California Historical Articles
Santa Clara-Santa Cruz - Notable Wineries By District And Region
( Originally Published 1955 )
SANTA CLARA-SANTA CRUZ AND CENTRAL COASTAL DISTRICT
The neighboring counties of Santa Clara and Santa Cruz, with the Santa Cruz Mountains forming the border between the two, are usually grouped together as one winegrowing district. Extensions of this district include the winegrowing areas in San Benito County and in the central coastal counties of Monterey and San Luis Obispo.
Santa Clara County, with some thirty-seven active bonded wineries, rates fourth in number in the state. It can be divided into three winegrowing areas, spreading west and east from the Santa Clara Valley floor to the adjoining hills and mountains.
West of the Santa Clara Valley, in the foothills, lies Los Gatos, and higher yet, in the hills beyond, Saratoga, together forming the Los Gatos-Saratoga area. Here are the homes of some of the finest table wines and champagnes of California, while excellent aperitif and dessert wines are also produced there.
To the east of San Jose lies the hillside Evergreen area with its vineyards stretching onto the slopes of Mt. Hamilton. From this section hail a number of superior table wines.
The southern part of Santa Clara County and of its valley is noted for an important winery section, centering around Madrone, San Martin, and Gilroy, with good wines of all types being produced from the neighboring hillsides. Many a sound "country" table wine also is produced in the small wineries, run mostly by Americans of Italian descent, in the section west of Gilroy up toward the Hecker Pass and in the Uvas area.
Santa Cruz County is noteworthy for its wines although the number of active wineries has been reduced to only two. Some excellent table wines are produced above Felton and some good ones at Soquel. Besides there are scattered vineyard areas in the county including Vinehill, toward Los Gatos, Bonny Doon, southwest of Ben Lomond, Boulder Creek, north of that Scottish-named elevation, the Laurel area in the mountains toward the Santa Clara County line, and the Casserly section, up toward Mt. Madonna.
San Benito yields some well-known table wines south of Hollister, and Monterey County can boast, in the Salinas River Valley foothills above Soledad near Pinnacles National Monument, some very fine vinevards from which champagne has been produced with marked success.
San Luis Obispo County, where Paderewski once grew his wine grapes and almonds, is noted for its hillside table wines of sound quality and especially for its Zinfandel.
SANTA CLARA COUNTY SANTA CLARA VALLEY-LOS GATOS-SARATOGA AREA
Almaden Vineyards, Los Gatos About midway between Los Gatos and the former mining village of Almaden, some six miles south of San Jose, are to be found the winery and domain of Almaden, overlooking the undulating hills toward Loma Prieta and the Santa Cruz Mountains. Here some of the finest champagnes and sherries of California are produced as well as table wines and other aperitif and dessert wines of great merit.
Founder of Almaden was the Frenchman Etienne Thee, a farmer from Bordeaux who is said to have come to California lured by the Gold Rush but who turned to less elusive and more permanent pursuits, grape growing and wine making. To this end he purchased from the Guadalajara pioneer Jose Augustin Narvaez part of the old Rancho San Juan Bautista, securing for himself a fertile tract of land along the creek called Guadalupe River. Here he planted his first vines in 1852 and later, on a high knoll with its sweeping valley and mountain view, built his home, which still stands today.
Thee was soon joined in his enterprise by a neighbor and compatriot, Charles Lefranc, once said to have been a tailor in Passy, the suburb of Paris. The vineyards were enlarged and planted to cuttings of choice varieties imported from the districts of Champagne, Bordeaux, Burgundy, and the Rhone Valley in France. Lefranc married Thee's daughter Adele and eventually inherited his friend and father-in-law's property. He named it Almaden, after the nearby quicksilver mines of New Almaden, so called by the Spaniards in honor of the well-known quicksilver mining town of that name in the province of Ciudad Real in New Castile, Spain.
Lefranc prospered together with his vineyards and by the end of the eighteen seventies could boast that they contained more vines than any other in the county and, what was even more important, that his wines rated with the very best in all the West. The finest cooperage was imported from France around Cape Horn, some of it to continue in use down to the present. Many were the famous guests who enjoyed Lefranc's warm hospitality, among whom are said to have numbered Admiral Farragut, Generals Sherman, Halleck, and Ulysses S. Grant.
The French influence and atmosphere were dominant at Almaden and this tradition was strengthened when Lefranc hired a young Burgundian to help in the office and winery. This was Paul Masson, who was to make his own name great in the California wine industry and also followed another precedent by marrying Lefranc's daughter Louise. Paul Masson eventually became associated with Lefranc in the production and merchandising of champagnes and table wines in a jointly owned business, Lefranc-Masson. He never owned any interest in the Almaden vineyards, but established himself on his own property, which he acquired and developed in the hills above Saratoga. Eventually Almaden was inherited by Charles Lefranc's son Henry and after the latter's death in r9o9 the property was held in trust for the family until it was sold to Charles Jones. With the advent of Prohibition Almaden entered a dormant period as far as wine making was concerned.
In 1941 Louis A. Benoist, well-known San Francisco businessman and social leader and president of the Lawrence Warehouse Company, national field-warehousing concern, purchased Almaden at the advice of the noted wine authority Frank Schoonmaker. As wine maker and plant manager, Oliver J. Goulet was engaged, one of the foremost experts in the field. Since 1954 Goulet is ably assisted by A. C. (Al) Huntsinger, formerly general manager of the Napa Valley Cooperative Winery at St. Helena.
