University of California • Berkeley
All uses of this manuscript are covered by a legal
agreement between the Regents of the University of California
and Brother Timothy, dated 5 March, 1974. The manuscript is
thereby made available for research purposes. All literary
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at Berkeley. No part of the manuscript may be quoted for
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Requests for permission to quote for publication should be
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should include identification of the specific passages to be
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The Bancroft Library University of California/Berkeley
Regional Oral History Office
California Wine Industry Oral History Project
THE CHRISTIAN BROTHERS AS WINEMAKERS
With an Introduction by
Maynard A. Amerine
An Interview Conducted by
1975 by The Regents of the University of California
Being interviewed at Mont La Salle,
by Catherine Harroun.
TABLE OF CONTENTS -- Brother Timothy
INTRODUCTION by Maynard A. Amerine ill
INTERVIEW HISTORY v
THE CHRISTIAN BROTHERS 1
THE BEGINNING OF WINE MAKING AT MARTINEZ 4
THE MOVE TO MONT LA SALLE 10
THE BOYHOOD OF ANTHONY GEORGE DIENER 15
BROTHER TIMOTHY'S EARLY YEARS IN THE ORDER 18
THE MONT LA SALLE WINERY 22
BROTHER JOHN AND ALFRED FROMM 25
EARLY HISTORY OF THE MONT LA SALLE PROPERTY 28
WINE -MAKING TECHNOLOGY IN THE POST -REPEAL PERIOD 33
ALFRED FROMM AND MARKET EXPANSION 38
CHRISTIAN BROTHERS BRANDY 41
EXPANDING FACILITIES 44
THE ACQUISITION OF THE MOUNT TIVY WINERY 45
GREYSTONE CELLARS 50
THEODORE GIER'S ALBUM 57
CHRISTIAN BROTHERS CHAMPAGNE 66
CHRISTIAN BROTHERS WINES AND VINEYARDS 69
OTHER RELIGIOUS ORGANIZATIONS THAT MAKE WINE 73
THE CALIFORNIA WINE INDUSTRY 74
GRACE AND THANKSGIVING PRAYERS 77
THE SOUTH ST. HELENA COMPLEX 79
WINERY SIZE AND WINE QUALITY 84
GRAPE AND WINE PRICES SINCE 1961 87
CORKS AND CAPS 91
THE WINE MUSEUM 102
APPENDIX I The History of the Christian Brothers 105
Wineries in California
APPENDIX II History of Greystone 122
APPENDIX III The Christian Brothers Wine and Champagne Cellars 123
APPENDIX IV The Napa Valley 131
APPENDIX V Harvest Luncheon 135
(For Wines and Grapes see page 142)
The California Wine Industry Oral History Series, a
project of the Regional Oral History Office, was initiated
in 1969, the year noted as the bicentenary of continuous
wine making in this state. It was undertaken through the
action and with the financing of the Wine Advisory Board,
and under the direction of University of California faculty
and staff advisors at Berkeley and Davis.
The purpose of the series is to record and preserve
information on California grape growing and wine making that
has existed only in the memories of wine men. In some cases
their recollections go back to the early years of this
century, before Prohibition. These recollections are of
particular value because the Prohibition period saw the
disruption of not only the industry itself but also the
orderly recording and preservation of records of its
activities. Little has been written about the industry from
late in the last century until Repeal. There is a real
paucity of information on the Prohibition years (1920-1933),
although some wine making did continue under supervision of
the Prohibition Department. The material in this series on
that period, as well as the discussion of the remarkable
development of the wine industry in subsequent years (as
yet treated analytically in few writings) will be of aid to
historians. Of particular value is the fact that frequently
several Individuals have discussed the same subjects and
events or expressed opinions on the same ideas, each from
his own point of view.
Research underlying the interviews has been conducted
principally in the University libraries at Berkeley and
Davis, "the California State Library, and in the library of
the Wine Institute, which has made its collection of in
many cases unique materials readily available for the
Three master indices for the entire series are being
prepared, one of general subjects, one of wines, one of
grapes by variety. These will be available to researchers
at the conclusion of the series in the Regional Oral History
Office and at the library of the Wine Institute.
The Regional Oral History Office was established to
tape record autobiographical Interviews with persons who
have contributed significantly to recent California history.
The office is headed by Willa K. Baum and is under the
administrative supervision of James D. Hart, the Director
of The Bancroft Library.
California Wine Industry
Oral History Series
1 March 1971
Regional Oral History Office
*f86 The Bancroft Library
University of California, Berkeley
The Brothers of the Christian Schools congregation was originally and
still exists as a teaching order. Brother Timothy makes clear that the
present large wine and brandy business is carried on to support the teaching.
The Christian Brothers started their novitiate in Martinez in 1879.
Some time later, possibly in 1882, they began to sell wine and have
continued to do so ever since, including during Prohibition. In 1932 they
moved their winery equipment and wines to their present winery near Napa.
Their winery operations are conducted as a regularly commercial winery
under the name Mont La Salle Vineyards. The profits from their operation,
after taxes, etc., goes to the non-profit corporation, De La Salle Institute,
which operates the Christian Brothers schools and educational work.
But, and justifiably so, this is the story of Brother Timothy (George
Diener) , his fellow brothers, and the operation of their wineries since
1935. To a certain extent it is the story of the devoted service of three
men, Brothers Gregory, John, and Timothy.
Although he acknowledges the contributions of Fromm and Sichel it is
obvious that the brothers themselves had a clear picture of the type of
company which they wished to build--a Napa Valley oriented table wine
industry, and a San Joaquin Valley oriented dessert wine and brandy
production. He gives us a clear picture of why they produce certain types
of wine (and how), of their blending concept, and why they use corks instead
of screw caps as closures. There is even a section on his corkscrew
collection, memories of James P. Howe and some "graces" that he has given.
All in all a modest but revealing portrait of a devout man and his work.
The one thing he should have told us was how hard he worked to make it go.
Brother Timothy gives credit to Brother John for the large scale
expansion of their winery operations. Anyone who met Brother John will
recognize that his tribute to his colleague's energy and ambition for the
order is completely deserved. Brother John was the early dynamo behind
Brother Timothy also pays a graceful tribute to the influence of the
research and teaching of the University of California. He indicates that
ten or twelve members of their present technical staff were trained at the
University of California or at Fresno State University.
An important part of the story of Christian Brothers wines is their
contract with Fromm and Sichel, who since 1938 have merchandised their
wines and brandies in forty-eight of the fifty states. Brother Timothy
notes that their altar wine business is still conducted directly from the
winery. He credits Alfred Fromm with the suggestion that they produce
commercial brandy. He notes that it has always been a slightly sweet
flavored brandy, but that in recent years lighter in flavor than at the
From 1940 to date Christian Brothers have continuously expanded their
operations at Napa, north and south of St. Helena and at Reedley and Fresno
in the San Joaquin Valley.
Brother Timothy modestly underplays his own very considerable part in
this growth. Nevertheless, he was an innovative designer of equipment and
processes for more efficient operations. Few if any of the many techno
logical advances pioneered at their wineries did not have the assistance
of Brother Timothy and, of course, none were made without his approval.
Brother Timothy is interested in the history of the vineyards and
properties that Christian Brothers operate, especially in Theodore Gier at
Napa. However interesting this may be historically it is not important.
What is important is what Brother Timothy and his co-workers have made of
those properties on their own. They have created them by themselves with
very little assistance from history and they, not history, deserve the
Maynard A. Amerine
Professor, Viticulture and
21 January 1975
101 Wickson Hall
University of California at Davis
Brother Timothy, F.S.C., was born Anthony George Diener in New Jersey
in 1910, the son of German-American parents. His family moved to Southern
California when he was young, and he received his early education there
and at the Christian Brothers high school in Oakland. In 1928 he joined
the Christian Brothers order and later attended St. Mary's College,
majoring in science. In 1931 he started teaching in the order's high
schools in Northern California.
He had not been associated with the winery, although he had known of
it and seen it during his novitiate at Martinez, and he had helped move it
to Mont La Salle in 1931. Not until 1935 did he take an active part in
the Christian Brothers wine making operations. That year he became winery
chemist, then later added the duty of supervising the vineyards, then still
later became supervisor of the winery and vice president of the winery
In this interview he reviewed briefly the history of the Christian
Brothers, then at greater length the history of the order in California,
then in detail the history of its wine making operations in this state.
He also discussed many aspects of the California wine industry as a whole,
including recent economic trends.
Brother Timothy speaks with serious regard for facts both large and
small, and with care (perhaps learned during his days as a teacher) that
what he says will be clearly understood. This conscientiousness, together
with his personal cordiality, made the interviewing a light task and a
All of the interviews took place in the offices of the Mont La Salle
winery near Napa, the initial series on August 12, 16, and 18, 1971. The
transcript of those interview sessions was sent to him to read over in
January, 1973, and a final session took place on May 15, 1973. The entire
text, slightly edited by the interviewer to eliminate some repetitions
and clarify a few points, was sent to Brother Timothy on February 1, 1974.
Between the interview sessions, Brother Timothy had looked up material
relating to the discussions. (Some of it is included in the appendices.)
He edited the entire transcript with great care, changed a few words and
added amplifying material. All final corrections were completed by July
21 January 1975
Regional Oral History Office
486 The Bancroft Library
University of California/Berkeley
(Interview #1, August 12, 1971)
THE CHRISTIAN BROTHERS
Teiser: Would you care to start with the history of the Christian Brothers
Brother Our order is a religious order, the fourth largest in the Catholic
Timothy: Church. The Jesuit order is in the number one position, the
Franciscan second, the Salesians are third. We have more than
15,000 Christian Brothers throughout the world conducting schools
Our order was founded in France in 1680 by Jean Baptiste de la
Salle. He was a French priest and his canonization took place in
the year 1900, so he has been called St. Jean Baptiste de la Salle
since that time. Our first Mother House was, of course, in France,
and then later it was moved to Belgium, and then later on to Rome.
I think it was in 1934 that our Mother House was situated for the
first time in Rome. So our Mother House is there in Rome now at the
present time. The Superior General in charge of all the Brothers
throughout the world has his office there.
It happens that we have an American Superior now, Brother
Charles Henry. This Brother Charles Henry was born in Massachusetts
and spent a lot of his time in New York. He's well known to us
and we are well known to him as he has visited here in California
a number of times. He's the first American to be Superior General.
Most of our Superior Generals for the approximately 290 year history
of the order have been French.
They used to be elected for life and now, however, it's more
or less a ten-year span. Then the man may resign and a new man
be elected at that time, or he may be re-elected for another term
*Recently girls as well. See p. 2.
You may gather from what I have said so far that the order
was founded specifically for educational purposes, and this is
right. Our founder was struck by the difficulty of the young
people of his time in developing into what you might call good
citizens. They were pretty much neglected, and apparently little
kids were running the streets of France 290 years ago with
practically no education. They learned all the things that kids
learn in the alleyways and all that kind of thing. They were,
let's say, incapable for lack of education of doing any kind of
work other than the menial jobs. There was really no educational
system that was general throughout France for children of grammar
school age. People that were wealthy had tutors to take care of
their children and teach them something. But the children of what
were called the artisans and poor were neglected unless some
parish priest would set up some kind of a little parish school.
But this was pretty much on his volition; either he did it or he
So there wasn't any general education system that was
available to all. Our founder then started up what was almost
a public school system. Brothers were trained and opened up
schools throughout France. They depended on charity, as our
Brothers always have worked without salary.
So from that start our order
France and later into other parts
country that our order spread to
was Italy. Our founder made sure
to Rome to be near the center of
the Pope. So that when the order
say, unrecognized, that it would
a Brother or two in Rome.
developed and spread through
of the world. The only other
in the lifetime of our founder
to send one or two Brothers
the Catholic Church, to be near
was a very small thing, let's
gain some recognition by having
The order has been engaged in educational work for boys
throughout the history of the order, and it's been only in the
last couple of years that any girls have been allowed in our
schools. That's just one of those little things that happens to
be a fact of life in the way our order started and in the way it
has just recently begun to change a little bit.
You're speaking of admitting women to St. Mary's?
Yes. There are some coeds at St. Mary's College now. I understand
the enrollments are going very well for the upcoming fall semester.
Timothy: Now the Christian Brothers came to the United States--!
guess I may make that jump from the Old World over to this
country- -we came to the United States in 1845 for the first
time. We started a school in Baltimore and then spread from
there throughout this country. The Brothers came to California,
San Francisco specifically, in 1868 and took over St. Mary's
College which had been founded five years before and had been
operated by members of the clergy. Priests were the teachers,
and the Brothers were brought in only at this later date, five
years after the college had been founded by Archbishop [Joseph
Sadoc] Alemany. Perhaps he was just Bishop Alemany. I don't
know if an archbishopric had been founded yet in San Francisco.*
He got the Brothers to come to California to take over St.
Mary's College. It was out on Mission Road in San Francisco at
that time. The Brothers, I believe about eight in number, came
around by water. They came to Panama and then I understand that
they transferred to a little train that ran across the Isthmus
of Panama, and they got onto a different ship on the west coast
and then came up the west coast to San Francisco.
The Brothers in St. Mary's College managed to get along all
right. They had many difficult years with finances. With the
growth of the college, they moved to Oakland. They had a major
fire on the top floor of that building at one time and then at a
later date, in 1928, they built St. Mary's College where it is
now, near Moraga.
Well, the Christian Brothers, with their first school in
California being St. Mary's College, shortly began to open up
some other schools in various parts of the Bay Area and up and
down the coast. Then, after having been in California for eleven
years, the Brothers bought property at Martinez in 1879 and built
a novitiate there. That novitiate operated there until 1932.
Teiser: Was this the first training installation for your own people?
Timothy: No, there was some other preliminary novitiate set up in one of
the Brothers' schools in the Oakland area, but it was kind of
temporary. When they bought property at Martinez in 1879, it
was bought specifically as a novitiate site. Then a novitiate
was built there.
*In 1853 two dioceses were created in California, and Bishop
Alemany then became archbishop of the northern one.
THE BEGINNING OF WINE MAKING AT MARTINEZ
Timothy: It happens that at this site there were twelve acres of grapes
on the grounds, and one of the Brothers, either in 1879 or shortly
thereafter, decided to see that those grapes didn't spoil, and
so the story we have heard from several old Brothers (and one
of them gave it to us in writing) was that a Brother Cecilian
took an old water trough that had been used for watering horses
(and if so I hope he scrubbed it out) [laughter] and put the
grapes in it and used a big wooden club to crush the grapes.
