Regional Oral History Office University of California
The Bancroft Library Berkeley, California
The Wine Spectator California Winemen Oral History Series
Elie C. Skofis
CALIFORNIA WINE AND BRANDY MAKER
With an Introduction by
John B. Cella II
An Interview Conducted by
Copyright Cc\ 1988 by The Regents of the University of California
Since 1954 the Regional Oral History Office has been interviewing
leading participants in or well-placed witnesses to major events in the
development of Northern California, the West, and the Nation. Oral
history is a modern research technique involving an interviewee and an
informed interviewer in spontaneous conversation. The taped record is
transcribed, lightly edited for continuity and clarity, and reviewed by
the interviewee. The resulting manuscript is typed in final form,
indexed, bound with photographs and illustrative materials, and placed in
The Bancroft Library at the University of California, Berkeley and other
research collections for scholarly use. Because it is primary material,
oral history is not intended to present the final, verified, or complete
narrative of events. It is a spoken account, offered by the interviewee
in response to questioning, and as such it is reflective, partisan,
deeply involved, and irreplaceable.
All uses of this manuscript are covered by a legal
agreement between the University of California and
Elie C. Skofis dated 12 June 1987. 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, 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, Berkeley.
Request for permission to quote for publication should
be addressed to the Regional Oral History Office, 486
Library, University of California, Berkeley 94720, 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 Elie C. Skofis
requires that he be notified of the request and allowed
thirty days in which to respond.
It is recommended that this oral history be cited as
Elie C. Skofis, "California Wine and
Brandy Maker," an oral history conducted
in 1987 by Ruth Teiser, Regional Oral
History Office, The Bancroft Library,
University of California, Berkeley, 1988.
Copy no .
TABLE OF CONTENTS Elie C. Skofis
INTRODUCTION by John B. Cella II v
INTERVIEW HISTORY vi
BRIEF BIOGRAPHY vii
INTERVIEW WITH ELIE C. SKOFIS
I YOUTH AND EDUCATION
University of California 4
II ITALIAN SWISS COLONY UNDER NATIONAL DISTILLERIES, 1946-1955
E. M. Brown
The National Distilling Companies
Italian Swiss Products
John R. Deane 14
Boom and Bust of the Forties 15
The Gallo Option 16
The Sale to Louis Petri 19
III ROMA WINERY UNDER SCHENLEY, 1955-1971
Improving the Distillery
Whiskey and Rum
The Sale of Roma
IV GUILD WINERIES & DISTILLERIES, 1971-1987 39
The Co-operative System 40
Guild in the Early 1970s 42
Teaching at Fresno State College, 1961-1971 43
Ted Kite 47
V INDUSTRY ORGANIZATIONS 49
The Wine Chemists' Group 49
The Technical Advisory Committee 50
Revising the Definition of Brandies 52
Stillage Disposal and Ethanol Emissions 54
The San Joaquin Valley Wine Growers' Association 55
ASE Awards 56
VI GUILD, CONTINUED 59
Cutting Back, 1983-1985 59
Markets and Labels 62
Cook's Sparkling Wine 64
Cold Fermentation 67
The Influence of James G. Guymon
Pot Stills and Fresh Wine 76
TAPE GUIDE 82
APPENDIX I "California Brandy Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow,"
lecture delivered by Elie C. Skofis, June 20, 1983 83
APPENDIX II "California Wine Industry and the Environment,"
speech delivered by Elie C. Skofis, June 27, 1985 115
The California wine industry oral history series, a project of the
Regional Oral History Office, was initiated in 1969 through the action and
with the financing of the Vine Advisory Board, a state marketing order
organization which ceased operation in 1975. In 1983 it was reinstituted as
The Wine Spectator California Winemen Oral History Series with donations from
The Wine Spectator Scholarship Foundation. The selection of those to be
interviewed is made by a committee consisting of James D. Hart, director of
The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley; John A. De Luca,
president of the Wine Institute, the statewide winery organization; Maynard
A. Amerine, Emeritus Professor of Viticulture and Enology, University of
California, Davis; Jack L. Davies, the 1985 chairman of the board of directors
of the Wine Institute; Ruth Teiser, series project director; and Marvin R.
Shanken, trustee of The Wine Spectator Scholarship Foundation.
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 commercial 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 purpose.
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 Willa K. Baum and is
under the administrative supervision of James D. Hart, the director of
The Bancroft Library.
The Wine Spectator California
Winemen Oral History Series
10 September 1984
Regional Oral History Office
486 The Bancroft Library
University of California, Berkeley
CALIFORNIA WINE INDUSTRY INTERVIEWS
Interviews Completed by 1988
Leon D. Adams. Revitalizing the California Wine Industry 1974
Maynard A. Amerine. The University of California and the State's Wine
Maynard A. Amerine, Wine Bibliographies and Taste Perception Studies
Philo Biane. Wine Making in Southern California and Recollections of
Fruit Industries. Inc. 1972
John B. Cella, The Cella Family in the California Wine Industry
Burke H. Critchfield. Carl F. Wente. and Andrew G. Frericks. The
California Wine Industry During the Depression 1972
William V. Cruess, A Half Century of Food and Wine Technology 1967
William A. Dieppe. Almaden is My Life 1985
Alfred Fromm. Marketing California Wine and Brandy 1984
Joseph E. Heitz. Creating a Winery in the Napa Valley 1986
Maynard A. Joslyn. A Technologist Views the California Wine Industry
Amandus N . Kasimatis. A Career in California Viticulture 1988
Horace 0. Lanza and Harry Baccigaluppi, California Grape Products and
Other Wine Enterprises 1971
Louis M. Martini and Louis P. Martini. Wine MakinR in the Napa Valley
Louis P. Martini, A Family Winery and the California Wine Industry
Otto E. Meyer, California Premium Wines and Brandy 1973
Norbert C. Mirassou and Edmund A. Mirassou, The Evolution of a Santa Clara
Valley Winery 1986
Robert Mondavi, Creativity in the Wine Indsutry 1985
Myron S. Nightingale, Making Wine in California. 1944-1987 1988
Harold P. Olmo, Plant Genetics and New Grape Varieties 1976
Antonio Perelli-Minetti. A Life in Wine Making 1975
Louis A. Petri. The Petri Family in the Wine Industry 1971
Jefferson E. Peyser. The Law and the California Wine Industry 1974
Lucius Powers. The Fresno Area and the California Wine Industry 1974
Victor Repetto and Sydney J. Block. Perspectives on California Wines
Edmund A. Rossi. Italian Swiss Colony and the Wine Industry 1971
Arpaxat Setrakian. A. Setrakian. A Leader of the San Joaquin Valley Grape
ELie C. Skofis. California Wine and Brandy Maker 1988
Andre Teh el ist chef f. Grapes. Wine, and Ecology 1983
Brother Timothy. The Christian Brothers as Wine Makers 1974
Ernest A. Wente. Wine Making in the Livermore Valley 1971
Albert J. Winkler. Viticultural Research at UC Davis (1921-1971) 1973
INTRODUCTION by John B. Cella II
Elie Skofis gives an in-depth, knowledgeable and memorable report
of the California wine industry, particularly from a winemaker's view
not often found in other oral reports by wine men. His account will be
of interest to those wanting to know more about the period of early
growth after World War II. He relates many interesting developments and
accounts of his years with two of the largest wineries in California,
Roma and Italian Swiss Colony. His report adds much to the history of
both these companies previously given in other oral reports.
His background, experience and association with leading scholars
such as Drs. Cruess, Guyman, March and Berg have given him unique
knowledge in wine making and brandy production. Today, he is considered
one of the state's leading brandy-making authorities.
His contributions have been invaluable through his chairmanship
of the Wine Institute's Laws and Regulations Committee and Environmental
Committee. His oral report is itself a valuable contribution to the wine
and brandy industry.
His personal experiences and contracts with other wine men,
particularly those who were with the companies he reports on in detail,
is enlightening and historical.
In 1983 Elie Skofis was awarded the Guymom Award by ASE. In 1985
his work and contributions brought him recognition by his peers when he
was awarded the Merit Award by the American Society of Enologists.
This is the highest award given by the ASE.
John B. Cella II
15 September 1988
The interview with Elie C. Skofis took place on June 12, 1987, a
typically hot Fresno summer day, in two long summer sessions, morning and
afternoon. It was held in his office at Guild Wineries and Distilleries'
Cribari winery, the old Roma winery of post-Prohibition fame, which had
been his headquarters since 1955. In 1975 he was named vice president in
charge of production for all quality assurance. He retired at the end of
1987 but continued as a consultant, and shortly after began work on a long
needed book on the technology of brandy with particular reference to
The transcript of the interview went to him that autumn just as he
was busy winding up his affairs at Guild. It was accompanied by questions
on a few points. He went over it carefully, answered the questions, made
hand-written corrections, added some amplifications, and returned it early
the following year. It was edited by the interviewer and Lisa Jacobson,
editor-researcher, who made the index.
21 September 1988
Regional Oral History Office
486 The Bancroft Library
University of California at Berkeley
Regional Oral History Office
Room 486 The Bancroft Library
University of California
Berkeley, California 94720
Your full name
(Please write clearly. Use black ink.)
Date of birth '/*-!/ 1 If _ Birthplace
Father's full name # C I/ CUd?. S< CTf= / 5
Occupation (jT^t JC O t^Tlu^* /fy//J /"Birthplace
Mother's full name
Birthplace "/P* /?<? // S <-?
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Where did you grow up?
Present community Ft <? S
Education lA ' V I V .
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Areas of expertise
Other interests or activities
Organizations in which you are active
BUI C. IKOFII
1. OraSuat. university of California, Jan. 143
.I. Dagrct - Ccllagt ef Chamlstry In Chemistry and
2. Jan. l3 to ispt 1946 - aarved In 0. I. Army in European
3. Sept 146 to March 1955 - Chief Chealst and Vlneaaker -
Italian lvi Colony - Fresno, CA.
1955-1971 Wine Division Production Manager - Schenley Ind.-
Roma - Crest* Blanc*
1971-197S Productions Operations Manager, Guild Vineries *
1975-1987 Vice President, Production Guild Vineries, Includes
Cribari, ROBS, Crests Blanca, Cook's Champagnes, and all Guild
19ee-vice President, taeritus, Guild Vineries
4. Meaber of Vine Institute Technical Advisory Coanlttee
1952-1973. Chairman tvo terts 1954-1955.
5. Member of Vine Institute Technical Cowittee 1974-1986
(. Associate Professor of Bnology - Fresno State Univeralty,
1961 -62- (3. Adjunct Professor 1963 to 1976. Served on the
Bnology Curriculum Coaaittee 1949-1955 and active in creation
of Bnology at FSU.
7. Chslran Vine Institute Lavs t Regulations 1962-1969
S. Charter Meaber Aaerlcan Society of Bnology and Viticulture.
Board aeaber 1963-1970. President 1968-1969
9. Chairman Vine Institute Environmental * Energy Coamlttee from
Inception in 1970 until now, during which period wine industry
Involved in serious envlronaental matters concerning waste
disposal and air pollution (ethanol calasions).
10. Menber State of California Vine Grape Inspection Coatilttee
1975 to end 1967.
11. Served as Project Reviewer for EPA 1975-1877.
12. Served Vine Judge California State Pair 1960-1966.
1983 J. r. Cuyaon Lectureship by University of California and
American Soc. of Bnology * Viticulture in recognition of
outstanding developaent and research in field of BRANDY
1985 Received MERIT AVARD froa Aaerlcan Soc. of Enology Vit-
culture. Highest award given by ASBV for outstanding
leadership and dedication to the grape and wine Industry
and to the aoclety.
Married to Koula 1947
Three children -Harry, George, and Paulette. All U.C. Berkeley
I YOUTH AND EDUCATION
[Date of Interview: June 12. 1987]
Teiser : Let me begin at the beginning, if I may. and ask you when and where
you were born?
Skofis: I was born in Lawrence. Massachusetts. May 29. 1918. My parents
were from Greece. They immigrated to this country from Greece.
They met and married here in the United States. My dad was a
pretty well-educated young man from Greece, but. like a lot of
people at that time, he came here to find his fortune. He spoke
French fluently, and as a result, he got involved a lot in his
early years in helping people arrange transportation to this
country through the French Line, or some of the other lines,
because French was a very common language that most Europeans spoke
instead of English.
Besides his work in arranging transportation, et cetera, for
immigrants arriving from Greece, my father was also active in
organizing the Greek Community in Lawrence, which in turn formed a
church. Because of this type of activity and his better education,
the Archbishop of the Greek Orthodox of North and South America
requested my father work as a seminarian in the New York
headquarters and become trained to be ordained as a priest. He
became one of the first priests so trained and ordained in the
United States. As a result of his work, our family traveled
throughout the United States, where my father not only organized
new church communities but also served many as their pastor.
My early education started in 1923 in Nashville. Tennessee in
kindergarten- grade school. My dad was later transferred to
Duluth, Minnesota, and I continued with grade school. We finally
came to Sacramento. California, in July 1926. Sacramento at that
time the third largest city in California had a population of
some 100.000 people.
tt This symbol indicates that a tape or segment of a tape has begun
or ended. For a guide to the tapes, see page 82.
Skofis: I've lived in California all the time since then, except for my
four years that I spent in the army, during World War IL I went
to Sacramento schools; then we moved to Stockton, where I went to
high school. After graduation, and due to the Depression, I stayed
out a couple of years and worked, I enrolled at UC Berkeley in
Teiser: As a youngster did you have an interest in science and chemistry?
Skofis: Yes. Actually, I wanted to be a medical doctor. My thrust was
that way; except that when I got to the University, because of the
economic conditions, I had to settle for second-best, and I took a
major in chemistry. I went into the College of Chemistry, and with
emphasis on chemical engineering. Of course, I liked sciences very
Teiser: Had you been a good student in science in high school?
Skofis: Yes. I was a good student in high school.
Of course, economic conditions, and my dad being a priest, and
received poverty salary, it wasn't possible to go to college. That
is why I stayed out and worked. Also, my sister was going to the
College of the Pacific, and they were paying high tuition for her.
My brother was working, and he was trying to help. My dad, at that
time, had also been transferred to Vancouver, Canada, which split
the family up. It was decided he would go alone. Therefore, the
income was kind of split. But we were getting along all right. My
dad's emphasis always was that education was the most important
thing. I'm very glad he pointed me in that direction. I did want
to go on to medicine; but then I recognized that to go on to
medicine took a lot of money. I tried to be realistic. I said,
"I'll go out into the field and work," although we anticipated a
war coming on, even in those days. A few weeks after the day I had
arrived at the University, the European War broke out.
Chester Rowell at that time, who was the editor of the [San
Francisco] Chronicle, came and spoke to us at the University, at
the Greek Theater. He told us, Today is the day that is going to
change the whole complexity of the world for centuries to come." I
remember that, and of course I realized how bad it was, having been
concerned about all of Hitler's activities in those days. But we
didn't recognize what effect it would have on every one of us. We
thought the world would continue and eventually be the same, but
little did any of us know the great changes to take place.
Fortunately I did finish my university schooling; they had
accelerated our education because of the war. I finished my
academic training, actually, in October, 1942, but I continued on
until December to complete my R.O.T.C. training, and was sent to
the Ordnance Officers School for additional training to get
Skofis: commissioned. I was in the service from 1943 until October of
1946, when my three months terminal leave expired. I came back
after having done two tours of duty in Europe.
I did one tour of duty when all the fighting was going on. I
returned in October 1945 after 10 months overseas duty but I
returned back in December of "45. with a State Department
Commission who went to Greece to set up the government and have
elections. Ourselves, the United States, France, England, and
Russia were to see that there was a fair election. The Russians,
seeing that it wasn't going to go the Communistic direction, pulled
out. That was one of the first indications that they were going to
be difficult to work with.
I came back in June 1946 to the United States after that tour
of duty, and I was in a quandary of what to do as a person.
Teiser: While you were at college, had you formulated any interest in any
Skofis: Well, naturally I was going to probably be in the chemical field, I
thought. But then, I didn't want to just stay in the laboratory
and do work. I'd made up my mind I would try to get a MBA.
When I was in Europe, I contacted Stanford, and sent my
application over there. But by the time I got out of the service,
and actually came back to the United States and went to Stanford,
they had already filled the MBA class that year. Even though I was
qualified to go, they didn't have any openings. I had to wait a
whole year. The dean of the school of Business Administration
suggested that I could spend a fruitful year, if I wanted to, and
go over to the law school. I said, well maybe I might go into law.
And I actually did get accepted to go to law school, Stanford,
starting October, 1946.
I persuaded my friend, a close friend and associate of mine
who was with me in Greece that's Nicholas Petris, the senator from
Alameda County to go to law school. He'd signed up, and did go to
Stanford Law School and graduated. We would have gone together.
On just an impulse, you might say, a very good friend of my
brother's, who was close with the Bisceglias, told me that there
was a j ob open as a chemist at the Bisceglia winery. So, I went
and saw Mr. Alfonso Bisceglia, and he was interested, being that I
was a chemist. Having just left the service, I was a little cocky,
because the first question that he asked me, when I saw him, was
how much did I want? I thought that was inappropos; he should find
out what I knew. So I told him what I wanted, I had my ideas what
I wanted, because I had contacted Dr. Twining at Twining
Laboratories, and he gave me a good idea what I should be asking
for. Dr. Twining told me you should get three hundred dollars a
month. [laughs] So, when I asked for three hundred dollars, Mr.
Skofis: Bisceglia said. "Too muchl" I said. "Veil, hire two girls, then."
because he told me he could hire some laboratory girls. I said.
"You don't want a chemist, you want a lab technician.
But anyway, it stimulated my interest. Then. I came here to
Roma Winery I heard that they were hiring more out of curiosity
than anything else. They actually accepted my application and told
me that they would probably call me in October, when the season was
going to be very busy. Roma was the biggest winery in the world
then, and the biggest winery in America. They were hiring many
chemists. There weren't many graduate chemists at that time who
Well, I was also told at Roma by one of the people that there
was a chemist position open at Italian Swiss Colony in CLovis,
California. I went to Qovis, California, where I met the winery
manager, a Mr. Henry Bonzani. Mr. Bonzani, being that he was a
Spanish-American War veteran, loved all veterans [laughs], and he
just thought it was great to have a captain out of the U.S. Army,
which I was at that time, come and work for him. Since I was a
graduate chemist, he was really sold on me, and we had a good
rapport. He actually convinced me I should go to work for them. I
really was biding my time to go to law school. So I said to
myself, "Veil, I'll go there, and if I like it, I can always put
off law school or maybe I'll go to the school of business the
In the meantime, I met my wife Koula, and I started our
courtship. I got very serious, and I figured, well, I would
continue working, and see how things worked out. I was young; I
didn't have too much to worry about. I thought I was old, of
course, but I still had a few years to make up my mind on a career.
I did that, and I got in pretty deep with Italian Swiss Colony.
University of Calfornia
Skofis: I was a very aggressive person, and I had done fairly well in the
College of Chemistry at Berkeley. At the University of California
in those days, to be in the College of Chemistry, you had to have
over a B average. You had to have a very good B average in
chemical subjects; and had to have a B average in the University to
stay in the College of Chemistry, to get a B.S. It meant a lot
more to get a B.S. in chemistry then, although you could get a B.A.
degree in chemistry in the College of Letters and Science. So
that's where my career started, as a chemist at Italian Swiss
Colony in 1946.
Skofis: Of course, in those days, they used to call us "wine chemists;"
they didn't call us "enologists."
Teiser: While you were at Cal, did you work with Dr. [William V.] Cruess?
Skofis: Yes. I got interested in agricultural chemistry, and I did one
year of undergraduate research with Dr. Cruess. My work was done
on olive oil, because I thought that might be something interesting
to know. And he had suggested that I do that, because it was a new
industry in California I mean, not a new industry, but it was an
industry that needed technical development. That was my contact
with Dr. Cruess, and I got along very well with him, because he
liked me very much. That was also my first contact with some of
the other professors in the Department of Food Science. They
didn't have an enology curriculum in those days on the Berkeley
campus. One could take courses on winemaking from Professor
Teiser: Who else did you work with?
Skofis: Well, I got to know Reese Vaughan well. And then, I was there just
about the time when Maynard A. Joslyn was there, and he was just
leaving for the army at the time. George Marsh these are all
people that were there, but the staff wasn't that many in those
days. We had, once a week, a late afternoon session, where the
undergraduate research work was reviewed, and each student would
give his paper, probably about an hour, two hours, something like
that. The staff would critique it, and I know that. I took the
course twice. I enjoyed it very much, and Dr. Cruess commented
when he knew I'd be going into the service, as he was interested in
me persuing a doctoral study under him in agricultural chemistry.
But this was my contact with those Food Science people. It
was not in enology, and there were some undergraduate studies by
some students that were studying enology, but I don't recall
exactly who they were. It was a long time ago. And I didn't have
that much interest in enology. I knew what it was, but I knew that
Cruess was well-known on the fruit sciences, and grape was one of
And I had contact with him later, after I got into the
industry. Being that I was one of his students, he would come
through Fresno, and come out to Italian Swiss and visit with me. I
did some investigative work with him on enzymes, and as a result, I
probably did some of the early investigative work using enzymes on
* see William V. Cruess, A Half Century of Food and Wine
Technology, an oral history interview conducted 1966, Regional Oral
History Office, The Bancroft Library, University of California.
Skofis: the clarification of red must. He encouraged me in this enzyme
study on red must; and of course he helped me. Also later George
Marsh and Harold Berg did some additional studies at the [Italian
Swiss Colony] vinery in Qovis. I was instrumental in getting them
to do their studies on color extraction from red grapes at our
This was a time, you know, when we didn't have that total
amount of knowledge we have today. We had maybe ten per cent of
what we have today, in these days. Since then, there has been a
lot of knowledge developed and, as I've told a lot of our young
people, many times you look to me and you say. gee, how could he
get all that information? I said, I did it over a period of forty
years. As this information developed, I assimilated it slowly. I
made it a point to know what was going on. It was like a
continuous education. All of us were like a dry sponge. We
wanted all this. So many of us, and you know, there's been others
already retired, like Leo Berti and Max Goldman. And also, like
Charlie [Charles] Crawford, who is one of the chief wine people for
Gallo all of us went through this period when all this enormous
amount of enology research was going on. And there are many
others: Philip Posson, and Myron Nightingale, Louis Martini, et
Teiser: Charles Crawford wasn't in your class, was he?
Skofis: No, he graduated in 1940. He and Myron Nightingale and Louis [P.]
Martini. I'd stayed out of school for a couple of years. If I had
actually gone to school when I should have gone, I'd probably been
class of '41. Or even '40. Because I graduated out of high school
in 1936. I graduated a little young. Initially, the first years,
we kept in contact with the University, of course.
II ITALIAN SWISS COLONY UNDER NATIONAL DISTILLERS. 1946-1955
E. M. Brown
Skofis: Italian Swiss Colony was a growing organization, and we had at the
head of our winemaking Elbert Brown; you've heard of him. E. M.
Brown; they called him VBrownie." I was very fortunate to have
been able to work under his mentorship.
Teiser: Tell a little about him, if you would. I
Skofis: Well, I know about him. He was a student of [Frederic T.]
Bioletti's, before World War I. They had a College of Agriculture
at the University there at Berkeley. And he worked for Bioletti,
who had done a lot of the work on wine making. E. M. Brown is
supposed to be the first enology graduate from the University of
California, from what I understand, and I believe it. There would
be people go through and take courses; he actually stayed and he
got his degree in, of course, food science, but his major was in
enology. He knew more about the wine business at that time, and
what knowledge there was, he knew it. He was highly respected.
All during Prohibition, he was connected somehow or other with
wineries and distilleries; he did work in Hawaii, for instance,
trying to make alcohol from pineapples. He had worked down in the
Cucamonga area, with I think it was the Garrett Winery;* he worked
down there for another winery it was prominent even then. So when
Prohibition was repealed, he was one of the real few people that
knew anything about wines, and the technical aspects of wine. Not
just, you know, crush grape make wine. He knew how to control what
it took to do good winemaking. He had a lot of foresight about
him. He knew things we had to do, and he would encourage me many
times to look into things: "We don't know that, but why don't we
see if we can find out?"
* At Guasti.
Skofis: So he did that. I don't know if you've talked to Myron
Nightingale, but Myron Nightingale also had worked with him.*
Elbert Brown was a good table wine maker; he knew about dessert
wines; he knew a lot about brandies.
Teiser: What sort of man was he personally?
Skofis: He was a quiet kind of a person. He was a pretty tall man; kind of
quiet, and he never had any problems with me. I never heard him
shout. He had kind of a slow way about him, but he got the message
to you, and gave you a let of leeway. He never put you down if you
didn't do a thing right, he would always encourage you. You never
had any fear that he was going to sit on you. I thought he was a
great guy. and he stimulated to do investigations to learn more.
Skofis: At the same time at Italian Swiss, we also had a vice president of
production, Enrico Prati.
Teiser: What was he like?
Skofis: He was a tough guy [laughs], but he was a very knowledgeable man.
I don't think he had any formal education in enology, but he had a
lot of years of experience, both from Italy and when he came to
this country and started to work at Italian Swiss up at Asti. He
was a very up-and-going person; knew a lot about grapes; knew a lot
about winemaking, and I learned a lot from him. He taught me a lot
about blending a wine. He would drive down from Asti he lived at
Asti they had the office at San Francisco. He commuted from Asti
to San Francisco every day. He rarely ever stayed over. But then
he would come to Fresno maybe every ten days possibly every two
weeks but at least every ten days he would come down here, and
review the blends that we were making in those days, particularly
of dessert wine.
Teiser: Where was your Fresno winery?
* See Myron S. Nightingale.
Skofis: At CLovis. That was the old La Paloma Winery, and that has a lot
of history. I don't have all the history on that, but it has been
written up.* And of course. National Distillers owned the winery.
When I got there in 1946. they were just expanding it. They had
added six or eight million gallons of cooperage. It was all
Teiser: National Distillers owned Italian Swiss?
Skofis: Yes. Just like Schenley Distillers bought out Roma during the War.
National Distillers bought out Italian Swiss. The period I was
with Italian Swiss was when National Distillers had it.
Teiser: To go back to Prati. did you learn much from him, besides
Skofis: Yes. He was a type of person, he didn't want things put off
tomorrow which you can do today. He'd say, well, let's get it done
today. You'd tend to put it off, but he wanted, before he'd leave
a lot of the times, let's get this thing going, so we can see how
it comes out. Everybody was scurrying to get the job done.
Also, in the blending. I would get the wines ready for him.
and give him what I thought was the blend. He'd come in there, and
he'd show me how I had to make my adjustments on the blend and why.
He also taught me that, in an inventory, which you have X gallons,
you can't just use all your good wine first and then wind up with
wine that, what are you going to do with it? So somewhere you have
to learn to blend out the best along with the fair to come out with
a consistent product. He taught me the importance of uniformity in
a blend, and the need to be consistent. Because, you know, you
can't put the best wine for three months in a bottle, and then next
time put a mediocre product in the bottle. The customer is very
sensitive to it. So he burned this in my mind very quickly. As a
result, I would review our wines, tank by tank. In fact, we'd make
a blend using a large table, and place all the bottles which
represent the different tanks in a semi-circle. We'd taste them
all, and we could select out the various qualities from the best to
the fair. As such we'd make the trial blends and use the previous
blends as the target to insure consistency.
Teiser: How many of you would taste?
Skofis: Well, usually myself and what we called the winemaker, who was
actually in charge of the plant operations. He would tell the men
what to do. I was the chief chemist; they called us chemists in
those days. They depended on us to put all the wine blends
* It was established about 1919 by the Tarpey family and bought by
Italian Swiss Colony in 1941.
Skof is : together, for everyone to taste. If the blend I would propose was
too good or different. Mr. Prati would say, 'Mey, you used all of
that; you've got to use half of that, and use more of this, and
some of this here that you don't want to use," and so the next
thing you know, we've had a good consistent reasonable blend. But
he showed me that you can work off from your inventories the
various grades. Also he wanted me to know if a wine wasn't good
enough to blend out that we should not use but distill to recover
One wine is not as good. well, he says. "Before we use it.
we're going to treat it." We had various treatment methods we
could use. He indicated, just don't use the wines because they
were balanced out in the alcohol and the volume that you wanted, or
the color. He even taught me on balancing colors. You just don't
put things together. If the color's dark, well, you think, that's
the way it came out. Well, it's not the way it has to come out.
You can work on the color. So you had a lot of areas to work with.
You had to be concerned with flavor. You had to be concerned with
chemical specs such as alcohol and sugars, which were the easiest
to balance out. Then you had the flavor, and the aroma So these
were all important aspects of blending, and in winemaking that's
Even though we were more into dessert wines in those days, and
less into table wines, still the rules all apply. And he was a
great mentor in that respect. Then later E. M. Brown took over
this task. Mr. Prati was stretching himself thin; he was trying to
do everything. He was the kind of guy that, he'd work 20 hours a
day and sleep four hours a night. He was a driver; he drove
everybody else. I was with Italian Swiss from 1946 until 1955; I
started off as a chemist, and within six months they made me chief
chemist. Then, after that, I stayed on as chief chemist for a
couple of years. Then they made me winemaker, and they made me
assistant manager. When I left, actually I was the plant
superintendent, and Bob Rossi, Jr., was the winery manager.
