Grapes are a significant part of California’s agricultural products and of much importance to the economy of the state. Presently, California produces 85% of all wine produced in the United States. Currently, the state can be divided into five wine-growing regions: North Coast, Sierra Foothills, Inland Valleys, South Coast, and finally, California’s Central Coast from Los Angeles to the San Francisco Bay. 

Things have dramatically changed since the 1880s… California’s State Legislature divided the state in 1880 into seven geographic viticultural districts: Sonoma Viticultural District, El Dorado Viticultural District, Napa Viticultural District, Sacramento Viticultural District, San Francisco Viticultural District, San Joaquin Viticultural District and Los Angeles Viticultural District. San Luis Obispo County was included in the Los Angeles Viticultural District.

Nomis Publishing And Gail Unzelman

Gail Unzelman, the same person who writes our postcard articles for the Wine History Project newsletter, founded Nomis Press in 1990. 

By 1998, Unzelman was working with Ernest P. Peninou and his book A History of the Sonoma Viticultural District. The Grape Growers, the Wine Makers, and the Vineyards. The book was given an award by the Sonoma County Historical Society.

Peninou (1916-2002), a graduate of Stanford University, also studied Enology at UC Davis. He worked as the winemaker at Madrone, Almaden and Fountain Grove Vineyards, and pioneered the propagation of phylloxera-resistant rootstock in California. He was well known as were three of his colleagues including Frank Schoonmaker (1905-1976) wine writer and merchant, Martin Ray (1904-1976)  viticulturist and winemaker who worked tirelessly to raise the quality and standards of California wines after Prohibition, and Maynard Amerine (1911-1998) a pioneering researcher and author of soils, cultivation, fermentation and the sensory evaluation of wine at the University of California at Davis. Peninou is remembered as an eminent historian of the history of winemaking in California. 

After he passed away, Unzelman and Nomis Press worked from unpublished manuscripts in Peninou’s files to publish an unbound collection of individual histories for each of the remaining six viticultural districts mentioned earlier in this article. These contain the history from the pre-Prohibition days in California. I recently visited the complimentary download of these volumes to obtain the included data for San Luis Obispo County from that information which was provided in A History of the Los Angeles Viticultural District.” I found in this information grape acreage statistics, directories of grape growers, and many more facts from San Luis Obispo County’s early days of grape growing and winemaking. In other words, a goldmine of information!

Grape Acreage & Vineyardist Statistics – Grapes Are Grown In Every California County!

I was amazed to learn from reviewing this material that grapes have been grown in every county of California and that fact makes California unique in the history of grape growing and wine-making in the United States. The information on estimates of grapevine acreage shown in the tables below was compiled by various agencies and associations starting in the 1850s. These grapes during the 1800s were used for table grapes, raisin production and winemaking. Winemaking became more important yearly after the Gold Rush brought over 300,000 new settlers to California in the 1850s. According to the UC Davis library and Axel Berg, the thriving California wine industry exported wines worldwide to Australia, Central America, England and Asia by 1900.  

Also, it is important to note that the county boundaries changed considerably between 1850 and 1907. In 1890, the California Board of State Viticultural Commissioners published the first comprehensive survey of grape acreage, including a county-by-county directory of vineyardists. And, in 1891 the California Board of State Viticultural Commissioners published the Directory of the Grape Growers, Wine Makers and Distillers of California.

The following charts include statistical facts which provide the grapevine acreage planted in San Luis Obispo County between 1856 and 1992 as it was reported. They illustrate important trends in the history of grape-growing in this county. As Ernest Peninou stated in his reports, “every effort has been made to present accurate acreage estimates – any errors are entirely my own.”

Who Was Growing Grapes In San Luis Obispo County In 1884?

One more thing discovered in the unpublished documents found in Peninou’s files. In November of 1884 the periodical known as the San Francisco Merchant published a “Directory of the Grape Growers of California ” where wine makers and distillers were acknowledged by city and county. The directory lists the following people by location in San Luis Obispo County.

T.F. Lewis and William F. Kent

A.M. Hardie and R.J. Hazard

J. Narvez

San Miguel
Jared, W.W. Simons, J.Nava, T. Wells, D.F. Stockdale, J.C. Currier, and J. Lynch

San Luis Obispo
J.K. Vernon, B.H. Bacon, J.P. Andrews, G. Devoto, Frank McCoppin, A. DeLeissiquez, C.H. Phillips, P. Dallidet, J.H. Hollister, J.P. Abbott, Goldtree Brothers, George Hampton, J. Lopez, L. Minole, W. H. Taylor, and W.W. Hays

There is more research to be done! Are you related to or have information on any growers in 1884? Please contact

Thank you, Gail Unzelman for preserving this important history forever!

Acres Planted Chart
Growers Chart

All the series of “searchable” reports are available free of charge at the Wayward Tendrils Viticultural District Histories website at