By Honorable Andrea Sbarboro
CALIFORNIA THE LAND OF THE VINE==WHAT THE OLD PADRES DID--POSSIBILITIES OF WINE-MAKING--MARKETS FOR CALIFORNIA WINES--PURITY OF CALIFORNIA WINES--EXPORTATION OF CALIFORNIA WINES--HOW THEY SHOULD BE USED--OTHER INTERESTING FACTS ABOUT GRAPE-GROWING
The good padres who first came to California for the purpose of civilizing the wild Indians of the west are not only deserving for this good meritorious work, but the people of the new El Dorado are also greatly indebted to the good friars for having discovered the fact that California was the land of the vine.
The necessity is the mother of invention was once more verified in this manner.
The Holy Fathers were not only accustomed to their flask of ruby wine at their meals in their mother countries, Spain, France and Italy, whence they came, but in the celebration of the holy sacramento of the mass wine was indispensable.
These learned men soon discovered to their joy that grape vines were growing everywhere along the creeks and embracing and climbing oak trees one hundred feet high, and were not long in importing from Spain the Vita Vinifera, or the vine which produces the true wine grape.
Around their Missions they set out grape cuttings, and at the end of the third year gathered the grapes from which they squeezed the healthy and exhilerating beverage which makes all wine-drinkers healthy, happy and merry persons without "stealing away their brains," like is done by the strong alcoholic beverages used in our modern times, unfortunately by a large number of the American people.
At the Mission of Santa Barbara may yet be seen one of the original grape vines planted by the padres more than one hundred years ago which covers an immense arbor and from which over one tone of grapes are gathered yearly.
The frairs soon commenced wine-making in the primitive manner, as was done by the Romans before the Christian era, that is to say the grapes when matured were thrown into tubs, which were carved by the Indians from large Sequoia trees, and into these tubs the Fathers would have the Indians, both male and female, dance barefooted until the grapes were turned into juice. This juice was then removed and placed into kegs, which had brought oil from Spain, and there allowed to ferment. After the proper fermentation the wine was tested and found, to the joy of the Fathers, that it was the identical beverage which they had been accustomed to imbibe in their mother country.
So soon as European immigration commenced to pur into the state, upon the discovery of gold, all those coming from the Latin race, tasting the good wine produced by the friars, soon set out vines around their mining camps and commenced wine-making for their own consumption. From this small beginning originated the viticultural industry of California which is in time destined to be not only the largest industry of this state, but the most profitable and greatest industry of the entire United States, the same as wine is the principal industry of France.
As early as 1850 small vineyards could be seen growing in several parts of the state, but it was only in 1860 that wine-making for commerce was commenced in earnest.
The first wine-makers of Sonoma, Napa and Santa Clara valleys were, as might be expected, natives of Italy, France and the Rhine. The industry increased year by year and soon became of such importance as to attract the attention of the members of the legislature, who, observing the adaptability of California soil and climate as a fine wine-producing country, made a liberal appropriation to develop the industry.
Colonel Harazthy was sent to Europe for the purpose of bringing to California the choicest varieties of grape cuttings suitable for producing fine wines. the Mission grapes introduced by the missionaries were soon supplanted by the Zinfandel from the Rhine, the Reisling, the Burgundy and other fine varieties of grapes imported from France, Italy, Spain and Germany. The quality of the wines thus improved from year to year, both by the introducing of the better varieties of grapes and by the experience acquired by the wine-makers, so that in the year 1870 the large quantity of wines which had been imported monthly from Europe was gradually disminished and substituted by the use of California wines.
In 1881 was organized, by experienced wine-makers, the now famous Italian-Swiss Colony, and in less than ten years this corporation sent its wines to the world's exhibition in Europe where to the amazement of the European and the great satisfaction of the California wine-makers, California wines were tested side by side with the fine wines of Europe, received the greatest praises and were awarded gold medals for their superior quality. From that time the wines produced in California commenced to be shipped not only throughout the United States, but also to England, Switzerland, Germany and the South and Central American republics, where they have now obtained quite a foothold.
