In 1882 Andrew York purchased land in the Santa Lucia Mountains, northeast of Cayucos and established the vineyards that would become Ascension Winery in 1895, one of the first wineries on the California Coast. He soon renamed it York Winery, and the York family occupied this land, grew grapes, and made Zinfandel wine for three generations. It is the longest running family-owned winery in the history of San Luis Obispo County. York Winery was sold to Max and Barbara Goldman in 1970 and is now restored and owned by EPOCH Estate Wines.
Andrew Jackson York: 1830s to 1850s
Andrew Jackson York was born on March 3, 1833, in the Richland Township near Bloomington, Indiana to Pleasant York (1805-1868) and Rachel McPheatridge. He was the fifth of the ten York children which included: William Delano York, John Nelson York, James Milton York, Eli McLean York, Andrew Jackson York, Daniel O.York, Mary Katherine York, Pleasant Howard York, Matthew D. York, and Parris Cadet York.
Family lineage can be traced back to England, but they grew up with Midwest values and a love of the land. The York family grew wheat, corn, alfalfa, and potatoes. They also raised cattle and bees for making honey according to Lisa Oliva, a descendant living in the Sacramento area.
In 1852 the family moved to Osage Township in LaSalle County, Illinois. Andrew’s father, Pleasant, farmed and raised cattle. He later found coal on his land and founded the Streator Coal Mining Company.
Andrew first traveled to California with his brother, Eli in 1854 when Andrew was 21 years old. The two York brothers had a series of adventures on their trip to Nevada and California. They traveled in a wagon train with a team of oxen, helping to drive over 700 cattle, 50 horses and mules.
They worked in the mines of Nevada but found no riches; they decided to try farming in California. They moved to Napa where Eli settled permanently. Eli founded a nursery in Napa but no plant lists or descriptions of the business survive.
Eli McLean York: 1880 to 1900 – California
Andrew York’s brother Eli founded his own winery, York Winery, in 1880, on Lodi Lane in the northern end of St. Helena. An article in the St. Helena Star dated October 27, 1884, describes his grape harvest, “E.M. York has an immense crop of his own grapes – 230 to 300 tons – and was absent, getting more help to pick them, at the time of our visit. His young son informs us that some of his vineyards yielded as high as twenty tons per acre.” Eli grew Zinfandel and his vineyards flourished until around 1900 when the phylloxera epidemic destroyed the vines.
Eli replanted with prune trees. His grandchildren then used the upper floor of the winery as a skating rink and the lower floors as a stable. The winery was used once again to make wines as the California Wine Revolution began in the 1970s. Eli always had close ties with his brother Andrew and certainly consulted with him on selecting vines, purchasing equipment and making wine.
Andrew Jackson York: 1860 to 1872 – Midwest
In contrast to Eli, Andrew York was much more restless, moving around the United States and experimenting with a variety of farms. Andrew first farmed in Napa for two or three years and then married a local woman, Elizabeth (Louisa) Long, whose family had settled in California in the 1850s from Tennessee. He and Louisa moved to St. Joseph, Missouri, bought 120 acres, and established their farm. Elizabeth and James, their first two children, were born on the farm during those years.
Andrew decided to return solo to California in the spring of 1865 at the end of the Civil War. On his way, he stopped in Nebraska City, Nebraska. The American Indian Wars restricted his travels, so he began freighting between Julesburg and Fort Kearney for the U. S. Government.
In 1866 he sold his freighting outfit and decided to return to farming. He traveled to the Cherokee nation and received a claim for 160 acres in Baxter Springs, Kansas. He farmed the land for a few months without much success, decided to abandon the claim and return to his family.
Andrew then moved his family to Fannin County, Texas and farmed 60 acres of land for a year. Two more children were born. Daughter, Ida York in 1867 and son Thomas in 1869. The farming experiment did not work out for Andrew so he moved his wife and four children back to Granby, Missouri, purchased 200 acres and welcomed Walter York, his fifth child, born on May 15, 1871, in Granby, Newton County, Missouri.
Andrew Jackson York: 1873 to 1881 – California
Tragedy struck the family farm when a fire in their home took the life of Louisa York around 1873. There were five children to raise so Andrew decided to sell his farm and move to Napa, California, in 1873 to be closer to his brother. He stayed in Napa a short time before moving to San Luis Obispo. He arrived by boat with the children in Port San Luis and began looking for land to farm.