Then, of course, drain off the juice, collect the juice, and
ferment it separately.
Some boys in the neighborhood who watched them work with
this big wooden club nicknamed the club "the mule's leg."
[Laughter] So this club was quite like a branch of a tree that
looked like the leg of a mule.
Now, a Brother who is still living on this property, Brother
Basil, knew this Brother Cecilian, who died in 1917, and Brother
Basil says that Brother Cecilian went down to the hardware store
and bought a new wooden trough. So he did not use the old trough
that had been used for watering the horses, according to Brother
Basil's version of the story. [Laughter]
Teiser: Was Brother Cecilian from Europe?
Timothy: This Brother Cecilian happened to be from Ireland.
Teiser: So he didn't know how to make wine. 1
Timothy: So I don't know if he really knew how to make wine, but of course
I've never seen a sample of that wine that he made at that time.
I'm sure it was not near as good as the kind of wine that is
being made in California today.
This Brother Cecilian was supervised by Brother Victorick,
and there was also a Brother Azarie. One of these other gentlemen
might have been the brains behind the job. Brother Cecilian might
have been just the fellow that handled the big wooden club. We
haven't got that clear as to whether this Brother Cecilian was
really capable of making wine on his own or whether he took
instructions from Brother Victorick or Brother Azarie.
Timothy: Now, since I've mentioned Martinez and we're right in the
middle of this discussion of how the wine was first made by the
Brothers there, I might say that Justin Meyer has written up a
history of the operations of the Christian Brothers' winery and
he researched things quite well.*
In this research that Justin Meyer did, in attempting to find
out whether 1879 was the year that this Brother Cecilian crushed
those first grapes at Martinez or whether it might have been 1880
or 1881 or 1882--in the research done, we have found out that
1882 was the date of incorporation of De La Salle Institute. We
have, I think, the old original certificate of incorporation.
Teiser : I see.
Timothy: Our De La Salle Institute was founded at that time, and made a
State of California corporation, registered in the State records
Teiser: What was the purpose of its incorporation?
Timothy: Well, the purpose of incorporation was just to have a legal entity
to operate the Martinez property, the novitiate, the so-called
farms that included these grapes and the winery. And some dairy
cows were on the property and one thing and the other. Just to
be incorporated and, you know, have a legal right to your own
name or something like that, I guess.
Teiser: Carry on business, I suppose.
Timothy: Yes, to carry on business. Although in studying that old
certificate, the word wine or the word grapes doesn't appear on
it as far as I can recall.
Then in another one of these little areas of research Justin
Meyer found a sheet of paper all typed out purporting to give a
kind of summary of the history of the Brothers' winery operations
at Martinez. This was unsigned. It had some initials at the
bottom but we never have been able to figure out whose initials
they were. It mentioned that the Brothers started in the wine
business in 1891 in Martinez.
*Appendix I. Justin Meyer was formerly Brother Justin.
Timothy: However, in other work done by Justin Meyer he uncovered some
other notes saying that the first crusher for crushing grapes at
the winery was bought in 1887. So you would hardly buy that first
crusher for commercially crushing grapes before you began to be
in the wine business, you know. We have assumed that perhaps
this "1891" typed out might have been a typographical error. It
might have been a typo for 1881.
Now since De La Salle Institute, our parent corporation,
was incorporated in 1882, we have been habitually saying for a
long time that the Christian Brothers started in the wine business
Teiser: A question arises. Back in your discussion when your order—is
that the right term for it?
Timothy: In official technical language, I guess you would say that the
Christian Brothers is a religious congregation. However we have
commonly used the world "order."
Teiser: I see. When the order or congregation entered the wine business,
do you think it would have been at first a matter of making wine
for the group's own use, and then making it perhaps for other
Catholic groups, and then later selling it? Do you know anything
of the progression of it?
Timothy: Yes. The first wine made by the Brothers at Martinez was, let's
say, merely to save those grapes so that they didn't rot, and
just for home consumption. Just for the Brothers to use themselves.
You might even say it was thought to be experimental. They wanted
to find out if they could make wine. Now apparently it was some
what successful, and after perhaps a couple of years the members
of the clergy in the local area and the neighbors began to come by
and ask if they could buy some wine. So sales were made at the
winery and the winery began to grow a little bit.
This growth continued right on up to Prohibition time, and
then you might say that we continued to grow through the Prohibition
period too, in that we were given permission to continue to produce
sacramental wine. We were also given permission to make sales of
medicinal wine sold on doctor's prescription throughout the whole
So we have a continuous uninterrupted history of wine production
since the day we started at Martinez.
Teiser: I'm quite sure this is not true, but I'll ask it: Was the fact
that the wine was made by a Catholic organization sufficient to
make it meet the standards of sacramental wine?
Timothy: Well, sacramental wine may be made by let's say even an atheist.
There is nothing sacred about the man who makes it.
Teiser: But are the methods standard?
Timothy: The sacramental wine in the Catholic Church, as I understand it,
is merely required to be made 100 per cent from grapes. That is,
it must be pure grape wine. Any berries or cherries or something
that is not a grape would, let's say, cause it to be invalid.
So it's just pure grape wine. There is a limitation on the limit
of alcohol. It should not be higher than 18 per cent alcohol.
So a fortified wine, say above 18 per cent alcohol, is invalid
as an altar wine. At least in the minds of some theologians.
There are those who will say that it is illicit after it goes
above the 18 per cent alcohol reading. It may be illicit but
still valid. So there is a difference of opinion among theologians
on that subject, but in general safe and sane guidelines are any
pure grape wine not over 18 per cent alcohol is a valid sacramental
wine in the Catholic Church.
Teiser: Dr. Maynard Joslyn, who I think said that he had gone into this
matter for the book on sweet wines,* was talking about wines for
use in Jewish congregations, and I believe he told me that your
wines were at least to the standards of kosher wines. Do you
Timothy: No, I don't know much about kosher wines. However I have met a
rabbi whom I have gotten acquainted with and know pretty well,
who told me (and I don't know if he has a very modern forward
looking sect in his church or not) that there is no such thing as
kosher wine, or there is no such thing as regulations for kosher
wine. He gave me to understand that it's pretty much up to the
individual rabbi as to what he wants to authorize. That's different
than what I had heard from other people before. He is Dr. Leo
Trepp, located right here at Napa.**
*Joslyn, M.A. and Amerine, M.A. Dessert. Appetizer and Related
Flavored Wines t Berkeley: University of California, Division of
Agricultural Sciences, 1964.
**Rabbi of Beth Shalom Temple and an instructor at Napa College.
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Teiser: I know there was a good deal of wine distributed during
Prohibition to synagogues, and I wondered if you were one of
Timothy: Well, really I don't know. You know we were continuously in
the wine business through the whole Prohibition period, and
apparently our Brothers behaved themselves and were in good
repute with the Internal Revenue Service people who enforced the
law, and they permitted the Brothers all through the Prohibition
period to produce sacramental wines and the medicinal wines sold
at the prescription counter in the drugstore. You needed a
prescription from your doctor and then you could get a bottle
of wine or a bottle of brandy or a bottle of scotch or bourbon.
So apparently if you were a favored patient of your dottor and
you took good care of your doctor's bills, why [laughter] those
were probably some of the prerequisites before you got that kind
of a prescription.
Teiser: What types of wines were made prior to Prohibition in Martinez,
do you know?
Timothy: I think they were mostly table wines. I believe the Brothers
produced almost exclusively table wines before Prohibition. I
think it was quite likely during Prohibition that the Brothers
began to either buy and resell a little dessert wine or to produce
a little dessert wine of their own at that time by buying brandy
and fortifying those wines. The Brothers did not have a still
during the Martinez days when the winery was at Martinez. There
was no still anywhere on the Brothers' property at that time.
Here's an interesting old thing. This is a xerox copy of
page eight and nine out of the cash book of the Christian Brothers
at Martinez when they were operating as De La Salle Institute.
It is in the archives of the Christian Brothers; I believe it's
at St. Mary's College Library at the present time. This old ledger
indicates on page eight that the Brothers on March 1, 1880, spent
$3.75 for grape vines. Now this seems to be the earliest mention
that we can find in print or in any old ledger of grape vines or
of wine at the Martinez property.
I don't know how many grape vines they might have bought for
$3.75, but in those days they may have gotten several hundred. I
would think that grape vines, rooted plants ready to plant, in
those days did not cost any more than about a penny apiece.
I recall in my time in the last thirty-seven years, some time
between 1935 and the present time, that we bought grape vines for
Shipment No. Serial No.
MANUFACTURER and CONSIGNOR LA SALLE PRODUCTS, IflC.
^ 4 - MARTINEZ, CALIF.
Permit No. California A— SS?
Kind of Liquor California Wine
Date Manufactured /p..2A~-
Quantity Wine Gallons Alcoholic Content /<?
Consignee LA SALLE PRODUCTS, Inc. To LA SALLE PRODUCTS, Inc.
Permit No. Missouri A 41
Shipment No. Serial No.
MANUFACTURER and CONSIGNOR LA SALLE PRODUCTS, IflC.
Permit No. California A— 851
Kind of Liquor California Wine
Date Manufactured __
Quantity Wine Gallons Alcoholic Content _
Consignee LA SALLE PRODUCTS, Inc. To LA SALLE PRODUCTS, Inc.
Permit No. Wisconsin A — 18
Timothy: about thirty dollars a thousand, rooted grape vines ready to
plant, resistant rootstock, you know, for about three cents
apiece, prior to World War II.
There's an old shipping tag indicating that the name the
Brothers operated under at Martinez at this particular time and
during Prohibition was La Salle Products, Inc., Martinez,
California. Now someone wrote in "1925" as the date on this
shipping tag, but apparently they didn't make the shipment. It
shows the alcoholic content 19 per cent. Printed on this card
it showed that this shipping tag was to be used on shipments made
to La Salle Products, Inc., St. Louis, Missouri. Then someone
scratched out the St. Louis, Missouri, and put San Francisco in
there. Below this* I have another one of these same cards where
no one made any handwritten inscription and it shows at the
bottom that this was to be used for shipments made to La Salle
Products, Inc., Milwaukee, Wisconsin. So this gives you, let's
say, some documentation of the fact that during Prohibition the
Christian Brothers were making shipments of wine to St. Louis
and to San Francisco and to Wisconsin.
I have a little price list from La Salle Products, Inc.,
Martinez, California. The listing is all in fifty-two gallon,
twenty-eight gallon or ten gallon barrels. So all of this was
bulk sales in oak cooperage.
Teiser: What was the date of that? Do you know?
Timothy: Well, I don't have a date for this. It was during Prohibition.
Since they listed these small barrels in the different sizes,
this was undoubtedly intended for the altar wine trade. A
clergyman or a parish in those old days would buy in any one of
these barrel sizes from ten gallons on up to fifty-two gallon
size, and then they would do their own bottling. So undoubtedly
at this time the Brothers were not doing very much bottling,
Teiser: I see.
*0n the Xerox copy; see illustration opposite.
THE MOVE TO MONT LA SALLE
Timothy: When we acquired this property just outside of Napa from Theodore
Gier, we found that there was a little still on the property along
with the old stone winery, and about 150 acres of vineyard out of
a total acreage of 338. Now the Brothers acquired this from him
in 1930 during Prohibition; also during the Depression. Mr. Gier
was rather hard pressed financially and though he loved this
property, and considered it to be his home property, he just felt
forced to sell. I believe that he sold this property to the
Brothers for $50,000, only $10,000 of which the Brothers had in
cash. For the other $40,000 they traded him several apartment or
rental properties that the Brothers had in the Oakland area.
Now Theodore Gier has two daughters still living in the East
Bay, in Oakland.
Teiser: Do you remember their names?
Timothy: Mrs. Elsa Boone* and Miss Amelie Gier.
Teiser: What was the vineyard that you came into then?
Timothy: When the Brothers acquired this property, Gier had some Cabernet
Sauvignon in. He had Sylvaner Riesling--well the grape commonly
called Sylvaner. (That same grape is also secondarily called
Franken Riesling.) Some Johannisberg Riesling was here, and the
grape that is properly called Pinot St. George was here on the
property at that time.
Teiser: So he had not been growing them to ship?
Timothy: No, these were all wine grapes.
Teiser: During Prohibition so many people converted their vineyards to
grape varieties that would ship...
Timothy: Well, there was one other variety on the property that you might
say was the kind of thing that would be sold to the home winemakers
for adding a lot of color to a wine or to help stretch out something
else. A grape called Alicante Ganzin. There was a small acreage
*Mrs. Elsa Boone died in 1972.
Timothy: of that on the property. It's probably the most intensely
colored red grape that you can find. It was very dark. We used
to sometimes laugh about it and we'd say, "Well, you can crush
that and then take it and paint the barn with it." It was so
red that it would make a red barn. [Laughter] But we pulled all
those out. I don't think you can find an Alicante Ganzin vine
on this property any longer. But there was about ten to twelve
acres of it when Theodore Gier had the place.
I understand from Mr. August Benkiser, who was the vineyard
foreman for Gier and then also the vineyard foreman for the
Christian Brothers when we first took over the vineyards, that
the way this Alicante Ganzin got into the vineyard was that it
had been grafted on top of a good wine variety grape with the
start of Prohibition. So that it was specifically planted, let's
say, for the home wine making trade.
Teiser: How did the order happen to decide to come here from Martinez?
Timothy: The Brothers were feeling a bit crowded at Martinez. The
novitiate had been growing; the buildings were getting kind of
full. The city of Martinez was growing out close to the front
of the buildings. The Brothers had actually sold off a little
bit of property and allowed some of this encroachment in order
to raise a little money. They felt that the city was too close
to them and that they should have more privacy for the novices.
In those days the theory was that a religious order, particularly
for the training of the young men just entering the order, should
have privacy, seclusion, that kind of thing. So the Brothers
were looking for new property that would be somewhat remote,
somewhat secluded, and that would have a winery on it, that
would have some vineyard present, and a suitable site on which
they could build a new novitiate.
