Skip to main content

Full text of "California premium wines and brandies : oral history transcript / and related material, 1971-1973"

See other formats

The Bancroft Library University of California/Berkeley 

Regional Oral History Office 

California Wine Industry Oral History Project 

Otto E. Meyer 

With an Introduction by 
Maynard A. Amerine 

An Interview Conducted by 
Ruth Teiser 

Copy No. 
1973 by The Regents of the University of California 

Photograph, Courtesy of the Wine Institute 
Otto Meyer, President, Paul Masson Vineyards 

March 8, 1994 

Otto E. Meyer 
Vintner and Patron 
Of Arts, Education 

Otto E. Meyer, a noted vintner 
and patron of Bay Area arts and 
education, died yesterday in his 
home in San Francisco. He was 90 
and suffered from a heart condi 

Mr. Meyer was born into a 
wine-growing family in Germany. 
He was president and later board 
chairman of Paul Masson Vine 
yards from 1959 until his retire 
ment in 1974. 

He devoted a major part of his 
life to community service. He was 
long active with the San Francisco 
Opera, serving as president of 
Spring Opera in 1975 and 1976, and 
as board chairman for the next 
four years. He was a founding 
member of the Merola Program 
Board in 1963 and a member of the 
Opera Association Board from 
1974 until his death. 

He also helped initiate the Mu 
sic at the Vineyards summer con 
cert series at the Paul Masson 
Vineyards in Saratoga in 1958 and 
then oversaw its operation. He was 
a founding trustee of San Francis 
co Performances in 1979 and a 
board member of the Performing 
Arts Library and Museum starting 
in 1982. 

In 1991 he established an en 
dowment fund for the string quar 
tet program at San Francisco State 
University to ensure the residency 
there of the Alexander String 
Quartet. He was given an honorary 
doctorate by San Francisco State 

in 1990. 

Mr. Meyer also played a leading 
role in memorializing the work of 
photographer Ansel Adams, as a 
founder and trustee of the Friends 
of Photography. 

He emigrated to the United 
States in 1938 when the Nazis seiz 
ed his family s firm. Joining the 
Christian Brothers firm hi 1940, he 
developed its brandy production. 
Five years later he took over pro 
duction and development of Paul 
Masson Vineyards. He directed the 
building of its champagne cellars 
and a new winery in Soledad in 
Monterey County, developed new 
vineyards and initiated the export 
of Paul Masson products into 40 
foreign markets. 

In 1989, Mr. Meyer was award 
ed the University of California at 
Davis Centennial Citation. 

He also served as a director of 
the California State University 
Foundation and Chancellors Asso 
ciates and was a trustee of the 
World Af f airs Council of Northern 

Mr. Meyer is survived by his 
wife, Susan; a son, Thomas of San 
Francisco; a daughter, Ursula 
Cropper of Sausalito; two grand 
children, two great-grandchildren, 

All uses of this manuscript are covered by a legal 
agreement between the Regents of the University of 
California and Otto E. Meyer, dated 14 March, 1972. The 
manuscript is thereby made available for research 
purposes. All literary rights in the manuscript, including 
the right to publish, are reserved to The Bancroft Library 
of the University of California at Berkeley. No part of 
the manuscript may be quoted for publication without the 
written permission of the Director of The Bancroft Library 
of the University of California at Berkeley. 

Requests for oermlsslon to quote for publication 
should be addressed to the Regional Oral History Office, 
486 Library, and should include identification of the 
specific passages to be quoted, anticipated use of the 
passages, and identification of the user. The legal 
agreement with Otto E. Meyer requires that he be notified 
of the request and allowed thirty days in which to respond. 

















APPENDIX I Fact Sheet 58 

APPENDIX II UC President Kerr at State s New Wine 

District Opening 6l 

APPENDIX III Paul Mas son Wins Presidential Award 65 

(For Wines and Grapes see pages 70-71) 


The California Wine Industry Oral History Series, a 
project of the Regional Oral History Office, was initiated 
in 1969, the year noted as the bicentenary of continuous 
wine making in this state. It was undertaken through the 
action and with the financing of the Wine Advisory Board, 
and under the direction of University of California faculty 
and staff advisors at Berkeley and Davis. 

The purpose of the series is to record and preserve 
information on California grape growing and wine making that 
has existed only In the memories of wine men. In some cases 
their recollections go back to the early years of this 
century, before Prohibition. These recollections are of 
particular value because the Prohibition period saw the 
disruption of not only the industry itself but also the 
orderly recording and preservation of records of its 
activities. Little has been written about the Industry from 
late in the last century until Repeal. There is a real 
paucity of information on the Prohibition years (1920-1933), 
although some wine making did continue under supervision of 
the Prohibition Department. The material in this series on 
that period, as well as the discussion of the remarkable 
development of the wine industry in subsequent years (as 
yet treated analytically in few writings) will be of aid to 
historians. Of particular value Is the fact that frequently 
several individuals have discussed the same subjects and 
events or expressed opinions on the same ideas, each from 
his own point of view. 

Research underlying the interviews has been conducted 
principally in the University libraries at Berkeley and 
Davis, the California State Library, and in the library of 
the Wine Institute, which has made its collection of in 
many cases unique materials readily available for the 

Three master indices for the entire series are being 
prepared, one of general subjects, one of wines, one of 
grapes by variety. These will be available to researchers 
at the conclusion of the series in the Regional Oral History 
Office and at the library of the Wine Institute. 


The Regional Oral History Office was established to 
tape record autobiographical interviews with persons who 
have contributed significantly to recent California history. 
The office is headed by Wllla K. Baum and is under the 
administrative supervision of James D. Hart, the Director 
of The Bancroft Library. 

Ruth Teiser 
Project Director 
California Wine Industry 
Oral History Series 

1 March 1971 

Regional Oral History Office 
^86 The Bancroft Library 
University of California, Berkeley 



This Is a valuable addition to the history of the 
California wine industry. Coming to California in 1939, 
Mr. Meyer made a number of special and unique contributions. 
His first venture, brandy production, was long overdue. He 
notes particularly that the bottled-in-bond syndrome dominated 
the Industry at this time. Mr. Meyer shows how important 
controlled distillation of brandy and blending can be. The 
fact that his competitors did not succeed as well as he may 
mean that they were less clever in distillation, blending, or 
promotion. At present, we do not know the relative importance 
of those three factors. Furthermore, the demands of World 
War II are an unknown factor not touched on here. Probably 
the real lesson that Mr. Meyer teaches us about brandy is the 
critical importance of distillation and blending. (A curious 
footnote, Thompson Seedless is not a California variety. It 
is widely grown under other names In the Middle Bast.) 

Meyer is certainly the expert on the development of 
Salinas Valley as a wine grape producing district. He tells 
the story from the beginning. Urban encroachment was the 
villain and he gives credit to the University at Davis as the 

His observations on how long it takes to develop demand 
for premium quality wines are valuable 10 to 15 years! 
Careful observation of the market is recommended. He also 
makes the very good point that it is not the size of the winery 
that controls quality per se but rather it Is the quality of 
the decisions made by top management vltioultural and 

Meyer is not a believer in European generic appellations 
for California wines though he recognizes the necessity of 
using them. However, he does say that the Emerald Dry "is 
like a Moselle" in fragrance. His Justification of "Rubion" 
and "Baroque" as coined type names is Interesting. One wonders 
what would happen if all California wineries used coined names 
for all of their wines. 

The story of "Music at the Vineyards" la well told. It 
was good public relations for Paul Masson, and it was good for 
young composers, performers and for the public. 


Mr. Meyer again makes a plea for honest labeling of 
imported wines. He also believes it important that 
California wines sell on the International market without 
undue tariff restrict ions. However, he recognizes the 
chilling effect of European Common Market regulations on this. 

In the final analysis, Otto Meyer s contributions to the 
California wine industry are primarily related to good public 
relations. One sees now that in his California career he has 
been trying to create a better image for the wines of his 
company and for the wines of the whole state. 

What one misses in this interview is Otto Meyer* s 
cordiality and helpfulness. He is a great friend of the 
College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences of the 
University of California, and a personal friend of many of 
the staff. 

Maynard A. Amerine 
Professor, Viticulture 
and Enology 

21 February 1973 
101 Wickson Hall 
University of California at Davis 


As he recounts in this Interview, Otto E. Meyer was born 
In 1903 In Blngen on the Rhine. In 192?, after college and 
a brief time In the banking business, Mr. Meyer entered his 
father s wine and brandy firm, and In 1931 he became Its 
general manager. Because of Hitler and the war, the business 
was destroyed, and In 1938 Mr. Meyer and his family came to 
the United States. His Introduction to American wine and 
brandy production came in 1939 with K. Arakelian at the Mission 
Bell Winery. The he became associated with Picker-Linz 
Importers, later Promm & Slohel. Through this firm he came 
to work with Christian Brothers on establishing their brandy 
business. When Promm & Slohel acquired an interest in the 
Paul Masson winery In the 19*1-0 s, Mr. Meyer began working with 
that organization. He became president in 1959- In May, 1972 
he became chairman of the board. 

Mr. Meyer has been a member of the board of the Wine 
Institute (elected chairman in 1965) and the Wine Advisory 
Board. He has also served as a government advisor on exports 
and imports, and led Paul Masson into exporting its wine, 
winning the Presidential "E" flag for "an outstanding contri 
bution to the Export Expansion Program" In 1965 

A book of text about and photographs of the Paul Masson 
Vineyards, sponsored by the company, was published in 1970t 
THIS UNCOMMON HERITAGE by Robert L. Balzer, with an Introduc 
tion by Professor Maynard A. Amerine (Los Angeles: Ward 
Ritchie Press, 118 pp.). 

The interview was held in three sessions on August 10, 
11, and 13, 1971, in Mr. Meyer s pleasant, bright office in 
the International Building In San Francisco. The interviewer s 
editing of the transcript consisted principally of rearranging 
a few passages for improved continuity. The transcript went 
to Mr. Meyer on March 3, 1972. He made numerous small changes 
in wording, some deletions, and valuable additions of 
explanatory material, returning the text on September 1, 1972. 
He later re-read the final typescript, making a few minor 
changes . 


Mr. Meyer s cordiality and helpfulness, mentioned "by 
Professor Amerine in his Introduction, were also apparent 
to and appreciated by the interviewer. 

Ruth Teiser 
Project Director 
California Wine Industry 
Oral History Series 

16 March 1973 

^86 The Bancroft Library 

University of California at Berkeley 

(Interview #1 - August 10, 1971) 


Teiser: Because, as I explained, we re interested in your 

perspective on the California wine industry and its 
position in the world, I think your own personal 
background is of considerable importance in 
indicating where you gained that perspective. So, 
may I start with where you were born? 

Meyer: I was born in Bingen on the Rhine, the geographical 
center of the major wine -producing area in Germany, 
in October of 1903- After formal schooling, young 
people in Germany at that time went through various 
phases of business experience. My first apprentice 
ship was in a bank in Frankfurt. After that I Joined 
my father s business, which was the making of wine 
and brandy. As a matter of fact, the brandy part of 
our business was larger than the wine business, but 
there is a relationship, as there is here. The only 
difference was that in Germany, brandy was made from 
imported wines. Imported fortified wines are less 
expensive and more suitable for the production of 
brandy than German wines, which are produced in 
relatively small quantities and are more suitable 
for consumption as wine. Our wine business consisted 
primarily of wine from the local area, particularly 
the Rheingau, Rhlnehessen and Nahe districts. 

Teiser: When had your family firm been established? 

Meyer: It was established by my grandfather Josef Meyer in 
Blnfcen on the Rhine, about 1850. His business 
was then split into three companies each owned by 
one of his three very active sons, who felt that they 


Meyer: could do better on their own. My father s company 
was Oscar Meyer. After World War I he acquired a 
French brandy distillery in Jarnac, Texier & Co., 
as a supplier of wines for the distillation of brandy 
in Germany. The duty situation enabled one to import 
raw materials practically duty free while there was 
a high duty on the finished product. We made a 
brandy very similar to French Cognac. 

I joined my father s company in 1927. The 
business developed very well, and particularly the 
brandy business under the Texier brand, until we got 
into the Hitler period. 

Teiser: Before you get onto this (which we want to know about) 
let me ask you, what functions did you serve in your 
father s business? This was your apprenticeship in 
the wine business, was it? 

Meyer: After my apprenticeship in the banking business, I 
had to go through the apprenticeship in the wine 
business, and this was from making barrels, to the 
cellar work and the vinlfl cation and particularly the 
tasting and blending of wine and brandy. The greatest 
emphasis in our family, and in most family-built wine 
businesses in Europe, was the tasting. It was a daily 
practice. We had one to two hours set aside somewhere 
around eleven o clock in the morning for tasting. 
And this, of course, was even more essential then 
than it is today, when you have more controlled 
production processes. 

The people who tasted made the final decision of 
what should be done with the wine; this has not 
changed. In wine making you must always know your 
objective. One must know the characteristics and 
taste that a particular wine should have. No techniques 
or laboratory tests can replace the judgment of how a 
wine should taste, or what improvements can be made 
in blending to enhance the characteristics and the 
pleasantness of a wine. 

Teiser: Back to the Hitler era... 

Meyer: Well, the first two years under the Hitler regime 

didn t bring about much change, except that one could 
begin to see the handwriting on the wall. 

Meyer : 



Meyer : 


Is your entire family Jewish? 

Practically, yes. We were slow in recognizing what 
was coming, which was the case with many families 
who were settled in the wine region and had vineyards 
for generations. They Just couldn t conceive that 
these insane threats could become a reality. 

But of course after a couple of years things 
became quite clear. Our first step was to spin off 
Texier, which was a French corporation, from the 
Oscar Meyer company. The Oscar Meyer company was 
confiscated by the Nazis. My parents went to 
Switzerland to live and I decided to come to the 
United States, and did so in 1938. Because of our 
involvement in the French company I spent some 
time in France before coming here. 

You left Germany and went to France? 

Yes. This was rather foolish because, looking back, 
there was no reason to delay things. It would have 
been much wiser to forget the past and look only to 
the future. Of course, it took some time to get a 
visa to the United States in those days. My family 
and I applied for a visa in 1936, but it took a 
couple of years to get it. We finally left, and when 
we arrived here I was still involved in the French 
operation and had to go back from New York to France 
trying to liquidate the Texier company. 

Was this after France was occupied? 

No, no. In the spring of 39* And when things got 
hot in the eastern part of Europe, I went back to New 
York without accomplishing my mission. 

Just to make sure that I understand you in effect 
became the manager of your family property in that 

That s right. We still had a controlling interest In 
the French corporation and its branch in Germany. 
Well, let me tell you an interesting story. Our 
former sales manager became the president of the 
German branch of the French corporation. During the 
German occupation of France in World War II, he was 
appointed commissioner for the Cognac and Bordeaux 

Meyer: districts. Although he became a German captain, he 
was neither a military man nor a Nazi, but a great 
opportunist, and he knew the French well. Before 
he came with us, he was export manager for a 
Bordeaux house, which qualified him for the position 
as commissioner for the most important wine and 
brandy producing areas. During the German occupation 
of Prance, he set the machinery in motion to become 
the owner of the Texier company by liquidating the 
parent company in Prance and buying its assets with 
the funds of the company in Germany. 

All these transactions were, of course, set 
aside after the war in the restitution process. In 
the last days of the war, the brandy warehouses at 
Bingen with their valuable inventories were destroyed. 
When the war was practically over and the American 
troops were Just coming in to occupy the town, some 
wizard started to shoot at the American tanks with 
rifles, so they pulled, out their artillery, and what 
they hit was our brandy warehouse, which blew up. 
Consequently, the values were greatly reduced. 