Under the direction of Ollie Goulet the winery and other buildings were renovated and the original vineyards brought back into shape. Additional acreage was acquired, including a tract high up in the mountains near Eagle Rock, planted to Johannisberg Riesling and Traminer vines, and another a few miles south of the Almaden ranch where Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Chardonnay, and Pinot blanc are grown. There are also important vineyards of Pinot noir.
At Almaden, Louis Benoist revived the tradition of hospitality set by Charles Lefranc. A charming host, he receives with elegance in the villa built by Etienne Thee over a hundred years ago. Excellent luncheons and dinners are given, preceded by the traditional aperitif, Almaden Brut Champagne, and accompanied by a selection of the ranch's choice vintages.
The policy of Louis Benoist and Ollie Goulet is to produce only wines of the highest quality. Recent winery expansions include a new champagne cellar and an additional sherry room featuring six Soleras, making Almaden's Solera operation the most modern and probably the largest in the country.
All wines (with the exception of the Vermouths) carry the Almaden brand on the label, many with the Santa Clara Valley appellation of origin. They include the following:
Table wines: RED: Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Noir, Burgundy, and Chianti; Mountain Red Burgundy and Claret in the low-price range;
WHITE: Johannisberg Riesling, Pinot Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc, and Traminer, Dry Semillon, Sylvaner, Grey Riesling, and Chablis; Mountain White Sauterne and Chablis in the low-price range;
ROSE: Grenache Rose (outstanding of its type and extremely popular).
Sparkling wines (bottle-fermented) : Almaden Brut Champagne (the specialite de la maison available also in magnums, very dry and full-flavored without acidity, ranking with the very best), Almaden Extra-Dry (medium dry), Pink Champagne, and Sparkling Burgundy.
Aperitif and Dessert wines: Solera Sherries (all outstanding flop sherries, produced from Palomino grapes and matured in small oak butts brought over from Spain) : Cocktail Sherry (very pale and very dry, on the Fino order), Golden Sherry, and Cream Sherry;
Solera Ports (probably the only ones produced in the U.S.A. by a Solera system) : Ruby Port and Tawny Port;
Vermouths (marketed under the Nob Hill brand) : Dry and Sweet.
Lone Hill Vineyards, Los Gatos
Owners of the Lone Hill Vineyards are the four brothers Arthur H., Rodolphe A., Clovis T., the wine maker, and Ambroise N. Mirassou. Their father, Herman Mirassou, is the younger brother of the late Peter Mirassou of the Mirassou Vineyards at Evergreen, near San Jose (see there), and the grandson of Pierre Pellier, one of the pioneer winegrowers of Santa Clara County.
The Lone Hill Vineyards, originally set out in 1864 by a former The Northern Coastal Region 155 New Yorker, David M. Harwood, were purchased by this branch of the Mirassou family in 1936. In order to get a longer marketing period for their grapes the four brothers built their winery in 1946.
Lone Hill concentrates on making available to the public betterthan-average table wines at a competitive price to get the maximum number of people interested in wine consumption. Much of the business is devoted to supplying very inexpensive wines to customers bringing their own gallon jugs to the winery, saving--thereby bottling and merchandising costs.
Table wines are also bottled under the Lone Hill Green Label and the Lone Hill Reserve Label, mostly Burgundy, Sauterne, Vino Rosso (medium-sweet red table wine), and Vin Rose (a blend). Dessert wines are also available.
The Lone Hill Gold Label is reserved for a few quality wines, such as Pinot Noir, Pinot Blanc, and Riesling, produced from neighboring vineyards which have since been replanted to other crops. When these wines are exhausted this label will be used for bottling other varietal table wines.
Clovis Mirassou is the inventor of a five-gallon barrel with interior plastic compartments from which five different wines can be poured from separate spigots.
Novitiate of Los Gatos, Los Gatos
In the hills above Los Gatos lies the beautiful and magnificently situated Seminary of the Sacred Heart Novitiate of the Society of Jesus. Here young men begin their training for possible missionary work in the Orient, teaching positions in schools operated by the Jesuits in California, or for parochial duties in some of the dioceses along the West Coast.
Since its founding the Novitiate has maintained the tradition for producing fine altar wines in strict accordance with the Canon Law of the Roman Catholic Church. Once the needs for sacramental wines had been met, the remainder of the production was made available to the public through commercial channels.
The Jesuit fathers have full charge of the production of the wines, while the Jesuit brothers supervise or carry on the actual work in the vineyards and winery. The novices and the junior students pick most of the grapes each fall. Many of the vines were originally imported from France, notably the muscats from the region of Montpellier near the Mediterranean.
President of the Novitiate is Father John F. X. Connolly, S.J., while Father Ralph J. Deward, S.J., is the general manager, Brother Michael Walsh, S.J., the wine maker, and Father James E. Ransford the chemist in charge.
Both table wines and aperitif and dessert wines are produced, marketed for the public under the Novitiate brand. They include:
Table wines:RED: Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, Burgundy;
WHITE: Pinot Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, Dry Semillon, Chateau Novitiate (Sweet Sauterne), Dry Sauterne, Chablis;
ROSE: Grenache Rose.
