Skip to main content

Full text of "California wine and brandy maker"

See other formats

Regional Oral History Office University of California 

The Bancroft Library Berkeley, California 

The Wine Spectator California Winemen Oral History Series 

Elie C. Skofis 

With an Introduction by 
John B. Cella II 

An Interview Conducted by 

Ruth Teiser 

in 1987 

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 
follows : 

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 . 



INTRODUCTION by John B. Cella II v 





University of California 4 

E. M. Brown 
Enrico Prati 

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 

Reducing Losses 
Improving the Distillery 
Whiskey and Rum 
Cresta Blanca 
The Sale of Roma 


The Co-operative System 40 

Guild in the Early 1970s 42 

Teaching at Fresno State College, 1961-1971 43 

Ted Kite 47 


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 


Cutting Back, 1983-1985 59 

Markets and Labels 62 

Cook's Sparkling Wine 64 

Cold Fermentation 67 

Brandy 69 

The Influence of James G. Guymon 

Pot Stills and Fresh Wine 76 


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 

INDEX 135 


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. 

Ruth Teiser 
Project Director 
The Wine Spectator California 
Winemen Oral History Series 

10 September 1984 
Regional Oral History Office 
486 The Bancroft Library 
University of California, Berkeley 


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 
Industry 1971 

Maynard A. Amerine, Wine Bibliographies and Taste Perception Studies 
1988 " 

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 
197 4~ 

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 
Industry 1977 

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 


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 
Concord, California 



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 
California brandy. 

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. 

Ruth Teiser 

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.) 

Li C. 

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 

// fl 

Birthplace "/P* /?<? // S <-? 

Your spouse 

IA. I & 

Your children 

// 'ft V 

Where did you grow up? 
Present community Ft <? S 
Education lA ' V I V . 

Lfi ll{0r 


Ctj /) / V >" ** 

Occupation (s) 

. S Q 

/ f V ? - 

00 c 

Areas of expertise 

' (8> 

Other interests or activities 



Organizations in which you are active 




1. OraSuat. university of California, Jan. 143 

.I. Dagrct - Ccllagt ef Chamlstry In Chemistry and 
Chemical Technology 

2. Jan. l3 to ispt 1946 - aarved In 0. I. Army in European 
Theater. Rank-Captain. 

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 
graduates . 


[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 
were available. 

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 
following year." 

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 
Cruess. * 

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. 
Berkeley, 1967. 

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. 


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. 

Enrico Prati 

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 
the alcohol. 

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 
everybody under. 

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 
get hurt. 

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 
operate. " 

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. 



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. 

Reducing Losses 

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 
their procedures. 

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 
year later. 

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 
good product. 

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 
hard operation. 

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 

Cresta Blanca 

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 

ca. 1978 


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 
problems. " 

"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 
table wines. 

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 
operating wineries. 

* 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? 

Skofis: Okay. 

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 
operation. " 

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 
name was. 

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 
the contracts. 

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 
them. * 

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 
with Schenley. 

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. 



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 
or something. 

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 
bottled there. 

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 
vine laboratory. 

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 
could continue. 

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 


Ted Kite 

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 
dinner meetings. 

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, 




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, 
using ferrocyanide. 

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 
they did. 

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 deal. 

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 

Teiser : 

Skof is: 


Did you accomplish something as president that you'd always wanted 
to accomplish? 

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. 

ASE Awards 


Skof is ; 

Teiser ; 

Skof is: 

We're talking about the ASE. 
Award lecturer in '83. 

I have here that you were the Guymon 

Teiser : 

Skof is: 

'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. 

And I 

buffer a lot 
you up with, 
fact that 
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 
Botrytis. * 

* See Myron S. Nightingale and Alice Nightingale, op. cit. 



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. 

[tape interruption] 

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 

Skofis: Extremely. 

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. 

Teiser: Here? 

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 
the Cook's. 

Teiser: [looking at tasting room price list] You've also been making de- 
alcoholized wines. 

Skofis: Sante. 

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 

Teiser ; 
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. 

Cold Fermentation 

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? 
Skofis: Okay. 

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 
the aging. 

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 
with him. 

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 
of research 


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 
of you? 

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. 

Tei ser 


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 
of years. 