Andrew explored the area and leased a ranch for five years in the Pecho Canyon near Los Osos. During that time, he met Huldah Matthews who was divorced and living with her two children and her parents. She had married an itinerant preacher, that preached “hellfire and brimstone” but did not take any personal responsibility for his family.
Huldah’s great-granddaughter, Marguerite Abbey, has done extensive research on the family and published her memories. She describes Huldah as a very spunky lady who divorced her husband and joined her parents on an immigrant train to California to join her brother, Jake Matthews.
Huldah decided to marry Andrew, 15 years her senior, a decision that stabilized both of their lives and led to financial security for the following generations. Huldah Matthews and Andrew York were married in San Luis Obispo on September 21, 1876. Huldah had an extensive knowledge of plants and their medicinal qualities and became well-known for her home remedies. She also developed skills as a midwife in the York Mountain area and delivered babies until retirement at age 60.
Around the same time as Andrew and Huldah married, Elizabeth York, Andrew’s eldest daughter, married Al Hazard and moved to Hazard Canyon (in Montaña de Oro). She would later raise five children there.
In 1877, Andrew and Huldah purchased a ranch on Toro Creek near Cayucos. Their daughter Louisa (Lulu) was born there on November 10, 1879. Their son, Silas, was born on March 14, 1882. There were nine children in total, five from Andrew’s first marriage, Leota and Justus Priest from Hulda’s first marriage, and their own two children, Lulu and Silas York.
Andrew Jackson York: 1881 to 1900 – York Mountain
1882 was a significant year for Andrew and Huldah York. Andrew looked at a property of 112 acres which was for sale by owner, located in the Ascension District, now known as York Mountain, in the Santa Lucia Mountains, northeast of Cayucos. The property had a residence, a vegetable garden, fruit trees and a small vineyard planted with Mission grapes. Jacob Grandstaff had purchased the property in 1875, farmed the land and established a fruit and vegetable stand. Seven years later, Jacob decided to sell and move to Texas; Andrew decided to buy the property and move his family to a site which is one of the most historic and important in SLO County’s wine history.
The York family occupied this land, grew grapes and made Zinfandel wine for three generations, a total of 85 years. It is the longest running family-owned winery in the history of SLO County. It was sold to Max and Barbara Goldman in 1970 and is now restored and owned by EPOCH Estate Wines.
Andrew began to clear land and add trees to the orchard in 1882. He planted 40 acres of vineyards with the varietal that was soon to be known as the “Heritage Grape of California,” Zinfandel. According to historian Charles Sullivan, he also planted the varietal Burger Grapevine. Andrew’s method of farming was dry farming. The York Mountain region received large amounts of rainfall.
According to Silas York, the grandson of Andrew York, “by 1886 the vineyards were extensive, and the cuttings came from Napa.” We have no written proof but suspect that Andrew York obtained some of his Zinfandel cuttings from his brother. By this date, Eli York had established his own winery and vineyards in Napa. The brothers kept in close touch and collaborated all through their lives.
Andrew sold his grape crops directly to customers during the first few years but eventually had a surplus of grapes. He decided to build a winery and make his own wine with that surplus. He engaged three of the sons, James, Thomas, and stepson Justus Priest, to collect boulders on the property and build a wine cellar. He studied the books and articles that were in print at the time to learn the equipment and methods to make wine. We suspect that he also conferred with his brother who had already established his own winery in 1880.
He may have read the popular manual of the times, “The Wine Press and The Cellar” written by E. H. Rixford in 1883. This book was still a part of the York library in 1993. Vicki Dauth, local historian, remembers that it offered all kinds of viticulture advice like suggesting that egg white should be added to the wine for fining and that wines not be racked under a full moon or during a storm.
In 1895 the winery was built, over the stone cellar, both adjacent to and into a hill, so that the grapes could be crushed on the second floor of the winery. Using the flow of gravity, the juice traveled to the first floor to be stored in redwood tanks for fermenting. It was then placed in barrels and sold to the public.
