Complétez l'histoire du vin de la Napa Valley en Californie du début du XIXe siècle à nos jours

Complétez l’histoire du vin de la Napa Valley en Californie du début du XIXe siècle à nos jours


Calibre Wine History 21 300x237 Complétez l'histoire du vin de Napa Valley en Californie du début du 19e siècle à nos jours

Complétez l’histoire du vin de Napa Valley en Californie du début du 19e siècle à nos jours

Tout sur toute l’histoire de la Napa Valley, l’industrie vinicole californienne et l’histoire du comté de Sonoma du 19ème siècle à nos jours. Il comprend tout ce que vous voulez savoir et plus sur les vins, les caves, les caves et les vignobles de la Napa Valley et de la Californie.

Si vous souhaitez lire les profils détaillés de certains vins et producteurs de vin de Californie actuels avec des photos, des notes de dégustation et des informations techniques, les profils des producteurs de vin de Californie Si vous souhaitez en savoir plus sur les raisins les plus importants utilisés pour la production de vin de Californie, veuillez lire notre guide des raisins californiens

Premiers vignobles de Californie: Les premières vignes ont été plantées en Californie à la fin du XVIIIe siècle. Si l’histoire montre que des vignes ont été plantées en 1683, il est peu probable que ces premiers vignobles se développent car les zones où ils ont été plantés ont été abandonnées. En 1779, un groupe de missionnaires dirigé par le père Junipero Serra a planté des vignes pour les neuf missions qu’il a fondées.

Ces premières vignes ont été cultivées pour produire du vin utilisé à des fins religieuses. Les premières plantations n’étaient pas des cépages spécifiques. Ce sont des mélanges de champs qui sont devenus connus sous le nom de raisins de mission en raison de leur utilisation par l’église.

Le nom vient du fait qu’ils ont été plantés par les premiers missionnaires. La naissance commerciale de l’industrie du vin a commencé un peu plus tard au milieu de la fin du 19e siècle. Grâce à un petit groupe d’émigrants européens, Napa et Sonoma ont commencé quand Abraham Lincoln était président!

Avant que la Napa Valley ne soit connue pour produire des vins de qualité, la plupart des vins américains les plus populaires provenaient de New York, de Virginie, de l’Ohio et du Missouri. En fait, des vignobles ont germé dans tout le sud de la Californie avant que Napa et une grande partie du nord de la Californie ne soient cultivées.

On sait que des cépages européens ont été plantés à Los Angeles et Anaheim dans les années 1830. Jean Louis Vignes, parfaitement nommé, a ouvert la première cave commerciale en Californie en 1833. Jean Louis Vignes a été rapidement suivi par William Wolfskill en Californie du Sud, qui possédait plus de 145 acres de vignobles à Los Angeles et en Californie du Sud à la fin des années 1830.

En 1859, l’industrie du vin de Los Angeles a reçu un coup de pouce supplémentaire lorsque la ville a convenu qu’aucune taxe ne serait prélevée sur les terres utilisées pour planter du raisin. En 1838, des vignes sont plantées à l’est de Los Angeles, à Rancho Cucamonga, non loin de San Bernardino. Des vignes ont également été plantées à Santa Ana et dans d’autres régions au sud de Los Angeles.

La naissance de la Napa Valley: On pourrait dire que l’histoire de la Napa Valley a commencé lorsque Joseph Osborne a commencé à planter de la vigne dans les années 1850 sur un terrain de 1800 acres qu’il a appelé Oak Knoll.

Cette zone d’origine a été divisée et redistribuée plusieurs fois au cours des décennies, mais elle a produit plusieurs des meilleurs vignobles de la vallée. Une grande partie du crédit pour la culture des premières vignes à Napa va à George Calvert Yount.

La terre que George C. Yount a commencé à cultiver a reçu une bourse du gouvernement mexicain parce que la Californie n’avait pas encore reçu le statut d’État et faisait toujours partie du Mexique. George Calvert Yount a commencé à cultiver des vignobles dans le nord de la Californie en 1836.

La célèbre ville de Yountville porte son nom. Grâce à Samuel Brannan, la création de Calistoga n’était pas loin derrière. En 1859, Samuel Brannan a acheté un grand terrain sur lequel il a planté des vignes, le ranch Agua Caliente. Avec plus de 100 hectares de vignes, il a appelé la région Calistoga.

Alors que George C. Yount a été le premier à planter sérieusement de la vigne, l’histoire de la Napa Valley a été écrite par John Patchett, qui était responsable de la création du premier vignoble et établissement vinicole officiel de Napa Valley. John Patchett a commencé à cultiver des vignes en 1854 et n’a commencé à produire du vin que trois ans plus tard en 1857. En 1859, John Patchett a construit son sous-sol. L’année suivante, son vin a reçu une cote officielle.

Il s’agit probablement du premier classement officiel des vins californiens. La revue a été écrite par Robert Parker de son temps et publiée dans « California Farmer Magazine ». L’examen dit: «Le vin blanc était léger, clair et brillant et en effet très supérieur. son vin rouge était excellent; Nous avons également vu du brandy supérieur. «Son vigneron était Charles Krug, qui allait créer sa propre cave dans quelques années.

Le vin est devenu plus populaire, donc un deuxième journal sur le vin est né, The Pacific Wine and Spirit Review. Pourtant, l’industrie du vin californien était si jeune que Patchett n’avait même pas de pressoir à raisins lorsqu’il était en première année. Ils ont utilisé une vieille presse à cidre, c’est tout ce qu’ils avaient.

Calif Wine History 300x260 Histoire complète du vin de la vallée de Napa en Californie du début du XIXe siècle à nos jours

Dans les premières années de l’industrie viticole californienne, les vignobles étaient initialement plantés de raisins Mission. Cependant, Zinfandel et Petite Sirah ont également été plantés avec une variété d’autres cépages français, italiens et allemands, notamment le Grenache, le Riesling, le Malbec, le Sauvignon Blanc, le Sauvignon Vert, Hambourg, le Sémillon, le Flame Tokay, le Petit Verdot, la Furmint, le Pinot Noir, le Gamay, Muscadelle, Cabernet Franc, Muscat, Carmenere et Cabernet Sauvignon, pour n’en nommer que quelques-uns.

Les vrais pionniers du vin californien: Avec plus de superficie que Napa, le comté de Sonoma a commencé à se développer en face de la vallée de Napa, soutenu par ses innombrables types de sols, terroirs, climat plus frais et accès facile à la région et pour la navigation.

L’histoire du comté de Sonoma est importante et facile à retenir car certains de ces premiers établissements vinicoles ont créé l’industrie du vin en Californie. Et étonnamment, certains de ces premiers vignobles existent encore aujourd’hui.

Par exemple; Buena Vista à Sonoma a été fondée en 1857, Gundlach Bundschu, également à Sonoma, a été fondée en 1858. Étant donné que ces deux établissements vinicoles étaient des établissements commerciaux californiens vraiment importants, on peut dire que Sonoma est en fait le berceau officiel de l’industrie du vin californien. Les frères Korbel ont commencé à produire les premiers vins de style champagne à Sonoma dans les années 1880.

L’histoire de la Napa Valley montre que la région a commencé lorsque la cave Charles Krug à Napa a été fondée en 1861. D’autres établissements vinicoles ont rapidement suivi. Jacob Schram a fondé Schramsberg en 1862.

John Lewelling a commencé à cultiver des vignes dans la Napa Valley en 1864. Veeder, qui tire son nom de Peter Veeder, a également vu des vignes plantées par le capitaine Stalham Wing en 1864, ce qui a inspiré le nom ultérieur de Wing Canyon.

John Steckler a ajouté une partie d’un domaine de 367 hectares avec des vignes que Staglin utilise maintenant. Hamilton Walker Crabb est venu ensuite en 1868. Hamilton W Crabb a acheté 240 acres de terres agricoles à la famille de George Yount. Cette parcelle est finalement devenue le célèbre vignoble de To-Kalon.

Je ne sais pas si Hamilton Crabb savait que c’était un grand pays viticole en raison de son mélange de pentes et d’élévations avec des sols d’argile et de gravier et des roches avec du sol d’argile au fond de la vallée, ou si c’était juste de la chance. Quoi qu’il en soit, ce qui est devenu To-Kalon s’est avéré être l’un des meilleurs vignobles de Napa.

En 1872, Hamilton Crabb a fondé Hermosa Vineyards. Hamilton Crabb a connu un grand succès et a été l’un des plus grands propriétaires de vignobles de la Napa Valley en 1878. Le succès précoce de Charles Krug et Hamilton Crabb a incité d’autres producteurs à cultiver des vignes à Napa.

Le vignoble de Cedar Knoll a été planté dans les années 1870. En seulement une décennie, de 1880 à 1890, le nombre de plantations dans la vallée a explosé de 3 500 acres à plus de 18 000 acres et le nombre d’établissements vinicoles est passé à près de 200!

