Gilroy Today 2010 06 Summer - Page 46

”Sometimes to understand where we are today and where we are going, we need to understand the past. This is a great story about the beginnings of one local winery. Their experience and perseverance are part of our current local wine culture.” It’s all about the wine By Steve Beck Certified Sommelier “The best kind of wine is that which is most pleasant to him who drinks it.” – Pliny the Elder, Natural History Anselmo Conrotto founded A. Conrotto Winery in 1926 and was one of the first wineries in the historic Hecker Pass wine region. In 1896 several Anglo or German-Americans were planting vineyards and developing wineries in the upper valley west of Gilroy. Such families as the Scagliotti, Pappani, Giretti, Marchetti, and many others worked the land and made jug wine for the locals. The Conrottos arrived in Gilroy in 1914 and Anselmo worked on local farms and orchards to earn money to purchase land. Along with a man named Bonfante, he bought a vineyard and grew grapes, which were sold to a Gilroy winery operated by the California Wine Association. In 1924, Anselmo purchased 14 acres on Hecker Pass Highway and moved his family there. At first he grew only prunes and apricots. In 1926, though prohibition was still in effect, he erected a large wooden winery on his property. The building was also used for illegal distilling. There was a hidden space beneath the floor that was further hidden by racks of drying prunes; a small still was set up and grappa was produced. Grappa is a grape-based brandy of Italian origin. The building design of the winery is noteworthy because it was constructed on a hillside where the upper level was a fermentation room. Then the wine was transferred downward by gravity to the storage tanks beneath, thus eliminating the need for high-speed pumps. This method is called “gravity-fed or gravity-flow system” which is used today by many of the world’s best wineries; see insert. In 1933, with the repeal of Prohibition imminent, Conrotto purchased winemaking equipment in San Francisco, installed large storage tanks, planted new vines and prepared for the operation of a winery. Around 1934 he made his first wine for commercial purposes. Anselmo Conrotto During the early years of the Conrotto Winery, other wineries were also making wines within the Hecker Pass wine region including Eduardo Scagliotti who owned Live Oak Winery (located at the West Side Nursery) and Alfonso Bertero who owned the property which is now known as Solis Winery. Anselmo continued to produce wine with help from his son, Chinto, and as Anselmo got older more and more of the winery’s operation and management fell to his son. Chinto would follow in his father’s footsteps to produce a burgundy and small quantities of white 46 G I L R O Y T O D A Y S P R I N G 2 0 1 0