According to Andrew’s grandson Silas York, “Andrew purchased fifteen 1,000-gallon tanks at $16.00 each, a hand crusher, and an old press for $75.00 from his brother, Mack (Eli) York who was a wine grower in St. Helena. Eli had no further use of the equipment because phylloxera had gotten into his vineyard and he had to pull up the vines and plant prunes.” Silas explained, “the fifteen tanks took up more room than anticipated and so the barrels had to be kept in a dugout under his residence nearby.” Silas describes, “the customers were mainly teamsters, who, having hauled their loads up one of the steep grades on either side of the mountain, had to pause to refresh their horses at the water trough placed there for their convenience.” The Swiss Italians and Portuguese from Cayucos and Cambria were loyal customers. Within a few years, the small winery was producing 1500 gallons of Zinfandel Wine.
Andrew built a two-story wood house across from the winery in 1898 as his family expanded. The home is still standing in the same location today in 2019.
By 1900 the winery was producing 30,000 to 35,000 gallons of wine. According to historian Charles Sullivan, Andrew York developed a good reputation for his table wine.
Walter York and Silas York
Originally named Ascension Winery, for the local school district, Andrew changed the name to A. York and Sons in 1896. His sons James, Thomas, and stepson Justus were involved in building, harvesting and winemaking, but it would become Walter and Silas who took over as the family winery’s second generation.
Andrew’s sons and daughters began to marry and move to their own homes. Most of them stayed in the York Mountain area except for Thomas and Ida. Thomas loved the life of adventure and moved to Alaska, joining the Gold Rush in the Yukon. Ida York Nelson settled in Healdsburg, California. Thomas sold his interest to Walter, and Walter continued to work with his father. In 1902 Silas, the youngest York, was admitted to the partnership, and the name changed to York and Sons Winery.
Walter York married Lillian (Lily) Petersen and built their home near York and Sons Winery. Walter and Lillian had five children: Miles, Wilfrid Spencer (Bill), Lillian, Roland, and Sidney. Walter’s son Wilfrid who would continue in the winemaking business and in the 1940s become the third-generation grower and winemaker.
By 1902 the winery was producing 40,000 of gallons per year. 20,000 gallons of wine were being shipped to the East Coast. The wine was sold locally, but some wine was shipped in horse-drawn wagons to the San Joaquin Valley and over the hill to the Central Coast. Wine was also shipped to San Francisco. It was transferred to large barrels, known as puncheons, each held 150 gallons, and hauled by wagon over winding and steep mountain roads to the Southern Pacific Railroad freight station at Templeton. Upon arriving at the railroad station, the puncheons were unloaded from the wagons and wine was hand-pumped into the railway cars. In later years, the wine was pumped into tank trucks and driven directly to the Southern Pacific Railroad freight station at Paso Robles where it was pumped into tank cars with electric pumps.
In 1906 as production increased, Andrew, Walter, and Silas decided to expand the winery. They purchased additional land, planted more vineyards. According to Vicki Dauth, small plantings of Grenache, Carignane, and Alicante Bouchet were added. Andrew hired a local brickmaker to teach the family how to build a kiln and mold the bricks from the clay soil found on the property. The bricks were manufactured in the homemade kiln on the site and used to expand the winery in the front and to the south. Some reports state that over 100,000 bricks were manufactured on site and used in the expansion. The wood for beams and the ceiling was salvaged from the old Cayucos pier and a bridge near Jack Creek and driven by wagon to York Mountain.
In 1907 the winery addition was completed with the help of several employees paid wages of $1.50 per day and a boss bricklayer at $4.00 per day. The total cost for the addition was about $3,000.00 according to grandson Sid York. He also described the purchase of additional tanks. The 7,000-gallon tanks cost between $120 and $175 each. The 5,000-gallon tanks sold for around $75 each. Andrew also purchased a gasoline engine and a new crusher which continued to be used until 1970.
There were 80 acres in production, and the grape harvest was successful in 1907; Andrew York called it the best season in 20 years.
York and Sons Winery signed the largest contract ever negotiated in San Luis Obispo County prior to 1910. A San Francisco firm purchased large quantities of Zinfandel wine and negotiated specific directions on how the wine had to be stored, aged and transferred from the winery to the trains to maintain the quality and stability of the wine. By 1911, the winery was producing over 100,000 gallons of wine. However, Andrew York began to have health issues, so Walter and Silas took control of the winery in 1911.