Teiser: Was Edmund A. Rossi, Jr. there too?
Skof is: No. Ed was not there. Ed was up at Asti. But Ed worked quite a
bit with E. M. Brown too, Ed Rossi did. And Ed used to come down
and work with us on inventory quantities. He was involved with
seeing that we had sufficient inventory you know, so much of this
type wine, so much of that. He didn't at that time get into the
quality of the wines like E. M. Brown did, but he got into the
numbers as to whether we had enough.
[tape interruption; telephone]
Teiser: What were the Italian Swiss Colony production facilities that you
had charge of finally, then?
Skof is :
The Italian Swiss Colony was at Clevis, and was at that time the
second largest winery in the United States.
Teiser: But you had control of some other facilities, also?
Skof is: Not me. Well, the Italian Swiss Colony had the CLovis facility;
they had one up at Lodi, what was called the eld Shewan-Jones
facility, and they had the Asti facility in those days.
The contact we had with those was like, at Lodi, Myron Nightingale
used to be the chief chemist there, and up at Asti we used to have
a man by the name of Lyman Cash, and he was the chief chemist. The
National Distillers would have us meet with their chief quality
supervisor, who had been stationed at New York. National
Distillers, owning Italian Swiss, insisted that there be some top
quality-control procedures instituted. They were very quality-
control minded, and this is another part of my education in my
career. The emphasis on quality control was embedded in us by
National Distillers; myself, and Myron, and then Lyman Cash.
Later, Lyman left, and Myron went to Asti as the chief chemist.
Today, you'd call him chief enologist. or winemaker.
The National Distilling Companies
Teiser: Did National Distillers understand the wine business?
Skof is: I don't think any of the distillers understood the wine business.
The only thing they understood was that, during the war years, due
to the low inventories of whiskey they had to control their
whiskey inventories. They weren't permitted to make any whiskey.
They only were permitted to make grain spirits to use in the war
effort. They did a lot of blending a lot of the blending came out
as a result of that. But in order to supplement the extra sales,
they found out that they could make every year wine from wine
grapes. They couldn't use wine grapes for anything else. The
Thompson [Seedless] grapes could be used to make raisins.
The distillers bought the wineries. One of their marketing
efforts was, you buy a case of whiskey, you buy five cases of wine.
So (you have probably heard this thing) at the end of the war, a
lot of these wholesalers and a lot of the retailers wound up with a
basement full of wine that they didn't know how to sell. A lot of
it went bad; it was made bad, it was bad all the way through.
Therefore, there was a sour taste in the mouths of wholesalers and
retailers on the wine sales.
Teiser: It was illegal too, wasn't it? To so-called tie in sales?
Skofis: Well, in those days, there was a lot of stuff that was done that
was probably illegal. They had the O.P.A., which controlled
prices. The distillers found if you changed the specs on a wine
such as sugar level, they could create a newer higher priced item
to substitute for the O.P.A set-priced one. I know here in Fresno
that they were pushing, for instance, brandy. They made a lot of
brandy in those days. As soon as it got two years old, and
eligible, they'd sell it, and it was really terrible brandy. By
today's standards, you wouldn't use it for anything; you'd re
distill it. But they were pushing it because it was dollars.
That's the reason the distilleries got into the wine business,
basically. And eventually, some of them, after the war. of course,
got into imports gradually, and this thing started to snowball
after a few years.
But their interests were strictly trying to sell high-alcohol
dessert wine at low tax to substitute for the less available
Italian Swiss Products
Teiser: What products did you make at Italian Swiss?
Skofis: Well, we made chiefly dessert wines; we made a lot of brandy. We
also would make every year a certain amount of white and red table
wines, the emphasis being more on the red table wine. Some of this
red table wine would then be sent up to Asti and blended. It was
not the main wine. In other words, they might use 75 per cent north
coast red wine and 25 per cent valley, just to balance out the
We were making white wines. We started at about 1950 also
doing the cold fermentation. We would ferment some early grapes.
For instance the Palomino grape, we'd harvest it early, and I mean
early it was harvested at a very low balling, around fifteen
balling, which gave it the highest acid. We would cold ferment, or
we would try to cold ferment. When we said in those days cold
fermentation, we meant sixty to sixty-five, maybe sixty-five to
seventy degrees. As cold as we could ferment it. But there were
some fairly good white wines made at the time, and those again were
used to augment the north coast wines.
On the other hand, the red wine was the biggest seller. You'd
sell almost three gallons of red wine to one gallon of white wine.
So the white wine was not as in demand at that time.
Teiser: Were they still selling it under that Tipo Red and Tipo White
Skofis: Yes. but the Tipo Red and Tipo White label were really 100 per cent
coastal vine. They were very particular about that particular
label. The Italian trade in New York, where they sold a lot of red
wine, was very sensitive to having a dark, heavy-bodied red wine.
Also, they were sensitive to the quantity of alcohol in their wine.
I used to make a let of what we called dry port, a dry red wine
that had been fortified up to 23 per cent alcohol. We would ship
that to New York, where they would blend in with the other red
wines that were shipped in bulk out of Asti, and make what they
called Fior d 1 Italia. That was a big bread-and-butter item for
Italian Swiss in New York. It was not only high alcohol, you had
to make it at least 13, 13-and-a-half per cent alcohol. It had a
certain amount of residual sugar in it. because the Italians were
used to drinking that high-alcohol, very slightly sweet, heavy red
It was the biggest red wine seller in New York. In fact it
was so big that there was one year we ran into bad color
conditions. We expected a lot of the red color to come from some
dark red grapes we'd get from Fresno to balance out the color. As
that year was kind of a bad color year, we would ship ten, to
twelve, cars at a time of bulk wine to the main bottling plant,
which at that time was in New Jersey. G & D Bottling Plant. G & D
was owned by Italian Swiss and National Distillers, who had
purchased Gambarelli and Davitto. At any rate, when they made the
red wine blend back there, the color was not stable, and the next
thing you know they had nothing but complaints. It wasn't as dark
as they wanted it, and they also had reduced the alcohol down to
12.8 level, because that's where the grapes came out that year.
I've never seen so much hell break loose, you know. They had
us up in San Francisco, all the chief chemists, reading the riot
act, and "Hey, this is our bread and butter; we don't care what
else you do, but this is the thing you don't n Therefore our
quality control had failed us. Well, it was true, part of the
quality control failed us, but part of it had to do with the
distances, where we didn't have the quality control people in New
York watching what they did. After a while they decided they would
have us do most of the blending out here and send the blend back
east for bottling.
We did a lot of bulk tank-car shipments. It was unusual for
table wine to be finished back east in that respect. You didn't
ship it with any sugar; you shipped it bone dry.
John R. Deane
Skofis: I can never forget General Deane who was president of Italian
Swiss, John R. Deane. a real fine gentleman actually, in my entire
career, he's probably one of the best people I ever worked for. He
was a very understanding man. very thorough man.
He would come down to Fresno to visit us and he could impress
upon you the importance of following some general direction; he'd
give you the direction. Then he left it up to us; he figured we
had to know how to find our way. You took a lot of pride in your
work with him. He was a chief military man under Averell Harriman
when they were on the lend-lease program in Russia during the war.
John R. Deane wrote a book after the war ended, [Strange Alliance] ,
having to do with those years as a chief military advisor to well,
it was a military mission in Russia. He spent quite a few years
there in Russia with Averell Harriman. Averell Harriman, I think,
was instrumental in him coming into National Distillers, and then
eventually with Italian Swiss. Fine gentleman, really.
Teiser: And the fact that he was not a wine man made
Skofis: no difference. Because he had wine people with him, but he was
policy maker, and he'd give direction, and he got to know the wine
business. And of course, National Distillers had a contract with
the Rossi Brothers, Ed and Bob Rossi, and they brought General
Deane in, eventually, with the purpose that National would replace
them. Not that the Rossis didn't like him, but they wanted to run
their own show, you might say. The Rossi's and the Prati's were
part of that group that sold to National Distillers. They were
fine gentlemen, both Edmund Rossi Ed's father and Bob Rossi, who
was a sales manager, sales vice-president, and was Bob Rossi Jr.'s
father. They were fine gentlemen. Italian Swiss Colony had real
gentlemen running the company. And eventually, this rubbed off to
Naturally, people like National Distillers were the type of
outfit that wanted to have top people working for them, and they
also instituted top control measures. They were very professional.
As a result after the war they beat Roma out on the wine sales.
You could see how marketing-oriented they were. Because of the
pushing of a lot of wine onto distributers during the war, Schenley
had loaded them with higher priced wine inventories. Whereas
National Distillers compensated distributers in this situation but
giving them "free" inventory to balance their case cost, Schenley
didn't and the result was that National grew in sales at Roma's
(Schenley's) expense after the war, or the late forties.
Boom and Bust of the Forties
Skofis: After the war ended, in 1946 they had a big crush year. That was
the biggest crush year they had had. ever. They crushed over a
million and a half tons of grapes in California, at a very high
price. And I mean high price, like even Thompsons and Emperors I
recall in December 1946, in the effort to corner the market on
wine, both Schenley and National went out and bought grapes late in
the season, Emperor grapes. These are table grapes. They bid
against each other, and we crushed ten thousand tons of Emperors
into dessert wine, at $115 a ton! One hundred fifteen that would
be equivalent today to maybe four or five hundred dollars a ton.
In the effort to go ahead and have all the control of all the
inventories, Roma contracted with many of the wineries in the area
to make wine for them at two dollars a gallon. Two dollars a
gallon for dessert wine! Today, you knew, we sell dessert wine,
maybe two dollars a gallon.
So in the spring of '47, just like the stock market crashed in
1929, you had the big crash of wine prices.
Teiser: Do I remember that Gallo sat it out; didn't buy that year?
Skofis: Gallo was in those years a very small operation. They didn't have
the cash flow. They always had a cash problem. We thought Gallo
was doing a pretty good job of making wine, but they were just a
medium-sized winery, in our estimation. They did not, you're
right, get involved as much, because they didn't have the money to
buy the grapes. I think if they had had the money, they might have
done it. I don't know; this is my own viewpoint. There was a few
other wineries, for instance, that made wine for Gallo they didn't
In 1947 with that big crash, they all started to write off
their inventories down to what the market value was. Italian Swiss
wrote down millions of gallons, and millions of dollars. The Roma
and the Schenley wrote down many millions of dollars. But they
also would up with heavy inventories. So in 1947, for instance, in
Roma here (I came later) they crushed hardly any grapes that year,
because they had too much carry-over. At Italian Swiss, we crushed
what was considered somewhat of a normal crush. We were growing.
But the thing National Distillers did that Roma didn't do:
National Distillers went to the distributers say, for instance,
they were X dollars over the market price per case; they said,
*K)kay, we're going to bottle and give you extra wine to sell free.
We'll balance it out. So, if you have three cases, we will give
you a case and a half, and that will average out all of your wine
" see, four and a half cases will have a certain value, each one
11 and you can sell them on the marketplace and come out of this
Skofis: mess." And they did that, and they really sold themselves. You
know, the distributers said. "Now, that is the way you should
I remember, we had a bottling plant here at CLovis that was a
brand-new million-dollar bottling plant that we operated for almost
three months bottling out inventory strictly to give away to the
f$ [phone interruption]
One of the things which I thought, observing that time as a young
person, helped Italian Swiss, their attitude towards their
distributers was such that they really got their confidence.
Whereas, the Schenley-Roma people, they really didn't do very much
for their distributers, and as a result, the distributors became a
little more independent too. All of a sudden, whiskey stocks
became freer. They knew that the war was over, they could produce
more they got a little more independence rather than a dependence
on the distiller. That kind of was the beginning, you might say,
of the Roma high-sales era starting to go down.
When I came here in 1955, Italian Swiss had exceeded Roma in
Teiser: How did you happen to decide to come here to Fresno?
The Gallo Option
Skofis: Well, in 1953 the Gallos offered to buy the Italian Swiss Colony
winery, the whole system. The National Distillers got into the
chemical business in 1952. They went into petrochemicals. They
had a president. John Bierworth, who. being a banker and coming
from the bank, believed that no investment should be held onto if
it wasn't giving six per cent return. He was looking at the wine
business, a vast business that apparently wasn't getting quite the
six per cent return. He saw the petrochemical business coming
along, and it influenced him going into chemicals. National
Distillers were running short of cash just about that time; the
Korean War was on, and money was tight, 1952. He convinced them
that they should sell.
Well, because of the fact that they were going to sell the
wine business, it resulted in General Dean and Larry [Bruno C.]
Solari leaving Italian Swiss. They resigned; they weren't going to
be a party to what they thought would be a dismantling of their
Skofis: efforts. They had built the sales up to the point where they were
the biggest selling brand in the United States of wine. They were
bigger than Roma.
Roma had a lot of gallon sales, because they sold a lot of
bulk. Italian Swiss didn't do much bulk sales, they had a let of
franchised bottlers in those days, as you may have been told. They
had a bottler in Chicago they owned that bottling operation. They
owned G & D. They had the bottler up in Boston; they had one down
in the southern states. They had some in Texas. These franchised
bottlers, we would ship them the wine, and they would bottle it
under Italian Swiss label and sell it. So we shipped bulk wine
out, but we shipped it to be bottled under our label. So we were
the biggest-selling brand name, as such, Italian Swiss. General
Deane protested this: took, this is what I've come here to build
up, and now you want to sell it, I want no part of it." He was
that type of man. So they brought out at that time Adolf [I~] Heck
to be president of Italian Swiss. Adolf Heck was associated with
National Distillers through a very close family friend, and Adolf
Heck at that time was working at Lanson Champagne in Ohio. They
were a champagne operation. Adolf came out with his brother, Paul
They came into Italian Swiss at that time. Paul Heck, I
think, had been out maybe a year before that, working up at Lodi.
I don't remember when Paul came out, but I know Adolf came out, and
he became the president after General Dean resigned. But we were
not privy to the fact that they were trying to sell in 1952. But
in 1952 you knew there was something going on at Italian Swiss,
because we crushed a lot of grapes in 1951, again, at a high price
again crazy pricing, more than they could afford and in 1952 we
had a pretty big inventory. But then they decided that they were
going to crush very low and use up their carry-over wine inventory.
We had the lowest crush that I'd experienced in my time. But then,
we never contracted for one grape. We bought all our grapes what
they call "over the scales;" they deliver them to us, we buy them.
Generally you'd go out and contract with a grower to deliver the
five hundred tons or whatever it is of grapes. That year we did
not well, if we contracted, it was a very small tonnage. Just
special growers that you had for years.
Most of the tonnage we crushed, which was very small I think
we crushed forty thousand tons, when we were used to crushing eighty
thousand was done with growers who would come and deliver the
grapes to you at the scale. You'd check them, and you had a price.
You'd post every day a price for grapes, daily post. If a guy would
come down and he didn't like the price, he would go elsewhere to sell
his grapes. Whereas in '51. we started off at fifty dollars and
wound up at sixty-five on Thompsons, in '52 they dropped down all
the way to twenty, twenty-five dollars a ton. So the grower took a
beating in 1952 for all grapes sold due to the large 1951 crush.
Skof is : It was a very important period in my life, to understand this
business, and I talked about some of these things, and you're
liable to think it's just fabricated. It isn't. Because, you
know, you just go back and you can live through that period.
Anyway, General Dearie, in '52 he resigned, and in the early part of
'53 the Gallos looked at the operation to buy it. It surprised us.
Bob Rossi was the winery manager and I was, as I said, the plant
superintendent; I was the chief winemaker. All of a sudden, bang.
The Gallos come in one Monday morning with their crews to take
inventory [laughs], and we weren't told about it, maybe fifteen
minutes before, to be prepared. So they swooped down on us, and
the main thing is they took samples of all the tanks, and then all
of a sudden we were told, "Anything they want, open up the books to
Ordinarily, you don't open up the books to a competitor.
Everything, on sales, who to ship to. Well, it turned out that
Adolf Heck, who had a fondness for me because he'd really liked my
style of operating, he told me later in a private conversation, he
said, "Elie. they put up a $35,000 option to buy, that's all."
They had a three month option, at $35,000. If they didn't buy,
they lost the $35,000. They gave up their option.
Their option was up; they didn't buy the company. We felt
relieved, although Julio Gallo had come down, and visited us many
times, and said he was going to be happy with us and everything
So when their option was up, we figured, well, National
Distillers has to stay with the business. But you know, it was
kind of a depressing period. You figure, big company like this
wants to sell out.
Skofis: I heard later, when I came to Roma, that Gallo had even gone to
Schenley and tried to see if they could venture the thing, buy it
together, and buy it as a separate company. Gallo would probably
run it, and they would but I think that Schenley was probably
concerned about monopolizing the wine business, and they weren't
doing a good job at that time anyway, running a business. So they
gave it up.
The Sale to Louis Petri
Skofis: But, lo and behold, within a few days after April first, Louis
Petri bought Italian Swiss. His father was, as you know, a
director on the Bank of America, and I guess he was influential in
getting the money, and he bought Italian Swiss out the whole
By buying Italian Swiss brand out, he got a lot of inventory.
He bought it, from what I understand at that time, for about 32 1/2
cents a gallon. That's in the early part of April. We were,
again, Bob and I, surprised. The Fresno Bee called Bob up and
said, "fiey, we just heard that at a board meeting in Delaware,
Italian Swiss was purchased by Louis PetrL" We didn't know
anything about it. Lo and behold, that afternoon, down comes Mr.
Bianchini** and Paul Heck, and he was bringing Mr. Bianchini to see
the winery for the first time. Never seen it. He bought it, and
he hadn't seen it. He introduced us, and that was my first
exposure to the Petri organization.
But the thing that was a rabbit's foot in Louis Petri's pocket
was, ten or twelve days later, we had one of the worst freezes we'd
ever seen in the California grape industry. About April 15, which
was just about Easter time the old-timers would tell you, if
you're past Easter, you may not have to worry about freezing it
was just before that time. We had what they call a black freeze.
Two days in a row, we had freezing.
* See Louis A. Petri, The Petri Family in the Wine Industry, an
oral history interview conducted 1969, Regional Oral History
Office, The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley,
** Lelio Neil Bianchini, known as Bob, was a cousin and associate
of Louis Petri.
Skofis: I recall going up to Lodi area to a demonstration, and rode up with
one f the local wine people. We'd share rides if I didn't have my
own car. He offered to go up and take me with him; I went with
him. Driving up that morning, we could look at the grape leaves
that were just coming out. and they were black. That's what they
call a black freeze. They weren't green any more; they were black.
It was a very, very bad year on the grapes. Very lew crop. Here
was Louis Petri sitting with inventory purchased at 32 1/2 cents.
Within a period of thirty days he made over three and a half
million dollars in evaluation rise. And he only put a million
dollars down to buy the winery. Because the rest of the money the
Bank of America lent, for the simple reason that they were rich
enough, and they were trying to stabilize the grape and wine
industry, and his father being on the board of the Bank of America.
Angelo Petri. a very fine man, too. They made oodles ef money.
Plus the fact. Louis Petri at that time had the Mission Bell winery
that he had bought from Arakelian. you know, in 1950. He was
running the Mission Bell winery, which is today the big Heublein
operation in Madera.
Then Louis Petri co-oped that in 1951.* But in co-oping it,
he kept the marketing organization. But part of his deal with them
was that he would put in so many of his grapes into the co-op, and
I think he was putting in 30 per cent of the grapes or substantial
tonnage he had to put in as a co-op member. So he'd go out and buy
grapes and put them in. He had a lot of inventory of his own up
there, and more than the co-op required. Well, this excess
inventory was the most beautiful thing for him, because he took all
that inventory and used it in Italian Swiss wines. As a result. I
was getting a lot of that wine out of Madera, here, and was told.
''Okay. Elie, blend it out." The reason I remember that. I had some
wine come to me that was in pretty bad shape, and I had to do
something about it.
So in 1953 Italian Swiss was purchased by Louis Petri. Mr.
Bianchini. who was their production vice-president, kept telling
me, "Elie, you're going to have to come up to San Francisco and
help me on this little set-up we have, big organization. You
better start to think in terms of San Francisco."
That was just, to me, anathema. It was just completely out of
the question. I was a young man with a couple of young kids.
Telling me to go to an office in San Francisco, that's no way to be
a winemakerl I was a winemaker; I wasn't going to become an office
man. even though I realized there was a lot of good things about
it. And f course. Louis Petri at the time said. "ttey. we'll buy
everything." But I just was a little queasy about the whole deal.
* Creating Allied Grape Growers.
Skofis: I wasn't really looking around, but in early 1955. Christian
Brothers, Herman Archinal. who was the man in charge of the Reedley
operation, contacted me, I was recommended to him highly by E. M.
I'd been recommended to Christian Brothers by E. M. Brown, who
had retired from Italian Swiss, and who at that time was doing
their work and trying to help them set up their champagne business.
That's when Christian Brothers (this was about 1953, '54) decided
to go into the champagne business, but they went into the charmat
process up at the Greystone Winery, which is up in Napa valley.
And E. M. Brown, being the all-around wine man, making champagne
bulk was no problem for him. But he recommended that they contact
They were interested in getting a manager for the Reedley
brandy operation, and I had quite a bit of experience with the
Italian Swiss brandy production, which I did all of it at Clovis.
Herman Archinal contacted me, and told me that their intent was
that I was to go to work for them, and he was going to then be
transferred to San Francisco, and up into the Napa area, to become
their top production head.
We came down to just about finalizing the whole thing, this
was a period of a couple of months of negotiations.
The only problem that was kind of a discouraging factor to me
was that they wanted me to move to Reedley. My wife wasn't
interested in moving to Reedley, so I'd have to commute. We were
very shy about traveling on the highway because my mother had been
killed in an auto accident the year before. So we really were shy
in traffic; the whole family was gun-shy traveling on highways and
cars and everything.
III ROMA WINERY UNDER SCHEN.EY. 1955-1971
Skofis: Well, lo and behold, Roma contacted me. Mr. [Richard C.] Auerbach.
who was the quality control director for Roma wines, contacted me
and said that they were interested in getting a new production
manager for Roma. Of course, my first question to him was, why
come to me? You guys are loaded with people. They were
overstaffed. He said, no, he was asked to contact me, would I talk
to their production head, Col. Burton, A. H. Burton, who was in
charge of the whole west coast Schenley production operation for
wine and the spirits bottling. He had succeeded General Herbert,
who at that time had been promoted and went to New York as the top
production man for Schenley Industries. They in turn promoted Col.
Burton to take his place. He'd been the second-in-command here in
So I had my discussion with Col. Burton, who was very eager,
and I saw an eagerness that they wanted me to come with them. I
was very open about it; I said, "Veil, why do you want me when you
have all these other people here?" He said, "The reason is, we
want outside thinking. We know the organization of Italian Swiss
is good; you guys have done things there, and of course you were
highly recommended by Mr. Auerbach, and we've heard about you. We
know about you from the Wine Institute." I was at that time
chairman of the technical advisory committee of the Wine Institute.
"We want outside blood; that's all we want."
And, of course, they made a money offer that just [laughs] was
much better than Christian Brothers, although it wasn't I wasn't
bidding up the price; this is what they told me they could do for
me. The only thing I had a concern was, I didn't want to work
under Mr. Auerbach. I said, no, under no condition I'd be working
directly under him. Col. Burton said I would be in charge of all
the brandy operations and spirits distillation, plus the wine, for
the Roma. And at the same time, I would be his chief technical
advisor. Technical advisor meant that he would always have
technical problems come up, and he wanted to tap into me, although
Skof is : he had a chief engineer here. The chief engineer was in charge of
equipment. He wanted the winemaker's viewpoint on any changes that
were taking place in processing and equipment needs.
So I agreed, and I had to let Christian Brothers know, and
they were kind of distressed because we had so many discussions and
all of the sudden I decided to go the other direction. But what it
meant to me: I would stay in Fresno, and it was a challenge. I
felt concern of going to San Francisco with Italian Swiss, and of
course. Roma was still big, and they told me the big turnaround
plans, and it would be bigger than Italian Swiss. I figured, well,
there's an opportunity; there's a challenge. And I did come over
Unfortunately, when I came over here, within a period of six
months I could see that Mr. [Lewis R.] Rosenstiel (who was
president of Schenley Industries; he was the owner, you might say.
chief stockholder and everything) that he was not really that
oriented with wine. He was not that in love with wine any more.
It was just another tool to him; strictly a big corporation. He
was into whiskey. I could see there wasn't going to be too much
for the winemen, but I was here, so I had to make the best of it.
Skof is: On the other hand. General Herbert, like a general, came out here,
and he wanted to meet me, and in this room here I was right over
there, and he was here he said, just like a general would tell a
private "Your mission is to reduce our losses." They had
tremendous wine losses here. They were much too high, much too
high. I had been reviewing them. It was within a few weeks after
I came he told me this, but I had started to review them because
they had a real bad situation.
They had losses twice what the industry average was. They
just didn't know what to do about it. So I said. "Okay." I'd do my
best at it. I made a study It took about two. three months. I had
a very competent secretary who dug into a lot of facts for me, and
I would dig into the whole wine finishing procedures. I had to dig
into everything they did, from the time they made their wine until
they bottled it: what was it that was causing all this? And it
turned out that they were doing multiple operations; they were
beating the heck out of the wine.
So I took what they were doing, and what I had learned to do
at Italian Swiss, found out that I could cut the procedures in
half, and I was sure that we would reduce the losses considerably.
Well, the big deterrent in this whole thing of doing it was to
Skofis: convince Mr. Auerbach that this was the way we could stabilize
wine. He was concerned that if they went to my procedures we would
have a lot of unstable wine. In talking this over with Col.
Burton, I said, "Look, if you don't do it, you're never going to
get the reduction in losses." Well, what assurances do I have?
For instance, they were refrigerating red table wines three times:
refrigerate, filter, refrigerate, filter, refrigerate, filter.
Well, each time, you had that much mere loss. And in the end. the
wine became water and alcohol
Teiser: Who had initiated, this?
Skofis: Well, this was always one ef the things in Schenley. They were
always triple-assurance, I called it everything they did. They
really had to cover their butts in everything they did, and I
thought it was stupid to take a good product and beat it to death
just to be sure that it would have no hazing about it. It was a
lot more. And fortunately, my experience in quality control at
National Distillers came into play. I said, "If we don't institute
quality control measures, follow through with them, and be timely
and schedule our work we're always going to have problems."
Well, Colonel Burton saw that I was being more systematic
about it. so he insisted that the procedures I had be instituted,
and they were to be followed without any reservations or without
any attempt to sabotage them. On the red wine, it was agreed we'd
go twice, instead of once or three times. And eventually I cut it
down to once, by installing some other method of refrigerating
cold. Their insulation was very poor there. But they never
studied why things happened; they would just happen and they'd
repeat it over again, and finally they got it right.
Within a year's time, I cut the losses in half. Over half.
And of course, that saved them hundreds of thousands of dollars.
And of course the whole organization at that time was talking about
For instance, I would go out into the winery, and they would
have a leaky pump, and they would catch the wine and put it into a
bucket. Then they'd take the bucket and dump it into the sewer. I
said, "Hey, that's going to go into a barrel, it's going to go into
a drum, it's going to go into distilling material; it's still got
value." They would wash a tank, and once it drained out they would
have a little bit of wine just there. They'd say, "That wasn't
worth recovering." I said, "You're going to wash it, take that
wash water and put it into filter wash tank* and then we'll distill
and recover the alcohol."
Skofis: Well, this reduced the losses in half, and they were really amazed.
General Herbert, when he came back, he said, "Well, I guess you've
got your mission accomplished." So I felt like a good soldier
after a campaign, you know. [laughs]
The whole thing in Roma was one ef a corporate set-up in New
York, with the sales in San Francisco and the production in Fresno.
And there was just too much decentralization, and really no strong
person in between on the entire wine business. They had a man in
charge of the sales, and they technically carried him as president
of the wine company. He didn't have anything to do with that; he
didn't even care whether we needed to buy a pump or anything. The
production people would report to the people in their Cincinnati
office. So you had the whiskey engineers and the whiskey
production people coming out here and finding out what your needs
were, and they would many times say, T4o, we don't have the money."
or something. They were very slow in spending money to improve
And I had a hard time to really get them to realize, that they
had to make certain changes. Their distillery setup was very poor
out here. They didn't operate it right.
Impr ov ing the Distillery
Teiser: What distilled products were they making?
Skofis: Well, we used to make a lot of high-proof to put into dessert
wines. Therefore, you know, when we were making a lot of dessert
wines here, maybe half the grapes went to high-proof. That means
that you have to have an efficient distillery operation. They had
a very poor way of recovering the sugar from the pomace, and their
efficiencies were low. I did a lot towards trying to get them to
reduce the amount of wash waters. We used to have something like
three hundred gallons of distilling material per ton of grapes
crushed. We finally got that down to a little under two hundred,
which was a big, big reduction. And the total number of gallons
that had to be distilled. This could amount to six to eight
million gallons less being distilled. At today's energy cost it
would have been prohibitive.
