The California boom established Zinfandel as California’s own, the grape that would be the basis for the state’s best red wines and the backbone of the red wine industry until Prohibition struck in the 1920s.
However, the expansion of Zinfandel had caused it to be planted in many areas that were not suited to anything but a low-quality red wine, and there was just too much of it. These grapes were best suited for raisins, sweet wine, and brandy. By 1890 this caused Zinfandel to become the whipping boy of the industry to explain the malaise hitting the California wine industry. Note that during the 1890s phylloxera wiped out some of California’s finest vineyards in Napa, Sonoma, Santa Clara, and Livermore – all costal valleys.
Frenchman Adolphe Siot bought land west of Templeton. He was married but never had children. He planted vineyards with Zinfandel and established a commercial winery in 1890, near what is now Vineyard Drive. According to historian, Louisiana Clayton Dart, in an article which appeared in Discovering San Luis Obispo County, “He ran a simple operation with only three casks.”
The Directory of Grape Growers, Wine Makers, and Distillers of California list James Anderson as a winemaker. He had 12 acres of bearing wine grapes. It records two varietals: Zinfandel and Burger.
By 1892 everyone in the industry was convinced that Zinfandel was the major culprit in causing the demise of the Wine Industry. The knock on Zinfandel came from the industry itself, trade journals and the university. Gradually growers developed an attitude that Zinfandel was a “junk grape.”
Henry Ditmas died of complications of malaria and pneumonia in 1892 at the age of 47. He moved to San Francisco soon after his divorce and later to Boston where he died.
Depression becomes a national disaster. The bottom falls out of the wine market.
Economic recovery begins.
John H. and Catherine Mohr Sauret, farmers
1886: John H. Sauret moved his family to Paso Robles, settling in the Estrella District. John worked for a farmer on the Wise Ranch.
1887: The Saurets purchased land in the Oak Flat District where they built a house and farmed grain and almonds. They had children: Harry, Clarence, Albert, Lester, Eddie, Benjamin, Reda, Julia, Lily. Louise, Mabel, Alice, and Annie. Clarence had two sons: Zinfandel grower Richard Sauret and vineyard manager Gene Sauret.
Andrew York, grape grower and winemaker
1890: Andrew York began buying grapes from other growers.
1892: Andrew York began to advertise. On February 9th, the following advertisement appeared in The Moon, a Paso Robles newspaper: “I have on hand 5 or 6,000 gallons of one and two-year-old wine, which I can sell, delivered in town if desired, cheaper than it can be procured in the city. All warranted pure grape juice. Leave orders at the Moon Office or at A. Yorks.”
1893: Paso Robles Real Estate Agency designs promotional campaign for new settlers: “Prunes, Olives, Peaches, Pears, Table and Wine Grapes …..$5 to $100 per acre…..Wheat, Barley, Oats, Hops…..Average rainfall 20.24 inches.
1895: Andrew York, along with sons Jim, Tom and Walter haul boulders from the area to a site to begin construction of a wine cellar. They expanded the winery to a three-story facility which included a large fermenting room and a new office and tasting room. The lumber was for construction was brought from Cayucos. The ceiling beams were formerly part of the Cayucos pier. The bricks were made on the premises and fired in the kiln built by the York family.
1895: Andrew York purchases 15 previously owned large 1,000-gallon tanks of redwood for $16.00 each for fermentation and storage, a hand crusher and a Garola grape crusher/stemmer for $75 from his brother, Mack York, who lives in St. Helena, California. Customers were mainly teamsters who hauled their loads up one of the steep grades on either side of the mountain. Andrew placed a watering trough in front of the winery for their convenience.
1896: Walter York and Tom York become partners with their father in the Ascension Winery, The name changes to the A. York and Sons.
1898: Andrew York builds a two-story farm-house across from the Winery.
1899: Tom York sells his share of the business to his brother Walter.