Teiser: But, after the war, restitution was made then? 

Meyer: Restitution was made, but I negotiated a settlement 
very early because I really wanted no part of any 
business there, and. the new man made a pretty good 

In the meantime we had established ourselves 
here. I had Joined my brother-in-law, Alfred Promm 
who, before my arrival in California, had already 
established a relationship with the Christian Brothers 
in the wine business. 

Teiser: Perhaps this is the place to explain something of 
the Promm and Sichel enterprise. 

Meyer: Yes, because it is closely connected with my first 
activity; Paul Masson came later. 

Teiser: You had married Mr. Promm 1 s sister in Germany? 

Meyer: In Germany, yes. His step-sister Margaret.* Alfred 
and I were old friends before I knew his sister. 

*Margaret Promm Meyer died in 195 3 
Meyer married Susan Colby. 

In 1959, Mr. 

Meyer: The Promm family moved to Bingen where I was born, 
I think it was somewhere around 1926 or 2?. They 
were in Kitzingen on the Main River, which is the 
Pranconia wine district in northern Bavaria. 

The Promms had been exporting wines to the 
United States since the repeal of Prohibition. 
Alfred had a partnership in the importing company 
in New York, and when he left Germany he decided to 
make himself independent of importation of wines 
from Europe. He then suggested to his partners that 
they get interested in a premium quality wine from 
California, although there was very little production 
of better wines in California at that time. 

Teiser: Was that the firm that had earlier been known as 

Meyer: Picker-Linz Importers, yes, that s correct. 

Now when I came here for the first time in the 
fall of *39 I had to learn about production and the 
supply situation here. Each wine district is different, 
not only because of the distance between Europe and 
this country, but within Europe as well as within 
California. I had very little experience In the 
sweet wine and the dessert wine production because 
this was not our field. 

Teiser: What about red wines? 

Meyer: Red wines, yes. All kinds of dry wines and brandy. 
Of course, the first thing I did was look for a Job 
in production to get acquainted with production 
methods in California. I met Mr. K. Arakelian of 
the Mission Bell winery in Madera, and after I had 
a little chat with him, he hired me. That was my 
first Job. I went through a whole production season, 
in the lab, in the fermenting cellar, and ended up 
running the still. I had the real practical 
experience of how things were being done here as 
compared to my previous experience. 


Meyer: At that time I became particularly interested in 
brandy because I recognized that very good brandy 
could be made from the grapes which were available. 
The industry and the consumers in general regarded 
brandy as a kind of a salvage product and a side 
line. Whatever could not be used for wine was 
distilled into brandy, which, of course, was contrary 
to my previous experience. 

Teiser: You don t have the raisin situation in Europe? 

Meyer: Only in Greece. In countries where the native wine 

is relatively expensive, like Germany, the distilling 
material is imported, either from Prance, from the 
Charente district to get closest to the Cognac 
character, or from other districts and other countries 
like Hungary and Greece and Italy, wherever suitable 
wine happened to be available in large quantities and 
cheap enough for distillation. 

In the process of distillation, a very important 
factor is the elimination of the undesirable and 
retention of the desirable characteristics, a technique 
in which I had very good experience. 

Teiser: Was it entirely pot stills that were used? 

Meyer: Not entirely. We primarily used pot stills, but 

also continuous stills. Pot still operation depends 
very much on the skill of the operator. In order to 
get a good brandy on a pot still, skilled operators 
are needed but hard to find in this country. You 
find very good engineers and mechanics, but trained 
people who are able to use good judgment and are 
careful of what they re doing are scarce. You 
find, for Instance, in France that the little wine 
grower who has a still and distills his own wine 
actually sleeps by the still. This, of course very 
obviously, is not the method of production in this 

I made a very careful study of the brandy 
situation in California because I saw that a very 
good brandy could be made from the grapes available 
here, but nobody really believed in it. 

Teiser: Was this after the prorate brandy had been produced? 

Meyer: Yes, the prorate brandy had been produced, but it 

was sitting in warehouses with no place to go. This 
is part of the story of the beginning of the 
Christian Brothers brandy business. 

I called on several people, amongst them A.R. 
Morrow who was at that time considered the authority 
on brandy, and had a long discussion with him. 
Because Mr. Morrow was the leading factor in the 
brandy business, I wanted his response to my i.dea. 
His response was quite negative, because Mr. Morrow 
was of the opinion that nobody in the United States 
would buy a brandy which wasn t 100 proof and bottled 
in bond. He did not believe that people would have 
confidence in any other brandy. I knew that you 
cannot make a good brandy 100 proof, bottled in bond, 
not a brandy which people can really enjoy. You 
have to blend; you have to be more flexible. 

I also discussed It with Mr. Arakelian, and he 
was much more open-minded, but he wasn t quite ready 
to get into the brandy business. The natural thing 
for me to do, of course, was to discuss it with 
Alfred Promm and his partners. And Jointly we 
convinced the Christian Brothers to agree to go into 
the brandy business, which they first resisted because 
of church policies. Some of the superiors were 
opposed to the Brothers going into the distilled 
spirits business, and finally we reached an agreement 
which satisfied them. 

My next Job was where to produce the brandy. 
I found a tremendous Inventory of prorate brandy 
which nobody wanted. [laughter] 

Teiser: Just there waiting for you! 

Meyer: Yes, it was really ready-made. We could never have 
gotten into the brandy business as quickly and with 
as little investment all of us had so little if it 
weren t for this reservoir. I also found that one 
could buy very selectively there. The original 
distiller of these brandies was really not doing it 
for his own account. It was financed by the banks, 
with some government help, as a grape price stabiliza 
tion program, to utilize the surplus grapes. That 


Meyer: was the purpose of it. Not enough consideration was 
given at that time to the fact that once the grapes 
were converted into a distilled spirit, it was going 
to be forced out of bond within a certain period of 
time and the distilled spirits tax would have to be 
paid. After eight years, it had to be withdrawn 
from bond, whether it was sold or not. And this 
really scared a lot of people. 

Teiser: Was there one distiller for...? 

Meyer: No, no. Practically everybody who had a still 
participated in the program. Andy [Andrew G.] 
Frericks was the first man to tell me about that.* 
I hadn t read the contracts of the prorate at that 
time. He said, "Well, you know the original 
distiller has the first option on that brandy. So 
if you buy these options you have your choice." 
Consequently I went to work and tasted each lot of 
those millions of gallons of prorate brandy to get 
acquainted with the inventory and classify it by 
quality and type. It took me about four or five 
months to do that. As a result I had a complete 
record of which brandies would be desirable. 

We then bought the options from the producers 
which was not very difficult because they were only 
too happy to see that somebody had some interest in 
the brandy; one of the old-timers I don t want to 
name names when we approached him for the option, 
interrupted Immediately and said, "I m not going to 
pay anything for it." [Laughing] They thought they 
even had to pay something to get rid of the tax 
obligation! [Laughter] 

Teiser: They d already been paid something! 

Meyer: Yes, they were paid for the grapes and the distilling, 
but they had the excise tax obligation hanging over 
their heads. 

We then went to the Bank of America and told 
them of our plans; to go into the brandy business, 
a business which required more working capital than 
we had at our disposal. .This was one of the most 
impressive business experiences of my life, a story 
which I have told to many people in the Bank of 
America, and which couldn t happen anywhere else: We 

*See also an interview with Andrew G. Frericks in 
The Wine Industry During the Depression , a volume 
in this series completed in 1972. 


Meyer : 

were told, "You fellows come up with ten cents and 
we will loan you ninety cents on each dollar at 
2-3/4$ interest, and you fellows go to work." This 
was the answer which Alfred Promm and I got from the 
Bank of America in spite of the fact that our English 
wasn t very good at the time. [Laughter] Much is 
talked about the opportunities in this country, and 
so many generalities are offered, but this is a 
concrete, specific case of what it really means. 

Who in the bank were you dealing with? 

It was mainly Fred Ferroggiaro. He was at the head 
of the credit committee. He had to make the decision. 

Well, we came out with Christian Brothers brandy 
and It was successful right from the start. And 
then, of course, the war came, and with the war came 
shortages. With that, of course, came a problem of 
supply. We had plans to construct a distillery, to 
make brandy the way it should be made, but because 
of wartime restrictions we had to be content to 
modify existing facilities. 

Where were you making the first brandy? 

The first brandy was made by the Brothers up in Napa. 
During the war it was impossible to get sufficient 
help, and Brother Timothy and the late Brother John 
did the manual tasks; it was really very challenging, 
and a far cry from the well -organ! zed production 
set-up of today. But this was the start of a business 
from scratch. 

I remember that the first rectifying plant, so 
to speak, at Mont La Salle was built and equipped 
in 194-0 at the total cost of $24-00! 

Teiser: If you were starting today, what would you pay? 

Meyer: $24-0,000. [Laughter] It was a little corrugated 
shed with a couple of used tanks and a pump and a 
few hoses and a dumping rack filter, bottling 
machine, et cetera. 

Teiser: I remember the Christian Brothers brandy of those 
days, and it was very good. 

Meyer : 


Meyer: It certainly was! This is something that very few 

people realize today, that a good job can be done in 
a simple way. 

After the early and primitive beginnings, the 
Mount Tivy Winery now owned and operated by the 
Christian Brothers was acquired. At the same time, 
Paul Masson Vineyards was purchased with the intent 
to build and and develop this prestigious brand into 
a nationally-distributed wine and champagne on the 
highest quality level. The Mount Tivy winery and 
distillery was completely modernized. For the first 
time in California precision stills were installed 
to make a quality brandy with automatic controls, 
with instrumentation and engineering which was 
unknown in the wine industry until then. 

Teiser: I was about to ask about Mount Tivy s background? 
I can t remember who owned it. 

Meyer: It was Fred Veith and Jim Riddell s father, Samuel 
L. Hidden. 

Teiser: How did they happen to decide to sell? 
Meyer: They got a good enough offer. [Laughing] 

Teiser: Were the stills you installed the first such stills 
used in the wine industry? 

Meyer: It was the first time the more primitive brandy 

still was replaced by a more versatile, precision 
Instrument. I usually don t mention the oil industry, 
but most of the engineering was done by engineers 
of the oil industry, which also has the problem of 
separating the distillate into fractions. 

Teiser: The University at Davis has done some work... 

Meyer: They never did very much work on engineering. The 
University analyzed the brandy components, fusel 
oils, aldehydes, et cetera, and determined which 
ones are valuable and which ones are dispensable. 
And from their work the engineers had to learn how to 
construct the equipment and the instrumentation to 
make it possible to eliminate what you did not want 
and to keep what you wanted in the final product. 


Meyer: This for the first time was accomplished at an 
expensive installation at Mount Tivy with the help 
of the Seagrams engineers who had an interest in the 
project, particularly the late Fred Willkie who was 
in charge of production for Seagrams. He was a great 
idealist. When he had an idea, he went all out to 
test it at all cost. He, for instance, was the first 
one to experiment with vacuum stills on a large 


Meyer: When we experimented with making brandy in vacuum 
stills, the results were very interesting. We got 
a very fruity product, but so different that nobody 
liked it. In a vacuum still you can distill a wine 
at about 100 degrees against 225 degrees; under 
atmospheric pressure the difference in the product 
is almost like the difference between fresh fruit 
and canned fruit. Heat has a great influence on 

Flavor is a very interesting field because it 
is so complex and flavors are difficult to analyze 
which I think is a great blessing, because if all 
the flavors in a wine could be analyzed and con 
sequently be made synthetically, we would really have 
a problem in the wine business. [Laughter] 

Teiser: I think work at the University at Davis is being 
done on analyzing the complexities. 

Meyer: That s right. This is really Important. You must 
have learned a great deal or you must have studied 
at Davis.* The complexities of taste characteristics 
are really the important thing. This is where the 
old-fashioned wine man has the upper hand over the 
pure technician. The wine man knows that sometimes 
one per cent in a blend can make all the difference 

*I had learned of it primarily from an interview in 
this series: Maynard A. Amerine, The University of 
California and the State s Wine Industry, completed 
in 1972. R.T. 


Meyer: and really change the character of a wine. It is 
the complexity that does it. Varietal "purism" 
isn t the solution for the best results. This 
principle applies to wine as well as to brandy. 
Sometimes you have two or three brandies, which each 
by itself is unpleasant and has excesses of one or 
the other flavor. If you blend them in the right 
proportion, you will come out with a product usually 
better than any one of the components in the blend. 
And that is the art of the Cognac business. A 
French Cognac is a pretty heavy distillate which 
really isn t pure in the scientific sense. It has 
some fusel oils and aldehydes and components 
in it which as such are not very desirable. However, 
there is enough skill there to blend the different 
brandies so the result will be a brandy of a specific 
and pleasant character which appeals to many people. 

Teiser: In the Christian Brothers brandy, what were you 
aiming to achieve? Which type of brandy? 

Meyer: You ve put your finger on the most important decision 
which had to be made. Our first impulse, of course, 
was to come out with something as close in character 
to a French Cognac as possible. Actually our first 
blends were made that way, and it could be done today. 
We found that this is not really what most people 
like in this country. As an after-dinner drink, a 
cordial or a Cognac are fine, but over 9Q% of the 
drinking in this country is done before dinner. 

We decided to make the brandy suitable for 
before as well as after dinner drinking. That means 
a lighter brandy, pleasant as a long drink or in 
mixed drinks, as well as straight. That is harder to 
do, and that is the reason we made such great efforts 
to install more sophisticated equipment: so that the 
brandies would have the characteristics of a Cognac, 
but to somewhat lesser degree not as heavy. They 
are very low in aldehydes, but they still have a 
pronounced brandy character. Although there are no 
statistics on how much is consumed before dinner and 
how much after, one must assume that there is a 
considerable before-dinner use of brandy; otherwise 
the volume couldn t be what it is. 

Teiser: What you achieved, was it in effect a new kind of 


Meyer: In a sense, yes, that was the objective. This 

development of the American brandy business is a 
pretty deliberate thing. It s not an accident. 
We set out to do something different, and it happened 
to succeed. 

Teiser: What is the distribution of this type of California 

Meyer: You find it in all distilled spirits markets. The 
volume is relatively small compared to whiskey 
except in areas where brandy is traditionally popular 
like Minnesota and Wisconsin. Many changes in 
preferences for distilled spirits have occurred over 
the last 30 years. People drinking alcohol Just for 
the sake of alcohol without a specific taste, prefer 
vodka. As Howard Gossage claimed Paul Masson said, 
"If you can t see it or taste it or smell it, why 

Teiser: I think someone was suggesting the possibility of 
making a colorless brandy to compete with vodka. 

Meyer: It s like a man dressing as a woman. Most things 
when they become a gimmick are short-lived. 

Teiser: That s a fascinating story, the brandy story. 

Meyer: We ve got to talk about wine which is the subject 
closest to my heart. 






When did Seagrams finally acquire major interest in 
Paul Masson? 

It acquired a controlling interest in 1950 * 
But before that... 

In 19^4-6 we started, slowly developing and building 
inventories of champagnes and wines on the highest 
possible quality level at the Paul Masson winery. 
At the famous "vineyard in the sky" at Saratoga 
we started to produce our own grapes, and made some 

*For a brief general history of Paul Masson Vineyards, 
see Appendix I. 

Photographs by Catherine Harroun 
Otto E. Meyer being interviewed. 

Meyer: contracts with growers in Santa Clara County. 
Teiser: Had Paul Masson himself made champagne? 

