Gerd and Ilsabe Klintworth, both born in Hanover Germany, immigrated to Orange, Southern California, in their late twenties, to live and work in the famous Mission grape growing Anaheim Colony. In 1883, the year Gerd went to work for the Boston Company, Pierce Disease was detected in the vineyards. In 1886 Gerd and his new bride moved to the Linne District east of Paso Robles, bought 80 acres, and successfully farmed grains, cattle, and grapes for four generations. Gerd is credited with the first to bring grain farming to the area; Gerd was the first winemaker to be licensed in the Linne District.
Contributions to San Luis Obispo County Wine History
Brought professional vineyard management skills to San Luis Obispo County.
Brought knowledge of vineyards irrigation systems to the Linne District.
Shared knowledge of farming Zinfandel and Mission grape varieties with local farmers.
Shared his experience and expertise of winemaking and winemaking equipment; purchased high-quality equipment including the grape press that has since been donated to the Pioneer Museum in Paso Robles.
Developed his own wine label – the first label in the Linne District and one of the earliest local wine labels in the collection of the Wine History Project. Two bottles with his labels are on display at the Pioneer Museum of Paso Robles.
Established the first bonded winery in the Linne District.
Knowledge of soil and climate enabled him to plant successful orchards of peaches, plums, pears, almonds, and ten acres of vineyards in the Creston area. There is no record that Gerd participated in the UC Agriculture Experiment from 1889 to 1902, but it is likely that many of the grape varieties he planted were sourced from the project. The progress of Gerd’s orchards and vineyards are reported in the final report of the UC Experiment dated 1902.
Sold his grapes and wines to the public and was known for a variety of white and red grapes and wines.
Maintained healthy vineyards during Prohibition.
Sold grapes to local wineries including Pesenti and Rotta for five decades.
Participated in building the German Lutheran Community and German culture in the Geneseo area.
The Klintworth family farmed in the Paso Robles area for four generations, under the guidance Gerd Klintworth into the mid-1930s.
The house and farm remained in the Klintworth family, until the sale in 1997, over a century – 111 years.
Legend Gerd Klintworth
Gerd was born on March 8, 1858, in Hanover, Germany. He died in 1941 in Orange, California. Gerd emigrated to the United States and worked in viticulture, wine production, and distribution, as well as farming grain and cattle in both what is now Orange County and in San Luis Obispo County. He provided invaluable knowledge and expertise on viticulture and winemaking as a settler in the Geneseo District near Creston which he shared with other farmers in the area.
His wife, Ilsabe Meier Klintworth was born in 1860 in Hanover, Germany and died in 1933 in Orange, California. The WHP was not able to learn much about her early background other than she loved music and played the piano.
Gerd was the son of John Klintworth, a farmer in Germany, who provided his young son with a valuable introduction to the science of agriculture. Gerd went to school in Germany and then returned to work on his father’s farm until 1883 when he decided to emigrate to the United States. Gerd served in the German Army with a local unit from 1879 to 1881. There is no record that he served in on the front lines in the Franco-Prussian War from July 19, 1870, to May 10, 1871. Gerd served in the German Unit in 1881 known as the 2nd Ernatz, Altona. Gerd is wearing a particular helmet; further research may enable us to determine his rank. The unit appears to be a local municipal unit.
The Gold Rush of 1849 attracted over 300,000 people to California. Few found their fortunes in gold; most decided to strike out for other areas of California to settle and make their living as farmers, merchants or cattlemen. A large German population made their homes in San Francisco working in a variety of jobs and businesses in the early 1850s.
