luis Vignes, a Frenchman. It was truly delicious, resembling more the best description of Hock than any other wine."[71] Another American who took an interest in the


local product was John Griffin, a surgeon with General Stephen Watts Kearny's army, who kept a diary. The entry for I 2 January 1847 tells us that a large quantity of wine and brandy had been seized and secured in order to keep it out of the hands of the sailors of Commodore Robert Stockton's squadron; Griffin added that the wine was "of fine flavour, as good I think as I ever tasted."[72] Griffin gave practical meaning to his praise of Los Angeles wines by returning to the city in 1854 and spending the rest of his days there. He is remembered as often talking of a marvelous wine that he had had in his army days—surely it was the wine of Jean Louis Vignes? Perhaps from a barrel looted by the soldiers, and without any identity beyond that?[73]

Vignes and Wolfskill, by virtue of their early start and the large production to which they eventually attained, stand out among the first generation of commercial winegrowers in Los Angeles. A good many other men joined them in no very long time, however, and by the 1850s it is possible to speak without exaggeration of a real industry in and around the city. William Workman, an Englishman, and his associate John Rowland, planted vineyards at their La Puente Ranch in the 1840s.[74] Hugo Reid, a Scotsman, put in a vineyard in 1839 at his Rancho Santa Anita, northeast of the town, and made wine there until he sold the property in 1846;[75] Matthew Keller, an Irishman who had once studied for the priesthood, arriving in Los Angeles in, 1851, soon developed vineyards third only to those belonging to Vignes and Wolfskill. Keller also deserves mention as one of the pioneers in importing new varieties to supplant the unsatisfactory Mission, and as the author of a report describing Los Angeles winegrowing in 1858, published in the U.S. Patent Office's annual report; this was the earliest authoritative description published for a national audience.[76]

Keller's enterprise outlasted those of Vignes and Wolfskill, and to the vineyard he established at the corner of Alameda and Aliso Streets in Los Angeles were later added hundreds of acres more at the Rising Sun Vineyard south of the city and at the Malaga Ranch, above Santa Monica. By 1875 Keller was described as a "wine making millionaire," and in that year one of the most splendid social occasions in Los Angeles was Keller's "First Annual Vintage Feast and Ball," at which the guests were offered "Claret, Eldorado, Madeira, Angelica, White Wine, Sherry, Port."[77] The financial crises of the 1870s brought Keller into trouble soon after. So did the much-complained-about practice of eastern dealers of adulterating and misrepresenting California wines. Keller went to New York in 1877 in order to act as his own agent, a move necessitated, as he sadly wrote, "to save my property and to get out of the wine business—and to do this I have risked my life in my old age in N.Y. in the depth of winter to try and accomplish it . . .. The wine business has been a millstone around my neck . . . It has swallowed up all I made on land sales and any other way."[78]

The troubles that Keller faced were shared generally: financial depression and overproduction in California combined to hurt most winegrowers. But the quality of at least some of his wines may have helped to injure Keller's business. In answer


to Keller's question about how a certain sherry had been made, for example, his winemaker and manager, Thomas Mahony, sent this astounding reply:

All I know about it now is that it was made of white wine, Spirits, Grape Syrup, Hickory nut infusion, Quassia, Walnut infusion and Bitter aloes, the proportions I could not tell to save my life. At the time I made it I noted down on cards the contents of each vat, so that I could continue to make it if it turned out well, but when I received your letter saying it was no account I tore up the cards.[79]

How, one wonders, would the eastern dealers manage to adulterate this compound? It was, perhaps, something more than business rivalry that led another Los Angeles winemaker to say of Keller in 1877 that "he has done more damage to the California wine trade than any other man in it."[80] Yet Keller is said to have been in correspondence with the great Pasteur on the problems of winemaking, and to have received an inscribed copy of Pasteur's Études sur le vin .[81] Keller was at last freed of his difficulties by his death in 1881, when the wines and vines of the Los Angeles and Rising Sun Vineyards with which he had made his name passed to the Los Angeles Vintage Company.

Other names among many that might be mentioned testify to the continuing international character of early Los Angeles: there were the Frenchman Michael Clement, the Swiss Jean Bernard, the Englishman Henry Dalton, and the Swiss father and son Leonce and Victor Hoover (originally Huber), all active among the viticulturists and winemakers of the pueblo . In a town with a population still fewer than 2,000, the grape growing and winemaking activity of Los Angeles must have been visible and dominating to a degree that few, if any, American towns have since known. When Harris Newmark arrived in Los Angeles from his native Germany in 1853, he found more than one hundred vineyards in the area, seventy-five or eighty within the precincts of the town itself; and, best evidence of all of the degree to which wine had established itself, he found that the Angelenos generally patronized the local product, which was so cheap that it sold for fifteen cents a gallon and was usually served free with meals.[82] Leonce Hoover patronized the local product to a remarkable degree: a committee of the State Agricultural Society, visiting Los Angeles in 1858, reported that he drank nothing but wine the whole day through, excepting one cup of coffee on rising: "At his meals, when at work, around the social board, on retiring at night—at any and all times, he drinks his pure juice of the grape with perfect freedom, and, as he assures us, without the least intoxicating effect."[83]

One should mention, too, the vineyards that had been established beyond the environs of Los Angeles, at Cucamonga and at Rancho Jurupa (now Riverside), many miles to the east. The Cucamonga Rancho, about forty miles from Los Angeles, had been granted to Tiburcio Tapia in 1839; he planted vines there in the spot now known as Red Hill.[84] Since Tapia's death in 1845 the property has passed through many hands and many vicissitudes, but a winery still stands there. It is no longer a producing facility, but serves as a retail outlet for another local wine


producer under the banner of "California's oldest winery." It may be. Cucamonga wines enjoyed a special reputation, apparently based on the high alcohol content generated in them by the hot sun in this interior valley. As one journalist wrote in 1861, "the wine made here is the most celebrated in the country, on account of its peculiar, rich flavor, being some twenty per cent above Los Angeles wine in saccharine matter."[85]

A few miles east and south of the Cucamonga vineyards is the Rancho Jurupa, where the city of Riverside now stands; the original grantee, Don Juan Bandini, built a home there in 1839, and probably began planting vines at the same time. He soon sold a part of his grant, and by the 1850s the new proprietor, Louis Robidoux, had 5,500 vines growing.[86] Both Cucamonga and Riverside continued to be wine regions after these beginnings, though urbanization has now, after nearly a hundred and fifty years, almost put an end to the vineyards that were planted in those early days. Other vineyards were scattered in various places at the eastern end of the Los Angeles basin—Dr. Benjamin Barton's ranch near San Bernardino, for ex-ample—but they did not compete in importance with the plantings around Riverside, and, especially, Cucamonga.

The main vineyard district of the city of Los Angeles itself was quite distinct and compact: it ran along both sides of the river, mostly on the west or city side, from Macy Street on the north to Washington Street on the south, and from Los Angeles Street to Boyle Heights going west to east. This section, in the heart of old Los Angeles, has long since been covered over by railway tracks, warehouses, the buildings of Little Tokyo, and freeways; even the banks of the Los Angeles River are now sheathed in concrete. But it is remarkable how the names that belong to its viticultural past persist. To the instructed eye the contemporary street map of Los Angeles reveals a generally unrecognized memorial to the early growers and wine-makers who lived there long ago. Aliso Street remembers Don Luis Vignes's great sycamore; the street itself, which was once the main route across the river, is now a mere remnant of its old self, functioning as a sort of high-speed alley giving access to the San Bernardino Freeway. In the same region, Keller Street, after Don Matteo Keller, and Bauchet Street, after Don Luis Bauchet, commemorate two of the vineyardists who once made the region green. A little to the south, Kohler Street preserves the name of the enterprising German who first brought Los Angeles wines into large-scale commerce. Just across the river, to the east, Boyle Heights reminds us of the Irishman Andrew Boyle, whose house on the heights looked down to his vineyards and cellars on the bottom lands along the river below.

A visitor to this section of the city today must use all the power of his imagination to reconstruct the vineyards that once fringed the river, making the dusty town appear a green haven to the weary traveller. The Hoover vineyards, the Keller vineyard, the Domingo vineyard, the Vignes vineyard, all on Aliso; the Wolfskill and Wilson vineyards on Alameda; and those of Antonio Lugo, John Moran, Julius Weyse, and John Philbin on San Pedro, to name no more, now seem as remote as the hanging gardens of Babylon. Only the names on the street signs attest that


here once grew the vines that made Los Angeles the fount and origin of wine in California.

Yet they did once grow there, and from them Los Angeles made its red and white wines, especially the whites for which it was most celebrated, including the sweet angelica. Brandy, too, was distilled, as it had been from the mission days. And fresh grapes formed a large and lucrative part of the traffic between Los Angeles and San Francisco, at least in the first few years after the rush of gold miners to the northern part of the state. Another continuity between commercial viticulture in Los Angeles and the mission days was the reliance upon Indian labor: as Matthew Keller wrote in 1858, "most of our vineyard labor is done by Indians, some of whom are the best pruners we have—an art they learned from the Mission Fathers."[87] Indians also did the hard labor of treading the grapes in those places where the simplicities of the mission style were still preserved. Harris Newmark, who arrived in Los Angeles in 1853, remembered how he was both fascinated and repelled by the sight of Indians in the vintage season, "stripped to the skin, and wearing only loin-cloths," trampling out the juice in large, elevated vats:

These Indians were employed in the early fall, the season of the year when wine is made and when the thermometer as a rule, in Southern California, reaches its highest point; and this temperature coupled with incessant toil caused the perspiration to drip from their swarthy bodies into the wine product, the sight of which in no wise increased my appetite for California wine.[88]

The Indians' reward was to be paid on Saturday evening. Then, as Newmark writes, they drank through Saturday night and all of Sunday; three or four were murdered each weekend, the invariable consequence of the general debauch, but such of them as survived were ready for work again on Monday: thus, at any rate, runs the account of an early settler.[89]

The wine trade of Los Angeles moved into its next phase in the middle of the 1850s, when two commercial wine houses, like those developed in Cincinnati at about the same time, were set up to consolidate the production, storage, and distribution of the region's wines. Second in order of founding, but older by virtue of continuing an already operating winery, was the firm of Sainsevain Brothers, Jean Louis and Pierre, the nephews of Jean Louis Vignes. When they bought out their uncle in 1855, they immediately proceeded to expand the scale of operations at the old El Aliso vineyard. They bought wine from other growers, as well as making it from their own grapes and those purchased from local vineyards. In 1857 they opened a store in San Francisco; by 1858 they led the state with a production of 125,000 gallons of wine and brandy.[90]

The fata morgana of the Sainsevain brothers was the wish to make champagne. Pierre, the younger, returned to France in 1856 to study the manufacture, and brought a French champagne maker back with him. In the season of 1857-58 sparkling wine was produced at the San Francisco cellars of the Sainsevain brothers.[91] They called it Sparkling California Champagne, and it was greeted with


much interest, shipments being made to New York and Philadelphia to give it the widest publicity. It was not, however, a success. The Mission grape was a poor basis for sparkling wine, which calls for a far more acid juice than the Mission can provide; besides, the Sainsevain methods were not good enough to prevent large losses from breaking bottles and from other causes. The brothers were soon in financial difficulties as a result of their investment in sparkling wine—they are reputed to have lost $50,000 in the venture.[92] Their partnership was dissolved some time early in the 1860s, and only Jean remained at the El Aliso property in 1865 when it was sold. Both Sainsevains, at different times and at different places, kept their hands in the California wine trade thereafter, but the firm was no longer a factor in Los Angeles.

More stable and successful was the enterprise of Kohler & Frohling, as it was also the earliest of the Los Angeles wine houses. It might in fact be said that the real commerce in California wines begins with the advent of Kohler & Frohling. Charles Kohler was a German violinist who emigrated to New York in 1850 and then went on to San Francisco in 1853, where he helped to found the Germania Concert Society and provided San Francisco with its introduction to classical music. Among the musicians in his orchestra was a flutist named John Frohling. Late in 1853, Kohler, Frohling, and a third musician, an operatic tenor named Beutler, inspired by some delicious Los Angeles grapes at a picnic lunch, resolved to go into the wine business. None of them knew anything about it; indeed, Kohler and Frohling had never even seen a vineyard. Beutler, however, was from Baden, and his enthusiasm for the vine apparently fired the others, who were certainly shrewd enough to see an opportunity and resolute enough to pursue it.[93]

They raised a capital of $12,000, and made their first step by purchasing a small vineyard of Mission vines in Los Angeles in May 1854; that autumn they crushed their first vintage with the help of some Rhinelanders they had been able to hire. Beutler, for personal reasons, soon dropped out of the partnership,[94] leaving its management to Kohler, the salesman, who remained in San Francisco to oversee the firm's marketing activity. Frohling was the production manager, operating out of Los Angeles, where the vineyards were. Whether this assignment of responsibilities was made for any special reason we do not know, but both men did their jobs well. They rented a cellar in the Montgomery Block of San Francisco to store the few hundred gallons of wine that they had made, and began to acquire a clientele among the French and Germans of the city. The example was not lost on the Americans, who also began to buy the wines of Kohler & Frohling; the business thereupon grew quickly. Not so quickly, though, that the partners could afford to give up their musical careers entirely. Until 1858 Kohler continued to depend upon his fiddle, and Frohling upon his flute, to make up by night the money that the firm may have lost by day. They were, evidently, musicians of ability, for they did not lack for work when they needed it.[95]

In that same year, 1858, Kohler & Frohling took the prize at the state fair for "best wine"; they had already garnered a "diploma" for their Los Angeles port in



Charles Kohler, the German immigrant musician turned wine merchant who, 
with his partner, John Frohling, first put the sale of California wine on a national 
basis. The portrait is from about 1875, (Author's collection)

1856 from the United States Agricultural Society meeting in Philadelphia.[96] Their success was such that they almost at once dominated the Los Angeles wine trade, buying and crushing the produce of some 350 acres of vineyard each year. Their method was to send a crew from vineyard to vineyard, where some of the men would pick the grapes and others stem, crush, and press them. The whole wine-making process was thus entirely in the hands of the firm, even though they might be working on the property of other vintners—Wolfskill, or Keller, for example, with whom they had contracts. The Kohler & Frohling vintage crew, under the direct supervision of Frohling, is thus described in action at William Wolfskill's vineyard and winery in 1859:

He [Frohling] has in his employ four men who are cleaning off the stems; this they do by pushing the grapes through the sifter [a wire sieve] with their hands; two men turn the mill [of two grooved iron cylinders] by cranks; two feed the hopper; one weighs the


grapes; three or four attend to the wine as it comes from the mill and the presses; five or six do the pressing and carry off the pommace to the fermenting vats; one, two or three attend to washing, cleansing and sulphuring of grapes; and three teams are constantly employed in hauling the grapes. Every night all the presses and appliances used about them are all washed thoroughly to prevent acidity. Everything that comes in contact with the grape juice from the time the grape is bruised till it reaches the cask is kept as pure as abundance of water and hard scrubbing can make it.[97]

The year 1859 yielded a small vintage in Los Angeles, but even then Kohler & Frohling made more than 100,000 gallons. The next year was a poor one too, yet Frohling had to rent space from the city under the Los Angeles court house in order to accommodate all the wine he then had on hand. He advertised the place by first holding a harvest home celebration there; afterwards, he set up a bar to which thirsty Angelenos could go to buy a glassful of the young wine drawn from the 20,000 gallons reposing in the cool cellar.[98]

From the account of Frohling's winemaking methods in 1859, it is evident that he had an enlightened notion of how to do it at a time when others in Los Angeles were still using Indian foot-power. Frohling died in 1862, but the standards he set were maintained and the reputation of the firm made secure. Among other improvements, the firm of Kohler & Frohling brought in new varieties to the Los Angeles Valley, especially the varieties used for the production of port and sherry, and so helped to reduce the region's dependence on the unsatisfactory Mission.[99] In the history, not just of Los Angeles, but of the whole state of California with respect to winegrowing, Kohler and Frohling occupy a place of particular distinction. They showed the way the trade should go, and they deservedly prospered.

Los Angeles was where the grapes grew and the wine was made; San Francisco was, at first, the place where the wine was sold and drunk—130,000 gallons were shipped from south to north in 1861, for example, where it was Kohler's business to sell it.[100] The next and crucial step, as production grew, was to secure recognition outside of the state—no easy task when the Pacific Coast was still largely unpopulated and the western center of wine production was separated from the eastern centers of population by a continent uncrossed by road or railroad. Kohler & Frohling nevertheless began to make shipments to the east, and it is for that reason, especially, that the firm is important in the history of California wine. How soon it entered into out-of-state trade is not clear; it could not have been long after the beginnings, for by 1860 Kohler & Frohling had shipped over $70,000 worth out of California and had exclusive agencies in New York City and Boston, opened in that year.[101] In 1861 the Sainsevain brothers also opened a New York City branch,[102] and from this point the wines of California grew, more and more, to be the dominant element in the native wines that flowed through the country.

California wine—Los Angeles wine, really—was soberly examined and reported on by the gentlemen of the Farmer's Club, a section of the American Institute in New York City, in 1862, the earliest tasting notes on the state's wines made


outside California that I know of. The Sainsevains' white wines, under the Aliso label, received good marks. Their sparkling wine was highly praised too—"well fined, fermented in the bottle, is entirely clear and free from sediment, and is truly a good, sound, dry wine" at $13 a dozen; given the failure of the Sainsevain champagne to secure a market, the New Yorkers were evidently being more than kind in this judgment. The wines from Kohler & Frohling were not specifically identified in the published report, but perhaps they included the port, at $8 a dozen delivered in New York, and an angelica that did not please the taste of the New Yorkers—"it is too strong for a 'ladies' wine,' and a bottle full of it contains I don't know how many headaches," one judge concluded. But on the whole the examination was a success for the Californians: "I think the samples shown to-day," one taster declared, "prove that America is capable of producing its own wine, and that we are really independent of the wine countries of Europe."[103] This must have gratified Kohler, who, in 1857, had written to one of his Los Angeles correspondents complaining of competition and the difficulties of selling native wines, yet jauntily concluding that "on the long run we will beat Europe anyhow."[104]

When Mark Twain, newly famous as the author of the "Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County," left California for New York in 1866, he took California wines with him to help promote them in the East.[105] He may have done some good, for by 1867 the shipments of California wine to New York for sale there and elsewhere in the East had reached impressive figures: 80,000 gallons of angelica, 150,000 gallons of Los Angeles port, and half a million gallons of white wine from Los Angeles and Sonoma (then the region second to Los Angeles in production) were said to have been shipped that year. These figures are, without doubt, on the inflated side, but even making a large allowance for hopeful exaggeration, they show that, as the writer who reports them put it, "the viniculturist of California has good prospects before him."[106] Ten years later Kohler & Frohling could boast that no town or city of middle size or more was without its wines, which included the following range of types (I follow Kohler's own enumeration): hock, riesling, muscat, tokay, gutedel, claret, zinfandel, malvoisie, burgundy, sherry, port, angelica. The firm, by that time, had permanent establishments in Sonoma and in St. Louis, in addition to its San Francisco and Los Angeles properties, and was crushing up to two and a half thousand tons of California grapes a year.[107]

California wines did not make an instant or uncontested capture of the eastern market for native wines; the producers in Ohio and New York had an interest to protect, and did not scruple to accuse the Californians of adulterating their wines and using fraudulent labels. The Cincinnati people were especially truculent, proclaiming that so-called California wine for sale in the East was in reality native eastern wine. According to Kohler's recollection, the president of the American Wine Growers' Association in Cincinnati "made himself prominent in circulating and reiterating this charge," but was at last compelled to recant.[108] Shipping costs, too, were an obvious disadvantage for the Californians, and so was the lack of bottles on the remote Pacific frontier. The last difficulty was much reduced by the


founding of the Pacific Glass Works in 1862; Kohler & Frohling had a one-sixth interest in this venture, and after it produced its first wine bottle in 1863 the firm had a secure source of supply.[109]

The later fortunes of Kohler & Frohling need not be recounted here. The firm survived, and even helped to direct, the shift of California's winemaking from south to north; as early as 1865 it had purchased a Sonoma County vineyard property. When Kohler, the immigrant violinist, died in 1887, he left to his sons an impressive estate: the largest wine merchant's firm in California and winegrowing properties in Los Angeles, Sonoma, Fresno, and Sacramento counties.[110] Kohler has been called "the Longworth of the west," and he may be allowed a clear claim to that modest title in virtue of his having been the first man to make a name for the wines of California outside the place of their origin, as Longworth had done for the wines of Cincinnati.

The Beginnings in Northern California

Winegrowing in northern California did not wait upon the Gold Rush, though of course that event transformed it. Like the southerners, the early settlers in the north had the winegrowing example of the missions before them—San Jose, Santa Clara, and Sonoma especially. The vineyards and wine production of these establishments were, however, much smaller than those of the missions to the south, and though their wines and brandy enjoyed a good reputation, they cannot have been in very great supply: the vineyard at Sonoma, for example, seems to have been less than an acre in extent, and of the two vineyards at Mission San Jose that survived secularization, the larger contained only 4,000 vines.[111]

The first layman to grow grapes in the north was, so far as the record goes, the original commandante of Alta California, and later the governor of the province, Pedro Fages, who planted a garden with vines at Monterey around 1783.[112] Despite this precocious beginning, however, winegrowing in the northern part of the state was very slow to spread and develop. There were vineyards here and there, of course, besides those of the missions. Kotzebue mentions the grapes of the pueblo of Santa Clara in 1824,[113] and later visitors to the place also remarked on the local vineyards. General Vallejo, who presided over the secularization of the mission at Sonoma in 1835, took over the mission's vineyard, located just off the plaza of the. tiny village he had founded there. In view of the later importance of Sonoma to the. California industry, much has been made of the importance of this beginning; it remained only a beginning, however, until after 1849. Sir George Simpson, the British administrator of the Hudson's Bay Company's territories and an intrepid explorer, visited Vallejo at Sonoma in 1841. The general had, Sir George wrote, a vineyard of only about three hundred square feet, inherited from the mission priests but replanted by Vallejo, yielding around 540 gallons of wine.[114]


Other growers in the north before 1849 were so few that almost all of them may be mentioned. George Yount, a mountain man who came to California with William Wolfskill and moved to the north, has the distinction of having planted the first grapes in the Napa Valley (where he had settled two years earlier, at what is now Yountville but was then the Caymus Rancho) in 1838. Yount's vines grew from cuttings taken from Vallejo's at the Sonoma Mission; Napa Valley wine, therefore, is originally derived from the Sonoma Valley, a fact that will give pleasure to the partisans of Sonoma in the rivalry between California's two best-known wine valleys.[115] Yount's beginning was followed by Dr. Edward Bale, an Englishman, who planted vines at his home north of St. Helena on a ranch he acquired in 1841 (he got it through Vallejo, whose niece he had married). Some time around 1846 Florentine Kellogg, a settler from Illinois, also planted grapes at St. Helena, as did Reason P. Tucker. To the north, in Tehama County, the county's pioneer settler, Peter Lassen, a Dane, set out a small vineyard in 1846 that was ultimately transformed into the huge Vina Vineyard of Leland Stanford later in the century.[116] To the east of Napa, in what is now Solano County, an outpost of southern California viticulture was established at the Rio de los Putos Rancho, the joint property of William Wolfskill and his brother John. John took up residence on the property in 1842 and set out a small vineyard of Mission grapes in the spring of 1843.[117]

In Contra Costa County, across Suisun Bay at the foot of Mount Diablo, Dr. John Marsh had a small vineyard in 1846, from which he made wine. Besides Mission vines he had Isabella and Catawba—a not uncommon circumstance in the early days. Easterners were familiar with their native grapes and were probably profoundly skeptical about vinifera's chances, even in a country where it was known to succeed. Marsh, a Yankee and a difficult man, was later murdered, so that his contribution to California's early winemaking history did not come to much.[118] A few more names make the list of early northern growers before the Gold Rush substantially complete: Nicholas Carriger, Jacob Leese, and Franklin Sears in Sonoma, Antonio Sunol and Juan Bernal in Santa Clara County.[119] Perhaps the most telling remark at this time is William Heath Davis's statement that, when in 1846 he gave an elaborate engagement party on board his merchant ship anchored in Monterey Bay, he served wine, but not local wine: "California wine was not in general use at that time as a beverage," he explains.[120] The southern part of the state was not yet exporting it with any regularity, and the north was not yet growing enough.

At the end of 1848 California is estimated to have had about 14,000 inhabitants, exclusive of Indians—probably the number was not really even that large. Four years later, after the crisis of gold at Sutter's Mill, the official state census recorded a population of 224,000.[121] The explosive rise in numbers is not exactly paralleled in viticulture, but it is certainly true that from 1849 onwards, winegrowing in California enters on a different order of magnitude from what it had known



The vines of the Coloma Vineyard went back to 1852, planted by the German Martin Allhoff
 and the Scotsman Robert Chalmers. The winery was built by Allhoff, but on his death came 
into the hands of Chalmers. This advertisement, from T. Hart Hyatt's  Hand-Book of Grape 
 (2d ed., 1876), is notable for the prominence still given to the old American hybrids 
in California—Catawba, Isabella, and, perhaps, "Native (white and red)." (California State
 University, Fresno, Library)


before. One of the first districts to show the results of extensive new vine planting was the Mother Lode country itself, especially in Amador, E1 Dorado, Sutter, and Tuolumne counties. Vines were planted as early as 1849 at Coloma in E1 Dorado County and at Bear River in Sutter County.[122] By 1856, the first year for which any figures are available, the four counties named above had some 70,000 vines; two years later the figure was 205,000, the largest number growing in E1 Dorado County, followed by Tuolumne, Sutter, and Amador.[123] These were all small plantings, and, though the Gold Rush country continued to be a significant section of California viticulture, it is not where the most important parts of the nineteenth century industry developed. That was in the counties to the north and south of San Francisco Bay, in the valleys and along the foothills of Sonoma, Napa, and Santa Clara counties especially, where winegrowing had been tentatively begun before the Gold Rush. Other northern counties had vineyards too: vines were planted at Stockton, in San Joaquin County, in 1850; the first vineyard in Stanislaus County was planted in 1852, and the first in Yolo County went in about the same time.[124]

Since the Gold Rush had attracted every sort of person from every part of the world, the early winegrowers were a diverse lot—Germans and Dutchmen, Frenchmen, Yankees, and Englishmen were all among the pioneers. Sutter himself, the Swiss adventurer and feudal-style landholder on whose land gold was first found, after losing most of his property in the rush that followed, turned to wine-growing on his Hock Farm, as he called it, on the Feather River south of Yuba City, where a vineyard had been set out in 1851.[125] Sutter, sad to say, was an alcoholic, whose interest in his wines was neither wholly commercial nor at all good for him. The man who actually made the discovery of gold, James Marshall, a native of New Jersey, also owned a vineyard in Coloma County where the discovery had been made.[126] In Tuolumne County, in 1853, a group of five Frenchmen planted a vineyard that, in five years, is said to have grown to 30,000 vines and to have yielded over sixty tons of grapes.[127] Many other names might be given to illustrate the international style of pioneer winegrowing in the north—names such as Gerke, Justi, Thee, Lefranc, Krug, Wubbena, Fabricius, and Votypka—but the point is sufficiently plain: just as it had been in the south around Los Angeles, winegrowing in the Gold Rush country and around San Francisco Bay was a cosmopolitan enterprise in which Maine fishermen and Illinois farmers were equally welcome with viticulteurs from Bordeaux and Weinbauern from the Rhine.

It was not until the middle of the 1850s that a genuinely booming development in winegrowing came about in the north. By that time the first and most violent years of the gold fever were over, and men were ready to think about more permanent bases for the state's economy. Winegrowing looked especially attractive, for the considerable trials that had already been made showed that the vine would grow almost anywhere in the state. At the same time, news of the great vine disease, the oidium , in Europe, led the papers to prophesy the imminent demise of winegrowing in the Old World and an unlimited opportunity for the New. Bacchus would be compelled to emigrate, and would become an American citizen with all


those Frenchmen and Germans who had preceded him. After 1855, under the rallying cry of "California, the vineyard of the world,"[128] plantings increased by leaps and bounds. The statistics, even though they are probably quite unreliable in detail, tell a plain story. Santa Clara County, for example, is reported to have had 30,000 vines in 1855; in the next year the figure was 150,000; in 1857, it was 500,000.[129] Another significant first for these years occurred in 1857, when the first wine shipped from Napa County to San Francisco went to market—a modest quantity of "six casks and six bottles."[130] For the state as a whole the increase in plantings was quite dramatic: in 1856 there were, according to figures published in the State Register , 1,500,000 vines; in 1857, 2,265,000; and in 1858, 3,954,000. The total thus more than doubled by a good deal in the short space between 1856 and 1858. Nor was the growth confined to the north: Los Angeles made the greatest advance, doubling its plantings in the years in question.[131] By 1862 there were 8,000,000 vines in the state.[132]

The spirit of these first boom years is well expressed in the report made by the committee on grapes at the annual exhibition of the California Horticultural Society in 1858:

When it is remembered that the grape grows to the greatest perfection next to the very placers of gold—that some ten millions of acres of land in our state can be cultivated in this noble fruit—that the commercial value of the products of the grape trade in Europe is worth two hundred and two millions of dollars, and employs some five millions of people in making wines, brandies, raisins, tartar, and in an infinitude of trades as coopers, coppersmiths, carpenters, glass makers, cork cutters, etc., and also employs a commercial marine of some two thousand ships, it will be seen what a glorious prospect of advancing power and greatness the cultivation of this ancient and valued fruit opens to our State. It is absolutely as valuable and as feasible a mine of wealth to us, as our mines of gold, silver, copper and quicksilver, besides being a more grateful and humanizing employment.[133]

The level of knowledge and experience at the beginning of the boom in the mid fifties was not yet very high. The California Farmer , a San Francisco weekly that made the promotion of winegrowing a special mission, was still, in 1855, drawing most of its advice and information about grape growing and winemaking from sources outside the state—typically from Ohio, or even from Massachusetts. It also recommended the eastern hybrids—Catawba especially—to the growers of California, a sure sign that not much local experience had yet accumulated.[134] Nevertheless, the means for assisting and developing the state's winegrowing were quickly forming in these years. In 1854 the California State Agricultural Society was chartered, and it at once began to help the wine industry. It sent visiting committees throughout the state to report on vine growing and winemaking; it made competition between the growers for premiums an important part of the annual state fair, and it disseminated information through its Transactions . The best-known publication of this sort that it commissioned was the "Report on Grapes and Wine


of California," written by the remarkable Colonel Haraszthy of Buena Vista, Sonoma County. Haraszthy's treatise, which was devoted mostly to practical notes on vine growing and winemaking, appeared originally in the society's Transactions for 1858, and was then reprinted in quantity for statewide distribution. It is in keeping with the international character of the state's winemaking tradition that Haraszthy was a Hungarian who had reached California by way of Wisconsin.

