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A History of Wine in America

A History of Wine in America: From Prohibition to the Present

Thomas Pinney
Copyright Date: 2005
Edition: 1
Pages: 548
  • Book Info
    A History of Wine in America
    Book Description:

    A History of Wine in Americais the definitive account of winemaking in the United States, first as it was carried out under Prohibition, and then as it developed and spread to all fifty states after the repeal of Prohibition. Engagingly written, exhaustively researched, and rich in detail, this book describes how Prohibition devastated the wine industry, the conditions of renewal after Repeal, the various New Deal measures that affected wine, and the early markets and methods. Thomas Pinney goes on to examine the effects of World War II and how the troubled postwar years led to the great wine boom of the late 1960s, the spread of winegrowing to almost every state, and its continued expansion to the present day.The history of wine in America is, in many ways, the history of America and of American enterprise in microcosm. Pinney's sweeping narrative comprises a lively cast of characters that includes politicians, bootleggers, entrepreneurs, growers, scientists, and visionaries. Pinney relates the development of winemaking in states such as New York and Ohio; its extension to Pennsylvania, Virginia, Texas, and other states; and its notable successes in California, Washington, and Oregon. He is the first to tell the complete and connected story of the rebirth of the wine industry in California, now one of the most successful winemaking regions in the world.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-94148-9
    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-xi)
  4. MAPS
    (pp. xii-xiv)
    (pp. xv-xvi)
    (pp. 1-33)

    On 16 January 1919 the senators of the Nebraska state legislature, by a vote of thirty-one to one, ratified the Eighteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, prohibiting the sale of alcoholic drink throughout the nation. With the Nebraska vote, the amendment received the required support of a two-thirds majority of the states for it to pass into law. Now it would become effective a year from the day of the clinching vote—that is, at midnight on 16 January 1920—and it seemed clear that at that time, the drinking of wine (to say nothing of beer...

    (pp. 34-52)

    When the New Deal was yet young and Repeal still so recent that no one knew how things would develop, at least one man in Washington had a vision of what the future of wine in this country might be. This was Rexford Guy Tugwell, a member of President Roosevelt’s Brain Trust, that small group of bright, mostly young academics with ideas about what could be done with a well-planned, well-managed economy.¹ Tugwell was now assistant secretary of the Department of Agriculture; before migrating to Washington, he had been a professor of economics at Columbia University with a particular interest...

  8. 3 THE DISMAL ’30S
    (pp. 53-76)

    At the beginning of 1934, when a winemaker, returning to his newly legalized business, looked around him to see what his prospects were, he would have found little enough to cheer him. The economic depression, surpassing in length and intensity anything ever known in this country, showed no signs of lifting. The legislatures of state after state were busy laying new and unpredictable taxes on wine and inventing new laws to confuse commerce in wine. The federal government had taken on a new activity in the licensing and regulation of winemaking while at the same time refusing to resume its...

    (pp. 77-94)

    In 1933, before Repeal had come to pass but when its coming was already certain, Lou Stralla, having heard that the wine business might be a good thing, decided that he would give it a try, even though he knew nothing about wine or winemaking.¹ Stralla took a simple and direct path: he approached the wealthy J. K. Moffitt, who owned the historic Charles Krug winery, then lying idle outside St. Helena in the Napa Valley, and asked Moffitt to lease it to him. To Stralla’s surprise, Moffitt agreed to do so. Stralla now found himself, as the result of...

    (pp. 95-117)

    If much was wrong with American winemaking after Repeal, there were at the same time significant efforts under way to make it better—countercurrents that eventually turned the tide. One of these efforts took shape as the Wine Institute.

    In 1932, as the prospect of Repeal began to seem not merely possible but probable, the Grape Growers League was created in order to work for the legalization of wine within the Volstead Act, or, more boldly, for Repeal itself.¹ When the passage of Repeal became certain but before it had been passed, the Grape Growers League, in September 1933, transformed...

    (pp. 118-138)

    The chance that the war that was declared in September 1939 would open up the world to American wines—an exciting thought rather widely shared at one time—was more theoretical than real.¹ Those few parts of Europe that were not caught up in the war were not much interested in American wines, even supposing one could safely transport them there; South America had its own supplies; there was war in Asia. None of the necessary work in establishing markets and the means of supplying them had been done.² And soon enough, the United States was in the war too....