In 1883 Gerd emigrated to the United States and settled in Los Angeles County in the “Anaheim Colony” in Orange, California rather than San Francisco. The economy of California during the mid-1800s was based on agriculture and cattle. The cattle industry faced a number of challenges in Southern California and in the 1850s many of the large ranchos established under Mexican occupation were divided and sold in smaller parcels to the newer settlers. Grapes were grown commercially throughout Los Angeles and San Bernardino Counties from the early 1800s on, building on the foundation of grape growing in the Mission Vineyards established by Father Serra and the Franciscan padres for religious sacramental wine. Grape growing and winemaking increased dramatically as grapes became more important in the California economy in the area Gerd chose as his new home. Most likely Gerd had contacts in this community that encouraged him to settle there. A number of Klintworth relatives and their decedents lived and still live in Orange County. Gerd and his wife chose to retire in the community in the early twentieth century.
The Anaheim Colony was formed in association with two German musicians known as Kohler and Frohling who also became successful wine merchants and saw an opportunity to source more grapes by planting vineyards in Los Angeles County where there was plenty of land and a history of successful and bountiful grape production. However, labor would be needed; Kohler and Frohling knew that the German community in San Francisco had failed to make their fortunes in the goldfields and were wary of the violence in the San Francisco neighborhoods in which they lived.
George Hansen, former Los Angeles County surveyor, was recruited as general manager to meet with the Germans to offer Southern California as an alternative home. The Los Angeles Vineyard Society was founded by George Hansen and German investors in San Francisco in 1857 with 50 shares issued at $1400 each to raise the capital needed to buy land and divide it into 20-acre parcels with at least eight devoted to vineyards. Irrigation would be needed, mission vines would be planted and a six-foot fence, 40,000 feet in length, built to surround and protect the Colony. Hansen developed the project and the Germans continued working in San Francisco until they were able to claim their 20 acres parcels in 1859. According to newspaper articles of the time, the Colony was peaceful, productive and prosperous. The crops and Mission grapes thrived in the good soil and warm climate and “the wine was fine,” although there are differences of opinion about quality. Los Angeles County had two-thirds of all the vines planted in the State of California in 1860. The greater area was known as the Southern Vineyard. As phylloxera spread across Europe, vineyard plantings increased rapidly to meet the demands for grapes.
Each winemaker operated his own business; by 1883 when Gerd emigrated to the area, there were 10,000 acres of vineyards growing primarily Mission grapes for wine and table grapes; the 50 wineries produced more than a million gallons. This area of Southern California was a well-established German community, known as the Anaheim Colony, famous worldwide for the German population and culture that thrived there. Breweries and wineries made their beverages in the German styles. German cuisine was served in restaurants and in the home with crops supporting this culinary movement grown locally.
Gerd arrived in 1883 just as the first signs of disease were detected on the Mission vines. Other grape varieties were not affected. It is not yet known if Gerd owned land or a vineyard in the colony. Gerd found employment with the Boston Company and worked setting out 360 acres of vineyards.
The Wine History Project could not find records describing the Boston Company as a business but did find records of wine being made in Boston in the nineteenth century. (One company reported producing 20,000 gallons annually from the native grapes growing along the Charles River in Boston.) It is much more likely that the Boston Company was a nursery that sold vines and/or planted vines in Southern California for nursery stock and for grape production. The nurseries that propagated some of the first commercial vines sold in California originated in Boston and brought vines to San Francisco shortly after 1850 according to the ship logs of a merchant seaman and Sea Captain F. W. Macondray. We do know, for example, that nurserymen William and George West imported forty varieties of grapes from Boston in 1853 and planted them in San Joaquin Valley, founding one of the great vineyards of the nineteenth century, El Pinal Vineyard. Most of the early vineyards in the San Joaquin Valley sourced vines from the West Brothers.
Gerd Klintworth married his wife Ilsabe Meier Klintworth on June 13, 1886, in Los Angeles, California. The wedding portrait, taken by a professional, shows both bride and groom dressed in fine clothing. The marriage certificate is written in a detailed and beautiful document which must have been commissioned. It is not known if they traveled together from Germany or if they met in Orange.
When the Anaheim area was struck by the Anaheim “blight” now known as Pierce Disease, Gerd must have seen his livelihood destroyed. The vineyard community and winemaking suddenly collapsed within 1886. By 1886 the financial loss exceeded ten million dollars in the region. Many farmers removed their vineyards and focused on new crops, particularly nut and citrus trees.