Teiser: You were saving a lot of money
Skofis: Oh, yes, the distillery operation here, the production here was not
quite up to par. The daily crushing capability was not here. They
would create so much distilling material by the procedure. So I
Skofis: told Col. Burton we could resolve that. I had to do something that
was kind of novel in the industry. I had to put in what we call a
stripping column strictly for the wash waters. The wash waters
were very low alcohol, and they would of course fill the pipeline.
So I wanted to get a new pipeline, going to a separate distilling
operation that would take care of these low-alcohol washes, which
eventually would be fed into the main stream. And he could see it,
because he was an engineer too. And being that I had a chemical
engineering training. We had a hard time selling our engineer on
it, but he told him, "You do what Elie wants, and don't argue about
it." [laughs] The engineer was starting to fight changes saying we
would be using extra steam. He was perturbed because he hadn't
thought about it. It was kind of embarrassing to him. He forgot
that we needed to reduce costs elsewhere and could easily afford a
slight increase in steam cost.
But Burton recognized that something had to be dene. So we
did that that year, and we increased our daily crushing by almost
35 per cent. We put that many more grapes through the winery,
cutting down the crush days, cut down on costs, and in the
distillery we were able to handle all the distilling material and
not have a lot of it all over stored in many tanks. We had more
tanks available for better use, and he was extremely pleased. So
here I cut down their losses fifty per cent; I improved the
efficiency of their operation there. So then, at the same time, he
said, "Since you're the wine division manager, I want you to go to
the operation down in Delano " what they called the Cresta Blanca
winery, which was only for dessert wines. He said, "Improve that
operation down there," which we did. We did the same thing there a
Teiser: Cresta Blanca has certainly moved around a lot.
Skofis: That was the second Cresta Blanca. They just had that name, Cresta
Blanca, because they used to make dessert wines for Cresta Blanca.
Basically, only a small portion of the product that came out of
that winery went to Cresta. Only the sherries. They used to make
the sherries down there using the Palomino and the Pedro Ximenes
grapes. We had Pedro X grapes in the company vineyards.
Schenley Industries at that time had five thousand acres of
grapes in the Delano area. Production was somewhat in the area of
thirty-five thousand tons of grapes, and that thirty-five thousand
tons of grapes would practically all of it would go to the
winery, except for around eight to ten thousand tons that were
table grapes. They would try to sell them off for packing,
shipping, for table use. If they couldn't sell them as table
grapes, they would crush them for wine.
Skof is : Well, with those two things, within a couple of years Schenley were
very much impressed with what I had instituted. On the other hand,
our business was not growing fast. Italian Swiss was growing
bigger and bigger, and Gallo was coming up, and Gallo passed us.
It was kind of a discouraging period because I had some good ideas,
and I couldn't put them into force. I couldn't get new equipment,
because always the people back in Schenley I could see didn't want
to spend too much money on the wine business. Make do.
Teiser: Were you also making whiskey or something else?
Skof is: Yes. We were making a brandy here. By the way. I improved the
brandy operation quite a bit. They would just distill anything
into brandy. I said. "No. we're going to use wine and make it into
brandy." And any residuals we would not make into brandy. Well, I
had a hard time convincing them. I explained that we would use the
residuals to make the high-proof, then put this into the wine, to
make a lighter flavored brandy and use it along with the heavier
flavored brandies, rather than have a conglomeration of
distillates, some from good grapes and some from poor wine. So, we
finally got that stabilized, and the people at Cincinnati agreed
and approved to have such control of their brandy quality.
So we were able to do that. See, a lot of these things they
could have done, but there just was no direction. They just didn't
have that understanding of the necessity for consistency in
Whiskey and Rum
Teiser: Did you make grain spirits, too?
Skof is: Well, in 1951 here, (that was before I got here), because of the
Korean War deal in '50-'51. Rosenstiel decided he was going to make
grain spirits out here, and also whiskey. So they converted part
of the wine fermenting room over, and actually made bourbon
whiskey. Bourbon whiskey had been made at the American Distilling
Company up in Sausalito, if you recall. It was the only bourbon
whiskey that had been made out in California. So now all of the
sudden Roma and Schenley put down somewhere in the vicinity of ten
thousand barrels of whiskey in 1951.
In 1956. with new crises from Berlin and other areas.
Rosenstiel again decided, hey. better start to put down whiskey.
He was a believer in putting down a lot of bourbon whiskey. He
figured another war was going to come, he was going to have a lot
of stock. He had had a lot of whiskey stocks when World War II
came on; as a result, Schenley Distillers did well, because they
Skofis: were able to carry on their business, and made a big profit. In
anticipation of that, in 1956. we made whiskey, so I participated
in that production there. We had some people here, we had a man by
the name of Fred Vogt who was the winemaker. He was the man who
did my fermenting operation, and he was our winemaker. He knew a
lot about this whiskey operation, so we had him in charge, and I
participated. I took one of the shifts and worked right along and
learned about whiskey operation. We had one of the people from
Cincinnati, who was one of the distillers. A distiller back there
does the fermenting and distilling does everything, like a
winemaker, they call themselves distillers. And he came out here
to help us. He and I got along real well, because he liked a lot
of the things that he had seen done since 1951.
So we made whiskey in 1956; we made some in 1957. Two years
in a row we made it. And we made it during the summer months,
before the grape crush. Well, that was very difficult, because you
had to take a winery, separate it over to a distillery operation.
You had to wax the tanks; we used to take the concrete tanks and we
would put micro-crystalline wax on them, because whiskey is one
product where you have to have a very clean fermentation. If you
have any infection in the distilling material, or mash, as they
call it, that carries through into the whiskey. The secret of
making good bourbon whiskey was in the quality of the fermenting
material. So if you didn't do a good job of fermenting the grain
and then immediately distilled it into whiskey, you'd never have a
Teiser: Where did you get the grain?
Skofis: We would bring the corn we had corn, rye, and malt we bought it
from the mid-west and brought it out in bulk, and unloaded it here.
We used airveyors to unload. The whole thing had been set up,
converting a winery to a distillery. John Holstien. our chief
engineer, had done a real good job on that. And of course, the
engineers back east also helped.
In '58 we made rum. They decided they wanted to make rum one
year because rum was getting to be popular. They decided to make
rum from Hawaiian molassas. So that I had complete charge of, with
one of the people from back east. We handled it, but we had many
problems, but we found some ways of controlling them. Molassas is
a very difficult thing to work with. You can get infections very
easily in the fermentation. So we would add acid to the fermenting
medium. So during the fermenting period, we would have a high
acidity. We were able to produce a very good rum here, you know.
In fact, we produced three grades of rum: heavy, medium, and the
light rums. The various grades are all made by different ways to
Teiser: What label were they?
Skofis: Oh. I forget what label Schenley had; we made it here [only] that
one year. We made the equivalent of about, eh. maybe eight
thousand barrels, which doesn't seem very much, but it's big for an
operation like this. You had to have two years of age to go into
the white rum. So they'd take the barrels and they'd wax them
inside, so it wouldn't pick up color. You'd put it into a barrel
so there was no contact with the woods. You aged it in wood. You
had to have two years in wood. And the government permitted you to
wax up the barrels. So you'd buy the barrels, and you would wax
them. Some we put down without the wax, and some with the wax.
But that was the only year we made rum.
Then, in 1959 we made whiskey, and then we made whiskey again
in 1961. That was all that's the last whiskey that's ever been
made here. But each time, we'd always have to make it during the
summer. Except in 1961, we made it immediately after the crushing
season; we finished crushing the grapes, and we then went
immediately into whiskey operation into the winter, which was a
Fortunately that year they agreed to give us some money, and
we bought some stainless tanks, and we did all the fermenting in
stainless tanks, and we didn't have to go through to do fermenting
in the wax-lined tanks. So we had a much cleaner operation, and
produced a good product. We still have most of that equipment
here, but it's only here because we haven't stripped it out. It's
too expensive to remove.
Teiser: It won't adapt to present uses?
Skofis: No, because it's all iron. We had weigh scales up in the
penthouse, and we had a cooking vat. We took the cooking vat out.
We had what they call a drop tank, where you cool a mash down by
Also I'd gone back east for a two-week orientation. Even
National Distillers had sent Myron Nightingale and I once on a two-
week tour of the distillery operations. We'd get acquainted with
the distillers. I made many friends at Schenley. You get to
working around with these people, and you begin to get the theory
of why you do certain things rather than just do them. But there's
a purpose behind them. And once you know the purpose, then you're
naturally more concerned with what happens. And the big concern in
whiskey operation is, you have to have a clean mash. The mash has
got to be 100 per cent clean. If the mash is 100 per cent clean,
and you have a good distillation, you produce a good bourbon. We
actually had a pretty good bourbon, and Schenley bottled it.
They had a what they call private labels. That's another
reason why, in '61, we made it, is that if you made your whiskey in
California, or your gin here, you could then have a special
operation of selling direct to retailers. So a lot of these
products we were permitted then to sell directly to the retailers.
We only sold off-brands to them, such as what they called Marigold
Whiskey, which was an outstanding whiskey; as good as some of the
other bourbon whiskeys but unknown. And we made gin.
Marigold. That was a really good whiskey,
bottle just for library purposes.
I wish I had kept a
Teiser: Were you in charge of Cresta Blanca, too I mean, the original, the
Livermore Valley Cresta Blanca?
Skofis: The Livermore Valley I was a chief technical advisor. I was
supposed to be able to review all of the equipment operation. But
Myron Nightingale left Italian Swiss in 1953. He went to Cresta
Blanca. He was there from 1953 to 1963. In 1963, Mr. Auerbach
retired, and they brought Myron down to Fresno and made him the
quality control officer. So he was in charge of laboratories and
the quality control operation. He spent ten years at Cresta
Blanca. He started off as the winemaker, chemist-winemaker, and
eventually became the winery manager in, oh, I think it was 1956 or
'57. So he was winery manager and winemaker.* He did a real good
job up there.
And then, in '63,** he came down here, because they decided
that the Cresta Blanca operation was too expensive,
Teiser: Who decided that?
Skofis: The Schenley people, they the accountants, and Col. Burton the
people decided it was too expensive.
So the decision was made then, in 1963, before Myron came
down. Actually, we moved all of the dessert wine operations to
Roma here. So all of Cresta Blanca operation, with its Triple
Cream Sherry, dry white sherry, and the port, was to be bottled in
Fresno. And it was a pretty sizable operation for premium
desserts. The wines would be made here, finished here, and bottled
here, with a San Francisco address, which didn't indicate it was
down in Fresno.
* See Nightingale, op cit.
** 1962 according to Myron Nightingale's recollection.
Skofis: Then they decided that they would have to do the table wines here,
too. And so when Myron came down, he came with the purpose in mind
that he would be in charge of the quality control also, and oversee
that the Cresta Blanca bottling operations to be done without
affecting quality. Don Rudolph was left up at Cresta Blanca, he
was the assistant to Myron Nightingale. He'd crush the grapes, and
make the wine, and Myron would go up there during the season and
see that the wine was made right. I would go up there te see that
the general production operation with respect to equipment and
everything else was in shape. The wine would be made, blended, and
sent down here in a finished state. So they would finish the wine
there, and they would bring it down here. They'd bring it down in
a five- thousand-gallon truck; it would have a thousand gallons of
this, two thousand of that, two thousand of that. And they would
go directly to the bottling room, and it would be bottled right
out. So it was just like having an extended pipeline from
Livermore down here.
They had one bottling line set up specifically, so it worked
out all right, and still had the San Francisco address, still had
the same winemaker, Myron. Myron would look after it to see that
it was done right, and that's the way it was handled here from 1963
until about 1971, when Guild bought Cresta Blanca.
The wine was made up until 1971 in Livermore. At which time.
Guild bought out all of the wine operations of Schenley, including
Cresta. They did not choose to buy the Cresta Blanca winery in
Livermore. They didn't buy that facility. They bought the
inventories and labels.
They didn't want the property and they didn't want the
vinyards. because the vinyards were really kind of over the hill.
They finally were able to get water from that dam that had been
established out there by the Veteran's Hospital, but the vinyards
by that time were old, and they were very low-production. So you
had quite a few hundred acres of vinyard, and you'd get maybe a ton
to the acre. That was too expensive to operate; no-one wanted it.
And you could see the only purpose it had eventually would be for
real estate, which it eventually turned out. The Wente people
bought the old Cresta Blanca winery at Livermore and made it into
their champagne cellar. They've done a beautiful job, really have.
Teiser: I remember Schenley held it for a while before
Elie Skof i s tasting in the Guild laboratory
Skofis: Schenley held it from 1971 until about two or three years ago.* and
actually the tanks deteriorated and everything. But in 1971. when
Guild bought out the winery, the inventories were all moved down to
Fresno. We had the oak cellar here, in which we had a lot of
tanks we could move all the wine down here. We ran the Cresta
Blanca table wine operation here with respect to bottling and
In the meantime, of course. Myron did not choose to come to
Guild. In 1971. he went to Beringer. He was asked to come with
Guild, but he got a pretty good offer at Beringer. from Peter
Jurgens, formerly president of Almaden who was working on the
Beringer deal with William Holt Noble. But Guild kept the Cresta
operation here, did the bottling here, until about 1975. In '75.
they chose to move the bottling of Cresta up to our central cellars
in Lodi. which I protested greatly. But my protests weren't heard.
I said. "You can't take fine wines, small volumes, and take
them into a big bottling operation. You're going to have
"No. no. we will handle it; we will take care of it,"
We had at that time a man in charge of the logistics operation
who was a good numbers man. but he wasn't a wine man. They did
that, and lo and behold, exactly what I told him would happen
happened. The wines started to get oxidized and had very low shelf
In the meantime, though, the wines were being made. Guild
moved the Cresta Blanca name to the Mendocino winery that Guild had
up in Ukiah. So the premise itself, the Mendocino winery up in
Ukiah. became the Cresta Blanca Winery. Unfortunately, that winery
was not the kind of winery where you would ordinarily make fine
Teiser: Didn't you do some revision on it?
Skofis: Yes. during the period of course, when I was in charge of wine
production. But during that time Mr. Ted Kite was the vice
president in charge of production, and I worked under him as the
production operations manager, in charge of all the winery
operations, from Ukiah all the way down to Delano. We had seven
* The Wente family bought the property in 1982.
Skof is : We would make the wine up at Mendocino. with the Mendocino grapes,
but we had an imbalance of grapes. The imbalance was having too
many grapes for use in generic wines rather than the classical
grapes for varietal wines. The wine would be made there, brought
down here to Fresno, and we'd finish it and blend it here and
bottle it. Well, after a while the wine which was made in Ukiah,
was brought to Fresno, finished, blended, and bottled in Lodi.
Well, that was just too much. I protested strongly and said. "If
you're going to stay in this premium wine business, you'd better do
something at the Cresta operation."
Well, they could see that they wanted to stay in the premium
business. They moved too slow, and by 1980, though, we did build
added on to the Cresta Blanca winery what we have today. I don't
know if you've had a chance to visit, but we've built in there an
entirely new building, under roof, forty thousand square feet. We
moved all of the oak cellar tanks up to use for storage of wines.
We put a bottling plant up there, and we put in an oak barrel aging
area and added outside around the Cresta Blanca winery a lot of
stainless tanks for crushing and fermenting. The original winery,
which was made of large concrete tanks, the only use we have now is
if we're having a lot of generic type of red grapes, or white
grapes, we'll use it. So we have the old winery that we hardly
use, and around it is built the modern winery.
Teiser: You're doing some custom crushing there, aren't you?
Skof is: We do a lot of custom crushing. Actually, right now about seventy
percent of our crushing is custom crushing. We have a waiting
line. People like what we do up there.
Teiser: Seems to me Ansley Cole said you're making the base wine for his
potstill brandy there.
Skofis: Yes. We make his wines for his Alambic brandy. I like Ansley Cole
and we want to help him. It's an acommodation I personally told
him we're going to stick with him I think it needs help, I like
his whole approach to what he's doing, and there's no reason why we
can't help him. It's a very small tonnage for us. Actually, we're
doing thirty times what he's got. We have some big wineries up
there that want some additional crushing.
The Sale of Roma
Skofis: But before we went on to Cresta. where were we?
Teiser: We were at the sale to Guild. Could you explain?
Teiser: Let me ask you to tell about the sale to Guild of this facility
that we're in now, Roma.
Skofis: Well, Schenley, in 1968. decided they were going to go out of the
wine business. The primary reason, and it should be a matter of
record, and I think you should know about it. was that they were
pushed into signing a contract with Cesar Chavez for the five
thousand acres of grapes down in Delano. Cesar Chavez at that time
had a lot of influence. The auto workers union, as you know, were
sponsoring this, and of course the Kennedys and a lot of the
politicians they were on the bandwagon for Cesar Chavez. They
decided they were going to tackle a big person who was vulnerable,
to union pressure [Schenley].
How was it vulnerable? It was vulnerable in this respect:
they were trying to. naturally, get Schenley to recognize Cesar
Chavez, and get him to organize the farm workers down there, and
particularly in our case. They weren't even a union; they were a
committee. The committee didn't even have a charter as a union.
So Schenley said, there's no union, why should we deal? Well, that
to them was just nothing didn't mean that much. But the United
Auto Workers went out of their way with the secondary boycott, and
they would go into the bars in the Detroit auto workers' area, for
instance, and other areas, and they would tell the bar people, they
said. Anything with Schenley, you pull it off the shelf or we won't
come in here again. So they targeted themselves against Schenley,
put the pressure en them from the whiskey point of view, which was
really a very bad thing to do. but they did it. They could do it
in those days, under the Labor Relations Laws, and Schenley did not
want to make a big deal of it. They would have the whole labor
movement against them.
So Mr. Rosenstiel decided at that time, even though he had one
group of attorneys negotiating what they might do with the farm
workers, and he had another guy on the side dealing with Reuther
and his group [laughs], and finally the guy on the side dealing
with Reuther prevailed.
To show you how far apart they were, the man on this side
dealing with Chavez was a man by the name of James Woolsey. He was
a general counsel for Schenley out here on the west coast, and a
fine gentleman. He's still living, and he's down in Mexico,
retired. Jim got off the plane in San Francisco after he had had a
session with Mr. Rosenstiel in Florida, and he was immediately met
by a lot of reporters. "Vhat's this we hear that Schenley has
signed a letter of intent to recognize the farm workers union?" He
said, "I don't know anything about it." "Well, yes you do."
"Well, I have no comment." He was smart enough to say that. He
went back to the office and he called up, "What give?" He was
Skofis: told, "Yes, Lewis Rosenstiel signed." And I can't recall the
attorney down in Los Angeles who was handling the deal with
Reuther. and was a close friend of Reuther's. He had got this
letter of intent signed and had the Schenley authority to do it.
So. here we have one guy signing a letter of intent while
Woolsey is negotiating. There were two negotiations. Reuther's
guy prevailed. So they signed up with the union at that time. All
the five thousand acres, all the workers, was unionized. Well, you
can imagine the problems that arose after that. So Schenley
decided they were going to get out of the grape business. They
started by trying to sell the grape acreage. Nobody would buy it,
because the contract said that the successor to the purchase of
this grape acreage had to be union. So how could you sell five
thousand acres of grapes to any interested group, "I don't want to
deal with the Farm Worker's Union; they'll tell me how to run my
They were really not organized. Cesar Chavez had a lot of
wild people with him at that time, and they had all sorts of big
ideas. They were going to use the old closed fist approach to
problem solving and everything. Immediately the wages went up, and
they did get a contract. Very expensive. Took all the profit out
of grapes, you might say, the kind of profit Schenley wanted. The
grape prices were down, everything was bad so Schenley decided
they had to get out of the wine business. And they were going to
try to sell the grapes off. They tried to get a fellow by the name
of Roberts to buy the acreage. He was a big producer of grapes
down there. He was going to buy the grapes and the winery and
everything else. But I think he looked at it, and shied away from
it. I can't recall his first name, but this fellow Roberts was
kind of helped along in all of his endeavors by this big financier
out of San Diego, C. Smith. The eld fellow that went to jail
remember him? Poor guy. Savings and loan man. He had a lot of
money, and lent it out freely. So he had built Roberts up to a
very big farm operator. And Roberts, by the way. just died here a
few months ago, in Arizona. I'm trying to think what his first
Well, Schenley mainly decided to get out of the wine business.
In 1968 they were negotiating with Bob [Robert] Setrakian to buy
the wine business. And Bob Setrakian was going to buy the wine
business but not the land. He would buy the grapes. Schenley
would have t continue their farm operation and furnish the grapes
to him, and he would crush them. That deal fell through. Schenley
people found out that with the turn of the wine business, all of a
sudden the wine business got to be a good way to sell whiskey.
They sold whiskey in this respect: they went into distributor
houses, and they would say, "Well, why should we carry your whiskey
Skof is : line?" They didn't want to discount the whiskey case goods. They
said, took, we'll take care of the discounting through our wine.
You've got to sell our wine."
So they were using wine as a vehicle to discount whiskey. And
this is one of the things they did. So they had a pretty good
distribution and sales network.
Of course. I don't think when Guild bought that they knew all
of these inner workings, or all these side deals. Schenley wanted
to get out of the wine business, everybody knew about it. Guild
struck up the deal in 1970. They started the negotiations going in
mid-September 1970, somewhere about that. I had an inkling by July
that they were going to maybe sell to Guild, and they started on
We already had contracts set up for the sale, when we were
working, to sell the wine business to Setrakian. So they
negotiated it and sold it out to Guild. Guild bought it for I
can't recall now. They bought the wineries very cheap, and they
bought the inventory very cheap. They bought the vineyards. But
the vineyards they bought were on the premise that they would re
sell them the same day they bought them to Buttes Gas and Oil.
which owned White River Farms down in the Delano area. They were
in the farming business too. They sold them the day that Schenley
sold the wine business entirely to Guild; Guild turned around in
the same escrow deal and sold the five thousand acres to Buttes
Farm. Buttes Farm then became a big co-op member, and all the
grapes came into Guild as a co-op member, so they had a home for
That was in 1971. In 1972, Buttes Gas and Oil couldn't
negotiate a contract with the Farm Workers. They just couldn't
come to any terms. There was a strike with the Farm Workers
against Buttes Farm for the fact that they would not renew the
contract under the union terms. It was a big strike. And that
year, Buttes Farm harvested less than half their grapes. They went
in and they tried to mechanically harvest it; vines that were not
intended to be mechanically harvested. They did a lot of damage to
them. But anyway, they finally got the big part of the crop out.
And they never did recognize the Farm Workers Union again.
So the Farm Workers, of course, reacted to this and boycotted
a lot of Guild products. They hurt us particularly up in the
Milwaukee area, in our brandy. They had a lot of the Wisconsin
union people boycott buying Guild brandy. We were a strong market
in Milwaukee, and they actually hurt us there.
Eventually Buttes Farm started to pull vines on the five
thousand acres. There were a lot of marginal vinyards down there,
so they would pull the vines, and there was no more it was raw
Skofis: land. They sold a let of the raw land off to people who planted a
lot of walnuts down there, and planted almonds. They even sold off
a couple thousand acres to another outfit. Farm Financial, which
was an investor group. They were going to go ahead and venture
this acreage out. They had a lot of limited partners,
schoolteachers and professional people, and they became the general
partners. The craze was to get in the grape business, and in 1972,
'73, a lot of people invested money in Farm Financial. Farm
Financial didn't go anywhere, and they had problems. For one
thing, the vineyards were not good. They were low production.
They wanted to get more money for the grapes than they were worth.
It got to be a bad scene for Guild, in that set-up down there.
So gradually, actually after all this time, some of the
original people that bought some of the land still delivered to us.
Some are co-op members. But we don't have that big tonnage out of
that area any more.
Essentially, Schenley Ranches grapes were pulled and planted
into cotton and fruit trees. The whole operation was completely
disappearing. The five thousand acres was just broken up into two
hundred acres, three hundred acres. Farm Financial got into
financial problems, and they went into bankruptcy and all the
financial problems. And then of course, Mr. Chavez was still down
Teiser: When you decided to buy the Schenley properties, who gave the
impetus within this organization to do that?
Skofis: Well, actually, it was a firm up in Palo Alto, and it had a fellow
by the name of Gretzinger. He was kind of a finder. He always
would be in contact with New York, with people. He knew about the
Schenley intent to sell, and he was one of these people that could
put deals together and work them out. He's the one that came to
Guild and said, "You have an opportunity, I think we can work on
Guild was trying to grow. They were a small organization at
the time. They were not a factor at all. They were in Lodi; they
had two wineries in this area, but they were small wineries, which
we still have. And we had the bottling operation up in Lodi, and
we had a couple wineries in Lodi, and the one up in Ukiah.
So Guild had five small wineries. But they saw an opportunity
to double their size, because the Roma operation was about three
million cases in these days. The Guild operation by itself was
maybe two million cases. They saw an opportunity to double it,
plus the fact that Schenley did not want to go out of the brandy
business so anybody that bought the wine operation from Schenley
would get a nice contract to make brandy for Schenley. One reason
I went with the Guild organization was that, being I was the chief
Skofis: production man. Schenley said, "Hey, to make the contract work, you
have to go with Guild. And if you're not happy with them within a
year, come back to us."
So I agreed that I would do that, and I had the option. That
meant that I would either be working here at their retained
bottling operation, or go back east, which I envisioned as going
back to their main production area in Cincinnati. Which I decided
not to do after a year, because I had a pretty good relationship
with the Guild people. And it was an up-and-geing organization.
Guild bought the Schenley wine business with the purpose of
doubling the size. Because of the price and the support they got
from the bank and everything, and getting rid of the vineyards, it
was a good deal. We were doing all the bottling here, the Roma
bottling. Their idea was. now we've got the main winery, we'll
move everything up to Lodi and expand that, have a more intensive
operation there, and get rid of all the overhead here and just make
this a production plant. Then they would take the other plants and
just make the wines, and bring them into Lodi for bottling, which
they thought was a good idea.
Teiser: What part of this facility stayed with Schenley?
Skofis: Only the spirits bottling operations, from that fence down, went
Teiser: Is that the east
Skofis: You saw where those tanks were; the eastern part of the facility
stayed with Schenley. They continued their bottling from 1971 to
the end of 1980, and in '81, they closed it down.
IV GUILD WINERIES AND DISTILLERIES. 1971-1987
Teiser: Did you find it different to work for a cooperative than for a
Skofis: Quite a bit different, in this respect: in a big cooperation, you
really have to do something to shew you can produce. You became
one of the members of the team; but they looked at you for results.
The Schenley organization was one that I did not want to get
embroiled in. I was warned about their pettiness here. So when I
came here, I decided I would just do my work, I would write my
reports out thoroughly, completely, give them to the top man, and
they could do what they wanted with them. That's exactly what
happened. I would tell Col. Burton directly, "This is what we're
doing," and I would give him a long report. He would take it,
rummage through it, decide what he wanted to do. A lot of times,
he would come back for more information and action, or he'd file it
away and recall it back later. As a result. I had always some
thing on record on what I would recommend what we should be doing.
The co-op, of course, was smaller, mere family oriented. Mr.
[Robert] Ivie at that time, when he was president, was a very
outgoing man. He believed in going out and shaking hands with the
man who would be washing the floor and even cleaning the bathrooms.
He had to know the girls by their first names. In fact, eventually
everybody called him "Bob," they didn't call him Mr. Ivie. And it
was kind of a warm relationship to start with.
Teiser: You were talking about how you found working for a co-op. The
Skofis: The difference, yes. Well, I tell you, the main difference is at
the corporate level. You have to do everything on a professional
basis if you're going to survive. With National Distillers, there
were people who lived by their procedures, you know, and they would
Skofis: expect you to live with them. Their procedures were Bet up in New
York, by their quality people or their traffic people. Whatever it
was, you just had to do it, And it was a good way to operate.
On the ether hand, Schenley was the kind of organization that,
as I told you. I found out you had to put everything in black and
white, give it to them the way you felt it was, and then stand on
what you said. Generally, they might refuse you then but later.
they might come back and say, "Ve should have done it that way."
Everybody in our organization was always scared. They wanted that
triple insurance. That's why they everf inished their wines;
everything they did was to be sure that their butts were covered.
that nobody could criticize them of having done something wrong.
None of them wanted to take the initiative to do something new.
Well, I had done that, of course, and they recognized that I
wasn't taking chances, but the things I was proposing were things
that anybody else could have proposed, but they were either afraid
Now, with the Guild, initially the whole organization was kind
of like a family thing. You felt like you were one big family.
But gradually, I noted that it became different as people within
the company got their own family problems, and they tried to grow,
and I sensed a number of years before Mr. Ivie left that the ship
was not going in the right direction. There was nothing I could
do. I would put everything in black and white I thought we had to
do (we were heavy on certain inventories) but all I could do was
point out. I couldn't become a sacrificial lamb and make a big
issue of it. Gradually, of course, a lot of these things did come
to light, and that's why they changed the top management in order
to find out more what they should have known, to do a better job of
running the company.
The Co-operative System
Skofis: Co-ops, compared to corporate deals, are different. They're
composed of growers that have a direct interest in the winery.
Their income comes off of what you can make in the way of profits.
