The Mark Wine News Summer '18 Volume 8.3 - Page 21

PART T H R E E EARLY DAYS OF US WINE & THE NOT SO ROSY PROHIBITION have been interbred with a native Vitis labrusca vine establishing the hybrid grape Alexander. This grape thrived. In fact, one of the first commercial wineries in the United States was founded in Indiana in 1806 with production of wine made from the Alexander grape, and today, French-American hybrid grapes are commonly produced on the East Coast. More than one hundred years after Penn’s attempt at a hybrid grape, the first commercial vineyard and winery in the United States was established through Kentucky Legislature on November 21, 1799. The viticulturist for the vineyard was John James Dufour of Vevey, Switzerland. This vineyard is known as the “First Vineyard.” The first wine from the First Vineyard was consumed on March 21, 1803, and the vineyard continued until 1809 when a May freeze destroyed the crop and many vines. The Dufour family then abandoned the First Vineyard and relocated to Vevay, Indiana. CH Wente Winery, 1895 Livermore Valley, California (Oldest continuously family owned winery in the U.S.) The first commercially successful winery in the United States was in Cincinnati, Ohio. In the 1830s, Nicholas Longworth made a sparkling wine from Catawba grapes. Like the Alexander grape planted by Penn, Catawba is a hybrid of a Vitis vinifera and a native Vitis lambrusca North American grape. Longworth’s Catawba sparkling wine was well-received and shipped as far as Europe. although the wine was also revered in the United States: Henry Wadsworth West Coast wine making had very different beginnings. The first vineyard and winery in California was established by the Franciscan missionary Father Junípero Serra near San Diego in 1769. History buffs will know this is also where the first mission, Mission SUMMER 2018 San Diego de Alcala, was founded. As the missionaries moved northward to build more missions, they carried the vines with them, eventually reaching Sonoma around 1805. Similar to the East Coast, California had two native grape varieties that were not well received and so the missionaries used the Mission grape, an import from Spain via South America by Spanish settlers who called the grape “criolla”. However, even though it was a Vitis vinifera variety, it did not produce high quality wines and it wasn’t until the varietal Zinfandel arrived, that high quality wine was produced. But the wine industry on both coasts was interrupted. The Civil War broke out in 1861 and winemaking efforts ceased throughout many parts of the country. In the East, they also had to deal with Pierce’s disease. In the west it was the phylloxera epidemic. All of these factors took their tolls on the growing American wine industry. And if this wasn’t enough, just as wineries were recovering from these massive hurdles, they came face-to-face with the biggest obstacle the United States wine industry has ever had to overcome: Prohibition. Prohibition in the United States first began in 1846 when Maine became the first state to prohibit liquor sales or consumption; it culminated in the passing of the Eighteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution in 1920 which forbade the manufacturing, sale and transport of alcohol. Although some wineries managed to survive thanks to exceptions that were made for sacramental wine, the United States commercial wine industry was destroyed. After the repeal of Prohibition in 1933, the state of the American wine industry was aghast. Talented winemakers had died, vineyards had been neglected or replanted with table grapes, and even more devastating, Prohibition had actually changed Americans’ taste in wines. “Jug” and “sweet” wines were all the rage. Before Prohibition dry table wines were three times more popular than sweet wines. Afterwards fortified sweet wines had become more than 80% of California’s wine production. The rebound of quality wines eventually happened thanks to The University of California at Davis. After prohibition, researchers and scientists there helped winemakers get back on their feet. Table wine began to replace the sweet, fortified wines that had emerged after prohibition and when American wines received worldwide recognition after the now-famous Paris tasting of 1976, the rest as they say is history. 19