Aperitif and Dessert wines:
Dry Sherry, Cocktail Sherry (medium dry), Sherry (medium sweet), and Golden Sherry (sweet) ; Port; two specialty wines from muscat grapes, the famed Novitiate Black Muscat (from Muscat Hamburg grapes exclusively) and the Muscat Frontignan (all from that grape, the vines of which were originally brought over from Frontignan); Tokay and Angelica.
Novitiate Altar wines, available only to the clergy:Dry wines: RED: Manresa (Burgundy); WHITE: Villa Joseph (medium-dry sauterne), Vin Dore (slightly sweet sauterne) ; San Carlos (chablis type).
Sweet wines: Villa Maria (medium-sweet sherry), Novitiate (port), San Jose (black muscat), Guadalupe (golden muscatel), San Ignacio (tokay), and 1'Admirable (angelica).
Paul Masson Vineyards, Saratoga
A great name in the history of the California wine industry and a national enterprise, founded by that famed Frenchman from Burgundy, Paul Masson.Paul Masson first worked for Charles Lefranc in the latter's winery at Almaden and while employed there looked for the best place to establish vineyards and a winery of his own. He decided on a location in the mountains above Saratoga where the soil and climate were eminently suited to the growing of the finer wine grape varieties. He acquired lands there, named "La Cresta," in the eighteen eighties and planted them to cuttings of choice imported vines. He married Charles Lefranc's daughter and established a business partnership with his former employer for the merchandising of their wines, known as Lefranc-Masson. On the death of LeFranc, Paul Masson acquired the latter's interest in their joint business, merged it with his Saratoga holdings and the Paul Masson Champagne Company succeeded the partnership, champagne having become the principal product.
The original winery Paul Masson had built on his Saratoga property was destroyed by the r9o6 earthquake, but was rebuilt by him in the following years, using same of the sandstone from old St. Joseph's Church in San Jose, which had been destroyed in the same disaster. Paul Masson made his name forever famous by producing champagnes and table wines of the highest quality. For over half a century he worked in his steeply sloping mountain vineyards and in his wine cellars establishing a great name for his wines and becoming somewhat of a legendary figure himself. In 1936 he retired from his vineyards and passed away four years later, a greatly respected personality and a true modern pioneer of the best that can be produced in California wines.
Before he retired Paul Masson had sold his vineyards and winery to Martin Ray, a native of the village of Saratoga at the foot of the hills where Masson had created his domain. Martin Ray operated the enterprise with skill and success, following the tradition of producing only the best in champagne and table wines. A disastrous fire occurred in 1941, wrecking the winery and causing great losses, but Martin Ray, with energy and determination, rebuilt both the winery and his business. Two years later he sold the enterprise to Joseph E. Seagram's, the distillers, later establishing another domain of his own even higher up in the mountains. Seagram's held the Masson winery and vineyards only a short while, disposing of the business in 1945 to a company in which Alfred Fromm and Franz Sichel are the partners and who have operated it since that time.
Both the Fromm and the Sichel families have been in the wine industry for a great number of years, the former for five generations and the latter for seven. The Fromms are winegrowers from Bingen on the Rhine in Germany since 1864 and the Sichel name is a familiar one in the wine industry both in Mainz, Germany, and in Bordeaux, France, as well as in this country as importers. Max Fromm, the father of Alfred, was a famous wine blender in Germany and is still active, though in his eighties, and continues to advise his sons Alfred and Norman in their California wine enterprise.
Kurt G. Opper, one of the best-known wine makers in the country, is the winery manager, while Hans Hyba, the champagne master, is one of the foremost champagne makers. Hyba, a very modest person, has contributed notable improvements to the production process of bottle-fermented champagne and experts of famous French champagne houses have visited him to observe his methods, which are available to anyone wanting to use them.
The main Paul Masson winery is located on the Saratoga property, while the champagne winery and cellars are to be found in Cupertino. A third winery, at Mountain View, Cupertino, is used as a bottling plant and storeroom.
Paul Masson Vineyards produces both table wines and sparkling wines of superior quality as well as some notable aperitif and dessert wines. Their champagnes rate among the very best of the state and of their table wines the finer varietals are the more notable.
The table wines, both red and white as well as the rose, and the sparkling wines are marketed under the Paul Masson brand, while the aperitif and dessert wines carry the Masson label.
Table wines: RED: Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Gamay Beaujolais, and Burgundy;
WHITE: Pinot Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc Vrai, Chateau Masson (Sweet Semillon), Dry Semillon, Dry Sauterne, Riesling, and Chablis;
ROSE: Vin Rose Sec.
Sparkling wines (bottle-fermented) : Brut Champagne (predominantly from Pinot blanc, Folle blanche, and Johannisberg Riesling grapes, the cuvees having been additionally aged), Extra Dry Champagne, Oeil de Perdrix (Partridge's Eye) Pink Champagne (Triple Red), and Sparkling Burgundy (Cuvee Rouge).
Aperitif and Dessert wines: Marketed in special heart-shaped decanters: Rare Cream Sherry and Rare Tawny Port, both outstanding wines of their types; Pale Dry Sherry and Rich Golden Sherry, Rich Ruby Port, Choice Muscatel (all also available in magnums); Vermouths: Double Dry and Sweet.
