1970s

California’s vineyard acreage increases dramatically during the 1970s. In 1966 there were 490,000 acres were planted in grapes, approximately two thirds in table grapes and one third in wine grapes (142,000 acres). In 1976 wine grapes acreage increased to almost 660,000 acres, amounting to nearly 4 million tons of grapes. Wine production went from 165 million gallons of wine to 332 million gallons. The number of wineries increased from 231 to 345, with the acreage in San Luis Obispo county increasing from 550 acres to 4,000 acres. San Luis Obispo County sees its first large scale commercial vineyards financed by serious capital investors and partnerships and shaping local wine history. For the previous 100 years, vineyards and wineries were individual or family-owned enterprises.

Growers discover the potential of planting vineyards east of Paso Robles, in Santa Margarita, and in South County. Grower Don Peck planted 100 acres in Shandon. Jim Sinton planted vineyards in the Shell Creek area near Shandon. Louis Lucas planted a 450-acre vineyard for Tepusquet Canyon Vineyards in Santa Maria. Bobby Miller planted a 750-acre vineyard in the historic French Camp, east of Santa Margarita Lake.

1970

Max Goldman, nationally known enologist and winemaker, purchased York Mountain Winery from Wilfrid York, the third generation of winemakers in the York family who planted their first Zinfandel grapes in 1882.

1970

High School student Stephen Ross Dooley, current winemaker and owner of Stephen Ross Wine Cellars in San Luis Obispo, is growing up in Minnesota and is curious about how wine is made. He begins learning by making his own wine from rhubarb and apples.

1971

Templeton, California has only two tasting rooms, located at Rotta Winery and Pesenti Winery. The Rotta family was famous for its Zinfandel Jug wine. Cal Poly students and local surfers buying wine from Rotta brought their own containers to reduce the price. The Pesenti family made Zinfandel wine that was popular with the Basque sheepherder in the San Joaquin Valley.

1971

Just after the Los Angeles earthquake on February 9th, Judy and David Breitstein of the Duke of Bourbon-Canoga Park, the first wine shop in the San Fernando Valley, visit Napa to meet the new generation of winemakers and purchase their wines for their store. They publish their first newsletter, Vine-Line, featuring wines from Schramsberg (of Calistoga) and Louis M. Martini (of Saint Helena).

1971

The inaugural wine seminar of Canoga-Northridge Chapter of Les Amis du Vin is sponsored by the Duke of Bourbon-Canoga Park and co-directed by David Breitstein and Julian Liebeman. Wines of California and France are featured.

1972

Vineyard acreage in San Luis Obispo County County is 900 acres. The county will start to see more vineyards planted and wineries constructed.

1972

John Daume opens the Home Wine Making Shop in Woodland Hills at 22836 Ventura Boulevard. His shop was one of the first to cater to home winemakers, teaching classes, hosting competitions, and supplying everything needed to make wine at home including grape concentrate and fresh grapes in season. John estimated that for under $80 his customers could purchase everything they needed including basic fermenting, testing, and corking equipment. John taught his customers that they could make wine from anything they could eat, including apricots, peaches, and other stone fruit. When home winemaking began to wane around 1982, John decided to offer homemaking beer and cheese making classes and supplies to the public. (In 2019, he continues to operate his store and also owns a winery.)

1972

Meo Zuech meets John Daume at the Home Wine Making Shop in Woodland Hills. John sold supplies to Meo and sourced grapes for him. John Daume introduced him to Benito Dusi, and he begins purchasing fruit for home winemaking. Meo developed a close relationship with Benito. Benito would ask Meo to translate his letters written in Italian from relatives of his parents.

1972

Gary Eberle of Eberle Winery leaves his Ph.D. Program in cellular biology and genetics to enter UC Davis and study enology and viticulture.

1972

Judy Breitstein, of Duke of Bourbon-Canoga Park, coins the phrase “Life is a Cabernet” as the closing line in their newsletter Vine-Line. David Breitstein presents the first Super Seminar featuring the Martini 1962 Special Selection Cabernet Sauvignon.