If they can go out n the street and sell their grapes for a
hundred dollars, they get their money right away. In the co-op,
they deliver their grapes, the market price is a hundred dollars,
you give them a certain amount of money for delivering the grapes.
You may give them twenty-five dollars; that's the draw money they
get, the picking costs. Then they have to wait until their product
gets sold. The moment the grapes come in, it has not been sold as
wine. You have to process that wine and sell it, and that takes
approximately a year to a year and a half. And the way the co-op
Skofis: concept was. you would start to pay them some of their moneys back
from the sale after the wine started to go out into the channels
and be sold as wine.
The growers' concerns always was: you have the use of my
money, for all this time, and I don't have any interest to show for
it. because I had to pay interest to the bank to borrow money to
live on. Well, that's the name of the game with the co-ops, is
that you can't pay cash for grapes. If you do. then why be a co
op? You might as well buy what grapes you want. This has a big
impact on the bottom line, and as a result the co-ops probably have
had more financial problems, because their response to the grower
financial needs are net as fast as if he sells for cash.
On the other hand, if the grower's left on his own to sell his
grapes, he may or may not get the market price. He may get the
market price which may be much lower than he would get if he left
it in the co-op, and he would eventually get the average of the
market. Because what the co-ops pay is usually not the top of the
market nor the bottom; they pay the average of all the tons.
M [telephone interruption]
Well, the co-op is different from the normal corporation in
the fact that they have to return to a grower his money. If the
grower doesn't get his money, he can't live and operate, therefore
the pressure is always on the co-op to return 100 percent of the
market price, the average market price. Plus something extra for
the fact that his money was tied up for a certain period of time
105 percent, 110 percent. Some of them feel that if they don't get
110 percent, they didn't get market price because they paid
interest on their money.
On the ether hand, they also have an equity in the winery, and
none of them seem to understand that the winery, as it develops and
grows, that there is an equity in there. Should there be a sale of
the winery, the distribution of the profits of the sale would go to
them. But they never look at the equities they have; they always
look at what they're going to get for their grapes.
The thing about a corporate winery is the fact that, if it's
subsidized by a big distillery group, then if they don't make
money, they absorb their losses into other phases of business, and
they continue on and on. But, as I mentioned earlier. National
Distillers years ago didn't make six percent on their investment,
and they sold out to Louis Petri. And yet National Distillers went
back in the wine business. For a number of years they probably
made money. Now that they haven't probably been making the money
they want, they have divested themselves of the business.
Teiser: What you just said perhaps explains a bulletin I looked at last
night. In 1980, the Guild would lend growers money, under certain
circumstances, and at very low rates. So it must have been an
attempt to make up for
Skofis: Well, they gave some of the growers the opportunity to borrow
money because of the borrowing power of the co-op, which was
generally two points less than the bank rate. Guild was able to
borrow from the co-op bank for about two points less.
Teiser: That's the Berkeley Bank for Cooperatives?
Skofis: Yes. But we don't do that any more, because it's very difficult
for even us to borrow money to operate. Even the cooperative banks
have had a lot of problems, you know. They've had serious
problems. And we've been a big help to the co-op bank, in the
respect that at least we're paying off our debts, and we're doing
more for them. And yet they're in a tight position to lend us
money when we want to borrow money to carry on a day-to-day
Guild in the Early 1970s
Teiser: When you came to Guild, there were nearly a thousand members?
Skofis: Possibly a thousand members.
Teiser: Now there are
Skofis: Well, a year after I was at Guild, there was about a thousand.
When I first came to Guild, they grew because we signed up a lot of
members for grapes that ordinarily were sold to Roma Wine Company.
And in order to continue their association with Roma, they signed
up as members of Guild. So that came up to around a thousand
members. That's up and down the state, from Delano all the way up
to Ukiah, that distribution, with most of them in the Fresno area.
Teiser: And you came in as
Skofis: I came in originally as the Roma Winery manager, and then within
six months or so they made me the production operations manager.
I was manager for all the wineries, seven operating wineries.
Teiser: What were the seven?
Skofis: There was one in Delano; there was the old Cresta Blanca that they
renamed L. K. Marshall; there was three in Fresno: the Roma plant,
which since then they've renamed Cribari; the McCall Winery, which
Skof is : years ago used to be Crestview, owned by Joe Gazzara; and then the
vinery we call Fresno Winery, which was the eld Alta Winery, and
originally was the Cameo Winery. Then we had two wineries in the
Lodi area, Bear Creek Winery, which was kind of the flagship of
Guild initially when it was a co-op, and another winery out at
Woodbridge called Del Rio Winery. And. we had the other winery up
at Ukiah, the Cresta Blanca. which had been the Mendocino Vinyards,
renamed Cresta Blanca. We had at Lodi the big bottling facility,
which they called Central Cellars, because that is where all the
wines went and were bottled. They were made, blended, finished and
As far as the Central Cellars facility was concerned. I was
responsible for the wines that were shipped there, the blending of
the wines, and like now I am responsible for all of the quality
control, the winemaking aspects. I don't have any of the
responsibility of seeing that they get the glass in, that they put
it in the bottle. I see to it that they get it in the bottle
right, and that it stays right in the bottle. So if the wine in
the bottle tests out that there's a problem, then we don't permit
them to ship it. We hold it until we're sure it can be shipped.
Teaching at Fresno State College. 1961-1971
Teiser: Before you came with Guild, you taught at Fresno State.
Skof is: Right. Actually, this whole thing with Fresno State started in the
late forties, early fifties, when Vince [Vincent] Petrucci was
trying to develop an enology course. And hoping that he would get
an enology curriculum at Fresno State. So he appointed a
committee, and I was one of the committee, and he had a number of
people on the committee. I don't know if you have a list of those.
There was maybe six or eight people on the committee. We met
regularly with Vince Petrucci, and then with the dean of the
agricultural school out there, Lloyd Dowler, and started to talk
about why we should have an enology curriculum. Gradually we
actually wrote up the kind of courses that should be taught. We
developed ourselves a four-year curriculum on paper.
We also were able to get the local wine association, made up
of the wineries in the area, to support trying to get money to
build an enology building out here. But you have to recognize that
Davis was just starting as an enology department, and they were
against of course having any competition that they thought would
threaten their operation. But it was not intended to actually do
away the Davis thing; it was intended that you would have a
teaching facility here for people to go into winemaking locally,
and get into more of the phases of the type of operations that we
Skof is : were doing here. Up in Napa, for instance, they don't distill*
they don't make concentrate; they don't make juice all they make
is table vine. Here we made dessert vine, table vine, ve made all
the products that you can think of.
It vas also felt that if they had a school here, that you
could have people go part-time, or to evening classes, and be
taught some of the latest on vinemaking and seme of the latest
distillation procedures, and this is vhere it all developed. The
school finally vas authorized somewhere in the late fifties. It
took a let of doing on the part of the local people here, and Mr.
Jim [James L.j Riddell vas a big instrument, along vith Leon Peters
and a lot of the ether vineries here, in pushing their local
legislators to support the establishment of a curriculum at Fresno
State. It had to go through the state legislature, which it did.
Then they had to go through and get moneys appropriated to build a
I got involved into the tail end of this. I vas involved vith
it in the establishment of the curriculum. But in the politics ef
this, I got involved vith Jim Riddell, vhen ve had the legislative
analyst, Alan Post, if you recall him. And Alan Post came down,
and talked to Jim Riddell and I. so ve could explain to him why he
should agree vith the legislation that vas passed to appropriate
the money remember, he had almost veto povers over a lot of
legislation, as the financial analyst. He spent an evening here
vith Jim Riddell and I, and ve vere able to convince him that this
thing had to go forward. And I think that as a result of that one
meeting ve had vith him, ve tilted him to agree that ve should go
The money vas appropriated. It took a long time to get the
architectural plans put together because it had to meet all of the
state architectural requirements. In the meantime, they
established a curriculum, they had the money to go, and they hired
Joe Heitz as an instructor. He vas hired sometime around the late
fifties. Joe started to try to teach classes in various
laboratories there in the agricultural science area, and before the
enology building vas completed, Joe left to go up to Napa, and go
into the vine business himself.*
* See Joseph E. Heitz, Creating a Winery in the Napa Valley, an
oral history interviev conducted 1985, Regional Oral History
Office, The Bancroft Library. University of California. Berkeley,
Skofis: So at that time, Jim Riddell and a few others got together, and
they wanted to get somebody to help. Without me knowing about it,
they thought that perhaps I could help out, since I'd been involved
in the curriculum, and they went to my principals, particularly
Col. Burton, and they asked if they would agree to let me do this
on a part-time basis, along with my other work. So I was called
into Col. Burton's office here, and he told me what was happening,
and he left it up to me. He said. "I will give you evening time.
and of course, anything you have to have to help you, but we can't
allow you to take off during the day, do any day teaching."
I said, "I wouldn't expect to do that." So, based on the fact
that I would do all the teaching at night, I was put on as the
instructor. I opened up the new wine enology building in 1961, and
I had maybe eight or ten students. And a couple of those that had
taken some courses with Joe Heitz. Now, one of my students there
that you probably have heard and talked about was Allan Hemphill,
who was a son-in-law of Adolf Heck. I was very fortunate. He was
a senior student then, and he helped me out greatly in organizing a
lot of the day work that had to be prepared for the evening
classes. So I used him as kind of an assistant.
I taught three classes in the evenings, and it was a five-
night deal. It was very difficult hard on my family and myself,
and I did it in '61, '62, and '63.
Teiser: For three years!
Skofis: Well, it was two full years and part of the third year. And after
that, I taught the management course. I'd teach certain courses in
the fall, and certain courses in the spring. The last year I was
there, 1963, we had something like twenty to twenty-four students.
It was a difficult task to start with because I had to go back, and
I spent my Saturdays and Sundays preparing my lesson plans. I
don't doubt that some of the early teaching, a lot had to do on
experience, a lot had to do on what I was able to put together
quickly. But I did develop my teaching notes. So after the first
go-around I had enough notes that I had polished up so that we
And we did some crushing there; we had a small crusher, and we
were able make some wine, even made some champagne. We even tried
to make grape concentrate on the little lab model out there. I
would of course take them on trips to various wineries, and they
visited this winery quite a bit during actual operations. I tried
to show them some of the things I couldn't demonstrate in class.
Like, we were distilling, for instance, and they would see how it
was. So they were getting an on-the-spot plant instruction.
Skofis: So then, after that we hired Richard Norton as the instructor, and
he was there for quite a while. In the meantime, as they
requested, I would teach particularly the winery management class.
And I did teach some introduction to enology classes. They got to
the point where, a few years later, they offered Introduction to
Enology as a general course at the college level there, and they
got to the point where they had around seven hundred students that
were taking it. Of course, part of the large enrollment was
because the students thought it was a Micky-Mouse course, and
everybody was getting B's and A's until I got in there and I made
them work for it, and [laughs] I don't think I was too popular with
some of the students. I made them work to earn their grade; they
did earn it. It was difficult, even to do that part-time work.
Of course, I've had my interest in Fresno State College all
Teiser: And so you continued that until, say, 1971, when
Skofis: From '64 to actually 1971, that was on and off. It wasn't every
semester. I used to teach mostly in the spring, the management
course. And then once in a while in the fall, I would teach one of
the introduction to enology. And then there'd be a year I'd miss,
depending upon what they had.
Teiser: That brings us back up to Guild, then.
Skofis: Finally, when I got into Guild there, they didn't want me to do any
teaching. They had too much work for me. And I couldn't,
actually. When I was in Guild, it got to be too much traveling for
me. I couldn't get back in time.
Teiser: Traveling between wineries?
Skofis: I traveled going down to Delano was not very bad, because I could
make it in a four-hour round trip, but going up to Lodi, spending a
full day there, either I had to leave early in the morning and come
back late at night, or go up there the night before and do my work
and come back. And going to Ukiah was a two-day trip; it's a long
trip up there. I used to make that trip every ten days. Now, I
don't make it as often, although I still do a lot of traveling.
Teiser: As you progressed through various positions in Guild, how did that
go? Was it just each step was
Skofis: Well, actually, when I was taken on with Guild as the Roma winery
manager, at that time they indicated to me that I would probably be
replacing the vice president of production, That was I don't
think that was the carrot, but that was what their plan was.
Teiser: That was Kite?
Skofis: Ted Kite; yes. He retired in 1 975.
Teiser: Could you speak a little about him?
Skofis: Well. Ted Kite Walter was actually his name, Walter Kite. What I
know about him was that, when I came into the wine industry, he was
Mr. Big; as far as enologists or wine chemists or whatever it was,
he was the big wine man in Roma. He had been that during this
tremendous growth period. He came to Roma some time in the mid-
thirties, at this winery here, and started off as a wine chemist I
guess, wine production man. Kite's background was he was a civil
engineer, and he had some chemistry training. He'd had a degree
out of Stanford, where he played football. And he had some
chemical training. He was thinking of maybe going to medical
school, so he had a lot of that, and he got hired by the (Delias,*
and he went up the ranks. Having this engineering and chemistry
training, he fit in very well.
As they grew, and they grew very quickly, there weren't many
people knowledgeable in the science field in the wineries. So he
grew with them, and naturally he had a lot of recognition. He was
instrumental in building up their research staff. They had quite a
research staff here, particularly during the war years and after.
He had the big name, you know. You go to the meetings, and you
would always listen to what Ted Kite said, because he had to offer
a lot of words of wisdom. I got to know him through the wine
chemists' organizations. We would meet once a month; we'd have
To me, those are some of the most interesting periods, because
you had people that were in the industry before Prohibition. They
were tagging along now; they were actually almost retired. The old
winemakers were doing a lot of the hard work.
* For the early history of Roma and comment upon Kite, see John B.
Cella II. The Gel la Family _in the California Wine Industry, an oral
history interview conducted 1985-1986, Regional Oral History Office,
The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley, 1986.
Skofis: Then you had the new group that came out of Berkeley and Davis in
the thirties, who got hired in the wine industry because they had
chemical training, and they knew something about analyzing wines,
which was important. Even running an alcohol [test] was important
in those days. The later group that was coming in, like myself,
that had had quite a bit of schooling in chemistry, were doing more
detailed analytical work. We had a variance of opinions and
various theories. There were a lot of theories that were of zero
value, but they were still absorbed as being fact. Until you
learned more and you disputed them, you'd have the arguments going
between the old and the new.
Teiser: Was Kite
Skofis: Kite was one of them; he was one of the people that was of the
later group, you might say. He was a technical man, technically
trained. Charlie Crawford was one of them. Max Goldman. There
was a guy by the name of Scott. There was Morrie [Morris W.]
Turbovsky; I don't know if you've ever heard that name. I think
he's still living. There was some of those were the initial ones.
And then of course some of the later ones were like myself,
V INDUSTRY ORGANIZATIONS
The Wine Chemists' Group
Teiser: What was this later group?
Skofis: This was the Fresno wine chemists group. They had an informal
organization. They called themselves wine chemists, which is what
they were. They had an informal deal, dinners on Friday night once
a month. They had an elected chairman who would make the
annoucements, arrange for a speaker, and you'd have a big bull
session. A guy would talk about something that today would be
insignificant. To us it was very important. That's how little
information was available. The only book on wine chemistry was the
one that Cruess had put out, and it was about a half-inch thick,
and it looked like it was just a small you know. Then gradually,
he wrote a second book, and then a third book, and that was about
the only information you could get,* plus the three bulletins that
had been put out by Amerine and Joslyn and Marsh, at UC Berkeley.
One was Bulletin 639 on table wines, one was 651, on dessert wines,
and one 652, was on brandy. They still have a lot of valuable
information, I believe, even though they were put out forty-five
years ago. Still very valuable.
Teiser: Was that group that you speak of a predecessor of the American
Society of Enologists?
Skofis: In a way, yes. Because even Charlie Hoi den, who was the first
president of the ASE, would attend those meetings, and he felt at
that time that we had to have something of a professional society
where we could have meetings, give papers of a research nature,
more professional than we were doing at these winemaking meetings.
You'd have a speaker and then you'd have a lot of b.s. going on,
* See bibliography in William V. Cruess, A Half Century of Food and
Wine Technology, op. cit.
Skofis: plus there was a lot of knowledge exchanged. Some guy said. "Well,
I did it this way," and the [other] guy said, "Well, you're full of
baloney. You should do it this way." Well, all of this was
learning, surprisingly. Arguing back and forth. Because you would
be doing something in a way, and all of a sudden a guy says, "I
don't do it that way; I do it this way." All of a sudden you're
opened up to a new thought that you didn't know existed. This is
how little we knew at that time.
Of course, the University was coming along pretty good, and
Ewhen they moved the staff from Berkeley to Davis and reorganized
the enology and viticulture department it started to get better
organized. Winkler I think was the first chairman of the
department, then followed by Amerine and a few others. More
material came out, more research money put into it. So there was
more meaningful studies made that were a value to the industry. On
grapes and on winemaking. But up to that point there was a limited
They used to have the TAG meetings, Technical Advisory
Committee meetings of Wine Institute. The original intent of that
was done to f orestal the wine chemists from organizing into a
union. They wanted to give them some recognition that they were
important people; they organized this Technical Advisory Committee.
They said, "Hey, we need you guys."
The Technical Advisory Committee
Skofis: I don't know whether it forstalled it, because there was never a
wine chemists' union organized. But this was I understand one of
the reasons why they formed the Wine Institute Technical Advisory
Committee. They'd meet three to four times a year. They would
actually go through a one-day session, giving some very good
technical papers. Some were delivered by the University people;
some were delivered by some of the companies that had information
like Roma. Ted Kite, some of his people, would deliver a paper, it
would be a twenty-minute paper on what they did on filtration. Or
something about a wine problem, hazing, or clouding.
So the Technical Advisory Committee was founded some time in
the forties, and they had a select group. They only had I think
twenty or twenty-five members, and you had to be elected into the
group.* There were more technical people around, but those were
the ones that went to the meetings.
* The date of formation was June 6, 19AA. It was dissolved June A,
Skofis: Well, eventually they expanded you would be invited to come not as
a member but as a guest. I started to go to meetings in 1948 as a
guest, and I would attend them all. Italian Swiss encouraged us to
go. Most of the meetings were held in San Francisco. That was
really the beginning of a lot of information being disseminated
Well, I got active in the Technical Advisory Committee. I was
elected in 1951. There was an opening, and E. M. Brown was very
instrumental in getting me elected as a member. 1 had done quite a
bit of work on s tillage disposal. (And I had done some
presentation.) That was a serious problem with us in those days.
We were disposing of stillage on the ground, and creating all these
bad odors, and National Distillers did a study. They developed
some equipment to try to clean up the stillage before it was put in
the ground. It turned out to be a big fluke.
Skofis: I made the report on what we did. We did the research we
collected the numbers, and it was really not the type of research
you'd call research. But with us it was research because there was
nothing known about it. I did a lot of the analytical work, and as
a result, we did publish it and give it to the wine industry just
to be sure they wouldn't get caught in the same trap, and pointed
out a lot of new things about stillage disposal that they weren't
as aware of.
Teiser: But you didn't solve the problem?
Skofis: Well, we were able to do a better job after that. The problem was
there, but we showed how we could reduce the odor forming by doing
a better distribution of the material on the ground, and getting a
quicker evaporation so there was no odor formed. As far as
contamination of soil, there was no contamination of soil because
everything was bi ode grade able, and we didn't worry about it. I was
chairman those two years.* Now those two years, the big thing that
we did of importance was to get this compound to remove copper and
iron approved by the government, the Cufex.
This was a compound Mr. Julius Fessler developed at Berkeley
Yeast Lab. In Europe, to remove iron and copper from wine, they
used what they call potassium ferrocyanide, which sounds worse than
it is. Potassium ferrocyanide was not poisonous. But the cyanide
part, of course, scares the heck out of people. Julius Fessler
found out that you could take this compound and chelate it in with
some other mixtures he had, and that you could use it, and you
* March 9, 1954 to February 20. 1956.
Skofis: could actually remove copper and iron from wine and leave no
residual. He got a patent on this. The government, after much
review, (and I was chairman of the committee at that time we were
pushing it) they actually approved it, and they approved it
providing we would have no more than one part per million residuals
ferrocyanide in the wine. That's on the statutes now.
That was one of the big things that happened, because any time
you wanted to remove iron and copper you had to do it illegally,
Teiser: Was that known as blue fining?
Skof is : Blue fining, that's what they called it. In Europe they still do
blue fining, and nobody thinks anything of it. They do it. We use
Cufex today, and that's an approved method; no problem, no harm.
The patent ran out on it, and now there's all sorts of compounds,
but everybody still knows these as Cufex. Cufex comes from the
copper, which is CU, and iron, which is FE. They combine the two
and they call it Cufex.
That was one of the big things we did at that time. Then.
later, I continued to be active on the various advisory committees,
and of course, also the ASE was formed and I became a charter
member. I wasn't active on the ASE until 1962 or '63, I guess it
was. [looking through papers] It shows '64; maybe I was a board
member, it was '63 I was elected board member. Then they
appointed me chairman of the Wine Institute laws and regulations
committee, the big undertaking. We had some interesting years.
There was a lot of controversial years in there.
We did a lot towards getting the Part 240 of the Wine
Regulations cleaned up. We wanted to be sure that there was no
additional use of sugar in stretching out wines. We had a big
battle with the eastern wine people on that, and we finally won the
battle with them. They wanted to have an opportunity to use more
water and more sugar and make more wine. Well, to us, it was an
economic threat, because they had high-priced grapes; by the time
you add water and sugar, you got down your price of grapes well,
it was an economic threat to California wines, plus the fact we
felt there was a limit on how much water you can make wine with.
Revising the Definition of Brandies
Skofis: We also had, at that time, the definition of brandies. The
government wanted to define whiskies and brandies by the congener
levels, that is, by the analytical results. So if you have this
amount of congener in a brandy or whiskey, you can call it that.
Skof is : We said. well, that's wrong. If you want to make a lighter
product, you should be able to call it; if you want to make a
heavier product, you should be able to call it. You shouldn't be
locked into a certain deal, plus or minus. And that was a big
item. Except, during that period, we did have a problem; we had
one of the big distillers that was turning out a neutral brandy.
We felt that we should be able to turn out neutral brandies the way
Well, they had an approved formula which, if we had challenged
the BATF at that time, they would have withdrawn it. But the other
thing was that at that time that brandy which was a big brandy.
They had hundreds of thousands of barrels of brandy aging.
Schenley threatened, and a few other people threatened, to go to
the courts and show that this was made illegally because the
process was illegal. We were able to twist their arms, and have
them support the legislation which said that the proof of the
distillation was measured in the tank. Now there's a difference
there. Before, the law said the proof of distillation, that you
produced the product, was off the column. The composite off the
column determined the proof as it came off the column. It had to
be below 170 proof.
We said, "We want to be in a position to produce brandy at 180
proof." They said "No." We said, "Yes, because that's the only
way we can make the brandy as soft as you do." "Well, we won't go
for it." We said, "Okay, if you won't go for it, then we're going
to go to the BATF and have the approved process rescinded." We
happened to have gotten a copy how they got it, I don't know of
that proof formula. It had been approved in 1946, or '47 by some
government man who should never have approved it, and these people
were producing all the time. It was completely illegal by the
regulations of that day. So we were able to convince them to
support us in order for them to get out of this big mess they were
in. It was one of the big, big distilleries and I won't identify
it. I wouldn't want to be quoted on it. But you can imagine who
it was. It wasn't Gallo, either.
They would have to support us, that the proof of distillation
was in the tank. So that meant that if I wanted to produce 180
proof material in the tank, and then add in 130 proof material, I
could come out below 170. As long as the brandy was under 170 in
the tank, it was brandy. That was the big point. To you, maybe
you're not a production person, I'm telling you, that was a big
point. We finally won it, and it's in the regulation today. And
this was done during that period when I was chairman of the
regulations committee. I was active on the brandy distillation
then for Schenley. Our chairman, Rosenstiel, he was just looking
for a battle like that. That's what he loved to have. He'd love
to have had his competition have two hundred thousand barrels of
Skof is : brandy declared illegal, er tie them up in the courts. Or
somewhere. You know, these guys would do anything to hurt each
And Jim Rid dell, he saw it. and he went along with our
proposed change because he was fighting the eld law. So, that was
one of the big things. A lot of people don't know what happened.
Jim Riddell knew about it. I knew about it, some of the other
brandy people knew about it. Gallos weren't in en it; they didn't
care. But some of the people who were in on it, they knew it, and
they supported our action, and this one single action was most
important. They decided to back off. So that was one of the big
things we did during that period; it was really a big item.
Then after that, of course, I got off that committee, I think
1970. I think I got off a little earlier than that; maybe '69.
Stillage Disposal and Ethanol Emissions
Skof is : A year later, they had this environmental studies committee that
they developed because of some water quality problems. The Porter-
Cologne act was passed in California on water quality; [it]
indicated that we were going to have some environmental problems
with our stillage disposal. And that we had to do something with
respect to stillage disposal because the government at that time
was seriously considering having us take the stillage, clean it up,
put it back on the ground as almost clean water, which we couldn't
do. That would have been a multi-million dollar project. In other
words, we would have had to have had treatment plants in every
winery. There's no way you could do it. That was the big battle
we took on at that time, and through a lot of work, and myself and
Charlie Crawford particularly, the two ef us together, we were able
to convince the state water quality control people that we could
dispose on land provided certain things were done. We did a lot of
research work, and it was about four or five years later, maybe six
years later, that we finally got all the research dene, presented
it to them, and the state water resources board at that time set up
the protocol that stillage can be disposed on land. That was very
important, again, to us. They were going to eliminate the usage of
land disposed for stillage. But the way we set up that use of land
disposal for waste water, industry had to follow the disciplines
that were developed from the research work. We were able to do
Since that time, of course, we're involved in this ethanol
emissions study. It has to do with the fermentation gases, where
they claim that some alcohol goes up into the atmosphere and
destroys the ozone layer. In fact. Dr. [Carlos] Muller just called
Skofis: me about that particular project that we're going to do at Fresno
State this year. We're going to do a demonstration with the State
Air Resources Board. I'm still committee chairman. I've been
chairman now for the last sixteen years. Last year I told them I
won't continue as chairman after this term.
I've been a director of Wine Institute since 1976.
Teiser: You may have gotten out of going to the city to work every day, but
you have got yourself into jobs that take you there frequently!
Skofis: Well, I made a lot of trips on these committees to San Francisco.
Our people put a lot of money out for us to serve on that. That's
The San Joaquin Valley Wine Growers' Association
Skofis: We have here the San Joaquin Valley Wine Growers' Association that
is strictly the local winery owners, the winery principals. It's
kind of a political lobby thing, you know. We use it only to show
our legislators here that we do have interests in certain aspects,
and the congressmen and legislators know that we're viable, and if
there's some legislation we don't like we may go through the San
Joaquin Valley Wine Growers and say, hey, you're affecting our
It's not a Wine Institute; it's a separate organization. It
has its own charter, but functions not very strongly. Years ago,
we functioned more. But now we still play an active role. Like
many times, with legislation up at Sacramento that's detrimental to
the wine industry, the president and the group will get together
and they will ride up there and say, "We're against it, and we
represent forty wineries," or whatever it is we represent. So they
pay attention. And I was president in 1973-74.
I was on the American Society of Enologists, I've been a
charter member since it was formed in 1950. I think I was on the
board in 1963, if I'm not mistaken.
Teiser: Did you give papers early?
Skofis: I gave some papers. Not as many as I'd like to have given. I've
given probably three or four papers in all that period of time. I
got sort of involved with other things, and management duties, and
winemaking duties, so that I didn't spend any time in the
laboratory after a while. I've been at a desk. I was president in
Did you accomplish something as president that you'd always wanted
The only thing I say that, when I was vice president, I was
instrumental in getting the first ASE meeting down in Coronado,
which they loved [laughs]. We're on the other end of the state.
Ze'ev Halperin told me to go down. He was the president at the
time. He said, "Elie, go down and take a look at it and see if we
can have a meeting there. I heard it's pretty good." I went down
there, and I just fell in love with the place. We got the group to
go down there, and they fell in love with it. So we've been going
south quite a bit, not too much to Coronado, because now it's just
too small, but to the San Diego area.
The Davis people were livid when we said we were going to go
down there, and they were the ones who supported it more later.
Skof is ;
We're talking about the ASE.
Award lecturer in '83.
I have here that you were the Guymon
'85 I got the Merit Award. That's the big award. I'll show you
the awards out here, if you want to see them. They're hung up.
In April 1986 Wines and Vines you published your Guymon Award
paper. It said it was abstracted.
That's right, it was. Actually, you know, the whole article was
too big. They came back and rewrote the article, and I didn't like
what they rewrote.
A copy was given to the University, and I gave a few out to a
few people of the press. Wines and Vines got it, and they wanted
to have it shrunk down, and they had somebody rewrite the thing,
and he cut out a lot of it. Some of the stuff that I thought was
important, he cut out. He put his own versions. So I said no.
But what was the article they did publish?
The article covered many areas of the original paper, but I wasn't
comfortable that it tied in what I said. I'll have to get you a
copy of the original.*
* See Appendix I.
