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The Makers of American Wine: A Record of Two Hundred Years

Thomas Pinney
Copyright Date: 2012
Edition: 1
Pages: 311
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  • Book Info
    The Makers of American Wine
    Book Description:

    Americans learned how to make wine successfully about two hundred years ago, after failing for more than two hundred years. Thomas Pinney takes an engaging approach to the history of American wine by telling its story through the lives of 13 people who played significant roles in building an industry that now extends to every state. While some names—such as Mondavi and Gallo—will be familiar, others are less well known. These include the wealthy Nicholas Longworth, who produced the first popular American wine; the German immigrant George Husmann, who championed the native Norton grape in Missouri and supplied rootstock to save French vineyards from phylloxera; Frank Schoonmaker, who championed the varietal concept over wines with misleading names; and Maynard Amerine, who helped make UC Davis a world-class winemaking school.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-95222-5
    Subjects: Environmental Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-x)
    (pp. xi-xii)
    (pp. xiii-xviii)

    THIS BOOK TELLS THE STORY of American wine through the lives of thirteen people—twelve men and one woman—who made a difference in that history, or who represent a significant change in the direction of things, or both. The more recent names are probably familiar to all who take an interest in wine—Mondavi and Gallo certainly are—but other names will be unknown. To give them their deserved recognition is one of my aims in writing this book. I start with Jean Jacques (or John James) Dufour, a Swiss, who did not make the first commercial wine in...

  6. ONE John James Dufour, or the Uses of Failure: A MAN WITH A MISSION
    (pp. 1-21)

    THE BRIGSALLY,CAPTAIN MITCHELL COMMANDING, arrived at the port of Philadelphia on August 12, 1796, after an uneventful voyage of sixty days from Le Havre. Among its passengers was a Swiss named Jean Jacques Dufour (John James in his American years), no longer in his first youth—he was then thirty-three years old—and remarkable at first glance only for having a left arm that ended at the elbow, probably a congenital defect.¹ Whether he had any English before he left home is uncertain, but no doubt he had learned some on the voyage to add to his native...

    (pp. 22-38)

    Dufour had an heir, in effect if not in law. This was Nicholas Longworth of Cincinnati, about fifty miles up the Ohio River from Vevay. He knew about Dufour’s work, was much interested in it, determined to carry it on, and did so with far greater success than Dufour could have imagined. For Longworth had two great advantages over Dufour: he was wealthy, and he had a better grape to use.

    Take the matter of wealth first. Longworth (1782–1863) was born in Newark, New Jersey. His grandfather and father were both Loyalists during the Revolution and, as the price...

    (pp. 39-56)

    Saint Louis and the region around it have long been associated with wine. The Jesuits of Saint Stanislaus Seminary at Florissant, just north of the city, began making wine in 1823 and continued down to 1960; the American Wine Company, founded in 1859 by a Chicago politician, produced a well-known sparkling wine, called “Cook’s Imperial,” in cellars dug beneath the streets of Saint Louis (they are still there, but are disused and inaccessible). It was the Germans, however, who really put the region on the wine-making map. Lured by the seductive account of his life in frontier Missouri published by...

    (pp. 57-74)

    The old town of Sonoma is dominated by its spacious plaza, laid out when the town was founded in 1835 and now a state historical monument. In the northwest section of the plaza, on June 15, 1946, Joseph Knowland, the publisher of theOakland Tribune, and the officers of the Sonoma County Wine Growers’ Association met to dedicate a bronze plaque to a pioneer wine grower of Sonoma County, the Hungarian Agoston Haraszthy (1812–1869). Variously styled Count or Colonel (though he was neither) Haraszthy, the man was, the plaque declared, the “Father of California Viticulture”; the plaque, sponsored by...

    (pp. 75-89)

    MOST AMERICANS, IF THEY THINK ABOUT IT ALL, are likely to think that wine making in this country has always been an Italian affair. That is understandable enough, for the dominant names in American wine since the repeal of Prohibitionhavebeen largely Italian: Gallo, Cella, Foppiano, Petri, Bisceglia, Martini, Mondavi—the list is long and impressive. But this large Italian presence in the foreground of things distorts our perspective: the fact is that there were few Italians to be found on the American wine-making scene until the end of the nineteenth century. Before that, the odds were that any...