Silas York married Rachel Wilkins. Rachel, lived in Napa and had often brought Eli York, now in his late 70s, to visit his brother Andrew at York Mountain. Silas and Rachel fell in love and married just as Andrew and Huldah were experiencing poor health. They moved to York Mountain area to help care for Silas’ parents. Silas and Rachel had two children, a daughter Mildred and a son Howard who would also work for a few years as the third generation in the winery with his cousin Wilfrid before pursuing a career in engineering.
Andrew York died on December 1, 1913. The winery officially passed to the second generation of York winemakers Walter York and Silas York who purchased their interest from their father’s estate and changed the name from York Winery to York Brothers. At the time, the York Brothers Winery was the largest in the county.
During their years together, three major events occurred: World War I, Prohibition, and the Depression. During World War I, local agriculture shifted from fresh produce to growing beans and other crops that could be dried and shipped to the population and later, the troops in Europe. By 1910 San Luis Obispo County was listed as one of the six leading counties in California for its bean production according to the California Statistical Report of 1910.
The Eighteenth Amendment, which established the era we now know as Prohibition, was a nationwide constitutional ban on the production, importation, transportation, and sale of alcoholic beverages. This law was passed by the United States Congress and ratified by the states; it was in effect from 1920 to 1933. It was not illegal to drink, however. In fact, any wine, beer, or spirits in the possession of an American in 1920 could be enjoyed and consumed at home. Prohibition history varies state by state in America. The Eighteenth Amendment and the Volstead Act stipulated that individual states should enforce Prohibition according to their own laws. Although some states did not enforce the laws, local law enforcement in San Luis Obispo County was vigilant, harsh and terrifying. People were arrested, jailed and paid large fines for making and selling wine. The York family members were not among this group. They were able to keep their vineyards producing all through the era from 1920 to 1933.
The California State Board of Agriculture issued a Statistical Report in 1910, stating that the number of bearing grapevines was 265,281. By 1920, the number listed was 148,842, a sharp decline possibly due to the incoming passage of the Volstead Act and Prohibition.
A celebrity arrived in Paso Robles in 1913 which was propitious for the York Brothers Winery. He was a world-famous pianist and Polish patriot from Switzerland, Paderewski, who experienced great pain in his hands during a California concert tour. The tour was cancelled, and Ignace Paderewski advised to “take the healing waters in Paso Robles” as a cure. He resided at the famous Paso Robles Inn and in 1914 purchased a 2,000-acre ranch in the Adelaida district, west of town. He planted fruit trees and nut trees. At the end of World War I, Paderewski was instrumental in Poland being reestablished as a free country with the help of Woodrow Wilson; Ignace served as Poland’s first Prime Minister after the Great War. He returned to the United States and to the Paso Robles Inn in 1922.
Paderewski was aware the price of grapes was rising and decided to consult with two professors from UC Davis, F. T. Bioletti and Horatio Stoll, on the varietals to plant on his ranch. In 1923, his ranch manager, J. Gnierciah, cleared 200 acres and planted Zinfandel vines purchased from a nursery in Riverside with small amounts of Béclan and Petite Sirah, all planted on their own roots.
Paderewski’s ranch manager sold the grapes to locals and the Swiss-Italian dairies in the Salinas Valley. As Prohibition was coming to an end, the Paderewski Zinfandel grapes were taken to York Mountain Winery to be pressed and made into wine. Paderewski entered his wines in the first competitions after Prohibition and won gold medals, bringing fame to York Brothers Winery.
The York Brothers Winery was not able to sustain its previous large production during Prohibition but found a way to continue to stay in business selling grapes. They pressed grapes to make grape juice but quickly found there was not much local demand for the juice. However, there was a market for their Zinfandel grapes. The demand for grapes was fueled by two factors: the growing black market for wine, controlled to a great extent by organized crime, and the rise of the home winemaking industry.
The York Brothers focused on the local market and sold grapes to dairy families along the coast of Cayucos and Cambria as well as in Salinas and to the Basque populations in the Bakersfield area. York Brothers also pressed grapes for locals and sold sacramental wine as well as wine for medicinal purposes, according to local historian Vicki Dauth.
Another important fact about the York Brothers Winery is that no phylloxera, the deadly pest that destroyed a significant amount of wine grapes around the world, entered the York vineyards, so the vines aged, producing healthy, high-quality grapes. Dry farming continued to be the farming method.
Wilfrid (Bill) York: 1940s
In 1944 ownership of the York Brothers was transferred to Walter’s son Wilfrid (Bill) York (age 40) and Silas’ son Howard York (age 30).