Martin Ray, Inc., Saratoga
High above the Saratoga foothills rises Mt. Eden to an altitude of some two thousand feet, commanding a grandiose view of the whole of the Santa Clara Valley. It is here on the very summit of the mountain that Martin Ray devotes his skill to the production of the finest and costliest California wines, of which the Pinot Noir champagnes and table wines especially rank as supreme achievements, comparable to the finest wines of France.
Born into a farming family of Saratoga, Martin Ray first became a stockbroker, a trade he followed with sufficient success to start, at a relatively early age, the wine-making career he ambitioned. He had set his heart on Paul Masson's winery and vineyards above his native village and in 1936 he accomplished his desire, purchasing them from that great man when the latter retired from his life work. Martin Ray operated the enterprise with success and distinction, and then, desirous of a more restricted field of operations, sold it in 1943 for a good price. He then bought, built, planted, and developed his present domain, which is adjacent to his former property but is situated on even loftier heights.
Martin Ray, or Rusty, as he is known to his friends, is a dynamic and forceful personality, an excellent showman, deeply devoted to his art, and as profoundly appreciative of truly fine wines as he is impatient with any other. His vineyards, planted on the eastern and southern exposures of the mountain slopes, are planted to three varieties only: Pinot noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Pinot Chardonnay. An underground concrete pipe system with strategically located pumps ensures proper drainage during the rainy season and preservation of the topsoil. All of the work done in vineyards; wine making, bottling, and shipping is accomplished by Martin Ray and his family or under his immediate supervision. The wines are clarified by racking and decanting, not by filtering or fining; the wines sometimes throwing a deposit when maturing, as do many of the great European vintages.
Martin Ray's wines are all 100 per cent varietal vintage wines and of the best years only. Any wine not measuring up to the highest standards is disposed of and sold in bulk. The policy is to produce only the very best and to improve wherever possible, regardless of cost. Production is in a small scale, the wines being destined for gourmets and connoisseurs and for the best restaurants and clubs. It is not surprising that their cost is high.
The Martin Ray wines include the following champagnes and table wines, which are available in the vintages indicated, to be succeeded by later vintages:
Champagnes (bottle-fermented) : Madame Pinot Champagne (Blanc de noir), made entirely from the free-run juice of the Pinot noir grape, vintage 1950; Sang-de-Pinot Champagne (Rose de noir), a coral-pink champagne, made from the first light pressing of the Pinot noir grape, vintage I949.
Table wines (all marketed in champagne bottles with champagne corks for better aging, a Martin Ray trademark since 1936):
RED: Pinot Noir, vintage 1941, one of California's greatest wines, produced from Martin Ray's old vineyards, available only in limited quantities and easily the costliest California table wine; Pinot Noir, vintage ig5r, the first great Pinot Noir vintage from his present domain; Cabernet Sauvignon, vintage 1947, his finest Cabernet Sauvignon to date; Cabernet Sauvignon, vintage 1946, a great full-bodied wine, is available in very limited quantities for laying-down purposes; Cabernet Sauvignon, vintage 1948 and similar in character to the 1947, is developing well.
WHITE: Chardonnay, vintage 1952, a true Mountain Chardonnay produced from Pinot Chardonnay grapes only.
ROSE: Pinot Noir Rose, vintage 1952, coral pink, and the only rose produced in California from the Pinot noir grape.
SANTA CLARA COUNTY SANTA CLARA VALLEY-EVERGREEN AREA
Mirassou Vineyards, San Jose
The type of operation at Mirassou Vineyards, a very special one, consists in producing varietal table wines and champagne stock of superior quality and in supplying these in bulk to other wineries. A little bottling is also done under private labeling.
The enterprise is co-owned by the brothers Edmund (Ed) A. and Norbert G. Mirassou, fourth-generation winegrowers, who are continuing the tradition started in the Santa Clara Valley by their great-grandfather Pierre Pellier in 1853.
The Pelliers were farmers from the region of La Rochelle in France. When Pierre Pellier first came to California in 1850, he realized the vast agricultural potentialities of the fruitful Santa Clara Valley. He started a nursery in what is now the heart of the city of San Jose, but soon decided that what was needed for propagation was the highest-quality European rootstock. Accordingly he went back to France, accumulated thousands of cuttings of choice vinifer-a vines, roses, and fruit trees and sailed with them for California. The voyage around Cape Horn was a long and rough one. Water gave out and many of his precious cuttings withered away. Pierre was desperate, but finally purchased all the available potatoes aboard, inserted in them the ends of his cuttings, and in this original manner saved part of his valuable stock. Included in this shipment was what is believed to have been the first French prune tree to make its way to California.
In 1862 Pierre Pellier purchased a large hillside acreage on the west side of the Santa Clara Valley, a portion of the old Rancho Yerba Buena, once granted the Chaboya family by the King of Spain. Here he planted the choicest vines from his San Jose nursery and made his first wine, the forerunner of a long and famous series of vintages.
Henrietta Pellier, Pierre's eldest daughter, married another French winegrower and immigrant, Pierre Mirassou, who was put in charge of the Pellier vineyards and winery. The eldest of their sons, Peter, became the father of the present owners of the Mirassou vineyards, while the second son, Herman, is the father of the four Mirassou brothers who operate Lone Hills Vineyards at Los Gatos.