1972

Time Magazine’s cover story for the November 27, 1972 issue is: American Wine: There’s Gold in them Thar Grapes

This article helped bring awareness of California wines to the nation. It states that Americans spent close to $2 billion on wine consumption in 1972, twice as much as in 1968. The rate of growth in wine consumption is outpacing that of hard liquor and beer. In 1972, the American adult will drink an average of 2.4 gallons of wine; at the same time, French adults consumed 29 gallons, and Italians 30 gallons each. The demographic with the most enthusiasm is young adults, with college students favoring wine as the best accompaniment to informal meals and exotic smokes. It celebrated the biggest wine drinking day of the year in American, Thanksgiving. Other notable trends are the rise of wine clubs and college wine courses available to the public. Wine tasting events are replacing cocktail parties, and as many as fifty new wine-related books are published per year and selling well. Home winemaking is becoming a popular hobby. At least 250,000 Americans have wine vats bubbling quietly in garages, cellars, and closets. Households are allowed to make up to 200 gallons of wine per year without paying taxes.

Wine magazines are finding subscribers. Vintage Magazine was a new issue. The editor described the wine boom as evidence of growing worldliness in American lifestyles just as foreign travel, gourmet restaurants, and affluence were opening new horizons of taste. The editor, Philip Seldon stated, “I think America is coming of age. We are becoming conscious of our sense of taste. Perhaps we are becoming more European. We are discovering there is nothing wrong with discovering self-satisfaction.”

The United States was the sixth largest producer of wine in 1972, lagging behind Italy, France, The Soviet Union, Spain, and Argentina. Imports were continuing to rise but more 88% of all wine sold in the United States was made in America. One out of every 11 bottles was produced in New York State. There were 43 new wineries opened in American in 1972. Vineyards are growing in some unlikely places in this year of the American wine revolution: Georgia, Illinois, Maryland, Oregon, and Washington, but the American wine industry is dominated by a single state, California and its 267 wineries. California produces 85% of the wine made in America, and Californians drink twice as much wine as individuals living in the other 49 states.

The E. & J. Gallo Winery dominates the California wine industry. They sold 100 million gallons of wine in 1971 which is 50% of all the California wine produced and nearly twice as much as its nearest competitor, United Vintners. Julio Gallo, age 62, and Ernest Gallo, age 63, own the privately-held company. They have operated quietly and privately, avoiding contact with the press for years until granting Time Magazine interviews for this article. The Gallo brothers have been the major influence on winemaking in America. They were the first winemakers to hire research chemists and one of the first to use stainless steel tanks instead of wooden fermenting casks which can breed unwanted bacteria. In 1972 their staff of 25 graduate oenologists was the largest in the United States. Gallo was also the first to automate. They computerized their blending process and pioneered the new sweet “pop” wines, producing 54 million of the 60 million sold in the United States in 1971. The Gallos also owned the first winery-owned bottling plant, producing up to 1,500,000 bottles per day––all in tinted shades of green to protect the wine from harmful ultraviolet rays. Gallo owned 10,000 of the 75,000 acres of vineyards from which its grapes were sourced. Joe Heitz, whose small winery is known for its sophisticated wines says, “Ernest Gallo has done more for the wine industry than any individual alive.” The Los Angeles Times Wine Critic Robert Balzer praised the Gallo Hearty Burgundy by stating, “it is the best wine value in the country today.”

1972

TREND: Large publicly traded corporations are investing in major California wineries and vineyards.

  • Heublein, Inc., a large distiller and food processor, bought United Vintners which makes Italian Swiss Colony and Inglenook wines. It also purchased Beaulieu Vineyards where Andre Tchellistchef worked for over 35 years.
  • Seagrams bought interests in Paul Masson Winery and Browne Vintners.
  • Brown-Forman, the Kentucky whiskey maker, are the distributors of California champagne maker, F. Korbel, and Brothers.
  • National Distillers and Chemical purchased Almaden Winery.
  • Pillsbury Company, Nestle and the R.T. French Mustard Company have purchased vineyards.
  • Financial giants are investing in vineyards including the Wall Street Banking Firm Lazard Freres, Insurance Company John Hancock, and Houston based conglomerate Southdown, Inc.
  • The Gallo brothers, Ernest and Julio, rejected an offer of over $150 million from Seagrams.