So the Brothers were actually looking all around the Bay
Area. I know that they looked as far south as Mission San Jose
and they looked throughout Sonoma County, several sites in
Sonoma County. They must have looked at some places that I
don't know about. Then they found this spot, and they stopped
looking. This place looked so pretty to them and had an abundant
water supply, which was one of the basic criteria that they were
looking for. The water at Martinez was just full of rusty
material, full of iron, not very satisfactory. It was loaded with
minerals, and the quantity of water at Martinez was also very
small. So they had this very much on their mind that any new
location had to have a very good water supply and then should
Timothy: preferably have the other things that I mentioned, winery and
There was a two-year overlap period. I have mentioned
that this property was acquired in 1930. I've mentioned that
the property at Martinez was closed down in 1932. During this
two-year period the Brothers constructed the novitiate buildings
here. They are quite commodious and they are built of reinforced
concrete. The buildings are quite attractively done in the
Mission style, or you could call it early California style if
you want to—something like that.
The buildings were built mostly in 1931, completed early in
'32, so that in April of '32 the Brothers had their official
house moving and house opening, opening the house here and
closing down the property at Martinez.
Teiser: What is this building called that we're in now?
Timothy: Well, this is our main office, the office for Mont La Salle
Vineyards, and is located at Mont La Salle on Redwood Road, six
miles off the freeway and let's say about eight miles from the
center of Napa.
Teiser: In the lobby you have a very interesting display on the history
of the order and also...
Timothy: Yes, we have a few books there telling something of the history
of the religious order. The proper name for the religious order
is The Brothers of the Christian Schools. We are very commonly
called the Christian Brothers.
The display in the lobby upstairs includes some books, as
I have just said, a few photos, and then some stamps from eight
different countries, commemorative stamps honoring the Brothers
or some of our institutions or our founder, St. Jean Baptiste
de la Salle. The countries represented in that collection, if
I can recall all eight, are the Philippines, Monaco, France,
Belgium, Brazil, Equador, Nicaragua, and Panama.
Teiser: In all of those the Brothers have schools, I presume?
Teiser: Are there any other wineries operated by the Brothers?
Timothy: Well, California is the only place where we have wineries that
Timothy: amount to anything. The Brothers have attempted to get into the
wine business in several other areas of the world and generally
it has not been very successful. Their commercial efforts just
haven't been successful. I believe that on the west coast of
South America, the Brothers own about 100 or 150 acres of vine
yard but then sell the grapes to some other winery.
Teiser: What country is that?
Timothy: It's either Peru or Chile. The Brothers there had wanted to get
into the wine business and had just not felt competent to even
start. We had advised them that the right way to get started
would be to send some bright young man who speaks English, and
that kind of thing, to the University of California at Davis.
And start that way with the proper technological background
before attempting, let's say, to start a winery by correspondence,
or also that this might be a better way than for us to attempt
to send someone to them and attempt to train somebody there.
The training that a person would get at Davis would be so much
better than what we could give there that there would be no
comparison. However, they just haven't had the right talent
available to them. They have not begun to implement this thing
of starting a winery there. They're still, I believe, just
selling those grapes to some winery.
I might mention in passing that when we moved to Mont La
Salle the city of Martinez owned the ferry boat that went across
from Martinez to Benicia. Since this was a municipal ferry, and
either because the city of Martinez was very friendly with the
Brothers and liked them very much or because they were glad to
see them leave town- -for one reason or another — the city of
Martinez gave the Brothers free passage across that ferry with
all of their household furnishings, all the wine from the winery,
all the casks and wine tanks, just everything that the Brothers
moved away from Martinez to Mont La Salle. They went across that
ferry free of charge. [Laughter]
Teiser: What happened to the property in Martinez then?
Timothy: The property at Martinez was sold off and subdivided, and it is
now just part of the residential area of Martinez. It's one
mile east of the courthouse in Martinez. Well, it used to be
at the end of Pine Street; I think Pine Street was continued on
through the property.
The Brothers had bought the property in 1879 from a Mr.
Bush. There's an old newspaper clipping in which Mr. Bush's
Timothy: name is mentioned. One writer says it was seventy acres and
another writer reports it as seventy-six acres. And there were
twelve acres of vineyards on it. This family also had a cherry
orchard about a mile and a half or two miles away in, I guess,
Alhambra Valley. So they had other property nearby.
Now I might mention this too in passing that [laughing]
(I hate to admit to how old I am or give any clues) I entered
the order at Martinez in 1928, during Prohibition. The Depression
hadn't started yet, but I remember the Martinez property then.
The old winery. I remember all of this in good detail, as I
was young at that time and prowled around the property there
quite a lot.
I had just one visit through the winery during the, oh,
about fourteen months that I spent at the novitiate. (A couple
of months as a postulant and a year as a novice.) Since this
was Prohibition, Brother Raphael, who was in charge of the winery
in those years, was very careful not to let too many visitors
or anybody unauthorized wander around in that winery, particularly
the young people. I was say about seventeen and a half or
eighteen years old at the time.
The novices were not permitted to go through the winery
generally. However, one of my older brothers got married
shortly after I had entered the novitiate. He came on his
honeymoon to see me with his bride, and so we showed them around
a little bit. Then we asked permission to look at the winery and
permission was granted. Brother Raphael showed the three of us
around through the winery and then he said, "Brother Ulfinian
would like to see you at the office." The office, of couse, was
down in the school buildings. Brother Ulfinian was kind of the
bookkeeper and the director of the house in charge of things
like the over-all supervision of the winery and the supervision
of Brother Raphael's work. So we went down there to his room,
and this Brother Ulfinian met my brother and his bride and poured
a little glass of wine for them. However, he didn't give me any
because I was both under-age and I was a novice. So I didn't
taste the wine at that time. [Laughter] A very small glass of
wine was offered, let's say, to the bride and groom.
Teiser: [Laughter] That's really nice. Were you interested in the
winery when you saw it at that time?
Timothy: Oh, I was interested in the winery, yes. I was curious about a
lot of things, but at that time nobody knew how long Prohibition
Timothy: was going to last. You know it might have lasted the rest of
our life for all we knew. This was the year 1928 when Al Smith
ran for office, tried for the presidency and of course didn't
get enough votes to win. Al Smith was running on a wet platform
as you might call it. If Al Smith had been elected, perhaps
we would have had Repeal four years earlier.
In 1932 though, when Franklin Roosevelt ran for office and
won, he saw to it that Repeal came around rather soon. Then
the official end of Prohibition took place late in '33.
THE BOYHOOD OF ANTHONY GEORGE DIENER
Teiser: Since you brought yourself into the story here, would you care
to tell something about your own personal background?
Timothy: Yes, yes, I think I might as well. This is probably as good a
point as any to put something into the record. My family name
or baptismal name is Anthony George Diener, D-i-e-n-e-r. German
extraction, one hundred per cent as far as I know. I was born in
Elizabeth, New Jersey, in 1910. [Laughing] (I should say that
quietly.) The folks lived there. My dad had worked as a tailor
in New York. He was also sort of an amateur beekeeper, and he
had several other jobs. However, in 1918 my mother's health was
not very good, had not been good for about eight years or so, I
guess since about the time I was born. And doctors there in
New Jersey (in that day and age medicine wasn't what it is today)
they told her she had consumption, that she didn't have long to
live. Some parts of New Jersey were below sea level and they
said that she should move to a higher elevation into a less humid
My Uncle Al was already living in Oxnard, in Southern
California. He was a brother of my dad and he talked our folks
into moving west. We came and arrived in Los Angeles in June
of 1918. My dad then looked around with my uncle to find a place
to open up a business. He had been a tailor, so he had some old
knowledge of fabrics and of clothing. He settled on a little
clothing store, or what you might call a dry goods store, in the
little town of Cucamonga, in the wine country of Southern
California. So that's how we got to California.
I was about seven and a half years old, something like that.
I attended school for one year in Los Angeles at St. Agnes' parish
Timothy: school. I attended one year of school, the fourth grade, in
Pomona, California. Then a new grammar school was built in
Ontario, California, and I attended the last four years of
grammar school there. It was while I was in grammar school that
I got acquainted with Philo Biane whom I know you have interviewed
Timothy: We're old schoolmates and old buddies from 'way back. We were
in the same class together so we're about the same age. We
used to pal around as little kids in the Cucamonga area.
Well, when I graduated from grammar school my dad decided
to send me to a boarding high school, to St. Mary's High School
in Oakland, then located in what we sometimes facetiously called
the "old brick pile." St. Mary's College and St. Mary's High
School were located together in these old brick buildings on
Broadway Street. Since they were of brick construction and
massive buildings, the kids called the old place the "old brick
I then went to school there for a year and a half, my
freshman year and half of my sophomore year in high school.
Philo Biane and I came together to enroll in the freshman class.
I left there after a year and a half, however, and he continued
longer. I transferred to Cathedral High School in Los Angeles
in the middle of my sophomore year because my dad and mother
and the rest of the family moved in from Cucamonga to Glendale.
I guess in late 1925. On February 1, 1926, I started to school
at Cathedral High School. I graduated from there two and a half
It happens that I was in school there with Brother Gregory
who is my boss now. He is the president** of our Mont La Salle
Vineyards. (I'm a vice-president of this Mont La Salle Vineyards.)
So Brother Gregory, whom I knew in high school as Hubert
Schiefelbein, is now my boss.
*Biane, Philo. Wine Making in Southern California and
Recollections of Fruit Industries, Ltd. , an interview in this
series completed in 1972.
**Brother Gregory resigned from the presidency September 28, 1971,
after having suffered a stroke. Brother Frederick was elected
president on September 30, 1971.
Timothy: It was common in those old days in religious orders for a
name change to take place when you entered the order. The name
was either assigned to you or you were given some choice in
selecting a name, and so that's how people like, say, Anthony
Diener, became Brother Timothy, or somebody like Hubert
Schiefelbein became Brother Gregory. In most religious orders
now, particularly the Christian Brothers, the young men entering
do not have such a name change. They merely continue with their
baptismal name and their family name; "Brother" is merely inserted
ahead of their name.
Teiser: Was the name choice in your time generally after someone you
admired or knew of?
Timothy: Oh, yes and no. In the time when I entered the novitiate they
would ask you to give a list of maybe three names in order of
preference. Perhaps you would select the name of someone you'd
admired and put that name in the list. Well, maybe you got one
of those three names that you suggested as your preference and
maybe you didn't. I had not suggested the name Timothy at all,
but it was assigned to me.
Teiser: I see.
Timothy: They had reasons in those days. I don't know if they would seem
strange today, but our order had kind of blocked out the whole
world in sections, and names were assigned in California on the
basis that the first of your two religious names had to start
with some letter from "r" to the end of the alphabet. And then,
even more refined than that, they had certain names listed and
your name had to come out of this list that was prepared, say,
by the Mother House in Rome. It was kind of a code you might
say. If a Brother showed up in Rome or if some correspondence
came from him, no matter what part of the world he wrote from,
as soon as they saw his name they would know what district he
came from. If a Brother was transferred and became permanently
assigned to a different district than where he had received the
robe, you could tell this by the fact that his name was in the
different part of the alphabet than most of the other Brothers
in that district who had received their robe in the district
where he was now living.
It was kind of a strange thing, but now that doesn't exist
BROTHER TIMOTHY'S EARLY YEARS IN THE ORDER
Teiser: Did you decide to enter the novitiate immediately from high
Timothy: Yes. Immediately on graduation from high school I went to
Martinez to enter the novitiate. I did this within about seven
or eight days of the time that I graduated. In the last year of
high school I had made up my mind that I would go and enter the
novitiate at Martinez and become a Brother. Of course I thought
of being a teacher. I had no idea at that time, particularly
since it was Prohibition time too, that I would ever wind up in
the wine business.
I entered at Martinez. I had that fourteen months approxi
mately of postulancy and novitiate there. I was then transferred,
as all young Brothers on completion of their novitiate were
transferred, to St. Mary's College for college work. I had two
years of college, which was all they would give you in those days
because they needed the Brothers out in school. Then I started
to teach school.
I taught high school chemistry and high school English and
high school religion for one year at Sacramento at the Christian
Brothers high school, where it used to be, on 21st and Broadway.
(We used to call it 21st and Y.) That was my first year of
teaching. I taught for three years at St. Mary's High School,
teaching the same general subjects, from 1932 to 1935. In the
summer of '35 I was transferred to Mont La Salle.
Since I had been teaching high school chemistry, one of
our superiors came to me early in 1935 and asked me if I would
like to go and work at the winery as the wine chemist. He told
me to think it over for about a month and consult with my folks,
and that about a month from that date he would be back and would
then want my decision.
So I consulted with my parents and my brothers and sisters
and nobody raised any objections. Then some time early in 1935
I told Brother Gregory that I would be happy to. (Now, this is
a different Brother Gregory than the present Brother Gregory who
is here. We do have problems like that of duplicate names.)
This Brother Gregory, who was the Provincial in charge of all
the Brothers in this San Francisco province, came back after
that thirty-day period and I told him that, yes, I would be
happy to go to the winery and see what I could do to help out up
Timothy: I started on the job on July 1, 1935.
Teiser: Had you had a special interest in chemistry?
Timothy: Yes, in my formative years and in my studies in school and
college, I always had a great interest in what you might call
the natural sciences, biology, zoology and chemistry. I loved
all the natural sciences, all the things that had to do with the
physical world, the things you could see and feel and all this
kind of thing. I studied both zoology and chemistry at St.
Mary's College. I was expecting to teach biology as well as
chemistry, but most of our high schools dropped the biology
subject about the time I was starting to teach. So then I
Teiser: When you were asked about taking a position here, would the
Provincial have asked you to consult with your family so
seriously if it were just a move to another high school? Or
was it that the wine business had a special aura at the time?
Timothy: Well, you've got a very real solid question there, and it's like
this: Prohibition was one of those things that had been enforced
for, you know, a number of years. A large part of my life, and
maybe the most important part of my life at that time, had been
spent during the Prohibition period. He may have thought that
either I or my parents had some, let's say, opposition to working
at a winery, handling wine and that kind of thing. The prohibi
tionist sentiment was strong in some families, particularly
Catholic families. I would say that in my own family it was
kind of a moderate thing. My family wasn't really opposed to
alcoholic beverages during the Prohibition years. However, my
dad and my mother were quite rigorous law abiding citizens.
They didn't want to do anything illegal, that kind of thing, so
it was very, very seldom that I saw anything in the way of an
alcoholic beverage around our home.
Teiser: Had they both been born in this country?
Timothy: Yes. Both were born in Elizabeth, New Jersey, the same place
where all of the children, my brothers and sisters and I were
all born. You know I think there might be one exception to that.
My oldest sister was born in New York.
Teiser: How many sisters and brothers have you?
Timothy: I have two sisters, both a bit older than I am, and four brothers.