By 1859 the industry was large enough to become visible to the state legislature; an act of that year exempted new vine plantings from taxation until they were four years old, so that growers would not have to pay on their investment until they had a crop to enable them to meet the tax.[135] Apart from the useful work of the State Agricultural Society, this was the first official act in favor of the wine industry in California. It was soon followed by another in 1861, when the legislature established a "Commission upon the Ways and Means best adapted to promote the Improvement and Growth of the Grape-vine in California";[136] the work of this body will be described later in connection with its most active member, Colonel Haraszthy.

The work that Haraszthy is best remembered for was his importation of large quantities of European grape varieties to supplant the Mission grape, which dominated in the north as well as in the south. He has been given far too much credit for pioneering in the business, however, as a quick review of other men's contributions before Haraszthy will show. It did not take even uninstructed vine growers long to discover that something better than the Mission must be found if California wines were ever to improve. Jean Louis Vignes and Kohler & Frohling have already been mentioned as pioneers in introducing other varieties than the Mission to the southern vineyards. In the north, in the 1850s, there were a good many others who were active in trying to improve the stock of varieties available to the California vineyardist. Their efforts constitute a distinct chapter in California history and are worth emphasizing all the more since they have been so little recognized until quite recent years.

The growers and nurserymen of Santa Clara County were the leaders in this work, and among them the French were the most prominent: unlike most Americans, they knew for certain that one could do better than the Mission. The first grower known to have introduced superior varieties to the north was Pierre Pellier, who brought vines with him from the Bordeaux region about 1852 (the exact date is disputed), to be planted in his brother's nursery and vineyard near San Jose. In 1854 Pierre returned to France for more and better cuttings; it is said that, on the return voyage in 1856, the ship's supply of water was nearly exhausted by the long voyage and the cuttings were in danger of dying. Pellier bought up the ship's supply of potatoes, slit them, and saved his cuttings by inserting them into the moist potatoes. By this ingenious means, California received its first Grey Riesling, French Colombard, and Folle Blanche.[137]

Among other Santa Clara Frenchmen, Louis Prevost of San Jose had some sixty different varieties of grape planted in the 1850s.[138] Antoine Delmas, his neigh-



Advertisements for grapevines in the  California Farmer , 21 March 1861. 
On the left Smith's Gardens of Sacramento offers 200,000 cuttings of "foreign"
 vines (that is, any vinifera other than the Mission grape); on the right, Antoine 
Delmas of the French Garden, San Jose, offers assistance with winemaking and 
distilling as well as grapes for table and winemaking. The "California grapes" 
offered by Louis Provost were presumably the Mission variety Such were the 
resources available to California vineyardists well before Agoston Haraszthy 
left California for Europe.

bor and fellow Frenchman, had the most extensive of all early varietal collections in California.[139] Delmas had imported 10,000 cuttings from France in 1854, when he received a special premium from the State Agricultural Society for the "best and largest varieties of foreign grapes."[140] When Delmas took the first prize for wine at the state fair of 1859, his superior grape varieties were probably a reason for his


success. By 1858 Delmas's collection had swelled to 350,000 vines of 105 different varieties.[141] Still another Santa Clara County Frenchman, Charles Lefranc, set out a vineyard of foreign varieties in 1857.[142]

The French were not the only ones to follow this line towards improving California wine. Jacob Knauth, the son of a Johannisberg winemaker, imported the Orleans grape from the Rhine for planting near Sutter's Fort in 1853; this furnished the basis for his well-known Orleans Hill Vineyard in Yolo County, beginning in 1860.[143] Another German, Frank Stock, in 1858 introduced to San Jose such great varieties from his native country as the Riesling, Sylvaner, and Traminer.[144] And various Americans contributed too: Bernard Fox, of the Stockton Ranch Nursery, was advertising nineteen varieties of vinifera as early as 1854; three years later Fox moved his business north of San Jose, where by 1858 he had eighty-six different varieties in his stock.[145] L. A. Gould and William Thomburg of Santa Clara and the Englishman James Lowe of San Jose all had vineyards of different varieties by 1858—Gould had seventy, Thomburg, sixteen.[146] In San Joaquin County, adjoining Santa Clara on the northeast, the nurserymen William and George West imported forty varieties of grape from Boston in 1853; from this stock, it is said, the earliest vineyards of the county were propagated. The Wests themselves developed the E1 Pinal Vineyard, one of the famous names in the winemaking of the nineteenth century.[147] In Napa County, varieties other than the Mission were being grown at the vineyard of the Thompson brothers south of Napa City by 1856; two years later they had some forty-five different varieties available in their nursery.[148] Sam Brannan, who began developing his Calistoga vineyards in 1859, collected thousands of cuttings from France, Spain, Germany, and Italy.[149] And in Sonoma, with which the introduction of superior varieties to California is particularly associated on account of Haraszthy's work, the first new varieties seem to have been brought in by the brothers Shaw, transplanted Vermonters who brought their "foreign grapes" from Los Angeles in 1856.[150] As a final instance, one may name A. P. Smith of Sacramento, who offered more than a hundred varieties of vinifera for sale in 1859 after several years of experimental trials. Smith had also made wine from some twenty of the varieties he offered for sale; one of them was the Black St. Peters, which there is reason to think may have been a variant name for the Zinfandel.[151]

It is evident from this rapid summary that the need for better varieties was well recognized and that the work of introducing them was well begun a good many years before Haraszthy made his famous collecting tour of the wine regions of Europe in 1861. To call attention to this fact is not to deny Haraszthy's contribution but to put it into a more sensible historical perspective. Like most critical events, the introduction of new and better varieties into California did not happen all at once, nor was it the work of a single hand. Haraszthy was one among many contributors, and far from the first. One should not forget, either, that the U.S. government was actively identifying and disseminating improved varieties of native grapes for the eastern states. The example would not have been wholly lost on the Californians. Eastern vines, as has been noted, were included among those tried


by California vineyardists in the 1850s. Longworth's success with Catawba naturally led the Californians to imitate what he had done, but though Catawba wines were made in California, and others from such native hybrids as the Diana and the Isabella, it was pretty generally concluded that the future did not lie that way. The natives persisted for some time in a small way, however. Nurserymen continued to offer the old favorites like Catawba and Herbemont, and when the State Vinicultural Society commissioned the handsome illustrated Grapes and Grape Fines of California in 1877, one of the ten varieties represented was the Catawba. As late as 1886 A. Langenburger of Anaheim was offering "genuine LeNoir wine" for sale.[152] According to Leon Adams, the last Catawba vineyard in California, in Santa Clara County, endured until 1969.[153]

At the end of the 1850s, the northern region of California, where ten years earlier no commercial winegrowing had existed at all, was a serious competitor to the southern part of the state. The census of 1860, whose figures for wine production are certainly far below the actual gallonage, reports that California made 246,518 gallons of wine in that year. Of this, Los Angeles produced 162,980 gallons; San Bernardino and Santa Barbara Counties, the other contributors from the south, added some 19,000 gallons more. The rest—some 64,000 gallons—came from the new northern regions of the Mother Lode counties and the lands around San Francisco Bay.[154] It was evident that, at this rate, Los Angeles and the south would soon be overtaken, as in fact happened within the next ten years. The advantage of the north lay not only in its relation to the much larger population of metropolitan San Francisco but also in its topography and climate. About soils it is difficult to generalize—the vine takes to all sorts, and a demonstrable correlation between soil type and wine quality is not uniformly possible (at least it has not been in this country: the French think differently). But one can say that the terrain of the north was much more varied than that of the south, cut up as it is into a myriad hills and valleys ranging from the regions of coastal fog to the high, snowy Sierra. In the south, the coastal range is higher and more sterile, the valleys are larger and flatter, and the influence of the contiguous desert more troublesomely felt.

Climate is demonstrably the most important of external factors for the vine, and within the notion of climate, sunshine and rain are the key elements. Though the southern region has by no means a single, uniform climatic character, it is, to put it as simply as possible, both hotter and drier. The cooling effect of the ocean is. lost when one has penetrated only a few miles into the interior valleys; the rivers; flow only during the winter rainy season, and irrigation is the necessary condition of growing crops, with unimportant exceptions. In these circumstances of dryness and heat, the grape will respond quite vigorously, but not in the way best adapted to the making of fine, well-balanced table wines, the standard by which any wine-making country is to be measured. Instead, as the grapes swell with rich, sugar-laden juice under the generative power of the sun, the acid content sinks proportionately. The result, even when one has the best varieties available, is a wine flat


and flabby, or, as tasters say, out of balance. Without very sophisticated means of measurement and control, then, means quite unavailable in the nineteenth century, the grower in a region like the south of California will not be able to make a superior table wine; more often than not he cannot make even a good one. Owing to the high sugar content and low acid of his grapes, he can make admirable, even outstanding, sweet wines, and it was on that style of wine that Los Angeles grew more and more to concentrate. But if it is not to be a mere supplier of aperitifs and dessert wines, an industry must depend on good, sound dry table wine, and for this requisite the north had an irresistible advantage over the south. In favored northern districts, the sunshine is long enough and strong enough to bring grapes to full ripeness, yet not so strong as to raise the sugar out of balance with the indispensable acid content. Winter rains are sufficient to allow the vines to grow without summer irrigation; the circumstance is important, because irrigation, for complex chemical reasons, has the result of causing the vine and its fruit to flourish vegetatively at the expense of winemaking quality.

The men in the north must have begun to realize their advantage in no very long time, but the judicious among them knew that so young an enterprise had most of its work still in front of it—that is, indeed, still true, for the refinements of winegrowing can only arise out of long-continued experience of a kind still not attained in the United States; the two millennia and more of European experience remind us that we need not be particularly anxious on this score. On the other hand, it is remarkable how quickly the winegrowing possibilities of the state had been explored, at least by way of beginning: the south, the San Francisco Bay region, and the foothills of the Sierra were all tested in a significant way by the middle of the century. Among today's important winegrowing regions, only the great Central Valley and the Salinas Valley were untried by that point—although of course these are very large omissions.

On the whole, while admitting the precocity of California's development, the historian should probably emphasize how young and untaught the wine industry was. In 1860 the Committee on Wines of the State Agricultural Society confessed that "most of our people have never seen a vineyard. Whoever will enlighten [them] on the most approved modes of culture, and, above all, the scientific and practical treatment of the grape juice in the making of wine will be a great public benefactor."[155] At the state fair of the year before, for example, the judges analyzed one specimen of table wine and found it to have 15 percent alcohol and 0.28 percent acid—a grotesque imbalance. They concluded, with gentle understatement, that the state's winemakers had not yet "reached that standard of perfection which our climate and soil must one day enable them to attain."[156]

After a tour of vineyards and wineries north and south, a not very friendly Yankee visitor in 1867, Charles Loring Brace, affirmed less charitably that "in fact, on a broad scale, the wine-making of California has been a failure." The wines lacked character and were too alcoholic, he said—faults both of the varieties from which they came and of the methods by which they were made. There was no


good, light, cheap table wine, and at the same time the industry had too self-congratulatory an opinion of itself; everybody conspired to compliment the wine-growers, whereas, Brace thought, "there is nothing that California needs so much in developing her resources as a little truth-speaking"—especially in making judgment on her wines.[157]

Brace was perhaps too harsh. Another voice, that of a Californian devoted to promoting the resources of the state, and himself a winegrower, puts the case more mildly and dispassionately. John S. Hittell, the author of The Resources of California (1863), after making the standard observation that "California is a favorite land of the grape," goes on to say that growers do not yet know what the right soils are or the right grapes for them in the large and varied territories of the state. Nor have the winemakers learned their trade:

It is certainly no easy matter to make fine wine out of the Mission grape, and most of our wine-makers have little experience in the business. Again, they send their wine to market too soon after it is made. They often use old barrels and bottles, which may give a taste to the wine. They have also been too careless in pressing grapes before they were fully ripe, and without picking out the green and rotten fruit.[158]

It is no disgrace to the early growers that such things could be said of them; but it would be many years before they could say that the charges did not apply.


The Haraszthy Legend

The United States, though rather an old country now as standards of national identity go, still feels itself to be young and therefore takes an anxious interest in its founders and fathers. The California wine industry has had, according to the stories repeated over and over in the press at every level since the late nineteenth century, a "father" named Agoston Haraszthy.[1] In 1946 the title was officially sanctioned by the state of California at ceremonies dedicating a memorial in Sonoma to Haraszthy as the "Father of California Viticulture": one may still contemplate the bronze assertion on the north side of the old plaza in Sonoma. The same formula identifies a vine planted in Haraszthy's memory in 1961 by Governor Edmund Brown in Capitol Park, Sacramento.

How good is Haraszthy's claim? Is it only the result of effective publicity? Does it mean something solid? Or is it just a mistake? On a simple documentary level the answer is clear. As the preceding chapter has shown at some length, viticulture and winemaking in California were thoroughly established long before Haraszthy made his way to the state in 1849. By that time there was a history of nearly three-quarters of a century of practical winegrowing, and a strong effort towards improving the selection of grape varieties was already well under way. But if one tries to answer the question in a more critical way, the case grows a little complicated. "Father," after all, is not a very useful metaphor: a literal father must have an exclusive claim, but a man who pioneers in a decisive way may share credit with a good many predecessors. The best thing to do, then, seems to be to tell Haraszthy's story as well as it can be reconstructed (many important questions have never been answered), and to let that stand as an argument for or against the alleged paternity connected with his name.



Agoston Haraszthy (1812-69), the Hungarian who developed the Buena 
Vista Vineyard in the late 1850s, He has since been given credit as a 
pioneer of California winegrowing out of all proportion to his actual 
contributions. (Wine Institute)

Both the beginning of Haraszthy's life in the old Austro-Hungarian empire and its ending in the forests of Nicaragua are quite indistinct so far as the record goes. What were his activities before he came to the United States? And was he, at the end, devoured by an alligator? No one seems to know. But between those two points, the busy, confident, multifarious, and striking activities of Haraszthy left a strong impression that remains clear enough today.[2] The son of a landed proprietor, Agoston Haraszthy was born in 1812. at Futak, on the east bank of the Danube at the end of its long run from north to south across the great Hungarian plain. The place was then in southern Hungary but is now a part of Yugoslavia. Young Haraszthy is said to have studied law, to have been a member of Empero-


Ferdinand's bodyguard, and to have served as private secretary to Archduke Joseph, palatine of Hungary. At some point—indistinct like all of the details of the early years—Haraszthy retired to his estates and pursued the life of an enlightened agriculturist; winegrowing and silk culture were among his interests. In this period, Haraszthy served in the Hungarian Diet; he also married a Polish lady, by whom he had six children: four sons named after the heroes of Hungarian history—Geza, Attila, Arpad, and Bela—and two daughters.

In 1840, together with a cousin, a boy of eighteen, Haraszthy left Hungary for the United States; the reason, according to Haraszthy's statements afterwards, was political. The failure of Louis Kossuth's liberal movement, with which he was in some way associated (indistinct again), is supposed to have forced him to flee[3] Haraszthy has, in consequence, traditionally been represented as a hero of the liberal cause in Europe. But the claim is not clearly made out, to say the least. For one thing, Kossuth had just been released from jail when Haraszthy first left Hungary. For another, Haraszthy's cousin and travelling companion on that first visit to the United States later affirmed that he and Haraszthy had left Hungary "for no reason, except to wander."[4] Whatever the truth of that matter, Haraszthy was able to return to Hungary in 1842 to sell his estate there and to bring his whole family, father and mother included, back to the United States. If he was a political exile, he was evidently under no very severe persecution.[5]

Haraszthy had, on his first visit to America, bought land on the prairie bordering the Wisconsin River where the town of Sauk City now stands. From 1842, when he settled there with his family, until 1848, when he left for California, Haraszthy was the prince of this Wisconsin property. With a partner he set about developing a town—at one point it was called Haraszthy—and he took a hand in all sorts of pioneer enterprises: a brickyard, a sawmill, a general store, a hotel. He sold lots; he operated a ferry across the Wisconsin River and a steamboat on it; he held a contract for supplying corn to the soldiers at Fort Winnebago, and raised large numbers of pigs and sheep; he planted the state's first hop yard (prophetic of Wisconsin beer). He also published Travels in America , a two-volume account of his American impressions, in Hungary in 1844, partly in order to stimulate immigration to his Wisconsin lands (the publication is further evidence that Haraszthy was not a political exile). Despite the pressure of these affairs, Haraszthy seems to have spent much of his time as an enthusiastic outdoorsman, riding and hunting with a flamboyance that amazed the simple Wisconsin settlers: one anecdote tells of his killing a wolf with his bare hands.[6] He was tall, dark, fiercely mustached, and given to wearing aristocratic boots and a green silk shirt with a red sash. It is no wonder that the natives always called him "Count," though he was not a member of the Austro-Hungarian nobility.

From the point of view of his later work in California, Haraszthy's most interesting project in Wisconsin was his attempt to grow wine there, high up above the forty-third parallel, in the middle of a continent. He set out vines in 1847 and in 1848, and built a forty-foot cellar to receive the fruit of his vines. But winter frosts


killed the vines and there is no evidence that Haraszthy succeeded in producing a Wisconsin wine before he left the state.[7]

At the end of 1848 Haraszthy turned his back on all this—probably he was dissatisfied with the financial results of all his speculations—and prepared to travel overland to California with his family. They left St. Joseph via the Santa Fe Trail in the spring of 1849, ahead of the main wave of forty-niners and apparently without any intention of literal gold-seeking. The news of gold in California had reached the East at about the time that Haraszthy left the village he had founded in Wisconsin, but instead of heading for the Mother Lode, Haraszthy made his way to the unprepossessing hamlet of San Diego, hundreds of miles to the south. There he was at once energetically busy in his old omnicompetent way. He and his sons briefly experimented with a plan to take over the derelict mission gardens at San Luis Rey, but soon returned to San Diego, where Haraszthy and others had established a market garden in Mission Valley; there, in March 1850, Haraszthy began to plant the first of his Californian vineyards, with cuttings taken from the Mission San Luis Rey's surviving vines. Haraszthy is also said to have ordered roots and cuttings of vinifera vines from Europe and planted them in 1851, the first of the many importations that he was to bring into the state. The evidence for this, however, is not reliable.[8] Haraszthy diversified his time in San Diego by Indian fighting, land speculation, and politics: he was elected the county's first sheriff in 1851, and city marshal in the same year, when he also built the town's new jail on a speculative contract (the jail proved incapable of holding prisoners). Haraszthy's brief episode in San Diego came to an end late in 1851, when he was elected state assemblyman for San Diego County and went off to his legislative duties far to the north in Sacramento. He never returned to live in San Diego, and his vineyard there was abandoned.

Haraszthy must have had his mind on growing things as well as on making laws when he left the south of the state for the north; within two months after the legislature had convened in Sacramento he had bought an extensive property near Mission Dolores, south of the city of San Francisco as it then was. At this place, which he called "Los Flores," he began to develop a nursery, including grapevines. But this was no better a place to grow grapes then than it had been in mission days, when the Franciscans found that they could not succeed with grapes there. Haraszthy sold part of the property in 1853 and began buying land farther south on the peninsula in the hills near San Mateo (the land now lies under the waters of the Crystal Springs Lakes reservoir); by 1854 he had planted thirty acres of grapes there.[9]

He had also begun to operate as an assayer and refiner of gold in San Francisco in partnership with two fellow Hungarians. In 1855 he was made official smelter and refiner at the branch mint in San Francisco, and, despite his public appointment, joined in a private gold and silver refinery as well. Haraszthy came to serious grief in this activity, for in 1857 a grand jury brought in a charge against him for the "embezzlement" of $150,000, the value of the gold for which he was unable to


account after a tally of the mint's gold had been made. Haraszthy was forced to mortgage or sell the larger part of his properties and to hand over his assets to the government in pledge, while a complicated inquiry and trial took place. What was finally determined was that, under the strain of extraordinary operation night and day, the furnaces of the mint had allowed gold to escape up the chimneys in quantities beyond the officially permitted measure of waste. Haraszthy—who by this time had made enemies as well as friends—was cleared, but not until 1861.[10] In the meantime, he had begun the work for which he is now remembered in California.

Haraszthy had already learned that the cool wet fogs of the peninsula made his Crystal Springs property unsuitable for successful grape growing, and so he began to cast about for another place—his fourth in California and fifth in the United States, if we count the Wisconsin venture—where grapes might do well. He found it across the bay to the north, ouside the town of Sonoma, where Vallejo, who had already been growing grapes for a generation, had since the Gold Rush built a new house, laid out a larger vineyard, and begun taking prizes for his wines at the newly founded state fair. On a property nearby were some sixteen acres of vines called the Sonoma Vineyard, said to have been planted by an Indian as early as 1832.[11] The wine from it was good enough to convince Haraszthy that he could do even better there. Accordingly, in 1856, in the very midst of his troubles with the Mint, Haraszthy bought about 560 acres of Sonoma property, lying northeast of the town, including the Sonoma Vineyard, and extending up the slopes of the Mayacamas Mountains. Work began at once in transferring vines from the San Mateo vineyards to the new property in Sonoma; Haraszthy himself moved there in May 1857 and made it his home until he left California some ten years later.

The astonishing confidence and energy of the man is abundantly illustrated in his operations now. He was now always known as the Colonel, for "Count" would not have sat well on the freely elected member of a representative assembly, such as Haraszthy had been in California: the claim to "Colonel" presumably was based on Haraszthy's service in the imperial bodyguard—or perhaps it was based on nothing but personal style. In any case, the Count-Colonel christened his new estate Buena Vista, and at once proceeded to transform it. Within a year he had 14,000 imported vines growing and another 12,000 in his nursery, the whole consisting of some 165 varieties.[12] He also planted extensively for other landowners, among them such names later famous in California winemaking as Krug, Gundlach, and Bundschu: by the end of 1857 Haraszthy and others had more than tripled the total grape acreage of Sonoma County.[13]

In preparation for the abundant harvests that were soon to come, he set his Chinese coolies to digging tunnels back into the hillside to serve as wine cellars: one was 13 feet wide and 100 feet long; the other, 20 feet wide, was driven back 240 feet into the hill.[14] To crown his vineyards he built a large white villa in Pompeian style, boasting a pillared porch and a parapet surmounted by statues of classical figures (so at any rate the pictures show it). From this vantage he could look south and west over the vines and grain fields of the valley all the way to San Pablo



The villa in "Pompeian" style built by Agoston Haraszthy on his Buena Vista ranch property, 
Sonoma County, This was the final touch to Haraszthy's flamboyant development of Buena 
Vista. No trace of the house remains today. (From Haraszthy.  Grape Culture. Wines. and
 [1862]; Huntington Library)

Bay. When Haraszthy was entertained at Schloss Johannisberg in 1861, he politely admired the splendid view that Prince Metternich, the owner, enjoyed of the Rhine, but he thought to himself that his own Buena Vista did quite as well: "The Prince may boast of the view from his palace, as I can from my ranch in Sonoma; or, rather, I may boast of having scenery equal to that of the Prince Metternich. It is true that I have no River Rhine, but in its place there lies the St. Pablo Bay."[15]

The rapidity with which Haraszthy established himself once he had settled in Sonoma may be documented by various details: he set out 300 acres of vineyard between 1858 and 1862, and in 1859 he was able to claim first prize for the best exhibit of wines at the state fair, "with reference to the number of varieties, vintages, and quality"; among the items of his exhibit were a tokay and a wine obscurely called "Menise" or "Monise" (the name is spelled both ways in the record).[16] Two of Haraszthy's sons, Geza and Attila, soon had vineyards of their own in Sonoma, and Arpad had been sent to France in order to study, among other things, the manufacture of champagne at Epernay. Haraszthy continued to import grape varieties from Europe to augment his collection: the 165 varieties in it early in 1858 had grown to 280 later in that year. By the beginning of the 1860s he claimed to have the largest vineyard in the state, or, sometimes, "the largest vineyard in the world."[17] For a man who had just been compelled to resign his official appointment, to mortgage his properties, and to face a criminal trial, all of this was evidence, not merely of a remarkable insouciance, but of a powerful determination


to do just what he chose to do. He must have outraged his enemies, and he must have had great pleasure in so doing.

The remarkable improvements that Haraszthy had made at Buena Vista attracted attention at once; in the first year of his settlement there, the gentlemen of the California State Agricultural Society asked him to write a treatise on the science and mystery of winegrowing in the state. The difficulty of such a task was nothing to Haraszthy, who, by February 1858 had dashed off a "Report on Grapes and Wine of California"; it may be regarded as the first native Californian treatise on the subject, and though, like all first words, it could hardly have the authority of a last word, California was lucky to have anything so intelligent. The "Report" was published in the Transactions of the society for 1858, and was, as well, separately reprinted for extensive distribution throughout the state.[18] There is nothing particularly notable or original in this essay, unless perhaps we except Haraszthy's instructions for making a tokay wine; these called for raisined grapes pressed by their own weight, the classic method of Hungarian tokay Eszencia .[19] Perhaps that was the method that produced Haraszthy's prize-winning tokay of 1859; if so, it was not likely to be imitated widely in California.

On the matter of the choice of varieties, Haraszthy agreed with what many others were already saying: the quality of California wine, he wrote, would never be what it might be so long as the Mission grape was the standard. He also thought that California should study the art of blending:

To illustrate this more to every man's mind, I will compare the wine-making with the cooking of a vegetable soup. You can make from turnips a vegetable soup, but it will be a poor one; but add to it also potatoes, carrots, onions, cabbage, etc., and you will have a fine soup, delicately flavored. So it will be with your wine; one kind of grapes has but one eminent quality in taste or aroma, but put a judicious assortment of various flavored grapes in your crushing-machine, and the different aromas will be blended together and will make a far superior wine to that manufactured from a single sort, however good that one kind may be.[20]

Haraszthy's prosperity crested in 1861. In that year production at Buena Vista was large enough to allow him to open a branch office in San Francisco.[21] Even better, the long court case against him growing out of his work at the Mint was decided in his favor in March, and the property that he had had to place in trust was then returned to him:[22] one must remember that all of Haraszthy's enthusiastic labor at Buena Vista up to this point had been carried out under the cloud of his protracted trial. In April, very shortly after his release from the Mint charges, Haraszthy was appointed by Governor John Downey one of the state commissioners to report "upon the Ways and Means best adapted to promote the Improvement and Growth of the Grapevine in California." The commission, created by joint resolution of the assembly upon the urging of the California State Agricultural Society, had three members: one was to report on California; one was assigned to South America; and one—Haraszthy—to Europe.[23] A month later he


was on his way, at the beginning of a trip whose consequences, though not easy to specify or to assess, have long been regarded as having profoundly affected wine-making in this country, so profoundly indeed that in the popular version the whole history of winemaking is divided into two parts, before and after Haraszthy's European tour. Let us see what that was.

Armed with his commission from governor and assembly, and accompanied by his wife and by their daughter Ida, Haraszthy set out at his own expense, for the commissioners were not to be paid for their work. On reaching the East Coast, he first stopped at Washington to get a circular letter of introduction to the American consular corps from Secretary William Henry Seward. He then went to New York, arranged there with the publishers Harper & Brothers to produce a book on his mission, and, on 13 July, sailed for Europe. The purpose of his trip, according to the terms of his commission, was simply to make observations upon European practices in viticulture and winemaking and to report on these to the state. But in his own mind Haraszthy seems to have had the collection of grape varieties as his first and most important business. At any rate, he talked in that way before his departure, and he spent a good deal of energy that way during his tour.

It was not a very extensive tour, compared to the possibilities that might easily be imagined. Making his first headquarters at Paris, he visited Dijon and several great Burgundian sites—Gevrey, Chambertin, Clos Vougeot. Then he moved on into Germany to visit such wine towns and noble estates as Hochheim, Steinberg, Kloster Eberbach, and Schloss Johannisberg. In Germany he made his first purchase of vines, a hundred varieties from a nursery in Wiesloch. Haraszthy now went into Italy, to Turin and to Asti, where he bought a second collection of vines, including the Nebbiolo, the preeminent grape of the region. He had originally thought of taking in Rome and Naples, but he now abandoned the idea, since, as he explained, he had friends through whom he could order cuttings there. At the same time he abandoned any thought of travelling farther east—not even to his native Hungary. "It is true that my original intention was to visit Greece and Egypt," he wrote in the published account of his travels; but, he added as a sufficient reason, he learned that the plague had broken out in Syria, so that "I, of course, decided not to go."[24]

Instead, he turned back to the west, travelling to Bordeaux via Marseilles and Cette—a town then infamous for its trade in adulterating wines and the source, Haraszthy asserts, of most of the wines that Americans drank as Château Margaux, Château Lafite, and Chambertin. For some reason, the Bordeaux region did not especially interest Haraszthy. He paid brief visits to Château Margaux and to Château Rauzan (then still undivided) but did not, according to his report, pursue his inquiries any further. On the nineteenth of September he set out for Spain, where the conditions of travel were much the most difficult of his entire tour. Railroads were being built, but the system was not linked up yet, and travellers had to fill in the gaps by taking passage in huge diligences pulled over the breakneck mountain roads by teams of mules. After four days of such travel Haraszthy reached


Madrid, and then pushed on to Malaga. The wines of Spain he did not care for, since he found that they were all invariably fortified. He bought vines at Malaga, however, and again at Alicante, where he had gone from Malaga by steamer. That marked the end of Haraszthy's inspection of European viticulture, for from Alicante he returned to Paris, and shortly thereafter set out on a stormy crossing of the Atlantic to New York. By the fifth of December he was back in California, having completed his travels from San Francisco to the Mediterranean and back in just six months.

Haraszthy's first business was to make his report to the state legislature, which he did, briefly, under date of January 1862. In this he reaffirmed his belief that California had more natural advantages as a wine region than any European district; he also urged the creation of a state agricultural experiment station, state support of plant exploration, and the appointment of a state agency to handle the commerce of wine in California in order to eliminate frauds.[25] The book that Haraszthy had contracted for on his way to Europe followed soon after as Grape Culture, Wines and Wine-Making, with Notes upon Agriculture and Horticulture , published by Harpers in New York. This was a very hasty production, and, for that reason, very disappointing: though it touches on a number of matters incidentally, it quite fails to give a clear picture of Haraszthy at work on his mission. He does not tell us what questions he had to ask, or how he went about getting them answered, nor has he much to say about the wines he encountered, or the problems faced by European wine-growers—just the things, one would suppose, that would occupy him most. He gives instead a sort of journal narrative of his travels, noting down as many miscellaneous items about architecture, topography, general agriculture, and the like as about the vines and wines of those European parts that he succeeded in visiting. Many another traveller might have done as much—and have done it better.

