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

13 California: Growing Pains and Growing Up

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]


13 California: Growing Pains and Growing Up

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