I'm in the middle of the four brothers.
I see. So when you had to consult your family, you had a whole
group of people to consult. [Laughter]
[Laughter] Oh, yes, you might say it's a large family. Now my
mother and my father have passed away, but all my brothers and
sisters are still living. All at this moment are living in
California, so they are not too far away.
I guess I'm the farthest north, and my oldest sister, who
happens to be a Maryknoll nun, is the farthest south, if you'll
say Monrovia is the farthest south. I have my brother Joe, next
younger than I, who is living in Glendale, California. Two
brothers of mine, one younger and one older, are living west of
Fresno. One brother older than I is living in the mountains of
It seems to me that I read that you yourself had helped the
Brothers move the winery here from Martinez.
Oh, yes. This is true. One summer vacation period between
semesters, I was assigned to go from St. Mary's College back to
Martinez for about a month or so to help Frank Soramer, an old
Austrian cooper whose widow still lives in Napa* by the way--I
helped Frank Sommer there for about a month to load a truck and
then to ride on that truck and transport staves and headboards
and bottom boards of wine tanks, and staves of casks, to transport
these things from Martinez up here to Mont La Salle. So I was
physically involved in some of this tank and cask moving. Some
of these things that went across that Martinez ferry on a no-charge
Did you have large wine stocks to move?
I think that the total inventory at Martinez that was moved up
here was about 240,000 gallons,**! believe that I came across
that old figure somewhere in some old record. I've wondered
whatever happened to it and I haven't been able in recent years
to find that old record.
By the time you moved here it was quite clear that Prohibition
was coming to an end, was it not?
Yes. Of course, they bought the property in 1930. I don't know
*Mrs. Sommer died December 25, 1972.
**"Please footnote where I said 240,000 gallons may have been moved
from Martinez to Mont La Salle. I am Inclined to believe that the
54,000 gallons mentioned by Justin Meyer (page 109) may be the more
reliable figure. The 240,000 gallons may have been the total capacity
of the Martinez winery, including fermenting tanks." Brother Timothy.
Timothy: if it was clear in 1930 that Prohibition was going to come to an
end as quickly as it did. But by the date the Brothers then
settled here permanently, in April of '32, there must have been
pretty good thought that Prohibition was near the end.
Well, naturally the Brothers had all voted for Al Smith in
1928, and I might say too that I believe the Brothers were all
praying for Repeal. And then I think most of the Brothers voted
for Franklin Roosevelt too. Of course, he had a lot of personal
magnetism, and particularly in 1932 he went over with a tremendous
big margin of victory in the voting. That was my first year to
vote in a presidential election, 1932, since I had been twenty-one
for a little less than a year at the time of the election.
So I came to Mont La Salle in 1935. I've been on the sane
job ever since, without a raise of pay or without a promotion,
so perhaps I'm in a rut. [Laughter] I've been thirty-six years
or more on one job. [Laughter]
Teiser: You've made a lot of wine, though.
Timothy: Yes, I think we've made a lot of wine.
Teiser: Let me go back. Was it the intent from the beginning that whatever
profits should be made from the wine should go to support the
Timothy: Yes, certainly. Yes, let's say, this would be an almost obvious
fact that any religious order like ours being in any kind of
business like this wine and brandy business has a purpose of
developing this revenue for the educational work of the order.
So now it happens that in various parts of the world several
other religious orders are in the wine business here and there.
Now their main reason for starting in the wine business might be
to produce sacramental wines for the use of the clergy, but once
you are producing some sacramental wine it's quite a natural move
to make some wine available, say, to the commercial trade or to
make it available in the general market, or anywhere like that
THE MONT LA SALLE WINERY
Teiser: By the time that you came here, was your label going out into
Timothy: Now, that gets to be a little bit of a story in itself. At
Martinez the Brothers used a label called La Salle Products.
They used that name in the label for some years of Prohibition;
I don't know if it was for the entire Prohibition period or
just what portion. Now since our founder, St. Jean Baptiste
de la Salle, had that name la Salle, you know, it is sort of
built into most anything and everything in our order. When
we're looking around for a name for something, it's very natural
for us to think back to our founder and to use his name, or part
of his name, like our Chateau La Salle that we named after the
house of the la Salle family in Rheims. It's quite natural for
us to do that. So with Christian Brothers establishments
throughout the world, you'll find the name La Salle here, there
So our Mont La Salle Vineyards as the corporate name of
our wine and brandy operation stems from that same kind of
De La Salle Institute is the corporation, and it conducts
all of our school work or the educational work of the Brothers
here on the West Coast. Mont La Salle Vineyards is also a
California corporation, incorporated in 1957. Mont La Salle
Vineyards is then the incorporated name under which we operate
today in the wine and brandy business. So that may explain
something further. De La Salle Institute is a tax exempt non
profit corporation- -where Mont La Salle Vineyards is involved
in the making of wine and in making of brandy and the sale of
its products, and involved in making some net profit, we hope.
Mont La Salle Vineyards pays income taxes on its income and we
have done so since it was organized in 1957.
Teiser: Someone suggested that I ask you how a church organization pays
for its grapes when most wineries depend upon banks during
Timothy: Well, our Mont La Salle Vineyards operates just like any other
winery in the way of being a private corporation, you know, and
needing to borrow from banks once in a while.
VINEYARDS AND WINERY
MOUNT LA SALLE - NAPA. CALIF.
PERMIT NO. CALIFORNIA A-912 • B. W. NO. 1721
11TH PERMISSIVE DISTRICT. CALIFORNIA
NET CONTENTS ONE- FIFTH OF A WINE GALLON
ALCOHOLIC CONTENT UNDER 14 PER CENT.
La Salle Products
The Christian Brothers of De La Salle
Institute are in sole control of the winery
at Martinez, and the wines are made and
shipped under their direct supervision.
Dry Wines (Tax 4 cents per gal.)
In 52 In 28 In 10
gal. bbl. gal. bbl. gal. bbl.
Chablls $1.20 $1.30 $1.40
Sautern 1.20 . 1.30 1.40
Claret 1.10 1.20 1.30
Burgundy 1.20 1.30 1.40
Sweet Wines (Tax 10 cents per gal.)
De La Salle ....$2.00 $2.10 $2.20
Muscatel „ 2.00 2.10 2.20
Angelica 2.00 2.10 2.20
Sherry xx 2.50 2.60 2.70
Port xx 2.50 2.60 8.70
Sweet Sautern 2.00 2.10 2.20
Our Sweet Sautern will keep the same as
other sweet wines.
Credit given for Cooperage returned, pre
paid, In good condition.
All orders receive prompt attention.
Timothy: Now when we moved to this property, the first label that
the Brothers began to use here was called Mont La Salle Vineyards.
The "Vineyards" wasn't really tacked onto the name of the wine,
say, as a brand name on the wine bottle. It was just "Mont La
Salle." When the Brothers first started the place, for about
the first year or so, someone spelled the word M-o-u-n-t. And
even in the wall of the chapel up here, the cornerstone laid in
1931 has the spelling M-o-u-n-t. But after a year or so of
operation here or living here on the property, the Brothers
insisted that since we were a French order we should spell that
Mont, M-o-n-t, La Salle. So the name was changed then. After
just a few years here, we began to print the wine label with
the M-o-n-t for the Mont La Salle.
Teiser: You capitalize the "1" in "La"?
Timothy: Yes, we do. I have Xeroxed a copy of an old label showing the
spelling "Mount" in the Mont La Salle Vineyard.* It shows
alcoholic content under 14 per cent. The wine type indicated
is "California Burgundy." We have not regularly been using this
"under 14 per cent" as the alcoholic designation in recent years.
This is probably one of the labels first used by the Brothers
when they began to bottle here.
We continued with the Mont La Salle label right up until
we began to get into a relationship with Alfred Fromm, representing
what was then called Picker-Linz, an importing house in New York.
He came to us because he had seen some of our wine. I think he
had bought it in New Jersey. Our wine was being distributed
there and he liked the wine very much. He thought that perhaps
the Brothers would be interested in developing, let us say,
Teiser: So by then you had that wide distribution?
Timothy: Yes, we had some sales under this Mont La Salle label. Actually
the New Jersey case was, let's say, without our knowledge and consent,
Somebody there was doing something he shouldn't have done. He
was buying our wine in barrels. We had not given him permission
to use our name, but he began to put our name on his bottles.
So this wine that Alfred Fromm found in New Jersey was our wine,
but it had our name on it in a kind of unauthorized way.
*See illustration opposite.
Teiser: I see.
Timothy: So this was kind of an embarrassing circumstance in a way, but
it was one of those strange things that happen once in a while.
Teiser: It ended well.
Let me go back to when you first saw this property at Mont
Timothy: Well, actually I saw this property for the first time when- -I
think a little bit prior to moving of the casks from Martinez
up here --a group of us Brothers came here on a picnic one day to
see it. The first time I saw this property the old stone winery
building that still exists right out here was here. Wine casks
and tanks were in it, not exactly in the same arrangement we have
today, but quite comparable to the arrangement of casks and tanks
in that old stone building today.
Teiser: Had Mr. Gier kept his cooperage up through Prohibition?
Timothy: Yes. Quite a bit of the cooperage was in excellent shape.
Now there was another little stone building too. We called
it the "little cellar." It still exists but we have built
around it so it's kind of concealed among other buildings. There
were two stone buildings that existed out here with a span of
about thirty feet of space between the two. The wine cellar and
then the little cellar. Both were wine cellars. The little
cellar may have been completely empty when the Brothers acquired
this property. I don't know exactly whether there was something
in it or not. Theodore Gier had his distillery in that building
at one time.
Teiser: He hadn't been making wine during Prohibition, had he?
Timothy: At least not for the entire period of Prohibition. He may have
been allowed to start making wine at the beginning, but at any
rate in 1930, before Prohibition had come to an end, he had been
stopped from making wine. So it was illegal for him to make any
sales of wine. That's why he was hard pressed financially.
Teiser: I see.
Timothy: That's one of the basic reasons. The Depression was another one.
Teiser: You said that there was a still here?
Timothy: Theodore Gier had a little old still, yes. It had once been in
that building that I say was called the little cellar. When I
came it was in another building. A frame building housed the
still when I first saw it in 1935.
BROTHER JOHN AND ALFRED FROMM
Timothy: Now, some time or other in the story we have to bring in Brother
John. Perhaps this is as good a point as any. Brother John was
the man who was largely responsible for developing the size of
our wine and brandy business, and developing our relationships
with Fromm & Sichel, the firm then called Picker-Linz. I
mentioned Alfred Fromm. When I mention him I'm all the way up
to 1937 or 1938, say, in historical dating.
Brother John entered the order early in 1932. He entered
right here on this property, so he did not know first-hand the
old novitiate property at Martinez. Then, after having gone
through his novitiate here and having a certain amount of college
training at St. Mary's College, he was moved back up here to work
with Brother Raphael in the winery. The same Brother Raphael
who had been at Martinez was still here in charge of the winery.
He was in charge from about 1911 or so on up until it closed at
Martinez, then for the first few years that the winery operated
here, right on up until say about the end of 1934. Perhaps his
jurisdiction over the winery may have extended to about the end
of January of 1935 or something like that.
Brother John was assigned to work with Brother Raphael in
the winery, and they worked together, with Brother John as a
young man only about twenty-two or twenty-two and a half years
old, something like that, and Brother Raphael quite old.
Brother Raphael was Swiss in background.* Brother John was,
oh, German and Scotch and Irish, I think in his genetic mix.
Brother John was a very competent kind of an individual in many
ways. He had been born in Portland, Oregon. He had been raised
*For additional recollections of Brother Raphael, see pp. 35-36.
Timothy: by his father in and around the produce industry. And in the
produce industry they have various by -words like this: "Well,
if you don't sell it today, you throw it out tomorrow." You
know, it becomes rotten. It spoils and you can't sell it
tomorrow if you couldn't sell it today. The produce business
is apparently a fast -moving kind of a thing, and you have to be
on your toes in order to operate properly and to make any money
in that business.
So Brother John, being a bright young fellow, picked up a
lot of business techniques, a lot of ambition and drive in and
around the produce business from his father, perhaps from other
relatives and friends. He was a very dynamic and creative kind
of man. He had the kind of imagination where he could study a
subject or study a problem and look into the future and pretty
much understand how it was going to work out. He had foresight,
maybe that's the one-word way of saying it. He could juggle a
lot of problems and act more or less like a circus juggler,
keeping everything going at once, you know. He was great as an
organizer, understanding people, being able to size people up,
evaluate them and then determine whether or not, let's say, he
wanted to hire a certain individual for some specific job. He
was very good at foreseeing what such a person might be able to
offer to him in the way of creativity in future development and
so on. He was a very good judge of men.
Brother John had just loads of talent and loads of drive
and loads of energy. However, he did have a heart problem.
Doctors after his death told us that he had had a bad heart from
the time he was twenty-one years old, that he had had rheumatic
fever at the age of twenty-one and that this had damaged his
heart. It ended up with him passing away suddenly, April 16,
1962. So he's been gone a little more than nine years now.*
Now that's not a complete story, but kind of a thumbnail
sketch of Brother John and his general character, his personality,
and some explanation of why he was so successful in developing
our relationships with Fromm & Sichel and our entire business.
Teiser: Prior to the development of your relationship with Mr. Fromm, your
wine distribution was in both bulk and bottled wine?
*Brother John was born Stanley S. Hoffman on June 11, 1912.
Timothy: Yes, yes, we had both bulk and bottle sales. I guess our most
sizeable sales were probably in the state of Washington. Then
probably the next state was California. We probably had more
sales of wine in Washington than we did in California before
we got acquainted with Fromm & Sichel.
Teiser: Was it a relatively small operation or...
Timothy: Well, yes. Everything is relative to everything else, you
know. Certainly in this day and age and looking at the way
things are today, you have to say it was a very small operation
that we had prior to our getting acquainted with Fromm & Sichel.
Teiser: But it was a commercially feasible one?