Wilfrid (Bill) left York Mountain and the winery around 1929 to enroll at UC Berkeley in the College of Science and Engineering. After graduation, Wilfrid worked in San Francisco for Wells Fargo Bank. He also taught music at the San Francisco Conservatory and played in the Wells Fargo Symphony Orchestra. He played two instruments, the piano, and the violin and also had a beautiful singing voice. He loved classical music, opera, and played chess. In 1934 Bill married Dorothy May Osborne, who was from San Luis Obispo, and they had two daughters. When his father indicated that it was time for him to return home, they moved back to York Mountain with their daughter Joan who was born in 1936. A second daughter, Janice, was born in 1945.
Howard had served in the Army. World War II was close to ending and soldiers began to return home in 1945. The economy in the United States began to open up to new possibilities as soldiers used their G.I. benefits to secure an education and new industries thrived developing homes, cars, and goods for the generation looking forward to change and peace ever after. Howard worked with Bill for ten years.
Walter York died on September 15th, 1952. Howard sold his ownership to Bill in 1954. He decided to pursue an education in civil engineering.
Bill York renamed the winery York Mountain Winery and mapped out his own plan for expansion of wine production. Dorothy York’s brother, Bob Osborne, made the famous York Mountain wooden sign.
Bill bought grapes from local growers including the Busi, Dusi, Ernst, Nerelli, and Venturini families. He had only one employee, Ermino Vost, who tended the vineyards, and lived in a small house on the grounds.
By 1953 Bill York was producing 80,000 gallons of wine including Zinfandel, Claret, and Burgundy. He won five State Fair Awards in the 1950s. The silver was awarded at the Sacramento State Fair in 1953 and a gold in 1960. At the Los Angeles County Fair, York Winery won golds in 1954 and 1960 and a silver in 1957.
Dorothy became an active partner in the winery. Most of the wine was stored in barrels for delivery. Bill drove the truck to the Basque customers in the Bakersfield area; Dorothy soon took over the route. Dorothy delivered barrels to customers in the Santa Barbara area, driving over 100 miles each way. Local markets and liquor stores carried the York Mountain Wine such as the Soto Market in Cambria.
Harvests were shared with friends, neighbors and family members. Ted Dellaganna, a rancher and neighbor, often helped with the harvest. There was a great sense of community and cooperation. Bill was a man of many talents. He was a painter of landscapes and seascapes who entered his paintings in competitions. He loved music and continued to play all during his adult years.
Bill pursued knowledge and possessed a broad range of intellectual interests. He loved the sky and stars and shared his passion with his grandchildren and friends. He is remembered for building his own telescope including grinding his own telescope lens. Tom St. John still has the telescope and has fond memories of discussions about stars, planets, galaxies, and constellations.
The 1960s were a turning point in the history of York Winery. York Winery was awarded the gold medal for Zinfandel on September 16, 1960, by the Los Angeles County Fair Association in Pomona, California. The document was signed by the Superintendent of the Wine Department George D. Hussey.
A series of events destroyed crops and wine production at York Winery. In 1962, an invasion of deer destroyed the vineyards. In 1964, a tornado hit York Mountain and ripped off the roof of the winery, damaging one fermentation tank and destroying the other. In 1968 a snow storm on York Mountain damaged Zinfandel grapes.
In 1970, Bill decided to retire and sell York Winery, established in 1882 by his grandfather Andrew York and owned by three generations of York family growers and winemakers, to enologist and winemaker, Max Goldman.
The story goes that Max Goldman had retired to Malibu, California with his wife Barbara, after a long and successful career in the wine industry, starting at Roma Winery in Lodi, California in 1933 and finishing at the height of his career in the champagne industry in upstate New York in the late 1960s. Both men and their wives were guests at a dinner party in Cayucos. During the evening Bill mentioned that he was thinking of selling the winery. He described the history and mentioned that Paderewski had chosen York Winery to press his grapes and make his famous award-winning Zinfandel. Max was overcome with emotion. He had been an accomplished pianist since childhood, and the works of Paderewski were among his favorite compositions. It seemed as if the fates had conspired to bring these two winemakers together to pass the baton and continue the winemaking history on York Mountain.
Bill York died June 9, 1984, leaving a rich legacy in San Luis Obispo County.
