The Wine History Project of San Luis Obispo County is always looking for places to showcase the wonderful historic objects which contributed to the settlement of California and the development of a wine culture in the county. What better place than one of the earliest Ranchos in the area? The Mexican government controlled Alta California from 1832 to 1846. The settlement of this California territory was encouraged by granting large land areas to native-born and naturalized Mexican citizens. These land grants granted permanent ownership to male citizens. Mexico issued 27 permanent land grants between 1833 and 1846. These ranchos with land boundaries were mapped and became the basis for the California land survey system. The ranchos were devoted to raising cattle and sheep and agriculture.
Most of the land-grants in San Luis Obispo County were made by the Mexican government. The Nipomo grant was given to William Goodwin Dana and was originally 37,887.91 acres. Captain Dana eventually built an adobe on the Rancho. The Rancho was the center of commerce, hospitality, and trade in San Luis Obispo County. Dana was a highly respected sea captain, businessman and rancher. He and his wife, Maria Josefa, had 21 children of which 13 survived to adulthood.
When Captain Dana passed away in 1858, his wife, Maria Josefa Carrillo kept ownership of the land, but eventually after her death in 1887 the land-grant was subdivided among the heirs of William G. Dana. Over 100 years later, the Dana Adobe Nipomo Amigos (the DANA non-profit organization) acquired the property in 1999 with the initial focus to save the crumbling historic adobe.
With much restoration, donations, renovation, and preservation, the Dana Adobe is an important landmark as the oldest home in San Luis Obispo County. Volunteers and the Dana’s descendants have researched the history, restored the adobe, acquired additional land for hiking trail and exhibits, furnished the house, planted orchards and a Heritage Mission Vineyard to tell the story of life on the rancho. The Wine History Project is participating in this project.
The Dana Cultural Center was completed in 2016 with gallery space, a commercial kitchen, and administrative offices to host events and exhibits. The State of California Nature Education helped to fund this contemporary building with a grant in 2014.
During August 2023, the Wine History Project of San Luis Obispo County donated four of our wine artifacts to the collection of the Dana Adobe & Cultural Center (Casa de Dana) for use in exhibitions or for educational purposes. These four objects are on display in the Cultural Center. Here is the description of each. You can visit the Dana Adobe and Cultural Center. Check for times and events at www.danaadobe.org.
Wine History Project (WHP) Collection
Materials: oak, cast iron
94” L x 22” W x 24” H
This is a vintage field or vineyard, row plow. It is in excellent condition with original paints and was found at an old Petaluma ranch. There are no maker marks. The Wine History Project is donating this plow to the Dana Adobe for an exhibit that describes agricultural practices during the rancho period.
From my research, I discovered some information in the Thompson West book from 1883 by Myron Angel regarding Captain Dana.
“At the blacksmith shop he made such improvements in plows as quite (sic) astonished the Californians, creating a revolution in agriculture in that quarter of the county, but, singularly enough, it did not spread to any great extent. The people were accustomed to the arid, usually a section of a small tree, having a limb of sufficient length for a pole reaching to the yoke of the oxen drawing it, one end of the body sharpened to scratch the ground and the other fixed for the handle. Dana made such plows as he had seen in his youth, which, though very crude, were a great improvement upon the pointed stick of ancient Biblical times used by the Californians, and were in use until the Americans brought in the new styles of modern times.”
Woman in a plowed vineyard. Photo taken in 1935 and is from the Wine Institute Collection at the Wine History Project of San Luis Obispo County
The plow shown in the photo was held in the WHP collection. We obtained this massive vineyard tool in the summer of 2018 where it was found on an old Petaluma, California ranch. It is in excellent condition with original paints and was utilized for field or vineyard row planting.
As one can see in the photo above, there is a cast iron fitting to connect to the horse and the same material is used for the blade of the plow. Oak is used for the body and the handles of the plow. This oak is painted red and blue, and from my deliberation these are the original colors, though now faded.
The plow is nearly eight feet long and close to two feet from handle to handle; these handles being two feet tall. Think about it. This would make for a bent-over handling while working the tool, following that horse!
Portuguese Grape Press
Materials: cast iron, sheet iron
52” H x 24” W x 21” Diameter
There are two parts to this press. This unusual and rare grape press is in excellent condition and working order. There is no mark identifying who created the object or what town it came from. I have been informed that this type of press was from Portugal.
With a long tradition of winemaking, Portugal is among the world’s top 10 producers. The vast quantity of native grape varieties (more than 250) allows the production of a great diversity of wines with very distinct personalities. Portugal is one of the countries on the list of the world’s great wine producers.
The basket press like this one donated from our collection is the gentlest press for grapes as it extracts the highest quality juice which often does not need fining.
Materials: cast iron, oak
Circa: 1880s to 1890s
58” H x 30” Diameter
This is an early grape press with a simple pressing system. Old but the object has later paints. Cast-iron head on an acme-forcing screw that let one put a lot of force on the grapes, ensuring high juice yields. This grape press was found in the Calistoga Collection. The Wine History Project purchased this artifact in 2018 in Sonoma County.. This press unlocks and comes apart to unload the press for cleaning. In this photo one can see the acme-forcing screw. California has a large population from Portugal and the Azores who settled along the California coast and in the Central Valley working as fisherman, farmers, and dairymen in the late 1800s and early 1900s.
Calistoga is a small city in California’s Napa Valley, right next door to Sonoma County. The area is known for hot springs, mud baths and wineries. Could this press be from the famous Schramsberg Vineyards? Who knows. Schramsberg’s history dates to the 19th century when German immigrant Jacob Schram first made his home and started his winery there. He purchased 200+ acres of the Mt. Diamond property from the government. He also built caves at the location; in 1870 Chinese laborers dug Napa’s first hillside caves for wine aging. Construction for a second set of cellar tunnels began in 1881. In 1890 Schramsberg produced 540,000 lbs of grapes from 100 acres of vineyards. This harvest produced approximately 28,361 cases of wine;
Materials: poplar, oak, cast iron
61” H x 30” L
This is a combination grape press/crusher and was also obtained in 2018 in Sonoma County. The bottom supports appear to have been rebuilt. It is in excellent condition. The markings show that the artifact was made by the Silver Manufacturing Co. in Salem, Ohio. There are some green paints on the object as can be seen in this photo.
The Silver Manufacturing Co. was created when Silver & Deming Manufacturing Co. split in 1890 to form The Deming Company (manufacturers of brass pumps, hydraulic machinery and well supplies) and the Silver Manufacturing Company. A. R. Silver and his sons owned the main interest in this new company. An 1890s newspaper article about the company states that in that year a new factory was built about that time and the company made feed cutters, saw gummers, wagon-makers tools, butcher’s tools, blacksmith’s tools, etc.
The press/crusher from the WHP collection that is now in the Dana collection is in good working condition.
If you have an interest in learning more about the artifacts which reside in the Wine History Project’s collection, please feel free to review some of the articles in the “Objects” category of our website which you can find here or feel free to contact me at email@example.com.