1972

Stephen Ross Dooley, current winemaker and owner of Stephen Ross Wine Cellars in San Luis Obispo, is attending Minnesota State University and taking science courses. His mother subscribes to Time Magazine, and Stephen reads the Time Magazine article, American Wine: There’s Gold in Them Thar Grapes and decides to pursue a career in winemaking. He would go on to obtain a degree in Enology from UC Davis.

1973

The Jack and Catherine Niven family decide to sell Purity Markets, the grocery chain that dominated in Northern California and enter the grape-growing business, a burgeoning industry in California. The business forecast was for a boom in wine consumption in the 1970s. Jack hired vineyard manager Jim Efird to plant 550 acres in Edna Valley, founding Paragon Vineyards. Jack Niven was the second person to plant vineyards in the Edna Valley. He planted six weeks after Norman Goss planted the Chamisal Vineyard. At the time all the land in Edna Valley was planted in barley and garbanzo beans. This was also a significant year for rain, with over 50 inches falling in the Edna Valley.

1973

The Cellarmasters of Los Angeles Home Winemaking Club is established in the San Fernando Valley, California. This club was formed to study home winemaking techniques and to critique each member’s vino. Speakers were invited each month to discuss winemaking techniques and to judge the wines made by the members. Home winemaking supplies were purchased at The Home Beer Wine Cheese Making Shop owned by John Daume. David Breitstein, owner of the Duke of Bourbon-Canoga Park, the first wine shop in the San Fernando Valley to sell quality California wines, often judged the quality of the wines and mentored Cellarmasters members. The local chapter met monthly with winemaker and other experts; they traveled to UC Davis for seminars with viticulturalists and professors. Members often harvested and purchased their grapes in San Luis Obispo County from the vineyards of Mel Casteel and other local vineyards. The Cellarmasters Club, still active today, has shaped wine history in San Luis Obispo County; more than 50 members have founded their own wineries including many in San Luis Obispo County. Jim Ahern, the first President, founded the Ahern Winery in the Roydon Industrial Complex in San Fernando, the only winery in the San Fernando Valley in the late 1970s. The wineries in San Luis Obispo County founded by Cellarmasters members include: Tobias founded by Pat and Marty Wheeler which today is known as Peachy Canyon, and owned by Doug and Nancy Beckett; Mastantuono Winery in Templeton, founded by Pat Mastan, today owned by the Donati Winery; Donatoni Winery founded by Hank Donatoni, and Piedra Creek Winery, founded by Meo Zuech.

1973

David Breitstein, of Duke of Bourbon-Canoga Park, offers the first Dukes’ Big Bottle Collection featuring grand format bottles such as jerobaums and methuselahs. The Schramsberg Cremant is featured at the Second Super Seminar.

1973

Herman Schwartz created an investment partnership with a small group of businessmen and entertainers to invest in a 2,800-acre ranch, 12 miles east of Paso Robles, known as Rancho Tierra Rejada (now part of the vineyards that produce Broken Earth Wines). The business plan was to select agricultural crops that would provide a good yield and profit. The land was previously farmed as a dry land grain farm. Herman spent two years analyzing the soils, water, and climate on the ranch and concluded that the land was similar to Calistoga in the Napa Valley. With the growing interest in wine and vineyards, he concluded that grapes were the crop best suited to the land and their investment goals. Schwartz, as managing partner for the group of investors, planted 500 acres. The varieties he selected were Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, and Merlot. He devoted 250 acres to Merlot, the largest planting at that time in California. He later bought out most of his partners, and as President of the Paso Robles Vintner and Growers Association, became one of the regions most outspoken crusaders. He was instrumental in establishing the Paso Robles AVA.