TIMELINE: York Brothers Winery
1805: Pleasant York, father of Andrew York, is born in Tennessee. He dies in 1868 in LaSalle County, Illinois. He marries Rachel McPheatridge in the 1820s.
1833: Andrew Jackson York, son of Pleasant and Rachel York, is born in the Richland Township near Bloomington, Indiana on March 3. He is the fifth of ten children.
1852: The family of Pleasant York moved to Osage Township in LaSalle County, Illinois to farm and raise cattle. He later found a mineral deposit of coal on his property and founded the Streator Coal Mining Company.
1854: Andrew York travels to Nevada and California with his brother Eli. They travel with a wagon train helping to drive cattle, horses and mules. They work in the mines of Nevada but are not successful in striking it rich. The brothers travel to California. They settle in Napa to farm.
1855: Andrew farms in Napa for the next three years. It is not known whether he rents land or is employed as a farmer.
1858: Andrew York marries Louisa Elizabeth Long in Napa, California.
1858: Andrew York and his wife move to Granby, Newton County, Missouri. Andrew purchases 120 acres. Andrew farms there until 1865.
1859: First child, Elizabeth York, is born.
1861: The American Civil War begins on April 12. It is fought between the northern states loyal to the Union and the southern states which seceded to form the Confederate States of America.
1861: Second child, James York, is born.
1865: The Civil War ends on May 13 with the victory of the northern states. The Union is preserved.
1865: Andrew travels toward California alone but is unable to continue beyond Nebraska City, Nebraska, because of the American Indian Wars also known as the American Frontier Wars. Andrew starts a freight operation. It is no known where Louisa York and her children are living at this time, but it is assumed that they continue to live on the farm in Granby, Missouri.
1866: Andrew sells his freight operation in Nebraska and returns to the farm in Granby. He subsequently sells his farm and moves the family to Fannin County, Texas. Andrew either purchases or rents 60 acres of land to farm.
1867: Third child, Ida York, is born in Fannin County, Texas.
1869: Fourth child, Thomas York, is born in Fannin County, Texas.
1870: Andrew and Louisa move back to Granby, Newton County, Missouri, and purchase 200 acres to farm.
1871: Fifth child, Walter York, is born on May 15 in Granby, Newton County, Missouri.
1871: Lillie Frances Peterson, Walter’s future wife, is born on November 24.
1873: Andrew’s farm catches fire and his wife, Louisa Long York, dies in the fire. The five children survive the disaster. Andrew sells the farm and moves to California to be near his brother in Napa.
1873-74: Andrew York arrives in Napa, California with his five children. They do not stay long. Andrew searches for new opportunities in San Luis Obispo County.
1874: Andrew York and his children travel from San Francisco to the Port of Hanford in the San Luis Bay by boat, most likely a steamer.
1874: Andrew leases a farm in Pecho Canyon in the Los Osos Valley. He becomes friendly with the Matthew family. Their daughter, Huldah Matthew Priest who divorced her abusive husband, and her two children are living with them.
1875: Jacob B. Grandstaff is granted 112 acres of land, 12 miles west of Templeton, for his service in the Civil War, by President Ulysses S. Grant.
1876: Andrew York marries Huldah Matthew Priest (divorced) mother of three children on September 21st.
1876: Elizabeth York, Andrew’s eldest daughter, marries Al Hazard and moves to Hazard Canyon near Montano de Oro in the Los Osos Valley.
1877: Andrew and Huldah move to Toro Creek with their children. Andrew has four children living at home, James, Ida, Thomas and Walter York. Huldah has two children, daughter Leota Priest and son Justus Priest.
1879: On November 10, Louisa York is born to Andrew and Huldah York.
1880: Eli York, Andrew York’s brother, founds his own winery, York Winery, on Lodi Lane in the northern part of St. Helena in the Napa Valley.
1882: Silas York is born on March 14th, last child of Andrew and Huldah York.
1882: Andrew York purchases a 112-acre homestead from Jacob B. Grandstaff.
1882–1886: Andrew York purchases cuttings of Zinfandel through his brother in Napa and plants them in the vineyard.
1885: Private records indicate that Andrew York donated land for the establishment of the Ascension Schoolhouse on York Mountain Road. The school remains in operation until the late 1940s for children living in Shadow Canyon and York Mountain. The land and schoolhouse are located on the hill above the winery. In 2014, The Armstrongs, owners of Epoch Estate Wines, built a new winery on this site.