  11. SIX Percy T. Morgan and the CWA: WINE AS BIG BUSINESS
    (pp. 90-106)

    By the 1890s the modest beginnings of a California wine trade nurtured by Charles Kohler had burgeoned into a business large enough to support a number of substantial wine merchants, or wine houses, as they were called. Kohler and Frohling was still chief among them, but others had grown big too: Lachman and Jacobi, C. Carpy and Company, S. Lachman and Company, Kohler and Van Bergen.¹ The traditional three-part structure of the wine business—vineyard, winery, and merchant house—was confusingly mixed in the activities of these firms: they owned or controlled vineyards; they owned or controlled wine-making and storage...

    (pp. 107-126)

    IN 1904 PERCY MORGAN ATTENDED the annual meeting of the American Winegrowers’ Association in Buffalo, New York. It was not usual for the California trade to pay much attention to such affairs, since they were mostly about the concerns of the eastern winemakers, but Morgan was not one to miss a chance to make defensive alliances. And his time was not wasted, for, as he reported on his return to California, there in Buffalo he had met “a very giant—Mr. Paul Garrett, of Norfolk, West Virginia.” Morgan, an Englishman, had a somewhat shaky notion of American geography—Norfolk is...

  13. EIGHT Ernest and Julio Gallo: CREATING NEW MARKETS
    (pp. 127-148)

    If, at the end of his long life, Ernest Gallo (1909–2007) troubled to look back over his career, what he saw was the whole extent of American wine history since its rebirth after the repeal of Prohibition at the end of 1933, the year that he went to work as a winemaker. He could take great satisfaction from the view, for what it showed was that, of all the many wine-making enterprises that had appeared in that dawn, his alone had survived and prospered: Roma, Petri, Italian Swiss Colony, Fruit Industries, Inglenook, Beaulieu, Larkmead, Christian Brothers, Paul Masson—all...

  14. NINE Frank Schoonmaker: A MASTER TEACHER
    (pp. 149-170)

    In 1923, Frank Schoonmaker, at the end of his freshman year at Princeton, dropped out of college. In the letter that he sent to the college administration explaining his decision, he said he could learn more by reading and travel than he could in a classroom.¹ But perhaps another element in his decision was the fact that he knew better than his teachers how to teach. He would spend the rest of his life teaching, and his subject, though he did not know it then, was to be wine.

    Frank Schoonmaker was born in Spearfish, South Dakota, on August 20,...

  15. TEN Maynard Amerine: APPLIED SCIENCE
    (pp. 171-194)

    Is wine making an art or a science? The question is a false one, since the answer is obviously “Both.” But people still argue endlessly about it. It can hardly be a science, one side says, since wine has been made for thousands of years, and most of those years were, by any definition, prescientific. “Ah, but what kind of wine was it?” the other side asks. Spoiled wine, adulterated wine, flavored wine, doctored wine, watered wine, undrinkable wine. Only since scientific understanding has been brought to the vineyard and the winery has the world had a reliable supply of...

  16. ELEVEN Konstantin Frank: ZEALOT AT WORK
    (pp. 195-214)

    Wine making has always had an international flavor in America. This book has so far included the Swiss Dufour, the Germans Husmann and Kohler, the Italian Sbarboro, and the Englishman Morgan, but the list of such names among the pioneers can easily be greatly extended. The French Legaux in Pennsylvania, the Italian Mazzei in Virginia, the German Rapp in Indiana, and the Hungarian Haraszthy in California are among the pioneer names, and to them one might add the Irishman Keller in Los Angeles, the Costa Rican Gallegos in Fremont, and the Japanese Nagasawa in Sonoma, not to mention the uncounted,...

  17. TWELVE Robert Mondavi: AIMING FOR THE TOP
    (pp. 215-235)

    ROBERT MONDAVI (1913–2008) began as a maker of anonymous bulk wines and ended as the best-known, most widely publicized maker of American premium wine, the national icon of fine wine. Mondavi’s career, to some extent, is the story of California wine itself as it underwent its Cinderella transformation in the last half of the twentieth century, from neglected obscurity to glamorous prominence. Though many shared in this change, Mondavi stood out beyond all the rest, a distinction that he had earned by an indomitable ambition to be among the very best and a readiness to do whatever that might...

    (pp. 236-254)

    At first glance, it would appear that the wine trade is open without restriction to women: there are women cellar rats, women sales reps, women vineyard managers, women lab technicians, women winemakers, women CEOs, women proprietors, and women anything else you can think of in the business of wine. But as long as we continue to note that such and such a person is awomanCEO or awomanwinemaker, there is still an unwelcome hint of surprise in the observation: should awomanbe in those positions? Perhaps the day will come when we no longer specify the...

  19. NOTES
    (pp. 255-288)
    (pp. 289-300)
  21. INDEX
    (pp. 301-318)