Timothy: No, you might say we were still feeling the effects of Prohibition
and the after-effects of it or whatever, and then the Depression,
which seemed to hang on longer here in California than it did
on the East Coast. Of course maybe I'm net a good judge of what
happened on the East Coast, but the Depression period seemed to
hang on a long time out here in California, depressing the sales
of wine in the general market and the price structure of wines
and so on, right on up until practically the beginning of World
War II. So the Depression was still with us and we were feeling
the effects of it at the time that Alfred Fromm first came to see
us and we first began to have a working relationship with his
company. I think the official name was Picker-Linz Importers,
Inc. They were basically a New York import house, and their
imports were wines from Germany, where I believe Alfred Fromm 's
father was still operating a winery at that time and shipping
wines over to New York. They also had other wines from other
countries of Europe as well, I think, a few distilled spirits,
Scotch whisky and one thing and another. Their marketing area
was mostly the New York metropolitan area at that time. When they
began to distribute our products, they worked from a New York
base and developed that New York market. They had to kind of
hopscotch across the country to fill in voids in the marketing
field, you know. Chicago was one of the places, one of the other
major cities in the country. I guess it's second in size, at
least I believe it was then, to New York. So Chicago was the
next logical step. The Chicago area was then developed. As
time went on, they were able to move across the country until
today we have distribution of our wines and brandy in all fifty
*For additional material on Alfred Fromm and the expansion of
Christian Brothers' markets, see pp. 38-41, 43 and other
references as indexed.
(Interview #2 - August 16, 1971)
EARLY HISTORY OF THE MONT LA SALLE PROPERTY
Teiser: Let me explain: Brother Timothy is looking at an album that is
owned by the Brothers and is titled, The Lotus Vineyard. Napa
County. California. 1893. It contains early pictures and other
papers related to the present Mont La Salle property. You said
the property owner was...
Timothy: The original owner as we know it of this Mont La Salle property,
that has had a number of different names over the years, was
Mr. Hudemann, H-u-d-e-m-a-n-n.
Teiser: H. Hudemann.
Timothy: Yes. He owned this property from 1864 to 1882. And it is said
that he first conceived the park and all its natural beauty.
This photograph shows plantings on the property near where some
home sites are located. Now apparently from this inscription
Mr. Hudemann died in San Francisco, July 2, 1892.*
Mr. Hudemann lost this property. Then the property was
bought in 1884 by Rudolf Jordan. Rudolf Jordan owned the property
for about sixteen years and sold it in March, 1900, to Theodore
This album was presented to the Christian Brothers in July,
1930, by Mr. Rudolf Jordan, Jr., who had kept it over the years.
In the album we find various scenes. Old photographs that show
the beauty of the property and show some of the buildings. Most
of these old photos were taken while Rudolf Jordan owned the
property. This scene showed the original old winery on the
*See also pp. 30-31.
Timothy: property, but it shows part of a building, the spring, some water
flowing down near the old stone winery building. The old original
winery was only about maybe twenty by twenty-five feet in size,
and a home is built over the top of it, so that that old stone
winery is now nothing but a basement under a hillside home.*
Teiser: Who built that?
Timothy: I really don't know. I think it's likely that either Mr.
Hudemann or Mr. Jordan built this old stone building.
This is a view looking from the vineyard down over a couple
old barns or implement sheds or whatever you want to call them.
Hera's another view from a little higher up in the vineyard.
Another view in the vineyard showing some vines rolling over a
smooth rounded hill. Other vineyards and an olive orchard in
the distance. This olive orchard area is directly out in front
of where our Mont La Salle School now sits and looks down over
this hillside. There is no olive orchard on the property now,
but there are probably about forty old olive trees--not really
in that orchard but in different spots, along the edges of roads
and in front of some homes, and at points where the olive trees
did not interfere with the cultivation of vineyards.
Here is a picture of what is said to be the lower vineyard
looking east through the canyon to Napa. Napa is down through
the gap in the hills out that way.
This was a little pond on the property. I think it was an
artificial pond and it was about three or four feet deep. When I
first saw the property this pond was full of water like you see
it here, and there were two old row boats that had been used by
the owners or guests. The pond was getting quite overgrown with
water lilies and items like that, so it was pretty difficult to
do any rowing. There were quite a lot of mosquitoes breeding in
the pond, and so it was decided during the course of construction
of Mont La Salle School to drain the pond and get rid of that
water and get rid of the problem of the mosquitoes breeding there.
So the pond doesn't exist any more. In that spot we have a
*There are three old stone winery buildings in all on the property.
The two larger ones were built in 1903 by Theodore Gier. Brother
Timothy: This is another section of the pond. It had a fountain
Teiser: A spouting fountain.
Timothy: Yes, squirting water straight up in the air. Well, gravity
pressure, the water coming down from the spring up above where
that little old wine cellar used to be. Several of these little
old rustic bridges were constructed over parts of the pond.
Several little islands existed in the pond and pathways wound
around through those islands over these bridges and back again.
Now, here somebody put an inset; 1 guess Mr. Jordan, Jr.
An Egyptian lotus had been planted in the pond. That was the
water lily that I said earlier was crowding things. They grew
very well in the pond. Rudolf Jordan even bothered to put the
Latin name of this Egyptian lotus here in the book--Nulumbium
Teiser: And the inset is a little color picture of that lotusi
Timothy: Yes, yes, that's the flower.
Another view showing the pond down below and looking out
from a small planting of vineyard. Here we have the first wine
label that was used on the property, called Montelindo Recuerdo
Vintage, Napa Redwoods, Napa, California; printed by Louis
Roesch Company in San Francisco.
Teiser: Oh, yes, and with that same water lily as a design.
Timothy: Then Rudolf Jordan, Jr., in deciding to present this book, which
certainly was one of his prize possessions, to the Christian
Brothers, wrote an inscription on one of the back pages of this
album. He outlines some of the history of the place, and it reads
"Herman Hudemann, the founder of this place formerly known
as 'Spout Farm 1 and later as 'Lotus Farm,' was a German by
birth who was supposed to have made a fortune of $60,000 in
Mexican mines. He came to Napa in the early sixties of last
century (1800). He bought large tracts of land both east and west
of his home place and owned large herds of cattle and sheep. He
was a great lover of flowers and laid out this place which, by
its natural beauty, lent itself well to landscape gardening. He
was a generous host and entertained his friends as would a jovial
bachelor. He had bad luck with his stock, much of it being stolen,
Timothy: and gradually lost his lands. Finally, about 1882, a San
Francisco bank foreclosed his mortgages and he found himself
both penniless and homeless, after residing here for about
twenty years. Friends had arranged to call for him, but he left
the place during the previous night being, unable—as he is
reported to have said--to part with it in full view of all its
beauty and its charms. He found employment as a warehouse
keeper in San Francisco. In 1892, on July 2, he was found dead
in his bed, friends having called to make arrangements for an
outdoor celebration of July 4th. He was over seventy years old.
His body rests in the old Masonic Cemetery in San Francisco in
an unmarked grave. The most fitting monument to his memory
remains the Sequoia Gigantea, a very stately tree which he had
planted in front of the old dwelling now demolished.
"As a very young man, full of hope and energy, the writer
[Rudolf Jordan, Jr.] intended to develop the place as a vineyard,
for which worked [sic] he had been trained; but market conditions
and lack of capital compelled him to give up the project.
"The natural beauty of the place and its splashing fountains
and the abundant wildlife were ever an inspiration, not only for
the ceaseless work required, but also for a sustained meditation
on the wonders of nature.
"Once upon a time the Egyptian Lotus --Nulumbium Speciosum--
flourished in the shallow portions of the pond and added much
beauty to the mystery of its still waters. When the writer was
informed that this place had been acquired by the Christian
Brothers for an educational institution, he felt that it had
finally come into proper hands, because the influence of its
beauty and its wooded hills cannot help being beneficial in the
education of young men. For, its quiet seclusion should further
the contemplation on the Infinite Mind in the deep shade of its
"Rudolf Jordan, Jr., July 1930, 333 Kearny Street, San
Then there is a postscript with the initials "N.B."
Teiser: Note well; "nota bene."
Timothy: "Hudemann is supposed to have imported the German carp, some large
ones being in the pond at that time. Fond of digging in the muddy
bottom it kept water turbid and also ate the buds of the water
Timothy: lilies. It spread to the river waters of [the] vicinity and
turned out to be no welcome acquisition."
So apparently this carp spread to the Napa River, and the
people didn't like that.
Now Rudolf Jordan, Jr., wrote a poem and inscribed it in the
back of this same album. I suppose I should read this, too. I
think it's pretty good. The title is Sempervirens.
Five thousand years of untold history
Are locked in fluted, red -brown bark
Of these cathedral columns, reverently
They raised their fingered tops and mark
The azure sky a temple vast;
Like pyramids, with broadened base
Deep-rooted, gripping earth, they will outlast
The blight of time and rust of place.
For countless years before, in sheltered dells,
Amid upheaving nature's strife,
They stood like brave, unyielding sentinels,
The emblems of eternal life.
Though ruthless axe has laid them low, and flame
Has scarred, they rise in victory
Undaunted, ever honor crowned by name
Of Redwood, matchless, sovereign tree.
A strange elixir courses through its veins,
A blood undoing rot and pest.
In joyous freedom from the galling chains
Of ailment, bittering life's zest.
Without compare its timber, mighty store
For rough support or satin wall
Of panels, strong and gentle evermore,
The gift of ageless suns withal.
Young manhood's craving longings were entwined
With redwood evergreen, deep tide
Of hope engulfed a doubting, restless mind-
Here courage, faith and peace abide,
A vision won—charred stumps bid saplings soar
From pulsing earth, voiced pillars of
A living temple, prompting to adore
The spirit of a brother's love.
Timothy: A wreath of evergreen adorns the spot
Where youthful dreams were laid to rest;
At times fond memory bewails the lot
Of banishment for fortune's quest;
And yet, when bracing hope seems on the wane,
Wherever Redwoods stand and sing,
To hallowed ground the trail leads on again
For true, unfettered worshipping.
This principal paper in the front of this book is a deed
from the Odd Fellows Saving Bank to Rudolf Jordan dated May 3,
1884. That would be the date of his purchase of the property.*
WINE MAKING TECHNOLOGY IN THE POST-REPEAL PERIOD
Teiser: Brother Timothy, you were brought here as a chemist, but I suppose
you were expected to be a winemaker suddenly, weren't you?
Timothy: Well, Brother John was on the job at that time; this is 1935.
Brother John had been on the job for about a year or maybe a
little more than a year before I came along in the wine business
here. Brother John had attended Dr. [William V.] Cruess' courses
that were given at the University of California at Berkeley in the
food products classrooms. Dr. Cruess in those years immediately
after Repeal was conducting some courses that were part-time
courses, even, I believe, afternoon and night classes, so that
part-time students could come and learn something about wine
business. Perhaps the whole sum of what a winemaker was expected
to know in those days was contained within the covers of a little
book by Dr. Cruess on the principles and practices of wine making.
A little book about five eighths of an inch thick.**
*For additional material on the history of the property, see
**Cruess, William V., The Principles and Practices of Wine Making.
New York: Avi Publishing Co., 1934, 212p.
Timothy: Now the industry, having just gone through Prohibition,
had lost, you might say, a whole generation of winemakers, since
those who had been in the business just before Prohibition pretty
much had to go out and find some other work. They might take a
job as a carpenter or a blacksmith or an automobile repairman or
most anything; I don't know what they did.
When I started in 1935, there was hardly anybody around
from whom you could get any reliable information. I'd been
teaching high school chemistry and if I would ask somebody the
very simplest kind of question about wine chemistry, I would
generally find out that they didn't know the answer. They would
just look at me and think that, "Well, you're digging too deep."
People in the wine business just didn't know all the background
of wine technology that they should have known.
Of course, let's say, they were all young, and a lot of
winemakers were working by the old rule of thumb. Some of the
things were like old superstitions in the industry, things like,
you don't rack a wine or you don't bottle a wine on a cloudy day,
or a rainy day. You wait for a bright sunny day, a bright clear
day before you move that wine from one cask or tank to another.
Perhaps things like that were sort of current in the
industry, at least in some of the wineries. Maybe those were in
more backward wineries. In trying to rationalize that thing
about not moving a wine on a cloudy day or waiting for a bright
sunny day, the only kind of a thought that I can come up with
that might make some sense is that they found from experience
that if they opened a cask or tank on a rainy day, perhaps the
wine became a little cloudy. But if they did the same thing on
a bright sunny day, perhaps they could bottle the wine without
filtration and the wine was clear.
Well, it seems to me that this must have been just simply
a matter of atmospheric pressure. On a rainy or cloudy day,
atmospheric pressure was low and the man went with the hammer and
tapped on the wooden bung on the top of the cask or tank and
then pulled that bung out. With the atmospheric pressure being
low, the wine would tend to jump in the tank. Perhaps that wine
had been put in the tank when it was a bright sunny day and the
atmospheric pressure was then high. So any jar or sort of a
little jump that the wine might make inside that cask or tank
would tend to dislodge sediments that may have adhered to the
side walls of the cask or tank, and it would throw these things
somewhat into suspension. So, if there is any truth to that old
Timothy: thing of don't rack the wine on a rainy day or cloudy day, it
must have something to do with barometric pressure.
Teiser: When you came into the industry, you had to learn then just as
other industry members had to learn, didn't you?
Timothy: Yes, yes. And I say all this in spite of the fact that Christian
Brothers did have a continuous wine production history from the
time we got started at Martinez until the present day. Brother
Raphael had been the winemaker through those Prohibition years.
He was born in Switzerland, worked around dairies and cheese
factories, and so his background of technology was all connected
with dairying and cheese before he got into the wine business at
Martinez. I knew him for a number of years, about sixteen years
I guess before he passed away about 1944.
He was not educated beyond, I guess, about grammar school.
He was a very simple and sincere and hard-working kind of a man.
One of the by-words that he had about wine was that hard work
makes good wine. I believe this had to do with merely the fact
that you had to scrub everything, you had to scrub every bucket,
every hose. You had to scrub the interior of every cask and tank.
You had to scrub the exterior too to make sure that it was clean.
This same Brother Raphael, even though he believed in the constant
scrubbing of things and very great cleanliness in and about the
winery, really didn't understand the microbiology of wine. He
didn't understand the living organisms that might be present in
the wine. Brother John used to say about him that he would go
around and look for a wine that was clear in a wine cask or tank.
If it was clear, then he could send that to the bottling department
and you could bottle that one. If it was not clear, he would just
let time go by until it cleared up by itself. At least hoping
that it would clear up.
Now if there was any microorganism present in the wine, the
microorganism with the passage of time might just develop and
become a worse problem. So, waiting for it to clear up was not
always the answer.
When Brother John came into the wine business and studied
a few of Dr. Cruess' subjects at Berkeley, it was not very long
before Brother John could see that Brother Raphael really didn't
understand the chemistry and the bacteriology of wine. So very
soon some conflict occurred in the way of differences of opinion.