1892: Andrew York, along with sons Jim, Tom and Walter haul boulders from the area to begin construction of a wine cellar on the property. They built the winery on top of the wine cellar.
1895: The winery is completed. Andrew York purchases fifteen 1,000-gallon tanks of redwood for $16.00 each, a hand crusher, and a grape crusher for $75 from his brother, Eli York in St. Helena, California.
1895: Andrew York names his winery Ascension Winery. Within a few years the small winery is producing 1500 gallons of Zinfandel wine annually.
1896: Walter York and Tom York become partners with their father in the Ascension Winery. Andrew changes the name of the winery to A. York and Sons.
1896: Erminio Vosti is born on July 31. He will become the long-term employee for York Brothers Winery.
1898: Andrew York builds a two-story farmhouse across from the Winery.
1899: Tom York sells his share of the business to his brother Walter. Tom decides on a life of adventure and moves to Alaska.
1900: Around 1900 Walter York married Lillie Frances Peterson.
1900: Phylloxera destroys the York Winery vineyards owned by Eli York in St. Helena. Eli closes his winery and continues business as a nurseryman.
1901: Miles F. York is born on December 29, firstborn son of Walter and Lillie York.
1902: Silas York becomes a partner in A. York. The name is changed to A. York and Sons Winery.
1902: A. York and Sons Winery is producing 40,000 gallons of wine annually; 20,000 gallons of wine are shipped to the East Coast and the balance is sold locally and in the Central Valley of California.
1904: Wilfrid York is born on November 23, second son, to Lillian and Walter York.
1906: A. York and Sons Winery purchases additional land and plants new grape varieties, Grenache, Carignane and Alicante Bouchet.
1906: The York family expand the winery. They hire a brickmaker to show them how to make their own bricks from clay soil on York Mountain using homemade kilns. The family makes the bricks and adds extensions to the original winery expanding the front and south side of the winery. Wood support beams are purchased from the recycled wood of the Historic Cayucos Pier and transported by wagon to the winery.
1907: The winery is completed, and additional tanks and equipment are purchased.
1907: There are 80 acres planted; the grape harvest was the most successful to date according to Andrew York.
1907: Lillian York is born on December 28, the first daughter of Walter and Lillie York.
1910: York and Sons winery signs the largest contract ever awarded to a winery in San Luis Obispo County. The contract was negotiated with a San Francisco Distributor with specific instructions on how the wine would be transported by wagon and rail.
1910: The California State Board of Agriculture reports that there are 265,281 grapevines planted in California.
1911: York and Sons Winery is producing 100,000 gallons of wine annually.
1911: Silas York marries Rachel Wilkins. Andrew and Huldah are in poor health.
1912: Roland Emerson York is born on July 5, the third son of Walter and Lillie York.
1913: Andrew York dies on December 1 and is buried in the Cayucos Cemetery.
1913: Walter York and Silas York purchase Andrew’s share of the estate and take total ownership of the winery. They change the name to York Brothers Winery.
1914: York Brothers Winery is the largest winery in San Luis Obispo County.
1914: Sidney C. York, the fourth son of Walter and Lillie York, is born on November 14.
1914: Howard York is born to Silas York and his wife.
1919: The 18th Amendment is ratified on January 19th by the United States Congress. This Amendment prohibits the manufacturing, transportation, and sale of alcohol within the United States.
1920: The 18th Amendment goes into effect in January. A. York & Sons remains open.
The Winery sells grape juice and grapes to customers throughout San Luis Obispo County, the Salinas Valley and Central California.
1920s: The original wood barn on the property burns down.
1920s: the York family replaces the barn with a new corrugated metal barn.
1929: Wilfrid (Bill) York moves to the Bay area to attend University of California at Berkeley. He is accepted to the College of Science and Engineering.
1933: Wilfrid (Bill) finds employment at the Wells Fargo Bank in San Francisco. He joins the Wells Fargo Symphony Orchestra and teaches music at the San Francisco Conservatory. He is known for his talent as a violinist and for his singing voice.
1933: The Twenty-first Amendment of the United States Constitution repealed the Eighteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution which had mandated a nationwide prohibition on alcohol. The Twenty-first Amendment was proposed by Congress on February 20, 1933, and ratified by the requisite number of states on December 5, 1933.