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 
that much. 

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 
satisfies them. 

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 ! 
Skof is; 

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? 


Teiser: Yes. 

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 
standard ? 

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 
turn out. 

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 
your brandy? 

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. 

Elie Skofis 

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 




Given at 1983 - American Society of Enologists 
Annual Meeting - June 20, 1983 

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 






ANNUAL 1890 - 







































































































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 

the Prorate 
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 










. ... " 































j i MVM 

a O r 

>- a 

Z > L. 
< Z < 
i* C a 

< ' t. 




IT. I/". 


ui > 

t-> O 

a: uj < 
o z 

o - > 

in S C 








. ! 








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 
making techniques. 


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 
whole fruit. 

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 
being produced. 


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 




Active Amyl 













Extracted from 

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 
ester content. 

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 
by brandy. 

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 










10 lO lO 
Ni *- O 

1 fs 


1^*1 t f*i tj^ 

-sl "^J ~4 
tsi I- 1 O 

i O t f^ i O i fi t f* 

O"* O* 1 O"* O^ O"* 
ID OO *vJ O"> Ui 

' *"* *f* i^ 
* O^ O"^ O"* 
l CO I O 






^ >, > s, * 






v5 IS5 O CO v> 
O^ LO O '^J C 
l-> \J3 f f O 


"-J OO 
V*J '^J 

O fO 

f o 



^ s ^ < 

o c 


m j> 


2 ~ 


m < 

70 rn 


i- O 


~n m 




















V,V/iN3 UJW4U4VJO OOOVDOO W^^ff y^.fv ^ 






Vw ^-^^^^ S^^S" ^S^^!? ^SS^- ^^ 

S~^ S^^^S ?^SS? ^5-X-u, ^~~~- C^-aX- 











> -< 



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 
producers . 

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 , 
J. Welsch. 

12. Leon D. Adams, THE WINES OF AMERICA, Second Edition, 1978, 
McGraw Hill. 


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 
public nuisance. 

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 
disposal . 

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 
normal recycling. 

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 
Valley rivers. 

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 
odor free. 


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 
Control Regions. 

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 

be recorded 
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 
and support. 

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 
desired results. 

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. 

Thank you. 


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, 


BATF, 53 

Bear Creek Winery, 43 

Berg, Harold, 6 

Beringer [Brothers] winery, 

Berkeley Bank for 

Cooperatives, 42 
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, 

Appendix I 
revised definition of, 52- 

54, 71-72 
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- 

42, 60-62 

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 
Cufex, 51-52 

de-alchoholized wines, 66-67 
Deane, John R. , 14, 16-17, 18 
Del Rio winery, 43 
Depression, 2 
Dowler, Lloyd, 43 

environmental protection, 
Appendix II; see also 
ethanol emissions, 
stillage disposal 

Environmental Protection 
Agency, 57 

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, 
77, 80 

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, 

74, 75 

Asti winery, 11 
bottling operations, 16, 


Clovis winery, 8-9, 11, 16 
Lodi winery, 11, 32, 69- 

70, 76 

New York market, 13 
production facilities, 10- 


products, 12-13 
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 

labels, 63 

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 

Administration, 12 

Padre Vinyards, 65 
Pasterick, Gerard, 59, 60, 

66, 67 

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 
rum, 28-29 

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, 
Appendix II 

Technical Advisory Committee, 

22, 50-54 

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 

Environmental Committee, 

wine marketing, 11-12, 15-16, 

35-36, 63-64 
Wine Masters label, 63 
wine prices, 1947, 15-16 
Wine Regulations, Part 240, 


Wines and Vines. 56 
Winkler, Albert 

J. , 50 

Woolsey, James, 34-35 
World War II, 2-3 

wine marketing during, 


Grapes Mentioned in the 

Emperor, 15 

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 

Brut, 66 

champagne, 63-66 

Fume Blanc, 63 

Sauvignon Blanc, 63 

sparkling White Zinfandel, 

Tipo Red, 13 
Wines Mentioned in the 

Tipo White, 13 

Triple Cream Sherry, 30 

Ruth Teiser 

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 

history, 1982. 
An interviewer-editor in the Regional Oral 

History Office since 1965. 

5 1 176