The narrative occupies a good deal less than half of the volume; the rest is bulked out by a melange of pamphlets and treatises picked up in Europe—for example, Professor Johann Karl Leuchs's Wines and Their Varieties ; Dr. Ludwig Gall's Improvements in Wine-Making ; and even The Sorgho and the Impee , an American pamphlet on those newly introduced crops. Haraszthy also included his treatise on wines and vines in California written in 1858 for the state agricultural society, now slightly modified in the light of his subsequent observations on pruning practices and the spacing of plantings. He adds the interesting information that his Buena Vista vineyard now extended over 400 acres and was, he thought, "the largest in the United States."[26] And that is all that there is to the book. It may rightfully claim to be the first book by a California winemaker to be given national circulation, but it has only very incidental remarks to make about California, and then mostly about Haraszthy's affairs, and pitifully little about European practices. The writers-and they are many—who refer to it as a monument in the literature of American winemaking have not, perhaps, looked at it very critically, or have not been able to put it in an adequate historical context.

Haraszthy's Buena Vista vineyards, already the largest in the country, were



Title page of Agoston Haraszthy's record of his European tour in the interest of the
 California winegrowers. Though largely about European vineyards, its last chapter 
is devoted to California. The first discussion in book form of California as a winegrowing 
region, it inaugurated a still-vigorous tradition of unrestrained boasting: "No European 
locality can equal within two hundred per cent. [California's] productiveness." (Huntington Library)


soon to be even larger, for the vines that he had amassed in Europe were on their way to California—100,000 of them. Haraszthy first reported that his collection included 1,400 varieties[27] —an unreal number—but even after inspection and comparison had reduced this figure, he still had some 300 varieties in his newly imported collection. On the arrival of the vines in late January 1862, Haraszthy reported to the governor that he had prepared the vines for propagation, and that there would be "300,000 rooted vines ready for distribution next fall."[28]

Though Haraszthy wrote as though he expected the state to take responsibility for the distribution of his vines and pay his expenses, he had not been authorized to buy vines or to incur any expenses of any description whatever to be charged to the state. The terms of his commission instructed him only to observe European practices, not to buy large quantities of nursery stock for a state already abounding in vines of every description. Haraszthy knew, of course, that this was the case, just as he knew that the commissioners were not to be paid: the resolution of the assembly authorizing the commission contained this explicit proviso: "Such commissioners who may accept the office shall not ask, or receive, any pay or other compensation for the performance of the duties of their offices." Nevertheless, Haraszthy did ask for compensation—he estimated his expenses at $12,000—and a bill to indemnify him was introduced in the state senate. The senate committee appointed to report on it recommended against it in April 1862, and the bill was stifled.[29]

This has for many years been described as an act of gross injustice and ingratitude to Haraszthy, who has been made to appear a martyr to political faction or to some even worse villainy. The tradition that Haraszthy was cheated is by now so well established in California that it has almost mythological status. Yet the facts, so far as they can be known now, tell a very different story. Haraszthy knew from the outset that he was not going to be paid, just as he knew that he had no official charge to buy vines for importation. Why then did he buy them? Evidently for the simple purpose of making money. Before he left for Europe he was advertising a scheme for buying vines and other plants in Europe for subscribers: $25 would buy twenty-five varieties of vine, $50, fifty varieties, and so on up to $500, in return for which the subscriber would receive "two cuttings of every variety of grape now in cultivation in the civilized world."[30] The coolness of that last offer tells us a great deal about the man. When Haraszthy returned from his European visit and announced that he was having a large quantity of vines sent after him, the Los Angeles Star wrote simply that Haraszthy "will make a handsome profit from their sale."[31] Probably he did. There is nothing wrong with that. But it was an astonishing piece of effrontery to pretend that he was owed compensation for his expenses, and to pretend to be aggrieved when it was denied.

What vines does California owe to Haraszthy's importations? Since it has long been taken as uncontested truth that Haraszthy greatly improved the standards of California through the introduction of superior varieties, it would be interesting to know what some, at least, of those varieties were. There is no clear, positive


evidence on the matter. Even at the time, there was much confusion as to what varieties Haraszthy had obtained: many of them had been collected not directly by Haraszthy but by the agency of friends and by members of the consular service; the chances of mislabelling in the process of shipping, transshipping, and planting were considerable; and there was no guarantee of authenticity at the source. Haraszthy himself, as we have seen, thought at first that he had some 1,400 varieties, suggesting that many vines of the same variety had been given different names.

After the vines had arrived and been put into his keeping in Sonoma, and after his bold attack on the public purse to pay for them had failed, Haraszthy prepared a catalogue of the varieties that he had for sale. This included both his recent importations and those that he had earlier imported into California, or had, perhaps, obtained from other California nurserymen. It makes a sufficiently exotic and interesting list, a total of 492 varieties.[32] Hungarian kinds figure notably: Bakator (both white and red), Boros, Csaszar szolo, Dinka, Furmint, Jajos, and Kadarka are among the many names. None of these is now commercially grown in California, if any of them ever was. Other striking exotics are a red Corinthe from the Crimea, the Kishmish from Smyrna, the Marocain Noir from Morocco, the Tautovina of Carinthia, and Torok Malozsla from Turkey. There are many, many more unfamiliar varietal names on the list, most of them probably familiar varieties masquerading under unfamiliar local names, but some of them at any rate varieties that did not "take" in California—the German Affenthaler, for example, and the French Calytor.

Of the varieties now either most prominent or most highly regarded in California, many are represented on the list: Cabernet Sauvignon, Carignane, Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, Riesling, Sylvaner, Gewürztraminer, and perhaps the Chenin Blanc, if that is what is meant by the item identified as "Pineau blanc." Among the varieties one misses are the Chardonnay, the Grenache, and the Syrah. It is, perhaps, safe to say that many of the varieties named in Haraszthy's catalogue were first imported into California by Haraszthy, but that among them were very few, if any, of the varieties that have any importance now. Since the importation of superior varieties of vinifera into California goes back to the early 1830s, Haraszthy had long been anticipated with respect to the most highly regarded varieties.

By far the most sensational omission in Haraszthy's catalogue of his imported vines is the variety called Zinfandel. Haraszthy's association with this grape, almost the trademark variety of California winemaking, is just as hallowed a part of his legend as his claim to be the "father" of California winemaking. The received account of the connection goes like this. After Haraszthy had left San Diego and had bought his Las Flores property south of San Francisco, he received a shipment of vines from Europe, including the Zinfandel, a variety from his native Hungary. He planted his Zinfandel, the first ever known in California, in the spring of 1852. When he moved from Las Flores to Crystal Springs, and then from Crystal Springs to Sonoma, the Zinfandel went with him, and there, in Sonoma in 1862, ten


years after its importation into the state, Haraszthy produced California's first zinfandel wine.[33]

Such is the story, but against it there is overwhelming evidence, both positive and negative. On the negative side, why is there no mention of the variety in Haraszthy's catalogue of 1862? Two years later, in an article that Haraszthy wrote for a national audience in Harper's , an article of unashamed advertising for his Buena Vista property and its wines, there is still no mention of Zinfandel, though every other possible boast and claim that he can make is duly made.[34] On the positive side there is indisputable evidence that the Zinfandel was known in California before Haraszthy came to the state. Even more to the point, the Zinfandel was a familiar variety on the East Coast when California was still a Mexican province. The Zinfandel (called "Zinfindal") was exhibited at the Massachusetts Horticultural Society in 1834 and regularly thereafter; it became a favorite among the fashionable amateur gardeners who could afford to grow grapes under glass in eastern American cities. It is described by Andrew Downing in his Fruits and Fruit Trees of America in 1845, and is frequently mentioned in the agricultural press of the 1840s and 1850s. It may even have been known to William Prince earlier than this, for in his catalogue of varieties published in 1830 Prince includes a variety he calls the "Black Zinfardel of Hungary" among those propagated and for sale at his Linnaean Garden. Whether Prince's Zinfardel is merely a typographical error for Zinfandel or a wholly different variety no one can say now, but the contemporary descriptions of the East Coast's "Zinfindal" show that it is the grape called Zinfandel in California.[35]

The earliest published record of the variety in California is in 1858, when the Sacramento nurseryman A.P. Smith exhibited "Zeinfindall" at the state fair.[36] There is no proof for the supposition, but it seems simplest and likeliest to think that Smith got his "Zeinfindall" from eastern American sources of supply, perhaps as early as 1855. Many years later the San Jose grape grower and nurseryman Antoine Delmas claimed that he had imported the Zinfandel from France to California in 1852, but under the name of Black St. Peters.[37] If so, he would have to be awarded the claim of introducing the variety to the state; we do not have evidence to settle the question. But we do know that the grape was beginning to attract favorable notice before the end of the 1850s: examples were exhibited again at the state fair in 1859, and more than one grower was making wine from it by 1860. During the sixties it attracted more and more attention as the most promising among the many varieties that were competing to replace the Mission, and by the end of the 1870s it was established as the first choice for California's vineyards.

The presence of Zinfandel in eastern America in the 1830s and its importation into California before the end of the 1850s are beyond doubt; the European origin of the variety, however, has not yet been determined, though there is, of course, no doubt that it is wholly vinifera; the most promising claim that has yet been put forward is that it is identical with a grape known in Italy as the Primitivo di Gioia.[38] The mystery we have to do with here, though, is not that of the Zinfandel's Euro-


pean identity, but that of its association with Haraszthy: how did it happen that Agoston Haraszthy was identified as the man who introduced the Zinfandel to California?

The first statement to this effect that I know of was made in 1879 by the San Gabriel winegrower L.J. Rose, who wrote in the Transactions of the California State Agricultural Society of that year that the Zinfandel was "introduced by the late Colonel Haraszthy from Hungary."[39] Rose gives no authority for the statement, but the probability is that he heard it from Haraszthy's son Arpad, who was certainly the most zealous proponent of the claim. Arpad's friend and colleague on the Board of State Viticultural Commissioners, Charles Wetmore, was probably echoing the same source when he wrote in 1880 of "the princely gift to this State made by Col. Agoston Haraszthy in 1860 [i.e., 1862], who brought us hundreds of varieties of valuable grapes from Europe, including our now famous Zinfandel."[40] Later, Wetmore recognized that he had been misinformed; in 1884 he wrote that the Zinfandel "was in this State long before Colonel Haraszthy visited Europe as a State Viticultural Commissioner."[41] There were others who publicly denied the invented Haraszthy claim, but they did not succeed in persuading the public. For one reason or another, the notion that Haraszthy brought the Zinfandel to California has persisted, and now it seems to be so firmly fixed that no amount of historical bulldozing can dislodge it. Still, it is not true.

Even opportunists like Haraszthy, who care nothing for the obstacles and difficulties that other men see all too clearly, may at last find themselves overextended. By 1863 that was the case with him. He was immediately out of pocket for his European tour and the large purchases of vines he had made. The development of Buena Vista into the largest of American vineyards was expensive; the cost of establishing a vineyard then was estimated at $50 an acre, not counting the cost of the land, and though this seems a laughable sum to us, it was substantial enough then. Labor costs were notably high in California, so that Haraszthy was an eager advocate of cheap Chinese labor; he was hurt in the pocketbook when, in 1862, the legislature imposed a tax of $2.50 a month per head on Chinese labor.[42] There may have been other reasons, too, for his financial difficulties; in any event, Haraszthy was willing to listen when he was approached by San Francisco bankers interested in the future of wine who had a scheme to propose to him.

Haraszthy, an irrepressible "developer," had at one time thought of promoting small, independent wine farms by selling parcels of his Sonoma lands and supervising their development as vineyards.[43] Now, however, in 1863, he sold his lands, vineyards, and winery to an organization called the Buena Vista Vinicultural Society. The society, incorporated in April, announced in its prospectus that it had a variety of purposes: to develop land, to quarry stone, and in any other way to exploit its property; but its main aim was to become the biggest winemaker in California, and soon.[44] Haraszthy himself, who held 2,600 of the society's 6,000 shares, was a trustee and the superintendent of the firm; he was joined by such winegrowing Sonoma neighbors as Isidor Landsberger, Emil Dresel, and Major


Jacob Snyder. The crucial backing, though, was provided by the reckless banker and speculator William J. Ralston, lord of the Comstock Lode and builder of San Francisco's Palace Hotel. The prospects of the society looked unbeatable: good vineyard land in a proven area, planted to superior varieties (in part at least—there is evidence that Haraszthy was not so quick to give up the Mission as has been supposed);[45] a winemaking establishment superior to everything else in the state, complete with steam-powered grape crusher and press; and the experience, confidence, and energy of Haraszthy himself presiding over all. The society's declaration that it would, within ten years from 1863, produce more than two million gallons of wine and one million of brandy did not, at the time, seem extravagant.[46]

Scores of Chinese were fed and housed on the Buena Vista property and set to work in the fields and the winery, adding to the vineyard acreage and expanding the winery and its cellars. Wine began to be produced in large quantities, and the profits at the end of the first year surpassed even the optimistic expectations of the promoters. After that first year, however, things did not go well at all. Arpad Haraszthy, back from his studies in the cellars of Epernay, was entrusted with the production of champagne, with dubious results and substantial losses to the company.[47] Business did not grow at the rate so confidently predicted, and there were other sorts of difficulties too—new taxes, for one. The wines were not all they should be either. The Massachusetts editor Samuel Bowles visited Buena Vista in 1865 and was not impressed. It did not, he said, seem a "well managed" enterprise; "nor," he added, "do we find the wines very inviting .... I have drank, indeed, much better California wine in Springfield than out here."[48] In short, the Buena Vista venture was not paying dividends, and Haraszthy, the central figure, quickly came under fire. Stockholders accused him of extravagance and irresponsibility, and it is to be feared that he did not always keep to the windward side of the law: there was a scandal in 1864 about an attempt to defraud the revenue by a scheme for distilling "brandy" from molasses brought in from the Sandwich Islands.[49] At last, Haraszthy had to give way. In 1866 he resigned his position and left forever the property that he had developed so spectacularly in a brief decade.

Haraszthy took refuge at the vineyard and winery near Sonoma owned by his son Attila, but accident and bad luck dogged him there too. The upshot was that in 1868 he left California. The scene of the fourth and final phase of his life—after Hungary, Wisconsin, and California—was Nicaragua, where, somehow, he had managed to obtain a sugar plantation near Corinto, on the Pacific coast, and a permit from the government to produce rum for export.[50] A year later he met his death in circumstances that are not likely ever to be made clear. The sole authority is a letter from his younger daughter Otelia reporting that he disappeared on 6 July, and that his path had been traced to where a large tree grew with branches stretching across a stream:

About the middle of the stream, a large limb seemed to be broken [Otelia wrote], and at the same place, a few days before, an alligator had dragged a cow into the stream


from the bank. We must conclude that father tried to cross the river by the tree, and that losing his balance, he fell, grasping the broken limb, and then the alligator must have drawn him forever down.[51]

Perhaps this was a fitting end for a man who allegedly killed wolves with his bare hands; certainly it maintains the note of the unusual that Haraszthy so strikingly set.

Now that the outline of Haraszthy's activity in California has been sketched, what can we say of his role in the development of the state's winegrowing? He may claim to be the author of California's first treatise on grapes and wine. He was not the first to advertise California wine to the wider markets of the East Coast, but perhaps he did it better than anyone else had so far through his Grape Culture, Wines, and Wine-Making of 1862, and in the articles that he sent to the press throughout the 1860s. His work in bringing the Buena Vista winery to a high level of production was a notable exhibition of entrepreneurial skill. But the three main claims in the Haraszthy legend are all false: he was not the "father" of California winegrowing; he was not the man who first brought superior varieties of grapes to California; and he was not the man who introduced the Zinfandel. Incidentally, he was not a martyr to public ingratitude whose financial sacrifices for the good of the state went uncompensated. He certainly was an energetic and flamboyant promoter, combining the idealist and the self-regarding opportunist in proportions that we can now only guess at. He will remain an interesting and highly dubious figure, of the kind that always attracts historians; but we should no longer take seriously the legend that has grown up about him.


The Fate of Southern California

The Rise and Fall of Anaheim

A bout the time that Haraszthy migrated to Sonoma an other enterprise began in the south of the state that, in its unlikely origins, its rapid prosperity, and its even more rapid demise, presents a number of points of interest. This was the invention and development of the Anaheim colony, now celebrated as the site of Disneyland but originally a well-planned, well-executed agricultural experiment devoted to the production of grapes and wine.[1]

Its remotest origins were in the operations of the firm of Kohler & Frohling. As soon as the two German musicians began to sell their wine successfully, they saw that they needed a larger supply of grapes than Los Angeles yet afforded; they also saw that the empty spaces of Los Angeles County might be quickly and cheaply developed into vineyards. The catch was to find people willing to do the work; the answer was the German population of San Francisco, a population that Kohler and Frohling, of course, already knew and understood. There was a considerable colony there by 1857, all of them drawn by the Gold Rush. Many of them were now both disenchanted with golden prospects and dissatisfied with crude and violent San Francisco as a place in which to raise families and pursue the life of Gemütlichkeit .

The work of forming an agricultural colony out of these San Francisco Germans was assigned to another German, George Hansen (an Austrian, actually), who had served as deputy surveyor to the county of Los Angeles for six years, knew the region well, and had been in consultation with Kohler and Frohling



The seal of the Los Angeles Vineyard Society, formed in 1857 by Germans in 
San Francisco to grow grapes and make wine in Anaheim (then still a part of 
Los Angeles County). They prospered for the next thirty years, until their 
vineyards were destroyed by a mysterious disease. (From Mildred McArthur, 
Anaheim: "The Mother Colony " [1959])

about the practicability of their plan from the beginning. In February 1857 Hansen held a meeting with the San Francisco Germans at which the plan was unfolded and the Los Angeles Vineyard Society was formed.[2] The scheme was simple. The society would issue fifty shares at $1,400 each (originally the figure was lower, but this was the sum eventually arrived at); with the capital thus raised, the society would buy land, divide it into twenty-acre parcels, of which eight were to be in vineyard, and assign one to each shareholder. But—and this was the distinctive idea of the whole scheme—before anyone moved onto his property, everything was to be put in readiness. By this arrangement, the participants would avoid the rigors of the first pioneering years and—more important—they could remain at their jobs in San Francisco while they earned the money to pay for their shares. This was capitalism on the installment plan. A down payment would secure a share; with the capital thus generated the work could begin; and the shareholder could stay gainfully employed right where he was until he had paid up his share and the new land was ready for him.[3]

The scheme worked quite well. Hansen was made the general manager for the Vineyard Society and set to work scouting for a property to buy in the southland. His first intention, to buy land along the Los Angeles River, did not work out. Under pressure of the impatience of the society's members, he fell back on the knowledge he had acquired as a county surveyor: in 1855 he had surveyed the Rancho San Juan Cajon de Santa Ana, owned by Juan Ontiveros, lying along the Santa Ana River some twenty miles south of Los Angeles. The grapes of the Santa Ana region had a reputation as the "sweetest and best grapes in the state";[4] whether they deserved that or not (and there cannot have been many vines in the Santa Ana Valley then), the important fact was that Ontiveros was willing to sell to the society. In September 1857 Hansen completed the purchase from Ontiveros of a 1,165 acre tract, with water rights providing for an irrigation canal from the river, some six



George Hansen, the Austrian surveyor who purchased the Anaheim property, 
built the irrigation works, laid out the site, and planted the vines in readiness for 
the arrival of the colonists. (Anaheim Public Library)

miles away. Hansen's first order of business then was to lay out the irrigation sys-tem-the gravity flow from northeast to southwest determined the disposition of the Anaheim streets as they exist today—and to arrange the site for occupation.[5] Within two years, working with a motley crew of Indians and Mexican irregular labor, he had done it: the irrigation channels had been dug, the vines—400,000 Mission cuttings[6] mostly from the vineyards of William Wolfskill in Los Angeles—had been planted, and the whole property surrounded by a fence of 40,000 six-foot willow, alder, and sycamore poles, later to grow into a living hedge as a protection against wild animals and range animals alike. The whole expense of two years' labor of preparation was $60,000.[7] Inevitably, Hansen had to encounter


grumblings from his impatient stockholders, but he seems to have done a remarkably capable job of laying the foundations of a successful agricultural community from scratch on land that was nothing but rough, dry, lonely range in every direction. The little house that Hansen built in 1857 as a place to live and from which to direct the operations of his Indians still stands in Anaheim, now a museum called the Mother Colony House.

In September 1859 the first shareholders arrived to claim their twenty-acre homesteads in the colony that now had a name: Annaheim. The name—soon altered from the German Anna to the Spanish Ana —signifies "home on the Santa Ana River"; it had narrowly beaten out the rival name of "Annagau" by vote of the shareholders in 1858.[8] It is a curious circumstance in the history of a successful winemaking colony that most of the Anaheim colonists—there was but one exception—had not only no experience of winemaking but no farming experience at all. They were small tradesmen, craftsmen, and mechanics. They had only their Germanness in common, and so they present a very different case from the earlier German agricultural colonies—Germantown, Pennsylvania; New Harmony, Indiana; and Hermann, Missouri, are instances—so important in the history of wine in this country. The Anaheimers were of diverse origin: they came from Saxony, Hanover, Schleswig-Holstein, Baden, and elsewhere; they were not co-religionists; and, after the colony's land had been bought, laid out, irrigated, planted, and distributed, they ceased to have any further cooperative arrangement.[9] Each shareholder was an individual proprietor, competing with his neighbors just as much as if he still lived in San Francisco, Los Angeles, or Frankfurt. But there was, nevertheless, an intense spirit of community in Anaheim, given the common nationality, the common enterprise of winegrowing, and the common isolation of life on a raw, remote site.

The reality of life in early Anaheim must have been hard, without much margin or amenity. The site was unattractive, a sandy alluvial fan watered by a thin stream flowing through a shallow ditch; it lay, too, in the path of the dessicating Santa Ana wind of winter, booming down off the high desert through the mountain passes to the ocean and leaving a wake of blown sand and jangled nerves behind it. And it would be years before the work of man could do much to ameliorate the scene. A writer in 1863, one of the shareholders, noted that nearly 600 acres—half of the entire tract—still lay vacant, and yet "the welfare of the vineyards requires that this land should be cultivated, for it is now covered with weeds and brush and is the home of innumerable hares, squirrels, and gophers, which eat the vines, young trees, and grapes."[10]

Even from the very earliest years, however, the accounts of the place tend almost invariably to stress the tranquil, harmonious, pastoral simplicity and fruitfulness of the colonists' life. No doubt the idea of a frontier settlement that combined a real community of language and habits of feeling with the poetic labor of winegrowing made this inevitable. And certainly Anaheim was different from the western model of town life. In any case, to conclude from the language of the many



James Bullard, M.D., bottling wine behind his office on Los Angeles Street, Anaheim, c. 
1885. Wine was a familiar object throughout Anaheim. (Anaheim Public Library)

newspaper articles generated by curiosity about the Anaheim experiment, all was peaceful and prosperous in the colony: "Their soil is good, their climate, also, their wine is fine, and their tables well supplied" as an envious reporter for the Alta California put it in 1865.[11] Whatever the fantasies about Anaheim, though, the plain fact is that the wine business did succeed, for reasons having perhaps less to do with the quality of the wine or the efficiency of the organization than with the demand for wine on the coast. The wine was made by the various proprietors separately, with the result that Anaheim wine was not a uniform but a highly unpredictable product, at least at first.[12] Later, consolidation and cooperation did come about, but a high level of individualism seems to have persisted to the end.

The wine was not long in acquiring a reputation. The eastern traveller Charles Brace, who did not flatter California wine in general, found Anaheim wine "unusually pleasant and light .... It cannot be stronger than ordinary Rhine wine." He also observed that it was the only wine that could be found throughout the state in 1867: "I found it even in the Sierras, where it was sold at $1.00 a bottle."[13] Much of the crop, too, went to Kohler & Frohling in the early years, as had been the original intention, and their standards certainly helped to establish the reputation of the wine of Anaheim.

There were forty-seven wineries—that is, individual winemaking proprie-



The Dreyfus Winery, Center and East streets, Anaheim, c, 1880. This establishment was 
later replaced by a larger winery that never functioned, owing to the death of the vineyards
 from the Anaheim disease, (Anaheim Public Library)

tors—in the first decade; two decades later there were fifty, though some of them were by no means small. From a token 2,000 gallons in 1860, the year of the first vintage, production had reached 300,000 gallons in 1864.[14] Twenty years later, at the moment when the Anaheim wine industry was just about to come to its sudden and unforeseen end, production had reached its highest point. Some 1,250,000 gallons of wine were produced by the town in that year, along with 100,000 gallons of Anaheim brandy.[15] In the roster of winery names, German still predominated—Kroeger, Koenig, Langenberger, Zeyn, Lorenz, Reiser, Dreyfus, Korn, Werder—though there were also by that time a Browning Brothers and a Golden Belt Wine Company. Anaheim had also attracted two most unlikely characters, the famous Helena Modjeska, the Polish actress, and a young Polish gentleman later to be quite as famous as the Modjeska, Henryk Sienkiewicz, the author of Quo Vadis . They had come to join a Utopian colony in Anaheim that had only a very brief life, and neither stayed long. Modjeska later bought a summer home in the Santa Ana mountains not far from Anaheim, and Sienkiewicz makes a few references to Anaheim in some of his American sketches, but neither was much taken by the place.[16]

The king of Anaheim winemakers was unquestionably Benjamin Dreyfus, a Bavarian Jew.[17] He was not a member of the San Francisco group that formed the



The letterhead of B. Dreyfus & Co., in the year that the vines were being 
devastated. Note that the letter is in German. (Anaheim Public Library)

Los Angeles Vineyard Society, but he was a resident of the Anaheim site even before the first shareholders arrived. Dreyfus had opened a store there in 1858 in anticipation of the new community, had welcomed the first settlers to the place, and soon showed that he had gifts as a salesman that were just what was needed by the growers. In 1863 Dreyfus went to San Francisco to manage the depot of the Anaheim Wine Growers' Association (there, incidentally, he made Kosher wine in 1864—perhaps a first for California).[18] Shortly thereafter he opened the firm of B. Dreyfus and Company in New York and San Francisco, through which he sold Anaheim wines. Among his clients was his own winery in Anaheim, supposed at that time to be the largest in the state and using the produce of some 235 acres by 1876.[19] Dreyfus eventually owned properties in Cucamonga, San Gabriel, and the Napa Valley as well as in Anaheim. By the end of the sixties, through Dreyfus and other agents, the city of New York had a wide variety of Anaheim wines available to it: Anaheim hock, claret, port, angelica, sherry, muscatel, sparkling angelica, and brandy are all listed in a promotional pamphlet of the time.[20] The array is striking evidence that the California practice of producing a whole "line" of wine types from one site and from a limited number of grape varieties is no new thing)[21] Dreyfus is said to have made genuine riesling and zinfandel, but the Mission was always the staple grape of Anaheim so long as grapes grew there.[22]


As in the design of a well-made tragic drama, the high point and the collapse of Anaheim winegrowing occurred at the same moment. That was in 1883, when the fifty wineries of Anaheim were yielding their more than a million gallons and when the acreage of vines in the Santa Ana Valley was estimated at 10,000, including substantial plantings for raisins and for table use. In the growing season that year the vineyard workers noticed a new disease among the Mission vines. The leaves looked scalded, in a pattern that moved in waves from the outer edge inwards; the fruit withered without ripening, or, sometimes, it colored prematurely, then turned soft before withering. When a year had passed and the next season had begun, the vines were observed to be late in starting their new growth; when the shoots did appear, they grew slowly and irregularly; then the scalding of the leaves reappeared, the shoots began to die back, and the fruit withered. Without the support of healthy leaves, the root system, too, declined, and in no long time the vine was dead.[23] No one knew what the disease might be, and so no one knew what to do. It seemed to have no relation to soils, or to methods of cultivation, and it was not evidently the work of insects. Not all varieties were equally afflicted, but the disease particularly devastated the Mission, far and away the most extensively planted variety in the vineyards of Anaheim. By 1885, according to one doubtless exaggerated report, half the vines of Anaheim were gone; in the next year, "there was not a vine to be seen."[24] In fact, some vineyards persisted long after this, but the assertion, made by a longtime resident, expresses the sense of sudden, unsparing destruction that the disease created in the Anaheimers as they looked over their blighted vineyards. The official government report estimated the loss to the disease at Anaheim and elsewhere in the Los Angeles region at $10,000,000.[25]

The disease was not confined to Anaheim; much of the San Gabriel Valley and the Los Angeles basin east through Pomona to Riverside and San Bernardino was seriously affected too; the flourishing trade of the San Gabriel region never fully recovered. Anaheim, and the neighboring vineyards of the Santa Ana Valley at Orange and Santa Ana, planted after the success of the Anaheim experiment, were the hardest hit in the midst of the general affliction. The Anaheimers appealed to the state university for expert opinion, and the Board of State Viticultural Commissioners hired a botanist to study the problem. But the disease baffled all inquiry, and meantime its effects were rapid and sure.

In response to repeated appeals, the U.S. Department of Agriculture belatedly sent an investigator to the Santa Ana Valley in 1887; he was puzzled by all that he saw, but reported hopefully that the trouble would "probably disappear as quietly and mysteriously as it came."[26] In 1891 the department sent another investigator, Newton Pierce, whose careful investigation showed that the disease was none of those currently known and that no remedies existed for it. Pierce's reward for his careful and thorough studies was to have the disease named after him. By the time his report was completed, in 1891, the region of Anaheim was reduced to fourteen acres of vines and its identity as a center of winegrowing utterly annihilated.[27] The fate of the bold new winery building that Benjamin Dreyfus, the Anaheim wine



A vineyard of Mission grapes in LOS Angeles County killed by the Anaheim disease. The vines, 
planted more than twenty-five years earlier, were dead by 1890, when the picture was made. Mission 
vines were peculiarly susceptible to the disease, but all were vulnerable. (From Newton B. Pierce,
 The California Vine Disease  [1892])

king, had erected in 1884 is symbolic. This was an imposing stone building, far larger than anything else of the kind in the area, but when it was completed and ready to receive a vintage, there was no vintage to receive. The building thereafter passed through various humiliating roles as a warehouse, as a factory for chicken-feeding equipment, even as a winter quarters for a circus. When the freeway went through in the 1960s, part of the building was lopped off by the right of way, it was at last put out of its long agony by demolition in i973.[28]

Anaheim recovered from the disease by turning to the new crops that were just at that time rapidly developing in southern California, especially oranges and walnuts. The Germans of Anaheim had long since set up breweries, and these, of course, were unaffected by the grape disease. So the settlement, which became otherwise indistinguishable from its neighboring communities in making its living from tree crops, still managed to enjoy some notoriety for its beer, its beer gardens, and its beer drinkers. These gave a welcome scandal to their Orange County neighbors, who would otherwise have had little diversion in their rural lives.

