Mission varietals and wine grape growing were established in Sonoma in the 1850s. But the wine industry had not yet developed. Mariano Vallejo had a large vineyard and winery under the supervision of Victor Faure, and there were several other small farmers making a few hundred gallons here and there. They sold what they did not consume.
Congress grants California statehood. In San Luis Obispo County, the US Census—which excludes Native Americans—records 336 white inhabitants in 60 families and 53 dwellings.
J.W. Osbourne, a New Englander and close friend of Frederick Macondray, purchased a huge tract of land north of Napa. He was interested in all aspects of agriculture. He was brilliant and known to have the finest agriculture library in the state. He called his farm Oak Knoll and won the medal for the best-cultivated farm in California in 1856 at the State Fair in San Jose. (In 2002 Trefethen Winery and Vineyard owns part of the land that was once Oak Knoll.) Osbourne went on to purchase most of his foreign varietals from Macondray. Osbourne grafted them on to mature Mission grape vines. Thus Zinfandel entered Napa. Not sure of the year yet.
Captain Macondray brings vinifera vines to San Francisco by ship from Boston. One of Macondray’s shipments included a large collection of vinifera grapevines, and Zinfandel was one of them. This is the first documented moment that Zinfandel entered California. It entered as a delicious table grape rather than a wine grape. There was little talk about making wine from New England vinifera varietals. Although many people argued to make wine from these varietals, most people thought great wine would come from the European varietals.
Discovery of the Concord grape changed New England viticulture because it could be grown outdoors and made into wine that New Englanders liked.
Bernard S. Fox, superintendent of Boston’s Hovey and Co., accompanied a large shipment of nursery stock to California. He established the San Jose Valley Nursery which was the largest in Northern California for many years. Before long he was in print remarking on the wonderful way the Massachusetts vinifera took to the California environment. New England was one of two major sources of early vines. The second source was European imports.
Antoine Delmas, a French nurseryman, imported French wine grapes including Cabrunet, Merleau, Black Meunier, La Folle Blanche, and Charbonneau. He was the first to so to Northern California. He imported a shipment from New England in the same year through Bernard S. Fox, who was his neighbor. He planted a black grape called Black St. Peters – the very grape that was so similar to Zinfandel in New England in the 1840s. Two vineyards planted in Black St. Peters survived into the 1880s.
During the decade from 1852 to 1862, California nurserymen, hopeful vineyardists, and potential winemakers brought in loads of vinifera cuttings and rooted vines to plant in Northern California. The economics looked very promising, and the demand was staggering. In 1855 alone, the annual total for still wine came to almost 14,000 barrels and 120,000 cases, not to mention 20,000 baskets of sparkling wine. Many of these imports were foreign, especially from France.
Anthony P. Smith is one of the sources for the Zinfandel vines planted here and there in the Sierra Foothills from 1854 to 1860.
James L.L. Warren established the California State Agriculture Society and started promoting its state fairs. Macondray became the Society’s first President. J.W. Osbourne was the Vice President. He was from New England who acquired a huge tract of land north of Napa in 1851. He was a close friend of Macondray.
PLANT YOUR VINEYARDS NOW
In 1855 James Warren began a campaign in his “California Farmer Newspaper” to promote viticulture and winegrowing in Northern California. “Cultivators of California! Plant your vineyards! Begin now! No better investment can be made.” To promote the kind of systematic and intelligent agriculture that Warren had known in New England, he helped local growers and breeders organize regional and county fairs, where prizes were awarded in a broad range of categories. Eventually, they organized a series of districts whose competitions led up to the State Fair, which in the early years were held in various parts of Northern California. These fairs invariably handed out medals, diplomas, and cash award and always HELD COMPETITIONS FOR THE BEST GRAPES, WINES, AND BRANDIES.