Teiser: But the Merit Award in 1985 was there any one thing that you think
that it was for, or was it just for your long career in
Skofis: Well. I think it was a combination. Number one, the time I put in
in the Wine Institute and a lot of these matters that were very
important. I didn't do any research. But I put in many, many
years of my time on TAG and Enology Society, the Wine Institute
laws and regulations committee and these are all technical matters
related to the industry. And on the environmental committee work.
Please remember in the early seventies when President Nixon
said we would have a "closed" loop on water usage and disposal, he
wanted to insure that every gallon of water returned back to the
environment would be clean. This was a tall order and we in the
wine industry recognized the role we would need to play. Also we
were greatly concerned that much of what the law regulators would
say we need could be most expensive and not as effective.
Naturally the EPA didn't know what the problems were. My role as
chairman of the Environmental Committee was to work with the
various government agencies federal, state, county, city who
would be playing some role. We did a lot of work since then and
our efforts paid off since many of these agencies became better
informed and accepted more reasonable ways to abet the problems as
affected the wineries.
They felt that I should get a recognition for it.
thought that that I've spent a lot of time and we have
a lot of things in the respect that we've been able to
of this bureaucratic regulation that they want to load
We've had to go in there and talk to them, and then do
and put them off until finally you educate them to the
now, yes, we can live with that. You don't have to do
long as you do that, we'll live with it.
buffer a lot
you up with,
this, but as
So compromise to the point where we could do some improvement,
and make them realize that we're very law-abiding people. It's the
way you handle these people that counts. This is the one reason
they wanted me to continue, the fact that I can go to a government
group. Probably my age may be an aid grey hair, well, you got to
respect age or something. They will listen. I don't get heavy-
handed with them; I get firm a lot of the time, but then on the
other hand, I convince them enough to wait, and that's what we've
been able to do. Like this Air Resources Board; if they want to
impose these regulations on us the way it is today, it could be
anywhere from a hundred to two hundred million dollars.
Initially the engineering studies done with little information
about the problem would have created Rube Goldberg type solutions.
We practically flipped when we saw what they recommended. To say
the least after many meetings with the ARE staff and help from
others, we got the ARE to agree to a demonstration.
Skofis: And what we're trying to do now with the demonstration is to show
the problem has been over-exaggerated. Yes, you can do it, you can
capture emissions, but the economics is not feasible. This is what
the ARE members say: it's got to be feasible and cost-effective.
We tell them it's not cost-effective.
Guild here is going to spend, we figure, five million dollars.
The Gallo organization's big winery by the airport, anywhere from
thirty-five to forty-five million dollars. That's not chicken
feed. That comes out of profits. Our concern has been we don't
get burdened with unnecessary requirements to satisfy some
bureaucrats that they have resolved or contained an environmental
So I got the award for a combination of reasons. My many
years of work with the industry on technical matters as affects
research, laws and regulations, environment and my helping develop
and get the enology curriculum started at Fresno State University.
Dr. [Klayton E.] Nelson was selected this year. I was on a
committee selecting him, and it was just all of his years of
research, and what he's done on grapes. He's retired. He'd done a
lot of research. He's done it on table grapes. He's done it on
wine grapes. He made the study with Myron Nightingale on
* See Myron S. Nightingale and Alice Nightingale, op. cit.
VI GUILD. CONTINUED
Cutting Back. 1983-1985
Teiser: Getting back to Guild and your functions here, you said the number
of growers and the number of facilities increased, and then there
was a big cutback. When was that?
Skofis: Well, in 1983. And 1984, when the Guild board of directors
terminated the president. They felt they had to have a change in
top management, because we had some big financial losses coming up.
At that time there was a big cutback, and there were quite a few
people terminated at various levels.
Mr. [Robert] Ivie was the president. He'd been president from
1967. He came in a very young man, you know, and saw the company
grow up. And of course, he went in one direction and he should
have gone in another, and he got the company in some financial
problems. The growers weren't getting their return, and it turned
out that as I said excuse me for a minute, I'll be right back. I
want to get you a copy of the article on Gerard Pasterick.
In between the time Mr. Ivie resigned and Mr. Pasterick came
in, we had done most of the cutting back, at least. The chairman
of the board became the acting chief executive officer, Mr. Kenneth
Seibert. And of course after the discussions with all the other
corporate vice presidents on what we had to do, they moved the
office from San Francisco to Lodi. Actually they moved the
marketing office to Pleasant Hill, and the balance of the offices
they moved to LodL But they cut back a number of vice presidents
that were, I guess, doing some job that was not 100 percent
productive. They terminated some of them as being surplus.
We had one for public relations, a very fine woman, and she
was out trying to get a lot of PR, and it didn't seem to be helping
our sales in any way. It got to be an expensive package. We also
Skofis: had a race car. It was most expensive to sponsor and the board
were upset by this. The president intended this as one of the
marketing tools. It was one of the Indy 500 race cars; Bobby Rahal
was our racer. That cost about a half a million dollars a year.
The San Francisco office was costing over a million dollars a year.
By the time you terminate something like forty people throughout
the whole organization, and eliminated the office and car and a few
other things, there was about three million dollars a year of costs
that were eliminated. That had to be done to save the company.
When Mr. Pasterick came, a good part of this had been done.
And of course, he continued on, because even in early '85 about
half of the number were terminated. We did some more. In my own
department, we eliminated five positions. We had to double up on
the work, although I have something like, oh, thirty-five salaried
people working under me. Not hourly, but salary. But we
eliminated something like fifteen percent. That's hard to do that.
There were some very fine people there. We shut two wineries down,
we just mothballed them. We eliminated two managers. One of the
managers we still use, but in the process of using him, somebody
else had to go. And as we got attrition, we never replaced.
There were a few people up in Lodi that were a part of the
team, that were difficult people to work with under the old regime.
It was difficult to get them in line, and they felt independent and
very secure. When the new management came in there, it asked some
hard questions: who are some of the people here that are giving
problems? The people working in the area said, "So-and-so person
has been one person that, if you asked me I'd eliminate; if I had
ten people to choose from, who'd I pick, that's the one." They all
voted in one direction. So if you're the bad egg in the crowd,
you're going to get out, and some of them weren't part of the team.
Teiser: What effect did it have upon the growers?
Skofis: Well, the growers naturally saw that there was a leaner look to the
company, which meant that there were less expenses. But the big
problem that we ran into was the fact that we had some very high
cost grape years. In the process of having those high cost grape
years, we got more grapes delivered than we were able to sell.
See, when you're a commercial winery and you say, "I need fifty
thousand tons," you go out and buy fifty thousand tons. And you
pay what you have to. If they're too high, you may buy forty-five,
you may buy forty. You say, "I'll wait and buy the wine."
In a co-op you don't go out and buy wine. You make your wine.
But then if you get more grapes than you need, you make more wine.
That stays in the tanks. And the grower that delivers those
grapes, or the extra grapes he's delivered, he still wants his
Teiser: What do you do?
Skofis: Well, the thing that happened in 1984 was we crushed less grapes.
So we told all the growers that they were better off trying to sell
the grapes cash, and a lot of them did. Some grapes we said we
wouldn't take delivery of because we had no need for them. Some of
them agreed that they could probably sell and get immediate cash.
There were some cases where we said, "Sell half your grapes cash
and deliver half." And they did it.
Teiser: Did you lose any growers?
Skofis: Oh, yes. We said, "If you want to withdraw from the co-op, we will
not require the three-year waiting period." So we were able to
reduce the tonnage down considerably. I'll give you just one
number, so you don't relate it to the total suppose we had fifteen
hundred tons and we only needed a thousand. This is just a number,
you know; but we were able to get some of them to withdraw five
hundred. By giving them early withdrawal, they were happy to get
out of there without losing money so they could sell them cash. A
lot of them that withdrew have been selling them cash, and a lot of
them want to come back. They've seen us turn around, and they've
had a hard time out there selling. It's not been easy.
Some we permitted them to sell part of their grapes and part
to deliver, which gives them a cash flow right away, and still
they're in a co-op. But the most difficult thing was that, because
of the high inventory values on this surplus inventory, they had to
change some of the accounting procedures. In the accounting
procedures, you have to value everything on the books at what it's
really worth on the marketplace. Suppose you've got wine on the
books for a dollar and a half. If the marketplace says it's only
worth a dollar, and you still try to sell it for a dollar and a
half you're not going to sell it. You can put it in a bottle, say
it's a dollar and a half value. What happens is, when you sell it,
you'll lose three dollars a case, but if you re-evaluate it, to
realistically write off that particular loss against your equity,
that means your value in the company is reduced. Then you will say
it's worth a dollar. When I sell it in the case, now I make fifty
cents a case. So they have to write off a lot of equity. It
wasn't that we took something away from a grower.
On the other hand, some grapes that have been delivered, on
which only partial payment was left. Because they wrote down the
value of those grapes, the fellows got less return for the grapes.
There wasn't enough earnings. So that was a very difficult period
for the growers. The co-op operates differently in that respect.
Today we are operating on a deal that we want to give the
growers 100 percent of the market. Anything we make above that we
use to reduce debts. We have to do this for a period of three
Skofis: years, per our agreement with the co-op bank, in order to continue
our credit line. This what I'm telling you is all public
information. We're doing that, and we've succeeded in selling off
most of our surplus wine. In fact, we've balanced out a lot of
areas. We have some surplus wines of the North Coast variety.
We've just about balanced there. We had a lot of brandies; we had
a lot of brandy surplus. We were able to reduce that down. So
we're getting pretty much in balance on our inventories. Right now
we're on the market to actually buy wine. Last year we went out
and had to buy a certain amount of wine in order to fill our case
requirements, our bottling requirements.
Markets and Labels
Teiser: How much wine do you sell in bulk?
Skofis: Well, because we had surplus grapes, we had to sell so much case
goods, so much bulk. The years that we have more grapes, we try to
sell more bulk. We try to sell things in bulk at a profit. Many
times you sold them in bulk and took a little loss, but you had to
move the product out. The loss here worked against the profit
here, so you reduce the profit on your case goods. This is the one
tough thing to tell a grower. He's going to say, "Why did you?"
"Well, actually, you delivered me fifteen hundred tons, I only
needed a thousand. So five hundred tons I had to sell as bulk, and
I lost money. The loss here reflects against the thousand tons
here I sold with a profit. So I can't give you the same money for
this five hundred that I give you for this."
So the accounting has been changed, I think the growers are
getting better educated. There has been more openness in our
organization today. Our growers know more about how the business
runs. They're smart business people. A grower is a pretty
intelligent person. He has to struggle to live. And as a result
he has to learn how he has to survive. We feel our grower members
are fully informed today, and I think they're very very satisfied
that they are being told the total story, whereas before, they were
told this happened, or the inventories were valued on the previous
year's crop, whereas the real market value was way down so that you
sold them below market price, or the grape market price, so you
really had a loss.
Teiser: How much do you sell in bulk?
Skofis: Actually right now we're selling somewhere in the vicinity of maybe
85 percent in cases and 15 percent bulk. And we're getting out of
the bulk business. The only bulk we have is contract accounts,
fixed, long-term accounts. That's what we're trying to do.
Teiser: If you're shipping some wine to Canada for bottling there
Skofis: Yes. That's in the agreement they just signed.
Teiser: How do you ship it?
Skofis: We ship it by tank truck, or tank car. That will go to Canada, and
they will blend it. See, they have to put so much Canadian wine in
the blend. Canadian law requires it. They'll bottle it out under
our label. That way, we have our label being sold in Canada. So
they know, Cribari or whatever it is, is going to be sold in
Canada, and same label as sold in the United States.
Teiser: Do you put more and more wine under your Cribari label?
Skofis: Yes. Well, Cribari is our main brand. We have Roma, we have
Vintner's Choice, which is coming up very fast. We have Wine
Masters. We have Cresta Blanca, which is our premium label. And
we do some private label work, but not too much of that any more.
We're eliminating the private label.
Teiser: I was looking in your tasting room, as you know, and the variety of
wines is kind of interesting. I wondered, do your marketing
people, or do you, or do you all together decide what you should
Skofis: Well, you've got in there Fum'e blanc under Cribari. It's a new
variety. Well, the Fume blanc, we make a limited amount of that
wine. The marketing people said that they'd like to see a Fume
blanc. They asked me, do we have any? I said, a very small
amount. "What do you think you could sell?" "We think, the first
go-around, we could sell, say, X number of cases." "Well, we don't
have X number of gallons for X number of cases. We have less."
They said, "Well, we know we can sell that much, we'd like to
establish it, and the varietal business is a coming business,
therefore this is an opportunity."
When we made some, if we didn't have enough, we could go out
and buy it. That's exactly what we did. We went out, and we
bought Sauvignon Blanc wine from some wineries, and we were able to
select the best, and we took it, and we blended it with ours, and
we developed this new label. And it's doing pretty fair.
Teiser: Where do you get your Sauvignon blanc, which areas?
Skofis: Well, we're buying mostly on the coast. We also have some we
produced from the Lodi area grapes, which is good. And this last
year we got more of the Sauvignon blanc grapes. We will be able to
continue that label, support it.
Skofis: So marketing makes these studies, and they come to me as the
winemaker, you might say, as in charge of the winemaking. They
say, "Well, what do you think about this? Is there any way we can
do it?" And I say, "Well, we don't have it " so we may go out and
actually get samples, and we say, "We'll make this kind of a wine,
we can buy this kind of wine." We have to sit down between
marketing, myself, and the president, and we'll make a decision.
"Well, we'll go with it." Then we'll go with it, so we'll go out
and buy the wine, Mr. Cella, he's in the group that goes out and
gets the wine. He submits samples to me, we taste them, we say,
"This is good, that's not good." We go on to buy it. They say,
"Well, they want too much money for that." Well, we may have to
cut back and buy some of the good stuff and some of the mediocre
stuff and blend the two together, for price reasons.
Cook's Sparkling Wine
Teiser: Your Cook's sparkling wine, I understand, has been very successful
Teiser: Is that an old label for you?
Skofis: Yes. Schenley bought that label out. That label goes back to
prior to World War IL The American Champagne Company was
marketing Cook's champagne in St. Louis, Missouri. At that time it
was owned by some private individuals. One of the individuals was
one of the Nazi leaders, I think it was Ribbentrop. When the war
broke out, the government confiscated all his properties owned by
the foreign enemy leaders. This was one of them they confiscated,
and the winery ran on and on under government supervision.
After the war was over they auctioned it off. Schenley bought
the Cook's label and the champagne company. They bought it in the
late forties or early fifties. At that time, when they bought it,
they sent Roy Mineau back to manage the winery. He was the
winemaker up at Cresta. He retired about ten years ago. He had
champagne experience. At Cresta in Livermore we used to produce
Cresta [Blanca] bottle-fermented champagne. So he went back there,
and he was a manager for two or three years.
They decided they were going to move that operation out to
California. So in 1954 they moved that operation here, to the Roma
facility. Our engineer had developed a transfer process for the
bottle- fermented champagne. It used to be that you'd ferment in
this bottle and decant out of this bottle. In the transfer
process, you ferment in the bottle, you empty the contents out of
Skofis: the bottle, you filter the vine, you put it back in the same bottle
or a new bottle. He developed the decanting process, and we had
the only American decanter. There was one that the Germans had,
very expensive machine; the only one who had that was Padre
Vinyards down at Cucamonga.
But our machinery was developed by our engineer, and he did an
excellent job, outstanding job. He was John Hoi stein, a real fine
design engineer. He's still living, toe, by the way. He's up in
his eighties. So they decided to bring that operation out here,
try to increase the volume, and make it a transfer-operated. It
was still fermented in the bottle. It didn't say "Fermented in
this bottle," like Korbel says. I don't know what value it has to
people in France; they say "Fermented in this bottle."
Marketing people today believe that to say "fermented in this
bottle" or methode champenoise is better and can command a higher
price than "bottle fermented" and transfer processed. I've tasted
excellent "bottle fermented" and bad "fermented in this bottle," so
I believe a champagne maker who can make good champagne both ways,
he'll probably go with "fermented in this bottle" because of the
appeal and higher profit.
They had the Cook's champagne here when I came to Roma in
1955. This transfer process was a hush-hush deal. You couldn't
get in there unless you had credentials. The first time I was in
there, the general manager. Burton, took me there, and he said, "I
want to show Elie this, and Elie's free to come any time he wants.
So don't give him a hard time." Anybody else around, it was 'but."
If they caught you in there, they'd fire you. We had people that'd
come in the plant here and try to sneak in; our security force
would escort them out. We had other people in the company that
were just curious and wanted to go down and see it, and they said,
"Hey, we j ust want to see it for a while." "No. It's none of your
business. You just stick to what you're doing." But I had access
to it. I knew about it. I was not involved in champagne making at
that time. But Cook's was made that way.
Later we brought the Cresta Blanca bottle-fermented operation
down too. We did a certain amount at Roma, fermented it in the
bottle. We had some labels with Roma. It was quite an operation
here. J. B. Cella developed the champagne tunnels, which I don't
know if you've ever seen. There are some underground tunnels that
hold up to they used to hold up to a million and a half bottles.
Skofis: Yes. Temperature controlled. What we use them for now, we age
sherry down there in barrels.
Skofis: The Cook's champagne was here, operating. Then it was decided that
the label was not growing fast enough and we didn't like the label.
We had a very bright product manager up at San Francisco by the
name of Mary Thompson, a young lady there. She suggested that they
redesign the label and the bottle, and perhaps they could see if
they could improve it, and also ferment it bulk. Except we'd make
a special blend. So, I got involved with that at that time. I
said, "Well, we're going to have to improve the champagne on this."
So we developed a special blend for it.
They redesigned the label, put a new bottle, beautiful bottle.
Did away with the cork and put the plastic cork in there, and we
said, "We're going to price it now, instead of the big high price,
a lower price intermediate price, but have a good champagne, and
see what happens." And we opened it up in the state of Washington,
and it just went great. State of Washington and Oregon, they
really went for it. From there it just started to grow.
When Mr. Ivie left it was about 150 thousand cases. He had
started to bring it along. When Mr. Pasterick came in, they
decided they were going to go all out and try to really do a better
job of marketing. And they did, under Mr. Pasterick' s leadership.
They brought it up to where it's close to a million cases. And
they've done that in the last three years.
We're making a Brut, an extra dry, and we're making the
[sparkling] White Zinfandel and the Blanc de Noir. White Zinfandel
is moving good. The B rut's our biggest seller, and the extra dry
is second. The Blanc de Noir has had very high ratings by
champagne tasters, and it is doing pretty fair, but not in the
volume like I like to see. We would like to see it do better. So
that's the story of the Cook's, you see. It's the one wine that I
give personal attention to the wines that go into it. We select
the wines, we hold them, and then we recheck them again so we're
sure that the wines are in the best condition. We have a
proprietary yeast we use, that we have developed for years, and it
ferments out very nicely. We don't use that yeast on anything but
Teiser: [looking at tasting room price list] You've also been making de-
Teiser: How does that go?
Skofis: Well that, we're in a venture with another company on that one.
They're doing the marketing, we're doing the production. And we
were out pretty good there. Actually, we're not a threat to St.
Skof is :
Skof is :
Skof is !
Skof is :
Regis at all. On the other hand. St. Regis is concerned about the
fact that in tastings we seem to outscore. And we do outscore.
We have two: a white, and a blush. The blush was introduced
about six months ago and it's going great. We're doing more work
on it; we're doing quite a bit of research. In fact, last week I
was back east visiting with a research company that's doing some
work for us on we're trying to improve it by going into reverse
osmosis. We're not sure.
Some of these wines on the list are estate-bottled. I see.
Yes. estate-bottled. I think the estate-bottled requirement
regulation was a very fine thing. I think it cleaned out a lot of
the stuff, every Tom Dick and Harry could put "estate bottled" on
their bottle. Now estate bottling in California has even more
meaning than they do in France. It really does. Surprising; I
think ours is a tougher law than even the French law. In our
estate bottling, if it's a vintage, it's got to be 100 per cent
from the estate or winery's own grapes. It's got to be 95 percent
vintage. But the appelation has got to be 100 percent.
You've really covered the whole span, so that you
Well, it keeps us busy.
your distributers can offer a whole line.
That's right. We're going to be reducing some of our areas. Those
wine types are going to stay there, but we also have different
packaging. Many times you have one distributer in one area, "Well,
I want that packaging," and you only do a packaging for him, and it
doesn't work any more. We're just going to have standard packages
because what we've put into some areas was a loss.
I see you have a very stylish looking milk-bottle style package.
That's the Toppan Easy-pour pack, a Japanese package. They used it
for years in selling sake. Mr. Pasterick got wind of it, and he
went over there last year. He saw it and came back and was able to
convince our board that we should go on it. It's going very well.
We have five different types of wine in it.
Teiser: In Dr. Amerine's notes about this interview he mentioned
temperature control and wine finishing clarification.
Skof is : Well, most of the wineries are pretty well standardized on that.
We all ferment cold. Our white wines are all fermented cold. We
try to ferment between 50 and 55 F in the white wines, and the
roses about 55 to 60. And the red wines somewhere around 75 to
85 at the most. As far as the finishing is concerned, we do have
the same stabilization practices as most wineries, except at Lodi
we do one thing that a lot of the wineries have had problems with.
When you cold ferment certain varieties of white wine, after
fermentation, they go through what they call a pinking process.
You've heard of this pinking problem. And this happens many times
in the bottle. You've got the white wine and all of a sudden you
look at the wine and it's got a pink cast to it. What has happened
is that there are certain polyphenolic compounds that, if you're
fermenting warmer, convert over. In a cold fermentation they stay
in the product. Nothing changes. We have found tanks of wine
that, we check them this month and they're nice and yellow, the
next month we go in there and they have this pinkish brown cast to
them. So, "KJee, what happened?" Somebody dropped some red wine in
there, initially we thought before all of us recognized the
The way we found out, maybe a month later we'd go back and
it's cleaned up. "What happened?" Well, the thing went through
its change, polyphenolic compound converted over. Well, you don't
know when it's going to do it. It may do it in the bottle. How
can you make it do it? You don't know how you can make it do it.
Heat up the wine? Yea, you can heat up the wine and do some
damage. But we did find out that the Germans had this particular
product that they were clarifying beer with, they call it PVPP.
That acted as a specific absorbent for certain phenolic compounds.
Those wines that we treated with PVPP never had the pinking
That compound was very expensive. Then we found out that the
Germans had a filter system where they would use this compound, and
they would run the wine through it, and they wouldn't lose the
compound; they would regenerate the compound you know, bring it
back to life again. We did studies on it and we bought the
equipment. So we're one of the big wineries now in California that
has this PVPP process. It doesn't affect flavor, it doesn't affect
the color. What it does, it absorbs the polyphenols. Just those
that are specific for this pinking. So that is one of the things
on stabilization that we've done. We haven't advertised it,
because we don't want outside the trade (marketing) to say we are
treating with chemicals. Basically it is like a specific type of
sponge in absorbing this pinking compound.
We've tried this rapid-cold stabilization (you've heard of
that) where they actually seed the cold wine with a lot of cream of
tartar crystals, the idea being that the crystals act as magnets
Skofis: for the cream of tartar that's in the solution it draws it out
like a magnet. The crystal that's in the suspension is small, and
then it starts to have the other come out of the solution, grows
greater, and the heavier crystal drops out. You filter the wine
out and you have a what you call a cold stable wine.
Well, we have that system up there, too, and we can do rapid-
cold stabilization. We don't do it as much. We found out that we
can take the wine, chill it cold, put it in a tank for ten days,
and get the same effect. But we do have the equipment, and we have
many times lots of wine a lot, not "lots" meaning many, but a lot,
a batch of wine that we have to finish in the next five days.
We'll go through this system. Within five days the wine is cold
Teiser: Those are things that I suppose nobody dreamed of, when you got
into the industry.
Skofis: No, they hadn't developed them. But as they developed them, I was
fortunate to get in on the ground floor on each one of these
things. So I got my education on the job. After forty years, you
can pick up a lot of information that way. But if you start from
scratch it's hard to absorb it in four years.
Teiser: You must also, however, have filtered out a lot that didn't apply.
Skofis: Yes, about nine out of ten you actually discount.
Teiser: Could you discuss brandy production now?
Teiser: I keep being told that you are the one person who knows the most
now about brandy.
Skofis: Oh, I've done a lot of brandy distillation, grain distillation,
high-proof distillation. I follow the field quite well.
Teiser: You've mentioned that you encountered brandy in your first job.
Skofis: Yes, at Italian Swiss. Italian Swiss Colony had Lejon brandy, and
Hartley brandy. (That's an old label and they don't use it any
more.) The Lejon label was well known. They used to make some of
that brandy up at Lodi, and then when we shut the Lodi facility
down in 1948 (they just closed that winery down, we never operated
it except for one year after that) all the brandy was transferred
Skofis: to Fresno. We used to make some brandy for Italian Swiss; Italian
Swiss had a small label, but not a well known label. The big
label, Lejon, was transferred down to Fresno, so we started making
brandy down here in 1948. We were making a considerable amount of
brandy, and then in 1949, E. M. Brown decided that we were going to
make all our brandy by pot still. So we had a pot still that they
brought from Lodi. That year we made five thousand barrels, pot
Teiser: Why did he decide you should do that?
Skofis: Because the best brandies in France were made in the pot still.
Teiser: Quality alone?
Skofis: That's right. But there was one variable there that they did not
consider. I found out later, of course. I was new, I just did
what I was told. We were told how we were going to make it, and we
made five thousand barrels in a pot still. We had a white Russian
distiller, typical white Russian. He had immigrated to this
country via Hong Kong after World War II. He knew about pot
Teiser: What was his name?
Skofis: I can't remember. That was forty years ago now [laughs].
Anyway, he knew a lot about pot brandy, and I learned a lot
from him about pot still distillation and the purpose of it, which
wasn't known too much in California in those days. It was little
known. We made a mistake. National. All our brandy went into new
barrels. You had to age it for two years. In two years in the new
barrel it was pretty good, but they didn't want to sell two-year-
old brandy. But the brandy was very oakey in two years. All the
good pot flavors that you had made were more than overcome by the
very heavy American oak. So the third year we had a very heavy
brandy. They decided at that time that they could not use it
straight, the way it was. It was too oakey. They decided to send
much of it to the eastern National bottling plants.
National had transferred a big part of the brandy bottling
back to, I think it was in Louisville, Kentucky. So we transferred
a lot of the barrels back there, and they did their brandy blending
with other California brandy and bottled it out with the Lejon.
It was my first experience with the importance of learning how
to age brandy. You just don't make brandy and put it in any
barrel. If you put it in the barrel, you had better know the kind
of barrel you're putting it in, and how long you're going to be
putting in there. Because you extract so much oak flavor. We
extracted so much oak flavor that the brandy tasted like a bourbon.
Skofis: It smelt like a bourbon, believe it or not. I couldn't believe it.
And I had samples of the new distilled brandy, and every six months
we would analyze the brandy, so I kept my hold-back samples. I was
very interested. And you could see this thing picking up the oak
And naturally, as it was picking up, I kept telling E. M.
Brown. He said, "Oh, you watch it. It's going to turn around."
Well, it's a possibility that if we kept it for six or eight years,
it might have come back in, but they couldn't wait that long.
Teiser: Can you transfer it into old barrels?
Skofis: In France, I found out later, they put it into new barrels and then
take it out six months later. They'd get all the oak they want,
and then they'd put it into a used barrel. Then they'd continue
Teiser: So you learned some things the hard way.
Skofis: You learn some things really the hard way.
Teiser: You had different government definitions of brandy, didn't you?
Skofis: Well, the thing that we ran into is the fact that the brandy
regulations changed quite a bit. In the early years after
Prohibition, they were permitted to use the term "cognac." But
then they invalidated that use, and it was illegal, because France
complained. They used to make what they call a muscat brandy,
besides a cognac brandy.
Those regulations were changed in the thirties at the
instigation of the French; they wanted to hold cognac to brandy
made in the Cognac area. So our government agreed to such
restriction on labeling. Basically the brandy distillation was
left alone, but they had to make brandy under 170 proof alcohol.
And you had to be sure in the regulation that nowhere in the
distillation did that brandy reach over 170 proof. Well, how you
could ever prove that? So as long as you took it off the
sidestream, and you had 170 proof, it was considered beverage
brandy. From 170 to 190 was considered neutral grape brandy; could
not be put in a barrel or aged and bottled out. It was only that
you could use that in the liqueurs. So you could take neutral
grape brandy, put blackberry flavors in it, and call it blackberry
Anything above 190 had to be called spirits grape. And that's
essentially the definitions yet today. The difference was, in that
'68 period when I was chairman of the laws and regulation committee,
the question of the congener levels came up. We wanted to have dif
ferent congener levels. We discussed this earlier in this interview.
Skofis: As previously discussed, we decided the only way to control flavor
levels is to have the proof of distillation determined in the tank.
So if you ran. say, 190 proof brandy in the morning into the tank
made with very neutral cleaner, and then in the afternoon you ran
enough of the heavy brandy in there, that you could then determine
at 170 proof at what point your flavors were, and drop it. This is
what people can do today. I won't say it's the best way to do it,
but it's a legal way. The proof of distillation today in brandy is
determined in the tank. And the brandy has got to be distilled
under 170, that's the definition. Made from wine, or the fermented
juice from ripe mature grapes, whole sound fruit. Our standard
Teiser: Do they still have bonded brandy?