1973

160 acres of vineyards are planted at Estrella River Valley Winery by Gary Eberle and Cliff Giacobini. Gary is the first winemaker to select his vineyard site and plant the Cabernet Sauvignon grapevines based on soil types and climate. The previous year Gary worked with UC Davis Professor Harold Olmo gathering and analyzing soil samples in the Estrella River Valley on several field trips to the Central Coast. Gary is also the first to plant the specific clone of BV Cabernet in Paso Robles.

1973

Gary Eberle obtains cuttings of Syrah from a small triangular plot that was once part of the UC Davis vineyard on the advice of his friend and viticulture mentor, Doc Alley. Gary took the cuttings to Doug Meader for propagation. Doug owned the Pacific Nursery in Greenfield, California.

1973

André Tchelistcheff leaves Beaulieu Vineyard where he was the winemaker from 1938 to 1973 and becomes a full time consultant to many California wineries including Firestone in Santa Barbara County. No person has played a more important role in the California wine industry from the repeal of Prohibition until his death in 1994 than André Techelistcheff. He was known as “The Maestro.”

1973

The HMR (Hoffman Mountain Ranch) Vineyards in Paso Robles are bonded. HMR is owned by Stanley Hoffman and his wife Teresa. Their son David Hoffman manages the vineyard operations, and the HMR winemaker is their other son Michael Hoffman.

1973

Dave Caparone, of Caparone Winery, makes his first wines in San Luis Obispo County. Dave grew and tested Italian varieties long before he became a commercial winery. Dave was the first to try certain Italian varieties including Nebbiolo.

1973

Norman Goss plants 50 acres in his Chamisal Vineyards. A successful restaurateur in Southern California, Norman noted in the 1960s that his patron’s tastes were trending away from red wines and toward whites, preferring Chardonnay. Ready to capitalize on this trend, he looked for land where he could plant Chardonnay in his own vineyards. He bought the 57-acre parcel of the old Rancho Bolsa de Chamisal in the Edna Valley, southeast of San Luis Obispo. He was the first to plant vineyards in the Edna Valley. He had been introduced to the area more than 30 years earlier when he attended a lunch hosted by the famous pianist and composer, Ignace Paderewski, who had served a memorable Zinfandel, made from his own grapes grown in the Adelaida area, west of Paso Robles.

1974

Archie McLaren, salesman for West Publishing, moves to San Luis Obispo County.

1974

Gary Eberle plants an additional 160 acres at Estrella River Winery.

1975

Gary Eberle planted the first Syrah in San Luis Obispo on 18 acres at the Estrella River Winery. It is known as the Estrella River Clone. Gary later planted another 20 acres in Syrah, planning for 200 tons of fruit, to make 5,000 cases of wine.  Read about Rhône grape varieties including Syrah in the book American Rhône: How Maverick Winemakers Changed the Way Americans Drink by Patrick J. Comiskey.

1975

Bill Greenough, owner and founding Winemaker of Saucelito Canyon Vineyard, buys abandoned century-old Zinfandel vineyard at Rancho Saucelito in the Upper Arroyo Grande Valley from the granddaughters of Henry Ditmas and starts reviving the old Zinfandel vines, planted between 1878 and 1880. Read more in the book The Mad Crush: A Memoir of Mythic Vines and Improbable Winemaking by Sean Christopher Weir.

1975

Pasquale Mastantuono, known to locals as Pat Mastan, moved from Los Angeles where he had earned many blue ribbons for his Zinfandel in Cellarmaster Competitions. He and his wife purchased a 65-acre ranch west of Templeton to enter the commercial winemaking business.

1975

Stanley Hoffman completes in his wooden HMR Winery perched on the hillside at the ranch. The 1973 HMR Chardonnay wins a gold medal at the International Wine Competition in London in 1975.

1975

David Breitstein of the Duke of Bourbon-Canoga Park lunches with Baron Philippe de Rothschild of Chateau Mouton-Rothschild. This establishes an ongoing relationship between Chateau Mouton-Rothchild and the Duke of Bourbon in the Los Angeles area.