Meyer: Yes, always. He really had a fine selection of grape 
varieties up on "the hill," although the quantities 
were small. 

We started to make champagne and wine to be 
ready for the market in 19^8. Then slowly we began 
building inventories, and by around 1950-52 we began 
to open up a few more markets. Until then sales 
were mostly local. We started to sell in Los Angeles 
and New York, and from there on market by market until 
we had national distribution. We leased a winery in 
Cupertino with enough space for the champagne 
production. The wines were produced in the old winery 
on the hill. Once things started to roll, Paul Masson 
wines were sold by Promm and Sichel. That was fine 
as long as quantities were limited. As time went on 
and we tried to develop more markets we found a 
conflict within the sales organization selling two 
brands, and that was in the mid- fifties. 

It was decided to spin off Paul Masson from 
Fromm and Sichel. Inasmuch as my involvement with 
the Brothers was no longer necessary, as they had 
developed a very competent brandy production team, 
in 1955 I took over management of Paul Masson 
production as well as sales, and became president of 
Paul Masson in 1959. 

Teiser: How, after your great success with Christian Brothers 
brandy, did you decide to take Paul Masson* s in a 
different direction? 

Meyer: There are different tastes characteristics in brandy 
as there are in wine. Brandies are by no means 
identical. Paul Masson brandy has a little more of 
the Cognac characteristic, while Christian Brothers 
brandy is a type of its own, as I have described it 
before. There is plenty of room for variation. 

Teiser: Yours is also a blend of course? 

Meyer: It s a blend also. There is no basic difference, 

as you would have it between a Scotch and a Bourbon. 
But they are different, and this is typical with 


Meyer: most consumer goods. In general, variations are 
desirable because people have different tastes. 

Telser: When did you start making brandy under the Masson 

Meyer: You know, actually It goes back to the old man, 

Paul Masson. He had made brandy before Prohibition. 
There was no Masson brandy after Prohibition until 
we started again in the mid- fifties. 

Teiser: You have your own distillery? 

Meyer: The brandies are distilled at Vie-Del in Fresno, 
which is an affiliated company. They distill the 
brandy for us and also produce some dessert wines 
for us. 

Teiser: Am I right in thinking that the Thompson Seedless 

grape is a California grape? Does it occur anywhere 

Meyer: I don t think so. I don t know much about the 
history of the Thompson Seedless grape, it Just 
occurs to me; I never found out where it came from. 
It is certainly a grape which has many good features- 
for instance, as a material for brandy. Aside from 
Thompson Seedless, there are Grenache, Palominos, 
and a number of other varieties of grapes which are 
excellent material for brandy. 

Teiser: Does the Thompson give California brandies a 

character of their own as distinct from European 

Meyer: Well, really not. Because we make our brandies 

lighter, and because Thompson Seedless if properly 
handled in fermentation is a very clean neutral 
material. The characteristics of a brandy are much 
more determined by the process of distillation, and 
it is more important for distilling material to be 
sound than to have varietal characteristics, many of 
which would get lost in the process of distillation. 
On the other hand, if you have a grape which 
has a pronounced character like Muscatel, you have 
a carryover of the Muscat flavor into the distillate. 
So a sound wine made from Thompsons and distilled 
immediately after fermentation makes a very good 


Teiser: Well, back to Paul Masson wines... 

Meyer: We decided in 1957 to build a brand new winery and 
champagne cellars in Saratoga I don t know if 
you ve seen them. They were built in 58 and opened 
in 59- This winery had a capacity at least twice 
what our business required at the time, but it 
enabled us to build up inventories of aged wines 
and champagnes, to always stay ahead of sales. 

Teiser: How did you happen to decide to go that deeply into 
champagne ? 

Meyer: There are very few California champagnes on the 
premium level on the market. It was Korbel, 
Beaulieu and Paul Masson, and that was about it. 
Then you had Taylor and Great Western as the leading 
New York State champagnes. We thought if we could 
do as well as they, why shouldn t we make a better 
champagne? We also felt that the champagne business 
had a great potential in this country. As you know, 
this has proven to be correct. 

We decided to stay with the bottle fermenting 
process, but to go with the times in the techniques, 
to do the disgorging not by riddling individual 
bottles, but by using the transfer process. This 
has no effect on the quality of the champagne, as it 
is solely the mechanical means of removing the 
sediment after the secondary fermentation. As a 
matter of fact, filtration in the transfer process 
has proven to be beneficial, and it is of course 
a labor-saving device, which becomes more important 
every day. 

Teiser: New techniques have developed? 

Meyer: Yes. The techniques really are perfect today. 

There are many beverages being bottled under high 
pressure today. You can buy excellent American 
machines because of the soft drinks and beer and 
similar applications. In the beginning only 
European machinery was available, but today you 
really buy better machines here. Some of the equip 
ment is not being made here because the market isn t 
big enough, like transfer machines. There are only 
one or two people in the world who make them. 


Meyer: As long as you can do no less or even better in 
quality by mechanization, there s no excuse not to 
mechanize. A lot of people hang onto the idea that 
if you plow a vineyard with a horse, it s better than 
a tractor. And we hear this remark constantly: Why 
don t you have a horse anymore up on the hill? Well, 
it looks attractive and is more romantic. The main 
point is that one really can do a better job with 
modern equipment and installations than with old- 
fashioned methods. 

Before the champagne cellars were built, we 
made several trips to Europe to see what progress 
had been made there. Our champagne master, the late 
Hans Hyba,* who had never seen the transfer process, 
was of course very skeptical. I took him to some 
prominent champagne producers, and he came back with 
great enthusiasm for it. Hans Hyba actually had his 
apprenticeship with Henkel in Germany. 

Teiser: When you started at Paul Masson did you bring over 
European winemakers? 

Meyer: They were here already. Kurt Opper was our first 
wine master. He worked for Pountaingrove at the 
time. Kurt Opper was one of the best wine tasters 
I have ever known. He determined everything by 
taste and had that certain sixth sense. He had the 
whole inventory, his library as he called it, in his 
head, as every good wine taster should have. But he 
knew also that J% of that wine in tank number so-and- 
so would do the trick to overcome a certain weakness 
in the wine in number 2J. This was the method when 
the organization was small and we didn t have a large 
group of chemists, bacteriologists, quality control 
people and research people. Today it s a different 
story. In those days we were really dependent on 
that kind of ability. Then we had the old experienced 
people in the champagne field like Karl Ickerath and 
Hans Hyba. After a few years we decided we would 
take the next step to build a new winery, after 
giving up the idea of remodeling and trying to 
modernize out-dated installations. 

*Hans Hyba died on November 23, 1968. 



Meyer: Then the next step of course was that we started to 
run out of good grapes, in Santa Clara and also up 
north. Then we looked for new vineyard land. This 
is where the University helped us greatly. We knew 
what we were looking for. We were looking for not 
just good soil that is one of the factors, but not 
necessarily the most important one. We looked for 
the right kind of climate. We know that grapes 
need a lot of sunshine and dry climate to keep them 
sound, but not heat. You can not have these delicate 
Rieslings, Pinot Chardonnays, Pinot noirs, et cetera, 
develop their best flavor and aroma in hot areas. 
The University today is developing some new varieties 
from certain crossings to make them suitable for 
planting in the Central Valley, but the famous old 
varieties were not meant to grow there. So we looked 
for cool air. 

Salinas Valley has a climatic condition similar 
to San Francisco. It Is open to the Monterey Bay, 
and the cool ocean wind comes in every afternoon and 
blows away the hot air. And that s exactly what i*e 
need. People told us, "It s much too windy. How 
can you grow grapes in that strong wind?" I come 
from an area where we have the same kind of winds 
at times, and I knew it didn t do any harm to the 
vines, except for the first tender years when some 
may have gotten a bit damaged. Once they are vigorous 
enough, the wind is only good because it dries up the 
moisture, and, of course, cools the area. 

We started the first plantings jointly with Ed 
Mirassou, with whom we had dealings before. He also 
was anxious to find land to replace his vineyards in 
Santa Clara County and to expand. The Santa Clara 
area has become residential and Industrial, and the 
smog is creeping in. It was not a joint venture in 
the true sense, but we worked together and a little 
later Karl Wente followed us into the Salinas Valley. 
This was the beginning of a new grape district in 
California for the best varieties of grapes known. 
You will hear much more about this new quality district 
in years to come. 


Meyer: We started with 800 acres, and Mirassou with 
270 acres. Once we were over the critical period 
of the young plants supposedly being damaged by 
winds and we saw it wasn t true, we started on a 
really large scale. We have about *K)00 acres now, 
which will be expanded to 6000 acres. 

Teiser: We re coming to the end of this tape, and I ve kept 
you talking for quite a while, and I wonder if we 
could start at that point in the next interview 
and go into some detail on this new planting and 
also go back to your still wines. 


(Interview #2 - August 11, 1971) 

Teiser: Yesterday you were telling about the decision to 

make the plantings in the Soledad area. What were 
the alternatives you had when you made that 

Meyer: The alternatives were to Just continue in the 

already established coastal areas that is, Napa 
and Sonoma or to try warmer coastal regions south 
of Salinas Valley. In Napa and Sonoma the desirable 
acreage is limited, and there are lots of spots 
which are not ideal for the best and most delicate 
white varieties. Some parts in Napa, Sonoma and 
Mendocino are subject to frost; in other parts the 
weather gets quite hot at times, which can cause a 
lot of damage to the more delicate grapes in spite 
of the fact that it is an historical area for fine 
grapes with many excellent conditions. 

We wanted to find an area which is ideal from 
a viticultural point of view, where climate, weather, 
soil and water conditions are most favorable. We 
looked into many areas. We even went into the 
Sierra foothills to see if that was a possibility. 
There may be other areas which are suitable, but 
after everything was checked out over a period of 
a couple of years, by ourselves as well as by the 
University, we all came back to the Salinas Valley, 
which is undoubtedly the most ideal in every respect, 
and where you even have a choice of climate within a 
30-mile radius. The further north you are, the 
closer you are to the Monterey Bay, to Salinas, the 
cooler it is. As you go south in Salinas Valley 
it slowly gets a little warmer, which makes it 
possible to plant grapes according to their individual 
needs. In other words if you have a late-ripening 
p;rape, you would plant it a little further down in 
the valley, and. if you have early-ripening grapes, 


Meyer: you plant them in the northern part of the valley. 
Teiser: Are you in more than one zone? 






Not really; it is all within the same zone. The 
finest grapes, whether here or in Europe, grow in a 
kind of border-lime climatic condition. This is the 
case also in Salinas Valley. In a warmer climate like, 
let s say southern Italy or Spain, wines will never 
be as fragrant and aromatic as German wines from the 
cooler, more northerly regions. Again then, in the 
same area in Germany, you cannot grow any black grapes 
very well, which need a longer period of sunshine and 
warmer weather. This is the reason why there are 
hardly any red wines made in Germany from German 
grapes with the exception of some small areas. 

All these varieties in climate that we need, 
we really have in this one area here in Monterey 
County, in addition to the very suitable soil and 
good water supply. That s the reason why this 
worked out so well and why this area is attracting 
a lot of other people. The new plantings are 
enormous in Salinas Valley today. 

You re down as far as Greenfield, 
that. That s warmer? 

I didn t realize 

It is warmer than Soledad. The distance between 
Soledad and Greenfield is about 15 miles or San Lucas 
about 25 miles. 

I was Just trying to remember earlier vineyards in 
that area. 

There s one very small vineyard called Chalone up in 
the hills between the Pinnacles National Monument 
and our Pinnacles Vineyard. There are quite a few 
mostly new vineyards as far south as San Luis Oblspo 
and Santa Maria, which are 100 to 150 miles further. 
This area is close to the coast but considerably warmer. 

Which of the vineyards on this map (Locations of Paul 
Masson Vineyards] did you plant first? 

It s right at the edge of the town of Soledad. We 
call it the Pinnacles Vineyard because the Pinnacles 
National Monument is right above it. Metz Road, 
adjacent to the vineyard, is the road you take to 

Locations of 

T Vinetjavds 

Vir?ei/arct Jlfo. / 


Meyer: the Pinnacles National Monument. There are two 

roads to the monument preserve one comes from the 
west side and the other comes from the east from 
San Benito County where Almaden is, near Paicines. 
The two roads do not connect. There seems to be 
little interest on the part of the counties to 
encourage tourist traffic. If these roads would be 
connected one could drive from Soledad directly to 
Paicines through the Pinnacles National Monument. 

Teiser: You don t have any visitor facilities down there? 

Meyer: No. Our only visitor facility is in Saratoga, 
closer to populated areas. 

Teiser: Your first plantings you said were started in 1961. 
How long before you felt that you had enough results 
to know that they were successful? 

Meyer: I would say after the second year of growth we were 
decided, and then we started to expand, acquired 
more land for plantings of red grapes, Cabernets, 
Pinot noirs, Gamay Beaujolais, Merlot and other red 
varieties in the Greenfield area as well as white 
varieties in the Soledad area. We have a considerable 
number of varieties,* but, of course, the recognized 
ones are the larger part of the plantings, like the 
Johannlsberg Riesling, the Pinot Chardonnay, and 
Pinot blano. We have also some Gewurztraminer, which 
developed characteristics of a strength which I have 
never experienced before. As a matter of fact, Dr. 
[Maynard A.] Amerine tasted the first wine from these 
grapes and remarked that outside of Alsace in a good 
year, he has never tasted a Gewurztraminer with so 
much character, the particular character of that variety. 

*The list of white grape varieties growing at the Paul 
Masson Pinnacles vineyard as of 1972 was: French 
Colombard, Pinot blanc, Chenin blanc, Sauvignon blanc, 
Emerald Riesling, Semillon, White Riesling, 
Gewurztraminer, Sylvaner, Pinot Chardonnay, and Flora. 
The red grapes were: "mixed varieties," Cabernet 
Sauvignon, Ruby Cabernet, Gamay Beaujolais, 
Pinot noir, Pinot St. George, Petite Sirah, Zinfandel, 
Malbec, Merlot and Souzao. 

For an account of the 1966 celebration of the new 
wine district, see Appendix II. 


Teiser: There were two factors that I wanted to ask about 
in these new plantings that might be of interest. 
One was, did you install sprinklers throughout? 

Meyer: Yes. All the new vineyards have complete sprinkler 
systems (not portable pipes) , all underground pipes 
with risers, which gives us an advantage, not only 
in labor but in better control of application of 
water. Even in one area you may have soil which is 
heavier and soil which is lighter, with different 
requirements for water. 

Teiser: Was it a fairly new concept when you first used it? 

Meyer: No. In vegetable growing in Salinas Valley many 

types of sprinkler systems have been used for many 
years. But in vineyards there was very little of it. 
And, of course, this was Just about the time when 
significant technical improvements were made in 
sprinkler systems. Aluminum pipe, which eroded 
very badly, used to be the principal material, and 
now it has been replaced by plastic. Also, the 
sprinkler heads are much improved. 

Teiser: The other factor I believe was that you planted the 
varieties on their own rootstocks? 

Meyer: Yes, we have in most of our plantings. The reason 
for that is that we are in a virgin area for grapes. 
The types of crops which were planted there before 
created no problems with direct rootings. There is 
no danger of phylloxera, for 20 years at least. 

Secondly, there really was not enough and still 
is not enough certified wild rootstock available 
which is free of virus diseases. You may protect 
yourself against phylloxera by using wild rootstock, 
but you re not protected against virus diseases unless 
you have certified stock. Therefore, we took the 
risk. A good, sound and vigorous direct rooting is 
just as good for production as a wild rootstock, or 

Teiser: Are there any other advantages? 