Pierre Mirassou died while still quite young and Henrietta later married Thomas Casalegno, who continued operation of the vineyards, assisted by his three Mirassou stepsons, Peter, Herman, and John. When phylloxera attacked the vines at the turn of the century Casalegno procured some twenty thousand disease-resistant roots of the Rupestris St. George variety, which were planted in the vineyards and to which the surviving Vitis vinifera vines were grafted with success.
In 1909 the three brothers purchased the enterprise from their stepfather and formed a partnership. They expanded the vineyard acreage in Evergreen in the rolling foothills between the Santa Clara Valley and Mt. Hamilton, including the location of the present winery and of the home Peter Mirassou built for his family and where his sons were born, Norbert and Edmund.
Prohibition led to the dissolution of the partnership and to a division of the property. Peter Mirassou's share included the Evergreen tract and, although vineyards were thought to be worthless by some, Peter refused to replant to any other crop. His judgment proved sound, as grape prices soon rose, and he then began to supply Eastern markets both with grapes from his own vineyards and with those he purchased elsewhere.
The grape-growing business was continued till 1937, when Peter Mirassou informed his sons that if they desired he would back them to revive the family tradition of fine wine making. This proposal was accepted and carried out with an enthusiasm and a devotion which have continued on to the present. In 1942, when Peter Mirassou retired, Norbert and Edmund formed a co-partnership and purchased their father's interest in the business. Since then further land for the planting of choice varieties has been acquired and the winery enlarged.
Mirassou Vineyards specializes in superior-quality varietals, especially the whites. Available under the Mirassou label, with the Santa Clara appellation of origin, are the following table wines:
WHITE: White Riesling, Pinot Blanc, Sylvaner, Semillon (dry), Sauterne (dry), and Chablis;
RED: Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, and Burgundy;
ROSE: Grenache Rose.
SANTA CLARA COUNTY-LOWER SANTA CLARA VALLEY
Richert & Sons, Madrone
A small winery and one of the latest to be launched. It was founded in November 1953 by Walter S. Richert and occupies a portion of the premises, formerly the home of Madrone Vineyards, a concern once famous for the quality of its wines, but which was dissolved in 1951.
Walter Richert first entered the wine industry in 1937 and has been connected with different wineries in various capacities, including as chemist, production manager, sales representative, and general manager. He served as technical editor for the publication Wines and Vines and is prominent in the American Society of Enologists.
The Richert winery is located in the front section of the former Madrone plant, as is a retail outlet. The policy is to produce fine wines at very reasonable prices. The first crushing of the winery's own grapes took place in the 1954 harvest season and, as the business expands, more and more of Richert's own wines will be produced, as distinct from those which are selected, purchased, and bottled. Walter Richert has great plans for the future, including that of his sons, Bob, Eric, and Scotty, who already form part of the company's name in spite of their extreme youth.
The featured brand is the well-established one of Simi Vineyard,* acquired by Walter Richert, along with other assets and interests, from C. Schilling Company of Cloverdale, Sonoma County, when Richert & Sons was formed.
The main accent at the Richert winery is on the production of table wines, while sparkling wines and aperitif and dessert types are also marketed. Available under the Simi Vineyard label are the following:
RED: Cabernet, Zinfandel, Burgundy, and Claret; WHITE: Dry Semillon, Haut Sauterne, Sauterne, Riesling, and Chablis; ROSE: Vin Rose.
Sparkling wines (bulk process) : Champagne, Pink Champagne, and Sparkling Burgundy.
Aperitif and Dessert wines: Pale Dry Sherry and Cream Sherry, Ruby Port; Dry and Sweet Vermouth.
Walter Richert publishes, from time to time, witty and chatty made by his winery and its products and of the family doings in general.
San Martin Vineyards Company, San Martin
This well-known enterprise is owned by the close-knit Filice family, which originally came from the province of Cosenza in Calabria, Italy, and members of which are spread all over Central and Southern Europe. The Italian firm of Bozzo and Filice of Donnici claims to have been in the wine business since 1700.
A branch of the Filice family settled in California in the Santa Clara Valley in the early eighteen nineties and planted considerable land there in the early part of this century. Bruno Filice, who had wine interests in Italy, acquired in 1932, with the passing of Prohibition, the old San Martin Winery and Vineyards, which had been founded some forty years before.
The family concern is now owned and operated by Bruno Filice's four sons and by his son-in-law. Michael j. Filice is the vineyard manager and also acts in a general managerial capacity along with his brothers John M. and Peter C. Filice and his brother-in-law, Pasquale Lico. The last is also the wine maker, while another Filice brother, Frank C., is the bottling superintendent. Michael Bo is the chemist.
The Filices have a considerable vineyard acreage under cultivation, most of which was planted by members of the family. The vineyards are located on the sunny western hillsides of the Santa Clara Valley, many of them on the slopes of Mt. Madonna, dominating the Hecker Pass, and include Glen Loma and Castlewood, planted to the choicer varietal vines.
Table wines, sparkling wines, and aperitif and dessert wines of fine quality are produced, with San Martin Private Reserve the leading brand. Available are the following wines:
Table wines: RED: Cabernet, Pinot Noir, Zinfandel, Burgundy, and Claret; WHITE: Riesling, Malvasia, Chablis, Rhine Wine, and Sauterne; ROSE: Rose.
Sparkling wines (both bottle-fermented and bulk-process) : Champagne, Pink Champagne, Grenache Pink Champagne, and Sparkling Burgundy.