However, Gerd and Ilsabe decided to relocate to a new area in 1886. Gerd traveled north with a business partner to look for new opportunities in California and settled on land in San Luis Obispo County. He and his partner purchased 80 acres and divided the parcel. He returned to Orange to move his new bride to their new home in the Geneseo area which was located east of Paso Robles, near the community of Creston. Geneseo was a settlement of German Lutherans farmers. Farmers and their families who had arrived during the previous two years. Most of the German Lutheran settlers had come to the area after seeing advertisements in their local newspapers, as far away as Illinois, offering fertile farmland at a good price to anyone who wanted to establish a German Lutheran Community. The Geneseo community was a small cluster of buildings located on Geneseo Road just north of Creston Road, with the church and later a parish hall and schoolhouse.
Gerd and a partner bought 80 acres of land which had been part of the Huerhuero Ranch which they divided to farm, each on his own land. Gerd later bought his partner’s share.
Gerd built a two-story house of wood and painted it white. The redwood lumber was shipped to Port Hanford in Avila and brought by wagon to the farm. It was built on a foundation with a wine cellar beneath. The door to the wine cellar was just north of the house. The bottom floor of the home contained a living room, dining room bedroom, bedroom, and kitchen. Ilsabe brought furnishings including a piano. The upstairs had one large bedroom for the children with a curtain dividing the sleeping area between the sons and daughters. The well with a windmill to pump the water was drilled 30 feet away. The privy was further away, near the vegetable garden. Across the driveway, the blacksmith shop and barn for the horses and Tatter the donkey were soon constructed.
The 40 acres that Gerd first settled on were laid out with the vineyard planted in 1886 or 1887. The mythology often written in San Luis Obispo County articles is that Gerd made his first wine in 1886. Gerd did not move to San Luis Obispo County until the fall of 1886. It is more likely that he planted his vineyards in 1887 and made his first wines from the 1889 or 1890 harvest based on the activity and growing season in the Linne District.
Another local myth often states that Gerd was the first to grow the Burger grape and make white wine in North County. The Wine History Project has documented James Anderson as the first to grow the Burger grape and make white wine at his winery at the base of York Mountain. James Anderson purchased his property and planted crops in 1879. He founded his winery on his property in the early 1880s.
The UC Agriculture Experiment Project was founded in 1889 and Gerd would have had access to many more varieties of vines than he originally planted in his vineyard just west of his home.
Gerd was known for his wine, and he must have acquired his winemaking experience from his days in the Anaheim Colony. He planted his vineyards on ten acres. The wines we can document that he made were Zinfandel, Claret, Port, and Muscatel. We know that Gerd is considered to be the first winemaker to be licensed by the State of California to sell jug wine in North County. We do know that Pierre Hypolite Dallidet of San Luis Obispo, who grew a variety of grapes, was the first licensed winemaker in San Luis Obispo County. The Wine History Project is searching historic records to find the listings with the dates that the early winemakers were licensed or bonded to produce and sell wine in the new state of California. The vineyards Gerd planted with a variety of wine and table grapes including Tokay still exist on Feenstsra Road, just west of Cripple Creek Road.
Gerd did purchase the 40 acres from his partner to restore his parcel to the original 80 acres. In addition to his home and blacksmith shop, Gerd raised grain and cattle. He planted orchards with deciduous fruits including peaches, pears, plums, and almonds that were very successful in the year 1917. Local agricultural historians credit the Klintworth and Ernst families for establishing grain farming in the Geneseo District. Gerd continued to expand his cattle and grain farming; he purchased 212 more acres and rented 500 acres on the Huerhuero Ranch. Gerd used a horse to pull his equipment and later discussed the most significant change in his lifetime as the transition from horse-drawn equipment to the use of large tractors and self-propelled combines.