What was the Anaheim disease? The plant pathologists have not yet arrived at satisfying answers, but they have continued to study the question because the disease still exists and still threatens California vineyards. In quite recent years, it has been established that the carrier of the disease is a leafhopper, and that the pathogen, as Pierce suspected, but could not prove, is a bacterium. It is also known that the incidence of the disease varies with the populations of its leafhopper carrier, so


that wet years favor it, and sites having abundant weedy and bushy growth surrounding them are vulnerable—both circumstances mean more leafhoppers and so more danger of infection. So far, the only known effective treatment is to pull the infected vines and to start with others, hoping to keep them free of infection.[29] The University of California at Davis is carrying on work to develop a vine specifically resistant to Pierce's Disease by modern means of genetic manipulation, but success has yet to be achieved.[30]

One other thing is known: that the home of the disease in this country (to which it seems so far confined) is in the states bordering on the Gulf of Mexico. The native grapes of that region are the only ones to show any power of resistance to it, and the presence of the disease there doubtless helps to explain why the repeated trials of grape growing in that region met with such poor success. There are abundant other reasons for that result, of course, but the potent destructiveness of Pierce's Disease was certainly a factor in the deaths of any vines brought in from the outside.[31]

The San Gabriel Valley

Even before the Anaheim colony had been planted in the late 1850s, another section of the Los Angeles region was beginning to develop as a major winegrowing area: the San Gabriel Valley, immediately to the east of Los Angeles, stretching for forty or fifty miles. The San Gabriel Mission had originally presided over the territory, and it was the old mission vineyards that gave the idea to later proprietors that winegrowing belonged to their land. This third division of the southern California vineyard, though earlier in its beginnings than Anaheim, reached its heyday a bit later; dominated by ambitious, large-scale proprietors, its spacious ranchos, sprawled over the slopes of the San Gabriel mountains, made it the most splendid of winegrowing regions.

The lines of descent from the mission fathers may be traced through Hugo Reid, a Scotsman who drifted to California, married an Indian woman, and, through his wife, became possessed of the 8,500 acres of the Santa Anita Rancho, once the property of the San Gabriel Mission. Grapes still grew there, and Reid gave some attention to them; by 1841 he had a walled vineyard of 22,000 vines at Santa Anita and boasted, "I consider myself a first-rate wine maker."[32] Reid also owned a small property of some 128 acres, called La Huerta de Cuati, just to the west of his Santa Anita Rancho, and this formed the next step in the growth of San Gabriel Valley vineyards. While Reid lay on his deathbed in 1852, the Huerta de Cuati was bought by Benjamin D. Wilson, who renamed the property "Lake Vineyard," after the shallow lake that lay there, where the Franciscans had built a dam to run a mill and to supply water to the Mission San Gabriel.[33] Here Wilson began one of the most successful of southern California winegrowing enterprises.

Wilson was a model instance of the sort of versatility and mobility that went



Benjamin Wilson (1811-78), of the Lake Vineyard, Pasadena, with his second wife, probably around 1860. 
After a commercial and political career in Los Angeles beginning in 1841, Wilson settled in the San Gabriel 
Valley and helped to make it the leading wine region of the state in direct succession to the work of 
Mission San Gabriel. (Huntington Library)

with being a California pioneer.[34] A Tennessean by birth, he had been a New Mexico trader before pushing on to California in 1841. There he had married a Mexican wife and had begun to acquire land—at various times he held the Rancho Jurupa, now the city of Riverside; the Rancho San Pedro, now the site of Wilmington and San Pedro; the Rancho San Jose, where Westwood and UCLA now stand; and, finally, the properties now occupied by modern Pasadena, South Pasadena, San Marino, Alhambra, and San Gabriel! He prospered by running cattle, by keeping a store and lending money, and by acquiring ever more land. Wilson may be tracked all over the Los Angeles region: he was one of the party whose exploits in lassoing bears gave its name to Big Bear Lake; he had a rather unheroic part in the Mexican War, and was briefly a prisoner at Chino; he was, after the war, the first Anglo


mayor of Los Angeles, where he had a vineyard on Alameda Street; he built a trail up the high peak behind his San Pascual ranch in order to bring out the timber there, and so that landmark is now called Mount Wilson. One may add that he was twice a member of the state senate, that he went to Washington to lobby for a railroad in southern California, and that he helped to promote the building of Los Angeles harbor. But for us his interest is as a winegrower.

Wilson, despite his long years in Los Angeles, remained a thorough southerner in style, always wearing the white linen collar, ruffled shirt front, and flowing black tie of the plantation gentleman.[35] Despite the expansiveness of his sartorial style and of his hospitality at Lake Vineyard, from his correspondence Wilson appears to have been an undemonstrative, reserved, perhaps slightly melancholy, man. But he nourished a strong passion for his Lake Vineyard. By the time that he bought it, he was wealthy enough to move back east and to live there in style, as some of his friends urged him to do. His new property decided him to stay: he built an adobe house there, and moved in permanently in 1856; the Lake Vineyard, he said, was "the prettiest and healthiest place in California."[36] He planted fruit of all kinds, especially large groves of oranges; he brought in water, planted ornamental trees, laid out avenues, and so adorned the property that it quickly became the unrivalled showplace of the region: no visit to Los Angeles was complete without a visit to Wilson and his Lake Vineyard.[37]

Vines were already on the property when Wilson took over: his granddaughter remembered the original Mission vines there as having trunks six feet high before they succumbed to the Anaheim disease in the eighties and nineties; they may have been planted as early as 1815, for the Lake Vineyard in 1876 was thought to contain vines as much as sixty years old.[38] Wilson went beyond the inheritance of Mission vines, however, and made continuing experiments with new and superior varieties in the hope of discovering what the region would yield best.[39] He also experimented with different wine types; he has the credit, for example, of having made the first sparkling wine in California, though this was a severely limited success.[40] In 1856, the year after the sparkling wine had been created, Dr. H. R. Myles, Wilson's partner in the Lake Vineyard wine business (he had a nearby vineyard of his own), wrote to Wilson that the "old man" who was their champagne master "has been pottering at the sparkling wine ever since you left . . . . The truth is he never will make anything of it . . . . I believe him to be a humbug ."[41] The old man thereafter disappears from the record, and the making of sparkling wine was pretty soon recognized to be one of the things that southern California was not destined to do well.

Wilson also had some local hazards to deal with: the vintage of 1856, over 12,000 gallons, had not yet fallen clear by January 1857. The reason, Myles suggested, was at least in part that they had had "about fifty earth-quakes in the last two weeks, three of which rocked the house very much" and had stirred up all the sediment in the wine;[42] one recalls that the San Gabriel River, which drains the valley, had originally been named the Rio de Ternblores by the Spaniards—the River of Earthquakes.


The unsatisfactory old man's replacement was a Swiss named Adolf Eberhart, who came in 1857;[43] after that, things went better. Wilson continued to acquire land and to plant grapes, so that in a few years he was in a position to seek markets wherever he could find them. His vineyards exceeded 100 acres in 1861, and he was then still adding to them. By 1862 Wilson had a San Francisco agent, who, in addition to supplying the trade in that city, was able to add the exotic touch of a shipment of twenty-five cases to Japan only eight years after that country had been "opened" to foreign trade.[44] More significant was the trade opened with the East Coast; the Sainsevains and Kohler & Frohling had made the first contact between California and the East about 1860. Wilson was not far behind. In 1863 his San Francisco agent shipped fifteen pipes of white wine, sixteen of port, and twenty-one of angelica to Boston; the speculation evidently paid, for Wilson continued to send wine to that city. But the trade was not without its difficulties. As Mr. Hobbs, the agent, complained to Wilson in July 1863, the Bostonians were so accustomed to adulterated wine they no longer believed in the possibility of anything else; in consequence they mostly drank whiskey.[45] Yet if Boston found it hard to accept unadulterated wine, other places found the problem reversed. In St. Louis, in 1866, the local horticultural society, after sampling five different Lake Vineyard wines, pronounced them all "doctored" and unfit to recommend.[46] It is hard to know what the truth was: were the wines pure and thus unaccustomed, as was said in Boston? or adulterated, and thus unpleasant, as was said in St. Louis?

Still, during these years of the Civil War the reputation of Wilson's wines gradually grew both in and out of California; in 1863 two gentlemen from Chicago proposed to set up in the wine business in that city with wine supplied by Wilson because, as they said, "your wines are far superior to those of old Nich. Longworth of Cincinnati";[47] and from his San Francisco agents Wilson heard that his only competition there was from the other Los Angeles producers, Kohler & Frohling and the Sainsevains, because, they reported, "the Anaheim and Sonoma wines are not as good as the wine from Los Angeles."[48] By 1865 the San Francisco trade was large enough to make the old commission agency arrangement no longer satisfactory, and Wilson accordingly set up his own firm in that city.

Like his near neighbors in Los Angeles and in Anaheim, Wilson produced a variety of wines from a variety of grapes: early records show, in addition to the standard Missions, such varieties as Carignane, Zinfandel, Grenache, Mataro, Trousseau, Burger, and Folle Blanche.[49] It was already recognized that the dry light table wines from the Zinfandel and the white wine varieties grown in Los Angeles County were not so good as those produced in more northern regions, and from an early time there was a considerable trade in buying such wines in bulk from northern sources for resale. Sweet, fortified wines—port, angelica, and sherry especially—quickly became and remained the characteristic product of the Lake Vineyard; brandy, too, became increasingly important. But table wines, more white than red, did continue to be produced, even if in less quantity than the dessert wines.

The vicissitudes of commerce began to wear on Wilson as his business grew larger: wines were spoiled in the shipping; agents often adulterated what was sent


to them pure; the American public went on preferring whiskey; competitors undersold one with inferior products; competent help was hard to find and harder to keep; and, in short, Wilson began to think that making and selling wine from the "prettiest place in California" was more trouble than it was worth. Just when he began to weary of the trade, Wilson acquired an energetic son-in-law, who quickly took over the business and was later to lead it through a major transformation. This was a young man named James De Barth Shorb, a native of Maryland, who had come to California in 1863 at the age of eighteen looking for oil in Ventura County. He had soon turned to other things, and had taken his first step towards the considerable prosperity he later enjoyed for a time by marrying Benjamin Wilson's daughter Sue in 1867. The history of the Lake Vineyard under Shorb, though it takes us into another era, is so clear an illustration of the opportunities and disasters of California winegrowing in the later nineteenth century that it will be instructive to tell it here.[50]

Shorb had many of the qualities of the southerner; he talked and wrote fluently and flamboyantly, was quick to take offense, exuded confidence, and loved to promote large but untried enterprises. He was as well a splendid host, a prominent Catholic layman (he now lies buried in the small, select cemetery of the San Gabriel Mission), and the father of eleven children. The undefined and expansive character of California exactly suited him: as he was able to boast in 1888 to the reporter sent round by the historian H. H. Bancroft to record Shorb's impressions for posterity, he had come to California with $700 in his pocket and was now worth from one and a half to two million dollars.[51] Once established as heir presumptive to the Wilson property (Wilson's only son John was a ne'er-do-well who committed suicide in Los Angeles in 1870), Shorb wasted no time in setting to work. With a San Francisco partner, he leased all of the Lake Vineyard and its cellars under the name of B. D. Wilson and Co., his father-in-law lending only his name to the firm. That was in 1867, when, for purposes of the lease, an inventory was made; in this we learn that in addition to a copper still, large iron screw press, grape crusher, and such impedimenta as funnels, wine baskets, measures, dippers, syphons, hoses, bungs, bottles, and boxes, Wilson had thirty tanks of 1,500 to 2,000 gallons' capacity each at the Lake Vineyard.[52] From this it appears that Wilson operated with a storage capacity of, say, about 50,000 gallons. Within fifteen years, Shorb was building a winery of 1,250,000 gallons' capacity.

At first, Shorb took over personal direction of the firm's San Francisco agency. where, he informed his father-in-law, in one year he would "sell more wine than the whole of them put together."[53] But the expansion of the enterprise soon brought Shorb back to the Lake Vineyard, where new vineyards were being planted and large additions made to the cellars. Another novelty for which Shorb was responsible was the introduction of Chinese laborers in 1869: they had not before beer used in southern California. As Shorb wrote in 1870, the experiment was a great success: he thought the Chinese "a more intelligent class of labor" than "the old Mission Indians or Sonorans from Mexico," and found that they could be safely trusted to work alone after only a few days' instruction.[54]



A label from the Wilson vineyard in the era of Wilson's son-in-law J. De Barth Shorb, some time
 after 1867, when Wilson's Lake Vineyard wines were sold under the name of B. D. Wilson & Co, 
(Huntington Library)

The example of Wilson and of Shorb had its effect on their neighbors, more and more of whom planted vineyards and sold their grapes to Shorb or to the wineries of Los Angeles. The San Gabriel Valley was becoming the most extensive vineyard of the state. General George Stoneman, former governor of California, was perhaps the most eminent among the new vineyardists of the region stretching from Pasadena to the east, but he was only one of many who laid out vineyards in the 1870s there: Colonel Edward Kewen, General Volney Howard, Michael White, Alfred Chapman, and John Woodworth may be named among others.[55]

By 1875 Shorb was boasting that "we are the largest wine manufacturers on the Pacific Coast": average production of the Lake Vineyard was 150,000 gallons of wine annually, and 116,000 gallons of brandy.[56] Despite Shorb's expansive optimism, there were inevitable difficulties in selling California wine, the greatest of which was to obtain responsible and intelligent agents who would follow honest


practices in the struggle to educate a recalcitrant American public to the virtues of wine from California. As Shorb reported from New York City in 1869 about the firm's agents there:

They have a double fight before them: first to introduce a new article which all importers are fighting against, and secondly to remove the bad effects and strong prejudice against all California wines, created by the horrible stuff offered here as California wines on this market. Out of one hundred and ten dealers in Cal wines on this market alone, there are but four or five who ever buy a gallon—they manufacture it here in their cellars.[57]

The invoice book of B. D. Wilson and Co. for the five years 1873-78 shows that Shorb was trying to develop markets here and abroad, but with somewhat irregular and dissatisfying results. There are sizeable shipments to the firm's agents in New York, Chicago, and San Francisco, though the New York agency seems to be frequently changed: Wilson, Morrow, and Chamberlin give way to B. Dreyfus, then to J. F. Carr, and then to J. H. Smith's Sons. One may guess at some of the troubles implied by this sequence from Shorb's exasperated outburst to a correspondent who offered to do business with him: "My strong predilection," Shorb wrote, "even in business is to deal with gentlemen, and God knows our wine business has been handled almost exclusively by another class."[58] Lake Vineyard wines were also regularly shipped to Cleveland, and, less regularly and in smaller quantities, to Baltimore (the Baltimore agent did not pay his bills), Wilmington, Detroit, and a scattering of smaller places. More interesting are the records of efforts to open a foreign market. Early in his career, Shorb had seemed confident of establishing a large trade in South America and Mexico.[59] Nothing seems to have been achieved in that direction, however. In 1876 Shorb shipped eight barrels of wine and brandy to a William Houston of England; probably these were samples of the winery's whole range. In the same year fifteen barrels went to A. C. Jeffrey of Liverpool. There is no record of repeat orders. Before the shortages and fears created by the onslaught of phylloxera in Europe, England was not ready for California wine.

Yet another market that Shorb sought to develop was that for altar wine; he had an advantage here, being Catholic, and so particularly eligible for recommendation by the church. "We are getting up a circular," he wrote to his New York agent in 1875, "intending to attract the attention of the Catholic trade to our wines for 'Altar purposes,' and will have certificates from the Bishop [of Los Angeles] accompany the same. This trade will consume all our white wines at high prices if it can be secured. Your firm will have a 'lift' in the circular." The "communion wine," he wrote again, "is the dry Lake Vineyard or Mound Vineyard white wine—and be careful to offer none other."[60]

In Shorb's opinion, the wines of the Lake Vineyard were the best in the state, and so the best in the country: "We make the best wines of California," he wrote in 1872, "and we only ask of the trade that they compare our wines with others to


satisfy themselves."[61] The profits of the business were low, however, and from time to time Shorb would determine to sell out and occupy himself with other things—real estate, for choice. In 1875 he unsuccessfully sought a buyer, on almost any terms, for the firm's entire inventory—some 80,000 gallons of wine and 7,000 gallons of brandy, besides about 30,000 gallons on hand in New York—explaining that "my time is too much occupied to give that attention required to successfully prosecute the business."[62]

It is certainly true that Shorb had plenty of other things he might do. In 1873 he and Wilson had formed a new partnership, under the old name of B. D. Wilson and Co., to carry out livestock and grain-growing operations as well as those of the Lake Vineyard and Winery.[63] And that was only a beginning for Shorb. The Wilson property also included extensive orange and lemon groves, whose produce was shipped widely under Shorb's management. Shorb was also preparing for his later extensive dealings in real estate development by establishing land and water companies and building irrigation systems in the San Gabriel Valley and elsewhere. He was interested in mining in the Mojave; in a furniture factory at Wilmington; in water and land development in the Arizona territory; in railways; in electric power; and in exploiting patents for everything from arc lamps to milling machinery and cable car systems. Nor did he neglect Democratic politics at the local and state levels.

In 1877, on property from his father-in-law, Shorb gave expression to his civic and commercial importance by building the big house, rich with carpenter's ornaments, called "San Marino" after the estate of the same name that had belonged to his grandfather in the Catoctin mountains of Maryland. As Wilson's Lake Vineyard had been before it, San Marino became the showplace of the Los Angeles region, a center of lavish hospitality, the place that every visitor had to see and where every transient dignitary might expect to be entertained. After Shorb's death, the house was bought by Henry Huntington, who razed it and built on the site his own mansion, now the Huntington Art Gallery. Few visitors to that lovely place know that it stands where once the leader of southern California viticulture lived, and that all around them once spread the vineyards of the San Gabriel Valley.

Benjamin Wilson died early in 1878, and though he had long before ceased to have any active part in the wine firm bearing his name, his death seems to have been a signal for it to go dormant for a time. The winery and vineyards remained, of course, but the wine company withdrew from the public marketplace. Instead, Shorb sold his production in bulk to the San Francisco firm of Lachman & Jacobi for a couple of years, and then to Benjamin Dreyfus.[64] But the quiet life of a bulk wine producer was not enough to satisfy the ambitious Shorb, and he soon began to develop plans for a new enterprise on a scale not yet attempted in California.

The second phase of Shorb's winegrowing career, which saw the Lake Vineyard transformed into something very different, opened in 1882 with the formation of the San Gabriel Wine Company, capitalized at $500,000, and financed, in large part, by English investors;[65] prominent and moneyed Californians were in on it



J. De Barth Shorb on the steps of San Marino with a part of his large family. The picture is
 probably from the 1880s, when Shorb had established his San Gabriel Winery and hoped 
to flood the markets of Europe with the wine of southern California, The site where the 
house stood is now occupied by the Henry E, Huntington Art Gallery, (Huntington Library)



A view of the San Gabriel Wine Company, "the largest in the world," begun in 1882 at Alhambra, 
California, between Los Angeles and San Gabriel. With the backing of English investors, the winery,
 designed for a capacity of over a million gallons, was intended to put California wines into the world 
market as European production collapsed through the ravages of the phylloxera. (From Norman W. 
Griswold, Beauties of California  [1884])

too, notably the Los Angeles banker Isaias Hellman and a group of San Franciscans including Senator F. G. Newlands and Senator William Gwin. Their intentions were, to put it mildly, grand beyond precedent. It had long been thought "by persons interested in the manufacture of American wine," a prospectus statement ran, that California could compete in the world wine market, given enough capital and intelligence: "This Anglo-American enterprise is the first of its kind which seems to us to have been undertaken on a scale of sufficient magnitude and under all other conditions to solve, exhaustively, the problem of California wine-making."[66]

What can have attracted this kind of interest in the provincial winegrowing industry of a country that did not yet drink wine? The answer lies in the scourge of phylloxera, which was then at the very highest pitch of its destruction of the vineyards of Europe.[67] It did not, at that time, seem an alarmist notion, but rather the sober judgment of informed observers, that Europe would soon be unable to supply its own demand for wine. If wine was going to be produced, it would have to come from unspoiled new sources—California prominent among them. Against this almost surefire prospect of immediate profits, Shorb promoted his San Gabriel Winery. He had another attraction to offer as well: land. Southern California was ripe for development; the railroad from the East would soon run through the San


Gabriel Valley; the nation at large was beginning to grow aware of the Southland's golden climate; the future was immense. The old ranch property accumulated by Ben Wilson would soon be valuable real estate. And so the San Gabriel Wine Company was launched on Shorb's land at the same time that the town of Alhambra, in which it stood, was being invented and promoted by Shorb. Stockholders had shares in land as well as in the company, and dividends could be provided by land sales if, by any unlikely chance, the wine trade should prove insufficient to provide them.

The San Gabriel Wine Company itself owned 1,500 acres; 200 of these were planted to vines in 1883, a further 400 in 1884—or that, at least, was what one prospectus stated. A further 400 were planned for 1885.[68] As for the winery itself, that was planned on an unprecedented scale. The buildings, costing $125,000, were to provide a winery meant to be, quite simply, "the largest in the world." The fermenting capacity was a million gallons, the storage, a million and a quarter.[69] Some of the stockholders expressed doubts about beginning on so grand a scale, but Shorb was confident and swept aside such timid hesitations. The winery, brick-built and steam-powered, duly arose in the new town of Alhambra according to the original plan.

The San Gabriel Wine Company did not need to wait for the growth of its own vineyards before it began to make wine: grapes were available from the many vineyards already established all the way from Los Angeles to the foothills above San Bernardino, many miles to the east. The company was able, thus, to crush some 2,000 tons of grapes in the vintage of 1882 and a larger quantity the next year; the plan was to hold back sales until 1885, when the wine would be ready for market.[70] Shipments began as early as 1884, however, by which time the company had chosen agents for its wine in New York. Problems began at once. It was all very well to grow grapes and make wine in the rural simplicity of Los Angeles County, but once the wine left the hands of the producer no one could tell what might happen. After a visit late in 1884 to their New York agents, Evan Coleman, one of the San Francisco investors, wrote to Shorb that "the more I see of the wine business the less I like it; it seems impossible to do an honest, straightforward business and compete with others, all of whom are lying, adulterating, etc., etc." The agents, in turn, were dissatisfied with what was sent to them: "They have many complaints about the Co.'s wines," Coleman reported, "and doubt that Watkins, the wine-maker, is competent."[71]

Such complaints persisted long after changes had been made and experience accumulated. The port wine produced at San Gabriel, a staple of the winery's trade, gave persistent trouble: it was "nothing but trash," wrote one Philadelphia merchant. "I would not give it away much less sell it to my customers."[72] The stuff spoiled during the long rail journey through the southwestern deserts and across the midwestern plains. Appeals to the University of California for analyses and remedies did not much help, but the addition of cherry juice seemed to turn the trick, and so shipments of cherry juice (so-called; in fact not juice but highly alco-


holic cordial) were discreetly made to the San Gabriel Wine Company in wine puncheons ("by this means we can avoid advertising the fact that we use it," the plant manager wrote to Shorb).[73] Capable help was hard to find; and even the design of the splendid new buildings created difficulties: an expert from the university concluded that the winery was too dry, so that evaporation losses were excessive and the wines did not develop well, while the storage building was too hot. Shorb had had in mind the example of the great above-ground bodegas of the sherry region in Spain in designing it, but, as the expert dryly noted, if you wanted to get the results that the Spaniards got, you had to build like them.[74] No wonder that, in the face of all these troubles, the temptation to cheat was powerful. "If we have to go into the 'doctoring' business in order to meet the market," the secretary of the company wrote Shorb, "can we not find some book that will give us the necessary formulae and suggestions so as to avoid the delay and expense of experiments?"[75]

Shorb was full of resource and suggestion in the face of all difficulties. A key possibility, one that had been part of the original idea in founding the new winery, was the development of foreign markets. This proved harder in practice than in theory, but not for lack of trying. It was evident, for one thing, that they could not send anything less than their best to new markets if they hoped to succeed, and so it was necessary to wait until they had properly made and properly aged stocks. A start was made by sending angelica to Canada; France was considered that year, but the idea was not acted on.[76] France, in fact, was never a market for California wines, despite the possibilities that the phylloxera had seemed to open. The French preferred to buy American rootstocks on which to reestablish their own vineyards. England was more accessible; by 1891 the company's London agent was writing that "California wines are becoming quite the rage here and I hope in a few years time to make a very large business indeed in them."[77] By that time, however, the company's prolonged financial illness made "a few years" too long to wait.

The cost of transport from the West Coast to Europe was a major obstacle, and a splendidly simple way of getting around it seemed to be discovered in 1886. This was by the method of concentrating the must, or unfermented juice of the grape, for shipment to foreign parts, where, upon the addition of water, it could be fermented into wine. Since concentrating the must got rid of the water, the product was economical to ship; and since it had not been fermented at the time of its importation, it avoided the duties upon alcohol. Here, it seemed, was the solution to the problem of finding an export market for the product of California's grapes.

The technology of the process had been developed by a German named Dr. F. Springmuhl, and its promotion was in the hands of a San Francisco German, Paul Oeker. Shorb was soon interested in their propositions, and by early 1887 the American Concentrated Must Company of Clairville, California, J. De Barth Shorb, president, was incorporated and awaiting the next vintage. England was to be the main target—the English already had (and still have) a trade in "British wines," which is to say, wines fermented in England from musts brought in from the Mediterranean or other regions of the grape-growing world. They were thus


familiar with the product and could also provide a source of experienced labor. All that was necessary was to persuade the market of the superiority of the raw material from California. An agent was despatched to London to watch over the business at that end (from the charming address of 10, Camomile Street); at the California end, Shorb was busy signing up growers to supply his vacuum condensers. This was a period of deep commercial depression in the California wine trade, so that Shorb had no trouble in finding interested growers: they included Charles Krug, of Napa, Leland Stanford and his Vina Winery in Tehama County, the Italian Swiss Colony of Asti, and Kohler & Frohling.[78]

Dr. Springmuhl went to London to supervise the crucial operation of fermenting the condensed must into wine, and then the troubles of the new company began to mount even before operations properly began. The process seems to have worked all right, but Springmuhl was contentious and litigious, and his principals back in California did not trust him. The quarrel was at last smoothed over: Springmuhl remained to supervise the technical operation, while a new manager was set up and the name of the firm changed to the California Produce Company in 1888.[79] Still, the business did not prosper under these new arrangements. Five years after the company had been formed, one of the chief investors wrote that "the Must business . . . is the d-dest most disagreeable thing any of us ever encountered," and that the only thing to be done was to get rid of it to anybody on any terms.[80] So ended this early phase of California's struggle to find a footing in the international export market.

Things were not much better with the parent enterprise, the San Gabriel Wine Company. From the outset it had never had quite enough money to operate easily, for the capital stock was never fully subscribed, and in order to meet its needs it had to depend more and more upon the sale of its lands. The boom year of 1887, when land was eagerly sought by speculators, was fairly easy for the company. But the boom died as quickly as it had come, and year followed year not only without dividends but with a growing indebtedness weighing on the company. As early as 1884, one major investor had come to the conclusion that "a great mistake was made in the beginning in building on such a grand scale. We should have built a winery and cellars of not over one half the capacity of that constructed and had $40,000 more by that means on hand, instead of in buildings which we cannot use to their full capacity for ten years to come."[81] Sales of the company's wines in 1886 amounted to $94,000; in 1888 they had risen to $114,000. Early in that year, after the company had shipped twenty cars of wine to the East in March, the manager reported that "everything is going along nicely."[82] At that moment, when at last the prospects began to look good, the Anaheim disease hit the San Gabriel region, and though its effects do not seem to have been catastrophic, as they were around Anaheim, they added just enough weight to the San Gabriel Wine Company's burden to put a stop to its progress.

"But for that fatal disease the outlook for the future would be good," Evan Coleman, one of the investors closest to the operation of the company, wrote in


September 1888.[83] But if Coleman seemed to despair, Shorb, as always, was quick to take action in response to the new problem. Quite improbably, he was able to find in Los Angeles an Englishman with the resonant name of Ethelbert Dowlen, a graduate of the South Kensington School in London (now the Imperial College of Science), where he had studied botany with the great Thomas Huxley. Dowlen volunteered to devote himself to an examination of the disease in the hope of finding its causes and cure, and Shorb at once engaged him.[84] As a member of the Board of State Viticultural Commissioners, Shorb was able to make the appointment official and to provide Dowlen with laboratory equipment and an experimental greenhouse on the San Gabriel property. By the first week of October 1888, Dowlen had issued number one of the weekly reports that he would produce over the next two years. Though he labored with admirable thoroughness, both in the field and in the laboratory, Dowlen was entirely unable to explain the disease or to provide anything like a remedy. Growers could do little except to replant, and then to wait, and though the intensity of the disease in the San Gabriel Valley faded rather quickly, confidence in the future of viticulture was greatly injured. As they had around Anaheim, oranges became the crop of the future.

Shorb and the San Gabriel Wine Company were in dire straits by 1890: he was on the verge of losing his entire investment and had only his wife's estate (itself heavily mortgaged) between him and destitution.[85] The possibility of selling the company now became the main hope of its stockholders, but the chances of doing so diminished as the company's troubles grew. To make matters worse, a group of British investors had bought out the Sunny Slope Winery of Shorb's neighbor L. J. Rose in 1887 and had failed to make the profits they hoped for: the result was that investments in California wine properties went begging in the English money market.[86] Since the San Gabriel Wine Company could not make a profit and could not be sold, it ought to have gone out of business. But Shorb would not submit to that logic yet. A form letter from the company addressed to "Our Patrons and the Trade" on 1 March 1892—just ten years after it had been founded amid such euphoric expectation—announced that there was no possibility of earning "an adequate return on the capital invested" in the wine business. Therefore, it went on, "we . . . beg to inform you that we have determined to discontinue the manufacture and sale of wines and confine our operations henceforth exclusively to the manufacture of brandy."[87] So, Shorb seemed to say, if we can't make it in the wine trade, at least we will stay in business and make brandy. In the next year, we hear of Shorb busily planting citrus orchards on the company's land—an activity that angered the powerful Isaias Hellman, whose bank held the mortgage on Shorb's own estate and who was one of the company's stockholders. "It is all nonsense," Hellman expostulated; "I insist that the San Gabriel Wine Co., must go out of business as other similar corporations have done down South; pay our debts and divide the land and property amongst the shareholders."[88] But Shorb went out of business only on his death, which occurred just a few years later, in 1896, at the rather early age of fifty-four; it is easy to imagine that the scrambling required by his


many enterprises, not least among them the San Gabriel Wine Company, had worn him out.

