The dense redwood forests and foggy summers of California’s northernmost coastal county have not attracted many winegrowers in its history. There are, however, small sheltered valleys like the Smith River Valley, where such an undertaking can survive — though vineyard statistics were most often counted in number of vines rather than acres. In 1858 Frenchman Horace Gasquet (1828–1896), called one of the most colorful pioneer characters of Del Norte Co, purchased 320 acres on the Smith River, far enough inland to be protected from the chilling northern coastal fogs 18 miles away in Crescent City. His place would become known as Gasquet. Here he and his newly acquired French wife built a hotel, established the “Finest Summer Resort in Northern California,” set out a French farm with fruits, vegetables and animals, planted a vineyard, built a winery, and flourished. He also continued his successful mule pack-train business serving the gold fields of southern Oregon. In addition, by the beginning of the 20th century, the enterprising Gasquet ran a post office, constructed a 23-mile toll road with a toll house, operated a stage line and a Smith River ferry.

Gasquet Stage Station, Smith River, Del Norte Co.

Gasquet Stage Station, Smith River, Del Norte Co.

This exciting 1911 postcard captures a perfect portrait, while our descriptive traveler writes on the back, “Gasquet on the Way to Crescent City. May 25th. Second night on our trip across the coast range. Our trip today much pleasanter than yesterday altho quite cool. We have a nice large room, two beds, fire in the stove & all conveniences for our comfort. The largest house pictured is the living house, dining room & kitchen. The white streak is the Smith River. — Lovingly, Mother.”

Gasquet. Historic Buildings Built in 1854

Gasquet Historic Buildings Built In 1854

What a wonderful historical sight this is! A superb, very rare real-photo postcard of the three major buildings at Gasquet c1930 taken by the famed photographer of Redwood Highway scenes, Frank Patterson. The far-left building is the original 1858 cabin; in the middle is the enlarged c1870 structure; on the right is the “Redwood House” c1880. The Gasquet Winery is located in the area behind the middle building, where the vineyard ran up the slope we cannot see. Passing in front of the buildings is the Gasquet Station section of the Toll Road between Crescent City and Grants Pass, Oregon. Local historian Don Chase, in his invaluable, detailed history titled Gasquet. The Man, the Place & the Road, records, with photos, the 1959 razing of these historic Gasquet buildings. Wine historian Ernest Peninou never mentioned to me, as best as I can recall, that he was here to witness this day, but he did note that at the time, a few grape vines still survived on the hillside, despite more than a half-century of neglect.

75 Year Old Grape Arbor, Gasquet Camp c1930.

75 Year Old Grape Arbor, Gasquet Camp c1930

When this very rare, and first postcard view of Gasquet was found, I was ecstatic to see this evidence of grape growing. Later, I learned this ancient vinery was located across the toll road from the three main Gasquet buildings. But this was not his 4-acre vineyard listed in the 1880 Agriculture Census report. Mr. Peninou writes: In the 1850s, Horace Gasquet built his wooden wine cellar adjacent to his four-acre vineyard that extended along a sunny slope above his hostelry. He annually produced about 200 gallons of wine and maintained both his vineyard and winery until his death in 1896. [History of the Sonoma Viticultural District, Peninou & Unzelman, 1998]

Gasquet Winery, Built by Horace Gasquet, Early 1850s.

Gasquet Winery, Built By Horace Gasquet, Early 1850s

This priceless c1880 photograph of the Gasquet Winery is the only one ever seen. It appeared in the first history of Del Norte Co, History of Del Norte County with Business Directory & Traveler’s Guide by A. J. Bledsoe, 1881. His book included an 1879 full-page advertisement for Gasquet’s Summer Resort that included a center photo of the proud Proprietor, Horace Gasquet.