About the Wine History Project
In 2015 Libbie Agran established the Wine History Project to study the land, microclimates, grape varietals, growers and winemakers who have shaped the wine history of San Luis Obispo County. Today the Wine History Project is staffed by historians and museum professionals who collaborate with a diverse group of advisors and founders. We continue to document and preserve the unique wine and food history of San Luis Obispo County.
San Luis Obispo’s wine history begins in the late 1700s when the Franciscans brought vines and winemaking from Spain to establish two of the most successful mission vineyards in California. Following the California gold rush, farmers from around the world settled here to plant grains, fruit trees, almonds, walnuts and hundreds of grape varietals in a diversity of microclimates and soils. Commercial winemaking was established in San Luis Obispo by Pierre Hypolite Dallidet by the 1860s on the property where his home is still preserved. Since that time, innovative and enterprising growers and winemakers have had a significant influence on the economy of California and wine culture world-wide.
We believe in actively engaging the public to educate and delight them in discovering San Luis Obispo County’s distinctive wine and food history.
Our approach to preserving wine and food history begins with investigating historical publications, documents, and photographs. By studying the grape varietals planted in San Luis Obispo County over the last 200 years and the record of the land use, the story of the wine grape and its history begins to emerge.
Central to our research is the process of interviewing growers and winemakers who have shaped the wine history of SLO County. It is through these relationships that we build upon the story of wine in our county – a story that without diligent documentation and preservation will soon be lost. We collect and archive historical photographs and documents as well as actively photograph and video wineries, vineyards, growers and winemakers to preserve their history.
The Wine History Project has acquired a significant permanent collection, most notably historical vineyard tools and winemaking equipment dating from as early as 1860, rare wine bottles and labels, and items related to the unique history of Zinfandel Wine as our heritage grape.
Our collections are processed and managed in accordance with national standards and best practices for museums as developed by the American Alliance of Museums and the American Association for State and Local History.
Lectures & Events
The Wine History Project produces lectures and events throughout the year. Through collaboration with Sarah Lohman, Amelia Saltsman, and local historians the Food History Project holds a monthly lecture series and food history weeks.
Exhibitions & Publications
Our first exhibit, Doing Good and Living Well: Archie McLaren and the Central Coast Wine Classic, celebrated Archie, winemakers, chefs, artists, volunteers, and the wines which shaped the wine history and culture of San Luis Obispo County. It was on exhibit from October 2017 through April 2018 at the History Center of SLO County.
Our second exhibit, the 19th Century Wine History Timeline, opened on April 6, 2018 and will be on display in the Dallidet Gardens through November 2018.
ZIN|SLO, our first traveling exhibition opened at the Dallidet Adobe and Gardens on June 9, 2018. It features the heritage grape of SLO County, Zinfandel, its mysterious origins and voyage to SLO County, and documents Zinfandel growers Richard Sauret, Dante and Benito Dusi and winemakers Gary Eberle, Janell Dusi, Bill Greenough, Tom Myers, and the Bill York.
For 2019, exhibitions on Prohibition and the rise of home winemaking, Italian-Americans and their influence on regional wine and agriculture are in the works. An expanded exhibition of Wine Becomes Art will be shown at SLOMA in March 2019.
We are developing print publications related to these exhibits. The first will be Off the Wall and Ahead of the Curve: How Archie McLaren Brought the Central Coast Wine Revolution to the World.
The Wine History Project collaborates with universities, historical societies, growers, farmers, winemakers, wineries, festivals, Zinfandel Advocates and Producers, and food historians Sarah Lohman and Amelia Saltsman. We are members of ZAP, Paso Robles Historical Society, South County Historical Society, IGGPRA, SLOwine.com, American Alliance of Museums, and the American Association for State and Local History.