Timothy: The Brother Provincial, the man in charge of our San
Francisco district, the entire West Coast, could see that
Brother John knew more about the subject than Brother Raphael.
So Brother Raphael was replaced by Brother John right about the
end of 1934, about the beginning of "35. Brother John was then
in full charge of the winery for maybe about six months or so
before I entered the winery to become his assistant, or his wine
chemist, or whatever you want to say there.
Teiser: Was pure yeast culture introduced about the time you came in?
Timothy: No. A few years later, maybe five or more years later, we began
to consider and talk about and experiment with pure yeast
culture. In those first years that I was in the wine business,
we depended on the yeast cultures that were present on the skins
of the grapes. You had in those years more sporadic fermentations-
more unpredictable fermentations. A lot of things were not
thoroughly known or well incorporated into the practices of running
the winery that should have been known and that are now known.
Things like picking the grapes at a proper period of ripening
rather than let them get overripe.
It seemed that the old practices were to let the grapes get
as ripe as possible. Let them get about as much sugar as you
could possibly get. So there were years when we crushed grapes
all the way up to twenty-eight or more degrees sugar. This was
done upon occasion, and it was generally known then though that
that was a little too high. But twenty-four, twenty-five, twenty-
six were thought to be all right. Those readings are a bit high
too. Very simple things like that were not very well understood
in the industry in those days.
Teiser: You yourself must have acquired a great deal of knowledge, because
I understand you've been a member of the Wine Institute technical
advisory committee, and are one of the state's leading technologists,
Timothy: Well, I've been around the wine industry for thirty-six years
now, and after thirty-six years I ought to know the subject pretty
well. I did not have the benefit of, let's say, attending the
University of California at Davis for their entire courses in
viticulture and enology. It would have been better if I had, but
I sort of learned the hard way, working under Brother John,
learning from him. Also, reading everything that I could get my
hands on that was printed by the University of California.
Practically all the books that have come out of the University of
California I have gotten quite familiar with.
Teiser: They've been learning things all this time too.
Timothy: Yes, yes, sure. The whole subject of science is the matter of
settling things and researching things and delving into the
unknown to some degree. That's what research is. Trying to
find out what is there. If you knew ahead of time, why then
you wouldn't need to research the problem. [Laughter] So
you're digging into the unknown all the time with research.
Now the University of California deserves great credit for
research and standardization of practices, for the recognition
of what are the correct practices and what are the incorrect
practices and so on; then for the advocating of these things
and for the promoting of these better practices among the wineries,
The University of California for maybe thirty years has been
telling grape growers to plant better grape varieties to make
better wines, to plant in the recommended regions rather than
to plant in poorer locations. So the University has been very
helpful to the industry, both the viticultural industry and the
wine making industry, and in the elevating of the wine quality
of California. I think in recent years, let's say the last ten
years, the recognition of this high quality of California wines
has gotten increasingly accepted throughout the trade, and
throughout the whole enological world you might say.
People in other countries recognize that the University of
California at Davis is one of the leaders in the world for the
courses in viticulture and enology that it conducts. Students
have come from perhaps twenty different countries over the years
to study there, and also at Fresno State College. Students from
South Africa, from Australia, from France, from all the wine
producing countries of the world that I can think of have come
either to visit or to enroll in classes at the University of
California at Davis.
Teiser: Do you in your winery employ these younger trained men?
Timothy: Yes, we do. I don't have the number right at my fingertips, but
we must have about ten or twelve men, practically all of them
younger than I am, who have graduated from the University of
California at Davis or from Fresno State in the enology and
ALFRED FROMM AND MARKET EXPANSION
Teiser: We were talking I think, when we stopped last Thursday, about
your relationship with Alfred Fromm.
Timothy: Yes, that's right. When Alfred Fromm came into our winery for
the first time, he represented what was called Picker-Linz
Importers, Inc. in New York. I believe the first time he came
to Mont La Salle was in 1937. Of course, Brother John was on
the job. Brother John was a very aggressive and dynamic kind of
person, and a very busy sort of person. He was very glad to see
Alfred Fromm. He showed him all around the place with consider
able enthusiasm. We drew samples from wine casks and tanks
throughout the winery, and poured them for Alfred Fromm who was
a very competent wine taster and still is. Of course you know
that he's in San Francisco now. The headquarters of Fromm &
Sichel is in San Francisco. That's their home office, and Alfred
is president of the company.
Alfred Fromm was quite impressed with the samples of wine
that he tasted at that time. Then he and Brother John sat down
and worked out the beginnings of an agreement, a contract by
which we could work. Now I might say at this time that we had
not yet printed a label with the name The Christian Brothers as
the brand name in large type. We had only used prior to this
time the Mont La Salle label. It's almost identical to the
label that we use today as the altar wine label. Also that same
wine was sold as a commercial wine; I believe the printer just
left the word "altar" off the label.
It was at their suggestion that we began the use of the name
"The Christian Brothers" as the brand name on the bottle. I
believe the first Christian Brothers brand name on the label
came into use in 1938. I believe we can find the documentation
We began business with what is now Fromm & Sichel, and sales
began throughout the New York area in 1938. We went on for a
couple of years selling to Alfred Fromm the table wines and the
dessert wines that we were producing. In 1936, a little while
before we had met Alfred Fromm, we had begun to make a little
sherry here, and we had begun, I believe in 1935, doing some
fortifications of wines like port.
In those days we were using a little still that we had here
to make a little high-proof to fortify wines, and we were also
Timothy: buying some high-proof in wooden barrels and adding it to the
wine in the fortification of wines like port and muscatel and
So in 1938, '39, we were selling table wines and dessert
wines to Alfred Fromrn. It was in 1940 that we began to blend
and bottle brandy, but very late in the year, and I believe
the first sales were made probably in 1941.
Teiser: Did you continue to sell your altar wines direct?
Timothy: Yes. We were selling altar wines even through the Prohibition
period, as you know, and medicinal wines too. There was some
prescription business going on in alcoholic beverages. In
drugstores, without prescription, certain wine tonics and wine
and beef tonics and whatnot were sold. I remember as a boy
seeing some of these things even displayed in drugstores. I
don't know what they use for beef in a wine. There were wine
and iron tonics, and so on. I believe there's still one for
sale in drugstores today. If you ask for a bottle of an iron
tonic, you might get a bottle of wine with some sort of soluble
iron present in it. I bought one bottle to try it out about ten
years ago, and it tasted terrible. [Laughter] I guess they
probably sell that kind of thing on the theory that all medicine
tastes terrible and it's no good for your health if it doesn't
taste bad. [Laughter] Some people think that about medicine.
I hope they don't think that about wine, which is also good for
Teiser: So you reserved from the arrangement with Alfred Fromm your altar
wines and. . .
Timothy: Yes. When we began that first contract with Alfred Fromm, we
reserved the sacramental wines and have always handled them
separately. We also reserved two states where we had previously
developed some business, Washington and Montana. These two
states are both what we call liquor controlled states, where the
government itself is in the alcoholic beverage business where
they don't have wholesalers. The government of those two states
then, instead of imposing some large tax on the alcoholic
beverages, earns its profits on the alcoholic beverages by acting
as a middleman or a distributor. We still operate today by
making sales directly to Washington and Montana, without that
merchandise being sold through Fromm & Sichel.
Teiser: Did Fromm & Sichel offer you merchandising advice?
Timothy: Well, certainly your question is well taken. We were not
doing very well selling our products before Fromm & Sichel came
along. I think we would have to admit that. Our sales were
localized on the West Coast pretty much. Very minor sales were
made elsewhere—say, like the sales that were made in New Jersey
that I mentioned in our last tape. We did have some localized
sales in various other states. They were not big sales and
they were not really enough to make the winery, let's say, very
I mentioned earlier that the Brothers had been praying for
Repeal. Well, when Repeal came, the wine business seemed to be
a little harder business to make money in than the Brothers had
initially expected. I suppose the Brothers in those Prohibition
years had just thought that Brother Raphael was capable of
handling the winery and that he was capable of putting out any
amount of wine that he had on hand, something like that. And it
was only after Brother John came into the winery with Brother
Raphael that it was discovered that a lot of the wine in the
tanks was not really saleable right away. Things had to be done
to make it more saleable and more attractive to the buyer.
When Alfred Fromm came along, merchandising was one of our
serious weaknesses, one of our serious problems, and he and his
organization filled a great need at that time. Certainly the
entire marketing field was his specialty and something in which
he was a great expert.
Teiser: Did he give you advice which would change your production in any
Timothy: Yes, he did give some advice on that sort of thing, but that was
a minor phase of the relationship. Alfred Fromm would come upon
request, come at any time that we needed help or any time that
we wished him to do so. He would come and taste wines with us.
These wine tasting sessions were always mutually helpful.
Teiser: Have you had help from Fromm & Sichel with the many attractive
folders you put out about your wines and the winery?
Timothy: Well, oh, yes, you might say so. Fromm & Sichel at least
supervises all of this type of work, and we have a sort of a
censorship privilege over anything that they do in the way of
advertising. Particularly paid advertising. Now when you get
to publicity or public relations work naturally there are fewer
controls that you can exercise.
Walter Landor design
in use from 1961-1967.
of awards lor
State Fair since
'I witness that
this wine was
ALCOHOli 12* BY VOLUME- 4/5 )QT.
bring out the
.of the varietal
give this white
• wine its name.
crisp dry while
wine with lob-
and with lowl,
veal and cold
^ < v ..'..:<
VINTNERS SINCE 1882
SELECT NAPA VALLEY
An elcfi.inl dry white dinner wine of rare Chardonnay grapes
PRODUCED AND BOTTLED BY
THE CHRISTIAN BROTHERS • NAPA, CALIFORNIA
Alcohol 12% by volume
/ Here is one of the world's truly great white dinner \
wines. Made from the rare Chardonnay grape, it has a ^
superbly soft, mellow flavor and an exquisite, subtle
bouquet. It is a wine of immense charm and finesse.
Transplanted from France, where it makes the best
white burgundies, this noble grape ripens to perfection
in the ideal cool but sunny climate of our California
hillside vineyards. We age its wine slowly, patiently,
first in small oak casks, then again in this bottle.
This is a California wine for a special occasion, to add
taste-glamor to lighter meats, fish, chicken, turkey, lob
ster, omelettes, or creamed chicken. Serve it chilled.
The Christian Brothers are a religious Teaching Order founded
in France by Sainl Jean Baptiste de la Salle in 1680. To support the
educational work of the Order's Western Province, our Brothers
have long made fine wines in the centuries-old monastic tradition
V, Highest Award Winners for Excellence of Quality t
FROMM AND SICHEL, INC. — SOLE DISTRIBUTORS— SAN FRANCISCO
Muirson Label design in
use from 1967 to present.
Teiser: The advertisements for Christian Brothers wines appear over
your name and often with your photograph. How and when did
this custom originate?
Timothy: I am inclined to think that such ads were started about 1963
or later. The column ads captioned "Brother Timothy's Napa
Valley Notebook" running over my signature have been in use
only about three years or so.
Fromm & Sichel, Inc., and also Botsford Ketchum, the ad
agency, can give you greater detail on the ad programs. Mr.
Walter Niehoff is the account executive at Botsford Ketchum.
Of course, as I believe I have said, we maintain a general
control over all language and illustrations used in advertising.
My signature appears on a Walter Landor designed label
that we used from 1961 to 1967. And my signature is on the back
label designed by Mulrson Label and used by us since 1967.
CHRISTIAN BROTHERS BRANDY
Teiser: Who made the intial suggestion for the brandy production?
Timothy: I think you have to say that the initial suggestion came from
Fromm & Sichel, came from Alfred Fromm.
Teiser: Do you know how he happened to think of it?
Timothy: We had had what we called the prorate year--1938 was the year
of the grape prorate. A great big surplus of grapes had been
produced that year and grape prices had dropped down very,
very low. You can point where $15 a ton was thought to be a
good price for grapes. So grapes were so low that the prorate
act was developed in the state or voted on. A kind of a set-
aside was enforced.
This set-aside of grape products was mostly done by making
those products into brandy and then setting that brandy aside.
There were large inventories throughout California of aging
brandy, made mostly by other wineries. I don't think we had any
brandy in that prorate operation. We were not making commercial
brandy at that time.
Timothy: In 1938 these brandies that were set aside in warehouses
were put into barrels, just as commercial or beverage brandy
is aged. These brandies were getting better than they had been
when they were barreled. They were developing with age. It
appears that there just wasn't much bottling of brandy going on.
There wasn't any well developed market for brandy. Some people
were in the brandy business. I guess we can name Fruit Industries
with A.R. Morrow brandy, and some others. A. Mattei & Sons, I
think it might have been called, was in the brandy business in
the Fresno area. Beringer Brothers I believe had a brandy on
the market at that time.
But just a small number of people had brandy labels on the
market, and these brandies really weren't selling very well.
They were practically all straight brandies I believe, and
perhaps they tasted a little rough. They were not as smooth and
soft as they might have been.
The aging stocks of brandy were in warehouses throughtout
the state. The market was there if the brandy was pleasant and
palatable and more readily saleable than other brandies already
on the market.
On the suggestion of Alfred Froram we began to produce brandy.
Mostly by buying this brandy, and I guess entirely in the first
year or few years, by buying and blending these brandies. Then,
adding a little bit of specially prepared wine and a little,
about one per cent, liquid invert sugar to give it a tiny trace
of softness and mellowness to take a little of the rough edges
off the brandy. Our brandy, as a rectified brandy, is and
always has been 100 per cent brandy except for this tiny addition
of a specially prepared wine and an invert sugar syrup.
This addition to the brandy was always less than one and one
half per cent of the total. This was done in a rectifying plant
and for a long time, many, many years, we paid a rectifying tax
that was 30<! a gallon. That rectifying tax is no longer on the
federal books, so we are not paying that tax now.
Teiser: That did not apply to straight or unblended brandies, is that
Timothy: The rectifying tax did not apply to those brandies that were
bottled straight. People who were bottling those straight
brandies saved 30«f a gallon.
Who worked out your taste standards?
For the brandy?
Well, this was done in a cooperative way between Alfred Fromm
and his organization and Christian Brothers, principally Brother
You must have tasted and tasted and tasted.
You knew pretty well what you wanted to achieve in advance?
I see. I remember tasting Christian Brothers brandy early,
maybe 1941, and that it was distinctive.