FIRST YEARS OF STATE AND REGIONAL FAIRS
The awards all went to the Mission Grape because it was the only kind of bearing vine in the area at the time. Soon the imports began bearing grapes, so distinctions were carefully detailed in the categories of competition. Native grapes (Mission Grapes) did not compete in the same categories as Foreign grapes (vinifera grapes brought in after 1850). At first, the only varieties entered were from New England imports from Macondray and others. Not until 1855 were any European varietals seen; those were from Antoine Delmas’ imports. James R. Nickerson of Folsom, Charles Covilleaud of Marysville and Charles M. Weber of Stockton were also sources.
James Boggs’s red wine from Sonoma, made from Mission grapes, won recognition from James Warren.
Antoine Delmas sent Black St. Peters cuttings to Victor Faure, General Mariano Vallejo’s winemaker in Sonoma.
Haraszthy bought 560 acres east of the town of Sonoma including the Kelsey place which was called Buena Vista Ranch, whose wine he liked.
A Boston grower was producing 20,000 commercial gallons per year of Concord Wine.
Regional and State Fairs:
By 1857 a clear pattern of varietals had been developed at these competitions held around San Francisco Bay area, from San Jose to Napa and Sonoma. The winners were predictable: F.W. Macondray, Antoine Delmas, A. P. Smith from Sacramento area; and J. W. Osbourne of Napa. These four men won 70% of the awards between 1854 and 1860. Both Macondray and Osbourne exhibited their Zinfandel grapes at district and state fairs.
San Francisco Mechanics institute Exhibition: Macondray exhibited his Zinfandel grapes, and James Warren commented over the captain’s collection of foreign grapes. He called them superb and reminded him of exhibitions that he had attended in the “bay state.”
The State Horticultural Society recommends Zinfandel for further trial.
1857: IMPORTANT YEAR FOR SONOMA. NEW ENTREPRENEURIAL SPIRIT EMERGES WITH AGOSTON HARASZTHY, EMIL DRESEL, AND JACOB GUNDLACH. They convinced a number of locals and investors that Sonoma was the best place for the “new wine industry” to flourish in Northern California. BUT they called for better grapes.
Haraszthy purchases a tract of land next door to William Boggs and becomes very friendly with Boggs.
Black St. Peters (later known as Zinfandel) won a gold medal at the Santa Clara County Fair for Delmas.
Delmas makes wine from Black St. Peters grape.
Hungarian winemaker Ágoston Haraszthy, who founded the first Sonoma winery Buena Vista Winery, publishes Report on Grapes and Wine in California, the earliest treatise on viticulture and winemaking in the state.
Antoine Delmas enters his wine from the Black St. Peters grapes in the State Fair Competition and wins the first prize. The committee members are surprised that the French nurseryman’s grapes had been selected more as table fruit that for winemaking. The Alta California was soon crowing that Delmas’ red wine was the best claret in the State of California.
The Sonoma Horticultural Society was organized. At their first meeting on March 14 in Santa Rosa, Haraszthy and Osbourne of Napa call for better varieties of grapes for wine production. Harazthy is elected President, and William Boggs is elected to the Board of Directors and as Secretary.
Sonoma Horticultural Society buys cuttings from Osbourne to act as a base for later propagation in the Sonoma Horticultural Society’s gardens. The cuttings were carefully labeled and driven in two wagon loads from Napa to Sonoma. The chief varietals were two kinds of Chasselas, Muscat of Alexandria, Reine de Nice, Red Lombardy, Black Hamburg, and “Zinfindal.” Note the spelling. The spring frosts in 1860 killed all the cuttings except the Zinfindal. Boggs recalled that it grew better in the nursery than any other variety.
The Zinfindal vines are moved from the garden and planted in the Sonoma Horticultural Society vineyards.
Pierre Hypolite Dallidet
1853: Frenchman Pierre Hypolite Dallidet arrives in San Luis Obispo following his military service in Tahiti, a failed attempt to strike it rich in the California gold fields, and an abandoned plan to immigrate to Mexico.
