Wine History of Santa Clara Valley
The Long History of Santa Clara Valley Wine Production
These early wines were among the most prized in Alta California. Historical records indicate that a significant amount of quality Angelica was produced by the Mission. This was an early fortified wine that is still made in small amounts by a few California wineries.
In 1818, Antonio Maria Sunol deserted from the French Navy and became a prominent vintner in the region. Sunol’s son-in-law, Pierre Sainsevain, was producing sparkling wine in the 1850s. Sainsevain’s uncle was the venerable Jean Louis Vignes, a well known Los Angeles vintner. These men and several of their counterparts imported some of the first Vitis vinifera varietals to California. Antoine Delmas and Pierre Pellier were also leaders in these efforts.
Charles Lefranc was the first to consistently make great wines in the Santa Clara Valley. He dominated blind taste competitions from the 1850s until he passed away in 1887. He also planted the famous New Almaden Vineyard. Lefranc’s son-in-law, Paul Masson, kept the family business alive during Prohibition by making wine for medicinal purposes.
The wine industry was one of the strongest in the state until the 1960s. At a time when most of California Wine Country was experiences a renaissance, Santa Clara’s proximity to the San Francisco Bay Area caused its industries and demographics to change. The valley was shifting to a technology based economy. High land values encouraged development, and many of the local vines were uprooted.
In response to suburban incursions, Edmond Mirassou, a descendant of Pierre Pellier, retained some of his estate vines, but also began planting grapes in Monterey County. Mirassou Vineyards has been continuously growing grapes in Santa Clara County since 1854. The Santa Clara Valley AVA was established in 1990.
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