Yes. Well, our brandy in those early years was generally
considerably heavier than it is today. We are now making our
brandy almost as light and neutral as we can. We have been doing
this for, oh, about twenty- five years. We have felt that the
thing that the public wanted was a lighter and more palatable
and easier to take brandy than some of the very heavy old style
brandies that were around in the market.
Our brandy was quite heavy in the early years and it was only
after we were able to develop our own distillation equipment and
improve our techniques that we were able to make as light a
brandy as we wished to make.
Did you start making it here and then go to Mount Tivy?
Yes.* Today at Mount Tivy we use not only the continuous
distillation equipment for producing our brandy but we also
have some pot stills. We are blending a little pot still brandy
*For additional information on the Mount Tivy facility, see
Timothy: in with our continuous still brandy as a matter of achieving
character and complexity in the brandy, and without detracting
in any way from the lightness that we have wanted all the time.
Timothy: You know that I started in the wine business here in 1935. Well,
it was five years after that before we began to expand our
buildings. We had been doing business with Alfred Fromm for a
couple of years. Then in 1940 we could see the need for some
additional fermenting room space. Our old fermenting room was
a very antiquated thing with open top redwood tanks. We built
some concrete fermenting tanks, just eleven in number and with
a total capacity of only about 55,000 gallons. But that was
adequate for our needs at that time, at least so we thought.
We built this fermenting department in the summer of 1940.
We added some wine cellar space — let's say, about 208,000 gallons
of additional redwood wine tanks—also, in the summer of 1940.
We broke ground for the building of our rectifying and bottling
unit for the brandy also in 1940. So 1940 was the first year
of any major construction after the date that I started at the
Of course, Brother John was in his prime in those years.
He was very vigorous and very capable in every way of running
the business and developing it. He was the boss and I was sort
of his assistant in all the physical end of the business: handling
the wines in the wine cellar, fermenting the wine in the fermenting
department, supervising the vineyards, all that kind of thing.
In those years I did very little in the office, and even
today my time and my job in the office is minor.
In 1941 we built a new "L" shaped building between the
fermenting room and the old distillery and fortifying room.
It came around two sides of the old "little cellar" which was
then completely boxed in. Redwood wine tanks were installed,
totaling 167,037 gallons.
In 1944 we made another expansion, and this was the construc
tion of an additional fermenting room space. Both of these
fermenting room spaces I can show you here on the property any
Timothy: time we want to walk around and look at them.
In 1944 Mr. C.E. Bailey was working for us. He is now
working for us at Mount Tivy Winery at Reedley. He was here
on this property at that time. I guess I am the principal
designer of the 1940 facility. Then in 1944 Mr. Bailey and I
designed an additional fermenting room space. We built closed
top concrete fermenters at that time. There are just twelve
fermenters that we built at that time, with four sumps for
draining wine from those fermenters and with six you might call
storage tanks, also closed top concrete tanks, that are along
the wall, that we call drying out tanks, where we put the white
wine juice for the drying out, for the fermentation of those
white wines while they ferment dry. They are right in the
fermenting room area where we can watch them closely and we can
control the temperature, etc. Those were all built in 1944.
To gain greater capacity and modernize our bottling
activities at Mont La Salle, we built a completely new bottling
department and case goods warehouse in 1953.
A source of good Napa Valley varietal grapes was secured
in 1954 from the Charles Forni family by purchase of established
vineyards, totaling about 510 acres, both south and north of
At Mont La Salle we built the present office building and
a new boiler room in 1959.
Additional Napa Valley ranch properties were acquired from
the Rose White family in 1962, the William Wheeler family in
1964 and from Phil Rosenthal in 1965.
The first winery building on our South St. Helena property
was completed under the supervision of Bechtel and Company in
New cold room, new wine finishing or filtration area and
additional stainless steel wine storage tanks were housed in
a new building in 1969.
Three hundred fifty-three acres of new Napa Valley land
for vineyards was bought from the Louis Wurz family in 1970.
The Hoyt ranch of Frances C. Hoyt , adjoining one of the Wurz
parcels, added another 141 acres to our total, and an adjacent
parcel of about 10 acres was bought from Richard W. Scott in
Timothy: Nineteen seventy-two was a busy year at our South St.
Helena property, as we constructed a new 100,000 square foot
bottle aging and shipping warehouse and followed that with a new
grape crushing and fermenting area of innovative design. John
Hoffman and I worked together on the planning and direction of
these two construction projects. Keith and Associates of Santa
Rosa designed and supervised both jobs.
In 1972, to assure ourselves of adequate redwood wine
storage space, we bought the old Sunny St. Helena Winery, a
cellar that we had been renting, from Carlo and Alfred Forni.
True to name, this winery is within the city of St. Helena.*
THE ACQUISITION OF THE MOUNT TIVY WINERY
Teiser: When did you acquire the Mount Tivy facility?
Timothy: It was in 1945 that we acquired that property. Now in 1945,
of course, being towards the end of World War II, with wine
sales being very easy to make during World War II, with the wine
business being good all through those wartime years, we were
almost in danger of selling ourselves out of inventory with our
old facilities. So in 1945, to get both inventory and additional
facilities, we acquired the Mount Tivy Winery near Reedley, south
of Fresno, from Seagrams.**
Brother John worked out an arrangement whereby we paid
for Mount Tivy Winery by paying something like 15^ per case. As
we shipped wine, we would just set aside say 15^ per case, I
think that was the figure. We would set aside a little bit of
money to pay the bill, and it was just a matter of how business
went as to whether or not we'd be paid off rather rapidly or more
slowly. We had an arrangement that was, let's say, relatively
painless for the purchase of that property.
*The information on expansion from 1953 through 1972 was added
by Brother Timothy in a memorandum in 1973. See also pp. 79-83.
**For the earlier history of the Mount Tivy Winery, see Lucius
Powers, The Fresno Area and the California Wine Industry, a
Regional Oral History Office interview completed in 1974.
Teiser: Was Fromm & Sichel involved in that purchase?
Teiser: I see.
Timothy: This was also the point of time at which the old Picker-Linz
importing company went out of business and was reorganized as
Fromm & Sichel. So the name Fromm & Sichel, although I've used
it incorrectly several times in the tape, really dates only
from that time.
I want to say this, that 1945 also marks the date when we
got the last of the bond issue paid off that was involved in
the construction of Mont La Salle novitiate. The buildings
that you see on the property about a hundred yards south of the
winery are Mont La Salle novitiate and chapel. What was built
as the junior novitiate now operates as St. Mary's residence
school. This was all built mainly in 1931 and was built by the
Brothers floating a bond issue. This bond issue I think was
initially in the amount of about $385,000. It took us many years
to get that paid off, and it was with Brother John's good manager
ment of the winery that we were able to pay that off. So it keys
in approximately with the date of purchase of the Mount Tivy
Now at Mount Tivy we had an advantageous purchase price on
the property. And we paid $1.40 per gallon, if I recall
correctly, for all the aged wine that was there in stock. One
dollar and forty cents a gallon is higher than the price of
dessert wines today. In today's market, with our devalued
dollar, they are selling for less than that figure. This will
give you some idea of the inflation or the pressure on the
supply of wine that had occurred through the wartime years,
forcing the market on dessert wine up to a figure of $1.40 per
gallon in bulk moved in bond between wineries. Of course, as
we bought the winery we didn't have to move it. The wine was
there in the tanks, and $1.40 per gallon was the price.
Teiser: There was a distillery in that place?
Timothy: Yes, there was a sizeable distillery as distilleries went in
those days. It had been perfected by the Seagrams organization,
and they had done a lot of experimental brandy distilling,
mainly with the thought that if the war lasted much longer, or
if the government enforced further restrictions on the use of
Timothy: grain in the making of whisky (and there were very serious
restrictions on the use of grain and any foodstuff in the
production of whisky), then a distillery like Seagrams would
have been able to distill some grapes and perhaps other fruit
products to make a kind of neutral brandy, and then to use that
in stretching out their whisky stock. They had this sort of
thing in mind. Some whisky marketers did do such blending.
There were even things like date brandy that were made by some
whisky operations as a rather neutral spirit and then to be
blended into their whisky. Any neutral spirit from any source
can be blended into a whisky without much noticeable change,
because the neutral spirit is quite light and neutral as the
word "neutral" indicates. It would be distilled at a rather
high proof, and a certain amount of neutral spirits are blended
into many of the whiskies on the market.
A thing like vodka that has a current large market and was
practically unknown in the days that I'm talking about--say,
about 1945--a thing like vodka is just a neutral spirit you
might say with practically no flavor from the source material,
whether it's grain or potatoes, or something else in the way of
a foodstuff that could be converted over and fermented out to
make a neutral spirit.
In 1945 and 1946 at Mount Tivy Winery we installed a new
cold room and filtration area adjacent to an existing wine
cellar. We installed a bottling line and a rectifying room
complete with a good number of 6,000 gallon stainless steel
blending tanks and some 3,000 gallon stainless steel bottling
tanks. Necessary pumps and filters were also installed here.
A new fermenting building just over one million gallons
capacity, new Vulcan 72" diameter continuous still of special
design, a new boiler room and a new vacuum pan were all installed
It was also in 1947 that Mr. Herman L. Archinal was hired
by Brother John to take over as general manager of our Mount
Tivy Winery. In all the years since then he has been doing an
outstanding job for us.
In the 1950 's and early 1960 's near Mount Tivy a number of
ranch properties were bought to be developed into vineyards.
Names of some of the previous owners were Iwasaki, Essegian,
Nerich, Alta Vista, Celaya, Shaughnessy, and Adams.
Timothy: Building and equipment improvements at Mount Tivy were
such as the following:
Fermenting capacity doubled in 1958.
Fermenting capacity further increased with stainless
steel tanks in 1965, 1967, 1969, 1970, 1971 and 1973.
Brandy blending capacity increased by installation of
some new stainless steel tanks in 1966 and 1973.
Rectifying area and empty bottle warehouse were expanded
New finished case goods shipping warehouse and new
analytical laboratories were built on site of
oldest building originally on the property in 1965.
Bottling lines were added to, speeded up and otherwise
up-dated periodically through the years in 1955 and
Peralta Winery in Fresno was leased on a long-term
basis in 1960.
Bisceglia Brothers winery across the street from Peralta
was bought in 1964 to get additional wine and brandy
capacity and to broaden our area for the purchase
Teiser: You mentioned that you were making lighter brandy. Has there
not been a shift in public taste towards lighter spirits,
Timothy: Yes, oh, yes. This is noticeable and widely recognized in the
alcoholic beverage industry. I believe it's true even in
products like beer; the beers are lighter and less bitter than
they used to be. Very little hops are used in the beer as
compared with what was used many years ago.
Now the whiskies are in that same kind of a trend towards
lightness. It seems that this trend has been going on for many
years. We may have been one of the very first in the distilled
spirits industry to recognize that sort of trend and to work
So that trend explains the popularity of vodka today where
at the end of World War II bourbon I guess was the number one
*The data on the expansion at Mount Tivy and in the Fresno area
since 1945 was added by Brother Timothy in a memorandum in 1973.
Timothy: distilled spirit. I don't know if bourbon still holds that
rank today. I don't follow the distilled spirit business
quite that closely. But I know that bourbon sales have not
been growing at the same rate as the sales of such things as
vodka, gin and scotch, which are all somewhat lighter than the
bourbon. Of course brandy fits in that bracket too. I know
that brandy is lighter than bourbon, and brandy sales have been
increasing at a faster rate than bourbon. This market trend
that you mentioned is a very real and well recognized thing.
Teiser: You're active in the newly created Brandy Advisory Board, are
Timothy: Well, yes, we as a company are, not I personally. I have been
sitting on so many committees of the Wine Institute and the
Wine Advisory Board and my time has been so occupied that when
this new Brandy Advisory Board was being set up, I suggested to
Brother Frederick in our office upstairs—he 's the assistant
to Brother Gregory, and Brother Gregory is of course our president*-
I suggested to Brother Frederick that it would be good if he would
sit in on this Brandy Advisory Board, and then I could stay away
from those meetings and concentrate on the other things that I'm
already involved in.
The winery here and the whole wine operation has continued to
grow has it not?
Yes, yes, very much so. In 1950 we acquired the big old stone
cellar at the north end of St. Helena that was owned by Cresta
Blanca. Cresta Blanca, of course, was a subsidiary of the
Schenley operation at that time. We acquired this old stone
cellar that was at that time called Cresta Blanca Plant #2;
previous to that it had been called Greystone Cellars, and we
commonly still refer to that cellar as Greystone. However, we
do not have the name Greystone on any signs in front of the
building. So any vistor who goes there would not find it by
*Brother Gregory resigned from the presidency September 28, 1971,
after having suffered a stroke. Brother Frederick was elected
president on September 30, 1971.
Greystone Cellars, November 25, 1890
Old distillery in foreground.
Timothy: looking for that name.
We called that property the Christian Brothers Wine and
Champagne Cellar. We bought it in 1950 and began to develop
it. We had construction work of one kind or another to do to
improve it. We fixed up a road around the back of it that had
been unused for many, many years, I guess all through the years
of Prohibition. During some prior ownership various things
had been built on this old road, so we had a few things to move
and tear down in the way of water cooling towers or water
economizers—whatever you want to call them—and a big bottle
pasteurizer. We had that to remove, or the foundations of that
to remove, before we could make a usable road.
This road had been originally designed and built around the
building, and grapes had originally been unloaded at the back
and crushed in the attic space up under the roof. The building
is a full three-story building with the attic space making the
fourth story. It's a pretty tall building. This roadway that
goes around the back, of course, has to climb a ramp that runs
around one end and then comes down on the other end. Kind of a
horseshoe ramp you could call it. We have it in use today.
That old stone building is about four hundred feet long and
a little less than a hundred feet wide. I mentioned that it
has three stories with an attic space as a fourth story built
in the tapering gables of the roof. The wine capacity is close
to two million gallons. All the casks to the north end of the
first two floors are oak, and then to the south end of the first
floor and second floor are redwood wine tanks, mostly around
five thousand gallons capacity each. The oak casks are mostly
about two thousand gallons capacity each.
We built our champagne department, starting in 1954, in the
third floor of that old building where previous owners had had a
bottling department. That's where our champagne department is
today. Champagne finished goods and champagne empty bottles
and so on are handled on that third floor. But further bottle
aging of champagne ready to be shipped is done at our South St.
Helena winery, that we will get into a little later.*
*See pp. 79-83.