Meyer: I don t think there are advantages or disadvantages. 
The only purpose is protection against diseases. 

Teiser: Does the vineyard come into bearing earlier? 



Yes, a little. You do not get the setback in growth 
which you get by grafting of budding. That makes 
a difference of between one half year and a year. 
If we have an area where there is any doubt about 
the condition of the soil, we do use wild rootstock. 
There are many other important things to be observed 
in new plantings, but I don t want to get technical 

Some of your land had been pasture land? 

Oh yes. Not all of the land had water; there is 
quite some dry farming and pasture in the area. 


Teiser: This brings up the question: Should the winemaker 
grow all of his own grapes; should he grow none of 
his own grapes; or should he grow some of his own 

Meyer: I don t think that it is necessary for a winery 
producing all types of wines dry wines, red and 
white, champagne, appetizer, dessert wines, brandy 
to grow all the grapes as long as grapes are grown 
and as long as they are obtainable in a free market. 
The reason why some premium wineries went into 
planting so heavily is the dramatic development of 
dry wine sales and the shortage of the top varietal 
wines like Cabernet, Pinot noir, Riesling and Pinot 
Chardonnay. These grapes are quite a risky invest 
ment for a man who is only in the business of growing 
and selling grapes, because the yields are very 
small and the market is limited. There is no other 
outlet for these grapes but a very few premium 
wineries. Most of them use small quantities and 
only two or three use these grapes in larger 
quantities. Because growers were reluctant to plant 
these varieties the premium wineries had no choice 
but to plant these grapes themselves. In order to 
balance out the grape-growing part of their activity, 
they also planted some other desirable wine-variety 
grapes to reduce their own risk to some degree. I 


Meyer: see no need for a winery to invest large amounts of 
capital in vineyards for grapes which are obtainable 
on the market. 

You have different market tendencies. You 
have, for instance, at this time in the premium 
wine business, a strong demand for red wines. It 
used to be that white wines were two thirds of the 
sales and red wines one third. Red wines are growing 
at a higher rate than white wines because of the 
popularity of wine with meals. This is a meat- 
eating country, and the "experts" say you have to 
have red wine with red meat which I never ascribed 
to because I like white wine Just as well. [Laughing] 
This results in a great demand for red grapes, which 
has driven the prices out of proportion during the 
last few years. But that will adjust itself again 
when the new plantings come into bearing. 

Teiser: Have you made contracts with growers, as Gallo has? 

Meyer: Yes, we have made contracts, but it s more limited 
on the coast than it is in the Central Valley. If 
you have a contract based on market price, you have 
to know that there will be a market price. Today s 
prices for black grapes are out of proportion to the 
production costs, and therefore it is more advantageous 
for us at this time to plant them rather than to 
contract for them. 

Teiser: In a year when the market was just wild, could you 
Just depend upon your own grapes, pull in your 
production to that point, and continue? 

Meyer: I wish we could. But as much as people think the 
wine business is booming, it still is a very 
competitive business, and if you do not keep up your 
sources of supply and your inventories, you are not 
in a position to supply your customer with what he 
wants to buy, and, therefore, weaken your market 
position. The fact that we have been building, at 
Paul Masson, inventories always ahead of sales works 
to our benefit now. We have a very large Inventory. 
Even so, we have had to pay very high prices for 
grapes last year and this year, and this may go on 
for another year or two. Of course, this is not 
very satisfactory from n. profit point of view, but 
these are the business risks which you have to take. 


Teiser: You mentioned yesterday the choice of going into a 
premium wine rather than a volume wine market. 
How was that decision made? 

Meyer: I think I can explain that. Alfred Promm was always 
in the premium wine business, as I was. We were 
never in the bulk wine or in the popular price wine 
business ; we knew it better than the other 
part of the industry. In addition to that, when we 
started in California, 80$ of the wine business was 
in low-priced appetizer and dessert wines and only 
2Q% of sales was in table wines in all price classes. 
This was still the period when angelica, muscatel, 
sherry, port, white port, et cetera, were the bulk 
of the California wine business. 

We were convinced that there was a place for 
premium table wines from California. As soon as the 
public would become more wine conscious and not 
look at wine as a substitute for distilled spirts, 
table wines were bound to follow. We were fully 
aware of the fact that it takes ten, fifteen years 
to really develop such a business, but we had a one- 
track mind. This was the only route we wanted to go. 
And when we saw that it finally did develop, we made 
the decision to plant our own vineyards, while before 
we depended on the open grape market to a large extent. 

Recently the demand for grapes has almost outrun 
production. At the moment production of grapes has 
not caught up with this demand, but this is only a 
matter of time because large acreages of grapes are 
being planted, not only by wineries but by people 
who are entirely new to the industry and by outsiders 
who consider vineyards an attractive investment. 

Teiser: Did you do market surveys, or did you Just observe 

Meyer: We relied mostly on Informal observations and 

statistics. I think if you go around the country 
and you are alert to what goes on and talk to the 
trade, to retailers and consumers, and look at your 
own statistics, such a trend is not too difficult 
to Judge. 

Teiser: At that time, the other wineries who would have been 
in the same field were Beaulieu, Louis Martini... 


Meyer: Also Inglenook, Krug, Mondavi and Wente. 
Teiser: All small then. 

Meyer: We were all small. Of course, what is big and what 
is small is relative. When do you call a winery 
"big"? Once you get into a commercial operation 
beyond the "one man" type of business? There is one 
type of "small" winery which is different from a 
winery producing a full line of wine and establishing 
a brand with state or nation-wide distribution: the 
man with a few acres of vineyard producing a couple 
thousand gallons of wine and selling it locally. 

All true premium wineries in California produce 
on the same principle, namely: selected North Coast 
fine wine variety grapes, skillful and sophisticated 
production methods, aging of all wines, particularly 
red wines, and even bottle aging. The difference 
in the size of the winery is of no Importance. A 
Cabernet Sauvignon or Pinot Chardonnay grape grown 
on a 200-acre plot is not different from the same 
grape grown on a 20-acre plot. A cellar with 5000 
oak barrels of aging red wine is just as good for 
its development as a cellar with 50 barrels of the 
same wine. And the same holds true through all stages 
of production. It is a peculiar thing, originating 
from conditions prevailing in Europe, that many 
consumers think a fine wine can only be made on a 
very small scale. Nothing could be further from the 
truth in California. Good grapes, qualified people, 
good facilities and the right policy are the decisive 
factors. Under present economic conditions, you can 
probably do a better job on a larger scale than if 
you are limited in size. 

This applies also, of course, to the distribution. 
If you can have national distribution and a large 
enough volume, you get better qualified personnel 
and wholesalers. The important factor is that those 
who make the decision on what quality level their 
brand should be must stick to it, and volume must 
never be at the expense of quality. This is a matter 
of size of investment rather than size of operation. 
If you have enough vineyards with first-rate grape 
varieties, if you have the best possible facilities, 
if you carry large enough inventories and age them 
properly, as I said before, it makes no difference 



Meyer : 



Meyer : 

whether you make that Cabernet from 200 acres of 
Cabernet grapes or from 20 acres. 

That gets into romanticism, doesn t it? 

Yes. The same story that I told, you about the 
plowing horses, that people can t really understand 
why we don t use them any more. But the strange 
thing is that even my children aren t thinking of 

the horse any more, 
misses it. 

It s the older generation that 

Can a small organization today survive or compete? 

Yes. It s possible but within certain limitations. 
A small organization can be very successful if it 
does not engage in activities which require organiza 
tion and a lot of manpower. The mechanics of business 
today are, of course, such that a sufficient volume 
of business is necessary to carry the investment and 
the overhead. Even if somebody has a small supply of 
fine wine, it can still be marketed very successfully 
on a personal basis. 

Under his own label? 

Under his own label, Just in certain channels. We 
have quite a few small wineries emerging like Heitz 
Wine Cellars, Hanzell Vineyards, Stony Hill Vineyard, 
Plcklin Vineyards, Hanns Kornell, Schramsberg 
Vineyards, Simi Winery, Preemark Abbey, Mayacamas 
and others. The Mirassou family is a good example. 
Of course, Edmund and Norbert Mirassou have a number 
of young sons to assist them in all phases of their 
operation. The days are not gone where a new business 
can be started in the wine industry. 

Could you distribute in New York from California if 
you had a small company? 

Not at a reasonable cost. First of all there is 
very strong competition from imports. A retailer, 
particularly a restaurateur, in New York wants to 
work on long mark-ups. They can buy imported wines 
cheaper than California wines, and can sell them 
higher. In California I think there is a much better 
chance for a small winery to get started. 



Teiser: When you made your new plantings in this area, did 
you at this same time plant some of the University 
of California s new varieties? 

Meyer: Yes. We first planted Emerald Riesling in quite 

substantial quantities, and planted also some Flora, 
one of the newer white varieties. We have not 
planted, so far, any of the new red varieties which 
are at the stage of being developed. There are some 
promising varieties, but nothing has been finalized 
yet. Most of the work done at the moment is to get 
better varieties and rootstock for the warmer regions, 
for the San Joaquin Valley. So far the coast is 
very well taken care of with the traditional grape 

Teiser: How did you happen to get interested in the Emerald 

Meyer: We experimented with this type of wine. The first 
Emerald Riesling was planted at what we call our 
San Ysidro Vineyard near Gilroy. We experimented, 
with these grapes in the fifties, and for a few 
years really didn t succeed too well. It was always 
my objective to produce a wine in California which 
has the lightness and the fragrance of a Moselle wine 
because Moselle wines are really the most popular 
type of white wine in Europe. People who like a 
light wine (you know a lot of wine is consumed at 
lunch time) which doesn t have the heaviness and is 
not as bland as many white wines are, but also not 
too sweet. There were very few grape varieties from 
which such a wine could be made in California. The 
Rieslings, the Johannlsberg Rieslings as they re 
called or White Rieslings, really didn t develop 
enough character. They re good, but they were not 
interesting enough. 

This new crossing which the University called 
Emerald Riesling was very promising. When you ate 
the grapes you could detect what the possibilities 
were. But when we made wine from them in the 
traditional way, we ended up with something that was 
not satisfactory. But we did not give up. Finally 
we found out by experimentation what had to be done 


Meyer: in vinifi cation to obtain the freshness and the 

fragrance and the lightness we were aiming for. We 
finally succeeded. The wine needed also a little 
bit of blending with some other grape varieties to 
bring about the proper balance. When we finally 
came out with "Emerald Dry" it became very popular 
immediately and is still growing in popularity. 

Teiser: That leads into the whole question of naming dry 
wines and creating them, I suppose. Your Emerald 
Dry is a creation actually. 

Meyer: It bothered me always that a wine growing area 

as important as California, with so much promise 
for the future, borrowed the names for the wines 
from other countries. This is not the fault of the 
present-day winemakers. The early vintners in 
California were people who came from Prance and 
Germany and Italy and gave the wines the names which 
were familiar to them: Chablis or Rhine wine for 
dry white wines, or burgundy for a full-bodied red 
wine. There is one change: "sauternes" became "dry 
sauterne," which is unknown in Prance. Some names 
like claret disappeared. White Riesling a name of 
a grape variety was changed to Johannisberg Riesling, 
which is really gilding the lily, as it isn t even 
known as such in Germany. 

This borrowed nomenclature bothered me, but it 
is not so easy to find good names, names which are 
appealing and which at the same time tell the con 
sumer what type of wine it is. A fantasy name like 
Emerald Dry comes closest to being meaningful. 
"Rubion" is also filling this requirement because 
ruby is a color indicating it s a red wine, and it 
comes in a claret bottle. 

Teiser: You introduced the Emerald Dry before the Rubion? 

Meyer: Yes, but the first "proprietary" label we introduced 
was "Rhine Castle." Rhine Castle, as a type, is in 
character like one of the most talked about German 
wines , Liebfraumllch, and we certainly didn t want 
to use a word typical for its origin in Liebraumllch. 
We did not even like to use "Rhine," but at that 
time we Just weren t courageous enough to give it an 
entirely unknown name, and called it Rhine Castle. 






Was that by analogy to the "chateau" wines? 

"Chateau" has a French connotation as well as Haute 
Sauternes, and was known in California as a 
sweeter Bordeaux type white wine. 

What is the character of the Rhine Castle? 

Rhine Castle is more like a German Liebfraumilch, 
which has some degree of sweetness, while the 
Emerald Dry is like a Moselle and has that fragrance 
and freshness of a wine from that region. 

Then, the next one was Rubion, which is a claret 
type of wine. The next one was to be a burgundy 
type. We had all kinds of good names which could 
not be protected. Most of the names we could think 
of had already been registered for some other 
products. Finally we thought of "Baroque," which 
is really quite good, because it is associated with 
music, and a romantic and elegant period; the richness 
of the name is equivalent to what the wine really is. 
It has worked out very well. 

Did you set about developing these as special wines, 
or. . . 

Yes, I think I know what you want to ask. We were 
not Just trying to give a regular wine a different 
name, but had a clear objective, what the wine 
should taste like, as I explained to you in connection 
with Rhine Castle. The most important step was with 
Emerald Dry, a type of wine which was not in existence 
in California a wine typical of a Moselle. We didn t 
come out with the Emerald Dry label before we had 
the right wine for it. For a red wine we also had 
definite ideas what it should taste like. 

To test public reaction to our blends, we did 
not ask research institutes; we did it ourselves. 
As you know, we do a great deal of entertaining up 
at the Paul Masson chateau. We frequently have as 
many as 250 people as dinner guests. We present 
sometimes, with the dinner, experimental wines without 
telling the people what they are. They are labeled 
with a traditional label of that type of wine. We 
may have two or three wines on a table, under two or 
three different labels but of the same type. After 

Meyer: the party we check which "bottles are empty and which 
aren t. The test will indicate of which wine people 
poured that second glass or maybe the third and the 
fourth. A wine may be a good wine, a great wine, but 
if all people can drink is one glass, there is some 
thing not perfect. This is the case with many even 
very expensive red wines of old vintage and famous 
geographical background. They could either be too 
harsh or rough, or somehow not palatable or pleasant 
in character. 

Red wines also have to have distinctive charac 
teristics and at the same time be palatable, drinkable, 
without the sweetness. Young red wines in the lower- 
priced category often are sweet to overcome the 
harshness which is characteristic to young wines. 
There are also a lot of people who like wines sweet. 
But a premium wine should appeal to the more experienced 
wine drinkers who like wines dry but still want them 
to be smooth and elegant and easy to drink. This is 
the objective with each of our "proprietary" wines. 
This can be done by skillful blending. Many people 
think that if you use only one grape variety, then 
the wine has to be perfect. The contrary is true. 
It s the complexity in the taste of wines and the 
proper balance which can only be achieved by blending, 
and, of course, by aging (for which there is no 
substitute). This is what we tried to accomplish 
with both Rubion and Baroque, and I think that is 
why these wines, in a relatively short time, have 
become very popular. 

I strongly believe, as I always did, that it is 
important to keep the loyalty of a. consumer once he 
comes to like your product. There is a tendency in 
many industries to come out with a product with much 
fanfare, and then it kind of levels off, at which 
point they come out with another one, while the 
first one is being neglected and eventually disappears. 
I think in the fine wine business it is more important 
to make all your wines of superior quality to gain 
consumer following and confidence in the brand. That 
is really our policy. 

Teiser: Do you see your consumers as people who consume 

your wines regularly every night, or on occasion, 
or both? 