1934: Walter and Silas York apply for a new bond for York Brothers winery. The BW is 146 which is probably the same number as awarded to the first application of Ascension Winery. They produce a blend called York Mountain wine in addition to Zinfandel.
1934: Walter and Silas York make wine for the Polish composer, pianist and viticulturist Ignace Paderewski from his Zinfandel grapes. It is not known when this contract began or ended. In 1935 Paderewski contracted with a distributor for his wine and it is assumed that the wine was made and bottled at York Brothers.
1934: Wilfrid marries Dorothy May Osborne.
1934: Paderewski wins gold medal for his Zinfandel wine at California State Fair.
1935: Roland York, son of Walter and Lillie, dies at age 22 on February 15.
1936: Janice York is born to Wilfrid (Bill) and Dorothy York in San Francisco.
1937: More than 50,000 gallons of Zinfandel wine is shipped from York Bros. Winery to Livermore Wines. It was shipped with a total of 70,000 gallons which included wines from Templeton Winery, owned by Lorenzo Nerelli. This was the largest shipment that had ever been made from Paso Robles in bulk.
1941: The bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7th. The United States Congress declares war on the Empire of Japan on December 8th.
1942: Howard York enlists in the United States Army around this time.
1944: Walter York’s health is weakening. He asks Wilfrid and his family to move to York Mountain to manage the winery.
1944: Brothers Walter York and Silas York, the second generation of the York family, transfer ownership of the winery to their sons Wilfrid (Bill) York and Howard York, the third generation.
1944: The name is changed to York Winery.
1950: Lillie Frances York dies on March 24 and is buried in the Cayucos Cemetery. Her gravestone has the name Lillian York on it.
1952: Walter York dies on September 15 and is buried in the Cayucos Cemetery.
1953: Wilfrid (Bill) York is producing 80,000 gallons of wine annually.
1953: York Mountain Zinfandel, produced by York Bros., wins a Silver Medal at the California State Fair in Sacramento.
1954: Rachel York, wife of Silas, dies on July 14, and is buried in the Cayucos Cemetery.
1954: Howard York decides to pursue a career in civil engineering. Bill buys Howard’s interest in York Brothers Winery.
1954: Wilfrid (Bill) York runs the York Brothers Winery with one employee, Erminio Vosti. Winemaker Bill makes the Zinfandel and California Burgundy wines. His wife Dorothy helps with deliveries from Santa Barbara to Bakersfield to San Luis Obispo. As production increases, Bill purchases grapes from local growers including the Busi, Dusi, Ernst, Nerelli and Venturini families.
1954: Wilfrid (Bill) wins Gold Medal for Zinfandel at the Los Angeles County Fair.
1957: Wilfrid (Bill) wins the Silver Medal for Zinfandel at the Los Angeles County Fair.
1960: Wilfrid (Bill) York wins the Gold Medal at the California State Fair in Sacramento and the Gold Medal at the Los Angeles County Fair for Zinfandel.
1962: A large herd of deer destroys the grapevines in the York Mountain vineyards.
1964: Tornado hits York Mountain and rips off the roof of the winery, damaging one fermentation tank and destroying the other.
1967: Silas, youngest son of Andrew and Huldah York, dies on July 23. He is buried in the Cayucos Cemetery.
1968: Snowstorm damages the grapevines in the vineyard.
1970: Bill York and Max Goldman meet in the living room of mutual friends in the beach town of Cayucos. Bill tells Max Goldman about the relationship between Paderewski and York Winery. Max Goldman shares his passion for Paderewski and his early enjoyment of his music.
1970: Max Goldman purchases the winery and vineyards from Wilfrid York and develops plans to replant the vineyards with new varieties, restore the winery and residence, and make award-winning wines with the help of his wife Barbara and his children Stephen and Suzanne Goldman.
1974: Erminio Vosti, long time employee for York Brothers Winery dies and is buried in the Cayucos Cemetery.
Subscribe To Our Newsletter
Join our mailing list to receive the latest news and updates from our team.
I grew up on York Mountain and knew Bill and Dorothy. I used to clean their house and do some gardening while in high school in the late ’70’s. The walls of their house were filled, literally floor to ceiling, with Bills’ oil paintings. Dorothy was one of the nicest ladies I knew. They had sold the winery by then and lived up the road from the winery. The Goldman family were good neighbors and of course, made great wine.