Pacific Rural Press Masthead
This article was found in the Pacific Rural Press, dated September 5, 1874 without acknowledging an author. At the time Pacific Rural Press was published by Dewey Publishing Company, 330 Market Street, San Francisco. The principal editor was Warren B. Ewer.

The Pacific Rural Press (1871 – 1894), later known as the California Fruit Bulletin (1894-1910) was published to promote California farming, agriculture and horticulture. The publication was founded by Alfred T. Dewey and Warren B. Ewer, who were transplanted printers from Massachusetts. It was originally a weekly publication (on Saturdays).

A shortened biography of Edward James Wickson is important here. Wickson moved from New York to California in 1875 to join the Pacific Rural Press. Soon after, in 1879, he joined the University of California as a lecturer in practical agriculture and worked in the UC system for 33 years. He continued writing for the periodical until 1894 when he was named a special contributor and finally editor in 1899.

Wickson wrote several articles and books on the agricultural topics of the day, on fruit and vegetable crops, and historical topics like the state’s agricultural roots in the Spanish mission system. He was an advocate for Luther Burbank (1849-1926) and his experimental horticulture. Burbank was a pioneer in agricultural science and in his 55-year career he developed more than 800 varieties of plants. In 1875 he traveled to Santa Rosa, California from his native Massachusetts and purchased a four-acre plot of land establishing a greenhouse, nursery, and experimental fields where he would begin to conduct experiments on plants. He eventually became known for his plant catalogs.

In 1906, Wickson became the Dean of the University of California’s College of Agriculture succeeding Eugene Woldemar Hilgard. Additionally, Wickson also became the director of the Agricultural Experiment Station.

Quotes from the article

One of the most successful grape-growers of Los Angeles recently called at our (sic) editorial rooms and we had a very pleasant chat about matters pertaining to grapes. This gentleman claims to be the first grape-grower to adopt the non-irrigation system.

His place being up in the foothills, where surface water was not available, and where it could not be reached by digging 125 feet, there was a “poor shot” for his grape vines obtaining the moisture which was supposed to be indispensable (sic) to their growth. Some parties encouraged him with the suggestion that the vines might possibly thrive if they could be thoroughly irrigated up to the first of July; while others went so far as to hope that watering up to the first of June would do. But our friend could not depend on water after the first of May; still he planted a few vines depending on the limited amount of water which he could supply from buckets. It is generally conceded that the vines do best on the somewhat dry foothills, when they are once established there, but it is generally believed that they require a liberal supply of water for one season, at least. But the gentleman alluded to prove that the vine, even in its first season’s growth, needs but little water. It manifests at once an affinity for its natural home, the hill side.

It has been proven that the vine can thrive without irrigation; and that the fruit is better without it. The grape-root naturally strikes deep, very deep; and it is probably from its lower depths that it obtains the richness and fine flavor that the fruit possesses. Although the roots of the vine naturally strike deep, they will be attracted to the surface if the vines are irrigated. As a consequence of the roots imbibing this artificial moisture, the juice of the grape becomes too watery; and the fruit, obtaining sustenance from the surface soil, does not possess richness or flavor whole reservoirs are located deeper down in the earth. The wine from grapes grown under irrigation does not possess the character or keeping the qualities of that produced under more natural circumstances; and but little of even natural moisture is desirable.

We have tasted of several (sic) varieties of the wine, and also of the brandy, produced by the gentleman alluded to above, and find (sic) them of a superior quality. The quality of the unpressed grapes grown on the red hills of Nevada county–the soil and situation being decidedly similar to those where the fruit under consideration was grown—was known to us; and we were not surprised to find the wine of our Los Angeles friend of a corresponding richness and flavor. It has long been the opinion of many that such localities, offering but little encouragement for growing grain and some other crops, are destined to be the favored spots for grape culture.

Since the peculiar grape-producing merits of certain localities have been demonstrated by the experience of Californians, our people are not so incredulous about the marked variation said to exist in the quality of wines produced in localities separated merely by a range of hills or a river.

The difficulty of realizing how places in such close proximity could produce the same article, under the same treatment, yet differing in so marked a degree in strength and flavor, arose principally from the point of observation, the difference in the products being supposed to depend mainly on the climate. But soil, we apprehend, gives character to the grape; and anyone who has worked the soil is aware of the great difference which a trifling separation will sometimes produce.

Read about soils and terroir in San Luis Obispo County in the following book:
Paso Robles: An American Terroir by Thomas J. Rice, Ph.D. and Tracy G. Cervellone, C.W.E.; 2007.

Another book on the topic.
American Terroir: Savoring the Flavors of our Woods, Waters, and Fields by Rowan Jacobsen; 2010.