Aperitif and Dessert wines: Flor Sherries, including Golden Palomino and Pale Dry Sherry, Sherry (medium), and Cream Sherry; Port and Tawny Port, Muscatel, Tokay, White Port, and Angelica.
A number of high-quality varietal table wines are also produced under the Castlewood brand, some of which carry the vintage year on the label. These include: Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Zinfandel, Grignolino, and Barbera in the reds, as well as Semillon and Pinot Chardonnay in the whites, and Grenache Rose. A specialty will be Montonico, a mild, tawny-pink sweet table wine (12 per cent alcohol by volume), produced from grapes of that name imported from Calabria. Both Emerald Riesling and Ruby Cabernet will also be available.
The mellow type of red Italian table wine is represented by the San Martin Vino Rosso, by a Mellow Claret, as well as by a wine named Hostess Burgundy.
Both Dry and Sweet Vermouth are produced, the latter being aged in small chestnut barrels.
A special building for the development of flor Sherries has been constructed and is now in production.
Santa Clara Valley is the home of some of the finest strawberries of the West Coast and San Martin markets a well-known Strawberry Wine which has captured the full flavor and delicacy of that fruit. Other berry wines marketed include Loganberry and Blackberry.
Bertero Winery, Gilroy (Hecker Pass)
A small winery in the western foothills of the Santa Clara Valley in the Hecker Pass area, and included here on account of the excellent quality of its Grenache Rose.
Alfonso Bertero, the owner, was born in the neighborhood of Turin in Italy and came to this country in 1911. He first worked for the Standard Oil Company and in i9rg went into the wine business, selling grapes to home wine makers and to other wineries for the production of sacramental wines. He moved to his present location in 1924, where he built the winery and his home. The property is part of the old Los Alamos grant and some of the original Spanish wooden stakes survive.
Bertero, who is getting on in years, is assisted in the family enterprise by his son Angelo, who in turn is aided by his son, Angelo, Jr., whose brother, Carl, will rejoin the family and the business when he has completed his term in the Navy.
Table wines only are produced, all from local grapes, including Zinfandel, Carignane, Grenache, and French Colombard (for the Sauterne). Wines are marketed under the Bertero brand and are sold at the winery in large glass containers although they can be bottled on special order.
Burgundy and Claret are produced as well as Sauterne, but the outstanding product is the winery's Grenache Rose, made exclusively from that grape. It is a full-flavored, brilliant-colored wine which can easily compete with the finest Grenache in the state.
Bonesio Brothers, Gilroy (Uvas district)
A winery well known in the surrounding counties, producing sound "country" Santa Clara table wines. It is located in the hilly Uvas district west of Gilroy near the Hecker Pass, uvas being Spanish for grape and the region so named because the Spaniards, presumably, already raised or found grapes there. The property forms part of the former Solis Rancho, and the Bonesio residence, over a hundred years old, was once the headquarters of the Solis Rancho grant.
Pietro (Peter) Bonesio, the founder of the winery, came from an Italian wine-raising family and was born in Cardona near Asti in Piedmont. Now in his seventies, he came to the United States at the turn of the century and worked in subway construction in New York City. He later farmed in Louisiana, and then moved to Oakland, California, where he was engaged in the concrete business. In 1915 he reverted to the traditional family occupation, first starting a winery in the Rucker district, north of Gilroy, and then moved to his present location on Solis Rancho in Uvas Canyon.
Peter Bonesio is still active, but turned the business over in 1932 to his sons Louis and Victor, the present owners and general managers, who were brought up in the enterprise since their earliest days, being taught the trade by their father. Victor Bonesio is also the sales manager, while Louis is the wine maker and chemist, and Peter Bonesio the vineyard manager.
The Bonesio wines are made from home-grown grapes which include Zinfandel, Grignolino, Grenache, French Colombard, Golden Chasselas, and Sauvignon vert.
The featured brand is Uvas, under which the following table wines are marketed:
RED: Burgundy (full of flavor, full-bodied, practically straight Zinfandel) and Claret (from mixed grapes);
WHITE: Sauterne (from the Golden Chasselas and others);
ROSE: Grignolino Rose (with plans to produce also a Grenache Rose).
A number of aperitif and dessert wines are purchased and marketed.
SANTA CRUZ COUNTY
Hallcrest Vineyard, Felton
Some 400 feet up the slopes of the Santa Cruz mountains, overlooking the San Lorenzo Valley above Felton, lie the Hallcrest vineyards and winery, devoted solely to the growing of Cabernet Sauvignon and White Riesling grapes, and to the production of these two ioo per cent varietal table wines.
The vineyards are planted on the crest of a hill and were for that reason named Hallcrest by their owner, Chaffee E. Hall, who purchased the property in 1941. A corporation attorney by vocation, practicing in San Francisco for many years, Chaffee Hall is also anenophile, knowing and appreciating truly fine wines, having developed his taste during his numerous trips to the wine lands of Europe. It is at Hallcrest that he fulfills one of the great ambitions of his life, that of producing, with knowledge and lavish care, Santa Cruz County table wines which compare in elegance, bouquet, and taste with the very finest of California.
Chaffee Hall is his own wine maker and all operations in vineyards and winery are either accomplished personally or supervised closely by members of the Hall family. The utmost care is taken, both of the vines and of all stages of wine production. The first vintages were of 1946 and these, as well as the succeeding ones, have been remarkably successful.