La ville qui est devenue Napa City est nécessairement importante pour la région, car la plupart des affaires s’y sont déroulées. La ville actuelle a été initialement développée en 1847 par Nathan Coombs. C’était 2 ans avant que la Californie n’obtienne même le statut d’État. Nathan Coombs a été l’inspiration pour la dénomination de Coombsville.

Selon l’industrie viticole en plein essor, la première grande cave commerciale, Uncle Sam Wine Cellars, a été ouverte à Napa en 1872. Uncle Sam Wine Cellars a pu produire et mettre en bouteille jusqu’à 2 000 000 de bouteilles de vin! Dans les années 1880, leur activité a presque doublé. Leur emplacement sur les rives de la rivière Napa a facilité l’expédition. La Napa Valley Wine Company a rapidement suivi.

En 1881, Hamilton Crabb a acheté 119 acres à Eliza Yount pour 100 $ l’acre, marquant la naissance du vignoble To Kalon. Bien que cela semble étonnamment bon marché aujourd’hui, 100 $, c’était beaucoup d’argent à l’époque. Hamilton Crabb connaissait un grand terrain quand il l’a vu. Une autre partie, plus petite, des vignobles originaux de Hamilton Crabb est actuellement utilisée par les familles Detert et MacDonald.

Ces vignes initiales de 30 acres ont été vendues en 1954 par Caroline Stelling à Hedwig Detert. À cette époque, le prix était de 650 $ par matin. Ce package a ensuite été renommé Detert Vineyard. À la fin des années 1950, le vignoble était partagé entre Gunther Detert et Allen Horton, un parent de la famille Detert.

La famille MacDonald a hérité d’une partie du vignoble To-Kalon sur la propriété d’Allen Horton. La récolte a été vendue à Robert Mondavi pendant 30 ans. Cela a changé en 2010 lorsque la famille a commencé à produire son propre vin.

To Kalon Advertising 300x267 Complétez l'histoire du vin de la Napa Valley en Californie du début du XIXe siècle à nos jours

Vous pouvez également compter les vignobles utilisés aujourd’hui par Opus One et Robert Mondavi dans le cadre des vignobles gérés par Hamilton Crabb. En 1886, Crabb a changé le nom de sa cave de Hermosa à To-Kalon Wine Company, qui à cette époque est devenu l’un des noms les plus connus pour la production de vin dans la Napa Valley. La To-Kalon Wine Company a produit du vin rouge, des vins doux avec les noms de Sauternes, du porto, du vin blanc et du brandy, comme vous pouvez le voir sur l’annonce.

À son apogée, Hamilton Crabb, le vignoble de To Kalon, poussait sur 650 acres de vignes. Jusque-là, Crabb avait pu produire près de 150 000 caisses de vin. Les vignobles étaient plantés de différents cépages, dont le bourgogne noir et le tannate, cépage utilisé à l’époque à Bordeaux.

Hamilton Crabb est décédé en faillite en 1899 en raison des ravages causés par le phylloxéra. À peu près au même moment, Thomas Rutherford, qui a commencé avec un cadeau de mariage d’environ 1 000 acres de vignes, a commencé en 1864 en épousant la petite-fille de George C. Yount.

Thomas Rutherford cultivait des vignobles dans l’appellation Rutherford. En 1874, la cave Sunny St. Helena, qui a depuis été rebaptisée Merryvale, a d’abord été cultivée par Joseph Ghisletta. Environ 60 ans plus tard, la cave de Sunny St. Helena devait jouer un rôle important dans l’histoire de la Napa Valley.

La cave Beringer a été fondée en 1875 par Jacob Beringer et Fredrick Beringer, qui avaient auparavant travaillé pour Charles Krug. Simi a été créé en 1876. Ce qui est devenu Inglenook est né en 1879. Gustave Niebaum a été fondé en 1873 par William C. Watson et a acheté la cave, ce qui en fait l’un des vins les plus célèbres de l’époque.

Inglenook a produit un vin de style bordelais et est devenu si connu qu’il a remporté une médaille d’or à l’Exposition universelle de Paris en 1889.

Les vins d’Inglenook étaient considérés comme parmi les meilleurs de Californie et ont rapidement été mis à la disposition des passagers du Canadien Pacifique dans leurs voitures-restaurants de première classe. À la mort de Gustave Niebaum en 1908, il possédait 300 acres de vigne.

La cave Inglenook a été modelée sur le meilleur château de la rive gauche de Bordeaux. La propriété est restée entre les mains de la famille et a finalement été transférée à John Daniels en 1936.

Inglenook Wines 300x247 Histoire complète du vin de la Napa Valley en Californie du début du 19e siècle à nos jours


La société de vins Migliavacca, une autre cave de Napa, a également reçu une médaille d’or à Paris cette année. Beringer et Niebaum n’étaient pas les seuls nouveaux vignobles des années 1870. John Benson a cultivé le vignoble Far Niente de 84 hectares avec du Zinfandel, du Chasselas et du Sauvignon Vert.

En 1876, Morris Estee a fondé Hedgeside Vineyards, directement sur le Silverado Trail. Ce qui rend cela important, c’est qu’Estee et Hedgeside ont peut-être été la première cave à cultiver du Cabernet Sauvignon à Napa et à produire un vin qui a été vendu comme Claret. Les vignobles utilisés pour la haie appartiennent désormais à Quail Ridge.

Alors que la plupart des plantations ont été effectuées sur le fond de la vallée à cette époque, peut-être que les deux premiers émigrants de Bordeaux à se frayer un chemin dans la vallée de Napa, Jean Brun et WJ Chaix, ont commencé à planter sur le mont Howell en 1877. Ils ont fondé la cave Nouveau Médoc, mieux connue aujourd’hui sous le nom de Château Wotlner. La famille Woltner a possédé le célèbre vignoble Château La Mission Haut Brion à Bordeaux pendant plusieurs décennies.

Burgess Winery, également sur Howell Mountain, a été fondée en 1870 lorsque Charles M. Burgess a acheté 137 acres de terrain. Les premières plantations et caves de Conn Valley ont eu lieu en 1875 sous le nom de Germain Crochet. En 1880, William Angwin, le pasteur local, a planté un petit vignoble sur la montagne Howell. Cela devait être populaire car il y a une ville qui porte le nom d’Angwin.

Les années 1880 ont été une bonne période de croissance dans la Napa Valley. Alors que le vignoble de Vine Cliff a été cultivé pour la première fois en 1866, la cave a été fondée en 1880. À cette époque, le vin Vine Cliff Vineyard appartenait à George S. Burrage et était probablement le vin le plus cher fabriqué dans la Napa Valley et vendu pour la modique somme de 15 $ par caisse! À l’époque, c’était beaucoup d’argent.

Charles Hopper a d’abord planté ce que nous connaissons aujourd’hui sous le nom de Missouri Hopper Vineyard en 1873. Le package de ce vignoble a été acheté par George Yount. Une partie du vignoble originel de Missouri Hopper est maintenant utilisée pour faire Ulysse, le vin de Christian Moueix, et plusieurs autres vins fins de la région aujourd’hui.

Liste de prix Vintage Napa WIne Histoire complète du vin de Napa Valley en Californie du début du 19e siècle à nos jours

Charles Pritchard a planté Zinfandel et construit une petite cabane sur Pritchard Hill en 1880. Zinfandel est rapidement devenu plus populaire. En fait, il y avait un bateau à vapeur qui circulait régulièrement entre San Francisco et Napa et s’appelait Zinfandel Steamer!

Selon le Dr George Crane nommé Crane vineyard a été planté à partir de 1880. À son apogée, le Dr George Crane 300 acres de vignes. Beaucoup de ces acres ont été achetés pour seulement 6 $ par hectare!

Dr. Crane a engagé l’employé de Charles Krug, Henry Pellet, pour faire son vin. 1880 fut une année d’expansion pour la jeune industrie viticole californienne. George Schoenwald a planté le vignoble qui est maintenant utilisé par la cave Montebello. En 1881, la société agricole franco-suisse a cultivé une grande partie de ses vignes parcellaires de 143 hectares, qui sont maintenant utilisées par Seavey Vineyards.

La vallée d’Alexander, la vallée de Dry Creek et les montagnes de Santa Cruz ont également été cultivées pour la première fois à la fin des années 1880. À Calistoga, le Château Montelena a été fondé en 1882 par Alfred Tubbs lorsqu’il a planté 220 acres de terrain. Ses premières plantations n’ont pas été différenciées.

Mais lors d’un voyage en France, il est revenu avec des coupes de vin de Château d’Yquem et Lafite Rothschild! Alfred Tubbs a été l’un des premiers sélectionneurs à commencer à cultiver des rhizomes résistants au phylloxéra.