Gerd had capital to invest in his wine business. He installed a wine press which was in use well into the twentieth century. He used a variety of tools including the wooden fork and the wine press to crush the grapes; the wine was fermented and stored in wooden barrels with opening plugged with round wooden bungs. His grandson Robert told the Wine History Project that the wine was stored in the cellar in barrels which just recently were removed by the new owners.
Gerd grew table grapes and wine grapes. He made wine for commercial sale until Prohibition. He probably made wine for home consumption during the years of Prohibition from 1920 to 1933. After the Prohibition, Gerd sold his grapes to local wineries including the Pesenti and Rotta Wineries in Templeton. The vineyards remained in production until the family home and farm were sold in 1997. The old Klintworth vineyards are still vital with some very old vines still producing. You will recognize them as they have no stakes or trellis wires supporting them.
The current owners continue to harvest the grapes from the old Klintworth vineyards and make wine in their own winery, Bovino which located at 5685 El Pomar in Templeton.
Gerd and Ilsabe’s family soon grew to include seven children: Henry, Emma, Fred, Chris, Mary, Minna, and William. All the children worked on the farm, went to school in the Geneseo Schoolhouse and many rode the donkey, Tatters, to school through neighboring fields. Their four sons remained in the county and worked in farming their entire lives.
The third-generation diversified. Chris Klintworth’s son Robert continues to raise cattle on his own ranch on Cripple Creek Road around the corner from the original homestead on Cripple Creek Road. The family house and farm remained in the family until 1997. Henry was born, lived his entire life as a bachelor and died in the house on Feenstra Road.
Gerd was an active member in the community, joining into politics as a Republican and serving as an elder at the German Lutheran Church in Geneseo. The entire family has participated actively supporting Paso Robles, the Pioneer Museum and local friends and family.
Gerd retired with Ilsabe to Orange, California. Ilsabe was survived by Gerd who passed away in 1941.
The William, John, and Martin Ernst families became close friends, neighbors, and in-laws to the Klintworths in the Linne/Geneseo District of San Luis Obispo County; in the mid-nineteenth century their parents had left Alsace to avoid conscription of their sons into the French Army. They were concerned about a war between France and Germany and decide to find a better life in Geneseo, Illinois. They too had come to San Luis Obispo County California through Los Angeles. The Ernsts came as farmers focusing on the potential of planting orchards of deciduous fruits in San Luis Obispo County. They learned about farming working with and supporting the UC Agriculture Experiment Station. They abandoned their failing orchards and focused on growing grapes and making quality wines by the early 1890s. They learned their craft in the Geneseo District.
Gerd Klintworth had a strong educational and practical farming background in addition to viticulture training. He came to San Luis Obispo County after the vineyards in Southern California were destroyed by what became known as the Anaheim “blight” or Pierce Disease. He knew how to select the land with the right soil and climate and how to farm efficiently. He had experienced a cycle of growth and death in the vineyards of the Anaheim Colony and he had the experience to make his new land a success.
The contrast of backgrounds between these two important pioneer families who settled within 18 months of one another in the area east of Paso Robles is important to note because it highlights the variety of backgrounds, experience, and ethnicity that has enriched the wine history of San Luis Obispo County. The Ernsts were Americans with a German Lutheran heritage from the Alsace in France in contrast to Gerd Klintworth and Ilsabe who emigrated from Hanover, Germany after military service and settled in Southern California in the renowned German Anaheim Colony. This colony, originally was located on the site of Disneyland, was “a well-planned, well-executed agricultural experiment devoted to the production of grapes and wine,” according to Thomas Pinney in his History of Wine in America and other historians listed in the sources below. Gerd came to California to make his career in the wine industry. Gerd learned the wine industry from the vineyard to the winery in the Anaheim Colony. Grape production and winemaking was an important part of his career; he was able to share his expertise with family and friends to increase the quality of both products.
1857: The Los Angeles Vineyard Society was founded by George Hansen and German investors in San Francisco in 1857 with 50 shares issued at $1400 each to raise the capital needed to buy land and divide it into 20-acre parcels with at least eight devoted to vineyards. Irrigation would be needed, Mission Grapevines would be planted and a six-foot fence, 40,000 feet in length, built to surround and protect the Anaheim Colony in Southern California. The location was on the site where Disneyland in located in Anaheim, California.