Cabernet Sauvignon and White Riesling are marketed under the Hallcrest brand, with indication of the vintage year and with the Santa Cruz County appellation of origin. They are bottled in elegant fashion, with lead-foil caps imported from the Netherlands and with wire-mesh covering procured in France.
Bargetto's Santa Cruz Winery, Sequel
The founders of this family firm were the brothers Philip and John Bargetto, sons of Giuseppe Bargetto, winegrower and wine maker from the neighborhood of Asti in Piedmont, Italy. Giuseppe came to this country, but later returned to his native land. He must have inspired his sons differently, for they both came over to stay. Philip came in 1887 and worked for some twelve years in the famed old Delmas Winery near San Jose. John Bargetto immigrated in igog and first engaged in the produce and grape-shipping business. In 1933 Philip and John founded the Bargetto Winery in Soquel, which is now owned and operated by John Bargetto and his two sons, Lawrence and Ralph, the former being the wine maker, chemist, and general manager, and the latter having charge of sales. Two daughters of Philip complete the family membership of the enterprise.
The Bargetto wines are produced from grapes purchased from vineyards scattered over Santa Cruz and Santa Clara counties. Table wines are the specialty, while aperitif and dessert wines, including a Marsala and Dry and Sweet Vermouths, are purchased, aged, and marketed to round out the line.
Fine-quality table wines are featured under the Bargetto brand, with Winemaster's Bouquet the label for those of the regular grade. Bargetto table wines include the following:
RED: Cabernet Sauvignon (from Vinehill-area grapes), Barbera, Malvasia (from the Black Malvoisie grape, and one of the very few produced in the state), Zinfandel (from grapes purchased in the Bonny Doon area), Burgundy, and Claret;
WHITE: Sauvignon Blanc (their premium white wine), Dry Muscat (a light, dry muscat wine made from the Alexandria variety), Moscato Amabile (a light, sweet muscat wine from the same grape), Sauterne;
ROSE: Grenache Rose (dry), Grenache Rose (semi-sweet), Grignolino Rose.
Note: A dry Vin Rose made from local Zinfandel grapes is also marketed under the Winemaster brand.
The plans are eventually to produce other varietal table wines of quality, including Pinot Blanc, depending on the availability of the desired grape varieties. A red table wine of the vino-rosso type will also become available.
SAN BENITO COUNTY
Valliant Vineyards, Hollister
Two separate hillside vineyard complexes form the Valliant Vineyards of today. The one, and the more historical, is located in the so-called "Vineyard District" valley and the other in the Cienega, or Grass, Valley. The two neighboring valleys are situated some ten miles southwest of the city of Hollister in the picturesque Gavilan (Sparrow Hawk) Mountain Range which separates the Salinas and the San Joaquin valleys. Both the Cienega and the "Vineyard District" vineyards, be it noted, are planted to vinifera vines growing on their own roots, no phylloxera ever having penetrated into the region.
The "Vineyard District" was first planted to vines by Theophile Vache, surnamed Vaca, a Frenchman who cleared the chaparral brush and trees in 1849 or earlier and started what were to become famous vineyards. William Palmtag, a German immigrant who became mayor of Hollister, where he also owned a bank, acquired the property in 1883 and greatly extended the vineyards, importing choice European varieties. He established a winery and his Palmtag Mountain Vineyard wines won many prizes at national and international wine competitions.
During the first decade of the twentieth century Captain Jules Jacques St. Hubert and his partner, John Dickinson, formerly a Chicago grain broker, bought out Palmtag and incorporated as the San Benito Vineyards and increased the vineyard acreage in the surrounding mountains. After about five years Captain St. Hubert, the wine maker, left and Dickinson continued to operate the enterprise until Prohibition forced the winery to close down. The property then passed through various hands until the advent of Repeal, when Edwin Valliant, Sr., took it over and began operating the old winery. The Valliant family, with E. P. Hickman as partner, revived the tradition of producing fine-quality table wines. The Valliant brand was retained when the Hiram Walker interests purchased the property in 1943 to assure a continuous supply of fine California wines for their subsidiary, W. A. Taylor & Company, the wellknown New York importing firm and the present operators of Valliant Vineyards.
The story of the Cienega, or Grass, Valley vineyards was quite different. In rqo8 Professor Bioletti, the great viticulturist and enologist of the University of California, interested Dr. Harold Ohrwall, a San Francisco physician, in developing an experimental vineyard in this area, considered exceptionally well suited to the production of fine table wines. Bioletti's association with the enterprise lasted only a couple of years, but the Ohrwall family operated the winery and vineyards continuously until their acquisition, in 1944, by W. A. Taylor & Company and the Hiram Walker interests. Dr. Ohrwall's son, John P. Ohrwall, a graduate of the University of California, who has been associated with the Cienega Valley property all his life, is now the manager for both vineyard ranches.
The winery, which has been completely rebuilt, is located on the "Vineyard District" property and contains cool cellars, oak and redwood cooperage, and modern and efficient equipment to produce the best wines from the grapes of this famous locality. Production manager Lloyd A. Searing and A. G. Hoelscher, who has had long experience in the quality-wine field (he and his brothers formerly marketed the well-known I. De Turk wines), zealously guard the development of the Valliant wines.
While white table wines are the specialty, some red table wines and first-class vermouths are also produced, all marketed under the Valliant brand.