The quantity of wine which can be produced in California is only limited by the demand for the same. This great state is nearly as large as France and larger than the Kingdom of Italy. Its climate and soil is identical with that of the Italian peninsula. It has been proved that every variety of grapes grown in Grance, Italy and Spain thrive in California just as well as, and in some cases better, than they do in the mother country.
In the northern part of California are produced the dry wines of Burgundy, Sauterns, Reisling, Sauvignon and Cabernet of France, the Barollo, Barbera, Ghianti, Grignolino or northern and central Italy. In the central and southern parts of the state the grapes for the producing of the sweet wines such as Port, Sherry, Muscat and Marsala thrive just as well as they do in Spain and in the southern part of Italy.
The rich virgin soil of California gives such large quantities of grapes to the acre that the wines can be produced as cheaply as in any part of the world, therefore, whilst the quantity of wines now produced in California is only about 40 million gallons per annum, whilst France and Italy each produce over one billion gallons per annum, the time is sure to come when the Golden State will eventually produce as large quantity, as it is now producing as good quality of wine, as is produced in the largest wine producing countries of the world.
The future of the wine industry of California is assured by the almost unlimited market for its consumption. Whilst a few million gallons of ordinary wines are produced in the different states of the union, it is a well known fact, as has been officially reported by the Italian viticultureal expert, Cav. Rosatti of New York, representing the Viticultural Department of the Italian government in the United States, that the Vita Vinifera (the true wine grape) does not grow in any part of the United States with the exception of the state of California, where on account of its soil and climate this famous grape grows as vigorously as it does in the wine producing countries of France, Italy and Spain.
Now, therefore, the state of California has first for its customers the eighty-five millions of inhabitants of the United States. It is true that the Americans are not as yet a wine-drinking people, but the time will certainly come when the intelligent, practical, bright, well-to-do people of the United States will eventually become educated to the use of this healthy beverage at their meals.
Wine has been used by all civilized people from time immemorial. In the fortunate countries where the grape grows to perfection and wine can be produced in large quantities, the industry has been carefully cherished both by the people and the government, as in some of them viticulture forms the most important industrial part of the state. It is a well known fact that France was only enabled to pay the enormous war indemnity placed on it by Prince Bismarck after the Franco-Prussian war from the money derived by viticultural industry. When a few years later the grape vines were destroyed by the phylloxera, the country immediately spent millions of francs in order to restore its vineyards, which it succeeded in doing, although it is said that the grapes grown on the resistant vines do not produce as fine quality of wines as the grapes produced directly from the Vita Vinifera.
The wine industry has now become of such vast magnitude in California that both the state of California and the Federal government have appropriated, this year, large sums for the purpose of fully developing and protecting the industry.
It is a most remarkable fact which is acknowledged by all people who have traveled throughout Europe, that in the wine-drinking countries of the world, such as France, Italy and Spain, where every man, woman and child use wine at their meals, intoxication is almost unknown.
Wine-drinking, therefore, seems to be the true and only remedy for the cure of the curse of drunkenness which causes so much misery in the non-wine drinking countries of the world. It seems that man required stimulants of some kind, and that if he does not take it in a mild form such as wine, he will take it in the stronger form such as brandy and whiskey. Wine used in moderation is not intoxicating but invigorting, while the stronger drinks are intoxicating and ruinous to the body and soul.
The curse od drunkenness exists to such a large extent in Russia, where, of course, grapes do not grow and wine is not made, and therefore only consumed by the nobility and wealthy classes, and is so deplored by the government that means have been taken to make alcohol undrinkable. The imperial minister of finance has just offered a price of 50,000 rubles ($25,750) to the person or persons who will invent some way of making alcohol undrinkable. Pamphlets giving the exact requirements have been printed in the French language and sent to the Russian consulates in foreign countries.
To-day in the wine-drinking countries of Europe there is consumed 50 gallons of wine per capital per annum, while in the United States only one-half gallon per capita per annum is used. There is, therefore, room for an enormous increase of wine-drinking by the American people and when they will become accustomed to this healthy beverage and consume, say ten gallons per capita, and our country will soon contain one hundred million inhabitants, California will supply its legitimate market, the United States, with one billion gallons of wine per annum.