When the company pulled out of the wine business in order to concentrate upon brandy, its stocks of wine were offered for sale at a heavy discount and were bought up by the New York agency that had represented it from the beginning—evidence, at least, that what the company made was saleable, though at the price of 35 cents a gallon it need not have had much quality to attract a buyer.[89] The kinds and quantities of wines put up for sale at this time make an interesting list: there were nearly 150,000 gallons of wine on hand, 90,000 gallons of which were port and 25,000 gallons sherry; the rest was red and white table wine. Of brandy there were nearly 50,000 gallons, from stocks going back to 1882, the year of the company's founding. The company still owned 1,170 acres of land, and had assets of just over $700,000.[90]

The aftermath of Shorb's brief, busy career is rather sad. The San Gabriel Wine Company struggled on until around the end of the century and then at last expired. Its buildings were taken over for other purposes but have now been demolished. With the proverbial heartlessness of bankers, Isaias Hellman foreclosed the mortgage on Shorb's widow, and the splendors of San Marino, as we have seen, passed into the hands of Henry Huntington. The family migrated to the San Francisco Bay area, where their paths led them far away from the wine business that had so deeply engaged their father and grandfather before them. In the city of Alhambra, which Shorb had both christened and developed, a number of street names commemorate Shorb and his numerous children—Shorb Street itself, and Ramona, Ynez, Marguerita, Campbell, Benito, Edith, and Ethel. Otherwise, his work seems to have left no trace. One looks in vain for anything like a vineyard along the slopes that run for miles up from the San Bernardino freeway to the foothills of the San Gabriel range, and most people living there today are surprised to learn even that grapes once grew in the area; the idea of the valley's once having contained "the world's largest winery" is even more strange.

Shorb's story, as I have said, seems in essentials to be exemplary of the history of winegrowing in southern California: at one end it links up with the era of the missions, through B. D. Wilson and his Mexican wife, whose daughter Shorb had married; at the other, it reaches out to the modern era of large-scale and international commerce; and then it disappears. But good work in one form or another always persists, and it is perhaps not wrong to think that the bold and ambitious example that Shorb set his fellow winemakers helped to change their ideas of what their industry's future might become.

This chapter may conclude on a minor but pleasant note. Somehow, a few bottles of the San Gabriel Wine Company's wines managed to survive to so late a date as 1955, when one California connoisseur, on sampling a San Gabriel cabernet, 1891, found it "a wine to be savoured with pleasure and respect," faded, indeed, but still retaining its character. (One must hint a doubt here as to whether the wine was in fact from San Gabriel: Shorb regularly bought table wine in bulk


from the north to put out under his own label—perhaps it came from Isaac De Turk in Santa Rosa?) As for the 1893 port, that may have been of the San Gabriel Winery's own production (though in 1893 it had already withdrawn from the wine market), and it is gratifying to learn that it was pronounced, upon tasting, "a benediction."[91]Requiescat in pace .


California to the End of the Century

Changing Patterns and the Development of New Regions

The simplest way to show what happened in California between, say, 1869, when Haraszthy left the state, and 1900, after a full generation of development had taken place, is by some statistics, graphically presented. A few details of graph 1 may be noted. The plateau from 1874 through 1877 conceals the fact that plantings increased mightily through those years—by an estimated 13,000 acres—so that the consequent overproduction destroyed prices. In 1876 grapes did not pay the cost of their picking, and many acres were uprooted or turned over to foraging animals. Through such drastic means, the industry had come back to a reasonably stable situation by 1880. The relatively small decline from 1886 to 1887 conceals another disastrous break in prices that year, which plunged the industry into a prolonged depression.

Accompanying the rising curve of production was another change, the rapid shift of dominance from south to north. Graph 2 comparing the San Francisco Bay counties to Los Angeles County will make this plain. The redistribution would be even more obvious if one took into account the continuing production of the Sierra foothill counties and the new production coming from the Central Valley counties. The reversal is clear enough, however; in the thirty years from 1860 to 1890, Los Angeles's share of the state's total sank from near two-thirds to less than a tenth; in the same span the Bay Area counties saw their share rise from little more than a tenth to near two-thirds, an almost symmetrical exchange.

The decline of the Southern Vineyard (as Los Angeles was called and as its


newspaper styled itself) was relatively sharp and quick. But that does not mean that winegrowing there disappeared, or was even much diminished to a casual eye. The news of phylloxera in Europe stimulated ambitious new planting, as we have seen in the case of Shorb and the San Gabriel Winery. Shorb's neighbor at the Santa Anita ranch, the Comstock millionaire E. J. "Lucky" Baldwin, built expansively in the late 1870s and early 1880s. He had 1,200 acres in vines in 1889, and promoted his Santa Anita Vineyard wines and brandies far and wide.[1] Another neighbor, L. J. Rose of the Sunny Slope Winery, tried, like Shorb, to exploit the opening created by phylloxera in European vineyards. Rose had been growing grapes and making wine for a decade when, in 1879, he determined on a great expansion. In that year he built what was called the largest and most modern winery in the state, with a capacity of 500,000 gallons to accommodate the yield of his 1,000 acres of vineyard. But the moment of the San Gabriel Valley's prosperity had passed for Rose as for Shorb. In 1887 Rose managed to sell the Sunny Slope Winery to a syndicate of English investors, who never recovered their money and whose experience considerably tarnished whatever appeal Los Angeles County winegrowing had as an investment.[2]

The onset of the Anaheim disease, which put an end to viticulture in Orange County, also helped to discourage the farmers of the San Gabriel Valley about the future of grapes and to turn them more and more to the all-conquering orange. Winegrowing in the south of the state therefore tended to shift eastwards to the region of Cucamonga, where viticulture was long established and the soil, a deep deposit of almost pure sand, was hardly suitable for anything else. When phylloxera appeared in California, this sandy soil protected the vines from the pest and so invited further plantings. Thus, the district, which had produced 48,000 gallons of wine in 1870, was producing 279,000 gallons in 1890.[3] It was here that Secondo Guasti, beginning in 1900, developed the "world's largest vineyard" (it ran to some 5,000 acres at its peak) and created a strong market for Cucamonga wine among the Italian communities of the East Coast..[4] The vineyards of the region persisted through Prohibition, depression, and war in the twentieth century, but fell victim at last to tract homes, freeways, airports, and industrial parks. Only rapidly diminishing vestiges survive in the 1980s.

Santa Barbara, Ventura, and San Diego counties all produced wine, but never very much—the total was 45,000 gallons in 1890, for example, and this was the work of scattered small producers. Nothing resembling an economically important industry ever arose in those counties, though there were some interesting enterprises. One of these was the Caire ranch on Santa Cruz Island, off Santa Barbara. The Frenchman Justinian Caire, a successful merchant in San Francisco, acquired the island around 1880; there, in addition to running sheep and cattle over the island's hills and valleys, he planted extensive vineyards and built a substantial winery of brick baked on the island. The island community was a varied mix of French, Indian, Mexican, Anglo, and Italian ranch hands and field workers. Wine-making was in the hands of French experts and the vineyards were tended by Ital-



Wine Production in California in Millions of Gallons, 1870-1900
Source: Report of the California State Board of Agriculture, 1911  (Sacramento, 1912)

ian workers, some of whom "spent their lives on the island and spoke no English." Among the hazards to viticulture on Santa Cruz were the wild pigs with which the island abounds. The vineyards included such varieties as Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Petite Sirah, and Zinfandel, and the wines acquired a good reputation, only to disappear, with so many others, under Prohibition..[5]

In San Diego County in 1883, through their El Cajon Land Company, a group of northern California wine men, including Charles Wetmore, Arpad Haraszthy, and George West, promoted the prospects of "viticulture and horticulture" on the



California Wine Production, North and South, 1860-90
Source: Report of the California State Board of Agriculture, 1911  (Sacramento, 1912)

27,000 acres of land they held for speculation..[6] Despite the high qualities claimed for Zinfandel wine grown in the county, winemaking was at best a sideline on San Diego ranches. There was, however, a considerable flurry of planting in San Diego following the collapse of the Anaheim region; the Italian investigator Guido Rossati reported that there were 6,000 acres in production in San Diego County in 1889, and 7,500 acres of vines not yet bearing..[7]



The Sunny Slope vineyard and winery of L. J. Rose in the San Gabriel Valley. With its thousand 
acres of vines and half-million-gallon winery, this was one of the giants of the valley. It shared in 
the general decline of the southern California vineyards, however, and after its sale to an English 
syndicate in 1887 did not prosper. (Huntington Library)


A label of Justinian Caire's Santa Cruz Island Company, the only 
wine producer on California's Channel Islands. (Author's collection)


A new development in the southern region was the growing of grapes for raisins rather than wine. Commercially successful trials with raisin grapes were made in Yolo County in 8867, but the great bulk of the trade soon shifted southwards. In 1873 raisin vineyards were set out in Riverside, in the El Cajon Valley of San Diego County, and along the Santa Ana River in Orange County, and these places soon became centers of raisin production..[8] The future lay with the region around Fresno, however, where planting also began in 1873 and where success was so rapid and complete that in barely more than a decade raisins were Fresno County's major crop. The raisin growers belong to the history of California winemaking because the grapes they grow have traditionally formed a part of the supply for the state's winemaking—rightly or wrongly. The mainstay of California raisin growing is the Thompson Seedless grape, introduced in 1872, which makes raisins of quality but at best a wine of entirely neutral flavor. Nevertheless, substantial tonnages of this grape in California have long been made into wine for blending or distilled into brandy for fortifying.

By 1870 the credibility of the idea that California was destined to be a great winegrowing country had been well established; it was also becoming clear that the southern part of the state had not succeeded in the essential matter of producing an attractive table wine: the combination of semidesert heat and the Mission grape stood in the way. A straw in the wind showing the new direction appeared in 1865, when the astute Charles Kohler of Los Angeles and Anaheim bought vineyards in Sonoma County. By 1870 he had "discovered" the Zinfandel, and from that time he planted his northern vineyards to it.[9] What Kohler was doing, and what Haraszthy and others had done before him, showed their opportunity to the smallholders and ranchers of the north. They had a reasonable selection of varieties, especially the Zinfandel, to replace the Mission grape, and these would yield acceptable dry wines from their more temperate valleys and hillsides. Anyone who possessed land not suited for irrigation or too rough for standard farming could put it into vines, as the newspapers, promotional agencies, and agricultural experts of the state were all urging everyone to do. The spirit of this time is expressed by Arpad Haraszthy, who had inherited his father's flair for publicity as well as his optimism, writing on "Wine-Making in California" in the Overland Monthly in 1872. The early winegrowers, he wrote, had not understood the importance of good varieties and proper soils, but that had now changed: "Every season brings us better wines, the product of some newly discovered locality, planted with choicer varieties of the grape, and entirely different from anything previously produced." Ultimately, he prophesied, California would produce a wine fit to take its place among the handful of the world's very finest..[10] All sorts of individuals and organizations were drawn into the work, and one can see several distinctive and clearly marked patterns taking shape in the 1870s.

First and most important was the individual farmer working on his own account and in his own style. More often than not the vine grower was also his own winemaker. Scores of the farm winery buildings put up at this time still stud the


towns and hillsides of the counties surrounding San Francisco Bay; typically they were simple, solid buildings, often of stone (or brick) or mixed stone and wood, providing a gravity-flow operation from upper to lower floor and a cool place of storage behind the stone walls of the lower stage.[11] A hand crusher and a hand press would suffice for the modest tonnage to be vinified, and the wines produced would perhaps go into vats and casks of native redwood—California's contribution to the medieval craft of the cooper, though not adopted as early as might be supposed.[12]

Many of the pioneering names of the 1850s continued to flourish: Jacob Gundlach in Sonoma, Charles Krug in Napa, and Charles Lefranc and Pierre Pellier in Santa Clara County, to name some of those whose wineries continue in operation to this day. To these pioneers, many new names were now added. Some of those still operating in California go back to this time, but very few indeed: Inglenook and Beringer in Napa County and Simi in Sonoma are notable; Cresta Blanca, Wente, and Concannon, all (originally) in the Livermore Valley, belong to the early 1880s, as do Geyser Peak and Italian Swiss Colony in Sonoma County and Chateau Montelena in Napa. The overwhelmingly greater number of the new establishments of this era were destined to briefer lives, and even the hardier of these could not survive Prohibition: Aguillon, Bolle, Cady, Chauvet, Cloverdale, Colson, Cralle, Delafield, Doma, Dry Creek, Eagle, Fischer, Glassell, Gobruegge, Green Oaks, Gunn, Hoist, Laurel Hill, Lehn, Live Oak, Meyer, Michaelson, Naud, Nouveau Médoc, Palmdale—such a list of vanished names might be extended into the hundreds.

There are no reliable statistics on the number of winemaking establishments in California in the nineteenth century. What is certain is that there was a rapid and unstable growth. The instability is well illustrated by the figures (perhaps approximately reliable) for the number of registered wineries in 1870 and 1880: in the first year there were 139 wineries; in the second, after the crash of 1876, only 45.[13] These figures must be for the more visible wineries only: the number of people actually making wine at any time was far greater. In the survey made by the Board of State Viticultural Commissioners in 1890, for example, 711 growers reported that they made wine, and even that figure is well below what must have been the case.[14] But whatever the actual number may have been, the point is that it kept going up and down.

The counties ringing San Francisco Bay, though they were clearly coming to dominate the industry, were not the only scenes of new development; the attraction to winegrowing was felt throughout the state wherever the chances seemed good. The expatriate Englishman (afterwards a prolific and exceedingly bad novelist) Horace Annesley Vachell put in a vineyard on the Coast Range in San Luis Obispo County in 1882, and viticulture on the Estrella Creek (or River) in that county went back a number of years earlier,[15] as it did in the town of San Luis Obispo itself, where, not long after 1859, Pierre Dallidet planted a vineyard and opened a winery.[16] In a few other counties that are now, in our time, coming to be


important in California winegrowing, only the barest of starts was made in the nineteenth century. In Mendocino County, for example, there were only two wine-makers listed in the state board's 1891 directory; the same source lists but two for Lake County, and for Monterey none at all, though there were some ten names listed as grape growers. The possibilities of the central coast of California, roughly between Monterey and Los Angeles, though not exactly unknown, lay unrecognized and undeveloped until very recent years. The fact is good evidence that the winegrowing map of California is far from its final form.

In an unsystematic way much was being learned about the possibilities of the vast number of soils, sites, and microclimates in California, but one can hardly say that the diverse regions of the state had been fully prospected. Nor have they been even today. It would not be anything like as soon as Arpad Haraszthy and others thought before the possibilities of the state's territories were sufficiently known to allow the right varieties of grape to be matched to the right soil and climate. That is a work that still has many years before it in California, to say nothing of the rest of the United States. But certainly much had been done in a rough-and-ready way by the end of the 1880s.

A new region, hitherto unattractive to settlement, begins to be heard from in the 1870s. The interior of the state, south of San Francisco and between Coast Range and Sierra, now the gigantic cotton, almond, tree fruit, and grape factory called the Central Valley, was then still pretty much what the Spaniards had called it, tierra incognita . Its main products for many years would be raisins and other fruit unfit to drink: the huge modern wine production of Kern, Tulare, Kings, Stanislaus, and Fresno counties lay in the future. But significant work had begun. And it was evident, from the beginning, that the growers of the Central Valley were going to make a lot of wine. Even if the bulk of the grapes they grew went to raisins, the scale of winemaking operations was much bigger here on an average than elsewhere.

Token plantings of grapes had been made in scattered parts of the Central Valley in the 1850s and 1860s, but the region was almost wholly given over to cattle grazing until the opening of the railroad through it at the beginning of the 1870s. Then speculators began to try what the possibilities of this virtually untouched territory might be. The center of development was the new town of Fresno, laid out in the middle of the valley and named by the Central California Railroad in 1872. An experiment in irrigated farming in that year produced sensational results on the Easterby ranch ouside Fresno, and the agricultural exploitation of the region was off and running. [17] The valley was hot and arid, but the touch of water seemed to release a magic fertility.

The honor of introducing the grape belongs, by all testimony, to Francis Eisen, a Swedish-born San Francisco businessman who had just bought property in Fresno County, and who put in vines to see what they might do. That was in 1873. These grapes, as a writer put it in 1884, turned out to be "the key which has unlocked nature's richest stores."[18] Eisen went on to develop his property on a scale


that was to be a model for agricultural development generally in the Central Valley: by the end of the seventies he had 160 acres in vines; in 1883 he had 200 acres; by 1888 he had 400, and his winery had been built up to a capacity of 300,000 gallons.[19] Eisen's original vine plantings had included raisin varieties as well as wine varieties, and it was the raisin that was to dominate Fresno County viticulture in the early days, as it does still. But winegrowing was established at the same time, and grew only less rapidly than the raisin trade. It is interesting to note that Eisen, in the untried Central Valley, experimented with a wide range of varieties, including a number of the American hybrids such as Lenoir, Cynthiana, and Norton.[20] The great object of the early Fresno growers was to find a way to prove that they could grow something other than sweet wines in the blazing heat of their valley, and the native American varieties were tried for the sake of their higher acids in blends with such vinifera as Zinfandel. It is also notable that the Mission was not part of the varietal mix in Fresno; its defects were now too well known to be doubted, and there was, by this time, no need to depend on it.[21]

Agriculture in the Central Valley was never an affair for the small proprietor. Only irrigated farming was possible, and the costs of preparation for that were too great for most individuals: the main irrigation works had first to be provided; then the ground had to be levelled, ditches dug, dikes and levees built, hedges planted, roads made—all before any planting went on. In these circumstances two kinds of proprietorship grew up. Either the land was developed by wealthy individual capitalists or corporations, or it was developed by the "colony" system, something on the model of the Anaheim scheme twenty years earlier. A group would form for the purpose of pooling its resources, buying land, and then dividing the property, to be paid for on long terms. The first of these was the Central California Colony in 1875. That was followed by a string of others—the Washington Colony, the Scandinavian Colony, the Fresno Colony, and, ominously, the Temperance Colony. Several of these associations had winegrowing as an object: the original Central California Colony, for instance. The Scandinavian Colony, founded in 1879, developed a considerable winery; it had a capacity of 100,000 gallons in the nineties, when it was taken over by the California Wine Association.[22]

The large-scale example set by the pioneer firm of Eisen was followed by a number of other Fresno vineyards and wineries. Among the most notable of these were the Eggers Vineyard, the St. George Vineyard, the Barton Vineyard, and the Fresno Vineyard Company. They may be dealt with briefly. The Barton Vineyard, founded in 1879, was the showplace of the region, splendid on a level of display that put it high among California attractions. Robert Barton, a former mining engineer, spared no expense to make his new property elegant and handsome in every detail: his fences, his hedges, his pleasure grounds, his winery, his barns, his mansion, his vineyards—all moved the admiration of the journalists who wrote about it: "a princely domain," one called it; "a paradise," said another.[23] Barton had five hundred acres of bearing vineyard by 1884, from which he made both dry and sweet wines from standard varieties such as Zinfandel and Burger; he also had a



The bareness of the scene and the large scale of the operations that characterized Central Valley 
winegrowing are both clearly evident here. (From Jerome D. Laval,  As "Pop" Saw It  [1975])


The Barton Estate Vineyard at Fresno, the unchallenged showplace of the Central Valley in 
the pioneer days; founded in 1879, it was sold only eight years later to a syndicate of English 
investors for $1 million. To contemporaries, the Barton Estate was "a princely domain" by contrast
 to the bare flats of the valley around it. (From Frona Eunice Wait,  Wines and Vines of California  [1889])


mixture of other, more exotic varieties for trial, especially for sweet wines. In 1887, at the high point of English interest in California vineyard property, Barton sold his estate to a syndicate of English investors for a million dollars—a sensational transaction for Fresno, where winemaking was barely more than a decade old. Unlike the Sunny Slope Winery of L. J. Rose, which was sold to English investors at about the same time, the Barton Vineyard continued to grow; by 1896, as the Barton Estate Company Ltd., it had a capacity of half a million gallons, supplied by over 700 acres of vineyard. Its manager, installed by the English owners, was a Colonel Trevelyan, a survivor of the Charge of the Light Brigade.[24]

The other early wineries of Fresno had little notable about them apart from their tendency to grow to great size. The St. George Vineyard was the work of an immigrant Silesian named George Malter, who, like Robert Barton, had been a mining engineer before becoming a grape grower and winemaker, beginning in 1879. His vineyards covered 2,000 acres by the end of the century, and his winery was one of the largest in the state before Prohibition put an end to it.[25] The Eggers Vineyard and Winery, of 225,000-gallon capacity, was the property of a San Francisco land company that began vineyard development in 1882;[26] the Fresno Vineyard Company was also the work of a San Francisco corporation, in which the wine merchants Lachman & Jacobi had an original interest.[27] It was begun in 1880 and was soon developed to a capacity of 500,000 gallons. The Eggers Vineyard and the Fresno Vineyard Company were both essentially bulk wine producers, whose wines were shipped in volume to San Francisco and elsewhere to disappear into blends. All of these big Fresno district wineries were largely devoted to sweet wine production by the end of the century, though all had begun with a determination to make dry table wines. They failed to convince the skeptics that good dry wines could come from the heat of the Central Valley and were forced to turn to the production of vast quantities of anonymous sweet wine. This development was probably inevitable at the time: the production of good dry wines would not be possible until a much more scientific control, both of grape growing and of winemaking, had been worked out. Meantime, the growth of the Fresno vineyards went on. In 1908 there were 100,000 acres of grapes: 60 percent of this acreage was in raisin varieties, 38 percent in wine varieties, and 2 percent in table varieties. Acreage would go on increasing even after Prohibition.[28]

Perhaps the most highly regarded of the new regions exploited for vines around this time was the Livermore Valley in Alameda County, a pleasant region of oak-studded coastal hills a few miles inland from San Francisco Bay. Here an English sailor named Robert Livermore had made his way in 1844 and had set up as a rancher. He planted vines and made wine, but only, as most ranchers did, for his own needs.[29] The floor of the valley is a deep gravel bed, suited to the vine and not fit for much else; the valley, shut off from the Bay by the Berkeley hills, is hot, and yet, surprisingly, it has from the outset made good dry white wine, for many, many years a thing that the rest of California had trouble in producing. From a token 40 acres in the 1870s the valley's vineyards leaped to over 4,000 acres by


1884, a development largely owing to the promotional genius of Charles Wetmore, who invested in Livermore in 1882 and thereupon persuasively declaimed its virtues to a responsive state.[30] Livermore also profited from the fact that good varieties of the grape—notably the Semilion—were planted there in the first days of development. The region never had to pass through a phase of dependence on the Mission. It was, moreover, a region largely developed by wealthy men, as the glamorous names of their properties suggest: Chateau Bellevue, Olivina, Mont Rouge, Ravenswood, La Bocage. The small farmers did not lead here but followed.

Large-Scale Investment in California Winegrowing

Livermore was hardly alone in the combination of wealth and winemaking. While hundreds of farmers and small businessmen were planting vines and making wine in commercial quantities, there were at the same time a good many individuals and organizations of great wealth busied in the same work. They define the second pattern of the development of this generation in California. The vine has always been one of the ornaments of wealth and power. Greek and Roman aristocrats owned vineyards and competed with their wines as they might compete in racing fine horses or in collecting rare manuscripts. In the Middle Ages princes of the church as well as secular princes owned vineyards and patronized the arts of viticulture and enology. The same attraction operated in California. The early San Francisco banker William Ralston, who had a hand in California enterprises ranging from silk mills to mines, all financed by lavish and irregular loans from the Bank of California, was a major promoter of the Buena Vista Vinicultural Society, Haraszthy's ambitious organization in the 1860s. The collapse of the bold schemes of the Buena Vista Society and the bizarre death of Haraszthy were matched by Ralston's fall to ruin and his death in San Francisco Bay. As early as 1859 one of the state's first millionaires, the hard-drinking renegade Mormon Sam Brannan, sank a large part of his fortune in a property in the northern Napa Valley where, having named the place Calistoga, he set out to create both a health resort at the local hot springs (California plus Saratoga Springs yielded "Calistoga") and large-scale vineyards. He failed in the speculation, though the vine-growing part was successful enough. Brannan commissioned an agent to send thousands of cuttings of the best varieties to him from Europe, and in a couple of years had some 200 acres in vines. Brandy rather than wine seems to have been Brannan's main production for the market, and he was trying to get Ben Wilson of the Lake Vineyard to take over the Calistoga wine interest by 1863. [31] Though Brannan was the first Californian of great wealth to take up winegrowing, he did not take it very far.

The most ambitious and sustained application of California's early wealth to winegrowing came from Leland Stanford, one of the Big Four with Collis P. Huntington, Charles Crocker, and Mark Hopkins; wartime governor of California, U.S. senator, and founder of the university named for his son, Stanford was one of


the great powers in the state throughout the latter half of the nineteenth century. Stanford's interest in California wine went back at least as far as 1869, when he bought property at Warm Springs, along the southern shores of San Francisco Bay in Alameda County, from a Frenchman who had some seventy-five acres of grapes planted there. Stanford installed his brother Josiah on the property, and there the brothers began making wine in 1871. By 1876 production at Warm Springs Ranch was up to 50,000 gallons.[32]

In 1880 Stanford travelled with his family to France and there paid visits to some of the great chateaux of Bordeaux: Yquem, Lafite, and Larose among others. Whether this experience was the direct inspiration for what followed next is not known, but it seems likely, for on his return Stanford determined to become a great wine producer. The flourishing enterprise of L. J. Rose at Sunny Slope, with its big new winery, may also have stimulated Stanford's competitiveness. In 1881 Stanford began buying large quantities of land along the Sacramento River in Tehama and Butte counties, between Red Bluff and Chico, with the announced aim of growing wines there that would rival the best of France. The property was part of the old Lassen grant and already had a winegrowing history. Peter Lassen himself had planted Mission vines as early as 1846; in 1852 he had sold what remained of his grant to a German named Henry Gerke, who extended and improved the vineyards and successfully operated his winery through most of the next three decades.[33]

When Stanford took over, things changed dramatically: in one year a thousand acres of new plantings were added to Gerke's modest seventy-five; vast arrangements of dams, canals, and ditches for irrigating the ranch were constructed, fifty miles of ditch for the vineyards alone; a number of French winegrowers were brought over and housed in barracks on the ranch; a winery, storage cellar, brandy distillery, warehouses, and all other needful facilities were built, no expense spared. The new-fangled incandescent lights were installed in the fermenting house so that work could be carried on night and day during the critical time of the vintage. All the while Stanford continued to add to the acreage of his ranch, now called the Vina Ranch after the nearby town that Henry Gerke had laid out. Lassen's original grant from Mexican days extended over 22,000 acres, but Lassen had not been able to hold it long, and by the time Gerke appeared Lassen's ranch had dwindled to about 6,000 acres. Gerke, too, had sold off parts of the property, so that Stanford's first purchase was but a fragment of the original Mexican grant. Stanford simply kept on buying once he had started, however, and by 1885, when he appears to have thought that he had enough for his purposes, the Vina Ranch spread over 55,000 acres of foothill pasture and valley farmland—some 20,000 acres of the latter.[34]

The moral of this enterprise, larger and more costly than anything else ever ventured in California agriculture to this point, was not long in appearing: size anti wealth are not enough to make up for lack of experience. The circumstances were all wrong for what Stanford wanted to do, and though the Vina property was lovely to the eye and richly productive in all sorts of crops, it did not and never



Workers at Leland Stanford's Vina Ranch on the verandah of their boarding house. There are thirty-seven 
men and one dog in this picture, taken in 1888. and they were probably only a fraction of those employed 
on the ranch and in the winery. The picture was taken by George C. Husmann, son of Professor George 
Husmann. (Huntington Library)

could have made fine table wines. It was, in the first place, too hot in the summer for the grapes from which the noble wines come. The ranch lies in what is called, in the classification of California winegrowing lands, region five, the hottest of the five classifications, more like Algeria than Alameda. Its soil, too, was richer than that which good wine grapes need—they always prefer the poorer to the richer; and, finally, there was not enough experience yet in California with the bewilderingly wide range of Old World grape varieties and their possibilities. As has already been said, the matching of the right varieties with the right soil and climate is a work still going on and bound to continue for many years. It cannot be hurried, since not until the trial has been made can one know whether the right match has been found and one can hardly expect that what has required centuries in Europe will occur overnight here.

The force of these considerations was made clear within a year or two of the first vintage at Vina, which took place in 1887 with a harvest of several thousand tons (three earlier harvests had been sold to other winemakers). By this time there were 3,575 acres of vines planted, and a wine cellar with a capacity of two million gallons of storage had been built to receive the yield from this sea of vines. To supervise the work, Stanford had hired one of the master winemakers of the state,


Captain H. W. McIntyre, who had been winemaker to Gustave Niebaum at Inglenook in the Napa Valley and president of the state association of grape growers and winemakers.[35]

Evidently, all that could be done had been done, and yet the wine was a disappointment. No clear report about the character of the table wine produced is on record, but the circumstantial evidence is eloquent. The original selection of varieties, for one thing, was mistaken. Stanford planted Burger, Charbono, Malvoisie, and Zinfandel in his first expansion of the Vina vineyards; the cuttings, incidentally, came from the San Gabriel Valley vineyards of L. J. Rose, and this itself was a bad sign.[36] Burger wine was a Rose specialty, and he had particularly promoted it as greatly superior to the Mission. That was true, no doubt, but still faint praise. Burger, for white wine, does not make a distinguished table wine no matter where it is grown; the Malvoisie is an excellent source of sweet wines; only the Charbono and Zinfandel, red wine grapes, can be expected to yield good sound wines for the table, but that is when they are grown in the cooler hills and valleys of the state. Later, Stanford introduced a selection of other varieties, including the Riesling (though Gerke seems to have had this grape before Stanford's day), Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Sauvignon Blanc, and Semillon.[37] But the lesser varieties continued to dominate, and in any case the finer varieties could never have produced wine comparable to what they yield in a suitable climate. As though to underline the uncertainties of Stanford's experiment, native American grapes were also included in the mix of varieties that were tried at various times: the Catawba, Herbemont, and Lenoir, varieties that have since entirely disappeared from California viticulture.

By 1890, only the fourth vintage at Vina, the entire huge production of 1,700,000 gallons of wine from 10,000 tons of grapes was distilled into brandy.[38] No more telling comment could be made on the collapse of Stanford's hope to rival the best that Bordeaux could produce. This is not to say that the vineyards and winery were a failure; only that the much-publicized aim of producing outstanding table wine was not met, and could not have been met. What could be done was to produce quite good sweet wines—baked sherry, angelica, port—and large quantities of brandy that acquired a high reputation. One experienced New York dealer of the time recalled Vina brandy as "more like cognac than anything made in this country," [39] and there are other testimonies more or less agreeing with this. The Vina angelica was judged the best of that sort exhibited at the great Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893. [40] But these compliments, and a scattering of others like them, are a sad anticlimax after the high and boastful intentions with which the Vina experiment started.