Un peu au sud, ce qui deviendra plus tard Spottswoode fut également fondé en 1882 par George Schonewald. Edward Stanly a commencé à cultiver 170 acres de terre à Carneros au milieu des années 1880. En 1885, les Ridge Vineyards sont nés, qui ont d’abord été cultivés par Osea Perrone après avoir acheté 180 acres de terrain dans les montagnes de Santa Cruz sur la crête de Monte Bello.

Au milieu des années 1880, James Goodman et George Goodman cultivaient et développaient le ranch Eshcol. Aujourd’hui, c’est l’emplacement des vignobles Trefethen. En 1889, grâce à John Henry Fischer, Mayacamas est créé, le premier des célèbres vignobles de montagne de la Napa Valley.

Zinfandel a joué un rôle important dans l’histoire de la Napa Valley. Zinfandel a été planté à la fin du 19e siècle. Le vignoble Hendry a été planté dans les années 1860. Le vignoble de la bibliothèque a été cultivé dans les années 1880. Le vignoble de Pagani a été cultivé en 1884. Spottswoode a commencé à cultiver du Zinfandel dans les années 1890 et le vignoble Hayne a été planté en 1902.

Le vignoble Moore de Coombsville n’était pas loin derrière lors de sa plantation en 1905. Au cours de ces premières années, des vignobles sont apparus dans d’autres parties du nord de la Californie. George West et William West ont fondé El Pinal Winery à Stockton en 1858 et Joseph Spenker a commencé à cultiver du zinfandel, du Cinsault et d’autres raisins dans ce qui est maintenant le vignoble Bechthold à Lodi en 1889.

À ce moment-là, les nouvelles s’étaient répandues sur la combinaison parfaite d’un climat chaud, de grands sols et de terres bon marché. Pendant les années de fondation de la Napa Valley, comme vous l’avez peut-être remarqué, la plupart des premiers pionniers de la Napa Valley étaient des hommes. Mais cela n’a pas toujours été le cas.

En 1881, Josephine Tychson est devenue la première femme vigneronne, vigneronne et propriétaire de cave dans la vallée de Napa lorsqu’elle et son mari John Tychson ont planté des vignobles sur 147 acres à Sainte-Hélène. Dans les années 1890, Joséphine Tychson avait planté 65 hectares. Ce vignoble a finalement produit Freemark Abbey et Colgin Cellars avec leur vin bien nommé Tychson Hill.

Vinification vintage de Napa Valley 300x233 Complète l'histoire du vin de Napa Valley en Californie du début du 19e siècle à nos jours

L’histoire de Napa Valley montre que ces premières années ont été difficiles et coûteuses pour les pionniers de l’industrie vinicole californienne. Les bouteilles en verre étaient chères et difficiles à trouver. Il n’était pas rare que les producteurs réutilisent des bouteilles vides, en particulier celles qui contenaient à l’origine du vin importé. Parce que les bouteilles étaient soufflées à la bouche et coûteuses à expédier, elles pouvaient coûter jusqu’à 0,10 à 0,12 cent par bouteille.

C’était à une époque où le vin californien était vendu en gallons. Le coût du vin variait de seulement 0,25 par gallon à 2,00 $ pour les meilleurs vins. En moyenne, une bouteille de vin au début des années 1860 coûtait entre 20 et 35 cents. Les retours ont été élevés. En moyenne, les producteurs pouvaient s’attendre à près de 5 tonnes par matin, soit environ 400 caisses par matin.

En 1856, seuls 225 hectares de Napa étaient cultivés en vigne. À partir de ce moment, la croissance a été incroyable! En 1866, 3 740 acres ont été plantés et en 1875, 24 664 acres ont été plantés. Comme vous pouvez le voir, la Napa Valley a lentement mais sûrement commencé à prospérer en tant que région viticole.

Il s’agit d’une statistique intéressante, basée un instant sur le nombre d’hectares cultivés en 1875. Ce n’est que 100 ans plus tard, en 1975, que Napa a eu la même quantité de plantations. Cette baisse est due au phylloxéra, à l’interdiction et à la dépression, qui ont mis des décennies à se rétablir complètement.

Charles Kohler, qui possédait des vignes en Californie, a commencé à fabriquer des bouteilles de vin dans son usine de Pacific Glass dans les années 1860. Avec son partenaire, Charles Kohler a fondé la première entreprise de vente et d’exportation de vin, Kohler et Frohling.

Certains de ses premiers efforts pour exporter du vin californien ont été confrontés à des problèmes de marketing subversifs lorsque des concurrents ont accusé des établissements vinicoles californiens de fraude, de falsification de produits et de contrefaçon sur leurs étiquettes. Il a fallu près de 20 ans pour que le vin de Californie devienne plus populaire auprès des consommateurs non étatiques.

Après la fin de la guerre civile, les exportations de vin californien ont doublé, passant de 100 000 à 225 000 en 1870. Alors que les vins de Californie ont été exportés vers d’autres pays, en particulier vers l’Europe, l’Amérique du Sud, l’Amérique centrale, le Mexique, le Canada et la Chine. La plupart des vins exportés de Californie ont ensuite été expédiés vers la côte est de l’Amérique, notamment à New York, Philadelphie, Boston et Baltimore.

Au fil du temps, le vin du Golden State est devenu si populaire que les établissements vinicoles de l’extérieur de l’État ont commencé à étiqueter et à vendre leur vin comme vin de Californie. Cela a conduit à la première loi nationale sur le vin pur.

Charles Krug a fondé sa cave au nord de Sainte-Hélène en 1861. Le désormais célèbre vignoble de Capella, également situé à Sainte-Hélène, a été cultivé en 1869. Un domaine viticole a suivi, fondé par Henry Pellet en 1873, l’année de la Grande Dépression.

Henry Pellet et Charles Krug ont créé une entreprise commune pour expédier leur vin ensemble. En raison du vignoble Charles Krug quelque peu réussi, d’autres vignobles sont apparus dans la Napa Valley.

Les vins ne se vendaient pas bien. Bien sûr, cela est dû en partie à la mauvaise qualité et aux prix élevés. À cette époque, l’expédition par train était assez chère. Le transport ferroviaire de la Californie à la côte est à la fin des années 1860 pouvait coûter jusqu’à 4,80 $ par caisse. Cela a rendu le vin californien beaucoup trop cher pour être livré sur la côte est.

En raison des tarifs bas, les vins importés de France et d’Italie étaient vendus à bas prix. Bordeaux était considéré comme un vin de qualité. Les gens savaient que Bordeaux était fabriqué à partir de Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot et Cabernet Franc. Ce n’était pas le cas des vins californiens, qui provenaient principalement d’assemblages de basse qualité et de raisins de mission.

Certains des vins californiens étaient également enrichis à cette époque, car les consommateurs aimaient les vins au goût plus doux et l’enrichissement agissait comme un conservateur.

Un événement clé dans le développement de l’industrie du vin en Californie a été la ruée vers l’or en Californie et l’achèvement du chemin de fer transcontinental. D’innombrables nouveaux colons, marchands, agriculteurs et prospecteurs ainsi que de riches spéculateurs se sont installés dans la région.

Pour vous donner une idée de la poussée de croissance massive, San Francisco a explosé de 1 000 à plus de 25 000 habitants en moins de 12 mois! Les gens ont quitté la grande ville et peuplé bon nombre des meilleures régions viticoles du comté de Napa, du comté de Sonoma et d’autres régions viticoles émergentes.

Agoston Haraszthy 300x270 Complétez l'histoire du vin de la Napa Valley en Californie du début du 19e siècle à nos jours

Sonoma s’impose: L’histoire de Sonoma commence vraiment avec Agoston Haraszthy. Agoston Haraszthy, un immigrant hongrois, a apporté près de 100 000 boutures de vigne d’Europe (principalement des vignes de Hongrie) dans la région. En fait, Agoston Haraszthy doit l’introduction des premières vignes et cépages européens en Californie en 1852. Avant Haraszthy, presque tous les raisins plantés en Californie étaient de la variété Mission.

Son idée originale était de planter à San Mateo et San Francisco. Mais les matins froids et brumeux l’ont fait chercher une terre plus ensoleillée pour ses vignes. Agoston Haraszthy a fondé la Buena Vista Vinicultural Society, qui est finalement devenue la cave Buena Vista à Sonoma.

Après une étude approfondie des sols et des climats pour la culture des vignes, la revue agricole « California Farmer » a publié le premier article en 1859, qui soulignait les avantages de la culture des cépages européens et les bénéfices potentiels de la culture du raisin.

Quand Agoston Haraszthy a déménagé son entreprise, il a déraciné ses vignes de San Francisco et les a replantées à Sonoma dans la nouvelle cave Buena Vista. Au moment de sa plantation précoce, les terres de Sonoma étaient bon marché et vendues pour seulement 6 $ par matin. En raison de son succès, les prix ont augmenté au fil du temps pour atteindre 150 $ l’acre. Agoston Haraszthy mérite également une reconnaissance pour ses progrès dans la viticulture et la vinification.