Until recently a prejudice has existed in the minds of the wealthy American people against the use of California wines because it was thought that it was only the proper thing to serve imported wines at banquets and at the homes of the rich when visitors called, but recently this foolish, unreasonable fad has been done away with. All American wine-drinkers are now serving with pride California wines on their tables.
By the enforcing of the Pure Food law passed by Congress last year it has been found, to the astonishment of the American people, that more than sixty per cent of the wine imported from Europe was adulterated. that many bottles of wine had never been near a vineyard, and as Professor Allen, secretary of the National Pure Food Assocation has tersely put it, the American people "have been buying labels."
The law passed by the last Congress protects the people from bogus wines from Europe. The Pure Food law which has already passed the lower house of Congress this year,--and it is fervently to be hoped that it will also be approved by the senate,--will also protect the wine-drinkers from drinking bogus wines which may be made in the fifth story brick vineyards of some large city of the eastern states. Heretofore it has been the universal custom to brand these bogus wines California wines, and to ut up our fine California wines in bottles labeled with French labels which were sold at fabulously high prices. The new law does away with this dishonest practice, therefore the wine-drinkers will hereafter be assured that when they buy a bottle of wine bearing the California label they will drink the pure juice of the grape. This unquestionably will greatly incrase the consumption of our wines by our own people.
The people of Europe, who are generally connoisseurs of wine, who have no prejudice but desire to have the best for the money, are becoming large consumers of California wines. the great firm of Grierson, Oldham & Co., Ltd., Waterloo Bridge, London, has introduced California wines throughout the world, sold only in bottles, and has adapted for their trade mark "The Big Tree Brand," each bottle being plainly labeled "California Wine." These wines both white and red are sold for the reasonable price of from two to three shillings per bottle, and they may be found on the wine list of every first-class hotel, club, dining-room and on the table of wine consumers in every city and town of the British possessions.
Every drop of wine contained in these bottles is imported by this enterprising firm from California in barrels. On its arrival it is stored under the vaults of Waterloo Bridge, where an immense warehouse has been built under these enormous arches. The wine is allowed to rest for months after its arrival. It is then bottled and labeled with the most modern appliances, worked by hundreds of neat, bright girls and thousands of cases shipped daily throughout all parts of the glove. Thus this wine is advertising California wines throughout the world.
If our people had any doubts as to the true merits of California wines these doubts should be removed by the fact that the wine connoisseurs of Switzerland, Belgium, right near France and Italy where wine is cheap and abundant, prefer our California wines and are willing to pay the higher price for it caused by the expense of freight and duty. Germany consumes a large quantity of California wines not only for its consumption but uses considerable in blending its inferior wines so as to bring them up to a fairly good standard.
In order to become accustomed to the use of wine, children and new wine-drinkers should commence using wine at the table by mixing one-half glass of wine with one-half glass of water. A little sugar for the beginner will perhaps further please the palate. White dry wines are generally used at the commencement of a meal with oysters and fish. Clarets, burgundy and chianti should be used with roasts and meats. A little sherry goes well with the dessert, especially where no champagne is served. Sherry wine is also frequently used and highly recommended by physicians to convalescents with a beaten egg. This is also invigorating and good for people of weak constitutions. A glass of port with cake is a healthy and pleasant beverage and should be substituted for the use of tea at "Teas." It is so served in all parts of Europe among ladies and children, who also when out shopping in the city stop at confectioneries where they take cake and wine to invigorate them for their further tramping.
In the heat of summer nothing is more pleasant and healthier than a large glass of wine mised with aerated water. It is invigorating and will quench thirst. White wine with aerated water is a pleasant substitute for champagne, is not so expensive and is not intoxicating, whilst it is effervescent and delicious.
For the curing of colds there is nothing more sure and at the same time pleasant, than a hot bowl of water and wine, about one-half each with a few cloves, cinnamon and sugar.
Sweet wine, such as sherry and port, drunk warm before retiring, are also excellent remedies for colds.