Stanford's winegrowing was not confined to Vina or to Warm Springs. He had grown grapes on his Palo Alto ranch in San Mateo County ever since he purchased it in 1876; in 1888 he built a winery there, perhaps in recognition of the fact that something better was needed than Vina was able to provide. Wine was produced and sold there under the Palo Alto label, on the Stanford campus, down to 1915,


but the scale of the enterprise was not comparable to that at Vina, and Stanford does not appear to have put a special effort into its success.[41]

For all the fact that it was widely and regularly written up in the California press, as a sort of standing feature subject, the Vina Ranch seems to have had curiously little impact on the life of the state. Its practices in grape growing and wine-making did not point the way to the future but gave only a sort of object lesson of what was to be avoided. The labor on the ranch was mostly provided by Chinese and Japanese workers, isolated from the general life around them.[42] And the production of the ranch was almost entirely sold to New York markets, so that a bottle of Vina brandy or of Vina wine was rarely seen by a California buyer.[43] The whole thing seemed to exist outside the view of the ordinary citizen of the state.

Stanford died in 1893. The Vina Ranch had already passed into the endowment of Stanford University, and once Stanford himself was no longer around to indulge his hobby interest in the property, his widow and the university trustees followed a very different style in its management. Captain McIntyre took his departure; Mrs. Stanford fired 150 employees and cut the salaries of everyone who remained. Vineyard acreage was reduced and land planted to other crops like alfalfa and wheat.[44] All the while, the university grew more and more embarrassed by its position as a major producer of wine and brandy in the face of growing prohibitionist disapproval of such an unholy connection between Demon Rum and godly education. Worst of all, David Starr Jordan, the university's first president, was a vocal prohibitionist himself. Stanford University's somewhat shamefaced part as proprietor of a great vineyard persisted, however, until 1915, when a final harvest of 6,000 tons from the vines of Vina was sold off to Lodi winemakers and the vines themselves uprooted. A few more years and the ranch itself had been dispersed by sale. After passing through different hands, the central part of the old ranch, including the vast cellar, with its two-foot-thick walls of brick, was sold to the Trappist monks in 1955; now they cultivate their gardens in silence there, at Our Lady of New Clairvaux.[45]

To judge from a number of the published accounts of Stanford's "failure" at Vina, their writers take a barely concealed satisfaction in the thought of a very rich man's inability to buy what he wanted. The Vina Ranch was in fact a double disappointment for Stanford, for he had meant it not only to produce fine wines but to be an inheritance for his beloved son, Leland, Jr., whose early death in 1884, at the very moment when the great vineyard plantings were going on at Vina, must have taken the heart out of the enterprise for the father.

But if the story invites some threadbare moralizing, it did not discourage other men of wealth from venturing on the chances of winemaking. Nothing so grandiose has since been attempted by an individual in California, but the record of late nineteenth-century winemaking in the state is studded with the names of the rich, the fashionable, and the powerful. Two of Stanford's fellow millionaires and fellow senators owned extensive vineyards and made wine: the Irishman James G. Fair—now remembered for his Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco—at his Fair


Ranch in Sonoma County, and George Hearst, father of William Randolph, at the Madrone Vineyard in Glen Ellen, Sonoma County.[46] In Napa, the Finnish sea captain Gustave Niebaum, made rich from the traffic in Arctic furs, bought the Watson vineyard, called Inglenook, near Rutherford, in 1879 and proceeded to make of it not merely a model winery but a successful model. Niebaum could afford to take his time, being a wealthy man, and wisely did so, with distinguished results. Not until after he had had a chance to study the subject in Europe did he make his decisions. He chose superior varieties, constructed a state-of-the-art winery, and put the work in the hands of experts. The results were excellent, and were quickly recognized as such.[47] In the Livermore Valley Julius Paul Smith, with a fortune derived from the California borax trade, made a speciality of fine winegrowing at his Olivina Vineyard; like Stanford, Smith had visited Europe to study its vineyards and wines; unlike Stanford, he chose a site that rewarded his expectations. Olivina Vineyard wines had a great success in New York, where Smith opened a large cellar.[48]

Smith had two prosperous neighbors who also took up winegrowing: at his estate of Ravenswood, south of Livermore, the San Francisco Democratic boss Christopher Buckley—the "Blind White Devil," as Kipling tells us he was called[49] —amused his intervals of rest from the implacable wars of city politics by making wine from his 100 acres of grapes.[50] At the Gallegos Winery, in nearby Irvington, Juan Gallegos, a wealthy coffee planter from Costa Rica, built a wine-growing enterprise on a large scale, and had the technical assistance of the distinguished Professor Eugene Hilgard of the university. The Gallegos vineyards, of 600 acres, incorporated the old vineyard of Mission San Jose from the days of the Franciscans. When the Gallegos Winery was destroyed by the great earthquake of 1906, it had become a million-gallon property.[51]

Far away in the south of the state, General George Stoneman, Civil War hero and governor of California, set out a large vineyard and built a winery in the early 1870s at his magnificent estate of Los Robles, near Pasadena (or the Indiana Colony, as it then was); another governor, John Downey, joined with the banker Isaias Hellman in developing their winemaking property in Cucamonga.[52] Downey, it will be remembered, was the governor who had appointed Haraszthy a state viticultural commissioner in 1861. Just south of Los Angeles, Remi Nadeau, once mayor of Los Angeles, developed a mammoth vineyard of over 2,000 acres beginning in the early 1880s; poor Nadeau committed suicide in 1887, and the vineyard property seems to have gone into residential subdivisions in the land boom that swept over southern California in that year. Not, however, before a winery, an "immense affair" according to contemporary description, was built to receive the expected flow of grapes from the Mission, Zinfandel, Trousseau, and Malvoisie vines on the property.[53] Nadeau's was not only the largest but the last moneyed plunge into winegrowing in Los Angeles County.

Winegrowing on a big scale was undertaken not only by wealthy individuals but by stock companies, after the earlier model of the Buena Vista Vinicultural So-


ciety. The most notable of such attempts in the eighties was that of the Natoma Vineyard, near Folsom in Sacramento County, the property of the Natoma Land and Water Company, itself one of the enterprises of Charles Webb Howard, one of California's baronial landowners. The company first experimented with different varieties, and then began planting vineyards on its land in 1883; by the end of the decade, it had 1,600 acres of wine grapes and had built a winery of 300,000 gallons' capacity. The operation was self-contained and tightly organized: a foreman's house and barns were provided for each 400 acres of vines, and at the winery itself, at the center of the property, there were houses for the superintendent, an accountant, and their families.[54] The expert George Husmann, writing in 1887, declared that the Natoma Vineyard was the most exciting development in California, "a most striking illustration of the rapid advance of the viticultural interests in the state,"[55] and an influence for the general improvement of the industry through its experiments with different varieties suited to California. The original mover and shaker of the project, Horatio Livermore, left in 1885, however, and his plans were not carried through as originally drawn up. The California wine trade had entered into its long depression, and by 1896 the company had leased its vineyards to other operators.[56]

Italian Swiss Colony and the Italian Contribution

Another sort of big-scale enterprise begun in California in the eighties recalled earlier experiments like that at Anaheim, but with considerable difference. Andrea Sbarboro was a native of Genoa who had arrived in this country in 1850, aged twelve, and earned prosperity by organizing building and loan societies in California. As a way to help his fellow-countrymen in the state, he had the idea of creating a large grape-growing business on the principle of the savings and loan society. The original investments would be made by capitalists who could afford them, but the workers would, through payroll deductions, acquire shares in the company and could, if they liked, convert their property into land. Sbarboro's intention was to provide steady, dignified work for the many Italians who had arrived in San Francisco in large numbers and sunk to the bottom of the labor pool. No doubt, as a prudent man of business, Sbarboro hoped to make money, but as a student of the many cooperative experiments of the nineteenth century, and as a devoted reader of John Ruskin and Robert Owen, Sbarboro also hoped to create a work of genuine social philanthropy. Thus the Italian Swiss Colony was born (there were originally a few Swiss from Ticino in the affair, but it very soon became exclusively Italian).[57]

The first steps went well. In 1881 a company was formed, and 1,500 acres of hill and valley were bought far north in Sonoma County, near Cloverdale. Here, in a village called Asti after the Piedmont town famous for its wines, the workers were settled and planting began in 1882. Workers were easy to recruit, for the company gave good terms: $30 to $40 a month, plus room, board, and as much


wine as a man could decently drink. Preference was given, according to the bylaws, to Italians or Swiss who had become U.S. citizens or who had declared their intention of becoming citizens: this was to be a permanent community.[58] Two developments, however, soon altered the original purposes. The first was that the Italian workers wanted no part of Sbarboro's investment scheme. The proposal to deduct $5 each month from their wages looked to them like financial trickery. Suspicious to a man, they all refused to participate. Thus, as a company publication put it some years later, "they rejected the future that their more sagacious fellow-countrymen had planned."[59] The Italian Swiss Colony had, therefore, to be carried on like any other joint stock company, though it continued to be marked by a strong paternalistic tendency. A second change in the original purposes came about through the collapse of the market in 1886. The idea of an Italian Swiss Colony specializing in grape growing had been formed when wine grapes were bringing $30 a ton; by 1887, when the first substantial tonnage appeared, the price was $8, not enough to meet the costs of production. The directors determined that the colony would enter the wine business itself and authorized the construction of a 300,000-gallon winery. By these steps the cooperative vineyard of Sbarboro's original vision became an integrated winemaking company.[60]

By very careful management, and by the severe discipline of paying no dividends for its first sixteen years, the Italian Swiss Colony gradually made its way. It was lucky in its officers: Sbarboro continued to take a close personal interest in the work; Charles Kohler, the dean of California wine merchants, was a shareholder and a member of the company's auditing committee; Dr. Paolo de Vecchi, the vice president, was a highly successful San Francisco surgeon; the president and general manager was Pietro Rossi, a graduate in pharmacy of the University of Turin. Despite the phylloxera then spreading through California, they managed to develop extensive vineyards, as well as coping with the wild fluctuations of an unstable wine market. When the company at last had its wine ready, the California dealers' best price was a derisory seven cents a gallon. Rossi responded by organizing the company's own agencies in order to reach the eastern markets.[61] They were able to ship in quantity to New York, New Orleans, and Chicago—the three cities where the still very restricted American wine market was concentrated. Before long, Italian Swiss Colony wines were being sent to foreign markets as well, through agents in South America, China, Japan, England, Germany, Switzerland, Belgium, Denmark, Norway, and Sweden. The New York branch held stocks of a million gallons. The company did a good trade in altar wines. And it industriously collected prizes and awards at expositions around the world, to be displayed or its labels.[62]

By the turn of the century, the Asti premises were the largest source of table. wine in California, and the huge wine cistern—500,000 gallons' capacity—that Sbarboro had had built to hold the bumper vintage of 1897 in order to keep it off the market had become one of the tourist wonders of California.[63] By 1910 the vineyards of the Italian Swiss Colony extended over 5,000 acres, including proper-


ties at Madera, Kingsburg, Selma, and Lemoore in the Central Valley in addition to the original Sonoma plantings. Company literature boasted that there were more superior varieties of grape grown at Asti than anywhere else in the United States, and certainly the winery poured out a profusion of kinds: Italian Swiss varietals included zinfandel, carignane, mataro, barbera, cabernet, pinot, riesling, pinot blanc, and sauvignon blanc. The company developed a sparkling moscato, and distilled large quantities of both brandy and grappa. Its banner wine, familiar in all American markets, was its "Tipo," sold in imitation chianti fiaschi in both red and white varieties.[64]

The shareholders who endured the long years of profitless operation were finally well rewarded. The company's winery capacity in x 910 had reached 14,250,000 gallons, and the stock, originally worth around $150,000, was now valued at $3,000,000 and would continue to grow.[65] Sbarboro and Rossi both built handsome "villas" at Asti, which they used as summer retreats, from which they could survey their work—the winery, the village houses, cooper's shop, post office, school, railroad station, and church—the latter built in the shape of a barrel among the vineyards. Sbarboro could, with pardonable pride, look on the evidence of a success rather different from, but probably far greater than, anything he had imagined back in 1881. Unluckily, he had also the misfortune of living long enough to see the catastrophe of the Eighteenth Amendment, which wiped out all the results of his philanthropic labor. Sbarboro was one of the first among the leaders of California winemaking to perceive the threat of prohibition, and he became a leading publicist in the national campaign for wine and temperance. He had the bitter fulfillment of seeing all that he had worked for fail.

It is not necessary by this point to repeat that the growth of winemaking in this country was the work of a wide variety of different immigrant communities; but the success of the Italian Swiss Colony reminds us that the Italians were a relatively new element. There had been Philip Mazzei in eighteenth-century Virginia, but he seems to have had no successors, or at least none who left a record. That changed very quickly now. Italian immigration to the United States had formed only one half of one percent of the total immigration in the decade of the Civil War. By 1881-90 it had increased more than tenfold, and in the next decade it tripled again. Much of this tide came to California. The Italians were all the more welcome after the Oriental Exclusion Act of 1882 shut off the flow of Chinese labor to the vineyards and wineries of the state.

Though it can be given only incidental mention, the Chinese contribution to California wine deserves more than that; it is, however, largely undocumented, and so much of it is lost to history. What can be said is that in the thirty years between their first immigration in 1852, when they were sent to the gold mines or to the railroad embankments, and the Exclusion Act of 1882, they were widely used in the California wine industry, from vineyard to warehouse. Scattered remarks in print attest this, and a few old prints and photos show Chinese at work in vineyard and press house, but no connected account of the Chinese in California winegrowing



A Chinese worker tends the receiving bin for grapes at the Fair Oaks Winery in Pasadena, Chinese 
workers appear to have been as much a part of the winemaking scene in the south as in the north 
of the state, (Huntington Library)

has yet been put together.[66] As early as 1862 Colonel Haraszthy was employing Chinese labor at Buena Vista and defending his practice against an already strong public hostility.[67] In the south, as we have seen already, J. De Barth Shorb had discovered the virtues of Chinese labor in his vineyards by 1869; his neighbor and rival L.J. Rose had followed Shorb's lead in using Chinese labor by 1871,[68] and thereafter one may reasonably suppose that they were a standard part of southern California winemaking as they already were in the north. Perhaps the best-known picture of winemaking in nineteenth-century California, the drawing made by Paul Frenzeny in 1878, has as one of the most prominent parts of its design the figures, of Chinese coolies bringing in baskets of grapes from the field and treading them out over redwood vats.[69]

To return to the Italians, the earliest of them in California winemaking were very early indeed: the Splivalo Vineyard and Winery in San Jose went back to 1853. though Splivalo did not acquire it until the late fifties. Earliest of all, perhaps, was: Andrea Arata, who planted his Amador County vineyard in 1853. These were isolated instances, however.[70] And when there was a considerable Italian immigration


to California, few of the newly arrived Italians were in a position to set themselves up independently—a fact to which Sbarboro's cooperative scheme of the Italian Swiss Colony had been a response. The fate of most who went on the land, then, was to labor in the fields. There were exceptions: Vincent Picchetti was in business in Cupertino by 1877, Placido Bordi at the same place in 1881;[71] but it was not until the late eighties that Italian names began appearing with any regularity among the proprietors. In the south, Giovanni Demateis founded his winery at San Gabriel in 1888; Giovanni Piuma his in Los Angeles in 1889; Secondo Guasti opened his Los Angeles winery in 1894.[72] In the Central Valley two wineries founded in the 1880s followed the expansive tendencies of that region by growing to a great scale: the Bisceglia brothers at Fresno, who opened in 1888, eventually built their enterprise to a capacity of eight million gallons; Andrew Mattei at Malaga, near Fresno, pro cessed the yield of some 1,200 acres of vineyard.[73] In the north, Bartholomew Lagomarsino was established in Sonoma County; G. Migliavacca was one of the earliest of all, for he set up as a winemaker in Napa in 1866.[74]

Though they were beginning to make an important contribution to California winegrowing before the nineteenth century was over, the Italians were far from dominating the scene, as they have sometimes seemed to do since Repeal. Certainly one would get that impression from the fiction and drama written about the families who make wine in California: the writers almost all choose Italians as their image of the California winegrower.[75] The French family Rameau in Alice Tisdale Hobart's The Cup and the Sword is a rare exception. Perhaps it is true that the Italians were more loyal to the vine than any other group during the trying times of Prohibition, so that the names that first came forth on the morning of Repeal were those of the faithful Italians: Rossi, Petri, Martini, Gallo, Cribari, Vai. But the prominence of Italian names on the winemaking scene of California is an effect of our particular perspective. To an observer of the California industry at the moment when Prohibition shut it down, its character would have been thoroughly mixed, perhaps a little more evidently European than most American institutions, with its many Beringers, Schrams, Lefrancs, Gallegoses, Niebaums, and Sbarboros, but not clearly dominated by any one of these nationalities and not excluding an abundance of people with names like Tubbs, Baldwin, Dalton, and Keyes. If I were to make a guess on the question (and it would be something more than a guess), I would say that there were more growers and winemakers of German descent, both in California and in the rest of the country, than of any other origin before Prohibition.

Communal Organizations and Winegrowing

The traditional link between religious communities and winegrowing went back to the beginnings of California, when the missions introduced the art and mystery of wine. It is interesting to note that one, at least, of the old mission vine-



Leader of the Brotherhood of the New Life, Thomas Lake Harris (1823-1906) founded 
winegrowing communities in both New York and California. Their produce was, he held, 
not mere wine but the divine breath of God. At Fountain Grove, outside Santa Rosa, the 
Brotherhood developed a major winery that prospered even after Harris, the founder, 
had been driven from California. (Columbia University Library)

yards was brought back about this time, in the eighties, when California wine-growing had entered on a new order of importance. Under the patronage of the archbishop, Father Kaiser at Mission San Jose began making wine for the church from the vines still growing at the Mission.[76] But, as wine had never been an important part of the economic life of the missions originally, neither was it to be so now. For some latter-day religious communities, however, it was to be important—most notably for a strange melange of diverse people brought together on the basis of an equally strange compound of mystical principles and calling themselves the Brotherhood of the New Life. The founder, Thomas Lake Harris, was English-born, but brought up in the "burnt-over" region of upstate New York, the most fertile source of new religious growth in the whole United States. Harris gradually


pieced together all sorts of elements—Swedenborgian, Universalist, Spiritualist—into a new rule of life and attracted to himself a small community to carry out the practices of his invention: the members included Englishmen, Yankees, Southerners, even a few Japanese. Among the Englishmen was Laurence Oliphant, a writer and traveller of some fame, who had once sat in the British Parliament. With his wife, he brought a good deal of money into Harris's community.[77]

The New Life began in Dutchess County, New York, in 1861, first at a village called Wassaic, and then in the town of Amenia, where, it is said, winemaking was the business of the community. Since the Brotherhood were there only four years, their winemaking cannot have progressed very far. In 1867 Harris moved the com munity to Brocton, on the shores of Lake Erie, in Chautauqua County, New York, where he had purchased some 1,200 acres. This was the era of the grape craze in the East, and of expansionist activity in the winegrowing industry of the Lake Erie region. Harris decided to join the action, or, as he put it, to devote the community to "the manufacture and sale of pure, native wine, made especially for medicinal purposes."[78] For this was not to be just ordinary wine. The community's produce would share in the special virtues of its religious practice: the wine of the New Life was infused with the divine aura and opened the drinker to the creative breath of God Himself. More prosaically, Harris meant to make wine from the Salem grape, one of the hybrids produced by E. S. Rogers, in which Harris had put his faith and his money, for he had paid for the rights to grow it.[79] One wonders whether he chose this grape for the sake of its winemaking qualities or for its religious name? His "New Found Salem Wine," as it was called, did not prove entirely satisfactory, however (though whether on divine or merely sensuous grounds is not clear), and the Brotherhood at Brocton soon tried other varieties as well as the Salem. Harris himself kept a vineyard at his house, called Vine Cliff, where he could experiment with different varieties. Meantime, in 1869, he sold all of his stock of Salem vines to a Lockport nurseryman.

In his work at Brocton, Harris had the advantage of good help. A Dr. J. S. Hyde, from Missouri, was his wine expert, assisted for a time by a Dr. Martin, from Georgia. Another member, Rensselaer Moore, who came from the grape-growing Iona Island in the Hudson, understood the propagating and growing of vines. Between them, these men made a success of the community's venture. By 1870, only three years after their move to Brocton, the small community—it numbered between 75 and 100 members—had a vintage of 15,000 gallons and had built a solid masonry underground storage vault a hundred feet long.[80] The winemaking enter prise was called the Lake Erie and Missouri River Wine Company, though why it had that name is not clear.[81] Perhaps Hyde's Missouri origins were thus indicated, or perhaps they used Missouri wines in their own production?

No sooner were things running smoothly at Brocton than Harris decided to move to California, probably for the same reason that urges people today to leave the wintry shores of Lake Erie for the Pacific Coast, though Harris gave religious reasons as well. In any case, in 1875 he bought 400 acres of land just north of Santa


Rosa (where Luther Burbank arrived in the same year), named the property Fountain Grove, and set about to develop it. The community at Brocton continued to operate, selling its wine to a New York firm using the "Brotherhood" label until the gradual shift to California was complete.[82] Not all the New Yorkers went to California, but the Brocton establishment was wound up in 1881.

At first the California colony supported itself by dairying, but vines were soon planted and by 1883, when Harris hoped for a vintage of fifteen to twenty thousand gallons, the entire estate had been concentrated on winegrowing.[83] From this point on Fountain Grove prospered. By continued purchase Harris ultimately enlarged the property to about 2,000 acres, of which 400 were in vines, and nearly as many more in orchards. The winery, brick-built, three stories high, steam heated, and scientifically equipped, had a capacity of 600,000 gallons, and production grew rapidly to use that capacity: 70,000 gallons were made in 1886; 200,000 in 1888.[84] The winemaking remained under the charge of Dr. Hyde, who had accompanied Harris west from New York. The vineyards grew good varieties—including, it is said, Pinot Noir, Cabernet, and Zinfandel—and red table wine was the staple product. This was sold mainly in the East, through a New York agency that included a wine house, restaurant, and bar at 56 Vesey Street. The winery even published its own illustrated journal, the Fountain Grove Wine Press . So far as I know this is the first example of a house journal or newsletter in the American wine industry.[85]

Harris, who held the title to all this property, lived in something like splendor compared to the provincial standards of Sonoma County in those days. His house, of many rooms, was finished in fine woods, ornamented with stained glass, and surrounded by gardens and fountains. It also contained what a contemporary de scribed as "perhaps the most extensive library in northern California," where Harris could play at science and poetry.[86] The other members of the community lived in two buildings, men in the "Commandery" and women in the "Familistery."

Though Fountain Grove prospered, no one so striking and controversial as Harris could expect to lead a tranquil life, especially not when he propounded sexual theories that could only scandalize a California farm community in the 1880s. Harris taught that God is bisexual, and that everyone, man and woman, has a celestial counterpart with whom to seek eternal marriage. Unluckily, the counterpart is elusive: it may move from one body to another, and in any case it is hard to know, for sure where it dwells, and when. Yet the main business of life is to find one's counterpart. Hunting the counterpart, then, looked to outsiders like simple promiscuity, never mind about the celestial sanctions. It did not help the reputation of Fountain Grove that the partners in civil marriage were supposed to be celibate, since civil marriage did not, except by the rarest accident, bring together genuine counterparts. And Harris, a copious writer who set up a printing press at Fountain Grove before a wine press, put forth stuff about how the world is filled with tiny fairies who live in the bosoms of women and sing heavenly harmonies inaudible to worldly ears. It is no wonder that rumors grew until scandal broke. It is perhaps more remarkable that Harris stayed on at Fountain Grove so long as he did. At last


in 1892, urged by newspaper furor, he left for England, never to return to Fountain Grove.[87]

In 1900, six years before his death, Harris sold out to a small group of the faithful, including Kanaye Nagasawa, a Japanese variously styled baron or prince, who had been one of the earliest converts to the New Life and one of Harris's closest assistants.[88] Nagasawa kept the winery and vineyards until his death in 1934, after which they passed into other hands and at last expired in 1951. The Fountain Grove label was purchased by a neighboring winery and may still be seen on bottles of California wine, but it is not what it was.[89] The estate itself has been eaten away by the city of Santa Rosa, and so this phase of the New Life, at any rate, has returned to the spirit.

While Fountain Grove's wine business was developing, another Sonoma County community, some distance to the north, almost within sight of the Italian Swiss Colony at Asti, had been founded on the basis of communistic winegrowing. This was the Icaria Speranza commune, and its example completes the sequence of communal groups that chose winegrowing as a way to realize the dream of self-fulfillment in a new land. The Huguenots, the German Pietists, and the Rappites were seeking religious freedom; the French in Alabama and the Germans in Missouri were seeking to transplant a European culture intact; the colonists of Anaheim and Asti were looking for simple economic sufficiency. The Icarians of Cloverdale were looking, in a way, to combine all of these things.

They were a secular group, but professed the religion of True Christianity; they were communists but not political, preferring to change the world by the force of good example; they taught universal brotherhood, but required the ability to read and speak fluent French for membership.[90] Their roots in this country went back to 1848, when a group of Frenchmen, inspired by the utopian communism of Etienne Cabet revealed in his Voyage en Icarie , arrived in Texas to create a model community. They soon migrated to Illinois, then to Iowa, suffering dissension, schism, and material hardship along the way.[91] The California venture was a last gasp in the struggle that had begun over thirty years earlier for the original Icarians. Armand Dehay, an idealistic barber associated with the Iowa community, led the way to California, where in 1881 he purchased 885 acres along the Russian River three miles south of Cloverdale and at once began laying out a vineyard of Zinfandel grapes. The Icarians, good Frenchmen all, had planted a Concord vineyard during their sojourn in Iowa, and the main hope of the California colony was to make viticulture the basis of independence.

The times were propitious—the Italian Swiss Colony venture began the same year, inspired by the same expansive market for grapes—and the Icarians, consisting of a few families only, began work with good hope. In one year's time they had 45 acres in vines, and were planning a distillery as well as a winery. In 1884 they were joined by a further migration from the Iowa colony, raising their numbers to about fifty-five people. They held their property in common, but they lived their lives in fairly usual fashion. In the main house they met to dine and to enjoy their


social occasions, but the different families lived in separate dwellings rather than in some regulated communal arrangement.[92]

Their luck soon ran out. They had counted on the sale of their Iowa property to meet their California debts but ran into legal trouble and got nothing; they lacked both labor and money to carry out the developments that their scheme re quired; and finally, as had happened to the Italian Swiss colonists too, when they at last had a grape harvest to sell, they had nobody to buy it. The writing on the wall was clear by 1886; in 1887 the society could not meet its debts and was dissolved, the property passing to the ownership of some of the individual colonists, several of whom remained to tend the vineyards and make wine as small proprietors rather than as the communitarians they had hoped to be.[93] Armand Dehay, the prime mover of the group, was one of those who remained; with his brother he grew grapes and made wine at the Icaria Winery. Thus the three different community experiments made within a few years and a few miles of one another in Sonoma County—the Fountain Grove Brotherhood, the Italian Swiss colonists, and the Icarians—all failed to reach their spiritual or political goals. They all succeeded at viticulture, however.

Winegrowing in Sonoma County: a Modal of the Whole

Winemaking had been tried by almost every imaginable sort of person or agency in nineteenth-century California—rich men, poor men, large companies and small companies, Godless cooperatives and religious communities. But the standard remained the relatively small independent grower, more likely to be tending a vineyard of ten or twenty acres than of a hundred or more. These were the people who had been attracted into the industry in the sixties and seventies, and not many of them would have moved beyond their modest beginnings into any thing very large or impressive. As George Husmann wrote in 1887:

We have thousands, perhaps the large majority of our wine growers . . . who are com paratively poor men, many of whom have to plant their vineyards, nay, even clear the land for them with their own hands, make their first wine in a wooden shanty with a rough lever press, and work their way up by slow degrees to that competence which they hope to gain by the sweat of their brow.[94]

To get an idea of the character of California winegrowing in the eighties one may look in some detail at the scene in a particular region. Sonoma County, a larger and more diverse winegrowing region than any other of the north coastal counties, provides a rich source, a sample of which will provide the flavor of the whole.

The king of Sonoma County in those days was Isaac De Turk, of Santa Rosa, who came to California from Indiana in 1858, began planting vines in 1862, and a quarter of a century later presided over the biggest business in Santa Rosa: his winery had a capacity of a million gallons, and took up an entire block along the


railroad tracks on the west side of town, where, the historian reports, it was "no uncommon thing to see a train load of cars leave his warehouse loaded with wine for Chicago, St. Louis or New York."[95] "Claret" was De Turk's great speciality, made from the Zinfandel for which Sonoma was already famous. Other wineries in the state bought their claret from De Turk to sell under their own labels.[96] His standing in the industry was recognized by his appointment to the original State Board of Viticultural Commissioners in 1880.