Agoston Haraszthy a peut-être été le premier producteur de vin de Californie à creuser ses propres grottes, à planter sur des pentes, et parce que le chêne était difficile à trouver, il a commencé à produire des barils de séquoia pour faire mûrir son vin. Selon la coutume européenne, il n’a pas arrosé, il a cultivé à sec.

Agoston Haraszthy avait besoin de personnes partageant les mêmes idées et partageant sa passion pour le vin. Il a répandu la nouvelle de son succès dans l’espoir d’amener d’autres cultivateurs aux vues similaires dans le nord de la Californie. En fait, Agoston Haraszthy a engagé Charles Krug et John Patchett.

En 1860, Haraszthy possédait plus de 5 000 acres de terres. En 1861, Agoston Haraszthy est retourné en Europe pour collecter 200 000 boutures et vignes issues de 1 400 cépages différents à planter en Californie pour ses vignobles et ceux d’autres producteurs de la région. En 1862, avec une production totale estimée à près de 15 000 boîtes, il remplit déjà avec succès Zinfandel.

Les autres cépages plantés dans ses vignobles étaient le Riesling, le Traminer, le Flame Tokay, le Schwarzmarokko et le Sultana. Dans les années 1860, les vins les plus populaires de Californie étaient blancs, doux et plus tard mousseux. Le niveau de production de la Buena Vista Vinicultural Society atteint enfin 50 000 caisses de vin par an dans les années 1860!

Ils ont produit leur version de champagne jusqu’en 1870. Le vin mousseux Buena Vista a été vendu pour la somme princière de 1,00 $ la bouteille. Bien que cela soit inférieur au coût du vrai champagne, il était encore cher, étant donné que les salaires moyens n’étaient guère plus de 1 $ par jour.

Agoston Haraszthy n’était pas le seul pionnier de Sonoma à ses débuts. Certains des vignobles de la région que nous connaissons aujourd’hui ont été plantés à la fin du 19e siècle, notamment: Le vignoble Old Hill Ranch, qui a été cultivé par William McPherson Hill en 1852.

Le vignoble Madrone Ranch a été planté en 1854 par le général William T. Sherman et le général Joe Hooker. Les deux généraux ont joué un rôle important dans la guerre civile. Chelli, Jackass Hill, Maggies Reserve, Martinelli Road, Saitone, Wellington et d’autres ont rapidement suivi.

Vinification 1930 300x230 Compléter l'histoire du vin de la Napa Valley en Californie du début du 19ème siècle à nos jours

La popularité du vin californien a explosé au début des années 1850. Pour vous donner une idée, en 1850, la production totale de vin de Californie était de près de 30 000 boîtes. À la fin des années 1860, la production atteignait 125 000 boîtes. À la fin des années 1870, on estimait que plus de 1 000 000 de boîtes de vin étaient produites chaque année!

À la fin de 1875, les trois principaux producteurs de vin de Californie, Charles Krug, Henry Pellet et Seneca Ewer, fondèrent le St. Helena Viticultural Club, qui devint plus tard la St. Helena Viticultural Society.

Der St. Helena Viticultural Club bestand aus anderen Winzern und Weinbergbesitzern, die dieselben Probleme und Träume teilten. Gemeinsam waren sie sich einig, dass zur Verbesserung der Qualität der kalifornischen Weine die Mission-Trauben entfernt werden müssen, wobei der Schwerpunkt auf dem Anbau französischer und italienischer Rebsorten sowie auf der Verringerung des Chaptalisierungsbedarfs liegen muss.

Die Industrie erhielt einen zusätzlichen Schub dank des Zollgesetzes von 1864, das die Zölle auf importierten Wein erhöhte und den kalifornischen Wein attraktiver machte. Um den Verkauf von kalifornischem Wein weiter zu unterstützen und zu fördern und ihn zu einer rentableren Industrie zu machen, wurden die Verbrauchsteuern für die Erzeuger auf Null gesenkt. Gerade als sich die Dinge vorwärts bewegten, wurden kalifornische Weinberge von Reblaus angegriffen.

Die Reblaus-Epidemie Die Reblaus-Epidemie wurde 1863 geboren. Die Ausbreitung der Reblaus soll von Trauben der amerikanischen Ureinwohner stammen, die in den berühmten englischen Botanischen Garten gebracht wurden.

Diese amerikanischen Weinrebenstecklinge trugen eine spezielle Wurzellaus, die die Wurzeln und Blätter einer Weinrebe angreift und abtötet. Die ersten Sehenswürdigkeiten der Reblaus in den USA scheinen in Sonoma in den Weinbergen von Buena Vista stattgefunden zu haben.

Die Insekten wanderten ab 1877 nach Napa aus und waren kurz vor der Jahrhundertwende in voller Kraft. Die Reblaus verbreitete sich wie ein Lauffeuer in Europa und dezimierte die meisten europäischen Weinberge. Fast 90% aller europäischen Weinreben wurden zerstört.

Sowohl die berühmten Namen als auch die gewöhnlichen Güter in Bordeaux, Burgund, Italien und anderen Regionen wurden zerstört. Es dauerte nur 2 Jahrzehnte, bis die unglaubliche Menge an Zerstörung auf der ganzen Welt stattfand!

Während mehrere Behandlungen entwickelt wurden, bestand die einzige praktische Lösung darin, die Vinifera-Reben wie Rupestris auf die amerikanischen Wurzelstöcke zu pfropfen. Der Wurzelstock von St. Georges wurde bald für die meisten Weinberge im Napa Valley bevorzugt, da er der Reblaus widerstehen kann.

Der junge Franzose Georges de Latour war bereit, diesen neuen Wurzelstock an Erzeuger in ganz Kalifornien zu verkaufen. Da die Reblaus in Nordamerika heimisch ist, hatten lokale Sorten eine natürliche Resistenz (machen aber Wein von schlechter Qualität), was erklärt, warum eine Heilung und Wiederbepflanzung erforderlich waren.

Reblaus 300x255 Komplette Weingeschichte des Napa Valley in Kalifornien vom frühen 19. Jahrhundert bis heute

Die meisten kalifornischen Weinberge mussten nur mit lokalen Wurzelstöcken neu bepflanzt werden. Eine der beliebtesten Sorten, die nach Reblaus gepflanzt wurden, war Zinfandel. Diese Pflanzungen erklären, warum wir in Kalifornien so viele alte Zinfandel-Reben haben.

Während Reblaus eines der Hauptprobleme der damaligen Erzeuger war, ließ keines der Probleme die Begeisterung für die Herstellung von Wein im Goldenen Staat nach. Even the great depression of 1873 to 1876 did not curtail the growth of the California wine industry. However, it’s important to note that growers during those years were faced with hard times and plummeting prices. Many previously successful vintners went bankrupt.

It took years for the fledgling California wine industry to recover. It took a combination of increased quality, the removal of Mission grapes and better economic conditions to rebuild the industry. By the late 1880’s the future of the California wine began improving. In fact, by 1890, the northern California area had grown in popularity so much, that more than 100 people in just St. Helena were now producing wine!

The high protectionist tariffs levied against French wine in 1879, (thanks the lobbying efforts of California wineries) coupled with the small production of European wines, due to the ravages of Phylloxera made California wine more popular than ever.

With the fledgling California wine industry starting to take hold, in 1880, thanks to the efforts of Dr. Eugene Hilgard, the first wine research center in the new world was born. Dr. Eugene Hilgard was able to request that the California State Legislature fund a program for wine research at the University of California.

The initial funding was for $3,000, which was a large sum of money in 1880! Dr. Eugene Hilgard, a noted soil scientist began studying which grapes were best suited for the climate, soil and terroir of California with his newly funded “California Agricultural Experiment Station.”

More than a half century later, that initial program turned into the current Agricultural Extension Program at The University of California Davis, which operates one of the world’s leading programs for the study of wine today.

1890 proved to be an important year for the young, struggling California wine industry. Records show almost 11 Million cases of California wine was produced! To help promote the sale and reputation of all those millions of cases of wine, numerous vintners entered their wine into competitions held in Paris for the World’s exhibition. Several California wineries won gold medals!

The growth of the California wine industry during this period was substantial. To give you an idea, the areas planted with vines exploded from about 3,000 acres to more than 20,000 planted acres over the past decade in just the Napa Valley!

Caliornia wine history with barrels 300x184 Complete Napa Valley California Wine History from Early 1800s to Today

The start of 20th century in the California Wine Business: This was a time of growth for California wine. 1904 saw the creation of Beaulieu Vineyards by Georges de Latour. Prior to the purchase by Latour, the property was known as the Ewer and Atkinson Winery.