1976

The “Judgement of Paris” or “The Paris Tasting.” Steven Spurrier, a wineshop owner in Paris, France, decided to celebrate the American Bicentennial with a wine tasting matching five Chardonnays from California with five whites from Burgundy, France, and five Cabernets Sauvignons from California with five reds from Bordeaux, France. Spurrier selected the finest tasters in France to score the blind tasting. Surprisingly, two California wines placed first, upsetting the status quo. The winners were the 1973 Chardonnay from Chateau Montelena in Napa Valley and the 1973 Cabernet Sauvignon from Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars in Napa Valley. This tasting confirmed the importance and growing reputation of California as a world class wine-growing region and singled out Napa as the most important region of California.

1977

Estrella River Winery is built in Paso Robles, becoming the area’s largest winery. Gary Eberle is co-founder. The winery is bonded in 1977.

1978

Gary Eberle is the first winemaker in the United States to make a wine that is 100% from Syrah grapes. He had planted the Syrah grapes in 1975 at the Estrella River Winery. Sales are encouraging, and the wine wins three gold medals at the Los Angeles County Fair, the Orange County Fair, and the London International Wine Competition.

1978

Bill Greenough, owner and founding Winemaker of Saucelito Canyon Vineyard, has revived acreage of the original Rancho Saucelito Zinfandel vineyard and the vines produce their first crop in 35 years. Read more in the book The Mad Crush: A Memoir of Mythic Vines and Improbable Winemaking by Sean Christopher Weir.

1978

Dave Caparone, of Caparone Winery, buy a ranch northwest of Paso Robles near San Miguel and plants 28 of the 98 acres in grapevines. He started as a serious amateur winemaker, and when he decided to become a professional he investigated the possibility of importing vine cuttings of Nebbiolo, which is known as the Barolo grape from the region of Piedmont in Italy. He worked with UC Davis viticulture staff to find the right clone and imported it. He planted the Nebbiolo and Zinfandel in his vineyards, his first varieties. He is also known for serenading his grapes – he is a professional jazz Trombone player.

1978

Meo Zuech, of Piedra Creek Winery, begins buying grapes from Benito Dusi in Paso Robles and Andy McGregor in Edna Valley. He creates “Zuech” wine label.

1979

Bulldog Welding and Manufacturing is founded by Don and Gwen Othman. (Now Bulldog Manufacturing.) This business will work with almost every winery in San Luis Obispo County providing stainless steel tanks and equipment including the Bulldog pup invented in 1986 by Don.

1979

Hank Donatoni establishes Donatoni Winery. Hank was the fourth member of the Cellarmasters (founded in 1973) to establish his own winery. He was the then president of the Cellarmasters. He located a strip of land near a Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) runway where he as a United Airlines pilot often landed planes. He leased a building to house Donatoni Winery. He could walk from the United Airlines parking lot to the winery six blocks away. Before his license was approved to make wine at his new winery, the 10 tons of Cabernet Sauvignon grapes he had contracted for were ready to be harvested. He called his dear friend Stefano Riboli, owner of the hundred-year-old San Antonio Winery near the Los Angeles City Hall, to ask if he could press his grapes and make his wine at San Antonio Winery. Stefano handed him the keys to the San Antonio Winery and let him make his wine at night in the cellar of the winery. He built his current winery in the Willow District, just north of Highway 46th, in 2003 and is celebrating his 40th Anniversary in 2019.

1979

Remo Belli and Richard Sauret form partnership combining Belli’s business interests with Sauret’s farming expertise to make wines. The main operations are based in San Miguel at Pleasant Valley Ranch which includes 158 acres of apple trees and vineyards planted with Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. They plan to produce three wines, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, along with White Zinfandel and Red Zinfandel with the Zinfandel grapes grown in the Sauret Vineyards.

1979

Gary Eberle makes his own Cabernet Sauvignon wine and bottles it at Estrella River Winery. Cabernet Sauvignon, Gary’s favorite variety, becomes his signature wine. His first vintages are 1979, 1980, and 1981 Cabernet Sauvignons. They are stored at Estrella River Winery but not yet released under the Eberle label.

1979

Dave Caparone establishes Caparone Winery.