1855: Pierre marries Asuncion Salazar (1840-1873), youngest daughter of Gabriel Salazar.
1855 to 1872: Through Asuncion’s inheritance, purchases from the other inheritors, and preemption, the Dallidets obtain the peak sixteen acres of the immediate property, including most of Gabriel Salazar’s estate, which Gabriel inherited from Miguel Marques.
1858: The Vigilance Committee, which includes Pierre, is organized by Walter Murray.
Monterey County, San Benito County, Sonoma County, Santa Clara County, Los Angeles, and Riverside County
Additional History of
Monterey County, San Benito County, Sonoma County, Santa Clara County, Los Angeles, and Riverside County
1852: In Santa Clara County, Almaden, Paul Masson, and Martin Ray are the successors to winemaking traditions begun in 1852.
1853: Louis Pellier came to California as an Argonaut in 1849. He decided to establish a nursery and selected a location in San Jose; Louis became known for his pioneer nursery. His brother Pierre arrived in the Santa Clara Valley in 1851 and went to work for Louis. Louis sent him back to France to buy vines and other nursery stock. Pierre brought back a large consignment of nursery stock that included many wine grape varieties. These became the foundation of the Pellier Collection, one of the best in California before 1870.
In Santa Clara County the vineyards later known as the Mirassou Vineyards was planted in the 1850s. Henriette Pellier (1860-1937) took over the supervision of the Pellier wine growing operations developed by her father, Pierre Pellier (1823-1894). She is one of the earliest women actively involved in viticulture in California. The vineyards were located on the Evergreen Estate in Santa Clara Valley. Henriette married Pierre H. Mirassou in 1881. The couple had five children before Mirassou’s (1856-1889) untimely death in 1889. Henriette remarried to Thomas Casaegno in 1890, and together they ran the Pellier winery until they retired in 1910. Son Peter Mirassou eventually established the Mirassou vineyards and winery on the Evergreen Estate after World War I.
1854: Theophile Vaché (1814-1884) traveled from his native France in 1832 to New Orleans and Peru before arriving in San Francisco. He worked in Monterey a few years before acquiring 120 acres in San Benito County in the Cienega Valley. He planted a vineyard in 1858 and built a winery using the skills he learned from his wine and brandy making French family; by the 1860s had a thriving business selling wine and brandy to the saloons and local markets in Hollister, San Juan Bautista. Monterey and Salinas. Theophile is remembered as one of the earliest pioneers of California Wine History. The Cienega Valley in San Benito County is one of the oldest commercial wine growing districts in California. It received AVA status in 1982. Theophile is remembered as one of the first commercial growers in California. His three nephews – Adolphe, Emile, and Theophile – joined him in founding a wholesale importing business of fine wines and spirits in downtown Los Angeles. They named their company “Vaché Freres.” In 1883 he sold his estate of 320 acres with 35 acres of vineyards to William Palmtag before returning to France.
1856: Emile Vaché (1836 to 1908) arrived in Monterey in 1856. He moved to Los Angeles and became a partner in a small winery before establishing his winery next to a stream and naming it Brookside, in 1881 near Redlands, California. Brookside became one of the most important wineries in San Bernardino County. The winery was closed due to Prohibition in 1918, but the name was revived in the 1950s as Brookside Winery. In the 1952 Philo Biane organized Brookside Vineyard Company. The name honored Emil Vaché’s winery founded in 1881. The Biane and Vaché were related by marriage. In 1957 Brookside was moved to the old Guasti Estate in Cucamonga. It became one of the brightest stars of the California Wine Revolution of the 1960s. Brookside expanded as it established tasting rooms all over California, Nevada, and Arizona. Sales were made directly to the consumer. Brookside was sold to Beatrice Foods, a large conglomerate headquartered in Chicago, in 1973. Sales declined, and the winery closed in 1985.
1857: Agoston Haraszthy settled in Sonoma Valley and established Buena Vista, a great wine estate.