Before the start of the next century, more than 200,000 acres of vines were planted in the state. This was too much for America to consume. Overproduction and the lack of demand due to a depression were to blame.

Another factor that led to problems with the burgeoning California wine industry was that much of the massive quantity being produced was done without thought to quality or grape varietals. This led to the creation of the California Wine Association in 1894.

The California Wine Association as a trade group endeavored to raise prices and demand. Other wine trade groups quickly formed and tried competing, which in turn led to what became known as the wine wars of the 1890’s. The eventual result proved to help the Napa Valley become America’s greatest wine producing region.

This took place because for the first time, quality standards were enacted. Producers were able to charge more money for the quality of their wine. Labels began stating if the vineyard was planted on a hillside or the valley floor. More importantly, the Mission grape was rapidly being replaced with better European grape varieties. Wine quality was improving and this helped foster demand.

Prohibition Complete Napa Valley California Wine History from Early 1800s to Today

The Volstead Act, Prohibition: Everything was starting to come together for the California wine industry until the ridiculous Volstead act was passed in 1919.

The Volstead act, better known as Prohibition, which outlawed the sale and production of alcoholic beverages, decimated the California wine industry. It also hurt state and régional tax revenues, as taxes on alcohol were high. To make up for lost revenue, sales taxes started being collected by the states.

With special permits from the Prohibition Department, some producers were allowed to make wine and brandy during Prohibition. Some of the larger companies at the time were the French-French Wine Company, The California Wine Association, Italian Swiss Colony Wines and the Louis Martini Product Company which eventually became the Louis Martini Winery.

To survive, the larger companies sold grape juice in barrels with heavy amounts of S 02, also known as Sulfur dioxide. When the barrels were opened and air was added to the grape juice, the fermentation process could begin, turning the grape juice into wine.

Most people just gave up, abandoned their land and allowed their vines to die. The few that stubbornly remained were reduced to selling Sacramental wines at best, or dry must, better known as raisin cakes to home winemakers that produced their own wine for so called religious purposes.

The raisin cakes were sold with explicit instructions how not to allow the product to develop any degree of alcohol, which of course was a not so secret code that informed consumers how to make wine.

There was also demand for what was known as industrial wine, which as an example was sold to tobacco companies for use in macerating tobacco. The only other minor saving grace was the law allowed home winemakers to produce 200 gallons of non-alcoholic cider per year.

Prohibition grape bricks 300x241 Complete Napa Valley California Wine History from Early 1800s to Today

Even though grape prices promptly escalated, this was not enough to keep the wine industry afloat. Prohibition remained the law of the land until the 18th Amendment to the Constitution was repealed in 1932. While many landowners allowed their vineyards to die, other California winery owners, clever enough to get around the system, thrived and prospered.

To give you an idea about the devastation to the California wine industry during Prohibition, prior to 1919, more than 2,500 wineries were licensed to make wine in America. By 1933, less than 100 remained! At the time, much of the wine being produced was sweet styled white wines, sherry and Port, although non varietal red wines were also being made.

A few growers survived by selling their fruit as table grapes. By the time Prohibition was over, Alicante Bouschet, Petite Sirah, Zinfandel, Grenache, Cinsault and Carignane were the most popular red grapes planted. Riesling and Muscat of Alexandria were probably the most prevalent white wine grapes in the vineyards.

Due to the near death of the California wine industry, the vineyards were allowed to wither and die, as many had not been tended for years.

Interestingly, even though Prohibition was in full force during the decade of the “Roaring Twenties,” research continued on grapes, wine making and wine production thanks to the early efforts of Dr. Eugene Hilgard. In fact, the genesis of the future California AVA mapping began in the 1920’s, when researchers determined that there were five, unique, climatic zones that wine growers should pay attention to in California.

Prior to this study, vineyard land was thought to come from only inland or coastal areas. The report also created a road map for the next generation of growers as to which grapes were best suited for California and equally as important, they advised removing numerous grape varieties that were planted in various portions in the field blends that had taken hold. The reasons being, those grapes did not produce wine with commercial viability.

If Prohibition was not bad enough, the great depression of 1929 added even more problems to the California wine industry. Things did not begin to improve until the late 1930’s. The rebirth was again stopped in its tracks when World War 2 broke out. However, the new generation of wine producers did not give up hope and began rebuilding the industry during the war.

Wine Shipping

The road for the subsequent generation of California wine makers was more than difficult. By the 1940’s, Napa Valley was on its way to becoming fairly active again. Close to 6,000 acres were planted. At the time, some of the most popular wineries were Beaulieu, Beringer, Inglenook, Wente, Concannons and Louis Martini.

Louis Martini became one of the first California winery to bottle wines made from specific grape varieties. Inglenook was already selling wines made from Cabernet Sauvignon by 1934! Cella was the leading, inexpensive bulk wine producer. 1944 saw the formation of the Napa Valley Vintners Association thanks the efforts of Louis Martini, John Daniel, Georges de Latour and Martin Stelling.

In 1943 Martin Stelling began accumulating large parcels of land, including the To-Kalon Vineyard, which he purchased from the Churchill family, making Stelling only the third owner of the vineyard in 80 years. Martin Stelling eventually owned close to 2,000 acres of vines in the valley.

Martin Stelling along with Andre Tchelistcheff and Caesar Mondavi were among the first growers to recognize that Cabernet Sauvignon and the Napa Valley were a perfect match, made in heaven. Martin Stelling also introduced Sauvignon Blanc to the region in 1945. Sadly, Martin Stelling died in a car accident in 1950 at the age of only 47.

By the time Martin Stelling died in 1950, between 15-20 wineries were active in the Napa Valley and Sonoma.

The next generation of the most important people in the history of California Wine: If I had to pick a few of the most important people that brought life into the wine business in those formative years, my short list starts with Andre Tchelistcheff.

Andre Tchelistcheff was hired by Georges de Latour. Tchelistcheff moved to California from France and joined Beaulieu Vineyards in 1938. This was imperative to the history of Napa Valley and its further development. Andre Tchelistcheff was responsible for introducing many of the modern winemaking techniques that were used in Europe.

It was Andre Tchelistcheff who began thinking about frost protection during the growing season. Andre Tchelistcheff pioneered the need for proper sanitation and the use of small, French oak barrels for aging of the wine.

Andre Tchelistcheff WInemaker

Tchelistcheff also insisted that malolactic fermentation become part of the wine making process. Andre Tchelistcheff eliminated pasteurization and introduced the technique of cold fermentation to increase the color and concentration of the wine.

Andre Tchelistcheff introduced modern, viticulture practices of Europe. He began replanting the vineyards with higher levels of density, reducing the amount of sulfur used in the vineyards and more importantly, Andre Tchelistcheff focused on planting high quality French grape varietals.

Robert Mondavi belongs on the shortlist of the most important people in the development of the modern California wine industry. Robert Mondavi left his family business, which owned the Charles Krug winery to form his own winery in 1965.

Robert Mondavi founded his winery in Oakville with 2 partners, Ivan Schoch and Fred Holmes. Their initial purchase consisted of 12 acres of vineyards that were owned by the Stelling family. Those acres are now used for the winery, cellars and offices at the Mondavi estate.

Believe it or not, this was the first new winery built in the Napa Valley since Louis Martini constructed his estate back in 1933! It was a massive undertaking for Robert Mondavi at the time. His efforts and pioneering ideas on the production, as well as the sales, distribution and promotion of the California wine industry changed everything.

Prior to Robert Mondavi, few wines were sold as a specific grape varietal. Although Cabernet Sauvignon was sold under that name by his families winery, Charles Krug since the 1940’s, the concept of focusing on a few, specific grapes was the brainchild of Robert Mondavi.

In 1968, Ivan Schoch and Fred Holmes sold their shares in the fledgling Robert Mondavi winery to the Rainier Brewing Company. Robert Mondavi quickly took his profits and acquired 230 more acres of the To-Kalon vineyard. The following decade, the historic partnership between Robert Mondavi and Baron Philippe Rothschild of Chateau Mouton Rothschild that created Opus One in 1979 also broke new ground.

This allowed for greater access to the world market for California wines. Much of the grapes used for Opus One were planted in the original To-Kalon vineyard.

It’s interesting to note that even though Robert Mondavi was well aware that fruit from the To-Kalon vineyard was the heart and soul of their Cabernet Sauvignon, it took until 1987 to register the name, and almost another decade before he began using the To-Kalon name on their labels promoting the vineyard as the grape source.

Cabernet Sauvignon comes to Napa Valley: The Mondavi family are responsible for countless developments in the California wine industry. Caesar Mondavi brought the family in 1923 to the Lodi area, which is where they began to become active in the wine business. They made their first purchase in Napa in 1934, when they bought the Sunny St. Helena Winery, which has since changed names to Merryvale.