Table wines: WHITE: Riesling (for which the vineyards are perhaps the best known), Johannisberg Riesling (a wine for which this winery has been famous and which will be available again), Rhine Wine, Dry Sauterne, Sauterne, and Chablis; Vin Rose;
RED: Cabernet, Burgundy, and Claret.
Aperitif and Dessert wines: Palomino Dry Sherry and Cream Sherry, Ruby Port; Dry and Sweet Vermouth (produced from the special formulas of the well-known wine maker and chemist Charles Altair of Carmel-by-the-Sea).
F. W. Silvear, Soledad
F. W. (Bill) Silvear owns and operates some very fine vineyards above Soledad (meaning solitude) in the Salinas Valley, from which quite special champagnes have been produced at various times. For that reason his operation is included in the Guide, although no winery is connected with his vineyards.
The origin of Bill Silvear's family is uncertain but romantic. His grandfather Charles Silvear was raised in a nunnery on the Azores Islands until he was eight, and then the youngster went to sea. He came to California in 1849 and settled in Watsonville, where he raised potatoes. One of his three sons, Tom, went to Oregon and there Bill Silvear was born.
Bill and his wife Agnes, a San Franciscan, have both always had a strong feeling for the finer and more romantic things in life. What led Bill to the acquisition of his ranch above Soledad was his love for California wild flowers and his interest in minerals. Looking for flowers near the Pinnacles National Monument he came across some Iceland spar, a doubly refracting mineral, the best of which is found in Iceland. This find eventually led to champagne rather than to mining and riches. Emery Smith, assayer and geologist, who had studied viticulture in France, told Bill Silvear about a Frenchman named Tamm, who had traveled far and wide to find soil similar to that of the Champagne region in France, as his ambition was to produce California champagne which would be as close as possible to the French wine in character. This soil he had found in the hills near the Pinnacles, where he had planted vineyards some two thousand feet up on a bench of the Chalone Mountain in the Gabilan Range. The age of the soil had since been estimated at millions of years, if not older, one of the oldest types of soil known. Tamm had died in the beginning of the century, before he could accomplish his ambition, but the soil and climate were as promising as ever. So Bill Silvear decided to buy a ranch next to Tamm's former place and to set it out in vineyards.
This was in 1919. He planted his vines, but Prohibition effectively closed the door to new wine enterprises. Bill Silvear rented his ranch, but took it back after Repeal. He gradually replanted the vineyards to the champagne varieties, Pinot Chardonnay, Pinot blanc, and Pinot noir and grafted them to disease-resistant rootstock. This took him into the early nineteen forties. Soon he could prove that Tamm, the Frenchman, had been right, that the Pinot grapes did exceptionally well in this area with ideal conditions of average rainfall, ocean breezes, plentiful sunshine, no extremes in temperature, and in soil consisting of decomposed granite overlaid with marl of lime.
As Bill Silvear did not own a winery he made arrangements with an old friend, Oliver J. Goulet of Almaden Vineyards at Los Gatos, to make small cuvees of his Pinot Champagnes for him. And so Bill Silvear's excellent Soledad Champagnes came into being, available only in small quantities and in a few places, among them the retail outlet which Bill and his wife operate in that little village just north of Watsonville in Santa Cruz County, which is now known as Freedom but was once more forcefully known as Whiskey Hill.
SAN LUIS OBISPO COUNTY
York Brothers, Templeton
Representative of good wine making in San Luis Obispo County is the winery owned and operated by the York family, located just below the peak of York Mountain on the eastern slopes of the Coast Range, overlooking Templeton and the valley below.
The ranch property was acquired in 1882 by Andrew York, grandfather of the present owners. Born in Indiana, Andrew York came out West from Missouri in the eighteen fifties and settled in San Luis Obispo County after having first spent some time in the Napa Valley. A proud family possession is a valuable document, the original deed to the land, dated 1875-made out to Jacob B. Grandstaff, from whom Andrew York bought it-and signed by U. S. Grant, President of the United States.
Andrew York found that the grape vines he had planted to supplement his apple orchard yielded more grapes than he could market, and so, with the help of his sons, Walter, Thomas, and Silas, built a small winery to take care of the surplus. Shortly after the turn of the century additional land was purchased and a large vineyard planted of Zinfandels, selected because they mature early and usually miss the danger of early winter frosts. About that time the winery also was enlarged, using bricks molded and burned on the place in the ancient traditions of the Babylonians.
The York place is a historic one, as time goes, and many tales are told of how the lumber to build the original houses and winery was carted over the rough mountain roads all the way from Cayucos on the Pacific Ocean, at one time a small, flourishing harbor. Indians used trails running through the property on their way to the hot sulphur and mud baths in what is now Paso Robles, some twelve miles distant. Nearby also is the San Ygnacio Ranch, once owned by Ignace Jan Paderewski, the great Polish patriot and world-famous pianist, who raised wine grapes and almonds there.
After the death of Andrew York in 1913 his sons Walter and Silas took over the enterprise, which became the York Brothers winery. The present owners and operators are the third-generation wine makers, Wilfrid S. York and Howard A. York, the sons respectively of Walter and of Silas.
Only one wine is produced, a fruity, zestful, and nearly roo per cent varietal Zinfandel. It is made in small quantities and is available in barrels for family use and bottled commercially under the brand which is also the name by which the area is known, York Mountain.
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