Skof is : No, there's no bonded brandy. Bonded brandy used to be, you'd have
to have 100 proof, and what you'd do, you'd bottle and put it in a
bond, but you never paid taxes for it while in bond. They did away
with that a long time ago. They had so-called green stamp 100
proof. You could bottle brandy, put it into the warehouse and not
pay the tax until it went out. There was a big change in the
sixties, I don't remember the year exactly. The Internal Revenue
code was changed, so that you could bottle one month or two months
ahead, put it in a warehouse, and you paid the tax as you shipped
it out. Whereas before, the moment you bottled it, you had to pay
the tax or within fifteen days, reported and paid.
Teiser: This reminds me of something I forgot to ask about one of your
products. There is a kind of a vodka?
Skofis: Silverado vodka.
Teiser: Is it a grape product?
Skofis: Made from grape wine.
Teiser: How does it go?
Skofis: We sell more export than we do anything, because in the U.S. there
is sold thirty million cases of vodka annually, and one can buy in
any spectrum of price that you want to pay. The spectrum of price
does not reflect the quality, because there are some that are very
cheap that are as good as the more expensive ones. We decided not
to try to buck that market, and that we were going to target our
price into the Stolychniya and Smirnoff price range. We just can't
put the marketing dollars in back of it. So we have limited sales.
But we do have people that buy it that are sensitive to grain
spirits. There are some people that have an allergy to grain
spirits. They have found out that they can drink grape vodka. But
then, we didn't put it out for those people.
Teiser: Is it much different from brandy?
Skofis: Oh, yes. Just like a vodka. But it's got some of its own distinct
character. Some people like it very much. And we sell quite a
bit more export; we sell three times as much export.
Teiser: Where do you export it?
Skofis: One of our big export countries is Japan. They like the grape
vodka. It's not a super big item, but it's a big item.
The Influence of James G. Guymon
Teiser: Dr. Amerine suggested that I ask you about Dr. James G. Guymon, and
his significance and his work as you have known it.
Skofis: My initial contact with Jim Guymon is, we were having our first
technical sessions up at the University in 1948. The University
sponsored a two- or three-day meeting in the summer. Dr. Guymon at
that time was giving some talks on distillation, particularly on
the principle of distillation. Being that I studied a little bit
of distillation from my studies in chemical engineering, I thought
it was rather fascinating. It was a review for me, and a good
I got into it because I could see here was a person that
really, at least technically, knew about the principles, something
that some of the other people I would talk to around the industry
didn't know. He made sense in respect to the curves, where the
various compounds would come off that, and why, and the volatility
of the compounds at various proof points. So I was very impressed
Then, we were making brandy here at Fresno Italian Swiss, and
he'd visit around Fresno. I invited him once to come and visit us.
In discussion with him on how could we improve our brandy, he told
me what he thought. Number one, that you had to have fresh
material. He said too much brandy is made in California using old
wine, distressed wines, or wines that you don't know what to do
with. l K)h, we'll make them into brandy." And you'll concentrate
your bad flavor in the brandy. In those days, you couldn't use
fortified wines in making brandy; it was not considered acceptible.
Teiser: It was not allowed by law?
Skofis: Well, it hadn't been clearly defined at that point. They said,
"Standard wine," but standard wine they felt is naturally fermented
wine with no spirits added. He was of course pointing out why. He
suggested, "You ferment your wine well and make it into brandy."
Well. I was able to get our people to let us make some brandy
that way from freshly fermented wine, and all of a sudden I could
see the improvement in the quality of the brandy from one we'd made
with older wine. We didn't have the analytical tools in those days
that we have today, but this analytical tool here, the nose,
doesn't ever change. I mean there's nothing you can do to improve
it except yourself, and the teaching of analyzing by nose yourself.
I could see the difference myself, and we could do some analysis on
esters and fusels. And the analyses told us something: that you
could have a good brandy that had this much fusels. and you'd have
a poor brandy that had much less fusels that stunk. We couldn't in
between analyze as much as we used to, as we do today, when we have
more sophisticated analytical tools.
That impressed me quite a bit, so I started telling our people
we got to make brandy from fresh wine.
"How do you expect to make brandy from fresh wine when you've
got all that distillation due to the high- pro of ing?" I said, no,
we had a third still over at Italian Swiss that we never were
using. I said, "We'll convert that to a brandy still." "Well, how
do you propose to do it?" I said, "Every Monday morning, we will
start fermenting j uice, and the next Monday morning we'll distill
it." We didn't have enough distillation to go all week. We
started to make our brandy that way, and our people were impressed,
even Mr. [Enrico] Prati. He was impressed by the fact that the
brandy was coming out so fresh. So it was agreed that's where we
would be making brandy, in our own organization. That's where we
did it, Italian Swiss. For our Lejon brandy.
When I came over to Roma in 1955, their brandy sales were
better than Italian Swiss at that time. They had the Coronet
brandy, and they were doing exceptionally well. I tried to
institute these methods, and I got a lot of static. I finally was
able to get to the whiskey distillation people and get their
support. Pretty soon the general manager gave me support, and he
said, 'XDkay. we'll try to make brandies as much as we can during
the season, even though our distilling columns are used for high-
proof." But when they were down, we would do it. So we started to
make brandy. At the beginning of the week we would boil out the
stills, which they didn't like, to clean them up. We would run
three days of brandy, and we'd run four days of high-proof on some
stills. So we started making it, and it made an impact. It
continues. Our quality people in Cincinnati and particularly a Don
Brandt, who was a quality control officer, he was all for it. And
then the other people were all for it. So all of a sudden they
Dr. James F. Guymon, ca. 1976.
Photgraph by Wines and Vines
Skofis: see. we can turn out good brandy. It used to be, we'd distill all
of our brandy after the season was over, some time in February or
March, We'd make so much wine and put it away. If the wine went
bad, that's okay, we're going to make it into brandy. Well, that's
not the way to make it.
So our people recognized, just like they made whiskey with
fresh material, you could make brandy. Well, I was not aware that
whiskey in those days was being made with that fresh material;
although with National Distillers it had been pointed out to me, it
didn't register as much until I made whiskey here myself, in 1955.
In '56 then, the whole thing came into place, with our people here
at Fresno. So we turned out some good brandies after that. And
this is the whole crux of it, and this is what Guymon pointed out
and a lot of people never followed. The rules are there. He
explained it; the people that understood did it.
Now, over at Setrakian's winery in Calgro,* they used to do it
that way, and they turned out some good brandy. Nino Muzio, that's
where he made his brandy. He made good brandies all year long,
because he would ferment and distill, ferment and distill. He
turned out good, fresh brandy all the years he was making it. He
was a good brandy producer. I think he may be dead now, but he was
just a man that came up through the ranks, and I talked to him many
a time about it.
After a while, you can tell when brandy is made from good
material, or just regular older wine. Your nose you get used to
it. Organaleptically, you can pretty well pick out good brandy.
And this was the thing which Guymon did. Of course, he did a lot
Guymon did a lot of research. On components, of brandy. And
aging processes in brandy, you know. He came out with different
types of wood for aging, and under different temperature storage
conditions, humidity conditions. He did a lot of that work that
had never been done before.
Teiser: Did everyone in the industry then benefit by it, or did just some
Skofis: The ones I think well, I don't know I think those who really felt
his particular recommendations and understood what he was saying,
turned out good brandy. Italian Swiss, I know we accepted that
system, and even later on, when they were making brandy at other
areas of Italian Swiss, they were following those procedures. Made
the wine fresh. So the Lejon brandy was always made pretty good.
* California Growers Wineries.
Was most of this that you've been speaking of just now column still
Skofis: Yes. Very little pot brandy is made in California.
Pot Stills and Fresh Wine
Teiser: E. M. Brown had made pot still brandy here?
Skofis: No. We made pot still brandy at Italian Swiss at Lodi and Fresno.
They had the pot still up at Shewan Jones at Lodi. When they
closed that distillery down, they moved all the equipment to
Fresno. They hadn't done much distillation up there at that time.
They built a great big modern distillery with all the money they
made during the war years. Then they ran it for a short while; I
think they ran it one or two years.
Teiser: You had a pot still here?
Skofis: Here they had two pot stills. In the old Schenley days, they used
to make a limited amount of pot brandy. They didn't make too much.
When I came here I suggested we make more pot brandy. We had a
research man. Dr. Martin Liebermann from Schenley, who was a German
Jewish scientist who had come over here, and he was a very
knowledgeable man who came and visited us a number of times. He
saw my enthusiasm too for pot still, and he encouraged we make more
of it. And we did make some pot still brandy; we made it a couple
Teiser: What did you do with it?
Skofis: Well, we aged it, and they used it. But they never went back to
making a lot of it, because it's an expensive brandy.
Teiser: Did you bottle it separately?
Skofis: No, they used it in blends. We got all the results, and they knew
that they could do it, but they never did anything about it because
it was a more expensive brandy to make. It's very slow
distillation process, you know.
Teiser: Did you blend it in with your
Skofis: Yes. They blended it in with the other.
Teiser: I understand that Christian Brothers has always made a small amount
of pot still, which it blended in with
Skofis: Right. That's right; that's what they do. But their pot still
brandy is they call it pot still. To me. it's semi-pot still
because it's a pot that has a rectifying column on top. and I think
they were just making five or ten thousand barrels a year. When it
was aged, then they blended it with their regular brandy. And you
can taste a little of the pot character in their brandy. But not
Teiser: What is the history of the pot stills here?
Skofis: Well, the pot stills Schenley had before my time, but they never
used them to any degree. Then they used them, as I told you, when
they were making whiskey, they used them as doublers. So they had
a dual purpose. They left them there. When I came here, I
immediately said. *Ve should make some pot brandy." I got them to
make a limited amount, but they never did much about it. Schenley
never did they just figured it was too expensive, why make it. we
can't make too much, we're making a continuous brandy that
Well, when Guild bought out Schenley, Mr. Ivie, the president
saw it, and he said, "Well, can we do anything on pot?" I said,
"Yes." So he wanted me to start making pot brandies, and we've
been making pot brandy every year since then '71 and '72. We
missed one year, 1973. We didn't make any pot brandy because we
had so much need for grapes that we made it all into wine. And in
'74 we made a real fine pot, and that was one year of pot brandy
that Dr. Guymon saw. He couldn't believe it. He thought it was
one of the nicest pot brandies he'd ever seen in California. It's
still aging. It's twelve years old. It is outstanding.
This is a sample of a proposed pot still brandy blend we're
thinking of bottling, and if you have any idea what, which I'm sure
you do, about what French pot brandies are, this is, what we've
made by that system. That's what we propose to put out. That's
going to have to go all by itself. Pot still.
Teiser: May I taste it?
Skofis: Sure! It's 80 proof. [pours]
Teiser: [tastes] Oh, that's very good!
Skofis: That's what we have. We're developing a package for it now. It
has a pot character, the cognac character. That's made from,
believe it or not, the St. Emilion grapes. All our pot brandy is
made from the St. Emilion grapes. We played around with a little
bit of the Thompson to see how but we're not going to go with
that. But we've used the St. Emilion grapes, and we also made some
with French Col om bard recently.
Teiser: Is this just
Skofis: All St. Emilion. And I don't know if you recall, but in 1975-76.
Mr. Ivie tried to get a regulation to permit us to put out a
vintage varietal brandy. Do you recall that? And the whole
industry fought us and we lost the battle.
I do remember that.
And this was part of that except it was much younger then. If you
want to put out a vintage variety, [if] you want to put out a 1974
St. Emilion brandy, it's going to be a big item. And everybody
fought us, they were all jealous. The whole industry was myopic.
Teiser: Most brandies are not vintage, are they?
Skofis: Well, we had permission to show vintage on our bottles. I have a
few bottles of vintage brandy. After we lost that battle on this
here, they withdrew our vintage permission. They said it was wrong
that they had permitted us to put vintage brandy out.
Teiser: It's awfully good.
Skofis: It's not very much, maybe four thousand cases a year we could put
out, for a certain period of time, and then as we accelerated,
we'll be able to increase the volume. It'll be years away. We put
it in used barrels, we didn't put it in new barrels. We put it in
once-used brandy barrels.
Teiser: French oak?
Skofis: No, American oak.
Teiser: Are you going to release it now?
Skofis: We hope to this fall if we can. With the change in the president,
I don't know what they're going to do now. But we have the
Teiser: I'll stand in line for it.
Skofis: We've sent out samples to various parts of the country, and we've
had some hotel people tell us, "Hey, we'll take 200 cases." We
say, 'Veil, we don't know we're going to " In other words, they
liked it so much that they would use it as their house cognac.
Some of them call it California cognac. We said, "You can't do
it." We can't call it cognac.
Teiser: When did you get your Prulho stills?
Skofis: Our alambic stills?
Skofis: We got those in '84.
Teiser: All four of them?
Skofis: No, two. Two in '84 and two in '86.
Teiser: They're all Prulho?
Skofis: They're all Prulho.
Teiser: Did you specify anything about them, or are they just their
Skofis: Just their standard 25 hectoliter pot stills, that's the government
maximum size that you can use to make pot still brandy (or alambic
brandy, whatever it is)* and call it Cognac in France. They have
bigger stills they make where the French law also permits them to
use a 100 hectoliter pot to run the wine off, but then the final
distillation has got to be made in 25 hectoliters. Some of the big
distillers now are buying these 100 hectoliters so they have one
big pot to run the wine off. That's like four pots, and those four
pots, they'll have say, three big four pots, and they'll be feeding
twelve small pots, so they don't have the number. There are some
distillers doing that, and some of them don't. They say, we don't
want to have anyone saying we don't do it by the old system.
Teiser: Your long-range plans for your pot stills
Skofis: Well, this is my thinking if they're going to make this a viable
program, and not just going to play with it. We can put out four
thousand cases per year and get a reputation. It's more than a
reputation we want; we want some good money return. We should
start here and start to build up. The market is here. And as soon
as you see you can sell the four thousand cases, then we may have
to cut back on the aging and maybe not make it quite as old. We
were thinking in terms of eight to ten years, I think they're going
to have to go at least eight years. (That's where RMS has made the
mistake. They came out with three year.) Of course, it's more
expensive brandy, and because there's more evaporation, there's
more flavors left behind. We might get by with six years.
But suppose we get by with six years, and you want to increase
the program up. You've got to start now putting away every year so
much that as your sales go up you have enough. Suppose your sales
want to go up like this, you can only have this much supply. So if
* The terms are used inter changably.
Skof is : you're going to have the big supply in here, somewhere in here
eight years before you reach that, you've got to have made that
brandy. And if you're going to make that brandy eight years
earlier, and you have this quantity, you better have the
distillation capacity. These stills are limited how much they can
You've got to use fresh wine; you've got to do this in France.
Their distillation period ends March 30. All their distillation
has got to be completed by then. Otherwise, the brandy that's
distilled after March 30 picks up the next year's aging. So if you
make wine in 1986, and you distill it from November until March of
'87, it's considered '86 brandy. But, if you distill that '86 wine
in May, it's considered '87 brandy.
Teiser: Let me get back. Did you ever receive permission to vintage date
Skof is: No, I told you, the industry was against us. Completely against
us; the government withdrew it. We may go back to it again,
because the government had a myopic view, and 1 think some of the
people in the industry have relented now, and they realize it was a
jealousy thing. Plus the fact that our president, Mr. Ivie, he
didn't approach this the right way. He went in there booming with
his double fists. I think if he had been a little more solicitous
of the industry, had had some private tastings with some of the
owners, he would have got the thing. I don't think he took the
time to explain it to them, and get their support.
Teiser: I can't think who would be offended by it.
Skof is : Well, Christian Brothers was offended by it. The only one that
didn't vote against us, a friend of ours, he abstained, was Korbel.
Korbel it didn't offend because we sold him brandy. He said, "We
won't vote against you, but we won't vote for you."
Teiser: You're not going to blend one year with another?
Skofis: Yes, we have to. It's the thing the French do, and we have to do
Teiser: Even if you vintage it, you're going to?
Skofis: Well, we didn't get the vintage. If you vintage it, you have to
keep it separate, it's true. But my reason for not vintaging is
every year you have a different quality of grapes. If you have one
year that's extraordinarily good you want to vintage it. The 1974
turned out super. You could, even when the brandy was first made,
put a glass in here and it would smell the whole room up. Guymon.
he was so tickled to death that somebody was making a good pot
brandy using St. Emilion grapes.
Photograph by Ruth Teiser
Skofis: Of course, we handled the grapes right. We brought them in low
sugar and high acid.
Teiser: Where did they come from?
Skofis: Well, these happened to come from the Delano area. They came off
the Schenley ranches, and we had St. Emilion grapes, they were
called Ugni blanc.
Teiser: I hope that you'll go on with your pot still brandy.
Skofis: Well, we're going to go on with it. I hope that they see fit to
bottle this brandy eventually. We're making some pot still brandy
for private parties. We hope that they will also continue wanting
more, and if they do, then we'll be buying more pot stills. We're
making quite a bit for ourselves, quite a bit for them. I can't
reveal who they are. But it's kind of a joint venture right now.
[End of Interview]
Transcribed and Final Typed by Shannon Page
Interview: June 12, 1987
tape 1, side A
tape 1, side B 11
tape 2, side A
tape 2, side B 31
tape 3, side A
tape 3, side B 51
tape 4 , side A 56
tape A, side B 66
tape 5, side A 75
1983 GUYMON MEMORIAL LECTURE
Given at 1983 - American Society of Enologists
Annual Meeting - June 20, 1983
CALIFORNIA BRANDY -- YESTERDAY, TODAY, TOMORROW
Elie C. Skofis - Lecturer
Fellow enologists -- or should I address all of you today
as fellow brandymakers . It is, indeed, a great honor to
have been selected by the A.S.E. and U.C. Davis 1 Enology
Department as the 1983 James F. Guymon Memorial Lecturer.
There is no one in my 37 years in the California wine in
dustry who influenced me more on the importance of using
science and artful skills in brandy production than Dr. Jim
Guymon. Those of us here today who were fortunate enough
not only to have been able to work with him but also to
have been taught by him are richer in each of our careers .
His impact on the California brandy industry has been brought
out by many in our industry over the years, and I have seen
how his dedication and untiring research has helped us in
upgrading California brandymaking . Later in this talk, I
shall bring forth various developments which have been in
fluenced by Dr. Guymon and their benefits to us.
First, I wish to cover a period of California brandy his
tory which predates all of us; that is, the period from
early California to Prohibition in the United States --
Prohibition -- the big "experiment" from 1919 to Decem
ber 1, 1933. As a youngster in Sacramento, I remember
Prohibition with all its mystique when I would hear
about tne Wright Act and about neighbors who had been
arrested because they were selling so-called "bootleg"
wine or spirits.
Many articles have been written about the earliest date
on brandymaking in California but, unfortunately, we don't
have very good historical records as to when it began and
who started it. References are made to General Portola's
first expedition in 1769 into what is now California, and that
brandy was included in the supplies. In the same year (1769)
the Mission San Diego was founded, and the Mission fathers
planted vineyards for wine. They planted an unidentified
grape variety which became known as "Mission." Distillation
techniques and equipment used were crude, but a product
called "aguardiente" (brandy) was produced. As other
missions were formed and more and more vines planted,
greater amounts of brandy were made; and one mission, the
Mission San Fernando, was said to have produced 2,000 barrels
in the 1830's. Father Duran, the brandymaker at this mission,
was said to have made brandy that was "doubly distilled and
as strong as the reverend father's faith. "^ ' This was,
undoubtedly, a strong brandy. In general, the missions made,
used, and sold wine and brandy without any government controls;
but the brandy was primarily used to fortify the altar wines . v
By the late 1830's, the missions, as a result of the secular
ization acts by the Mexican government, were in disrepair
and brandy stills and activity abandoned.
In the early 1830 "s, a French vintner named Jean Louis Vignes
(who had arrived in California from Bordeaux and settled in
the Los Angeles area) bought some 104 acres of land (where
the Los Angeles Union Station now stands) and planted grapes.
Jean Louis Vignes, who was also known as Don Luis del Aliso
by his neighbors, is credited with being the first person to
bring European vine cuttings to California, and his first
vintage appeared around 1837. Vignes made both wine and
brandy -- called by its Spanish name, aguardiente. He was
an experienced distiller as well as a cooper. By 1840, his
brandy was being shipped to many other settlements in Calif
ornia and was selling for $4.00/gallon -- a very good profit.
Many consider Vignes the father of California commercial brandy,
He believed in aging in oak casks for up to six, eight, or
ten years. A nephew, Jean Louis Sansevaine, bought out his
uncle's vineyards and facilities in 1857 and continued to
carry on the wine and brandy business.
According to H. C. Peterson, Curator of the Sutter's Fort
Historical Museum, in an article he wrote in the SACRAMENTO
BEE on September 1, 1934 he reported that Captain Sutter pro
bably established the first commercial distillery at Sutter's
Fort in California in 1841. Apparently, Mr. Peterson was net:
aware of Vignes. Captain Sutter used wild grapes from that
area and Indian labor to harvest, crush, and make
the wine for brandy. He had constructed a still which was
heated by a fire built underneath it. VJater for the condensing
of vapors was brought up in buckets from the surrounding
ponds outside the fort. As the story goes, in time the
Indians discovered the secret entrance to the oak cask aging
room and thereby managed to remove and consume the brandy
stored there. Seeing the fighting, bloodshed and murders
which resulted from the consumption of his brandy, Captain
Sutter decided to close down his operation after three years
rather than allow all the problems created from the drinking
of his brandy to continue. His brandy had, apparently, been
well received in and around the San Francisco Bay Area.
Captain Sutter 's wine cellar and distillery room have been
preserved and can be seen today at Sutter 's Fort.
It appears to me that Jean Louis Vignes was probably the
first commercial brandy producer in California.
From that period on -- and particularly after 1865 with the
increase in vineyards and wineries in California and especially
in the San Joaquin Valley, brandymaking was on its own. No
production figures are available prior to 1865. In that
year, 20,415 gallons of brandy were officially distilled in
California -- and by 1866 this quadrupled. By 1882 produc
tion had reached half a million gallons; by 1890, one million
gallons, and 1.5 million gallons by 1891. This increase
was greatly due to the phylloxera vineyard damage in France
which gave California brandy producers an opportunity to supply
the brandy shortage. This came at a time in California when
there was, as there is today, an oversupply of grapes.
Even Congress recognized the need to assist the California
brandy industry by passing the Bonded Warehouse Act which
permitted wineries to distill surplus wines into brandy,
store it, but not pay the large spirits tax until it was sold.
This helped the industry and resulted in a five-fold increase
in brandy exports of 500,000 gallons in 1891. Also, California
brandy began receiving international recognition.
In Slide 1 (which is a Table I dug out of the Wine Institute
Historical Brandy Files) we see that better statistics
were being kept; and in this table, the data was secured
from the source indicated the Giannini Foundation, U.C.
Berkeley, on both brandy and fortifying brandy production.
Most of the brandy from the 1830 's to 1870 "s was made in
small pot stills until the introduction of continuous stills
made by coppersmiths like Sanders & Co. and Ludwig Wagner of
San Francisco. Some of these Sanders stills were resurrected
and used in the years following the repeal of Prohibition.
There is an interesting story about early brandymakers .
Leland Stanford, the wealthy railroad builder, founder of
Stanford University, and even governor of the state of Califor
nia, had, by the year 1888, planted over 3,000 acres of grapes
PRODUCTION OF BRANDY IN
THE UNITED STATES
ANNUAL 1890 -
:: FEDERAL RECORDS FOR 1918 DID NOT RECONCILE.
SOURCE: DATA SECURED DIRECTLY FROM TABLES 29 AND 32 FROM
SUPPLY AND PRICE TRENDS IN THE CALIFORNIA WINE-
GRAPE INDUSTRY BY DR. S.W. SHEAR AND GERALD G.
PEARCE, CONTRIBUTION FROM THE G I ANN I N I FOUNDATION
UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA.
in the northern part of the Sacramento Valley -- mostly
in Tehama and Butte counties. The vines were of French
origin, and his purpose was to make good French-style wines.
A winery was built in Tehama which he called "Vina." The
story is that the first crop was not suitable for wines
and was used instead to make brandy. Within four years,
Stanford was producing over 20% of all California brandy.
After his death in 1893, the winery and vineyards were be
queathed to Stanford University. The winery and distillery
continued to be operated until 1916 when the Prohibition
movement; the onset of World War I; and other problems
caused the Stanford University trustees to close down the
winery and destroy the vines. Today, the winery is a
monastery for an order of Trappist monks.
You might also be interested to know that originally in
California brandy was made mostly from the Mission grape
and some other V. Vinifera such as from the Stanford vineyard
Leon Adams, in his book THE WINES OF AMERICA^ 12) said that
a man named William Thompson brought to the Sacramento Valley
around 1872 a grape which no one really knew where he got it,
and which Thompson called, "Lady de Coverly." The grape,
later called Thompson Seedless, gained popularity and
was planted extensively in the 1890 's and 1900 's in the
valleys -- San Joaquin and Sacramento -- because of its
yield and multi-uses, but had limited use in brandymaking
until after Repeal. This was partly due to the valleys'
growers being conservative and sensitive to criticism, and
they preferred being considered growers of raisin and table
grapes. Also, around the turn of the century, the Tokay
grape was planted in the Lodi area and shortly after was
also being used to make brandy.
With the advent of Prohibition, there was very limited
brandy production. The Federal Government did issue a few
permits for limited brandy production for "medicinal" pur
poses. It was possible during Prohibition for a person to
obtain a physician's prescription to purchase spirits --
whiskey or brandy, and many such prescriptions were issued.
In 1929 an organization was established by many wineries of
that period and formed along the lines of the old California
Wine Association. It was called Fruit Industries.^ ' A.R. Mor
row was one of the key figures in this new organization. One
of my early teachers and supervisors , a man who worked with
A.R. Morrow and Fruit Industries, was Elbert M. Brown.
E.M. Brown, I have been told, was also the first enologist to
graduate just prior to World War I, from U.C. Berkeley
where he studied under Professor Bioletti and the then up
and coming young instructor, W. Cruess. Elbert Brown was
also the first recipient of the A.S.E. Merit Award.
Throughout my association with him and during my early
years at Italian Swiss Colony, he used to relate many
stories about the shenanigans which occurred in the brandy
distillery operations during Prohibition.
In anticipation of repeal, the Federal Government issued
a special permit for Fruit Industries and others to distill,
store and age over 1,000,000 P.G.'s of beverage brandy. At
the time of repeal (on December 1, 1933) therefore there were
stocks of brandy, even though less age of which were available
for sale. This was also true of the wine made ready for sale
on Repeal Day. As of June 30, 1933, there were approximately
1,200,000 P.G.'s in Federally-bonded warehouses in Calif-
omia.< 6 >
With the repeal of Prohibition by the 21st Amendment to the
Constitution, there was a new beginning for California brandy.
In 1933 some 2,400,000 P.G.'s of beverage brandy were made --
some of which was even distilled from concentrate; and in
subsequent years, this production increased.
In those early years after repeal, California grape brandy
was identified as three types: cognac, muscat, and grappa.
I bring this out, as the term "cognac" was then being used; but
a few years later, as a result of French protests. U.S. govern
ment regulations prohibited its use.
Our statistics for production of beverage brandy (or commercial
brandy as it was mostly called then) during the post-repeal years
and up to around 1938 are unclear since there was no real break
out of the production figures for fortifying brandy, as it was
then called, and commercial brandy. It has been estimated that
during the five years after repeal up to 1938 around 1.5 to 2.0
million P.G.'s of brandy a year were produced.
as we have today
Due to the oversupply of grapes in 1938, /a program instigated by
the State of California was established that year whereby a large
portion of the grapes were converted to commercial brandy and
high proof. Approximately 457o of the tons were thus diverted
to help stabilize the grape market and wine industry. The Growers
Grape Products Association (GGPA) was formed to handle the brandy
pool. In the January, 1968 issue of WINES & VINES, ^ Ji m Riddell,
a noted brandymaker, wrote that even though a quality board was
established to pass on the quality of/brandy lots, the general
quality was poor, and this haunted the post-war California brandy
industry. There had been a large surge in the sale of California
brandy during World War II; this was particularly due to lower in
ventories of whiskies and restricted use of grains for whiskey
production during the war. This whiskey shortage was offset by
the development, and the public's acceptance, of the blended
whiskies which had less of heavy whiskey and oak flavor. Even
this extension of blended whiskey -- 25% straight whiskey and 757,
neutral grain spirits -- did not furnish sufficient quantities of
alcoholic spirits to satisfy public demand -- particularly with
the increase in consumption by the military and rhe general public
with more money to spend. (See Slide 2)
Brandy was another source of /spirits. Many consumers, how
ever, became disappointed by certain poor quality brandies
being marketed and did not forget this after World War II. I
heard many consumers at that time state that they would not
purchase brandy because of this. Poor 'spirit beverages were
not only confined to brandy but also to some blended whiskies
which utilized poor quality neutral spirits which were then
available for use. Seagram 7 Crown was a better blended
whiskey, and we can say that it was a forerunner of public
acceptance of lighter spirits and brandies. Even today,
Seagram 7 Crown sold 6,000,000 cases in 1982 and is the third
largest brand spirit item.