That was followed in 1943, when they bought the 150 acre Charles Krug winery in St. Helena for $75,000. During the 1940’s, the Mondavi’s were one of the first growers to remove their field blends and plant Cabernet Sauvignon, as well as other popular, French grape varieties.

This is an important development. As you can see from this menu printed in the 1940’s, California wines were just starting to be sold as specific grape varieties.

california-old-wine-menu

In large part, the success of Cabernet Sauvignon in the Napa Valley was due to the tremendous wines they were making at Charles Krug. It took until the 1960’s and beyond before countless other growers began planting Bordeaux varieties in Napa Valley. In 1958, the Mondavi family bought 325 additional acres of the To Kalon vineyard for their Charles Krug winery.

In 1962, following Robert Mondavi’s first trip visiting the best wineries in Europe, Charles Krug began emulating the production techniques that were already in use in Bordeaux and other regions. Soon, other California vintners took the lead of Robert Mondavi and began aging their wine in small, French oak barrels.

Following in the footsteps of the Mondavi family at Charles Krug, Joseph Heitz founded Heitz Vineyards creating his winery in 1959. By 1966, Robert Mondavi released his debut vintage of Cabernet Sauvignon. He was soon followed by several other quality conscious producers in subsequent years like: Caymus, Chappellet, Diamond Creek, Joseph Phelps, Shafer and Stags Leap, who all planted and produced Cabernet Sauvignon wines.

Sonoma County comes of age: The history of Sonoma shows that it developed along the same path as Napa Valley until Prohibition. But after that, the region fell behind. In 1957, Sonoma County was planted with field blends made of a myriad of different grapes.

Much of the credit for planting the correct grape varieties goes to James Zellerbach. James Zellerbach founded Hanzell vineyards and began planting Pinot Noir.

Joseph Swan and Joe Rochioli followed in the footsteps of Zellerbach. Joseph Swan was the first Pinot Noir producer in Sonoma to truly popularize making wine using Burgundian methods, including whole-cluster fermentation, manual punch downs and aging in French oak barrels. The Pinot Noir clone created by Joseph Swan remains popular today.

Joe Rochioli was one of the initial producers of Pinot Noir to insist on making a wide range of single vineyard designated wines. Following in the footsteps of Napa Valley, Sonoma was granted AVA status. Today, there are 18 unique AVA’s recognized in Sonoma.

Complétez l'histoire du vin de la Napa Valley en Californie du début du XIXe siècle à nos jours 2020

The Judgement of Paris brings the modern age to California Wine: Clearly, California wine was gaining popularity in its home country. But its reputation paled to that of the more famous French wines.

That all changed when the now famous, “Judgment of Paris,” blind tasting took place, May 24, 1976. The idea was to pair the best wines of California against the best wines of France in a blind tasting. The thought was, French wines were so good, the event would promote the wines of France and trounce the California wines.

A panel was quickly convened, made of exclusively, French wine tasting experts. The wines featured four White Burgundies against six California Chardonnay wines. The results shocked everyone because 3 of the top 4 wines were from California! Chateau Montelena, Spring Mountain Vineyard and Chalone Vineyard were instantly famous.

For the white wines, the vintages were more tightly clustered than the red wines. 1973 Montelena, 1973 Chalone, 1973 Spring Mountain, 1972 Freemark Abbey, 1972 Veedercrest and 1973 David Bruce were pitted against, 1973 Mersault Charmes Roulot, 1973 Beaune Clos des Mouches Josephe Drouhin, 1973 Batard Montrachet Ramonent Prudhon and 1972 Pulingy Montrachet Les Pucelles Domaine Leflaive.

When the results for the white wines were announced, everyone was surprised. 1973 Chateau Montelena took the gold medal. Silver went to 1973 Mersault Charmes Roulot and the bronze award was handed over to 1973 Chalone!

Next came the red wines. 1973 Stags Leap Wine Cellars, 1971 Ridge Montebello, 1970 Heitz Martha’s Vineyard, 1972 Clos du Val, 1969 Freemark Abbey and 1971 Mayacamas for California were led to the supposed slaughter. Like gladiators, 1970 Mouton Rothschild, 1970 Montrose, 1970 Haut Brion and 1971 Leoville Las Cases were ready for battle.

French and French wineries were vying for the championship and the spoils of war, meaning massive increases in sales would quickly be awarded to the victor. Two First Growths coupled with 2 Second Growths from the 1855 Classification were confident they had nothing to fear.

The California wineries were praying that even with such great wines facing them, and the all potentially biased French judges, their luggage was going to be heavier, due to the added weight of the winner’s medals.

Using a 20 Pt scale, the eleven judges turned in their scores and the results surprised everyone. Especially the francais! The top spot in the tasting, which earned a gold medal was awarded to 1973 Stags Leap Wine Cellars! The silver medal went to 1970 Chateau Montrose, followed by 1970 Chateau Mouton Rothschild, which grabbed the bronze medal!

In those days, news did not travel as fast as it does today. But everyone in the wine trade as well wine lovers all over the world were quickly made aware that the previously little-known French wines trounced the famous 1855 Classified Growths of Bordeaux in both the red wine tastings and that the California Chardonnay wines defeated the famous producers of White Burgundy.

The French Press barely covered the event. Perhaps due to the major embarrassment suffered by the French producers. In America, Time Magazine published the results. Once the dust had settled over the corks, instant recognition and increased sales and prices for California wines were the prize. The modern era for the California wine industry was officially in full bloom.

Single Vineyard Wines are born. By the start of the 1970’s, growers, winemakers and some consumers were aware of the best vineyards. But very few wines were being sold as vineyard specific bottlings. Ridge, Joseph Heitz, Al Brounstein of Diamond Creek and Milton Eisele were the original early pioneers of making distinctive, single vineyard designated wines in Napa Valley.

While the Eisele vineyard was given its now famous name in 1969, the site dates all the way back 1882. In those days it was planted to Zinfandel and Riesling. Credit goes to Heitz Cellars for producing Heitz Martha’s, which was released in 1966. Milt Eisele was next. But Eisele was a little different.

In 1971, Milt Eisele began insisting wineries purchasing his fruit include the Eisele name on their label, letting consumers know the grapes came from his vineyard. That trend has continued gaining popularity even today. While younger consumers take it for granted, in those days, it was revolutionary!

Because until then, consumers purchased wines based on the name of the owner, not the vineyard. In Sonoma County, thanks to the early efforts of Joe Rochioli of Rochioli Vineyards and Steve Kistler of Kistler Vineyards, that region also began producing single vineyard designated Chardonnay and Pinot Noir wines. Wineries in the Central Coast are also bottling more single vineyard designated wines all the time.

Robert Parker Headshot

Enter Robert Parker: Clearly, there were some estates making great California wine in the 1940’s, 1950’s, 1960’s and 1970’s. But the truth is, those producers were far and few between. In fact, until 1967, the production of sweet wine was more popular than dry red wine in the Napa Valley.

By the time Prohibition was over, Alicante Bouschet, Petite Sirah, Zinfandel and Carignane were the most popular red grapes planted. Riesling and Muscat of Alexandria were probably the most prevalent white wine grapes in the vineyards.

Very little Cabernet Sauvignon was planted in Napa Valley in those early days. Many California wines from that era were not made from ripe fruit. Several wines were overly acidic and did not age well.

Grape varietals were often planted in the wrong soils. Wines were still aged in redwood instead of oak in those formative years. Please note that I said many of the wines from Napa Valley and California in the 1960’s and 1970’s had problems. There were a handful of producers making great wine at the time as well.

It was an interesting time to become a wine critic. Robert Parker needed the Napa Valley and little did they know, but the Napa Valley wineries needed Robert Parker as well, as both were about to explode. Robert Parker stared his career as a wine writer in 1978, when he founded what became The Wine Advocate.

Robert Parker, who became famous after his bold calls about the 1982 Bordeaux vintage loved California wine. He felt that many producers with great terroir, were not making wine at their full level of potential.

His call for harvesting phenolically ripe fruit, lower yields, more sorting and selection, cleaner facilities and using more new, French oak barrels, coupled with planting the right grape varietal in the correct soils along with producing more vineyard specific wines was heard by many winemakers.

By the late 1980’s things started heating up in California. 1984, 1985, 1986 and 1987 ushered in the first wave of the new era. It became clear that making better wine, earned you better scores from Robert Parker. Higher scores quickly translated into more money and things began to change. This became more apparent during the 1990’s, which was seen by many as the first, golden decade for California wine.

The explosion of high end, producers took hold once the 1990’s came around. Several of the most famous estates today began producing wine during the incredible decade of the 1990’s. 1990, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996 and 1997 brought about an unequaled run of great vintages and improved levels of quality to California wine.

The popularity and power of Robert Parker was also on the rise. His enthusiastic praise made overnight success stories for the best producers. This was coupled with equally higher prices, which many people unfairly blamed Robert Parker for.

