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THE VINTAGE IN CALIFORNIA AND ITALY
BY ARTHUR INKERSLEY
HE CULTURE of grapes for wine making was introduced into California by the Catholic missionaries from Spain and Italy, who found the soil and climate of their new home very similar to those of their native lands. They observed that wild grapes grew in profusion, and, desiring the wine which they had been accustomed to use in church and on the table, they asked their brethren who were assigned to the Pacific Coast to bring cuttings of vines suitable for wine-making. The "Mission grapes," as they were named, were planted near the Missions in various parts of Southern and Central California. They took kindly to the soil, one of the vines, reputed to be a century old and to bear a ton of grapes each season, living till a few years ago at Santa Barbara. The first vineyard was in So
noma County, where grapes were planted so extensively that the price fell to a point at which it did not pay the grower to pick them. The "Mission grapes" produced a heavy, highly alcoholic wine, which did not meet with much favor among winedrinkers. In spite of these untoward circumstances the importance of establishing viticulture as one of the leading industries of California was recognized, and between 1860 and 1865, Arpad Haraszthy was sent to Europe with a commission to get cuttings from the best wine-producing districts of Europe. The cuttings were brought and the kind of soil best suited to each variety of grape was ascertained after many experiments and costly failures. Later a viticultural commission was established, and C. A. Wetmore, a well-known grower, was sent to Europe to gather cuttings of grape vines and val
One of the great vineyards of California established at Asti, through the thrift and industry of the Italian-Swiss of California.
Italian women workers in the vineyard. Transplanting seems to have a like effect on the women and the grape. The Italian woman of California is the mother of some of its best and sturdiest citizenship.
quin and San Diego. No fine dry wine can be made from grapes grown on irrigated lands, and south of the Tehachapi irrigation is necessary.
The largest vineyard in California was planted by the late Senator Stanford at Vina in Tehama County. Now, though the Senator was a successful moneymaker and founded a large co-educational school, he did not know everything. His vineyards produced great quantities of grapes, but good wine could not be made from them. When this became clear, the idea of wine-making was abandoned and the product of the vineyard turned by distillation into excellent brandy.
The next largest vineyard in California is owned by the Italian-Swiss Agricultural Colony in Sonoma County. The colony was formed in 1881 on the model of the building and loan associations with which. Andrea Sbarboro (the leading spirit and secretary of the colony) had been connected. The co-operative association is
sued 2,000 shares of stock, each paying one dollar a month into the general fund. When $10,000 had been accumulated, a committee of men who had had wide experience of wine-growing in Italy was sent out to inspect the State. After examining many districts, they selected a tract of 1500 acres near Cloverdale in the Valley of the Russian River. The tract was a sheep ranch, but eminently suitable for a vineyard, the hills having a southern exposure and the soil being volcanic. The place was named Asti from the famous district of that name in Piedmont. Though the colony experienced much hard fortune and put a severe strain on the courage and resourcefulness of its founders, it lived through all, and became a brilliant success. The original vineyard has been enlarged to 2,000 acres, and scores of families find a happy home on it. The colony has a school-house, a railroad station, a post-office, telephone service and other modern conveniences. Its winery is one of the largest in the State. The colony has grown and possesses drywine vineyards at Fulton, Sebastopol and
Cloverdale in Sonoma County; and sweet wine vineyards in Madera, Fresno and King's Counties. At all the vineyards of the Italian-Swiss Colony the viticulturists and wine-makers are Europeans, who brought their families with them from the Old World, so that many dark-haired, olive-skinned women and handsome children with laughing, mischievous eyes are to be seen there.
But the colony owns not only the greatest vineyards and wineries in California, but also the largest wine tank in the world. This tank at Asti is cut from the solid rock and is lined with Portland cement, having a glazed surface. It is 84 feet long, 34 feet wide, 25 feet high and has a capacity of half a million gallons. In the center of its flat top a small pagoda-like structure of rock-work supports an urn, which forms a cover of the stairway leading down into the tank. At times, the great vat is pumped dry and cleaned. On one of these occasions it was illuminated, and a hundred couples danced on its floor to the music of a military band. The tank stores the wine, safe from external influ
ences, until it matures; keeps it till a favorable time for putting it on the market; serves to blend large quantities and to maintain from year to year the same type -a most important consideration in acquiring and keeping a reputation for the products of a vineyard.