    (pp. 139-160)

    By the end of the war, late in 1945, the winemakers of the United States were like nervous racehorses at the starting gate, eagerly waiting for the signal to go. The end of wartime regulations and the easing of restrictions on materials and supplies did not happen at a single stroke, but conditions were sufficiently changed by the beginning of 1946 to make that a year of unbounded expansion. The official view was euphoric. “Consumption is expected to exceed all past records,”Wines and Vinesdeclared, no doubt expressing a general belief.¹ Or as Herman Wente, president of the Wine...

  13. 8 BACK EAST
    (pp. 161-191)

    The immediate postwar years are a convenient point from which to take a survey of American winegrowing outside California. In common with their California counterparts, the winegrowers in the rest of the country had had to endure Prohibition, struggle through the Depression years, and hang on during the war. Now, in the first moment of the postwar era, they shared the same euphoria. “Everyone connected with the industry is optimistic,” a writer on winegrowing in Arkansas reported in 1946, “and, to the last man, the belief is that the State is but at the threshold of a great development.”¹ But...

    (pp. 192-223)

    For many years after the war, the number of wineries in California continued its steady decline: there were 414 in 1945, 374 in 1950; not until 1970 was the decline arrested, then turned around.¹ Over the same period, there was a gradual but steady increase in production. California produced 116 million gallons of wine in 1945; ten years later the figure was 147 million. In these conditions, as the fish grew fewer and the pond grew larger, some of the fish became very large indeed.² The combinations put together during the war years by the distillers were still intact in...

  15. 10 THE BIG CHANGE: California
    (pp. 224-252)

    In 1960 Julian Street’s widow, Marguerite, was preparing a new edition of her husband’s pioneering book,Wines: Their Selection, Care, and Service, originally published in 1933 for the instruction and guidance of an American public in its regained freedom to drink.¹ Julian Street had died in 1947, but his book continued to be read. His widow had prepared a second edition in 1948 and was now at work on a third. She wrote to her publisher, Alfred Knopf, that even though the job was a demanding one, it was a relief to think that at least the chapter on California...

  16. 11 A NEW DAWN (I): The Northern and Central States
    (pp. 253-285)

    At the beginning of the 1960s things had never been so good at the Taylor Wine Company. Founded in 1880 in the little town of Hammondsport at the foot of Keuka Lake, where winemaking began in New York, Taylor had survived Prohibition, the Great Depression, the war, and the postwar collapse of the wine market. Shrewd management and a good sales network now began to receive their reward as the sales of American wine started to grow. Taylor had always been a family business: the founder, Walter Taylor, had passed the winery on to his three sons, Clarence, Fred, and...

  17. 12 A NEW DAWN (II): The South
    (pp. 286-306)

    Maryland, quite apart from anything else that might be accomplished there, will always have an important place in the modern history of American winegrowing as the scene of Philip Wagner’s pioneering and deeply influential work.¹ Starting in the early ’30s Wagner was the inspiration and the guide for countless enthusiastic grape growers and winemakers throughout the East. Wagner’s own winery, Boordy Vineyards (established in 1945), was run on sound commercial lines and paid its own way, but it was never Wagner’s ambition to make a lot of wine. On the contrary, he wanted more than anything to set an example...

    (pp. 307-338)

    Washington and Oregon, the two states that complete the Pacific Coast of the United States between California and Canada, are both schizoid territories. The Cascade Range runs north and south like a spine through both states, about a quarter of the way along their west-to-east dimension. On the western, maritime side, where the ocean is cooled by the Japan Current, it rains—a fact that provides for many well-worn jokes about the weather. The Coast Ranges and the parallel Cascade Range are heavily forested. In the well-watered valleys the trees grow large and the grass is green. On the Olympic...

    (pp. 339-370)

    Since the revolution occurred in American wine, the wine industry’s road in California has often been bumpy and difficult, but never enough to turn back a steady movement of growth. A comparison of the figures from 1970, when the revolution had clearly begun, with those from the end of the century in 2000 shows the direction quite clearly.¹

    To start in the vineyards: In 1970 the acreage devoted to grapes of all kinds in California was 479,000; in 2000 it was 852,000. For wine grapes, the numbers were 157,000 in 1970 and 480,000 in 2000, so that there are now...

  20. NOTES
    (pp. 371-480)
    (pp. 481-506)
  22. INDEX
    (pp. 507-532)