Small Sip of American West Coast Wine History

Could you picture a sunset over the Pacific without a glass of wine in your hand? Have you ever wondered when wine began to be cultivated along America’s West Coast? Today they seem inseparable; however, that wasn’t always the case.

The Oldest Winery is Found in Ancient Armenia – VinePair –

Wine Through the Ages

Amazingly, the story of wine begins in about 4100 B.C. In 2007, researchers from the University of California Los Angeles are thought to have discovered the oldest known winery in Armenia. (Though there is some evidence of different kinds of “wines” in ancient China prior to that. These were created using rice, honey and various fruits.)

Ancient Egyptians sipped it by the Nile river and their neighbors in northern Israel started to make it. However, the Phoenicians began to cultivate it. They were known for their extensive trade routes. Thus, they introduced many along the Mediterranean to the joys of wine.

As wine’s popularity grew, it became an ingrained part of society. Many religions began to use wine as part of their ceremonies because of its resemblance to blood. In fact, Jesus’ first miracle was turning water to wine at a wedding.

Wine also became a part of a region’s culture as different vines were developed and flourished in different conditions. As we know, different soils and growing conditions create much different fruit and therefore differently flavored wines, right? While many of the same processes are used to create wine, there are differences that create regional flavors.

1769 – First Vines Planted

Junipero Serra, a Spanish missionary, comes to San Diego from Mexico City in 1769. He planted the seeds of a new religion in this land and the grape plantings he brought with him. The Franciscan monks who came with him, cultivate the vines and begin making the first California wines. Concurrently as missions begin to dot the map, they also mark the spots of vineyards and wineries.

In fact, so many of these vineyards grew up that the favored varietal was called “the Mission grape.”

Sonoma was the home of the first California winery. In 1805, Franciscan monks begin to cultivate a vineyard and establish a winery. Once planted, grapevines and wineries flourish.

Interesting Tale of the “Father of Modern Winemaking in California”

Wine Education‘s site says no history of American wine would be complete without mentioning Agoston Haraszthy. His was an interesting life. After attempting to cultivate a vineyard in Wisconsin, he moved to sunnier climates. They go on to say

“In California, Haraszthy would slowly move north from San Diego to Sonoma, planting vineyards, founding more towns, getting elected to various posts, and generally being an all around good guy. In Sonoma he would make one of his lasting contributions when he founded the still in business Buena Vista winery, hiring Charles Krug as his wine maker. His unwavering dedication to viticulture in California would ultimately lead  Haraszthy on a trip to Europe to buy an enormous sum of vine cuttings (to the tune of 100,000). He had planned on his pals in the California Assembly to help him pay for the venture, but when that fell through, the financial difficulties of divesting himself of the giant nursery (and one of the earliest appearances of phylloxera) would lead to his ruin and final death in the jaws of a crocodile in Nicaragua. 

His legacy would ultimately have the last laugh, as the very venture that hruined him is what he is best known for and will forever be lauded in the annals of history as the “Father of Modern Winemaking in California.”h

This and more information are from Wine Education’s site at

Los Angeles the City of Vines?

The lovely river valley and Los Angeles soon became home to many grape vines. In fact, according to Frances Dinkelspiel “In the 1870s, there were so many grapevines that Los Angeles was nicknamed the “City of Vines.”” A disease hit the vines and urbanization continued to claim more and more farmland. Los Angeles lost its place as the heart of California wine to San Francisco after that.

Winehaven near Richmond, CA shared by Frances Dinkelspiel in 5 Little Known Facts About the History of California Wine

5 LITTLE-KNOWN FACTS ABOUT THE HISTORY OF CALIFORNIA WINE by Dinkelspiel shares more about San Francisco’s role in California wine. Not surprisingly, the 1906 earthquake and fire also impacted the California wine industry. As a response the California Wine Association built the world’s largest winery, Winehaven. It was a complete community that housed workers, created and shipped wine. The building still stands abandoned on Point Molate today.

Miners Are a Thirsty Bunch

During the Gold Rush years, the heart of California’s wine production moved from Southern California to Northern California according to an article shared by U.C. Davis – A Short History of California Wine Making. Sonoma, El Dorado, Sutter and Napa counties seemed to develop the best markets and wine production.

Noteable Discovery

In 1862, Luis Pasteur discovers oxygenation of wine. Sharing the harmful effects of oxygen in wine revolutionizes the industry beginning the use of wine bottles. Though heavy, this allows wine to spread much further and create a love of wine in many more corners of the globe.


As many more discover the joys of savoring a glass of wine or pairing it with certain foods, the history of wine is still being created. If you would like to bring West Coast wines to your glass, let us know by filling out the form at the bottom of this blog.

Thirsty to Learn More? Try these …

There is an interesting website that shares much more in depth information about the history of wine that may be of interest for those who want to know more – The Origins of and Ancient History of Wine shared by the Penn Museum of Philadelphia.

Looking for something easier to skim? Try either VinePair’s “How Wine Colonized the World” or Wine Folly’s “A Brief Illustrated History of Wine.”

ThoughtCo. shares an interesting article also – Wine and its Origins.

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