The vintage in Southern California takes place in October, frequently after the first rain has fallen and the brown, burned-up hillsides have begun to turn green again. Many of the pickers are Mexicans, who bring their families and camp in tents in or near the vineyards. Men, women and children join in the picturesque work. Each is armed with a knife and drops the purple clusters into a box, which, when filled, holds holds sixty pounds. Even a girl, if strong and industrious, may pick a ton of grapes in a day. No climbing is necessary, for the vines, not being trained on trellises, are bushes not more than two or three feet high. When a large number of boxes has been filled, a wagon takes them to the winery, where the grapes are pressed. At noon
the pickers seek the shade, the men chatting and smoking the inevitable cigarette, while the women and children take a little siesta. The grape-pickers are a happy. cheerful tribe and while away their leisure evening hours with laughter, gay talk and music for among their few possessions are some guitars. Their drink is the native wine, pressed from the grapes they helped to pick in by-gone seasons. When the vintage is over, they turn to gathering walnuts or pampas plumes; and later may get a job at picking oranges or lemons. In the winter, some of the men chop wood in the mountains. But, whatever their occupation, they take life cheerfully and with much innocent gayety.
In Northern and Central California, except in the Sonoma vineyards of the Italian-Swiss Colony, the vintage is not so picturesque as in the South, most of the pickers being Chinese, Japanese or Americans, animated by no sentimental interest in their occupation. One of the most in- . teresting vineyards in California is on the island of Santa Cruz, twenty miles across
the sea from Santa Barbara. owned by Italian-Swiss, and is probably more like an Old World vineyard than any in the United States. The vines are trained on trellises after the manner in vogue in the wine-growing districts of Europe; the principal house is of the French balconied type common in New Orleans, and a French horn calls the pickers from the vineyard at meal time. A little chapel and a quaint sun-dial are further reminders of an old European country. The endless chain, on which the grapes are conveyed to the presses, seems like an American device. The marc, as
stems, seeds and skins are termed, is thrown out into the yard adjoining the brick winery and fills the air with a peculiar odor.
In the Italian vineyards the grape-vines are trained on trellises (as in the vineyard on Santa Cruz Island, California), and it is necessary to use ladders in gathering the clusters. The pickers are women and children, who perform their tasks with much more gentleness and care than the laborers in a Californian vineyard display. The bunches of grapes are placed in wicker baskets, which are carried on the heads of the women or the shoulders of men to the press. In a small vineyard in a district into which modern methods have not yet been introduced, the press is merely a shallow wooden box, nearly square, into which the grapes are emptied, and are then crushed by treading them with the feet in the manner often spoken of in the Bible, and still followed in Oriental countries. The press is set on a roller over two big casks, so that it inclines to one or the other as the man changes his position: the juice, as it is expressed, running into the casks. After the juice has been extracted, the crushed skins and seeds are emptied into barrels, which are carried away in a two-wheeled bullock cart, as shown in one of the photographs. In larger vineyards, handpresses, operated by a screw, are used to crush the grapes. Though primitive and rude methods prevail largely all all over Italy, some of the great establishments, owned by rich vineyardists, have hydraulic presses and employ modern machinery, as well as scientific methods of wine-mak
ing. It was from Piedmont (Italy) and the University of Turin that Mr. Pietro C. Rossi, President of the Italian-Swiss Colony, brought his scientific knowledge of grape-growing and wine-making, in which his ancestors had been engaged for generations. The vintage in an Italian wine-growing district lasts two weeks, and as all the grapes in that region must be gathered in that time, nearly the whole rural population-men, women and children-engages in grape-picking. The vineyards present scenes of great activity and gayety. The girls and women employed in grape-picking in Italy get small wages. In the north of Italy, much white wine is grown, to be made into sparkling (or, as the Italians call it, spumante-foaming) wine, for which only the virgin juice is used. The residue, after the virgin juice has been extracted, is left in tanks to ferment with a little water, and produces a cheap wine of inferior quality; this is called picquette, and is the drink of the peasants. For in Italy everybody drinks wine the rich, those in moderate circumstances, and the poor: yes, even the very poor. Stupendous, almost incredible, quantities of wine are made in Italy. The production in 1907 was estimated at one billion four hundred and ninety-five million gallons; and, since little Italian wine is exported to other countries, nearly all this was consumed by the Italians themselves. Pretty hard drinkers, you say. Not at all: wine-drinking peoples like the Italians and French are the most temperate in the world. In the picquette drunk by the poor there is only six to eight per cent of alcohol. Wine is rarely drunk undiluted, but commonly in the proportion of one-third water to two-thirds wine. It cannot be too strongly impressed upon the advocates of national sobriety that a nation of wine drinkers is a temperate nation; cases of alcoholism are almost unknown among people who, from childhood, have been accustomed to drink light wines with their food. The greatest hope of making the American nation a temperate one lies in the spread of the habit of drinking wine at meal-time, instead of taking cocktails before, and raw whisky after dinner. This habit would ultimately make of the American a temperate race.