Meyer: I think in any consumer product on a higher price 

level, you have many people using the more expensive 
product occasionally rather than daily depending on 
their pocketbook. There is nothing wrong with that. 
People do a lot of entertaining at home today. People 
have guests to whom they like to offer the best 
wine they can afford, and on many other occasions 
they like to look for a better bottle of wine in 
their cellar. This, hopefully, will lead to people 
keeping a wine cellar, particularly to improve red 
wines by aging, while they buy popular priced wines 
for their daily use. By the way there is nothing 
wrong with the leading brands of California s popular 
priced wines. But it is like with anything else: if 
you want something better, then you have to spend a 
little more money. Wine cellars are becoming popular, 
and this can only help consumption. 

Teiser: Unless they put down the wrong ones. 

Meyer: Well, this is the advantage of most of the reputable 
California wines, thai; they can rely on these brands. 
This is much better than to have a wine which may be 
a great wine one year and a poor one in other years. 
This is inevitable with many imports. 

Teiser: I know there is a tendency, even among some premium 
winemakers, to shorten aging time in certain wines. 

Meyer: Not in general. More Inventories are being built 

by many premium wine producers. We constantly expand 
our storage facilities. This year we added two and 
a half million gallons of redwood tanks and oak 
barrels, and we will continue to add aging facilities 
as sales grow. We purchase the redwood two years 
ahead of time. And we age a great deal of red wine 
in small 50 gallon oak barrels. That becomes, of 
course, a matter of sizable capital investments. 

Teiser: The maintenance of cooperage is expensive, isn t it? 



Not so much the maintenance as the acquisition. 
redwood tanks, if you build them new we re not 
using old ones last for a long time if they re 
properly maintained. Sure, they have to be cleaned 
and even that is quite mechanized today; not too 
much crawling inside anymore. 


Teiser: Your relationship with Seagrams it changed somewhat 
over the years, did it not? 

Meyer: As of January 1971 the distribution of Paul Masson 
wines is in the hands of a Seagrams subsidiary, 
Browne Vintners Company, whioh also distributes 
imported wines. In other words the Paul Masson sales 
organization was absorbed by a Seagrams wine sales 
organization which also distributes imported wines. 

Teiser: So the winery continues to be owned by Seagrams, 
plus some individuals? 

Meyer: Yes, but Seagrams will eventually own all of Paul 
Masson shares. 

Teiser: Is it unusual for a winery I m Just trying to think 
back in my knowledge of California wineries to be 
owned partly by a national corporation and partly by 
individuals who are involved? 

Meyer: Well, temporarily I would say. If a large company, 
particularly of the size of the ones that are 
involved, has the majority stockholding, they will 
eventually end up with total ownership. It s a 
matter of internal organization, because as long as 
there are minority stockholders, it has to be 
organized as a separate business in order to determine 
profits and losses. Once the majority stockholder 
wants to incorporate the company into their own 
organization, then there is no point for the minority 
stockholders to retain shares, unless on the basis 
of special agreements. This is not typical for the 
wine industry. It is something that goes on all 
through our economy today, that you have mergers and 
combinations and take-overs by large companies. 

Teiser: The national companies have had such a curious history 
here in the California wine industry. 

Meyer: It happened during the war and went sour. After the 
war some companies went out of the wine business 
again. You know that Italian Swiss Colony was then 
sold to Louis Petri, and then he started United 


Meyer: Vintners and Allied Grape Growers, and then only a 
oouple of years ago Heublein took over United 
Vintners. National Distillers, who previously had 
sold Italian Swiss Colony, came back and bought 
Almaden. So we have different times and different 
situations. Roma and Cresta Blanca, as you know, 
were bought by Schenley, who kept them for a number 
of years and sold them recently to Guild. 

Teiser: So that came back into a local cooperative. Very 
curious patterns. 

You mentioned the distribution system of your 
organization is now different. As you grew, as you 
built up the plantings and inventories, did you 
also build your own distribution organization? 

Oh yes. We had our own distribution organization, 
selling only Paul Masson products. We grew very 

Did you early envision your market as beyond 

Oh yes. We went to New York in the early fifties. 
This was still at the time when Paul Masson was 
part of Promm and Sichel, who already had a sales 
organization for Christian Brothers in New York. 
But later on, after the separation of Paul Masson 
from Promm and Sichel, we started a national sales 
organization of our own.* 

Dr. Amerine suggested, that I ask you about your 
sensitivity to public relations. One minor aspect 
was your development of small bottles. 

Oh yes, we have the heart-shaped bottles for sherries 
and ports that we called "rarities"; we have 
miniatures of those. That was a relatively minor 
thing. It s a kind of a sample bottle which the 
stores have for people who want to taste a relatively 
high priced product. But a lot of people collect 
these miniature bottles. 

Teiser: You ve had many special mold bottles haven t you? 




Meyer : 

*See also pages 1^ and 37 


Meyer: Well, not too many. In addition to the heart-shaped 
bottle, we have a special mold bottle for crackling 
rose, which is a special product. Up to now crackling 
rose" had to be bottle fermented. The law is about 
to be changed to allow bulk process also. We have 
had crackling rose on the market for quite a number 
of years, and it has developed into quite a sizable 
item. But we have to pay the champagne tar on it 
so it s not a low priced product. 

Teiser: Yours is the only domestic one? 

Meyer: We developed it as a special item to compete with a 
similar imported product. 

Teiser: Will the change in regulations bring you some 

Meyer: Yes, but we developed a market. Competition is not 
necessarily a disadvantage. If more crackling roses 
come on the market it may even stimulate the sales, 
and it s up to each brand to get their share. So I 
see no particular disadvantage in It. We have 
competition in everything we do. 

Teiser: The present cold duck situation this is something 
that boggles my mind. 

Meyer: I really am as puzzled as you are. It developed in 
the Midwest with somebody who made a sparkling wine 
combination of white and red and called it "cold 
duck." Obviously somebody who is familiar with the 
German language, or of German background, and knew 
"kalte Ente," which really means something entirely 
different in Germany. In Germany it means that at 
the end of a party whatever wine or champagne was 
left was put in a bowl with some ice and was called 
kalte Ente. This Midwest man had the idea of calling 
it cold duck. It caught on immediately. Our sales 
people insisted: We Just have to have cold duck! 
With some reservations we agreed to try it out in 
one area. We made a good product. We sell it at 
the same price as our champagne, at $5 a bottle, 
and it caught on immediately. We then introduced it 
nationally, and it became one of the biggest sparkling 
wine items of the company. 

Teiser: Certain kinds of people here used to like sparkling 
burgundy, not necessarily champagne drinkers. 


Meyer: We always had sparkling burgundy. It was a small 
item. Since a similar product is called Very Cold 
Duck, it sells much better. 

Teiser: You call yours "Very Cold Duck"? 

Meyer: Of course we do. We had to go beyond "cold duck." 
It almost looks like it isn t a fad because it has 
been growing for a number of years and therefore I m 
inclined to think it s here to stay, although at 
one point it will level off. 


Teiser: Well, this then goes on from your marketing program 

to your advertising program, and I think that perhaps 
your public relations are what Dr. Amerine had in 

Meyer: Well, when we really got into advertising, a man 
appeared on the scene in San Francisco; that was 
Howard Cos sage. You probably heard of him. He 
passed away several years ago. He was a highly 
imaginative man, a rebel in the advertising trade. 
And we were really too small to have the kind of 
advertising distillers or the large-volume wineries 
could afford. On the national advertising scene, people 
are Just overwhelmed with campaigns in the millions 
of dollars. And, therefore, we had to do something 
which would have a special appeal to people who are 
important to us. We decided with Howard Gossage 
that we would Just do a brand-building type of 
advertising; not just pick certain type of wines or 
jingles or any gimmicks but Just tell the public in 
a humorous but dignified way what Paul Masson is, 
the sophistication that is behind its products. 
This was Gossage s special talent. He had a fabulous 
sense of humor. Even today, 15 or 20 years later, 
his copy makes good reading. You could go through 
those ads and be quite entertained, amused and 

We were told, "Well, that won t sell anything." 
This may appear to be so in the sense of hard-hitting 
advertising, or if, as an example, Macy s has a special 


Meyer: on a certain icebox for $199-95 and wants people to 
come in and get it. But it made the name Paul 
Masson known to the wine-minded public and made it 
known in a special way. 

Then when Howard Gossage died, a very fine large 
advertising agency took over, Doyle Dane Bernbach. 
They are known for their Volkswagen advertising, and 
they are the ones who did the famous Avis -Hertz 
campaign (We try harder, we are only number two.). 
They are very talented people, but much more hard 
hitting. And our advertising took on a little 
different direction. In the meantime, we had grown, 
so there was good reason to change the tone a little 
bit. What intrigued them was our success in exporting 
our California wines, and that we could succeed in 
the old traditional wine-consuming countries of 
Europe with a product which was completely unknown. 
Their first campaign was built around that story. 
They started also to advertise single items like 
Emerald Dry, to bring out the uniqueness of that 
product . 

Our main effort was in the area of public 
relations, to associate the winery with cultural 
activities, Music at the Vineyards and other events. 

Teiser: When was the series of concerts you call Music at 
the Vineyards started? 

Meyer: It was started 1^- years ago [in 19573 and has been 
very successful and has gained national and local 
recognition as an important summer festival type of 
musical event. First of all, the idea behind it is 
that we only engage first-rate performers and 
musicians. We engage, for example, the top members 
of the San Francisco symphony. Or prominent guest 
artists from all over the country. The selection of 
the program is always of special interest to knowl 
edgeable music people rather than the usual box 
office type, because we do not have to worry about 
box office because we sell out every time. The 
seating capacity is about a thousand. Performances 
are on Saturday and Sunday, three weekends each 
season, usually the end of June, end of July, and 
end of August each year. Music at the Vineyards has 


Meyer: been so very successful because of the selection of 
the programs, outstanding performances by first-rate 
professionals, and the unique setting at the 
"Vineyard in the Sky." Music critics from all over 
the country have taken an interest in Music at the 
Vineyards and have given the performances outstanding 

Teisor: Have you often commissioned compositions? 

Meyer: Starting in 1970 with the work of Richard J. 
Pelciano, which was commissioned by the late 
Norman Fromm, the man responsible for the development 
of Music at the Vineyards. We continued this policy 
in 1971 with a commission for Heuwell Tircuit, for 
David Del Tredici in 1972, and for Andrew W. Imbrie 
in 1973. All these men are contemporary composers 
well recognized but rarely performed in concert 
halls. This gives us an opportunity to support 
composers during their creative years. The surroundings 
and the outdoor setting lend themselves very well to 
the performance of contemporary music. 

In 1967 at the tenth anniversary of Music at the 
Vineyards the California Legislature passed a 
resolution commending us for this contribution to 
the cultural life of the San Francisco Bay Area. 

In 1969 we received the coveted "Business in the 
Arts Award" from the Business Committee for the Arts 
in New York. One award is given yearly to an 
organization which has made significant contributions 
to the arts and we were particularly flattered by 
this recognition because only very large companies 
had received this honor in the past. 

In addition to Music at the Vineyards we have 
two opera performances by the San Francisco Opera 
Company under the Merola Program. Every year the 
Opera Company conducts auditions for singers who have 
won local auditions in the Western and Southwestern 
states including Hawaii, and recently including New 
York City for singers from California. The winners 
of the final auditions are offered a training program 
and the culmination of this is the performance of 
an opera at the Paul Masson Vineyards. At the same 
time awards for further studies are given. 


Meyer: Both the Merola Program and Music at the 

Vineyards have given singers their original start. 
Many of them have received engagements here and 

Teiser: All of you who have been involved in this organiza 
tion have been interested in music yourselves, 
haven t you? 

Meyer: This is correct. We enjoy opera and symphony music. 
I am a director and vice president of the San 
Francisco Spring Opera Theater and am also on the 
board of the Merola Memorial Fund. 

Teiser: I shouldn t ask if you have any other general public 
relations activities because this is so great, but... 

Meyer: We are entertaining many groups and prominent people 
at the winery, and also make the facilities available 
to worthwhile groups for their fund-raising activities, 

Teiser: I know you sponsor tastings because at the national 
Oral History Association meeting in 1970 I first 
tasted your Baroque. 

Meyer: This is Just one good example of this activity. 

Then, of course, we have regular tours through the 
champagne cellars, concluding with the tasting at 
the tasting hall there. We have quite a number of 
trained guides and hosts conducting these. 

Teiser: You mentioned the murals there. 

Meyer: The first impression a visitor has entering the 

champagne cellars is the contemporary style of the 
reception building. In order to relate to the old 
history of wine we had a mural designed all along 
the ramp leading into the cellars. The artist was 
the late Jose Moya del Pino, who was once a painter 
at the court of Spain, and lived in Marin County. 
The mural starts with Noah and goes all through the 
Biblical times and the Middle Ages; the planting of 
grapes in California; Dom Perignon, the inventor 
of champagne; Paul Masson, one of the first men who 
produced champagne in California; and the use of 
champagne for weddings and christenings. By the 
time you are at the level of the ramp, you have 
learned a great deal of wine history. 

Meyer: And then you come to the reception area where 
we now have a valuable collection of wine-related 
objects starting with Luristan bronzes, 900 B.C., 
and all kinds of very Interesting pieces which today 
are difficult to find. They are displayed in the 
waiting room. There is also a color slide projection 
of the vineyards, grape crushing, and historical 
scenes. The guides take you through the winery on 
an elevated walkway so you can see the operations 
without walking through the rows of barrels and 
tanks. At the end of the tour the visitors find 
themselves in the tasting hall and are offered a 
taste of any wine they are interested in. 

Teiser: Who was the architect for the building? 

Meyer: John Bolles of San Francisco, California. We didn t 
want to copy 19th or 18th century structures and we 
didn t want to have a cold, purely modern building. 
In discussing this problem with the architect, he 
came up with a design for the winery itself to have 
a series of round roofs which look cave-like, and a 
reception building and tasting hall in front with a 
rotunda containing a ramp, a pool and a fountain to 
symbolize the effervescence of champagne. This 
combination of styles leaves the impression of a 
solid, even traditional structure combined with all 
the flair the product has in the eyes of the 
consumer. That was the idea behind the design of 
the building. 

Teiser: It was designed with the idea of having visitors 

Meyer: Yes, it was. Practically all phases of the operation 
can be seen and the guides explain the wine and 
champagne making processes and answer questions. The 
tasting at the end of the tour is, of course, of 
great interest to the visitors. 

Teiser: Yesterday we were at the Christian Brothers at 

Mont La Salle, and we went on one of their regular 
winery tours. Almost all the people were from out of 
state. I asked a woman from Washington, D.C. how 
she learned of it, up at the end of that road, and 
she said, "Oh, we had some literature about it." 

Meyer: Yes, I think this operation is also important. If 

Meyer: people are curious enough to come and see a winery 
and go through, this is an indication that it is a 
worthwhile thing to do. Sometimes you hear a 
remark, "Well, only free-loaders come." I don t 
think that s true. Maybe a few, but this is 

Last year we had almost 200,000 visitors at 
our champagne cellars, although it is certainly 
off the highway. Napa Valley is much more of a 
tourist track than Saratoga is. And we don t promote 
it more than Just having one billboard on [highway] 
101 going south from San Francisco, and one near 
Saratoga. We have a little pamphlet which is 
distributed by some travel agents and a few people 
who promote bus tours, but the main interest is on 
the part of the public without special promotion. 

Teiser: The Wine Institute has put out tour books and there 
are the Sunset book, and others. Do you believe 
that those are helpful? 