At the other extreme from De Turk's large, factory-scale enterprise were great numbers of individual farmers, still unspecialized, who grew grapes among other crops and who perhaps made wine themselves or sold their crops to nearby wineries. Such farmers were scattered all over Sonoma County and represent hundreds of others like them to be found up and down California. These are typical descriptions: Joseph Wilson, near Santa Rosa, had "forty-five acres . . . devoted to the cultivation of wine grapes of the Zinfandel and Grey Riesling varieties. . . . Twelve acres are planted with apples, pears, cherries, and plums. . . . The rest of his land is devoted to hay and grain." John Laughlin, of Mark West Creek, had "twenty acres of orchard, twelve acres of wine and table grapes, and seventy acres of alfalfa." Edward Surrhyne, in the Vine Hill district west of Santa Rosa, tended a little of everything. His orchard grew peaches, pears, apples, prunes, "and other fruit." He had fifty acres of grapes, including Zinfandel and something called Ferdeges for wine, which he made on his own property.[97]

A few of these farmers, incidentally, were women: Mrs. Eliza Hood, widow of the Scotsman William Hood, ran the Los Guilicos Ranch, including its winery and 100 acres of vines; Mrs. Ellen Stuart presided over the Glen Ellen Ranch at the little town named for her, Glen Ellen, where her neighbor Mrs. Kate Warfield operated the Ten Oaks Ranch. Both of these ranches included grape growing and wine-making in their activity.[98]

In between De Turk's huge enterprise and the domestic operations of the Sonoma farmers, there were a number of substantial wineries going back to the days of Haraszthy's Buena Vista in the 1860s. Buena Vista was now much decayed, but others were prospering. Jacob Gundlach, for example, made highly regarded wines on his Rhinefarm, neighboring Buena Vista, and sold them through wine vaults in San Francisco and New York. At Glen Ellen the pioneer Los Angeles wine man, Charles Kohler, had made a showplace of his Tokay Vineyard and winery, producing all kinds of wine on a large scale for sale through his own agencies.[99]

Most striking of all in the survey of Sonoma's winegrowing industry as it stood in 1889 is the mix of nationalities, which contains most of the elements already identified in California's history. There were Italians other than those at the Italian Swiss Colony: the Simi brothers, whose winery still operates today, had set up at Healdsburg in 1881; not far away, and beginning in the same year, the brothers Peter and Julius Gobbi ran their Sotoyome Winery; at Windsor, to the south, B. Arata had settled in 1884 and set out a vineyard of 18 acres (he was, like the


Simi brothers, from Genoa, and like so many Genoese he had been a sailor; now he tended Zinfandels in the valley of the Russian River).[100] There were, rather unusually, several Englishmen in the business. Thomas Winter, a sailor originally from Nottingham, raised vines on his ranch on Dry Creek. Near Sonoma, Thomas Glaister, a north countryman from Cumberland, after episodes in Chicago, New York, and Australia, had built up an estate including 150 acres of vines and a winery of 100,000 gallons' capacity specializing in white wine. Another native of Nottinghamshire, John Champion, raised grapes near Cloverdale and also man aged the Gunn Winery near Windsor, a small new property owned by an absentee proprietor. Earliest of the Englishmen was John Gibson, a Kentishman, who settled in the Sonoma Valley in 1856, planted a vineyard, built a winery, and operated a hotel halfway between the towns of Sonoma and Santa Rosa.[101]

There was a higher than usual proportion of French to be found too. The little community at Icaria has already been described, and it may be that it was attracted to the county in part by the example of the French growers and winemakers al ready established there. The first to come was Camille Aguillon, the son of a wine-maker from the Basse Alpes. Aguillon had been drawn to California by the Gold Rush, but worked mostly as a gardener before making his way to the town of Sonoma. He planted no vineyard, but instead specialized in making wine in a building on the town plaza; it eventually became the town's largest—"Aguillon's famous winery," Frona Wait calls it.[102] Next was the Alsatian George Bloch, who made the transition from a restaurant in San Francisco to a vineyard at Dry Creek in Sonoma in 1870. With another Frenchman, Alexander Colson, Bloch founded the small Dry Creek Winery in 1872. Bloch continued to operate it after Colson left the partnership in 1884, when with his brother John he founded a winery, also on Dry Creek, called Colson Brothers. The brothers were from the Department of Haute Saâne, the sons of a vigneron and winemaker. Jean Chauvet, a native of Champagne, had been settled near Glen Ellen since 1856 but did not begin wine-making until 1875; by 1888 he was producing 175,000 gallons, making him one of the major individual producers in the county. In the same year that the Colson brothers built their winery, another pair of French brothers, Auguste and N. C. Drayeur, natives of Lorraine, opened their "Two Brothers Wine Store Vaults" in Healdsburg. Like Aguillon, they grew no grapes but selected from the local vine yards. Finally, there was Jean Baptiste Trapet, a native of the Côte d'Or brought up in viticulture; he had a five-year adventure in California in the 1850s but returned to France, lived as a vine grower, and served on the town council of Beaune. The phylloxera drove him back to California in 1877, where he settled as a neighbor of the other Frenchmen in the Dry Creek region, growing his own vines and making his own wine.[103]

Despite the presence of the French, English, and Italians, Sonoma County was in the first generation after Haraszthy preeminently a region of Germans. Gundlach has already been mentioned. To his one might add a long list of good German names, many of them borne by men who had come from the winegrowing regions



The Geyserville Winery of Julius Stamer and B. W. Feldmeyer, proudly flying the American flag 
in token of its owners' identity as American citizens. Stamer, the winemaker, came from Hamburg; 
Feldmeyer, from Oldenburg, was a carpenter. The two men met in St. Helena in the early 1880s and 
founded their Sonoma County winery in 1884. Producing dry red and white wines only, with a capacity 
of 75,000 gallons, the winery typifies the industry in Sonoma at the end of the nineteenth century. 
(From  Illustrated History of Sonoma County  [1889])

of the old country. Conrad Haehl, for example, of the Mount Vineyard and Winery near Cloverdale, though not German-born, was the son of a Bavarian winegrower. George Friedrich Fischer, who operated a small vineyard and winery south of the town of Sonoma, came from Baden, where he had been the winemaker on the family farm. Charles Knust, owner of the Sulphur Creek Vineyard and Winery near Cloverdale, though born in Hamburg, learned the wine business along the Rhine before emigrating to America. Conrad Wagele, who cultivated twenty acres of grapes and made his own wine in the Dry Creek region, came, like George Fischer, from Baden. But it was not necessary to have that sort of background, and more often than not the Sonoma Germans did not. They included Frank Bohlin, a Hanoverian who managed the Stegeman Winery at Cloverdale; Henry Weyl, a cooper from Bingen (close enough to winemaking), who owned a vineyard in the county; Charles Lehn, of Frankfurt-am-Main, who grew grapes and made wine near Wind sor; Ernst Rufus, one of the very early settlers in Sonoma (he was imprisoned with Vallejo during the bumbling Bear Flag Revolt) came from Württemberg and ended his days as a vineyardist; Charles Schnittger, another of the Dry Creek vineyardists, came from Hanover, as did L. Michaelson in the Alexander Valley; the pro-


prietors of the Geyserville Winery were Julius Stamer, of Hamburg, and B. W. Feldmeyer, of Oldenburg—they too grew their grapes on Dry Creek; finally, one may add another Dry Creek German, though this one was in fact a Swiss—Charles Dunz, a native of the canton of Berne, the proprietor of the Laurel Hill Vineyard and Winery.[104]

According to the directory of winegrowers and winemakers compiled by the Board of State Viticultural Commissioners in 1891, there were some 736 vineyard proprietors in Sonoma County in that year. By far the greater part of them were growers only, but 118 growers made wine as well, in quantities varying from a few thousand to hundreds of thousands of gallons each year, the average running per haps to around 15,000 gallons.[105] Individual, small-scale, unspecialized in the midst of a general agricultural economy: that was the character of the winegrowing trade in Sonoma County in the eighties, and by and large that was its character in the state as a whole.


California: Growing Pains and Growing Up

Organizations and State Support: the Board of State Viticultural Commissioners

The earliest organizations of winegrowers in California were essentially ad hoc , the hoc almost invariably being

some question of taxes or tariffs. The first such group was formed at the end of 1862 as the "California Wine-Growers' Association"; its objects included general "encouragement" to the industry and "discouragement" of the adulterating of California wines, but its real business was to protest a new federal tax on domestic wine and to ask for tariff protection against imported wine. After its first flurry of activity, the association quickly languished, and it was dead within a year.[1] It was galvanized back to life in 1866 by the renewed threat of a tax on domestic wine. The association sent a lobbyist to Washington and, whether for that reason or not, the tax bill did not pass.[2] A satellite group in Los Angeles was also created in 1866; this had life enough in it to survive through at least the next three years, for it met in 1869 to protest against new regulations for the collection of taxes.[3]

In 1872 another and more sustained effort to establish a statewide society began with the creation of the cumbersomely named California Vine Growers' and Wine and Brandy Manufacturers' Association. B. D. Wilson, of the Lake Vineyard in the San Gabriel Valley, was president, the headquarters were in Sacramento, and the state gave the society official recognition by a grant of $1,000.[4] The society—its name soon shortened to a tolerable length as the California State Vinicultural Society—was more than a protest group: it held an annual fair, set up a committee on the cultivation of the vine, and called its officers to regular meetings.[5] But its


activity was most notable when it came to the old questions of taxes and tariffs. A sharp flurry broke out in 1878 when the French proposed a trade treaty with the United States and the Californians took alarm: preferential treatment for French wines would spell doom for them, they argued through the society, and meetings of protest were held up and down the state.[6]

There were also local bodies of growers and winemakers organized in counties that had established a viticultural industry. A "Grape-Growers' Association" was formed by the farmers of Napa, Solano, and Sonoma counties as early as 1870. The Santa Clara growers also organized early.[7] But these were groups whose work was strictly local and largely devoted to the technical problems of production.

The pressure of demand for an official body to direct and assist the California wine industry as a whole grew intense towards the end of 1879. The crop had been short that year, sending prices up. At the same time, when the prospects of wine-growing in Europe looked hopelessly bleak owing to the ravages of phylloxera, the future of California as winegrower to the world looked more glamorous than had ever been imagined before. The feeling of the period is conveyed in this prophecy by the respected grower and winemaker H. W. Crabb, proprietor of the To Kalon Vineyard in Rutherford, Napa County:

Whoever lives a half a century hence, will find the grapes of California in every city of the Union; her raisins supplying the whole Western hemisphere; her wines in every mart of the globe, and then, with her golden shores, her sunny clime, her vine-clad hills and plains, will California, indeed, be the Vineland of the world.[8]

The economic possibilities of wine took on a new attractiveness in the light of this vision, and politicians began to listen to the promoters. There had been a Commit tee on the Culture of the Grapevine in the state assembly since 1861; it now began to take information from winegrowers and dealers such as Arpad Haraszthy, son of Agoston and to some extent his father's heir as the leading publicist for California wines; from scientists like Hilgard; from established producers like Krug and De Turk; and from bodies such as the California State Agricultural Society. The up shot was the passage of a bill on 15 April 1880 creating a Board of State Viticultural Commissioners.[9]

The board, which had the very general charge to "promote the viticultural in dustries of the state," consisted of nine commissioners, one for each of the seven districts into which the state was divided[10] and two for the state at large; the president was selected from among the commissioners, and all served without pay. The prestige of the board was established at once by the original commissioners appointed, for they were all men of high standing in the industry. Arpad Haraszthy was the first president, and his fellow commissioners included Charles Krug, Isaac De Turk, George West, L. J. Rose, and J. De Barth Shorb. The executive officers, who were paid, included a secretary, and, after modification of the original act in 1881, a chief executive officer.



California's rising confidence as a winegrowing region is illustrated by this ebullient 
frontispiece to E. H. Rixford's  The Wine Press and the Cellar  (San Francisco, 1883). The
 figure of Liberty pops a cork while the California bear holds his glass to be filled on a 
barrel whose head displays the state seal. Cases of mission, "pineau," riesling, and zinfandel 
wine fill the foreground. Rixford, a San Francisco lawyer, had just purchased vineyard property
 in San Mateo County. His book was evidently the fruit of his study in preparation for
 becoming a winegrower. The wines that he afterwards produced at his La Questa Vineyard,
 particularly the cabernet, acquired a high reputation. (California State University, Fresno, Library)

The first urgent business of the board was to meet the problem of phylloxera. The insect had been discovered as early as 1873 in California, in a vineyard near the town of Sonoma.[11] For some reason the winged form of the insect did not regularly develop in California, and so its spread was relatively slow. By 1880, how ever, growers had to face the fact that they were in serious trouble from phylloxera: some 600 acres of vines had already been destroyed in Sonoma County,[12] and infestations had been found in every other winegrowing region of the state except Los Angeles. For years growers in the afflicted regions had pretended that the



An advertisement for carbon bisulphide as, among other things, a specific against phylloxera.
 John H. Wheeler was the first secretary of the Board of State Viticultural Commissioners, and 
the address given in this advertisement is that of the board. Since the board was then en gaged
in a search for a remedy for phylloxera, Wheeler's use of his official position for com mercial 
purposes seems highly irregular. But no one seems to have complained. ( Pacific Rural 
, December 1881)

threat was not serious, or that it was under control, or that it did not exist, or that it would go away by itself. But the time had come when such pretense could no longer be kept up. Now the board acted vigorously. It surveyed the infested areas; it made and published translations of the standard French treatises on reconstituting vineyards after phylloxera attack; it tested the innumerable "remedies" that had been hopefully proposed since the outbreak of the disease in France in 1863.[13] In a very few years, after some dallying with the attractions of carbon bisulphide as a cheap and ready remedy, the board was able to make clear and positive recommendations to California growers. Resistant rootstocks of native American varieties were the only sound solution, just as they were in Europe. In fairness, it should be noted that the University of California experts had earlier come to the same con clusion, so that the board was in effect endorsing a finding made by the univer-


sity.[14] This was one of several issues in which duplicated work by board and university created jealousies.

Many, perhaps most, vineyardists in California were slow or negligent in acting on the advice given by board and university alike. Fewer than 2,000 acres, it was estimated, had been replanted to resistant rootstock by 1888, while phylloxera continued to spread.[15] In Napa County, for example, even after clear evidence had been provided both of the destructiveness of the affliction and of the certainty of the remedy, one writer estimates that 10,000 acres were destroyed by phylloxera between 1889 and 1892. By 1900 there were only 2,000 bearing acres in Napa, and though the recovery was rapid thereafter, the statistics are interesting evidence of how slow growers were to respond even when they must have known what awaited them if they did nothing.[16]

It was not, however, merely human stubbornness or parsimony that slowed the fight against phylloxera. Though the solution was known in general, much re mained to be learned about what resistant native stocks should be used, and how they should be matched to varieties and soils. Wetmore and others, without much evidence, recommended the native V. californica , but results over a period of years showed this to be a mistake.[17] Later, growers thought Lenoir could be indiscriminately used, and then Rupestris St. George. Finally, California appealed to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which undertook a program of systematic testing up and down the state, beginning in 1904. The scientist in charge of this work was George C. Husmann, the son of the Missouri pioneer grower George Husmann. How large and difficult the problem to be met was, and how slowly the recovery proceeded, appears from the younger Husmann's report in 1915: at least 250,000 acres of vines had been lost in the preceding decades; worse, only a few had been replanted in the past ten years, and of those, many were still not planted on re sistant rootstock.[18]

Though the phylloxera question was the most difficult of the technical questions faced by the Board of State Viticultural Commissioners, their work touched on a number of other things too. It included an extensive program of publication, mostly in translations from the French on such topics as pruning, training, and grafting, and on cellar practices and techniques of vinification; original American contributions on such matters were still rare, though Charles Wetmore did publish a short ampelography (as the scientific description of vines is called) of California for the board.[19] The board opened an experimental cellar in San Francisco in 1886, where tests with different varieties and methods could be made, including experiments with brandy making; and in 1887 it made arrangements for an experimental vineyard in Napa County.[20] The question of varietal selection was given particular attention, as were the related matters of varietal identification and nomenclature—all questions of first importance in California. The board also studied such subjects as the soils and climates of California regions, and advised on the choice of sites.[21]

The board's work towards identifying superior varieties for California and en couraging their planting throws an interesting light on the state of things in the



George Husmann had been brought from Missouri to California to help save the state's vineyards 
from the ravages of phylloxera, but his words of wisdom contained in this advertise ment went 
unheeded by California vineyardists: "Resistant Vines the Only Safety." Husmann had supplied 
the French with large quantities of resistant rootstocks from Missouri in their fight against the 
phylloxera and knew what he was talking about. But by the turn of the century the vineyards of
northern California, which might have been made se cure, were largely devastated. ( Pacific 
Rural Press
, 29 December 1883)

early 1880s. We have already seen how French and German growers in the 1850s brought in the major varieties of vinifera; but very few of these, it appears, took hold commercially at the time. Zinfandel caught on in the Bay Area counties, but did not displace the Mission; and the superior white wine varieties seem not to have succeeded at all. The evidence of the trade press and of the exhibitions and wine judgings in the early 1880s is that the Mission remained the dominant variety; Zinfandel was the uncontested leader among grapes regarded as producing fine red wines, and for the whites the Gutedel (Chasselas) was the variety of choice; there was also some of a variety called Riesling, but whether authentic Riesling or not is doubtful, for many varieties have masqueraded under that name.[22]


Comments by two of the leading growers and winemakers, one from Sonoma and one from Napa, make the situation clear. Julius Dresel, writing in 1880 for George Husmann's book on American Grape Growing and Wine-Making , stated that the Riesling, Gutedel, and Burger were the leading varieties for white wine; for red, there was only the Zinfandel. H. W. Crabb, the owner of the celebrated To Kalon Vineyard in Napa County and a man who had experimented for years with a vast range of vinifera varieties, affirmed in the same work that the prime white varieties were Riesling, White Pineau (Chenin Blanc?), and Chasselas (Gutedel); as for red wines, he added Black Burgundy (perhaps Pinot Noir) and Charbono to Zinfandel.[23] The varieties that Dresel named were undoubtedly far more familiar than those named by Crabb, but the lists given by both men are notable for the varieties that they fail to name—Cabernet, Syrah, Chardonnay, Semillon, Sauvignon Blanc, and so on.

A few skilled growers—Pierre Pellier and Charles Lefranc in Santa Clara County were notable instances—succeeded in keeping some noble varieties in cultivation. But when Charles Wetmore, as chief executive viticultural officer of the board, reported in 1884 on the state's vineyards, he did not have a very advanced condition of affairs to describe. Not "a single bearing vineyard," he wrote, was "planted systematically with the varieties necessary to reproduce the types of Bordeaux clarets, Burgundies, Sauternes, Hermitage, Portuguese port, Spanish sherry, Madeira, or Cognac."[24] Cabernet, for example, was "only experimentally known here at present"; Pinot Noir was not yet cultivated "in any quantity sufficient to give token of its merits in this State"; Chardonnay was "not practically known to us." Wetmore himself had recently imported Semillon vines but had none for distribution; as for the true sherry varieties, he observed, they "are practically unknown to us, although during the last year some stocks have been imported for trial."[25] And so it went.

Wetmore attributed the failure of earlier importations of the noble varieties to the old Spanish tradition of short pruning—good for heavy-bearing varieties but not for the shy-bearing fine varieties. The early growers, finding that their methods did not succeed with the noble varieties, abandoned them and went back to their proven varieties. But now, in the eighties, the prospects were rapidly changing, and Wetmore wrote with confidence in the future. For one thing, there was a consider able list of experiment with superior varieties: Malbec, Frontignan, Verdelho, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petite Syrah, and Semillon are among those that Wetmore names.[26] And for another, the plantings made since the founding of the board had vastly extended the stock of superior varieties actually available: Wetmore estimated that in four years the state's acreage had tripled, and that most of the in crease was accounted for by varieties better than those already growing in California vineyards.[27]

Wetmore's optimism was not wholly mistaken. A decade later, on the occasion of the great Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893, the display of California wines showed that many of the varieties practically unknown in 1880 were now



Charles A. Wetmore (1847-1927), journalist, speculator, and winemaker. 
the founder of Cresta Blanca Winery, was the most energetic and effective 
member of the Board of State Viticultural Commissioners in the first and 
most useful decade of its life. (Bancroft Library, University of California)

assimilated into the repertory of the state's production. The varietals exhibited there included Riesling, Semillon, Cabernet, Barbera, Malbec, and Carignane—though still no Chardonnay. The same exhibit also included such astonishing names as a "Chambertin" from J. Gundlach, a "Hermitage" from H. W. Crabb, and a "Chateau Yquem" from Wetmore himself; one may hope that these were made in part at least from Pinot Noir, Petite Syrah, and Semillon. All of those varieties were established in the state by that time.[28]

Carrying out experiments, collecting scientific information, and spreading it to the members of the industry may be thought of as the board's internal affairs. The


external affairs lay largely in political and promotional work. The board kept an eye on legislation at both the state and national level, especially on anything that bore on the touchy question of taxation, and took a hand where it could in trying to affect the process of lawmaking. But more and more, as the years passed, the work of the board tended to concentrate on promoting California wine. After the collapse of the market in the late eighties, this was clearly its main job. From the beginning, the board was responsible for an annual state viticultural convention, which was officially intended to be a means for organizing and instructing wine-growers throughout the state, but which had perhaps the even more important function of advertising the winemaking industry widely and regularly. The board also took responsibility for seeing that California wine was represented at inter national fairs and exhibits—for example, at Antwerp and Louisville in 1885, at London in 1887, Paris in 1889, and Bordeaux in 1895.[29]

The Chicago Columbian Exposition of 1893 has already been mentioned. This was far and away the most splendid American fair held during the active years of the board, and the Californians had high hopes for promoting their wines through the Exposition. They were disappointed. The arrangements for the display of wines were confused; the concession for selling wine went to a man who bought French wine cheaply and prohibited the sale of the California article, and the wine judging satisfied no one. The French withdrew their wine exhibit in anger over the qualification of the jurors, and the matter was settled only by the absurd expedient of giving awards to all of the exhibitors, as in the caucus race in Alice in Wonderland .[30]

Next year there was a major fair on the Californians' home ground, the Mid winter Exposition in San Francisco, and here things went better. At the Midwinter Exposition the California winemakers erected a "Palace" adorned with plaster statues of Bacchus and Mercury, with an abundance of roccoco twiddles and scallops in plaster, and with tags and verses from a variety of sources and languages: "Hail, California, glory to thee! / Nature's great wonder, noble and free" was one; Martin Luther's "Wer nicht liebt Wein, Weib und Gesang, / Der bleibt ein Narr sein Leben lang" another. Here there were displays of some fifty-two winemakers and merchants, and visitors could sample the wines on display in a Weinstube adjoining the Palace. The rules for the wine judging were written by Arpad Haraszthy, and on these terms prizes went to some of the best of California's producers. If the fair did not extend the fame of the exhibitors as the grand show at Chicago might have done, it at least helped to smooth some ruffled feelings.[31]

Two other promotional schemes sponsored by the board may be mentioned. In 1888 it opened a permanent exhibition of California wine in connection with a cafe in downtown San Francisco. The cafe menu offered such exotica as "concombres à la Charles Krug," "pieds de mouton à la Olivina," and "anchois à l'huile de Kohler and Frohling," as well as a choice of any of the wines displayed in the permanent exhibition; they could be drunk with the meal (and what, one wonders, went with the anchovies?) or taken home in any quantity.[32] At the other end of the country, the board hired the celebrated American actress, journalist, and lecturer Kate


Field, the friend of Robert Browning and Anthony Trollope, to give a lecture on California wine in the cities of the East Coast. This she did in the season of 1889, with mixed results. She ran afoul of the temperance movement, already strongly established in this country, and though the board expressed satisfaction with her effort, the arrangement was not continued.[33]

From its founding in 1880 the board's dominating member was Charles Wet-more, one of the first graduates of the University of California, a San Francisco journalist, and a restless, tactless, enterprising man of considerable talent and great confidence.[34] Arpad Haraszthy was president of the board for the first eight years of its existence, but the energy behind most of its activities came from Wetmore. He was one of the original commissioners, representing the county of Napa; when the office of chief executive officer was created in 1881, Wetmore stepped into the position and held it for the next six years. It was he who directed the surveys, collected the statistics, translated European technical treatises, arranged for publication of the board's reports and instructions, set the research policies of the board, and supervised its experiments. He travelled up and down the state to address meetings and inspect vineyards; he lobbied in Washington, publicized and promoted in New York, represented California wine at expositions. And all the time he poured out an inexhaustible flood of articles on every subject connected with grapes and wine in California, both technical and popular. In the eighties he was virtually synonymous with California wine to the public.

He did not do all this without stepping on toes, for he was quick to take the initiative against what he saw as obstructions and enemies. He resigned as chief executive officer in 1887, but remained a commissioner; a year later he became president of the board; in the next year, 1889, he became chief executive officer again, adding the title to that of the presidency. Though his presidency ended in 1890, he remained chief executive until 1891, when his connection with the board ceased.[35] It is probably more than a coincidence that the energetic days of the board ended with Wetmore's departure. But the Wetmore connection was not yet broken, for Charles's brother Clarence, who had also served the board in various ways, succeeded as chief executive.[36] Charles Wetmore is now best remembered as the founder of the original Cresta Blanca Winery in the Livermore Valley in 1882; he should also be remembered for his vital part in the operation of the Viticultural Commission in the first ten years, the effective decade of the board's work.

The Board's Rival: the University of California

Wetmore's most prominent enemy in his years at the board was the university itself. The act that created the board also created a department of viticulture in the University of California's College of Agriculture, to be supported out of the same budget that paid for the board's work. Such an arrangement was obviously headed for trouble, and it was not long in coming. The board naturally wished to have a


part in every kind of activity affecting its work; the university, with equal reason, wanted to have full and unobstructed support for its work. In Professor (later Dean) Eugene W. Hilgard, the College of Agriculture had a skilled and bold defender, a worthy antagonist for Wetmore at the board. The two men at first treated each other with guarded respect, then differed, then fell into open controversy. They traded insults and squabbled over almost every point of advice to the industry, and on every occasion of public display. The rivalry came to a head in 1885 over the allocation of a grant of $10,000. This matter was eventually compromised, but the conflict between the two men went on unchanged.[37]

One way or another, Wetmore managed to keep the bulk of the viticultural work and the larger share of the annual appropriation in the hands of the board. The university, handicapped though it was in its rivalry with the board, nevertheless carried out work of great importance at this time. Its contribution to the fight against phylloxera has already been mentioned. Another, and one of its most important and sustained labors was begun almost at once, in fulfillment of plans made by Hilgard. When the university received its money from the state, it immediately constructed a model wine cellar on the campus next to South Hall and began to carry out experimental fermentations with grapes grown around the state. The wines produced thus in small (seven-gallon) experimental batches were carefully analyzed and the results published in a long series of reports covering the years 1881-93. Hilgard's aim was to make what he described as a "systematic investigation of grape-varieties with respect to their composition and general winemaking qualities in the different regions of the state.".[38] The jealousy of the board was not Hilgard's only obstacle in this: he had to convince skeptics that wine made in small test batches could produce representative results—many believed that only wines produced in commercial quantity could do that. Other, more stubborn, doubters held that chemical analysis of any kind was a mere impertinence and that the professor was wasting his time and distracting the industry with his analyses. Hilgard persisted, however, and in the decade of his experiments produced an impressive body of objective information on this vital subject.

Grapes were collected from as many regions of the state as possible. Vineyards at Fresno, Mission San Jose, Cupertino, Paso Robles, and in Amador County were among the most prominent sources: Napa and Sonoma contributed much less.[39] The varieties examined made what was probably a comprehensive inventory of those then growing in the state, and included all of the varieties both red and white now recognized as having commercial value in California—from Aleatico and Cabernet to Tinta Cão and Valdepeñas. When the grapes were received at Berkeley, they were crushed and fermented in the university's experimental cellar under the supervision of F. T. Bioletti, assisted by A. R. Hayne. Bioletti, who ran things under Hilgard's direction, later became the director of the university's wine program and lived to train the first generation of post-Repeal wine scientists in California.[40] Before fermentation the musts were analyzed by Hayne, and after the fermentation the resultant wines were analyzed for sugar, acid, solids, alcohol, and



Eugene Hilgard (1833-1916), dean of the College of Agriculture of the
 University of California, a leading soil scientist and the head of viticultural 
and enological research in California, was the son of an Illinois  Lateinische 
 who grew a wine called "Hilgardsberger" on his midwestern farm, As 
champion of the University of California's work in viticulture and enology, 
Hilgard was in frequent conflict with Charles Wetmore, representing the
 rival Board of State Viticultural Commissioners. (Bancroft Library, University
 of California)

tannin. The reports sometimes went on to add details on the aging of the sample wines and on the results of tastings. On the solid basis of information thus provided, Hilgard and his associates could then make positive recommendations on what to plant and where to plant it. This work, going back to the very earliest days of the university's interest in viticulture, has continued to the present day pretty much along the lines that Hilgard laid down at the beginning.

Of comparable importance to its varietal studies was the university's work on the process of alcoholic fermentation, a subject that biochemists were just then be-


ginning to grasp. Fermentation, of course, had been known and used in a practical way for millennia, but it was known as a mysterious and magical power, more spiritual than material, and all sorts of ritual and superstitious proceedings for directing and controlling it had grown up. During the course of the nineteenth century the problem of discovering the actual mechanisms of fermentation engaged the attention of researchers in many parts of the world; by the end of the century the general understanding of the means whereby the strange transformation of sugar into alcohol and carbon dioxide is achieved had been carried far beyond the limits of the old knowledge. It was, unromantically enough, the demands of the great brewers of beer in Europe that most stimulated research into the subject, but winemakers profited immediately from the results.

The chemical changes produced by fermentation had been well described by Lavoisier in France at the end of the eighteenth century. And the presence of yeasts in fermenting liquids had been known from the late seventeenth century. The unanswered question was, How are yeasts connected with the chemical changes that come about in fermentation? Not until the work of Pasteur in the 1850s and 1860s was this question answered, and then only in a general way. Pasteur was able to show that the chemical changes took place inside the cells of living microorganisms—the yeasts—and that the process was therefore a physiological one rather than, as some had maintained, a mechanical one. Exactly how the yeasts produced the change was far from being explained (it is still a subject of research, though the steps have been worked out in detail); but by the 1890s, when the university began active work in fermentation science, the idea that fermentation depended on the enzymes in the yeast cell was more or less established.[41] Pasteur had also suggested that different yeasts produced different results—some desirable, some highly undesirable—and that it was therefore of the first importance for the winemaker to get the right sort of yeast for his purposes. The yeast of winemaking is, generically, Saccharomyces ellipsoideus , but, just as there are many varieties of the wine grape, Vitis vinifera , so there are many varieties of the wine yeast, ellipsoideus . Fruit brought in from the field is covered with the spores of a multitude of yeasts, and in a fermentation left to itself there is no way to know which strain will prevail. If it is not a sound wine yeast that dominates, the fermentation may not "go through," as the winemakers say, or it may go through to bad results—to vinegar, for example, or to a fluid in which all sorts of undesirable bacteria and molds may develop. Work on isolating and propagating "pure" strains of yeast was first successfully carried out by the Danish scientist E. C. Hansen in the 1880s, with results that allowed a degree of control over the process of fermentation never before possible. By 1891 the French researcher Georges Jacquemin had established a commercial source of pure wine yeasts, and within a few years their use had become a widespread commercial practice in Europe.[42]

The university was quick to take advantage of the achievements of European research by applying them in California. The first experiments with strains of pure yeast began in Berkeley in 1893, with striking results: "In every one of the experi-


ments at Berkeley," Bioletti wrote, "the wines fermented with the addition of yeast were cleaner and fresher-tasting than those allowed to ferment with whatever yeasts happened to exist on the grapes."[43] Samples of pure yeast cultures were sent out to commercial producers in Napa, Sonoma, St. Helena, Asti, San Jose, and Santa Rosa, with equally positive results.

Once the crucial importance of controlling fermentation had been clearly understood, university research was extended into other variables in the process. The role of temperature was investigated, especially the damaging effects of the high temperatures typically encountered in California. Other investigations were made on such topics as the decrease of color in fermentation, the control of temperature through refrigeration, the special problems of high sugar musts (also typical in California), the extraction of color, and the use of pasteurization. The latter process was first made known in 1865 and was quickly adapted in Europe and abroad, but often rather uncritically.[44]

The practical conclusions of all this work were passed on to the industry, and, if the industry was in many cases slow to adopt them (as it was), one could say at least that the California winemaker at the end of the century had, in theory, a mastery of his art that would have astonished the preceding generation. The work of Pasteur and others on the understanding of fermentation had, in one generation, literally transformed the powers of the winemaker to control what he was doing. As the distinguished enologist Maynard Amerine has written, the contributions of biochemistry to wine "have changed winemakng more in the last 100 years than in the previous 2,000," delivering us from a state of things in which "white wines were usually oxidized in flavor and brown in color" and most wines were "high in volatile acidity and often low in alcohol. When some misguided people wish for the good old days of natural wines, this is what they are wishing for."[45]

In retrospect, the work of the university, carried out against the hostility of the board and the skepticism of the state's farmers, had a permanent importance that far outweighed the better-advertised activities of its rival. At the time, however, it may well have been the case that the board's promotional work was more immediately necessary. That both agencies were of the greatest utility in advancing the state of the industry in California is unquestioned; it is a pity only that a better design for their cooperative working could not have been devised.

