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The History of Fair Play Wineries and Wine Country

But the two pioneers did not get along. After getting into a violent argument, fellow citizens begged them for “fair play.” The name caught on and the mining settlement became known as Fair Play.

Other early settlers included George Merkindollar, J.G. Carr and A. Church. The first Post Office was established in 1860 and the first school was built in 1890. The town of Fair Play was a regional trading center during these years.

Unlike most towns that sprang up as a result of the Gold Rush, many miners remained in Fair Play after the gold dried up. This was because copper was discovered in the nearby hills. The region got an economic boost and more settlement followed. But in 1884, a court ruling halted hydraulic mining and the economy shifted definitively towards agriculture.

Local residents began harvesting timber and farming the region’s desirable soils. In 1887, Horace Bigelow built the first winery in the region. Unfortunately, Prohibition ended Fair Play’s modest wine industry a few decades later.

In 1944, there was a major fire that destroyed several structures in the town. Charles Mitchell Vineyards was the first Post-Prohibition vineyard in the region. Mr. Mitchell planted his vines in 1967.

In 1980, Brian Fitzpatrick established Fitzpatrick Vineyards. Mr. Fitzpatrick has worked tirelessly over the years to bring the wine region the recognition it deserves. He is also the president of the Fair Play Winery Association. In 2001, Fitzpatrick’s efforts paid off when the region was granted AVA status. Locals refer to Fair Play’s wine region as the “mountainous uplands.”

Varietals planted in the Fair Play AVA include: Zinfandel, Syrah, Barbera, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Petite Sirah, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, and Viognier. The region currently contains about 300 acres of vineyards. The Annual Fair Play Wine Festival takes place over the first 2 weekends of June. This celebration includes music, wine and food.

> Fair Play Wineries

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