The grape-grower and wine-maker of California have the greatest faith in this growing industry. Already one hundred million dollars have been invested in this great enterprise. Whilst this is not a small sum, it is confidentially expected that one hundred times this amount will be invested in the wine industry of California in years to come. Vineyards are being set out yearly in most all parts of the state and wineries are being built with all modern improvements. There was a time in California when lawyers, merchants and professional men went into the business of wine-making without any experience except the use of a guide book. Useless to say that they soon made a failure, went out of business and now the industry is principally in the hands of experienced and practical wine-makers. Large capitals have been combined for the exploitation of this great industry. This enables the wine-makers not only to make wine in the most careful manner but to properly age the wines in adequate vessels.
At the winery of the Italian-Swiss Colony in Asti, Sonoma county, which has a capacity of five million gallons, may be found the largest wine tank in the world. It contains 500,000 gallons of wine. In this cellar in 1897, after it was first emptied of its lake of ruby liquid, a ball took place at which were invited two hundred representative ladies and gentlemen from San Francisco, who danced to the tune of a military band inside of the wine tank, the first instance of the kind in the history of the world. On the cover of this great tank, which is eighty-four feet long and thirty-four feet wide, twenty-five feet deep, lately stood and were photographed the members of the American Bankers Association who visited Asti during their recent annual convention held in San Francisco.
In this same cellar may also be found hundreds of wine tanks containing from 25,000 to 40,000 gallons each and several tanks made of concrete lined inside with glass holding 25,000 gallons each. In these casks is kept for aging the finest wines; everything being as clean as a huge glass bottle.
Most of the California wineries are built alongside of the railroad track so that they can load the cars from inside of their wineries with barrels of wine which are shipped in locked cars and arrive at the door of the customers throughout the United States, Canada and Mexico in the identical condition in which they left the wine cellars in California. This guarantees the purity of the wine and that it has not been trifled with.
Grape growing has become a fascinating and interesting industry in California. This great industry is bound to increase year by year as the demand for California wines increase. the profits made by the grape-grower are generally very large. The grape commences to produce small crops after the third year, at the fifth year it produces a fair crop and thenceforth an average of five tons of grape to the acre. The price of grapes has varied in California from as low as five dollars per ton to as high as thirty dollars per ton, but since the industry has been placed on a paying basis and controlled in part by large moneyed interests the price of grapes may be safely put down at an average of fifteen dollars per ton. This will give the grape-grower about $75.00 per acre for his grapes, which, after deducting say $15.00 per acre for working the land, will leave him $60.00 per acre net profit. The occupation is pleasant and healthful, and the women and children find grape-picking delightful exercise.
Besides grape-growing, the farmers can grow fruit or any other arricle which may be adapted to the locality in which he settles. The climate of California is salubrious and pleasant. We never have excessive heat or excessive cold. On the tops of only a few mountains do we ever see snow, and I think, I say everything when I assure the reader that in most any part of California can be gorwn the orange, olive, fig, and the vine, the rose and the pomegranate and everything that is grown in the sunny land of Italy.
Recently a movement has been started by some public benefactor for the purpose of eliminating all license for the sale of pure table wines. If a law to this effect could be passed by Congress, what a blessing it would be to the people of the United States. In a short time the curse of drunkenness would be removed, for, as has been shown, those who drink wine at their meals have no desire to visit saloons where intoxicating beverages are sold.
The custom of the saloons was introduced into the United States before it was a wine producing country, but in late years it has been clearly demonstrated that fine American wines can be produced in California of as good a quality and in some cases superior to those imported from Europe.
A few years ago the French government, noticing the enormous increase of alcoholism and insanity, appointed a commission of professors and medical men to study the cause of this evil and report its remedy. The committee after due investigation reported that the cause of the increase of drunkenness and insanity was due to the scarcity of wine, as many vineyards had been destroyed by phylloxera, and that the people who could not obtain their accustomed bottle of wine were using instead strong alcoholic beverages. In order to correct this evil the government of France immediately removed all license and tax on the sale of wines, whilst it increased the burden on the dealer in strong alcoholic drinks, which had the required effect.
Thus it will be seen by removing or reducing to a minimum the license of the sale of pure wines our people will gradually accustom themselves to the use of this healthy and non-toxicating beverage, and will eventually become temperate, healthy, happy and better citizens.