Though the board was able to keep its university enemies at bay, it had others to face as well. Some winegrowers resented its methods as high-handed and unresponsive; others thought simply that its work was not worth doing, or that, if it was, it was being badly done. The prolonged depression of trade in the wine industry, beginning in 1886, made the board seem clearly ineffective, and the research work of the university appeared all the more valuable by contrast. At the same. time, a reformist campaign against all "useless and expensive" state boards and agencies was under way. The Board of State Viticultural Commissioners could hardly hope to escape indefinitely. Although a bill to abolish the board introduced in 1893 was killed, a comparable bill was passed in 1895.[46] Thus the board came to


an end, and was forced to yield up its assets and properties—including a valuable library of technical literature—to its rival, the university's Department of Viticulture in the College of Agriculture.[47]

Marketing Problems in the Late Nineteenth Century: The California Wine Association

The problems of viticulture and winemaking such as the university and the state board devoted themselves to were mostly manageable problems. Given time, they could be, and were, successfully worked out. Another, and more difficult, problem was how to sell the wine once it was made, a problem that became acute in the season of 1886. The decade had opened with the prospect of California's taking over the first position in supplying the world's wine, with the result that planting and production leaped up: the ten million gallons that California had produced in 1880 had soared to eighteen million in 1886. Yet, after all, European winemaking had not died. The heroic labor of the French scientists and officials had first checked, then reversed the decline of the vineyards, so that the vast export markets that Californians imagined were only briefly opened to them. Some expansion of markets had taken place in South America and the Pacific, and a beginning had been made in England.[48] The export of condensed juice as an expedient to evade the taxes on wine was also tried; we have already noted Shorb's experiments. These things were at best only palliatives, however, and could not avert a long depression of prices and sales.

Part of the problem, at least, lay in the failure of the California industry to impose itself upon the eastern trade. California wine lacked prestige as compared to anything imported, and the New York merchants wanted it only to supply the cheap market. Charles Wetmore charged that the New Yorkers in fact knew nothing about the possibilities of California wines, and that, since they never visited the state, they missed their opportunities to buy good wines before they disappeared into undistinguished blends for the standard market. On the other hand, Wetmore conceded, the Californians handled their own wines badly: uncontrolled secondary fermentations, storage under conditions of damaging heat, aging too long in wood, and other bad practices meant that the wines they shipped east would be heavy and dull at best and, at worst, simply spoiled.[49]

The failure to develop a market for wines of quality from California was particularly damaging to the industry, for it destroyed all incentive to take the trouble and run the risks required to grow the best varieties and to make the highest standard of wine. "The man who gets ten tons of grapes to the acre gets 10 cents for wine; the man who, on a steep hillside, gets two tons and a half, gets 12 cents; and the 12-cent wine is mixed with the 10-cent," said Charles Wetmore in 1894.[50] He went on to describe the languishing of the industry: growers were allowing diseases to run unchecked through their vineyards; some were grafting over their su-


perior varieties to high-yielding, low-quality kinds; and some 30,000 acres of grapes had been withdrawn from the state's total in the past six years.[51]

By 1892, for example, Zinfandel grapes sold for $10 a ton—not enough to pay the costs of picking. Wine at wholesale fetched 10 cents a gallon.[52] In such circumstances, the wish to eliminate competition in favor of some sort of cooperation, legal or otherwise, grew irresistible. At the lowest point of the industry's fortunes, in 1894, the decisive step was taken when seven of the state's largest and most powerful merchants, all based in San Francisco, joined together to form the California Wine Association (CWA). Together they represented much of the wine-growing history of California, and so large a part of the state's wine traffic that they at once dominated the market and continued to do so until Prohibition.[53]

The distinction between winegrower and wine merchant was not sharply drawn at this time in California. Most of the members of the CWA were vineyard owners, and all of them operated wineries that produced at least a part of what they sold. The association was thus in a position to operate a fully integrated enterprise, beginning with the grape and ending at the retail shelf, and this on a scale without precedent. Among the association's many and various properties from the beginning were such items as the Greystone Cellars at St. Helena, biggest in the state, the Glen Ellen Vineyards in Sonoma County, the Orleans Hill Vineyards in Yolo County, and the Cucamonga Vineyards in San Bernardino County. Other properties were absorbed into the system in ensuing years. By 1902 the CWA controlled the output of over fifty wineries, producing some thirty million of the state's forty-four million gallons of wine in that year. By 1910 a company brochure could boast that the association "cultivates more vineyard acreage, crushes more grapes annually, operates more wineries, makes more wine, has a greater wine storage capacity than any other wine concern in the world."[54] The company's wineries were scattered throughout every winegrowing region of the state: they included, to name but a few, the Uncle Sam Winery in Napa, the Tokay Winery in Glen Ellen, the Pacific Winery in San Jose, and the Calwa and Wahtoke wineries in Fresno County.

Their produce was sent to central cellars in San Francisco where the wines were stored, blended to a uniform standard, bottled, and then shipped for sale under the Calwa brand, with its trademark of a young Bacchus, accompanied by the California bear, standing at the prow of a ship whose sail bore the seal of California. Thus the idea of a standard, unvarying product bearing a brand identity was introduced into the California wine trade. The care of the cellars and the crucial work of blending was under the exclusive charge of Henry Lachman, famous as one of the two best tasters in the state (the other was Charles Carpy, also an official of the CWA).[55]

Retirement, death, business vicissitude, and the consequent sale of stock greatly altered the original ownership of the CWA, and after about a decade of operation, when it had proven its profitability, control passed into the hands of certain California bankers, notably those of Isaias W. Hellman.[56] Since Hellman, through his



The imposing scale of the operations of the California Wine Association appears in its 
headquarters building in San Francisco. The building was destroyed in the earthquake 
and fire of 1906. (From a California Wine Association brochure, c. 1910; Huntington Library)

Farmers' and Merchants' Bank of Los Angeles, had been instrumental in financing such pioneer wineries as B. D. Wilson's and the Cucamonga Vineyards, his investment in the CWA made a link between the old phase of the industry, centered in Los Angeles, and the new, centered in San Francisco.

Well provided with capital, and strongly entrenched in the wine markets of the country, the CWA was able to withstand the catastrophe of the San Francisco earthquake, when the ten million gallons of wine in its cellars were lost to shock and fire.[57] A year later, the resilient company was building its final monument, a huge red-brick bastion on the shores of San Pablo Bay near Richmond. With its satellite buildings, it covered forty-seven acres and combined a winery, distillery, and warehouses. An electric railway threaded the premises, linking the docks where ocean steamers loaded, with the transcontinental railroad tracks on the land-ward side of the plant. The storage capacity of Winehaven, as this little commercial city-state was named, was originally ten million gallons, later raised to twelve million; besides the wine produced on the spot, Winehaven also handled the flow of wine that came in from all of the many outlying properties of the CWA.[58] From the turn of the century to the coming of national Prohibition, the CWA was the most prosperous establishment in the most prosperous period that the California wine industry had yet known. As a monopoly, or rather, near-monopoly, it belonged to



Winehaven, the central facility of the California Wine Association on the shore of San Francisco
 Bay at Richmond, photographed in 1910. Winehaven was the phoenix which rose from the ashes
 of the fire in 1906 that consumed the association's San Francisco headquarters. From its ten million 
gallons of storage, wine was shipped by direct ship and train connection all over the country. 
(Huntington Library)

the rapacious business style of the late nineteenth century, and, no doubt, if the full record could be known it would show a long tale of sharp practices and dubious moves. Whether the combination represented by the CWA was a necessary or even a particularly effective way to restore the California wine trade to health no one can say now. But its flourishing did coincide with a span of years in which prices remained fairly stable while production gradually gained.

The leading antagonist of the CWA was a rival organization dominated by winegrowers, as the CWA was dominated by wine merchants. In 1894, foreseeing that growers would be entirely at the mercy of the CWA unless some alternative home for their grapes could be found, a combine of growers and wineries formed the California Wine Makers' Corporation (CWMC).[59] The manager was the former secretary of the Board of State Viticultural Commissioners, John H. Wheeler, and the main promoters were Andrea Sbarboro and Pietro Rossi, the leaders of the Italian Swiss Colony. Their plan was to contract for a large part of the California crop, have it made into wine by wineries outside the CWA network, and stored until such time as a favorable sale could be made. (It was to assist in carrying out


this plan that the famous giant cistern was built on the Italian Swiss Colony grounds at Asti.) In this way the CWMC could reasonably hope to negotiate with the CWA instead of helplessly accepting whatever terms the merchants cared to dictate. The CWA chose not to fight at first; it bought the corporation's wines at the corporation's prices in the first year of their dealings, 1895. Thereafter they began to draw apart, and by 1897 were engaged in full-scale war in the major markets of the country. The CWMC undertook to sell its own wines direct instead of through the CWA; the CWA responded by ruthlessly cutting prices. By 1899, when a short crop drove prices up for the whole industry, the CWMC was glad to take the opportunity to retreat. It was quietly dissolved in that year, and the field left open to the victorious CWA.[60]

Whatever else the CWA may have accomplished, it permanently transformed the idea of how California wine was to be sold. The trade in the early days had come to be dominated by the San Francisco merchants, whose practice was to buy the entire annual output of producers at a fixed price and then to blend it according to their own notions of what was suitable. On this system there was obviously no incentive for winegrowers to aim at making wines of special quality, since all went at a single price and all was blended so as to smooth out whatever peaks and valleys occurred in the produce of a given vintage. Later, as some individual growers grew large enough to handle their own production—including aging, blending, and shipping—they could set their own standards. Even then, however, most wine in California left the winery in bulk—in barrel, puncheon, or cask. And most such wine went from producer to large wholesalers in distant parts of the country, who might or might not know how to handle the wine properly, supposing, as must rarely have been the case, that they even had the facilities to do so. The wholesalers would label the wine as their own taste and experience dictated, or they could sell to a retailer who might then label the wine according to his own notions. The succession of intermediaries meant that the wine ran all sorts of risks in the handling, especially the risk of spoiling.

Even more prevalent, according to the dark imaginings of the California producers, was the risk of the wine's being adulterated. The claim that unscrupulous easterners adulterated California wine before selling it is a constant theme of the California winemakers, and an explanation for all the ills of the trade. No doubt much wine was injured in handling, but it does not follow that deliberate adulteration was a very frequent practice. George Husmann, writing from California in 1888, doubted that adulteration took place to the extent that his fellow winemakers claimed. Bad handling and bad methods were the real cause of trouble for California wine; so, too, was the "prevailing custom of selling whole cellars of wine, good, bad, and indifferent, to the merchant, and compelling him, so to say, to take a lot of trash, if he also wanted the really good wines a cellar contained."[61] This is interesting evidence that the merchant was not always the villain and the grower the innocent victim.

Growers also ran the risk of having their wines given French, German, or Ital-


ian labels. Robert Louis Stevenson tells in The Silverado Squatters of a San Francisco merchant showing him a cupboard filled with a profusion of "gorgeously tinted labels, blue, red, or yellow, stamped with crown or coronet, and hailing from such a profusion of clos and châteaux , that a single department could scarce have furnished forth the names"—and all to be used on innocent bottles of California wine.[62] There might be some French wine in the bottles so labelled. Henry Lachman, the pioneer San Francisco wine merchant and director of the CWA, recalled that for many years it was standard practice in San Francisco to blend California wine with French wine that had arrived as ballast in ships calling to load California grain for Europe.[63] Given the anarchic methods for distributing and identifying wine that prevailed through the nineteenth century, even the largest California producers had little chance to control the condition of their wines or to establish any kind of market identity and customer loyalty.

The system was not all bad, by any means. Since the small producer did not have to worry about marketing his wine, he did not have to develop a "line" and could therefore concentrate on producing what he did best. If he had a stable arrangement with a wine merchant, a sound and enduring reputation might be built up. But in general, the received pattern in California did not encourage the ordinary winegrower, or do much to make a reputation for the integrity of California wines.

The sheer size of the CWA's operations made it possible to change the prevailing system. The company could afford to store vast quantities of wine, to keep it on hand to insure uniform blending, and to advertise and distribute its own brand throughout the country. Calwa brand wines were bottled at the winery and sold only in glass;[64] if there was anything to object to in a bottle, at least the company stood behind it. Another forward-looking practice of the CWA was to avoid using European names for its wines. They might be described as "table claret" or "burgundy type" or "good old sherry type," but they were called by their own names—Winehaven, La Loma, Hill Crest, Vine Cliff. Not very imaginative, perhaps, but at least distinctive, and impossible to confuse with the wines of some other country. A few CWA wines were what we should now call varietals, and were identified as such: Vine Cliff, for example, was riesling; Hill Crest, a "finest old cabernet claret," selling, in 1910, for $8 a case.[65]

One of the unnoted casualties of the great San Francisco earthquake and fire was the plan of the CWA to mature specially selected California wines in its cellars to demonstrate to the trade what such care could do for the state's wines. These special selections were among those millions of gallons of wine destroyed in the fire, and the loss, according to a rival eastern winemaker, was "one of the greatest calamities that ever visited the California wine business."[66] Such wines, if they had survived to be distributed, would have made the reputation of the state, according to one who had been privileged to taste, a decade later, a few of the bottles that had escaped the general destruction.[67]

The CWA carried on an export program under the "Big Tree" brand of Cali-



The list of Calwa wines around 1910; these wines, blended to standard and bottled 
at the winery, were available for national distribution. Customers could, however, 
order wine from the California Wine Association in five-gallon casks or larger 
containers, freight prepaid to "the nearest main line railway depot." (From a 
California Wine Association brochure; Huntington Library)


fornia red and white wines, familiar items of commerce in England by the end of the century. "Big Tree" wines, sold in fiat-sided flagons of brown glass with the image of a huge sequoia stump blown in relief on one side, were advertised in the catalogue of London's elegant Harrod's store in 1895 thus: "Zinfandel, good table wine . . . very soft and round and free from acidity, most wholesome and bloodmaking," at 18 shillings a dozen. One notes the typical English recommendation—"most wholesome and bloodmaking"—on grounds of health rather than of pleasure. The number of old "Big Tree" bottles still available for sale in antique shops and at jumble sales in England attests to the success of the approach.

With the establishment of the California Wine Association, the wine industry in California had acquired the shape that, with little essential change, would continue down to the advent of Prohibition. The dominance of the CWA was such that its old competitors were absorbed into the system—notably the Italian Swiss Colony, which had been instrumental in forming the rival California Wine Makers' Association in 1894. By 1901 it was ready to slip quietly into the fold of the CWA. It retained, to all external appearances, its old identity, but its policies were now those of the CWA.[68]

Though it controlled the market by the power of its size, the CWA did not prevent others from joining the trade; there were, for example, 187 winemaking establishments in California in 1900 (the figure does not take account of the many farm producers), a considerable increase over the 128 in 1890, and most of these new establishments would have been created after the formation of the CWA. The figure of 181 reported in the 1910 census shows only a marginal decline from the point reached in 1900. Almost all of the new establishments would have been small enterprises, exploiting local markets and thus almost invisible on the national scale of the CWA's operations. The extent to which winemaking was still a domestic occupation is suggested by the national census of 1910, which reported that wine and grape juice were manufactured on 2,163 farms in California in 1909. One quite, large firm did arise in this period, however, the Italian Vineyard Company of Secondo Guasti, on the sandy slopes of the Cucamonga district east of Los Angeles. Beginning in 1900, Guasti was able to develop a vineyard that ultimately grew to some 5,000 acres and was, inevitably in California, proclaimed "The World's Largest"; the winery he built to receive the tide of grapes from his sea of vines had a capacity of five million gallons.[69]

The decades from the nineties down to Prohibition were not notable for innovation in the wine industry. Its position as a distinctive and favored element in the general economic system of California was well established after several generations of promotion, experiment, legislation, and hard work. Technical work went on quietly at the university, as it had done since 1880, but the pioneering on such basic matters as varietal selection, the identification of the different viticultural regions in the state, and the discovery of winemaking techniques adapted to California conditions had already been well begun. Such work is never finally done, but no remarkable changes were made in the general scheme of things in these years.


The notable change was only in the slow growth of wine production. In 1895, one year after the formation of the CWA, the state of California produced a little less than 18 million gallons of wine. There were great fluctuations in the annual production thereafter—the 31 million gallons of 1898, for example, were followed by a mere 19 million the next year—but overall the graph of production kept moving steadily up. There were 23 million gallons in 1900, 31 million in 1905, and 45 million in 1910. Production thus doubled in a decade, and in a state whose population in 1910 was only a little more than two and a quarter million, winemaking was evidently a matter of great importance. In the early days much, perhaps most, California wine was sweet; and so it would be again, after the repeal of Prohibition and down to 1967, when dry table wine at last edged ahead of the sweet wines. But in these prosperous decades before Prohibition, the wine of California was dry table wine, both red and white. The proportion was two to one in favor of table wine in 1900, and though the share of the sweet wines crept up in following years, it did not overtake table wine; it was 13 million against 18 million in 1905; 18 million against 27 million in 1910.[70]

The Growth of Related Trades and a Literature of Wine

To supply an industry on this scale, the trades related to winemaking gradually developed in California. Coopers, of course, had been in California almost from the beginning, for in a world without tin cans, paper boxes, plastic buckets, and cheap disposable bottles, the art of the cooper will be urgently required. The coopering skills available in California from an early period are suggested by the diploma awarded in 1857 at the Mechanics' Institute Industrial Exhibition to Eck & Chicolot of San Francisco for a brandy cask, "all of oak, in the French style, with willow-bound hoops, and of superior workmanship and good finish."[71] By the 1870s there was a specialized branch of the state's cooperage industry devoted to the needs of the wine trade: the Santa Rosa Planing Mill could produce tanks up to 5,000 gallons' capacity, and in San Francisco there was a rivalry between the firms of Fulda Brothers and David Woerner, both of which undertook to supply a complete range of locally manufactured wooden containers.[72] It is interesting to note that West Coast woods were not regarded as suitable for wine storage and aging. It was one of Haraszthy's claims that he had been the first to show that California redwood could be satisfactorily used to make the vats and barrels for California's wines.[73] If so, the demonstration was slow to take effect. The Committee on Wood Work and Cooperage of the Mechanics' Institute Exhibition reported in 1868 that the cost of casks was one of the heaviest expenses for winegrowers, and that "the discovery on the Pacific Coast of wood suitable for wine cooperage would be very valuable."[74] And twenty years later the complaint was still the same. The committee noted in 1888, apropos of David Woerner's exhibit of cooperage, that Woerner's factory, the largest on the coast, consumed an "incredible" quantity of lumber, most



Woerner's firm was the largest producer of cooperage on the West Coast, all of the 
work being done by hand, without machines. ( Pacific Rural Press , 20 February 1875)


of which would continue to be imported "until some adequate substitute for eastern oak is found."[75] There is no doubt that redwood was being used for wine cooperage; the Korbel brothers of the Russian River Valley in Sonoma County were advertising vats made from their redwood in 1885. But such vats were for fermenting, not for aging wine. It must have been later that what was done out of necessity came to seem a virtue and that California winemakers boasted of their redwood storage vats. The precipitous decline in the use of redwood storage in California in recent years confirms the earlier reluctance to use it.

The more complicated and specialized machines peculiar to the making of wine—crushers, stemmers, presses, and pumps, especially—required a little longer for local industry to provide. It is still true today, as a matter of fact, that the wine industry of the United States depends to an important extent on machines and supplies from Europe. Still, Californians made a beginning towards self-sufficiency in these things at least by the sixties; a press designed and made in California was being offered as early as 1863 by a Sacramento firm.[76] In the Mechanics' Institute Exhibition of 1869 were exhibited an "improved grape crusher and stem separator" and a hydraulic wine press.[77] There was, thereafter, a fairly steady number of entries at the annual exhibition of machines for winemaking, machines that grew more and more sophisticated and complex. The combined stemmer-crusher exhibited by Schoenstein & Klein in 1874, for example, improved on the old batch-process models by making a continuous feed possible: "With one of these machines nine tons of grapes have been crushed and the stems automatically discharged in a thoroughly separated condition without the necessity of stopping or varying the operation of the machine."[78] The early stemming devices in question were no doubt on the model of the perforated tray, the standard design until 1878, when the first design based on the revolving cylinder was introduced.[79] The exhibition of 1888 showed that the combining of multiple functions in compound machines had continued: two exhibitors in that year showed combined crushers, stemmers, and presses. The crusher operated with adjustable rubber rollers, and though the press was still the old basket style, it had the strength of the double-action lever principle.[80] At some indeterminate later date the continuous screw press was introduced; such presses were certainly in use in California before Prohibition, but they were not general.

The machines basic to the process of winemaking—crushers and presses—were naturally the staple items of manufacture, but in 1877 J. M. Curtis exhibited a "wine heater," that is, a pasteurizing mechanism suitable for wine.[81] It would be interesting to know how widely used the process was in nineteenth-century California. Special designs for vineyard tools were also experimented with: plows specially made for use in the vineyard were exhibited in the seventies and eighties, including the "Napa Plow Company's Vineyard Plow" in 1874, and a "side-hill vineyard plow" in 1884.[82] The first must pumps (as distinguished from ordinary force pumps) did not appear until 1896, and they made a significant difference to winery practice and winery design. Up to that time, a California winery was likely



An advertisement directed at the California wine trade in 1892: hydraulic presses were 
available by that time, but the traditional screw press went on being "improved." Small
 producers—and most were small producers— would not have needed anything more. 
(Pacific Rural Press . 8 October 1892)

to be sited against the side of a hill, so that grapes could be delivered directly to the top floor of the building to be crushed; thence the must could flow down to the fermenting and storage tanks by force of gravity. Often the means used to convey the must down from crusher to fermenting vat was an open wooden chute, so that the must was exposed to oxidation and contamination. A must pump allowed the use of pipes, to the greater protection of the must. At the same time, since gravity was no longer required as the moving force, wineries could move away from the hillsides to the flatlands, where they could be expanded or altered much more easily.[83]

It would be fair to say that by the end of the 1880s the California wine industry came close to being self-sufficient. Some materials had to be imported still: corks, most obviously.[84] but, as we have seen, wood from eastern oak too. The only



An arrangement for pasteurizing wine, from Pasteur's  Etudes sur le vin . Pasteurizing 
machinery was available to California winemakers by the 1870s, but it is doubtful 
whether many made use of it. (California State University, Fresno, Library)

chemical in much use for winegrowing and winemaking was sulfur—as a pesticidal dust in the vineyard, and as a disinfectant gas in the winery—and that had to be imported too, though there was some native supply.[85] Nurseries to supply the vines, coopers to make the necessary barrels and vats, foundries and iron works to make the machines, glass blowers to make the bottles, and printers to print the labels were all in good supply, and the scale of operation was large enough to allow at least some specialization. The Union Machine Company and the Atlas Iron Works in San Francisco, J. L. Heald of Crockett, Contra Costa County, and W. Worth in Petaluma all stood ready to provide the mechanical needs of wine-makers.[86] Heald was the leading specialist, who would undertake to advise on the design and equipment of an entire winery and to furnish the machines: presses, crushers, stemmers, elevators, pumps. The list of his customers in the early eighties is a roster of the industry: Krug, Beringer, Niebaum, Gundlach, De Turk, and so on.[87] Thus, a man who wanted to enter winemaking in California in, say, 1890, stood in a radically different position from a beginner just a generation before not only in technical knowledge but in equipment and supply. There was plenty of pioneering still to be done, but the pioneer was now surrounded by help.

The wine industry in California was recognized fairly quickly as a subject for journalism, and it was not long before it began to attract specialized publications to report its activities. Early newspapers, like the Star in Los Angeles, and the Alta California in San Francisco, took an interest in the state's winegrowing as early as


the 1850s: buried in their old files is much local detail about pioneer viticulture and winemaking that has not yet been exhumed. The general agricultural magazines of the state, such as the California Farmer (San Francisco, 1854-84) also made wine-growing a regular subject of coverage from an early period. The first periodical known to proclaim wine as a central item of its interest was a monthly called the California Wine and Wool Register , which began publication in Sacramento in January 1863 and expired at some indeterminate date not long thereafter. Close on its heels, and bearing almost the same name, was the California Wine, Wool and Stock Journal , published in San Francisco from 1863 to 1864. A Wine Dealer's Gazette began publication in San Francisco in 1871. Interest in the southern part of the industry was served, after 1877, by the Los Angeles journal called the Rural Californian . In 1879 the San Francisco Merchant began publication, without any special reference to the wine industry among its commercial subjects; in the early eighties, the boom in California vineyards brought about a change in emphasis, however, and beginning in 1884 the Merchant proclaimed itself "the only viticultural paper in the state." In 1889 the journal was renamed the Merchant and Viticulturist , and by this time it had come to dominate the field. In 1890 it was renamed again, now as the Pacific Wine and Spirit Review , and so continued down to its demise in 1919, a victim of Prohibition. It is remarkable that only the unimportant Wine Dealer's Gazette among these early periodicals was exclusively devoted to wine. Even in the state producing the overwhelmingly larger part of the country's wine there was not a large enough readership to sustain a journal entirely given over to the industry.

Final evidence for the settled establishment of winegrowing in California was its use as a literary subject. Wine in California, so far as I know, has not yet found its poet, the writer who will by the force of his passion and skill impose his vision on the popular mind. There have been many to try their hands in recent years, especially since about 1970. But the victor has not yet been crowned. The earliest venture that I know of was made by George H. Jessop with a story called Judge Lynch: A Tale of the California Vineyards , published in Chicago and London in 1889 .It is a poor affair, melodramatic and conventional; and though Jessop was a Californian, he shows no authentic understanding of the scene. The setting is somewhere in southern California, on the western slope of the Coast Range; a few purple patches of description about vines and wine cellars are sewn on to the fiction from time to time, though otherwise the story might just as well have transpired in the High Sierra—or in Patagonia, for that matter. But the book is at least interesting as evidence that California, as early as 1889, and as far away as London, was popularly thought of as a land of vineyards.

Climax and Collapse

The symbolic high point of California winegrowing before Prohibition overwhelmed it came, as in all well-made dramas, only shortly before the fall. In 1915.


when the shadow of Prohibition was already moving rapidly over the country, California seized on the opportunity provided by the newly opened Panama Canal to promote its climate, its industries, and its future through the great Panama-Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco; it was also a dramatic way for San Francisco to show the world how it had risen, phoenix-like, from the ashes of 1906. California's wine men, now pretty well seasoned in the business of international exhibitions, were ready to make the most of their chance to show their best on their own ground. This sort of thing, though impressive, was not new. What was uniquely outstanding was the gathering of the International Congress of Viticulture at the Panama-Pacific Exposition, a gesture of recognition and honor to the California wine industry.

The congress had been authorized two years earlier by the Permanent International Viticultural Commission in the last days of uneasy European peace. When the time came, of course, Europe had been almost a whole year at war, a war of a destructiveness never imagined before. The consequence was that the Californians, once again, saw their hopes for effective international publicity disappear: Europeans had other things to occupy themselves with in July 1915. As the afflicted Prosper Gervais, secretary of the Permanent Viticultural Commission, wrote to the Americans, "My son, my only son, is dead on the plains of Flanders. I cannot come."[88] The dark note of war and death that such poignant excuses created was intensified by the less brutal, but still oppressive, influence of the prohibition movement, an obsessive topic throughout the congress. And, adding to the other causes that damped the enthusiasm and spirit of the occasion, the federal government had just laid a new tax on brandy, jumping the rate from 3 cents a gallon to 55 cents: the producers of fortified wines in California loudly proclaimed their imminent ruin, and so added another shade of gloom to an atmosphere already dark enough.

Still, the affair was notable for its scope and for the evidence it gave of the achievements made not just by the California winegrowers but by those of the country generally. If the European representatives, who were the most active members of the Permanent Viticultural Commission, could not come, at least the rest of the United States could. The presiding officer was from Virginia; delegates came from thirteen states, and officials from experiment stations in a half dozen states as well as from the U.S. Department of Agriculture read papers to the congress. They showed quite impressively the state of knowledge to which the subjects of viticulture and enology had been carried in this country: there were papers on the technical topics of pruning, breeding, fertilizing, and other matters, as well as reports on grape diseases and grape pests, on the contributions of engineering to winemaking, and on advances in fermentation science. To all this were added a series of reports on the history and status of grape growing in the East, in California, and in developing regions such as Washington, Idaho, Oregon, and Utah. The programs were in the charge of the distinguished viticulturist and administrator U.P. Hedrick of the New York Agricultural Experiment Station and clearly reflected his interest in the subject of winegrowing throughout the country. His own


contribution to the congress described the work of the New York station in growing vinifera varieties in the East, two generations before the possibility of doing so again became a topic of current interest.

Though the delegates were sadly restricted in their numbers and in the variety of countries they represented, they were given the full honors of the state's hospitality. After they were shown the rival attraction of the San Diego Exposition, they were banqueted in Los Angeles, and then transported to the Stern Winery in Riverside and the Italian Vineyard Company's establishment at Guasti—there, in the company's "immense plant," they were given lunch in "the huge storage cellars." En route from Los Angeles to San Francisco, they stopped in Fresno, "where they were shown not only the important sweet wine plants, but also the raisin grape vineyards and the big packing houses": there would have been nothing like these things where they came from. Following the sessions of the congress proper, the delegates were taken on a further excursion to the great plant of the CWA at Wine-haven, on San Francisco Bay, and then had to return to the Exposition grounds for an official "wine day." The next day they went to Asti to view the much advertised tourist attractions of the Italian Swiss Colony, with its marvelous underground storage tank and its large-scale activities of every sort. There they lunched under the vine arbors of Andrea Sbarboro and submitted to be recorded on moving picture film.

The Congress of Viticulture was a well-earned compliment to the winemaking achievement of California in the relatively few years of its history. But if the achievement had been rapid, its destruction was rapider still. When, only a few years later, the official history of the Panama-Pacific Exposition came to be published, in five large and pretentious volumes, it gave the briefest description of the wine industry's exhibit and then dismissed the subject: "This is history—closed by the Eighteenth Amendment."[89]



Preferred Citation: Pinney, Thomas. A History of Wine in America: From the Beginnings to Prohibition. Berkeley:  University of California Press,  c1989 1989.