Introduction of AVA, French Viticultural Areas: In 1983, in recognition of the uniqueness of the terroirs and soils in the myriad of different vineyard sites, a system of AVA’s, French Viticultural Areas were created. The California AVA system certainly has its own quirks.

The oddest example of this that wines are allowed to come from multiple AVA’s as long as the grapes from only those AVA’s listed on the label and that the percentage of each AVA is listed on the label. The first AVA was granted to Napa Valley. The AVA system has continued expanding over the years. Today, the Napa Valley alone consists of 16 unique French Viticultural Areas, also known as AVA’s.

Los Carneros 1983

Howell Mountain 1983

Wild Horse Valley 1988

Stags Leap District 1989

Mt. Veeder 1990

Atlas Peak 1992

Spring Mountain 1993

Oakville 1993

Rutherford 1993

St. Helena 1995

Chiles Valley 1999

Yountville 1999

Diamond Mountain 2001

Oak Knoll 2004

Calistoga 2009

Coombsville 2011

As of 2018, there were 135 recognized different French Viticultural Areas in California. Petaluma Gap, in Sonoma is the most recent area awarded AVA status. This is not without controversy.

There are many knowledgeable people in the wine industry that feel there are far too many AVA’s, as each area does not produce truly distinctive wine from that of its neighbors. On the other side of the coin, there are numerous growers complaining their soils and terroir are unique and deserve their own AVA. Like the old saying goes, you can’t please all the people all of the time.

Birth of the true modern era for California Wines: Starting in 1990 and continuing almost unabated in the following decade, vintage after vintage proved to be stunning. This incredibly lucky streak of vintages allowed growers to produce better wine. While some winemakers refused to jump on the ripe fruit, soft tannins band wagon, that is what consumers wanted to buy, drink and cellar. New wineries sprung up over-night!

To give you an idea on the recent, rapid growth of the California wine industry, it’s important to learn how quick and recent this growth really is in the modern era. In 1945, very few growers exited and of course, even less wineries were making wine. 1955 saw 360 growers. 1965 – 232 wineries were active in California. 1975 saw 330 producers. 1985 – 712 producers were making wine. 1995 – 944 estates were producing wine. In 2005, 2,275 producers were making wine and today there is close to 4,000 wineries in California!

Screaming Eagle wine

California Cult Wines: Some of the smaller estates, making extraordinary wine in small quantities became known as Cult wines. Most of these wines were made in such small numbers, they were often sold exclusively to their own, thirsty customers via a mailing list.

The first California Cult wine to be sold via mailing lists was Grace Family in 1978. This was followed by Williams Selyem, who produced Pinot Noir. Neither producer is considered a cult wine today.

The California Cult wine phenomena began taking hold in 1992. Abreu, Araujo, Bryant Family, Colgin, Dalle Valle, Harlan and Screaming Eagle were all about to become legendary wines among wealthy collectors.

At first, the top cult wines were offered for reasonable prices. Most were available for $40 to $60 per bottle. Screaming Eagle was shockingly expensive at $75 per bottle! But the demand to taste the latest and greatest created a secondary market for any small production wine with a high, Robert Parker score.

Producers watched their customers reselling their wine the same day they purchased it for double or triple price wanted a piece of that action. Within a decade, prices rose on most wines so much, that the secondary market was effectively killed for all but a few wines. The price escalation wars eventually stopped. But there are no price reductions in sight.

Today, very few wines sell for more money on the secondary market. There is one wine that remains on the top of cult wine pyramid, Screaming Eagle.

Screaming Eagle continues setting the standard all other high end, or so called Cult wine producers emulate. Their first release in 1992 was offered to a small list of insiders for about $75. The wine quickly jumped to $500 per bottle. Today, it sells for more than $5,000 per bottle! Screaming Eagle remains the last true, cult wine.

In 2014, the price from the winery was $750 per bottle. The Secondary market quickly pushes it to $1,500 per bottle and beyond. It is only a matter of time until Screaming Eagle begins to sell for $1,000 per bottle direct from the producer!

By 2007, some consumers and a few wineries created a minor backlash against the wines championed by Robert Parker. Claiming the wines would not age, and were too big to be enjoyed with meals. Clearly they were wrong when it comes to age as many of the first wave of California wines made with phenolically, ripe fruit, with their increased sugar and alcohol levels have aged for decades.

With consumers continuing to buy these wines in droves, Robert Parker will always be remembered as being one of the most influential people in modern the age of the Napa Valley. But Parker is not the only person on the podium.

California Wine Producers

The most influential people in California wine today starts with Bill Harlan. The contribution of Bill Harlan in creating the modern era of Napa Valley cannot be understand. His dream of creating an estate in Napa that rivaled the First Growth wines of Bordeaux certainly came true.

The way that Bill Harlan developed his brand as a luxury item, selling to an exclusive marketing list, in advance of Robert Parker’s scores remains unrivaled.

The creation of the world’s first wine, country club for the jet set, with the Napa Valley Reserve remains a first. Bill Harlan is a perfectionist. He created Harlan Estate in 1984 and did not release any wine until 1991, because he demanded perfection.

Bill Harlan did the same with his next venture Bond and his newest project, Promontory, which made its debut in 2014. Bill Harlan is also the developer of Meadowood Resorts in Napa Valley.

David Abreu is the most successful and influential vineyard manager of all time. And this takes into consideration probably every viticultural area in the world. Think about this. Harlan, Araujo, Colgin, Screaming Eagle, Dalla Valle, Bryant, Spottswoode, Staglin and Pahlmeyer are just a few of the famous names he works with on their vineyards.

After several visits to the best vineyards in Bordeaux, David Abreu began applying much of what he learned to vineyards in Napa Valley. David Abreu was a major proponent in planting vineyards with better clonal selections, the right rootstocks, tighter spacing, and getting the correct varietals placed in the best micro climates. He single handedly popularized vertical trellising and hedging in the Napa Valley.

David Abreu also produces one of the best Cabernet Sauvignon wines in the Napa Valley with his eponymous Abreu Vineyards wine. David Abreu is the third generation of his family to take hold in St. Helena. He founded Abreu Vineyards with purchase in 1986 of the Madrona vineyards. The success of David Abreu is not without controversy.

It is said that in his quest to create new vineyards, land not designated as vineyards, trees, rocks and other natural formations were destroyed.

The most notable example of this was in the creation of Bryant Family Vineyards on Pritchard Hill which required cutting down hundreds of oak trees in violation of land use rules and laws. The Napa Valley Zoning Commission levied fines and at the end of the day, the new vineyards were thriving in the Napa Valley and producing great wine.

Andy Beckstoffer is the most powerful grower in Napa Valley with more than 1,000 acres of vines in the Napa Valley.

Andy Beckstoffer also owns thousands of acres of vines in Mendocino and Lake Counties. Andy Beckstoffer is unique because unlike other growers, he does not make wine. He sells grapes and licenses the name of his vineyards, primarily Beckstoffer Vineyards and To-Kalon, to a myriad of the producers in the Napa Valley.

Andy Beckstoffer got his start in the wine business with the Heublein company in 1966. In 1972, he purchased 1,000 acres of vines with his new company, NAPACO, the Napa Company which he owned a majority share in, along with the Heublein company.

Part of that purchase included 89 acres of vines planted in the To-Kalon vineyard. At the time of the purchase, the To-Kalon vineyard was in dire need of replanting.

There were also problems due to phylloxera, along with Merlot and Petit Verdot that needed to be ripped out and replaced with Cabernet Sauvignon. When the vineyard was replanted, Andy Beckstoffer was one of the first growers to recognize planting vines with tighter spacing, similar to what had been taking place in the Left bank of Bordeaux for ages.

Some of the best parcels owned by Andy Beckstoffer today include the 89 acre parcel in the To-Kalon vineyard. The To-Kalon vineyard is one of the top sites in the entire Napa Valley, As we said earlier, the vineyard was originally planted in the 1860’s by Henry Crabb.

To-Kalon took its name from from Greek, when translated, it loosely meant, the highest beauty, or the highest good.

Andy Beckstoffer bought his share of the To-Kalon vineyard from Beaulieu Vineyards in 1993. The only other wineries that own part of the To-Kalon vineyard, with the rights to use the fabled name today are Robert Mondavi, and other wineries owned by Constellation Brands, which purchased Robert Mondavi.

The To-Kalon parcels owned by the Detert Family and the MacDonald family, which include some of the oldest Cabernet Franc vines in Napa, planted in 1949 and Cabernet Sauvignon, planted in 1954 do not come with any rights to use the To-Kalon name.

to-kalon-vineyard

While most agricultural products are sold by weight, what makes the Beckstoffer system unique is how he prices his grapes. Prior to 2015, Andy Beckstoffer had been charging a set price for To-Kalon grapes based on a set price per acre, per ton and an arrangement that allowed him to participate in the profits on the wine, a set multiplier based on the price of the wine.