1858: Gerd is born in Hanover, Germany on March 8 to John Klintworth and his wife.
1859: The German investors move to the Anaheim Colony to claim their land parcels and work in the vineyards and produce wine from the Mission Grapes.
1860: Los Angeles County had two-thirds of all the vines planted in the State of California. The greater area was known as the Southern Vineyard.
1860: Ilsabe Meier was born in Hanover, Germany.
1879: Gerd Klintworth served in the military.
1883: Gerd left his family farm and emigrated to Orange California.
1883: Gerd Klintworth is employed by the Boston Company to design and set Vineyards in and Orange California.
1883: The first signs of the Anaheim “blight” which was later identified as Pierce Disease is discovered in the Mission Grape Vineyards of the Anaheim Colony.
1886: When the Anaheim area was struck by the Anaheim “blight” now known as Pierce Disease, Gerd must have seen his livelihood destroyed. The vineyard community and winemaking in the Anaheim Colony suddenly collapsed with in 1886. By 1886 the financial loss exceeded ten million dollars in the region. Many farmers removed their vineyards and focused on new crops, particularly nuts and citrus trees.
1886: Gerd Klintworth and a business associate search for new land to establish their own farming business. They purchase 80 acres in the Linne District and divide the land into two 40 acres parcels.
1886: Gerd Klintworth and Ilsabe Meier were married in Los Angeles.
1886: Gerd and Ilsabe moved to San Luis Obispo County onto their new land. Gerd builds a home with a wine cellar, a well and pump for water, an outdoor privy, and blacksmith shop and barn for his horses. A garden is planted and a chicken coop is stocked.
1887: Gerd lays out his vineyards, orchards, and fields of grain, purchases seeds and vines and equipment and begins planting.
1887: Henry Klintworth is born to Gerd and Ilsabe. He will live in the family home and farm until his death in 1984.
1887: The Wine History Project estimates that Gerd starts to plant his 10-acre vineyard.
1888: The Wine History Project estimates that that Gerd has planted his first grain crops and has purchased the 40 acres of land from his business partner.
1889: Anna Marie Klintworth is born and dies in 1890.
1889: The UC Agriculture Experiment Project is established.
1890: The Wine History Project estimates that Gerd starts to make wine. He obtained a license to produce and sell wine, Zinfandel, Claret, Burger and Muscatel in bottles and jug at this time. Gerd continued to add varieties of grapes.
1891: Emma Klintworth is born and dies in 1983.
1892: Gerd continues to sell wine in the Paso Robles area
1893: Fred Klintworth is born and will farm until his death in 1942.
1895: Chris Klintworth is born and will farm until his death in 1989.
1897: Mary Klintworth is born and dies in 1989.
1900: Minnie Klintworth is born in 1900 and dies in 1942.
1900: Family photo shows Klintworth vineyards and winery.
1902: The UC Agriculture Project is closed and the report issued comments on the success of Gerd’s orchards and vineyards.
1903: William Klintworth is born and dies in 1988.
1909: Family photo shows the family together at the ranch.
1920: Prohibition begins. The Klintworths continue growing and selling grapes and making wine for home consumption.
1933: The vineyards are still producing grapes. Grapes are sold to local buyers and wineries in during the next five decades. There is no indication that wine production for commercial sale
1934: Family photo shows Gerd working in the vineyard on the Klintworth family farm.
1941: Gerd Klintworth dies in Orange, California.
1952: Family photo shows Chris Klintworth pressing grapes.
1954: Improvements are made to the home, a bathroom is added.
1984: Henry Klintworth dies.
1987: The Klintworth Wine Press is donated to the Pioneer Museum in Paso Robles.
1997: The Klintworth farm is sold. Violet Ernst and Robert Klintworth reminisce about their last trip to the home and farm.