In any war environment there are shortages, an4 World War II
was no exception. Therefore, with this unique opportunity to
satisfy a demand for distilled spirits, much brandy (good and
bad), as well as wine (also good and bad) was sold. Much of
this brandy was from the pro-rate and some was made from grapes
harvested, due to the vineyard labor shortage, in late December
and even January. The grape quality was poor, and any brandy
made was poor. Also, during World War II all raisin varieties
(Thompson) had to be made into raisins for food -- particularly
for the 12.00C.OOO people in the U.S. armed services plus our
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I am devoting extra time and attention to this area, as I
want to stress that the California hrandymakers and marketeers
were aware of these quality problems and of the need to produce
brandies that the American consumer would buy. California
brandy experts of that day evaluated all the brandy stocks on
hand and determined that Americans, as with other brown spirits,
wanted a good brandy, but somewhat lighter in flavor. The
heavier brandies, even some long-aged in new oak barrels, were
not as acceptable. Most of the pro-rate brandy after World War II
was distilled into high proof. Another problem affecting brandy
quality (besides poor grapes) had been the pre-war lack of good
brandymaking and distillery technology. We must remember that
or 15 years of Prohibition,
after repeal./not many of the pre-Prohibition knowledgeable brandy-
makers were around. Some, like Lee Jones of Shewan- Jones , and
founder of the Lejon brand; L. K. Marshall of Bear Creek Winery;
A.R. Morrow of Fruit; and E. M. Brown with Shewan- Jones and National
Distillers, were basically the ones who understood the brandy bus
iness and who trained others after repeal. In my view, the period
just after World War II was the time when California brandymakers
became more aware of this need to improve; and we were fortunate
that Dr. Jim Guymon was on the scene at that time to assist us
with research (at U.C.) and by his frequent visits to wineries
to discuss all aspects of brandy making. I, myself, can't recall
the number of visits and long hours of discussion many of ^s had
with Dr. Guymon on this subject of how to improve our brandy
The timing in the production of brandies was a big problem.
We must realize that post-Repeal and post-war California wine
industry sales were 757<,-807, dessert wines. Dessert wines re-
or high proof
quire fortifying brandy, or wine spirits / as we call them today.
The demand on our distillery equipment was for processing dis
tilling material generated from that part of the grapes not used
for juice. Also, remember that we produce approxiamtely 90 W.G.'s
of dessert wine per ton of grapes vs. 180 W.G.'s of table wines.
as high proof.
This meant that almost half the grape tonnage was distilled / The
winery distilleries of that period were designed, based on the
only for high proo
wineries' crush, /to handle this large amount of grape tonnage /
As a result, unless you were only a brandymaker -- and there were
only a few such operations -- a winery had to do most of its
brandy distilling immediately after the season, and only do limited
brandymaking during the crush season. For many wineries, brandy-
making was a by-product. Most distilleries did their brandy making
post-crush season. My first brandymaking experience was with the
ISC, Clovis Winery, the old La Paloma Winery, which was greatly
expanded in 1946. We had two new high proof stills and one still
only for brandy. Most wineries were not as well equipped. During
this post-war period a number of areas involving brandy production
needed improving. There was the need to produce better wines for
distillation rather than use, as had been done by some, the balance
of the grape after drawing off some f^ee run for wine only. Also,
there was a good deal of controversy between the Federal Alcohol
Regulatory Agency and the brandymakers as to the definition of
"brandy" and what material was eligible for distillation into bev
erage brandy. In 1941 the Brandy Gauging Manual was amended so
that there were three basic classifications of distillate
made from fruit-grape. These were grape brandy, neutral
grape brandy, and spirits-fruit grape. Also, there was the
definition that brandy -- whether neutral or grape -- had to
have the "taste, aroma and characteristics generally attri
buted to brandy." In addition, grape brandy was to be dis
tilled at less than 170 proof, and neutral brandy at between
170-190 proof with both these distillates to be made from the
Although there was considerable debate and controversy over
this ruling, the Federal Government's position remained firm.
Regulations required that these products grape and neutral
brandy -- be distilled solely from the juice or mash of whole,
sound, ripe fruit or from natural grape wine; and their inter
pretation of what constituted "natural grape wine" was what we
call "table wine;" i.e., 11-137., dry wine. The reason this was
such a controversial point was that the brandymakers wanted to
be able to produce a new type of brandy -- lighter in flavor,
or congeners, and basically the fusel oils, and primarily the
amyl alcohol fraction of these congeners. At this post-war
period with new distillery expansion taking place, some new
still columns were erected, and could under approved statements
of process permit the heads fraction to be redistilled with
live steam and returned at lower proof via the closed pipeline
system back to the main column and blended with the main brandy
stream, and thus produce a lower congener product.
The regulation at that time required that the product draw
not be over 170 proof at the tri-brix. Since that period,
and during my term as Chairman of Wine Institute's Laws and
Regulations Committee, the regulation was changed so proof
of distillation is now determined in the production tank.
With the desire to produce lighter brandies and to terminate
all the controversy of that day with the Federal Alcohol Agency,
the regulation was interpreted by the government in the early
1950 's that a fortified wine would be considered a standard
wine and could be used in beverage brandymaking. This was a
big step forward for the California Brandy Industry. This
change in the Federal position was most important since it
enabled all brandy producers to make different level congener
brandies; and with the American taste for lighter spirit pro
ducts (like Seagram's 7-Crown) , this was made possible.
In the years following World War II the California brandy pro
ducers, cognizant of the damage done to the brandy industry from
some low-quality brandies which had been marketed, changed their
attitude toward brandy. Improved technology, both in the pro
duction of the wine to be distilled and changes in equipment
and distillation control, resulted in uniform good brandy
During this post-war period, Dr. Guymon conducted consider
able research in brandy production enabling brandy producers
to better understand why certain practices were important in
the production of a quality product.
In the period from 1939 through 1943 and prior to his
military service -- Dr. Guymon had either alone, or with
others, authored and published seven articles on brandy.
Most of this work was specifically directed to subjects such
as fermentation mechanisms, analysis of sugar, pH, and tannin,
etc. From the period 1948 to 1977, however, he authored or
co-authored some 77 published articles on subject such as
mutant yeast fermentations to reduce fusel oil; understanding
of distillery operations; analysis of many beverage brandies;
improved analytical procedures by gas chromatography ; brandy
aging, including warehousing loss studies; and other miscell
aneous subjects. Some of Dr. Guymon 's co-authors were E. Crowell,
John Ingraham, J. Nakagiri , M. Amerine, and C. Ough. And there
are other unpublished research projects in Dr. Guymon 's files
which we hope will someday be reviewed and published. (See Slide 3)
In 1976, the California Brandy Advisory Board funded a project
to compile the published papers of Dr. Guymon. This project --
"Compilation of Findings on Existing and Ongoing Research Con
cerning California Brandy Production and Aging" was concluded
in August, 1977 when two volumes of these Guymon articles were
EFFECTS OF TEMPERATURE ON FORMATION
OF HIGHER ALCOHOLS IN GRAPE JUICE FERMENTATION
MR OF ALCOHOL PER LITER OF WINE
FERMENTATION TEMPERATURE F
C. Ough, J. Guymon, and E.A. Crowell ,
"Formation of Higher Alcohols during
Grape Juice Fermentations at Various
Temperatures . "
J. Food Science 31:620-625 (1966)
turned over to the California Brandy Advisory Board. At
that time, it was hoped that this would be the prelude to
a book on California brandy by Dr. Guyinon, but his untimely
death shortly after retirement halted this. We hope that
sometime in the near future all his published and unpublished
works will be compiled and presented in book form. Any
In my opinion a very important contribution affecting our
brandy industry made by Dr. Guymon was his work on factors
affecting higher alcohol formation during fermentation, thus
finding ways of reducing these higher alcohols in wine with
a resulting lower fusel oil content in the brandy. Also,
distillation work done by Dr. Guymon demonstrated the dis
tribution of various higher alcohols -- propyl, buty, and
amyl -- at the various proofs on still columns.
Also, another very important research project -- which resulted
in millions of dollars of savings to both the California brandy
and grain alcohol industries -- was the recycling of the heads
(aldehydes fractions) back to the alcohol fermentation so that
up to 957. of the aldehydes disappeared in the fermentation.
I became involved with Dr. Guymon in this project when I
was with Schenley. We utilized the high heads spirits by
adding to sweet juice, which in turn was refernented with
other distillery material. After distillation, we had a
clean spirits. Previously, if we treated the heads with
various chemicals such as caustic or potassium permangan
ate to destroy the aldehydes, we got a redistilled spirit,
fishey or chocolaty in aroma, and poor in quality. Overall,
we lost approximately 1% of the original P.G. input as high
head distillate which was destroyed. Guymon's process re
sulted in a recycling and recovery of this heads fraction
with little effect in final quality of the spirit and reduced
loss of very high heads distillate (over 10,000 ppm aldehyde)
to 0.1-0.27o of the original P.G. input.
From the results of this work on aldehyde recycling we, at Roma and
Schenley, repeated this in a Schenley Canadian whiskey dis
tillery to determine if this was feasible with grain spirits
as well. It proved very successful. From industry results
and requests from all distilled spirits segments -- grain
and brandy -- the U.S. Federal Agency approved this aldehyde
ref ermentation process to recover these heads fractions into
usable spirits. Just how much money has been saved since
1956 due to this Guymon research project is unknown, but I
would not be exaggerating if I stated that since 1956 I
conservatively estimate that there has been a savings of at
least $10,000,000 from redistilled heads previously destroyed
Dr. Guymon ' s impact on today's production of higher quality
California brandies was in his emphasis on the following:
1. Proper grape maturity -- high acid and low pH;
2. Preference for white or lightly-colored varieties (such as
Tokay, Mission, Emperor) over red or black varieties;
3. Separation of juice from skins or pomace prior to fer
mentation and handling them as a dry white table wine;
4. Low SC>2 - (not over 75 ppm in the brandy wine fermentation);
5. Fermentation temperature lower than 75F;
6. Distillation of the fermented wine immediately after
fermentation with a partial racking from heavy fermenta
tion lees ;
7. If wine fortified, only high quality wine spirits used.
The above deals with distilling materials which, in my opinion,
are the keystone to quality brandy. The other aspect has to
do with the distillation of this DM into brandy.
To produce a uniform brandy, good control of the distillery
process is required. In the past, the distiller learned to
produce a good brandy after he had learned how to manually con
trol the multiple variables in the distillation, and a neo
phyte distiller was awed at how a little adjustment here and
there did the job. Actually, with our modern instrumentation,
we can effectively control the distillation. Prior to the
present instrument controls, the operator had to manually
control the flow rates of the DM input and product output;
the heads draw; the water control to the dephlegmator ; the
reflux; steam, etc., and a change in any one of these variables
would cause an upset distillery condition. Today, particularly
with automatic instrumentation, we can control many of the
variables such as installing in the bottom of the beer
still a base pressure control for steam, a temperature con
trol for overhead vapors which, in turn, can control the
brandy product draw. There are other points in the distill
ation where certain variables can be fixed and automatic con
trols modulate the feed, product draw-off, water control, etc.
to insure a smooth operation.
California's brandy producers have learned much from the
whiskey distillers. During my early experience with both
National and Schenley, I learned the importance of a clean
fermented wine, or beer, as it's called by the whiskey distillers,
if a clean distillate is to be produced. In whiskey production,
the beer is distilled as it is completing its fermentation to
insure that no adverse microbiological action takes place.
And an experienced distiller can tell by smelling the distill
ate if this bacterial action has occurred even before any
chemical tests are made to confirm an "aldehyde" formation.
No heads are removed in whiskey, yet the final product
will be low in heads. To whiskey producers, a clean beer
results in a clean whiskey, and the same can be said of
brandy. Therefore, anyone who wishes to produce a quality
brandy must first produce a quality wine.
We should take a look at both California and import brandies
to get some view on the congener levels .
Slide 4 shows a recent analysis of twelve California brandies
which represent approximately 707, of case sales. Please note
that most brandies are lower in the iso amyl fraction, in
dicating either use of fortified brandy wine or special dis
tillation techniques. Also note that of the twelve brandies
apparently only two (#2 and #8) are unrectified or "straight".
The other have approximately 1.0 to 2 . 07 of sugar and glycerol.
Recent statistics show that approximately 97 of U.S.A.
brandy is unrectified.
The French brandies were from an analysis prepared a few years
ago on some French brandies which had been imported and boczled
in the United States. In my view, the main points are the
higher amounts of higher alcohols, aldehydes, and ethyl
acetates -- and subsequent longer aging. It should also be
noted that the Spanish brandies -- very large sellers in the
United States and worldwide -- have very low congener levels
-- particularly in the lower amyl fraction requiring possibly
less aging time, some rectification, and lower brandy flavors
(yet very acceptable to consumers) . The two Mexican brandies
also are slightly lower in amyls, but one has a very high
I have dwelt on the congener level at length, as I believe
this is one of our main yardsticks in classifying brandies
as to heavy, medium, and light. Congeners give us flavors,
some better than others. High amyl fraction is unacceptable
to taste unless aged for a very, very long time; yet a medium
or light congener brandy made from a clean wine and properly
distilled can give a delightful brandy which, with less aging
and some rectification, is pleasing to consumers.
Today we understand what is required to produce good brandies,
and most brandy producers are doing a good job of producing
brandies which in tasting can be graded very close. Yes, the
more experienced brandy tasters can pick out the lighter brandies
from medium and heavy brandies, but generally, as shown in the
slide, the big majority of our California brandies are within a
fairly close range.
I believe we have overcome consumer concerns surrounding
period and shortly thereafter. The growth of brandy is real
and slightly steadier than the growth of wine. In Slide 5,
giving a 25-year view of California brandy inventories, pro
duction, and bottled brandy entering distribution channels,
we can see a very positive long term growth in the consumption
of our California brandies.
In a recent WINES & VINES article^ 9) (March, 1983 issue) the
observation was made that "Brandy is becoming increasingly
important to wine, grape folk;" it is further noted that the
long-term trend in brandy sales in the United States has been
consistently going up, with very little fluctuation; and that
U.S. brandy sales increased some 208% in the 20-year period
from 1961 - 1981 as compared to wine which increased approximately
195%. The total for all distilled spirits during that same period
only increased 87.3%, or less than half of the growth registered
Latest reports^ 10 ' comparing the 1982 vs. 1981 sales of dis
tilled spirits show that brandy sales maintained around a 3 . 57
increase as opposed to a 2.0% sales decrease for all distilled
spirits. The only other major spirits showing growth were
liquers and cordials -- and Tequila. This indicates that
the public is purchasing brandy and is apparently willing to
pay the price, as evidenced by the steady increase of import
brandies, which are primarily the cognacs. In 1982 these
PROOF GALLONS IN MILLIONS
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import sales were around 6,700,000 W.G. or 2,800,000 cases.
Converted to grapes prior to aging losses, this is approximately
145,000 tons, or 5% of the 1982 crush.
What can we, as California brandy producers, do to increase
sales and consumption of our product, considering that all
brandy sales represent only 4.57 of all spirits sold in the
In 1971, the producers of California brandy formed the
California Brandy Advisory Board. This board operates under
a State Marketing Order and is financed by a $.05 per proof
gallon assessment at point of production. For instance
during the recent five-year period of brandy production of
an average annual 15,000,000 proof gallons, approximately
$750,000 was collected. For your information, all California
brandy producers belong to this board; and I believe that at
the latest count we have twelve California brandy producers.
Quoting from Jim McManus ^ ' -- the Board's President, he has
stated that, "The Board's purpose was to mount a communications
program that would enhance the quality image of California
brandy and its uses as a versatile beverage not just confined
to a snifter for after dinner consumption." The Board also
performs extensive work in other areas such as trade barriers
and brandy marketing in other states. The Board's efforts have
resulted in greatly expanding sales; for example, in the Sun Belt
states, which were primarily areas of lower penetration. Of
course, brand support by the brandy producers has been
most effective. This, coupled with the California Brandy
Advisory Board's work and with the high quality of our
brandies, has resulted in our present position. Consider
able advertising money is being spent in the United States
by foreign producers. Hennessy Cognac has launched an
$8,000,000 ad campaign. Hennessy is the leading cognac brand
in the United States today.
I believe we can do more to expand consumption of California
Today, many specialty spirit products such as Southern Comfort
(using whiskey) , Grand Marnier (using cognac) , Drambuie (using
Scotch whiskey) , Irish Mist (using Irish whiskey) , and other
similar products are being sold. Sales of liquers/cordials
are double those of brandy, and brandy specialty products --
with the proper market support -- would, in my opinion, be
accepted by consumers. This is a challenge to all brandy
The big area where I believe we should put emphasis on is in
the developing of credentials for our brandies so consumers
will perceive them in the same light as they now do the cognacs,
which are considered a premium class category. Today's consumer
considers cognacs to be a higher class than our premium brandies
In blind tasting we have found that our premium brandies
are as well accepted as the cognacs, and the brandy and
cognac experts at these tastings have been confused as to
which was which. We should be able to show credentials for
our brandies the same as the cognacs carry credentials which
imply that they are of a higher quality than California
brandy. Unfortunately, our government allows the importers
to stress these credentials but will not permit us to make
any such statements, except for an age statement such as
"This brandy is years old." For a time, the BATF
permitted use of a vintage year on a brandy label; but it
has now withdrawn that right. We do not have the right, for
instance, to tell our consumers that we can and do produce
brandies of the same quality as cognacs, using the same type
grapes, techniques, and aging, and to say that this product
is comparable to cognac brandy, and let the consumer
decide which of many similar products he may wish to buy.
In line with this, we are today seeing activity on the part
of certain California wine producers who wish to produce brandy
the same as in the Cognac area, using similar grape varieties
such as St. Emillion and, for French Colombard, pot stills
and aging in Limousin oak casks. Also, we are noting
offshore interest for this type of California-produced brandy.
We should be exploring all these areas mentioned, as I know
we have the brandy technology and stills to produce such
products. We need to support more brandy research at U.C.
Davis and Cal State-Fresno and to also encourage our fellow
brandy producers to explore new ways of producing and mar
keting brandy rather than discouraging or opposing innova
tions which could convince the U.S. consumer that we can
stand up, quality-wise, with our brandies as we have done
with our California varietal and generic table wines.
I would again like to thank the A.S.E., U.C. Davis, and others
in honoring me as the Guymon Lecturer, and hope I was able to
leave some new thoughts with you.
I wish to thank the many colleagues and associates who helped
and advised me in the research, data gathering, and in supplying
other materials used in preparing this lecture. These are
W. Allmendinger , Phil Hiaring, M. Amerine, and J. McManus . I
also want to thank other fellow brandymakers -- H. Archinal,
Ray Mettler, Art Musso, E. Crowell, R.L. Nowlin, Mike Nury,
and Nino Muzio -- all who freely discussed past brandymaking
with me and contributed to my knowledge, as I hope I may have
done to theirs. And, finally, I shall always owe much to my
past teachers on brandymaking and distillation -- particularly
the late Dr. Jim Guymon, the late Elbert M. Brown, Wendell Phinos,
and the late Al Knippenberg.
1. WINES & VINES, January, 1977 - "California Brandy History -
2. Irving McKee , University of California, Berkeley, California
Article, "Mission Wine Commerce."
3. Vincent P. Carosso, "The California Wine Industry - 1830-
1895." U.C. Berkeley Press, 1951.
4. WINES & VINES, January, 1971 - "U.S. Brandy 80 Years Ago."
5. James F. Guymon, WITS Seminar 11/13/76 "California Brandy:
Past, Present, and Future."
6. Wine Institute letter dated 7/17/46 - D. Uebelucker, Research
7. Lee Jones, "Development of Commercial Brandy Industry"
December, 1934, California Journal of Development.
8. WINES & VINES, January, 1968 - Article by James Riddell,
"Brandy Production: Past, Present, Future."
9. WINES & VINES, March, 1983 "Brandy is Becoming Increasingly
Important to Wine, Grape Folk."
10. Beverage Industry, May 6, 1983
11. WINES & VINES, January, 1983 - Interview - J. McManus ,
12. Leon D. Adams, THE WINES OF AMERICA, Second Edition, 1978,
CALIFORNIA WINE INDUSTRY AND THE ENVIRONMENT
by E. C. Skofis
1985 Merit Award Recepient Delivered to the American
Society for Enology and
Viticulture, June 27, 1985.
With the rapid population growth in California after World War II and
expansion of the urban areas into rural countryside with the resultant
shrinking open space, what were once not considered environmental problems
gradually arose, particularly because of odor and insects which became a
After repeal of Prohibition in 1933, liquid winery wastes were disposed
of without too much concern about pollution into streams, rivers, or surface
waters. By 1936, as the population grew near these sites and complaints began
to arrive, the State Division of Fish and Game, having become acquainted with
the high BOD of those wastes, prohibited discharge of winery liquid wastes other
than clear water to streams and rivers. This resulted in the development of
deep ponds and lagoons to collect these wastes for evaporation and ultimate
I recall a story told to me by one of my early winemaker mentors, Elbert
Brown, when I was with ISC. He said disposal ponds were built adjacent to the
rivers or streams, and since most waste - particularly stillage - was produced in
late autumn and fall months, the wineries depended on the early heavy rains with
the rise in the rivers and streams to flush out the disposal ponds - a practical
answer for a while, but not an acceptable one to the growing population.
With the onset of World War II, the then depressed wine industry became
deeply involved in the war effort in the production of tartrates and alcohol.
Most of the alcohol was made from molasses. Disposal of this stillage along with
other liquids was done mostly in deep ponds - some 6 to 8 feet deep. Subsequent
anaerobic fermentation resulted in very bad odors. And I'm sure you have, even
today with all present controls, experienced such odors less offensive, but
imagine how many times stronger the odors were at that time. They could well be
described as concentrated "hogpen".
Al Paul, a pioneer of the post repeal wine industry and owner of the
California Products Co. of Fresno, testified on January 18, 1948 before the
California Assembly Committee on Water Pollution and Industrial Waste. He stated
[Quotation from Al Paul was not
found at time of printing. Ed.]
he was Chairman of the Wine Institute Winery Residues Disposal Committee,
which had been founded in 1945 to direct research for improvement in handling
of residues. The committee had contracted for research to be done by Coast
Laboratories on Winery Waste Disposal. The creation of this committee and its
mission came about because of the many complaints about the bad odors from the
deep ponding and lagoons. These serious complaints had been made by residents
in the southeast area of Fresno who got all those bad odors and insects from the
ponds of the seven wineries located on the east side of Fresno, all of which were
involved in tartrate recovery and alcohol production from molasses.
The 1946-47 Coast Laboratories study developed a method - "Grape Stillage
Disposal by Intermittent Irrigation" - which would result in an odor free way
of land disposal of distillery wastes. The report told - as it is still very
applicable - how to get rid of stillage with no odors or mosquitoes and have a
disposal system that was neat and economical to operate without being a public
This intermittent irrigation system consisted of the application of stil
lage and wash waters using a basic factor of one acre per 100,000 gallons not over
4" deep and allowing a 6 day drying period (or 13 days for pomace stillage, which
is now obsolete), or a rotation of 7 days.
Using this method, which had been developed and industry tested in 1947,
the wine industry was able to satisfy the authorities, both state and county,
that no bad odors or insects would form. Unfortunately the volume of winery
stillage waste disposed was very high. It varied from 130 to 300 gallons stillage
per ton crushed. Also let's remember that in that period California table wine
production represented approximately only 30% of all California wine produced while
dessert wines were 70%. For example, in 1951, a big post war year, some 163
million gallons of wine were produced (47 million table and 117 million dessert).
Also, some 4.6 million PG beverage brandy and 36 million PG of neutral brandy
(high proof) were produced. That year 1,642,000 tons grapes were crushed.
The 40.6 million PG of brandies required around 880,000 tons of grapes or
one-half the tons were distilled!
The reason for the discussion of 1951 is to show the magnitude of the
waste volume. Wine Institute statistics show that some 371 million gallons of
DM were distilled in 1951, or an average of 226 gallons per ton. In reality,
extracting out the tonnage crushed only for table wine, this 226 WG figure was
approximately 260 WG/ton, which didn't include the winery wash water or processing
washes which vary from winery to winery but could be around 3,000 gallons per ton
on year round basis. So we see the wine industry does create much liquid waste
Why all these numbers? I am going to try to chronologically bring out how
the wine industry became involved in environmental pollution control same as other
industries. First I want to say that I have given you numbers indicating the tre
mendous volumes of liquid waste that our industry generates. But I have not even
brought out what our industry generates in the form of solid waste. By solid
waste I mean stems, pomace, lees and argols. For example, in a survey the Environ
mental Studies Committee of Wine Institute made in 1970 of 190 wineries, of which
152 responded, with a combined annual crush of 1,600,000 tons, some 124,000 tons
of pomace and 24,000 tons of stems were generated and disposed of. So we generate
around 150-160 pounds pomace and 30-40 pounds stems per ton grapes crushed. Almost
10% of the crushed grape comes out as solid waste.
We have to accept the fact that we are potential polluters, but from what
I have seen, having been involved in Environmental Studies for the Wine Institute,
which represents over 90% of the California wine industry, we can control our
wastes disposal to avoid creating problems, and fortunately over 99% of our waste
products, whether liquids or solids are biodegradable. The fact remains that
we do have enormous volumes of wastes, and the proper disposal of them so they
will not pose health or nuisance problems is as important to our industry
as the quality of our wine!
Many of you in this room may remember the national buildup of concerns in
the 1960's about the indifference by many industries - particularly the chemical
industry - in the disposing of wastes and that we were killing off fish and
game, destroying the natural forests, vegetation, and waterways so that future
generations would not be able to enjoy any of the things that we were enjoying
at that time. There was a national outcry that people create pollution and
that people must solve the problem.
To me one of the biggest impacts about our environment and what we people
were doing to it was brought out in the early 1960's by Rachel Carson in her
book "Silent Spring". Ms. Carson was a biologist. Her book came as a shock
to many, and to environmentalists it was a godsend in that it was a clarifi
cation and a revelation of man's attack on the environment. This book, a big
seller for its time, caused many in government to recognize that in the brief
period after World War II our capability to produce and use indiscriminately
lethal chemicals was reaching a danger point and man had to recognize he had
to institute quickly controls to prevent his eventual extinction from improper
use and disposal of chemicals, and I'm not referring to nuclear weapons.
California in the early 1970's with a population of 20 million people was
projected by the year 2020 to grow to 45 million people. These future popu
lations would have to use the same water that we were using today after its
With all these national environmental concerns, in May of 1970 President
Nixon sent to Congress a reorganization plan in which he consolidated 15 agen
cies in different government departments, who had some kind of pollution regu
latory power, into an independent agency to get better water and air pollution
control. As a result of this plan, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency,
or EPA, came into being on December 2, 1970. At that time, President Nixon
stated the following: "We can no longer afford the indiscriminate waste of
our natural resources; neither should we accept as inevitable the mounting
costs of waste removal. We must move increasingly towards closed systems
that recycle what are now considered wastes back into useful and productive
purposes." In a sense President Nixon had fired the first volley in the big
effort that something had to be done. This so-called closed system has since
been referred to as the closed loop, and what it means is that any gallon of
water that is used for any purpose - industrial, agricultural or otherwise -
must be returned back for reuse in the same condition as it had been origi
nally withdrawn. This was a big order considering the extravagant waste that
had been going on for many, many decades in the United States. It was most
necessary that consolidated and coordinated effort be put forth.
Again you may ask, how would this affect us in the wine industry? Since envi
ronmental quality and its preservation had become one of the most discussed subjects
at that time by the public and all concerned, the Wine Institute, recognizing its
responsibility, appointed an Environmental Studies Committee in the spring of
1970 to work on environmental problems that may evolve in disposing of winery
wastes and byproducts development, and in the production of grapes and winery
products. This committee, of which I was appointed chairman in 1970 and have
been chairman for some 15 years, was instructed to work closely with the univer
sity, federal and state agencies and private research firms in the development
and coordination of research aimed at alleviating winery environmental problems.
Also initially it was intended to follow closely the political situation and the
subsequent increase in number of meaningless regulations which might be proposed
and imposed on our industry in what appeared to be quick environmental problem
solutions. This was not to say that we did not have any problems, but the
approach for such quick legislated resolution could be painful, particularly
if the legislation that was enacted not be meaningful yet impose economic
and other hardships on our industry.
A good example of such legislation was the Fresno County mandating in 1969
that since The City of Fresno was expanding its liquid waste collection system,
all industries, including the wine industry, must hook up to the system. Seven
wineries within range of the new collection system were to be tied in for the
1970 season. Up to that time only three of the seven were tied in and had been
from 1934. The City had been forewarned of possible problems.
By October 1970, the city sewage treatment plant was swamped with the
extra big flow of stillage and other winery waste, thereby rendering the entire
treatment plant ineffective, since the ineffectively treated effluents from the
wineries which were high in BOD and mixed with other effluents were causing a
bad odor condition in the area of the disposal plant. Immediately the city
ordered the wineries to cease disposing of the stillage into this city line.
