Wine History Project Collection

Collecting and preserving the artifacts that tell the story of the people, families, and businesses that have grown grapes and made wine in the region.

Grapes Mean Money; Tokay Means More Money

While measuring, photographing, looking for distinguishing marks on the various barrels in the Wine History Project’s collection, I stumbled upon a barrel marked with TOKAY. Here are some interesting tidbits of history from what might be behind the life of our barrels.

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This well-known tool has been made from almost everything from paper to stone. Our collection has six wonderful examples of various types of funnels once used in wineries or home winemaking. Read about the variety of funnels and the materials used in their construction and available “back in the day.”

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Stencil Wheel

From the late 1800s until the 1950s, grapes were sent to local markets mostly by wooden baskets, boxes or crates. A method was needed to legibly label crates and barrels. Here we look at tool to do just that.

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Vine Dusting Spraying

A division in the wine industry became evident; some “chemists” rejected the grafting solution that was determined to solve the destruction. They persisted with the use of pesticides and chemicals for the vineyards. I’m going to discuss in this article tools that were utilized to dust or spray those pesticides and chemicals on vineyards.

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Chamfers, Knives, and Shaves

This article continues on the same venue as the previous article written on “Chiv, Croze, or Howel,” in describing the hand tools used by coopers. The date range represented by these chamfers, knives, and shave tools in the Wine History Project’s collection are from the early 1800s through 1910.

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Spigots and Taps

Spigots control the flow of liquid from a large container and have been in use since ancient Greeks and Romans installed them in their bathhouses. The Wine History Project’s collection includes twelve different objects actively utilized between 1860 and 1910.

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Corking Tools

Wine bottles get corked, with corks made of cork. This wasn’t always the case; but when it became important for better wine storage and delivery, the dilemma to be solved was how could one insert and fix a cork into a wine bottle easier?

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Prohibition Stills and Mash

Gallon stills, bottles, malt syrup, corn sugar, corn syrup, hops, yeast, bottle cappers, and concentrated grapes were legally sold in hardware and grocery stores. Licensed doctors were permitted to prescribe distilled spirits, wine, and whiskey as treatments for ailments, with a limitation of one pint every ten days.

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Protective Service Membership Signs

In the 1920s, the formation of associations and co-ops was widespread in America. Many voluntary citizen cooperatives banded together to solve the problems of crime and lobbying for legislation. Agricultural publishing organizations created membership groups that kept farmers informed and connected them with a larger community

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Prohibition: Fruit Industries, Ltd.

Fruit Industries, Ltd. was a non-profit, co-operative agricultural association organized in 1929 with the merger of several winemaking concerns, including the California Wine Association, into a single organization in an effort to bring order to the then chaotic California grape industry.

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Yankee No. 7 Bar-mounted Cork Puller and Re-Corker, circa 1910

The bar-mounting corkscrew is a fascinating tool that had multiple upgrades with many patents in its evolvement. A general description would say that the clamps hold the bottle in place and the helix, in one up and down motion, extracts the cork from the bottle. They are screwed or clamped to the counter. Most early mounted corkscrews were designed to open beer bottles with short corks. Modern ones are made for longer wine corks.

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Woodman’s Bingham Bee Smoker, circa 1910

Where once plants were a negative competition for the vines, many growers are now more aware of creating an ecosystem in their vineyards that is the foundation for a holistic approach. Because of the healthy ecosystem, it seems that bees are now encouraged to come and feed on the pollen. The discovery has been that bees encourage beneficial insects and discourage the need for chemicals and pesticides. This is a dramatic shift.

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Gaskell & Chambers Barrel Depth Measure, c 1910

This tool, also known as a barrel dipstick or dipping rule, was used to measure barrel depth and calculate the container volume. It includes six rods in a leather-case that when joined together form a single 60-inch rod. Each individual ten-inch boxwood rod is capped with metal fittings that allow the pieces to be screwed together

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Nicolas House Annual Wine Catalogues

In order to drink wine in the nineteenth century and during the reign of Louis XVIII (monarch of the House of Bourbon, King of France 1814 – 1824), one had to drink it on the spot in cabarets or wine shops. To drink wine at home, the option was to buy a barrel of wine from a merchant. A man named Louis Nicolas, created the concept of bottled wine that transformed the habits of consumption.

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About Our Collection

The Wine History Project of San Luis Obispo has a collection from the 19th, 20th, and 21st centuries that includes: advertising posters, audio tapes, signs and catalogs, barrels and puncheons, books, bottle dryers, cellar tools, cooper tools, corkers and cork presses, corkscrews, enology meters and instruments, ephemera, grape crushers, grape presses, scales, spigots and taps, vineyard tools, funnels, personal family papers, photographs, pipettes, transfer pumps, augers, videos, and wine bottles.

LEFT: Cindy Lambert, Collections Manager, processing corkscrew collection