Meyer: Oh yes, I m sure that people who are interested in 
seeing a winery will find it helpful. 

Teiser: I mean do you think that s helpful to the industry? 

Meyer: Yes, I think it s helpful to the lnd.ustry but taking 
care of visitors is a costly thing for the wineries, 
unless combined with retail sales. 

Teiser: The wine museum that is being planned here in 

San Francisco, will that Just be Christian Brothers? 

Meyer: Yes, this is a different collection from ours. 

Both Fromm and Sichel and the Christian Brothers 
have good collections, particularly the Fromm and 
Sichel wine glass collection is most magnificent 
and very valuable. Franz Siohel really spent many 
years collecting it. It was shown here at the 
[California Palace of the] Legion of Honor. Ours 
is a much smaller collection which I started about 
20 years ago, and which is not Just confined to 
glass. It has all kinds of wine related objects, 
Etruscan, and pokals of silver for ceremonial uses, 
and old glasses, quite a few Roman and even some 
Syrian glasses. So it is a great variety of things 
but not too many of each kind. It is a very 

Meyer: interesting addition to the winery tour, not too big 
to allow enough time for people to see all there is 
to see. 

Teiser: I should think a wine museum here in the city in the 
Ghirardelli Square area would have good results for 
the whole industry. 

Meyer: It will be a reality soon, at the corner of Beach 

and Hyde Streets. You have these things [elsewhere]. 
In Lisbon, in Bonn, Turin, several in Prance. This 
is just a sign that this industry is growing up in 
California and engaging in these activities which 
are new to this country. The Promm and Sichel 
exhibit has been in the making for many years, and 
a large amount of money is being spent to create the 
most attractive building for this important exhibit 
in this spot, which is a tourist location, while ours is 
at the winery for our visitors waiting to make the 

(Interview #3 - August 13, 1971) 


Teiser: There are some wines that you have I don t know if 
you were interested in them as such or you felt it 
advantageous for your sales effort to have a full 
line. Your sherries, port. 

Meyer: V/ell, Paul Masson, basically, is a champagne and 

dry wine producer, but for marketing reasons it was 
necessary to have a complete line. There is an 
opportunity to produce sherries and ports on a very 
high quality level, particularly to age them for 
long periods of time. Because there was a need for 
such high quality appetizer and dessert wines, that 
was the main reason why we did it. Aside from unique 
and selective production processes, we age these 
wines over extended periods. All this well Justifies 
a higher price level. As a matter of fact, it has 
proven to be a very steady business. While the 
appetizer and dessert wine consumption in general has 
gone down in relation to total wine consumption, in 
our case sales show a steady increase. Consumers of 
a high-quality sherry or port are buying these products 
because they like them for their own qualities. 

In the early period of the California wine 
industry after repeal of Prohibition, the appetizer 
and dessert wines the sherry, port, muscatel and 
angelica were mainly purchased as a low-priced 
alcoholic beverage, and you know the history of that. 
This passed, of course, with greater affluence. Today 
people who want an alcoholic beverage buy distilled 
spirits, and will not buy wine as a substitute. The 
wine industry was imaginative enough to develop other 
fortified wines with added flavors. This has become 

Meyer: a new field and has made up the volume for the decline 
of the standard fortified wines. 

There are only a few wineries in this business 
of premium dessert wines, and their sales have not 

Teiser: I see. We often talk with people who say, "Public 

taste is becoming more sophisticated, so people drink 
more dry wines instead of..." 

Meyer: Well I would say this is correct too. It has become 
more sophisticated because many people who were 
drinking fortified wines with their meals have 
graduated to drinking table wines, light table wines, 
with their meals but use appetizer and dessert wines 
as cocktails and after-dinner drinks instead of 
distilled spirits. 

Teiser: Do you yourself see in the future any possibility for 
premium flavored wines? 

Meyer: Well, there are products like that, like Dubonnet. 

There are such specialty items widely used in France, 
like San Bafael and Byrhh, as well as vermouth. In 
this country this type of wine has become popular in 
the lower price category. Very few have been developed 
on the high or premium price level, but as we become 
a wine drinking nation, we will have more expensive 
aperitif wines. 

Teiser: We don t have a premium vermouth, do we? 

Meyer: No, but this is mainly a marketing problem; there is 
no reason why there shouldn t be some. Such firmly 
established international brands as Martini and Rossi, 
and Cinzano dominate the higher priced market. That 
doesn t mean that we will eventually not be able to 
have either a premium vermouth or other premium 
specialty wines. This is something which can be 
expected to happen; it s just a matter of somebody 
doing it. There is no great problem to produce such 
a wine. Actually we experimentally made wines of 
that kind, but the problem is strictly a matter of 
economics. This market is still a limited one, and 
the cost of introduction is high. 

Teiser: This brings to my mind and I m taking you to subjects 

Teiser: that I hadn t intended to, but since you speak so 

knowledgeably of them. . . When a winery is controlled 
by a large company that also deals in other alcoholic 
beverages, is there a fight for the advertising 
dollar? Is there a conflict if you want to introduce 
a product that might bring Americans over to an 
appetizer wine before dinner instead of a whiskey 
and soda or something? 

Meyer: Absolutely not. If these people make an investment 
in a wine company, they are not doing it with the 
intention of handicapping their development. They 
take the position: if we are not doing it, somebody 
else will do it. On the contrary, we are encouraged 
by the people in New York to expand and to invest 
as much money for the development of new product s^ 
as we can afford. If there is a trend towards aperitif 
wines, it would not be wise for any company to fight 
it instead of developing such a product for themselves. 
Therefore there is no handicap at all. 

You have seen similar situations in other 
industries. Take as an example General Motors. They 
have many competing items, but they leave each division 
alone to compete against their sister companies the 
same as they would compete against somebody else. 
How else can you do it? Even if the people at the 
head wanted to exercise certain restraints, it is 
impossible to control sales efforts down the line 
because the salesman on the street will always do his 
best to sell his product and really doesn t care if 
the competitor is affiliated with his company or not. 
Company sales policy will, of course, avoid promotions 
which are directly aimed at other company products, 
but otherwise everybody is out on his own. 

Teiser: Seagrams distributes Dubonnet, for instance, does it? 

Meyer: No^ Schenley has Dubonnet. Seagrams has no such 
aperitif wine. In the Browne Vintners Division, 
which now also distributes Paul Masson, they have 
Mumm Champagne; B&G wines from Prance; Brolio and 
Ricasoli wine from Italy; and Kayser wines from 
Germany. They re adding new Imports all the time. 


Teiser: In your personal activities In the wine Industry 

you have taken the position that there was no rivalry 
between American wjnes and European wines... 

Meyer: There Is, of course rivalry, but I ve always been of 
the opinion wine movements should be a two-way street. 
If you want to create Interest In wine, it should not 
be a fight by California against Imports, or by 
importers knocking California wines. I feel that 
close contact with European wineries and making them 
understand that we are, Just as they are, more 
interested in building a larger consumer market in 
this country is better than calling one wine inferior 
to another. This would only make consumers suspicious 
of any wine they buy. There are some people coming 
from abroad that say something unkind. Here and 
there some narrow-minded men say, "Yes, California 
wines are honest wines, but..." 

There will always be some remarks of this kind. 
What is important, however, is the need to break 
down the trade barriers against our wines, particularly 
In Europe, and better controls by foreign countries 
to stop misleading and false labeling of wines 
exported to the United States. Imports of high 
quality and labeled correctly are fair competition 
and have their place in this market. Inferior wines 
with labels showing high grade grape varietal names 
or old vintage dates which are not. true to fact are 
unfair competition. We pay very high prices for top 
grape varieties and we have strict vintage date 
controls in this country and, therefore, cannot 
compete with cheap imported wines which do not deserve 
these designations. 

Up to now, we could say that for between two 
and three dollars a bottle, the California premium 
wineries really offered a better wine on the average 
to the consumer for this money, because these finer 
wines in Europe are also scarce and high in price. 
But now because of the very high cost of grapes we 
are moving to a price level where we may find our 
selves in a less favorable competitive situation. 

Teiser: There is one factor that I f ve heard mentioned about 
imports and American wines, and that is bottle size. 
The imports can come in odd sizes and smaller 
quantities in bottles that look to be the same as 
standard American ones. 

Meyer: I think this is a Just complaint but not significant 
enough to be made into a major international trade 
issue. Furthermore, few consumers pay attention to 
whether there are 24 ounces or 25 ounces or 26 ounces 
in a bottle. In addition, we will have great 
difficulties in convincing the French, the Germans, 
the Italians and our own importers to agree to adopt 
American bottle standards. Eventually we ll probably 
have metric standards world-wide. It s an old subject 
for many people in the wine industry who Justly feel 
that that is not right and that a fifth is not the 
same fifth for all people. 

Teiser: Do you really see metric standards coming here? 

Meyer: The whole world is converting to it, and over the 

next ten years I, m pretty sure we will. It s a big 
Job. I m not an expert in that field, but it s not 
quite logical to me to continue to have complicated 
computations when there is a decimal system. 

Teiser: Did you take Paul Masson into the export field ahead 
of other wineries? 

Meyer: Yes, I think we did that. For two reasons. I always 
wanted to try it because I was so convinced that as 
soon as we had reached a quality level for our wines 
we could successfully compete with French and German 
wines in Europe. I felt that this would be a great 
asset to the reputation of California wines in this 
country. If traditional wine-drinking countries 
import our wines, it should mean something to the 
Americans who so lightly downgrade our wines Just 
because they are not imported. 

Looking for possible export markets, I discussed 
this with a good friend who was a prominent exporter 
with a successful international organization. They 
started to do some business in the Orient. I went 
on a trip to Japan and to Hong Kong and met the 
manager of their Far Eastern office in Tokyo who 
became very much interested in wine. The company 

Meyer: changed hands, my friend passed away and his Far 

Eastern manager wanted to change also. We engaged 
him as our export manager. He built up a very 
respectable business in the Orient, and then we 
started to look around in Europe. 

Teiser: You mean you were selling in Japan? 

Meyer: Yes. Japan at that time had very strict import 

restrictions and still has a very high tariff. Our 
sales in the Orient expanded to Hong Kong, the 
Philippines, New Zealand, Australia, Korea and other 

And then, of course, we turned to Europe, where 
the big wine consumption is. We started in Switzerland. 
We found a man there, a wine importer, who really 
took an interest in our wines. And then the next 
country was England. Today we are also in Germany. 
It s not easy because of the many restrictions, really 
trade barriers. There s a quota system. The Common 
Market countries have preferential agreements amongst 
themselves of course. There are many labeling restric 
tions; we cannot use any of the generic wine names 
which have a geographical significance in Europe. V/e 
are at a disadvantage in the countries which have 
preferential duties for wine imported in bulk and 
bottled in that country. We ship in the bottle, and 
therefore in some countries like England we are on a 
much higher price level really than we should be, and, 
therefore, sales are not as large as we would like to 
see. It could of course be remedied by shipping in 
bulk, but that has other disadvantages. So it is 
significant in that respect, that it is developing 
and growing and that our wines are accepted and very 
much praised by Europeans, which I think has done a 
great deal of good in this country amongst the people 
I mentioned before who are so likely to downgrade our 
quality in comparison to European wine. 

Teiser: Do you see it as a growing market, as a market which 
is also beneficial financially? 

Meyer: Yes, it certainly is. We try to use as much as 

possible our proprietory labels, like Emerald Dry, 
Rubion, Baroque, because they are unique names for 
wines and are not copies of European names. They are 
distinctly California wines. 

Teiser: What of the California wine industry in relation to 
the eastern United States wine industry? Do you 
see it as competitive? 

Meyer: Oh yes, particularly in New York. The competitors 
of significance in the premium wine field are 
Taylor and Great Western, and they are very successful. 
They are by far the largest premium champagne 
producers in the country. They did something which 
one can only respect and, that is they have educated 
their consumers to the taste characteristics of their 
products. The Concord character of their products is 
accepted by the people who for many years have been 
exposed to it. Of course, it is not accepted as 
easily by people who are used to the characteristics 
of the traditional European wines. So, their business 
will have certain limitations, but they certainly 
have created a very profitable market for themselves. 

Teiser: I ve heard California wine men quoted as saying that 
the best champagne in the United States is made in 
New York State. 

Meyer: I don t think that s true. It s a champagne which 

has a distinctive flavor. There are many people who 
like products with a distinctive flavor. Let s nut 
it this way: many people like sweetness in a product. 
Now if sweetness is the dominating thing without being 
balanced by a strong flavor, then it is objectionable 
like anything that tastes too sweet. Concord needs 
sweetness; a dry Concord tastes awful. But Concord 
with sweetness, similar to Welsh s grape juice, is a 
widely accepted taste. 

Teiser: Do they export any New York champagne? 

Meyer: No, there would hardly be a foreign market for it. 
We had a very interesting experience at some wine 
tastings in various embassies in Europe, where the 
Eastern brands participated. The rejection was 
vehement. Of course, the people in Europe are used 
to the traditional vinifera type grapes. As a matter 
of fact, it has even created an obstacle for us, 
particularly in Switzerland. Many Swiss travel to 
New York and buy a bottle of American wine in a 
restaurant and very often get a New York State wine. 
They think that s the way American wines taste. So 
we run into a great deal of rejection of American 

i leyer: wines because they are identified as New York State 
wines. We had to do a great deal to overcome that. 

Teiser: You apeak of the tastings in the embassies. Is that 
a go od way to Judge something of the markets? 

Heyer: Well, it is a way to get the people to taste whom 

you want to buy your wine. If they get an invitation 
by an ambassador to a wine-tasting and a buffet 
dinner afterwards, you will have people coming who 
would otherwise be hard to reach. And we have gained 
quite a few importers in this manner. They came and 
liked the wine and we could sit down and talk with 
them then. Of course, you have to realize that for 
anything that doesn t have a market yet, very few 
people are interested. They do not like to be pioneers 
and spend their time and money on something less 
profitable than what they already have to sell. 

Teiser: You gave us an article on the E awards, so I think 
vie 11 perhaps Just nut that in the interview* if we 
may, but would you Just mention it? 

Heyer: Yes. All administrations since President Eisenhower 
felt that there were not enough people and industries 
in this country interested in building export markets. 
Exports were left to a few large companies like the 
aircraft industry, but there are many industries which 
could succeed in finding foreign markets for their 
products if they would make an effort to do so. As 
long as business was going strong here, you found a 
tendency, of course, by many people, not to bother 
about a small export market if they could sell anything 
they wanted to sell much easier in this market. Our 
effort to export American wines was recognized as an 
excellent example by an industry which has strong 
competition abroad to prove that it could be done. 
And when we succeeded and the State Department got 
reports back through the embassies that American wines 
are suddenly being heard about, we were suggested as 
a recipient for the E award. 

Toiser: I wonder if part of the success of your wines in the 
European market was the knowledge that you have of 

*See Appendix III. 

Entrance to Paul Masson Cellars, Saratoga 

Telser: Europe and that perhaps Europe has of you. 

Meyer: Well, those things play some role. I. knew the 

markets pretty well, and I have the advantage of 
knowing quite a few people to whom I could say, 
"My friend, I know this is not a big thing for you, 
but do me a favor and try it." And this has something 
to do with it because you cannot build sales at a 
reasonable cost if you don t have somebody there of 
some prominence to get behind it. 

Teiser: I often think how many valuable men America gained 
when they left Germany because of the Nazi regime. 