The four wineries had spent hundreds of thousands of dollars for the hookup which
could only be used for clear water disposal. Fortunately, they retained their
shallow checks and returned to their use for stillage disposal.
Another indication of this happening was in May 1971 when we were advised
by the Department of the Army that the wine industry would have to get a permit
from the Corp of Engineers under the Refuse Act of 1899 for the discharge of
wastes. The Corps of Engineers had been charged with enforcement of this Act.
Up to that time there had been very limited enforcement of this Act. Actually,
this Refuse Act of 1899 was an updating of the River and Harbor Act of 1866
which at that time was set up to require a permit from the Corps of Engineers
for anyone such as a manufacturer who wanted to discharge or deposit waste in
the navigable waters of the United States or into any tributary from which such
discharge material could float or be washed into navigable waters. The Federal
government by enforcing this Act wanted to have all industries get permits for
discharge of their washes. This meant that wineries, for example, in Napa Valley
or in the Central Valley that would probably be discharging their waste waters
onto land and/which liquid could somehow, such as result of a rainstorm.go into
a stream, which in turn flowed into the Napa or other Central Valley rivers
down into the Bay would be covered by the Act.
This indeed was a most distressing requirement. The Wine Institute Environ
mental Committee, after a series of meetings and much correspondence with EPA,
was able to get exemption of California Wine Industry to require permits from
the Corps of Engineers under the Refuse Act of 1899. We were aided greatly in
this by Dr. Franklin Agardy of URS Research Co., San Mateo, California whom I
had met during one of my Washington trips to EPA. Dr. Agardy was very helpful
in convincing EPA on this as he was serving as an outside consultant for EPA and
he agreed land disposal, as recommended by the Coast Laboratory Report, was the
best means for California wineries to dispose of winery wastes.
It was during this same period that EPA was formulating recommended effluent
limitations for the miscellaneous Food and Beverage Industries, and the Wine
Industry was included in this category. Our Committee worked on these EPA effluent
limitations from 1971 until 1976. To date none have been published for the wine in
dustry, and my personal observations were that after our many discussions
with the EPA during the developing of these limitations, the EPA understood
better the California Wine Industry's waste disposal methods and recognized
that the California State requirements would be stricter and achieve same end
result. Also the EPA had finally recognized the difference in climatic and land
conditions affecting Eastern Wineries and California Wineries. Eastern Wineries
have a more difficult situation due to more rainfall, cooler weather, less
available land for disposal, more streams surrounding the wineries, and generally
an entirely different environment.
Also during the early 1970's period, with the federal government legislating
many changes in water and air pollution laws and water quality improvements acts,
it appeared that there would be a power "battle" between the federal govern
ment and the states. The laws were written with the purpose that the states
would be responsible for the monitoring but work with the federal government
on their implementation. California State, in its attempt to protect its rights,
expanded in 1969 the Porter-Cologne Water Quality Control Act to provide for
establishment of a waste discharge requirement for every waste discharge in the
state which might affect water quality, and this Act was also designed to achieve
water quality objectives or standards that had been adopted by state and federal
government by establishing effluent and receiving water conditions, including
restrictions to be complied with. Basically, this Porter-Cologne Water Quality
Act of 1969 was an extension of the 1949 Water Quality Control Program which
had surprisingly achieved remarkable progress in eliminating water pollution from
major estuarine areas in San Diego Bay, Los Angeles Harbor, San Francisco Bay
and Humboldt Bay, as well as inland waters such as Lake Tahoe and the Central
In the fall of 1970, we were alerted that there was a California State
Policy being Proposed for Establishment of Waste Discharge Requirements within
the Central Valley Region. This region covers all interior counties from Kern
up to Modoc and takes in all of the interior valley and Sierra foothill counties.
The proposed policy suggested that pretreatment of effluents for land disposal
would be required to conform to proposed federal regulations.
This was a severe requirement and to those of us working on this matter we
could envision a big economic impact and we knew that the result would be in
creased odor problems. We strongly believed that, based on the experiences of
our committee members like Charles Crawford, Leo Berti , Jim Gott, Dr. George York,
Hugh Cook, Jefferson Peyser, and myself who appeared before the Staff Board with
written statments, pretreatment of waste had been tried in the past and, if
anything, we created more problems from the sludge which formed than existed with
liquid disposal in shallow checks. Our experiences were that if the intermittent
irrigation system (Coast Lab) was used, land disposal was most effective and
To sum this matter up, we convinced the Board to accept
"land disposal of waste with little or no pretreatment only in areas where
ground or surface water quality would not be affected and nuisance would not
be present". In fact, after months of review, the California Regional Water
Quality Control Board - Central Valley Region in Resolution 71-180, January 22,
1971 - adopted the guidelines to be used instead of establishing a policy as
originally started. This was a big achievement to have Land Disposal recog
nized as an acceptable method and, in fact, the Board further stated that in
areas having suitable terrain, isolation, soil cover, and ground and surface
water conditions, it encouraged the use of land disposal techniques.
One of the more influential supporters in favor of land disposal was Pro
fessor Percy McGauhey of U.C. Berkeley who had done extensive research on use
of the Soil Mantle as an Engineered Waste Disposal System. He had reviewed the
Coast Laboratories' June 1947 Report and stated that their recommendations
stressed "exactly" the parameters he had outlined in his studies. Statements
such as this and those made by our committee members convinced the Board on use
of land disposal of winery wastes. Based on the guidelines, the state proceeded
to set up what the waste discharge requirements would be.
A research study was contracted by the Wine Institute to be done by
Metcalf and Eddy Engineers, Palo Alto. Study was. completed by February 1980
and incorporated by the State as an amendment to the Water Quality Control
Plan. Essentially the discharge requirements were for stillage waste, and the
study had been done to develop recommendations for minimizing water quality effects
and nuisance conditions from land application of stillage waste. The plan was
In all our dealings with the State Water Quality Regional Boards, we have
never taken a negative stand but have, through discussions and research projects
such as done by Metcalf & Eddy, Dr. Ed Schroeder of U.C. Davis, and Dr. George York
of U.C. Davis, worked with their staffs to bring out meaningful data which
focused on what the problem is and how best to correct it. By this process
we have been able to avoid arguments at hearings in enaction of unacceptable
regulations against which we would need to take a strong stand because of un
reasonable requirements. All must remember, everything changes and only when
we recognize that we have to accept that some changes will come about and
approach problems - (such as environmental ones which we are discussing) that
solutions or toning down of unreasonable requirements can be done.
I have dealt at length on land disposal of winery wastes, and it appears
more emphasis was given to the Central Valley wineries. Because of the size of
the Central Valley Water Quality Control Area, the other Regional Boards generally
will follow their regulatory actions. We know that in the northern wine pro
ducing areas there have been problems associated with discharges into the
Russian and Napa Rivers.
Fortunately through the use of aerated lagoons, the winery waste - mostly
washes - have been successfully treated. Robert Ryder, of Kennedy Engineers,
Inc., San Francisco, presented a paper at the 28th Annual Purdue Industrial
Waste Conference, West Lafayette, Indiana on May 3, 1973, and in his presentation,
"Winery Wastewater Treatment and Reclamation", he pointed out that aerated lagoons
provided a level of treatment resulting in 90-99% BOD reduction on 30 days re
tention and are odor free and that multistage aerated lagoons are suited to
treat the wide variation in quantity and characteristics of winery wastes. The
elevation of pH to 7.5-8.5 range resulted for better aerobic biological treat
ment, and some balancing of Nitrogen and Phosphorous to BOD helped to complete
oxidation of the organic matter in the winery wastewaters by aerated lagoons.
Another important area where our industry and Environmental Studies Com
mittee are involved in has to do with ion exchange winery wastewaters. In 1982,
the Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board proposed a limitation of
1,000 micromhos per cubic centimeter EC. The purpose of the conductivity limi-
tation, based on the salinity objective of the Water Quality Control Plan -
called Basin Plans, was to maintain the quality of natural groundwater.
The Wine Institute Environmental Studies Committee in December 1982 re
quested the Regional Board withhold any action until a research study on ion
exchange use in wine industry be made so we could characterize what the waste
problem was. Also we were aware that the basic issue was primarily the salinity,
or sodium ion. The Board in 1983 agreed to a deferment of the specific EC limi
tation provided the study include various parameters such as identification of
all constituents in the ion exchange waste stream, range of concentrations, esti
mated daily volume, impact of each waste constituent on the beneficial uses of
groundwater, and recommendations on practices for discharging wastes which
would protect the beneficial uses of groundwater. In addition, the Board
wanted a time frame for implementation of the recommended practices.
by Wine Institute
This was a big order, and a research study was contracted/in May 1983 to be
done by George Nolte and Assoc., Sacramento, California with Ronald Crites as
Project Manager. Also, U.C. Davis contracted to conduct initial survey by
George Cooke on Wine Industry Ion Exchange Waste Disposal. This study was to
be made in three stages. Stage 1 was completed in May 1984. Now we are in
Stage 2 which was approved by Wine Institute in November 1984 and which could
result in finalization of study by end of this 1985 summer. We are hopeful that
the research study will come up with certain practices which will result in the
Regional Board exempting the Wine Industry from an EC limitation, particularly
if we can show that the ion exchange wastewaters could be land disposed and
would have no effect on groundwaters. Our subcommittee working on this study is
under supervision of Tom Wong, who has done an outstanding job coordinating
this with the George Nolte and Assoc. and the Regional Board.
Another very critical environmental area where our wine industry has been
working through the Environmental Studies Committee has to do with Ethanol
Emissions, and clean air. This has truly been a real headache and big concern,
but we must remember that all of us are interested in clean air.
A Clean Air Act was passed per Public Law 88-206 in 1963 and since then
there have been many amendments such as The Motor Vehicle Air Pollution Control
(PL89-272) October 20, 1965. The Clean 'Air Act has been amended yearly with
latest Amended Act in November 1977.
Congress enacted the law and subsequent amendments due to urban growths
which extend even over state lines and the complexity of air pollution brought
about by urbanization, industrial development, and the increased use of motor
vehicles, with resulting mounting dangers to the public health and welfare,
including agricultural crops and livestock, damage to and deterioration of
property, and hazards to air and ground transportation. Congress also stated
that prevention and control of air pollution at its source is the primary res
ponsibility of States and local government, and that the Federal assistance is
essential for development of cooperative, Federal, State, regional and local
programs to prevent and control air pollution.
The primary goal of The Clean Air Act was to control the seven most common
air pollutants, which are carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons, lead, nitrogen dioxide,
ozone, particulates and sulfur dioxide.
Two standards were set. Primary standards were to protect human health
with an added margin of safety for vulnerable segments of the population like the
elderly and infants, and Secondary standards to prevent damage to such things
as crops, visibility, buildings, water, and materials.
Taking into account the federally set emission standards, states were
ordered to develop state implementation plans (SIP's), outlining how they intended
to clean up the air within their states by the deadline set, and EPA was to approve
the state plans by July 1, 1979, otherwise EPA could ban construction of large
new polluting industries in areas that violated the federal standards if the
state did not have an approved SIP.
The country was divided into some 247 regional air basins or Air Quality
Regions that violated the standards for one or more of the seven pollutants
were designated Non-Attainment Areas and states had to limit new construction
of pollution sources until the air in these dirty areas was brought to Federal
standards. In regions where standards for specific pollutants were met were
called Attainment Areas and states could not allow air in these areas to
deteriorate beyond certain levels.
The California State Air Resources Board had appointed The Fresno County
Air Pollution Control District, a Non-Attainment Area, as the main agency to inves
tigate organic emissions from wineries and brandy operations since the ARB had in
vestigated and determined that in the San Joaquin Valley significant organic
losses emitted into the atmosphere may act as principal precursors in the for
mation of photochemically reactive oxidants.
We were advised in May 1978 by the Fresno County Air Pollution Control Dis
trict of this responsibility, and they requested much data'from the wineries
about their physical facilities as to numbers, and size, and openings of fermen
ting and storage tanks, and types of products produced, and fermentation tempera
The Wine Industry supplied a great deal of data to the FCAPCD who concluded
that the wineries in this basin area were major air polluters.
They - California ARB - had identified ethyl alcohol as Class III pollutant,
indicating it was highly reactive and due to the short season with large
volumes of fermentation emissions as being significant in the formation of atmos
pheric oxidants - ozone.
The Environmental Studies Committee met many times with the Air Pollution
Control officers and pointed out that the classification of ethanol was wrong.
First because it was not a hydrocarbon and secondly, we had two studies that
were in conflict. A Shell Oil study gave a reactivity of 1.0 and a Japanese
study showed reactivity. We questioned this difference and requested that
EPA take into account the Japanese report. We also pointed out that in 1976,
when EPA hosted International Conference on Photochemical Oxidant Pollution
& Its Control, a paper was given by EPA researchers indicating that methanol ,
tertiary butanol , and iso-propanol were not reactive, and to us this inferred
that in this chain of alcohols, ethanol was not reactive and not an ozone pre
cursor. Our industry to this day is not satisfied that ethanol is a Class III
reactant and that the primary source of air pollution in the Fresno area is
the automobile traffic.
At one time we were advised that the State Energy Commission had ap
propriated funds to do a Smog Chamber Study on Ethanol since it was being used
as an additive to gasoline to improve octane rating and also augment fuel supply
as an alternative fuel. Unfortunately the $50,000 set aside for this study was
withdrawn due to the financial problems of California State. We felt that a
Smog Chamber Study would exonerate ethanol, and we hope that in spite of the
present high cost - estimated at $100,000 to $150,000 - such a Smog Chamber Re
search Study should be done.
With gathering of all the data from the wineries, the Fresno Air Pollution
Control District presented for our review in September 1982 a draft of a "Winery
Fermentations Rule" and their report "Winery Emission Control in California".
In this report, they proposed six control methods: Incineration, Charcoal
Adsorption, Scrubbing, Fractionation, Refluxing, and Simple Condensation. Also,
they summarized by their analyses that ethanol emission control could be made at
a low cost per pound of alcohol recovered.
After intensive review and study, we responded with documentation on Jan. 13,
1983 why we disagreed with their report, pointing out the high costs, particularly
for condensation and charcoal adsorption, and stressing to them the sanitation
problems which would arise. Also, we pointed out that their Rule 409.7, Winery
Fermentation Operation, which stated that fermentation tanks with a capacity of
100,000 gallons or greater would require control equipment to reduce ethanol
emissions by 90% and that by January 1, 1984 application be submitted authorizing
construction necessary to comply with this rule, so that by July 1, 1985 we be
in full compliance was too cost prohibitive, at $10 per pound alcohol recovered,
which relates back to $3.50 per ton grapes crushed. In addition, we questioned
again the necessity of such controls since we weren't convinced by scientific
documentation that ethanol was a pollutant.
Finally, a deferment on rule making was given after our Committee proposed a
research study showing that by fermenting at cooler temperature, ethanol emissions
could be reduced, although we did not concede that ethanol was an ozone producer.
A research study by U.C. Davis was funded in late 1983 by the Wine Institute
with purpose to investigate and screen out what yeasts could ferment at cool
(45F) temperatures and at reasonable rates and do a yeast clonal study to select
cold tolerant yeasts. This study has been completed and the report is pending.
Also, a second study has justbeen approved by the Wine Growers of California
to continue this work and to investigate into improvement of fermentation rate
characteristics. In the first study out of 75 yeasts studied, the champagne
yeast now in use has proven to be the best available one. In this second study,
a selection of cold tolerant mutants will be made. Hopefully our study will not
only produce cold tolerant yeasts but also one that can ferment at a desired rate.
Our present status on this Ethanol Emission problem is that the Fresno Air
Pollution Control District, the lead agency for the ARB, is proposing a rule
which we have participated in formulating. The rule will be reviewed by the
Technical Review Group of the State Air Resources Board in July 1985 for adoption
by September 1985, and essentially it covers all tanks 95,000 gallons or greater.
The weighted average fermentation (WAFT) would be for white wines starting in
1986 at no more than 63F, and by 1990 and later at no more than 55F. For red
wines the WAFT would be no more than 84F in 1986, and no more than 80F by 1990
and later. Other conditions are that temperature recording instruments be
installed on 20% of the tanks per year each year, starting in 1985 to record
temperature, and gallons /at least two times per day with no less than six hours
apart. Other methods of emission control may be used if certified by the ARC
We have repeatedly asked EPA through the Fresno County Dept. of Health
that has the Air Pollution Control responsibilities to find out and give us the
scientific basis for their classification of Ethanol as a Class III reactant.
Each time we get the references back giving the Shell Oil result which also in
cludes the Japanese report. Just recently we were told they were going to give
us a new report. As it turned out it was a re-hash of the same data except in a
new form. I assure you we have been most frustrated
But we can't let up with our present strategy of having meaningful dialogue,
doing research studies, and perhaps in time convince EPA that ethanol must be
classified to one of less reactivity and that wineries are not an important source
of air pollution.
With time we hope we can (1) get smog studies to exonerate ethanol and (2)
our yeast studies produce a better yeast - cold tolerant with good fermentation
rate. For the present the state rule will apply only to the 95,000 WG or
larger tanks used in fermentation.
Again we stress the Environmental Studies Committee can't agree and
is not conceding that Ethanol is an air pollutant, but the reality of this pro
blem is that EPA has dictated that there be a control rule on ethanol emissions.
Our subcommittee working on Ethanol Emission is under supervision of
Art Caputi who has done an extraordinary job of reviewing all the data given us
by the Fresno Air Pollution Control District and preparing our responses in
addition to coordinating the yeast study being done at U.C. Davis and keeping
the Fresno Air Pollution Control District and Air Resources Board fully apprised.
Both Art Caputi and Tom Wong have devoted much time on the ion exchange
and yeast studies, and I can't thank them and the other Environmental Committee
members enough for their continued tedious, lengthy, frustrating discussions
With respect to the Smog Chamber Study, we have to understand that if and
when such a study is made, the results may show that ethanol is a reactant -
the degree of which is unknown. As previously explained, we don't believe it
is highly or even reactive, and if it is on the low reactivity end, this should not
be the basis for all the controls we presently are going to be subjected to but
that ethanol be reclassified.
Another item I would like to make you aware of is the question of S0 2 in
the workspace in the wineries. Cal-OSHA proposed in mid 1982 to lower the Per
missible Exposure Limit (PEL) from 5 ppm to 2 ppm. The 5 ppm is the Federal
Level. After a series of meetings and a report by one of our members that in
preliminary tests run in October 1982, the highest exposure in normal winery
operations was less than 1 ppm and that a coastal winery where testing had also
been done the highest exposure found was 1 to 1-1/2 ppm, we adopted a general
position not to oppose the State proposal.
The wine industry attended a number of meetings of an advisory committee
which included groups like the Grape and Tree Fruit League and the Prune, Raisin
and Walnut people.
At the January 1983 Advisory Committee meeting, the group recommended to
the Division of Occupational Safety and Health (DOSH) staff that a level of
3.5 ppm be suggested to Cal-OSHA to incorporate into Section 5155 - Airborne
Contaminants - & a further review be made in December 1985 with the purpose
after additional field testing to determine the extent of this problem, and
if further reduction is necessary to the 2 ppm.
The Wine Institute advised its members of the hazards and correct uses of
SCL. We feel that the wine industry can comply with the stricter requirement
if wineries would use the proper procedures when handling Sulphur Dioxide.
Another matter which was of great concern to the wine industry was the use
of asbestos in filtration. In the early 1970's, a number of articles - both
US. and French - had been written advising of the dangers of ingested asbestos
and that, in the French report, they reported they found hundreds of microscopic
fibers in beverages.
After much discussion and review, in May 1977, the Technical Committee of
the Wine Institute recommended that, for many reasons, including FDA ban on use
in filtration of Pharmaceuticals, use of asbestos filtration not be used, but if
used, the filtration be followed with a 0.45 micron membrane filtration. In May
1978, the Technical Committee further recommended as being on record against any
use of asbestos.
There has been much controversy about the matter - whether such asbestos use
should be abandoned since there were no medical studies supporting such a ban.
Because of its political and other PR implications, and because we have shown we
can filter as well without asbestos, I believe the position taken was and is
I hope you have found this talk informative. I didn't intend this to be a
narrative but a summary of how we have dealt with the issues of water and
air as pertains to all of us in the wine industry and how it affected us.
We have found that as issues were raised we should be realistic in re
viewing them and not be frightened by the consequences of what was proposed we
would have to do. The Environmental Committee has kept an open dialogue with
all the various pollution control agencies. We believe by discussion, by
supplying them with all data available, by conducting research to get better
information, and by not flexing any muscles, we could arrive at solutions
which were meaningful yet met the concerns of today - of protecting our
Environmental Studies will and must continue in our industry, and we have
people such as Art Caputi and Tom Wong to carry on such work. I want to acknow
ledge by name two other people besides the Environmental Committe members who
have worked superhard in our effort.
First, I want to pay high tribute to the late Hugh Cook who, prior to his death a
few years ago, was indeed the one who kept everything in order, who communicated
with the government agencies, and without whom we couldn't have achieved the
Second, I want to pay a million thanks to Charles Crawford without whose
unlimited support and counseling to me, I couldn't have survived these 15 years
as Chairman of the Environmental Studies Committee.
I am very satisfied with the results we have achieved to date and accept
the fact the headaches were worth it.
INDEX Elie C. Skofis
alambic brandy, 33
see also pot-still brandy
Allied Grape Growers, 20
Alta Winery, 43
American Champagne Company,
American Distilling Company,
American Society of
Enologists, 49, 52, 55-
American Society of Enologists
Merit Award, 56-58
Amerine, Maynard, 49, 50
Archineal, Herman, 21
Auerbach, Richard C. , 22, 24,
Bear Creek Winery, 43
Berg, Harold, 6
Beringer [Brothers] winery,
Berkeley Bank for
Berkeley Yeast Laboratory, 51
Berti, Leo, 6
Bianchini, Lelio Neil, 19
Bierworth, John, 16
Bioletti, Frederic T., 7
Bisceglia [Brothers] winery,
Bisceglia, Alfonso, 3-4
blending, 8, 9-10
blue fining, 51
Bonzani, Henry, 4
Brandt, Don, 74
brandy, 27, 33, 69-80,
revised definition of, 52-
Brown, Elbert, 7-8, 10, 21,
51, 70, 71, 76
Burton, A.H., 22-23, 24, 26,
30, 39, 45, 65
Buttes Farm, 36-37
Buttes Gas and Oil, 36
California Growers Wineries,
California State Air Resouces
Board, 55, 57-58
Cameo winery, 43
Cash, Lyman, 11
Cella family, 47
Cella, John Battista, 64, 65
Central Cellars, 43
Chavez, Cesar, 34, 35, 37
Christian Brothers, 21, 22,
23, 76-77, 80
co-operative system, 39, 40-
cold fermentation, 12, 67-69
cold stabilization, 68-69
Cole, Ansley, 33
Cook's sparkling wine, 64-66
Coronet brandy, 74
Crawford, Charles, 6, 48, 54
Cresta Blanca winery, 26, 30-
32, 42, 43, 63, 64, 65
Cresta Blanca, Mendocino
winery, 32-33, 43
Cribari label, 63
Cribari winery, 42
Cruess, William V. , 5-6, 49
de-alchoholized wines, 66-67
Deane, John R. , 14, 16-17, 18
Del Rio winery, 43
Dowler, Lloyd, 43
Appendix II; see also
estate bottling, 67
ethanol emissions, 54-55
Farm Workers' Union, 35, 36
Farm Financial investors, 37
Fessler, Julius, 51-52
Fior d'ltalia label, 13
Fresno Winery, 43
Fresno Bee. 19
Fresno wine chemists group,
Fresno State College, 43-46,
Gallo [E.&J.] winery, 15, 16,
18, 27, 53, 54, 58
Gallo, Julio, 18
Gambarelli & Davitto, 13, 17
Gazzara, Joe, 43
Goldman, Max, 6, 48
grape crush, 1946, 15
grape crush, 1951, 17
Gretzinger, , 37
Greystone Winery, 21
Guasti winery, 7
Guild Wineries and
Disterillies, 31, 32,
33-34, 36-38, 39-42, 46-
48, 58, 59-69, 77, 78
Guymon, James G., 73-74, 75,
Guymon Award, 56
Halperin, Ze'ev, 56
Harriman, Averell, 14
Hartley brandy, 69
Heck, Adolf L. , 17, 18, 45
Heck, Paul, 17, 19
Heitz, Joe, 44, 45
Hemphill, Allan, 45
Herbert, James K. , 22, 23, 25
Heublein Inc., 20
Holden, Charles, 49
Holstein, John, 28, 65
Italian Swiss Colony, 4, 5,
6, 7-21, 27, 69-70, 73,
Asti winery, 11
bottling operations, 16,
Clovis winery, 8-9, 11, 16
Lodi winery, 11, 32, 69-
New York market, 13
production facilities, 10-
Ivie, Robert, 39, 40, 59, 66,
77, 78, 80
Japan, market in, 73
Joslyn, Maynard A., 5, 49
Jurgens, Peter, 32
Kite, Ted, 32
Kite, Walter, 47, 48, 50
Korbel & Bros., 65, 80
Korean War, 27
L.K. Marshall winery, 42
La Paloma Winery, 9
Lanson Champagne, 17
Lejon brandy, 69-70, 74, 75
Liebennan, Martin, 76
Marigold Whiskey, 30
Marsh, George, 5, 6, 49
Martini, Louis P., 6
McCall Winery, 42-43
methode champenoise. 65
Mineau, Roy, 64
Mission Bell winery, 20
Muller, Carlos, 54-55
Muzio, Nino, 75
national distilling companies,
National Distillers, 9, 11,
13, 14, 15, 16, 18, 24,
29, 39-40, 41, 51, 70, 75
Nelson, Klayton E., 58
Nightingale, Myron S., 6, 8,
11, 29, 30, 31, 32, 58
Nixon, Richard, 57
Noble, William Holt, 32
Norton, Richard, 46
Office of Price
Padre Vinyards, 65
Pasterick, Gerard, 59, 60,
Peters, Leon, 44
Petri, Angelo, 20
Petri, Louis, 19, 20, 41
Petris, Nicholas, 3
Petrucci, Vincent, 43
Posson, Philip, 6
Post, Alan, 44
potasium ferrocyanide, 51-52
pot-still brandy, 76-81
Potten-Cologne Act, 54
Prati, Enrico, 8, 9, 74
Pruhlo stills, 78-79
PVPP compound, 68
quality control, 11 , 13 , 24
Rahal, Bobby, 60
Reuther, , 34, 35
Riddell, James L. , 44, 45, 54
Roberts, Hollis, 35
Roma Winery, 4, 9, 14, 16,
17, 22-38, 42, 47, 64, 65
brandy operation, 27, 74
distillery techniques, 25-
whiskey and rum operations,
wine losses, 23-25
Rosenstiel, Lewis R. , 23, 27,
34, 35, 53-54
Rossi, Robert (Bob), 14, 18,
Rossi, Robert (Bob), Jr., 10
Rossi, Edmund, 14
Rossi, Edmund, Jr., 10
Rowell, Chester, 2
Rudolph, Don, 31
San Joaquin Valley Wine
Growers' Association, 55
Sante label, 66-67
Schenley Industries, 9, 14,
15, 16, 19, 22, 23, 24,
26, 27, 30, 31-32, 34,
35-36, 37-38, 39, 40, 53,
64, 76, 77
Schenley Ranches, 37, 81
Seibert, Kenneth, 59
Setrakian, Robert, 35, 36, 75
Shewan Jones, 76
Silverado vodka, 72-73
Smith, C., 35
Solari, Bruno C. , 16-17
St. Regis label, 66-67
stillage disposal, 51, 54,
Technical Advisory Committee,
Thompson, Mary, 66
"Toppan Easy," 67
Turbovsky, Morris W. , 48
Twining, Dr. , 3
Twining Laboratories, 3
University of California,
Davis, 43, 50
University of California,
Berkeley, Dept of Food
Science, 5, 49
College of Chemistry, 4
Vaughan, Reese, 5
Vintner's Choice label, 63
Vogt, Fred, 28
Wente family, 31, 32
whiskey, 27, 28, 29-30
Wine Institute, 22, 50, 52
wine marketing, 11-12, 15-16,
Wine Masters label, 63
wine prices, 1947, 15-16
Wine Regulations, Part 240,
Wines and Vines. 56
J. , 50
Woolsey, James, 34-35
World War II, 2-3
wine marketing during,
Grapes Mentioned in the
French Colombard, 77
Palomino, 12, 26
Pedro Ximenes, 26
St. Emillion, 77-78, 80-8
Thompson Seedless, 11, 17,
Ugni blanc, 81
Wines Mentioned in the
Blanc de Noir, 66
Fume Blanc, 63
Sauvignon Blanc, 63
sparkling White Zinfandel,
Tipo Red, 13
Wines Mentioned in the
Tipo White, 13
Triple Cream Sherry, 30
Born in Portland, Oregon; came to the Bay
Area in 1932 and has lived here ever since.
Stanford University, 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,
Co-author of Winemaking in California, a
An interviewer-editor in the Regional Oral
History Office since 1965.
5 1 176