Generally speaking the price is tied to the price of the bottle of wine. For example, a producer selling his wine at $300 per bottle will be paying $30,000 per ton of grapes making the cost equal to 100 times the price of the bottle!

With that, producers are also allowed to list the name of the vineyard on the bottle, for example, Beckstoffer, Dr. Crane or the recently purchased Hayne Vineyard. That was the relative formula for years.

It was expensive, but numerous wineries, many of which were receiving the highest scores by Robert Parker and massive critical acclaim from consumers were produced from grapes planted in the To-Kalon vineyard. But in 2015, Andy Beckstoffer announced a game changing price structure when he told growers there would be a massive increase in price when their current contracts expired.

The new pricing structure would be based on the familiar formula of a set price per ton, an agreed on price per acre and to ensure the maximum amount of participation for Beckstoffer, the set multiplier for the wineries agreed on retail price.

What made things different is that starting in 2015, the new multiplier was set at a whopping $18,000 per ton of grapes or 175 times the bottle price per ton. The winery would pay the higher price of course

The kicker was that wineries would also pay no less than $45,000 per acre, to avoid price decreases to Andy Beckstoffer in case of the low yields! Using simple math, wines selling for $300 or more, (which is not out of the question for high scoring Napa wines) were paying no less than $50,000 for each ton of grapes they purchased!

However, all was not golden with Beckstoffer To-Kalon grapes. Some winemakers complained about high yields, and with such a large vineyard, not all parcels had the same level of terroir, so of course, the quality of the grapes varied.

The minimum price for any wine bearing the Beckstoffer To-Kalon name on the label was set at $125. The net effect of the price increase is not yet known, but the best wines are going to cost consumers more money, and smaller wineries that had been making wine from To-Kalon fruit will be unlikely to continue.

Wineries with a business model that allowed them to sell direct to consumers were fine. But wineries selling through middlemen or wholesalers were going to have a very hard time making any money with this new arrangement.

Beckstoffer showed other growers this new way or pricing grapes, as they were the ones taking the risks, and this drove up prices from every other source in the region.

The valuable name of To-Kalon has caused contentious law-suits between Andy Beckstoffer and the Robert Mondavi winery, regarding the legal rights of placing the name on wine labels. The first suit was filed in 2002 By Robert Mondavi against Schrader, who filed a counter suit. This was followed by another suit by Andy Beckstoffer against Robert Mondavi.

The suit was settled with Andy Beckstoffer winning the rights to allow wineries the use the name To-Kalon on their wines. By 2016, perhaps 20 different wineries were able to by grapes from To-Kalon. In theory, every winery must state the Beckstoffer To- Kalon vineyard designation on the wine label.

Helen Turley had a big impact on how wines are made in the Napa Valley and throughout California today. As a consultant, she worked with numerous wineries, starting with BR Cohn before moving on to La Jota, Colgin, Bryant Family, Pahlmeyer, Kapcsandy and Turley.

Helen Turley broke all the established rules at the time, changing the way wines were made in California. Turley was perhaps the first wine maker in California to use cold soaks.

Helen Turley was one of the first winemakers to focus on harvesting phenolically ripe fruit. Her goal was to try making the wine as natural as possible. To do this, she did not acidify. This went against the grain at the time. She did not clarify wine before placing it into the barrel and avoided fining and filtering during the bottling process.

Her belief was that all those processes stripped a wine of its character. Helen Turley earned a reputation for being more than difficult to get along with. So today, all her efforts are focused on her own winery, Marcassin Vineyards, which makes what many people feel is the benchmark for Chardonnay produced in California.

Aside from being a strong force in helping create the California Cult wine phenomena, Helen Turley also paved the way for future generations of female winemakers in California.

The future of the Napa Valley in part, is going to be difficult for two main reasons. First, most of the Napa Valley is already planted today. The few potential vineyard sites left are situated on land that is too steep to be farmed or the zoning commission refuses to allow plantings in those areas. With little or no potential for growth, sooner or later, prices for land and wine will continue rising.

The next issue is the potential of problem that will take place as the drought in California continues. Wines from the Napa Valley are often compared with Bordeaux, due to the similar grape varieties. It’s interesting to note that while the regions share virtues, they do not share the same problems. In Bordeaux, they suffer from too much water.

As we enter further into the 21st century, the opposite problem is taking place in Napa, as they are experiencing what could develop into drought conditions. In time, the value of water and prices for water looks like it’s going to become a major issue. Many vineyards in California require irrigation.

With the heat, sunshine and climate change, it remains to be seen how many vineyards can be successfully dry farmed. The water tables are considered by many to be too low. Plus, vines in California do not as a rule live as long as those in France.

They have more trouble during their lifespan finding ample nutrition, as they lack the time to live long enough to burrow really deep into the soils. Another issue that vineyards are competing with farms that produce food, which are also in desperate need of water.

This issue is going to make it more difficult for established vineyards to expand and irrigate when needed. Potential new laws for planting new vineyards could become onerous.

This situation will become worse if potential new laws are passed in regards to regulating the amount of water one grower is able to use over another. Dealing with too much water, or drought is common practice in Bordeaux as well as the law. Perforce they are quite experienced with dry farming in Bordeaux.

When you also take into consideration both regions have the same grapes planted in poor soils, it is a natural fit for growers in one region to become interesting in expanding their holdings across the water. Except for Jess Jackson who has a vineyard in St. Emilion, not many vintners from California have purchased land in Bordeaux.

Since 1979, when Baron Philippe Rothschild entered into a partnership with Robert Mondavi to found Opus One, several winemakers from Bordeaux have invested in California. In fact, the other branch of the famous Rothschild family that possess Chateau Lafite Rothschild own the majority of the Chalone Wine Group.

The owner of Chateau Latour purchased Araujo. LVMH owns Newton and Chandon, Christian Moueix owns Dominus, the Tesseron family of Pontet Canet bought in Napa Valley on Mt. Veeder with Pym-Rae, and so did the Chanel Group withSt. Supery.

Sine Qua Non Grapes

While Northern California wineries earn most of the press, numerous outstanding wineries continue springing up in the Central Coast area. Even though vines have been planted in the Central Coast as far back back as the 1700’s, until recently, the region was not producing world class wine.

Like much of the California wine industry, The Central Coast was decimated by Prohibition. Growers slowly returned to the region in the late 1960’s and 1970’s.

The Central Coast is a massive region that stretches almost 250 miles long and 25 miles wide. The Central Coast AVA runs from as far south as Ventura and Santa Barbara to just south of San Francisco. Close to 15% of all wine in California is produced in the Central Coast today.

Close to 360 different producers are making wine from almost 100,000 acres of vineyards. The naturally cooler terroir was perfect for Syrah, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. The warmer parts of the appellation, found in the east was better suited for Zinfandel.

The southern end of the Central Coast seems to be the region’s hotbed for growers today. The 27,600 acres in San Luis Obispo County and 16,600 acres planted in Santa Barbara County are the home for some of the best young producers in the Golden State.

The undisputed star of the Central Coast region is Manfred Krankl who producers world class wine from Rhone grape varietals. The wines Manfred Krankl is making at Sine Qua Non from their Syrah and Grenache vines are truly benchmark wines for all of California.

Today, Sine Qua Non is in contention for number one most sought after wine in California! Alban is another force to be reckoned with in the Central Coast. In fact, there are dozens of hot, young producers make great Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and wines from Rhone Varietals in the central Coast. Jonata is making very strong wine in the Santa Barbara region today.

Paso Robles has been known for producing stellar wines since the 1980’s. Actually you can go a lot further back than that as the Ueberroth vineyard, which is used by Turley was planted in the 1880’s! In 2008 Paso Robles was granted AVA status. In 2014 the region was further recognized for its diversity when they added 11 new AVA’s.

The Central Coast region is also suffering from a lack of water, although the close proximity to the Pacific Ocean is helping some growers more than others, with their easy access to the oceanic climate.

Other regions in the Southern California are also producing wine. The Malibu area has recently been granted its own AVA. Los Angeles has a few local wineries located due east of the downtown area. With the exception of Moraga vineyards, which is located in the expensive area of Bel Air, California, none of the Los Angeles based wines are truly interesting.

Wines are also made in Temecula, which is northeast of Los Angeles and close to San Bernardino and Riverside. Those wines in style are on the light, simple side. However, Temecula has a long history for producing wine. Vines were first planted in Temecula in 1820. The first official winery in modern times opened in 1974. By 2017, 40 wineries were operating in the region.

Laisser un commentaire

Votre adresse de messagerie ne sera pas publiée. Les champs obligatoires sont indiqués avec *

Share this post

Share on facebook
Share on google
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on pinterest
Share on print
Share on email

Sur le même sujet

A lire aussi