Meyer: People who were successful over there, either in the 
field of science or business or whatever it may be, 
would never have left the country if it hadn t been 
for these compelling political reasons. And if you 
have successful people coming to this country at an 
age where they still can adjust, they are very likely 
to be successful here too. I think that is quite 

Teiser: Is there any reason to think that the United States 
would ever import wines for blending? 

Meyer: Possibly, but not likely. 
Teiser: Under what circumstances? 

Heyer: Only price. I would say if the competition from 

imports gets rough and if grape prices here should 
not adjust to it. 

Teiser: Is it possible legally today to blend an American 
and a European wine in the same bottle? 

I-Ieyer: You could not call it California wine, but it could 
be done. It s most likely not to be a blend though. 
But there is a lot of raw material which theoretically 
could be imported. It s common practice in European 
countries. Germany, for instance, imports all base 
wines for dessert wines and all base wines for 
vermouth and all base wines for brandy and most of 
its wine for champagne. They are all imported as 
raw material and then processed in Germany. Theoreti 
cally a thing like that could happen here too. There 
are tankers around the world that could carry wine 
very cheaply. 


Meyer: I hope it will never come to it, but if we price 

ourselves out of competition, theoretically it could 
happen. But it s less likely that California 
wineries or wineries of the east coast will use 
foreign raw material. The competition will be in 
the market by imported wines. There is no reason 
why these cheap foreign wines would not be sold as 
"imported wine," without being blended with American 

Teiser: Are there possibilities that wine from grapes grown 

in other uarts of the United States than California 
the Northwest I understand is now experimenting 
would be used as raw material? 

Meyer: Yes, but under present laws we cannot use in California 
any wine or graces grown in other states and call it 
California wine; it could be called American. 

Teiser: Are there quality factors that might play a part In 

Meyer: I don t think there s great advantage in planting 
grapes outside of California. You really have the 
best climatic conditions right here. There is some 
possibility. I think there may be some competition 
in varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon, which are 
planted in the state of Washington now and could be 
produced cheaper there than here. These wines made 
in Washington or Oregon could be marketed as such. 
I could see some minor competition there, but that 
is about ten years away. Nothing has been planted 
in large quantities there; it s experimental at 
this stage. 

Teiser: California exports to the East some wines for 
blending, doesn t it? 

Meyer: Yes. Well, a lot of California wine goes east for 
bottling, as well as to New York State and other 
areas for blending with their own. 

Teiser: Did I understand you to indicate that. the European 
Common Market might be a problem for California 

Meyer: Yes. The Common Market has a machinery to protect 
their markets without losing their advantages for 

Meyer: their exports. Sight now they are subsidizing even 
processed agricultural products other than wines 
without having to fear much of a retaliatory move. 
This is something which could be of great concern 
to California agriculture. Agriculture in Europe 
is subsidized heavily. Prices are kept high. And. 
therefore it s not a free market in that sense, that 
we could export anything we want to because with 
that we would put them out of business in the 
agricultural field. But these are the international 
trade problems which have to be solved. The problems 
are fully recognized by our government, and efforts 
will be made to improve our position. Where the wine 
is concerned, we keep an eye on it to be sure that 
our interests are safeguarded. That s why I have 
taken quite an interest in the preparations for the 
1973 trade negotiations. 

Teiser: You re a member also of the San Francisco Chamber of 
Commerce. . . 

Meyer: Well, I was a director of the Chamber of Commerce 
for a three year term, which ended last January. 
I am the Chairman of the U.S. Department of Commerce 
Regional Export Expansion Council here, and I am a 
member of the National Export Expansion Council, 
which meets regularly with cabinet members and other 
policy-making people of the departments as well as 
the White House. 

reiser: You ve also been on, I believe, the University of 
California Extension Advisory Council. 

Meyer: Yes. We had some meetings of University men with 

people who are active in business to exchange ideas 
and for the University to learn about the needs of 
the business community. 



i eiser: In your work with both the Wine Advisory Board, and 
the Wine Institute, what interested you especially 
about them? 

Meyer: Aside from the continuous problems to improve on the 
laws and regulations governing the production and 
distribution of wine, which are still too restrictive 
in this country, I was always interested in building 
a better image for California wines. The development 
of the Wine Institute - Wine Advisory Board r>ublic 
relations program, and also the program to convince 
the medical profession to speak favorably about the 
health values of wine rather than to think of wine 
as an alcoholic beverage, were important steps 
towards achieving today s favorable public attitude 
towards wine. This did, of course, not come easily 
and quite a number of people contributed in these 

I was amongst a small group many years ago to 
start this public relations activity, rather than 
nutting the emphasis on advertising. The late John 
Daniel was one of the prime movers in this. We 
started a premium wine public relations program, 
which first was kind of smiled at or tolerated by 
the rest of the industry. At that time sweet wines 
were the dominating factor still, while the premium 
producers from Napa, Sonoma and Santa Clara represented 
a very small sector of the industry. Lou Gomberg was 
the one who had the Job of coordinating these things 
with Wine Institute and W.A.B. We engaged, a public 
relations agency to promote premium wines only and to 
tell the public that in California there exist the 
same conditions as in any other country that produces 
premium wines. The promotion was extremely successful. 
For the first time wine writers from all over the 
country, and others who write magazine articles and 
columns, began to notice us and to say something nice 
about California wines. 

Then it became so successful that fears 
developed that we could give the impression that 
there are good California wines and bad California 
wines. This resulted in some opposition to the 

by some members of the industry. Now, of 


Meyer: course, there was never any intention to downgrade 
anybody s product, but to put our best foot forward 
for the benefit of all. As a matter of fact, one of 
the basic policies was that there is no bad California 
wine and that there is no bad vintage in California 
but admitting that there are differences which are 
in the nature of the grapes and whatever makes wines 
of different levels everywhere. 

Nevertheless, the industry by vote of the majority 
decided that the public relations program should cover 
the industry as a whole. 

As time went on, I don t think that the industry 
members got the impression that premium wines had 
the greatest benefit from it. Even if this were the 
case, it would not hurt anybody. The overall effect 
was that California table wines as such became 
recognized as amongst the finest in the world. There 
has been a dramatic upsurge in acceptance of California 
dry wines in all price categories. Lately the rate 
of growth of the premium wines has not been greater 
than the growth of the less expensive wines. This 
was foreseeable, and the fears of members of the 
industry that this whole approach would be to the 
advantage of the premium wineries proved to be 

Teiser: Speaking of this same campaign, one of the other 

premium winemakers said it was kind of embarrassing 
to them; all of a sudden they were glamorized. 

Meyer: Well, publicity is a necessary part of marketing 

today. Even politicians have discovered that they 
need Madison Avenue. Not that this is all good, but 
[laughing] in the case of wine it fills the need of 
a public anxious to learn more about it. I think in 
our efforts to interest more people in wine to 
eradicate the old terrible stigmas of the "wino" 
and other negative aspects, we should continue to 
present wine on the highest possible levels , to 
associate wine with the arts, old cultures and even 
the Bible, o.s it has been for centuries. There s 
hardly an opera where wine doesn t play some part. 
I think this image is important. And, as you know, 
we are quite heavily engaged in this kind of 
activity at Paul Masson. You cannot say you get a 
certain result from an activity of that kind, but 


Meyer: the association creates an impression in the minds 
of people which is on a level you want. That is, 
it s an elegant thing to serve wine with a meal or 
to use champagne for a festive occasion. This, I 
think, is more important than hard-hitting advertising. 
You have to have the public in a receptive mood if 
you want to create any impression. 

That is something which in European countries 
has grown over many generations in many ways, even 
without the help of radio or television. If we want 
to create the same habit of wine usage in this 
country, we have to present the product in the most 
favorable light. I think more people should sponsor 
artistic activities which can be related to wine. 

Teiser: I can think of a volume wine producer who takes 

great pride in his office building and opens it to 
community events. 

Meyer: This is a fine example, and, of course, there are 

activities which should have an effect beyond the local 
community. Of course, you have to start locally in 
order to get it recognized nationally. That is the 
reason why for our music at the vineyard, we always 
engage nationally known artists .and have programs 
and commission new works which create interest among 
the national critics and music writers. That is, of 
course, more difficult to do and it is also more 
expensive, but it is an important function. 

Final Typist: 

Marie Guillemin 
Keiko Sugimoto 



330 Jackson Street 

San Francisco, California 94111 FACT SHEET 


History of Paul Masson Vineyards 
Director of Public Relations 

For 119 years, since the Paul Masson Vineyards had its begin 
nings in the Santa Clara Valley, its fine wines have spread the fame 
of the Valley throughout the world. The colorful story of this 
winery, California s oldest wine producer, and of the gentleman 
vintner and bon vivant whose name it bears is told and retold in 
many volumes of connoisseur wine lore. 

It began in 1852, when Etienne Thee, a vigneron from Bordeaux, 
first planted grapes on the original Narvaez land grant south of San 
Jose and pioneered commercial winegrowing in the region. Th^e was 
succeeded by his son-in-law, Charles Lefranc, and in turn by the 
latter s son-in-law, Paul Masson. 

Born in 1859 at Beaune in the Burgundy district of France, 
Paul Masson came to California at the age of 19, when the Phyl 
loxera vine pest had devastated the vineyard on the Cote d Or where 
his family had made wine for three centuries. At that time the 
eyes of Old World vintners were attracted to California because of 
its climate, the most ideal for winegrowing found anywhere. 

The young Burgundian emigre* first enrolled at the University 
of the Pacific, which then was located in Santa Clara, to continue 
his scientific studies, begun at the Sorbonne in Paris. While a 
student, he became acquainted with his compatriot, Charles Lefranc, 
who then was adding to the vineyards inherited from Etienne Thee. 
Paul Masson became interested in the vineyards, and also in 
Lefranc s pretty daughter, Louise. He went to work for Lefranc, 
married Louise, and planted his own vineyard the "vineyard 
in the sky" atop the lofty Santa Cruz Mountains above Saratoga. 
After Lefranc died, the vineyards were merged and became the baroni 
al domain of Paul Masson. 

On periodic visits to his native France, Paul Masson brought 
back cuttings of choice European wine grape varieties. Some he 
planted to make his wines, champagnes and brandy; others he gave 
to neighboring growers who agreed to let him select the cream of 
the grape crops they produced. 

He built a great stone winery at his mountain vineyard, with 
its foundations deep in the hillside to maintain constant cool 
temperatures in the wine aging cellars throughout the year. When 
the 1906 earthquake destroyed St. Patrick s Church in nearby San 
Jose, he purchased its 12th century Romanesque portal, originally 



brought around Cape Horn from Spain, and erected it as part of the 
winery facade. Today this famous winery, damaged by fire in 1941 
and restored as Paul Masson designed it, is officially designated 
by the State as California Historical Landmark No. 733. 

In 1892 he perfected the first Paul Masson Champagne, which 
promptly began winning awards for quality in national and inter 
national competitions. One of his greatest triumphs was when his 
wine was awarded a prize for quality in the international competi 
tion held at the Paris Exposition of 1900. 

Many legends about Paul Masson relate his talents as a gourmet, 
bon vivant and patron of the arts and music, his activities as a 
member of the California State Viticultural Commission, and his 
philosophy of fine wines. Volumes have been written about his en 
tertainments for noted guests, including the famous occasion when 
he granted the wish of the beautiful actress, Anna Held, to take 
a champagne bath at his villa near Los Gates. 

For nearly half a century Paul .Masson continued personally 
making his wines until his retirement in 1936, four years before 
his death at the age of eighty-one. His estate passed through the 
hands of intermediary owners until 1945, when it was acquired by 
Alfred Fromm and Franz Sichel, who, like president and co-owner Otto 
E. Meyer, are members of eminent European winegrowing families. 
For more than 20 years these proprietors have diligently maintained 
here the quality traditions of their Old World heritage and of the 
gentleman vintner, Paul Masson. 

In 1959, the champagne making, aging, bottling and packaging 
and the blending and bottling of brandy were brought together in 
the new Paul Masson Champagne Cellars in Saratoga. Departing from 
traditional winery design, the cellars are a distinctive example 
of modern winery construction and contemporary architecture with 
every skill and facility that twentieth-century research and ex 
perience have contributed to the ancient art of winemaking. Ad 
joining the Champagne Cellars is the company s Certified Mother 
Vineyard, which is maintained under the supervision of the California 
State Department of Agriculture and the University of California 
to provide certified varietal planting stock for future vineyards. 

To supply the growing world demand for Paul Masson wines, which 
by 1966 were being imported by 28 countries around the globe, more 
vineyards have been planted with pedigreed wine grape varieties. 
Across the Santa Clara Valley in the foothills of the Coast Range 
east of Gilroy is Paul Masson s 330-acre San Ysidro Vineyard, 
planted in 1948 under the direction of University of California 
viticulturists. Ranch San Ysidro is part of the original land 
grant to Don Ygnacio Ortega, the son of Captain Jose Ortega, who 
with Don Caspar de Portola discovered San Francisco Bay in 1769. 
Fn 1 1 362 and 1963, to assure a continuing supply of choice wine 
i|tap^s loi the? oven greater demand for fine wines anticipated in 
future decades, the 1,000-acre Paul Masson Pinnacles Vineyard was 



planted in Monterey County, near Soledad in the northern part of 
the Salinas Valley, and yielded its first harvest in 1966. 

Each year, adhering to the quality traditions maintained by 
the owners since 1852, Paul Masson wines, champagne and brandy 
continue to win highest awards at fairs and expositions throughout 
the Western Hemisphere, and to spread the fame of the Santa Clara 
Valley, the home of Paul Masson. 




Paul Masson Vineyards 

330 Jackson Street 

San Francisco, California 


Ernest G. Mittelberger 



SAN FRANCISCO, Oct. 29. Successful opening of California s new 
coastal fine wine grape district, the upper Salinas Valley in Monterey 
County, was celebrated yesterday by county officials, wine industry 
leaders and University of California scientists who gathered for the 
event at the 1,000-acre Paul Masson Pinnacles Vineyard near Soledad. 

The celebration, marking the first harvest of 14 premium grape 
varieties from 425,000 pedigreed vines planted there four years earlier, 
was a tribute to the University s viticulturists whose research inspired 
the multimillion-dollar venture in the valley long known as "the Salad 
Bowl of America. " 

Present to be officially honored by the Monterey Board of Super 
visors and by the industry were U.C. President Clark Kerr, Chancellor 
Emil Mrak of the College of Agriculture at Davis, Viticulturist Dr. Albert 
J. Winkler, Enologist Dr. Maynard Amerine and members of the University s 
Department of Viticulture and Enology. It was Dr. Winkler and his staff 
who, in a search begun 30 years ago for new areas in the State capable of 
producing the shy-bearing delicate grapes for fine table wines and 
champagnes, found the Salinas Valley climate ideally suited and recommended 
grape planting there. 

The successful harvest of Chardonnay, Riesling, Cabernet Sauvignon, 
Pinot Noir and other rare "varietal" grapes represents the first time in 
more than a century that a new vineyard area has been added to the coastal 

Paul Mas son Vineyards 
(cont. ) 

fine wine district of California. For 130 years, while Santa Clara, 

IAlameda, Sonoma, Napa and other counties neighboring San Francisco Bay 
were winning world fame for their superior wines, owed to their ideal 
climate, Monterey County was bypassed completely because of its sparse 
10-inch annual rainfall. 

When the University s years of research proved by precise temperature 
measurements that the upper Salinas Valley possessed the same sunny but 
cool climate as the other coast counties, three leading California wine 
growers, Paul Masson Vineyards of Saratoga, Mirassou Vineyards of San Jose 
and Wente Bros, of Livermore, became interested. In 1962, convinced by 
their own studies that the University was right, and looking for new vine 
yard land beyond the Bay Area where urbanization threatens existing farms, 

these producers acquired large acreages in the valley and began planting 


grapes there. They installed more than 100 miles of overhead sprinkler 
lines to supplement the valley s infrequent rains. 

"Our company s multimillion dollar investment in planting this vine 
yard depended entirely on whether the University s findings would turn 
out right by this year, " Paul Masson President Otto E. Meyer told yester- 
day s gathering. "Now, after four anxious years spent watching the young 
vines develop, this first harvest of perfect grapes shows in tests the 
same flavor and high acidity in balance with sugar content that we get 
in our Santa Clara vineyards. It more than justifies our highest hopes 
and assures us a continuing supply of premium table and sparkling wines 
for the growing world market in the 1970 s and for decades to come." 

Wine Institute Past President Harry Baccigaluppi of San Francisco, 
presiding at the luncheon celebration, said the new Monterey County vine 
yards have made history as the world s first fine wine district to be 
established as the direct result of scientific temperature research, and 

(cont. ) 


Paul Masson Vineyards 
(cont. ) 

that the University of California, which gets credit for the achievement, 
now leads all other wine countries in the sciences of viticulture and 

The vineyards which promise to transform the region "from Salad Bowl 
to Champagne Bowl" are located 132 miles south of San Francisco on El 

Camino Real (the King s Highway), which is US Highway 101. At this point 

the Salinas Valley is eight miles wide, sheltered from ocean fogs by the 

Santa Lucia Mountains on the west. On the east is the Gavilan Range, 
whose lofty crags and ancient caves comprise the Pinnacles National 

Measurements of the district s climate, in terms of "degree days" of 
cumulative warmth above 50 Fahrenheit during the growing season, April 
through October, place it in both Districts I and II, similar to Santa 
Clara and Napa Counties in California, and between the climates of the 
Bordeaux and Burgundy districts of France. 

Added advantages of the region are that the vineyards are on sloping 
bench land, high above the valley floor with adequate drainage and freedom 
from frost. The soil composition is principally Chular and Greenfield 
coarse sandy loam, consisting of decomposed granite washed down from the 
Gavilans through the centuries, gravelly and low in lime content like the 
vineyards of the Medoc and Graves districts of Bordeaux and the better 
vineyards in the Palatinate. 

The grape varieties in the Pinnacles Vineyard, important for both 
varietal and generically-labeled wines, are Pinot Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc, 
Johannisberg Riesling, Franken Riesling (Sylvaner) , French Colombard, 
Semillon, Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc, Gewurztraminer and Flora, all of 
which are white grapes, and Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir and Camay 
Beaujolais, all reds. Flora is a new University of California variety of 

(cont. ) 


Paul Masson Vineyards 

(cont. ) 
great quality promise for white wines. The varietal wines are especially 

important in the steadily growing export trade in California wines, which 
Paul Masson Vineyards in recent years has pioneered in 28 countries 

around the globe. 

Visitors yesterday also inspected the crushing facility built by 

Paul Masson to press and ferment the grapes from the Pinnacles Vineyard. 
It incorporates many advances in the handling of delicate premium grapes 
and wines. In order to minimize handling, grapes arrive at the crushing 
in the same shallow bins in which they are brought from the vineyard a 
short time earlier. This assures that the bunches will reach the crusher 
in perfect condition with each berry intact. A new type of equipment 
separates the grapes from their stems without bruising either, which 
heretofore was possible only if grapes were picked off the stems by hand. 
Storage containers of stainless steel and wood provide a total capacity 
of 2,600,000 gallons. The Pinnacles Vineyard wines, after preliminary 
aging, will be transported to the Paul Masson cellars at Saratoga for 
final aging, blending, bottling and binning before shipment to markets 
in this country and abroad. 



From Voice of Paul Masson 
December, 1965 


IT WAS A Kill) I.ETTEK DAY November l()ll. lor all the 
Kig "E" flying from (he flagpole was bright blue. Paul Mas- 
son Vineyarils hail been honored with the President s "E" 
(or Excellence in expanding export trade and Judge Koy I.. 
Morgan. Director of the Office of Field Services for the De 
partment of Commerce, had come from Washington to Sara 
toga to present the banner and citation. Paul Masson s presi 
dent. Otto E. Meyer, accepted the honors for the company 
at the champagne luncheon commemorating the auspicious 
occasion. Distinguished guests paying tribute to the 113- 
year-old winery for its success in pioneering the introduction 
of premium wines into foreign wholesale and retail channels 
during the past three years included governmental officials 
from Washington. D.C., Sacramento, San Francisco and San 
ta Clara County; representatives of finance and industry, 
letters and arts; and other fine friends of Paul Masson. 

In designating Paul Masson Vineyards for the highest 
honor the United States government bestows on a business 
organization, the Department of Commerce stated, "Com 
peting on the basis of quality with the best Furope has to 
offer, this company has won trade and consumer acceptance 
in key overseas markets for its California wines. For the 
first time, consumers in 22 other countries have been made 
aware that fine wines are produced in America. As a result, 
permanent export markets have been opened for our Nation s 
premium wines." 

The Department further cited Masson for its assistance in 
solving numerous trade barrier problems such as labeling 
and import regulations, for holding scores of wine tastings 
attended by wine merchants, restaurateurs and the public 
in man\ countries, for exhibiting its lines in United States 
overseas exhibits and trade centers and for efficiently utiliz 
ing the Department s business development facilities abroad. 

Surveys into export opportunities in Japan, Hong Kong, 
the Philippines and Europe, all made primarily by Mr. 
Meyer, were the basis of establishing Paul Masson s export 
department (headed by Kay Baldwin) three years ago. Rec 
ognition of the strides made in gaining acceptance for Cali 
fornia wines abroad come not only from the governmental 
honors so recently bestowed, bill in the fnrls of the increas 
ing number of countries being added to the original list and 
the projected distribution of Paul Masson and other Califor 
nia wines by ihe Prisunic chain of 250 department stores in 
Krnurr early next year. 

Paul Masson not alone accepted a challenge and blazed 
new trails to its own credit but. in this instance, to the benefit 
ol fellow members of the industry and the American image 
abroad. For Europeans with first hand knowledge of the 
favorable comparison between American and foreign pre 
mium wines can only have an impression of a people dedi 
cated lo the finer things in life. 

(JOVKKNOK Edmund G. "Pat" Brown sent his regrets at 
not being able to attend the luncheon, but sent his hearty 
congratulations and warm good wishes. 

Eugene Braderman. Deputy Assistant Secretary for Com 
mercial Affairs and Business Activities. U.S. Department 
of State, sent a wire reading: 

"The Department of State congratulates you and your 
colleagues on achieving the "E" Award. You are to be con 
gratulated on your initiative and success in developing ex 
port for American Wines." 

R. A. Peterson, President, Bank of America, wired: 

"The Bank of America takes pleasure in congratulating 
you and the Paul Masson organization upon being awarded 
the Presidential "E" for your efforts in tin- Export Expan 
sion of our country. This is particularly significant inasmuch 
as 1 understand it is the first award made to the wine indus 
try. Sincere congratulations." 

As president of the San Francisco Port Authority, 
Cyril Magnin wired his regrets at having to be in Wash 
ington. D.C. and continued: 

"... I want to take this means of congratulating you on 
receiving the President s "E" Award for Excellence in pio 
neering the export of American wines around the world. 
We of the Port Authority know what a fine job you have 
done and congratulate your organization and yourself on 
receiving this coveted award." 

There were many others too numerous to reproduce 
but all are warmly appreciated. 


INDEX Otto E. Meyer 

Allied Grape Growers, 35 

Almaden [Vineyards], 35 

Amerine, Maynard A., iv, v, 11, 22, 35, 37, 6l 

Arakelian, K. , v, 5, 7 

Baccigaluppi, Harry, 62 

Baldwin, Ray, 65 

Balzer, Robert L. , v 

Bank of America, 8-9, 65 

Beaulieu [Vineyard], 16, 26 

Bolles, John, 41 

bottles, 35, 36 

brandy, passim 

"Business in the Arts Award," 39 

Browne Vintners Company, 34, 46 

California State Department of Agriculture, 59 
California State Vlticultural Commission, 59 
Chalone [Vineyard], 21 

champagne, see under Wines Mentioned in the Interview 
Christian Brothers, v, 4, 7, 9, 10, 12, l^f, 35, Ifl, k 
Cresta Blanca [Wine Co.], 35 

Daniel, John [Jr.], 55 

del Pino, Jose Moya, ^0 

Del Tredici, David, 39 

Doyle Dane Bernback (advertising agency), 38 

E Award, v, 51, 65 

European Common Market, Iv, 53 

Felciano, Richard J. , 39 
Ferroggiaro, Fred, 9 
Ficklin Vineyards, 28 
Fountaingrove [Vineyards], 17 
Freemark Abbey [Winery] , 28 
Frerioks, Andrew G. (Andy), 8 
Fromm family, 5 


Fromm, Alfred, 4, 5, 7, 9, 26, 59 

Pronun, Norman, 39 

Fromm and Sichel, v, 14, 35, 42, 43, 59 

Gallo [Winery, E. & J.], 25 
Gomberg, Louis [Lou], 55 
Gossage, Howard, 13, 37, 38 
Great Western (label), 16, 50 
Guild [Wine Company], 35 

Hanzell Vineyards, 28 
Heitz Wine Cellars, 28 
Held, Anna, 59 
Heubleln [Inc.]* 35 
Hyba, Hans, 17 

Ickerath, Karl, 17 
Imbrie, Andrew W. , 39 
Inglenook [Vineyards], 27 
Italian Swiss Colony, 34, 35 

Jennings, Dean M. , 58 
John, Brother, 9 

Kerr, Clark, 6l 

Korbel [& Bros., Inc.] 16 

Kornell [Champagne Cellars], Hanns, 28 

Krug [Winery, Charles] , 27 

Lefrano, Charles, 58 

Le franc, Louise, see Masson, Mrs. Paul 

Martini, Louis M. , 26 

Masson, Louise Lefranc (Mrs. Paul), 58 

Masson, Paul, 14, 15, 58, 59 

Masson Vineyards, Paul, ill, v, 13-46, 48-52, 56-65 

Masson winery, see Masson Vineyards, Paul 

Mayacamus [Vineyards & Winery Co.], 28 

Merola Memorial Fund , 40 

Meyer, Josef, 1 


Meyer, Margaret Fromm (Mrs. Otto Meyer), 4 

Meyer, Oscar, 2 

Meyer, Oscar, Company, 3 

Meyer, Susan Colby (Mrs. Otto Meyer, the 2nd), 

Mirassou, Edmund, 18, 19, 28 

Mlrassou, Norbert, 28 

Mirassou Vineyards, 62 

Mission Bell Winery, v, 5 

Mittelberger, Ernest G. , 6l 

Mondavi [Robert, Winery], 2? 

Mont La Salle, 9 

Morgan, Judge Roy L. , 65 

Morrow, A. R. , 7 

Mount Tivy Winery, 10, 11 

Mrak, Emil, 6l 

museum, wine, 42, 43 

"Music at the Vineyards," ill, 38-39, 40 

National Distillers, 35 

National Export Expansion Council, 54 

Opper, Kurt, 1? 

Petri, Louis, 34 

phylloxera, 23, 58 

Picker-Linz Importers, v, 5 

Pinnacles Vineyard, 21, 22, 59, 6l, 63, 64 

Prohibition, 15, 44 

prorate, 7-9 

raisins, 6 

Repeal, 5, 44 

Riddell, James L. (Jim), 10 

Rlddell, Samuel L. , 10 

Roma [Wine Company] , 35 

San Francisco Chamber of Commerce, 54 

San Francisco Opera Company Merola programs, 39, 40 

San Francisco Spring Opera Theater, 40 

San Ysldro Vineyard, 29, 59 

Sohenley [Distilleries, Inc.], 35, 46 

Schramsberg Vineyards, 28 


Seagrams, 11, 13, 34, 46 
Sichel, Franz, 42, 59 
Simi Winery, 28 
Stony Hill Vineyard, 28 

Tasting, wine, 2, 4-0, 41, 51 

Taylor [Wine Co. Inc., The), 16, 50 

Texier & Co., 2, 3, 4 

Thee, Etienne, 58 

This Uncommon Heritage, v 

Timothy, Brother, 9 

Tircuit, Heuwell, 39 

U.S. Department of Commerce 

Regional Export Expansion Council, 54, 65 
United Vintners, 34-35 
University of California at Davis, iv, 10, 11, 18, 20, 29, 

59 61-63 
University of California Extension Advisory Council, 54 

Vessels, wine, 41, 42 

Vie-del, 15 

Vleth, Fred, 10 

"Vineyard in the Sky" 13, 58 

Wente [Bros.], 2?, 62 

Wente, Karl, 18 

Willkie, Fred, 11 

Wine Advisory Board, v, 55 

Wine Institute, v, 42, 55, 62 

Winkler, Albert J., 6l 


Wines Mentioned in the Interview 

Angelica, 26, 44 

"Baroque", ill, 31, 32, 40, 49 

burgundy, 30 

Cabernet, 24, 28 

Ghablis, 30 

champagne, 13, 14, 16, 40, 42, 44, 50, 58-60 

"Chateau", 31 

claret , 30 

cold duck, 36 

crackling rose, 36 

dry sauterne, JO 

"Emerald Dry", ill, 30, 31, 38, 49 

Emerald Riesling, 29 

Haute Sauternes, 31 

Johannisberg Riesling, 30 

Liebfraumiloh, 30, 31 

Moselle, ill, 29, 31 

Muscatel, 26, 44 

Plnot Chardonnay, 24 

Pinot noir, 24 

port, 26, 44 

"Rhine Castle", 30, 31 

Rhine wine, 30 

Riesling, 24, JO 

"Rubion", ill, 30, 31, 32, 49 

sauternes, 30 

sherry, 26, 44 

sparkling burgundy, 36, 37 

vermouth, 45 

"Very Cold Duck", 37 

white port, 26 

Grape Varieties Mentioned in the Interview 

Cabernet Sauvignon, 22, 27, 28, 53, 6l, 63 

Chardonnay, 6l 

Chenin blanc, 22, 63 

Concord, 50 

Emerald Riesling, 22, 29 

Flora, 22, 29, 63 

Pranken Riesling (see Sylvaner) 


French Colombard, 22, 63 

Gamay Beaujolais, 22, 63 

Gewiirztraminer, 22, 63 

grenache , 15 

Johannisberg Riesling, 22, 29, 30, 63 

Malbec, 22 

Merlot, 22 

Muscatel, 15 

Palomino, 15 

Petite Sirah, 22 

Pinot blanc, 22, 63 

Pinot Chardonnay, 18, 22, 2?, 63 

Pinot nolr, 18, 22, 6l, 63 

Pinot St. George, 22 

Riesling, 18, 6l 

Ruby Cabernet, 22 

Sauvignon blanc, 22, 63 

Semillon, 22, 63 

Souz&o, 22 

Sylvaner, 22, 63 

Thompson Seedless, ill, 15 

vinifera. 50 

White Riesling, 22, 30 

Zlnfandel, 22 

Ruth Teiser 

Born in Portland, Oregon; came to the Bay Area 

in 1932 and has lived here ever since. 

Stanford, B. A., M. A. in English; further graduate 

work in Western history. 

Newspaper and magazine writer in San Francisco since 

1943, writing on local history and business and 

social life of the Bay Area. , 

Book reviewer for the San Francisco Chronicle 

since 1943.