Timothy: Now to get into the history of this old Greystone Cellars,
as it was called originally. It was built in 1888 and completed
in 1889 by a Mr. William Bourn. (He has relatives, I believe
nephews still alive in this area, one still living in St. Helena.)
Before he had it completed he was short of money. I believe it
opened as a cooperative, with the growers delivering grapes to
it without getting paid for them and being promised that when
sales were made they would then be paid. I believe the first
operation of the winery and the first crushing, according to old
photographs showing grapes coming in, was done in 1889.
Interestingly, we found two different dates marked on the
building. Above the massive arched front doorway carved in
stone there's the date 1889. Then there was a little brass plate;
perhaps that was inscribed when the building was first being
started. A brass plate, listing the architect and the stone
mason and the general contractor and people like that involved in
construction of the building, was mounted on the building and
it said 1888. So we had the choice between 1888 and 1889 as to
which is the date of construction of the building. We've checked
out newspaper clippings to find some of these facts. As I under
stand it from these old newspaper clippings, the building was
started in 1888 and then completed in 1889 in time for crushing
to be done in the fall of 1889. We have been told that as many
as four hundred Chinese coolies were at work on the building at
one time. Some old photographs show the building under construc
tion and are in our possession.
Carl Wehr is in charge of the visitors' program or the tour
guide program at St. Helena. Carl has worked for us since about
1955 or 1956. Carl has studied the history of that old building
because he's right there on the premises and he gets all the
questions about what is what and who is who, and when was this
Mr. William Bourn had bought the property from Charles Krug.
He held the property I believe only until 1894. So that would
be a period of somewhere near six years. Then the property of
about twenty-four acres was divided into two parts. A home site
was on the property, and that is now owned by a Mr. [C.A.] Carpy,
the grandson of a Mr. Carpy who was a banker in San Francisco and
who became the second owner of this old Greystone winery.
Timothy: Mr. Carpy* took over the winery in 1894 and then either
right away that same year or within a relatively short time
transferred the winery to California Wine Association, commonly
called CWA. The same CWA that exists today during the Prohibition
years called itself Fruit Industries. This California Wine
Association got started I believe in 1894. They retained owner
ship from that time right on into the Prohibition period.
Teiser: Let me interrupt you a second. Could Miss Harroun take a
picture of you? We generally like to take a picture of people
while we're interviewing.
Mr. Carpy transferred ownership to California Wine
Association. They held the building and made wine there.
Apparently they kept the building in beautiful shape. One of
the things that they did that shows up in old photographs is
that on a sloping embankment running along out in front of the
building, between where we now have a parking lot and where a
driveway space close to the building exists, they took a lot of
whitewashed rocks and over a spread of maybe two hundred feet
long or longer, and probably about twenty to twenty-five feet up
and down, they lettered with whitewashed rocks the name "California
Wine Association." These rocks were very visible from the roadway
out in front, and I believe they planted ivy there between the
rocks and trimmed it away from the rocks, et cetera. A part of
this big long sign board laid out in white rocks shows in an old
photograph that we have.
Bisceglia Brothers bought the property and held it through
the first years immediately after Repeal. However, I believe
they liquidated. They just couldn't make the place go. Perhaps
too many items of cooperage, too many casks and tanks to take
care of. It was not the kind of place where you could handle
wine cheaply. It's the kind of place set up for quality wine
and for wine that sells at something a bit higher in price than,
let's say, the lowest in the market. So it may be that for
some reason like that they just couldn't make it go, or it may be
that their marketing situation was rather inadequate for the size
and scale of that building, to be able to afford that big old
*Charles Carpy who became the first president of the California
Timothy: building and keep it running at a profit.
I believe that they declared bankruptcy*and went broke
there with that building just a few years after Repeal. Some
people will argue that Prohibition caused the Depression. At
any rate the two were concurrent there, and the first days of
Repeal were concurrent with, say, the last days of the Depression.
Now the Depression as I have said earlier lingered on even as
much as right on up to World War II.
The property then fell into the hands of the Bank of
America which was at that time trying to help out the wine
industry because they had many growers and many wineries that
were in financial trouble. In those years the bank was
indirectly in the wine business. The bank sponsored what was
then called Central California Wineries, Incorporated. This was
headquartered in Fresno. Central California Wineries owned and
operated a winery at Kingsburg. I think they had four or five
different wineries that were under their control. So with the
bankruptcy*of Bisceglia Brothers at Greystone, the bank acquired
that property. Central California Wineries, Incorporated bought
it in 1940 and set up a bottling plant in the third floor where
we now have our champagne operation.** They bottled wines under
the name Golan and Lango. I think the one is the backward
spelling of the other. [Laughter] Apparently their expert
winemaker was a Mr. Golan.***
To illustrate the technology of the wine business at that
time--this was during World War II--their expert winemakers set
up a great big bottle pasteurizing unit out in the back. I
mentioned a little while earlier that we either removed that or
we removed just the foundations of it when we went to fix our
road around the back of the building.
They had a bottle pasteurizer designed to handle the bottles
immediately after being filled with wine. And the idea was that
they would heat these bottles and then cool them again and then
take them back into the winery for labeling. So the wine was
pasteurized in the bottle.
•"Bankruptcy may be too strong a word. Liquidate or liquidation
may be substituted." Brother Timothy.
**For additional details of the history of Greystone winery, see
Appendix II and Appendix III.
Teiser: Like beer.
Timothy: Yes. Other things had been handled this way. I guess perhaps
some milk is bottle-pasteurized or used to be. At any rate,
this kind of operation wasn't really the best way to handle wine.
All of us in the California wine business know better today, but
at that time people did not know better. It cost a lot of money
for that big expensive bottle pasteurizer. A great big machine
for handling bottles and heating them up and then cooling them
off again. The wine gave quite a little trouble in the bottle,
I think, in the way of the clouding of the wine. So their
marketing was not successful. In a couple of years they had to
There may be another influence here. I don't know just
what the timing was of this, but I think the federal government
stepped in.* This Central California Wineries, Incorporated,
that whole thing, came to an end at that time. It sold Grey stone
to Schenley or Cresta Blanca, whichever name you want to use;
Schenley controlled Cresta Blanca in 1942. That's how Cresta
Blanca got it. Then later, in 1950, we bought from Cresta
This article, "The Christian Brothers Wine and Champagne
Cellars," is by Carl Wehr.** Carl Wehr is in charge of our
public relations program in St. Helena, at the old Greystone
Cellar. He's in charge of the men that show the visitors through
the winery. He has been with us about eighteen years. He's a
retired Navy officer. He's a very competent man, and he loves
*In 1942 the federal government threatened to indict the Bank of
America and two affiliated financial organizations, Central
California Wineries, Incorporated, the Wine Institute and many
California wineries, and also individual officers of all of those
organizations, charging combination ana conspiracy to control
prices. See Burke H. Critchfield, The California Wine Industry
During the Depression, a Regional Oral History Office interview
completed in 1972.
Timothy: the Napa Valley. His wife at one time worked for the St.
Helena Star; she researched a lot of the old St. Helena Star
records at our request to see what she could find about that
old Greystone winery. The St. Helena Star is an unusual small
town newspaper in that it has been in the same family, I believe,
ever since it was founded. It's over a hundred years old now.
It has operated only as a weekly, and I believe that their files
are absolutely complete from the first day they started to print.
So some of the things I've got come from there, and are annotated
(Interview #3 - August 18, 1971)
THEODORE GIER'S ALBUM
Teiser: We've been looking at another album. Would you describe it?
Timothy: This is an album that I received from--! can't remember exactly
whether it was the Gier family or whether it was very close
friends of the Giers who gave this to me. This is an album
containing pictures of many of the things that Theodore Gier
owned or was connected with in his time in the wine industry.
He was operating on this property from 1900 to 1930. During
that time he owned vineyards both at Livermore and St. Helena
as well as this property.
One of the first pictures in this album is of the old
Greystone cellars looking from the north, showing in the fore
ground the old distillery building and showing what were called
ricks of wood, firewood, ready to go into the old wood burning
boiler. It's marked on the back 1890, November 25, St. Helena.
A picture of men posed on a catwalk or scaffolding that
went out to a pomace pile. The fermentations at that time were
conducted on the third floor of that old stone building. Then
a long sort of scaffolding went out to what you would call the
Teiser: Did Gier actually have an interest in that same Greystone winery
then through the California Wine Association?
Timothy: Yes, yes. I doubt if he was a founding member, but he was one
of the members of the California Wine Association, pre-Prohibition.
Perhaps his membership went right on into Prohibition and
probably right on up to 1930 at the time we bought this property
Timothy: This album, then, shows various scenes in the gardens and
in the vineyards of our Mont La Salle property. This roadway
scene is along a little creek between our winery and where our
novitiate is located. The little lake that was on the property,
with rustic bridges from island to island. An immense redwood
tree that looks about the same today as it shows in this
picture, with a gnarled old abnormal growth projecting out from
it as a heavy branch. Then other sort of saplings or trees
growing from that branch. That exists in our picnic grove area
now. These are old homes that were on this property at that
time, all of which except one still exist. This is the one that
Vineyard scenes. It had to be somewhere prior to Prohibi
tion that these vines were planted, and this photograph shows
that they used a phylloxera resistant rootstock.
Teiser: You think these photographs were taken about 1903, or 1906?
Timothy: Yes. Right around that time. The present winery building is
here, and I'm sure that was very new at that time. And this
vineyard if I had to define the date a little better, I'd say
is 1903, because in a later photo some other little structure
shows at the back of the winery that doesn't show in this
Here's a vine that looks like it would be twenty-five or
thirty years old; I don't think I can identify the variety from
this photo, but it's a very heavy cropping grape.
A vineyard scene during the harvest showing some ladies
working on the harvesting crew along with men. Then showing the
wagon stacked up with a double row of boxes of grapes. Another
vineyard harvest scene; no ladies in this picture.
A carriage of the type that I guess Mr. Gier would use to
drive to Napa, shown in the front gate.
The property at that time was called by Mr. Gier Sequoia
Vineyard. That name shows on the old stone pillars that made
up the ornamental structure at each side of the gate. It looks
like this picture would date from 1903. Also the stone pillars
look brand new, and even some loose rocks lying around would
perhaps indicate that the stone mason had just completed his
work and had the left-over rocks just lying there.
Mont la Salle stone wine cellar, with little cellar at left, about 1903.
Mont La Salle stone wine cellar, interior, second floor; Theodore flier second
Timothy: This would almost have to be 1903. It shows the stone
wine cellar and what we called the "little" cellar side-by-side,
with about a thirty-foot space between them. It shows every
thing very fresh and new looking and even the roadway out in
front looks entirely new with, let's say, almost no compaction
due to heavy traffic.*
This is a Livermore scene. Undoubtedly on the vineyard
property that Mr. Gier had there. It shows a frame winery
building, quite large, two stories, with some vines showing
in the foreground. This is an interior winery scene showing
a pretty good-size hand operated wine press, four workmen.**
Another press structure over this way to the right, so apparently
two different presses were used in this winery operation.
This is on the second floor of this stone building on this
property. Here is another view of that same floor showing one
of the presses and the other one off to the side, and with
Theodore Gier standing in the photo wearing his moustache and
very formally dressed in his dark suit, with a necktie and a
Teiser: Were those fermenting tanks?
Timothy: Yes. The open top tanks of this style constructed of redwood
staves were fermenting tanks. Now when I started in the winery
in 1935, we had tanks just like these. They may have been exactly
these identical tanks. We had tanks like these, but in the next
adjoining room, not in this area of that second floor but in kind
of an annex to the second floor that is cut back into the hill.
That structure still exists but we abandoned the use of these
open top redwood fermenting tanks in 1940 when we had completed
the open top concrete tanks that I mentioned earlier.
I believe this scene showing grapes being unloaded from a
wagon would come from Livermore. I don't think it's on this
property. This scene showing a man with a half barrel or -some
thing like that — it may be a twenty gallon barrel—In his hand
standing in an arched cave entrance or in one of these wine
tunnels cut back into the hill through what looks like solid
rock. I believe this scene might come from Livermore; it might
even come from the Cresta Blanca winery there where they have
three tunnels more or less like this running back into the hills.
Theodore Gier belonged to the California Wine Association
and I'm not certain if Cresta Blanca at that time was a California
* See photograph on preceding page.
** See photograph on page preceding page 62.
*** See photograph on preceding page.
Timothy: Wine Association property or not. It's still there. It's still
called Cresta Blanca. I understand the cellar is empty now of
wine, and the Guild Wine Company recently bought out the Cresta
Blanca label and they bought all the wine that was in the wine
tanks. They did not buy the winery or the vineyards. The
property is still owned by the Schenley interests.
Now, this scene I believe was also in the Gier Livermore
winery in that two-story frame building that we were talking
about a while ago. It shows hand presses of about the same
style as the one hand press that we saw in our Mont La Salle
This shows three hand presses here- It shows a man with
another press of a different style. It looks like it's con
structed with something like a big railroad jack as the pressing
mechanism. You see the man with that lever?
Timothy: It looks like he would move that straight up and down. So it
looks like four presses in that picture.
Teiser: This was not the old Cresta Blanca winery?
Timothy: This was a separate winery that would have been owned by Gier.
At least I believe this. I'm not absolutely certain of this.
I know where the old vineyard existed. Very close to Pleasanton.
So although Mr. Gier used the name Livermore on labels as the
address, I think this vineyard was near Plaasanton, rather than
close to Livermore. It was on the road between the two places.
The road is called Vineyard Avenue. I don't know if the road got
its name from Theodore Gier's vineyard or from the Ruby Hill
vineyard that lays along that same avenue. The Ruby Hill vineyard
of course is somewhat closer to Livermore than the property that
I'm talking about. I believe that Fleasanton has grown enough
that it's either within the city limits or right on the edge of
Teiser: I see.
Timothy: Another winery scene that looks like it comes from that frame
winery building at Livermore,* showing two wine presses. Well,
*See p. 59.
Timothy: showing one wine press really, but two press baskets and showing
a little hand wine pump off to the side. Hand operated with a
wooden handle up here. Some of the people in the industry used
to call those "Armstrong" pumps. You had strong arms when you
had to pump on one of those hand pumps for a while. [Laughter]
This is a scene that looks to me like it comes from wine
tunnels at the Cresta Blanca plant at Livermore, or perhaps some
other wine tunnels elsewhere. A man stands in the picture.
There is one row of barrels to each side. These are puncheons
probably about 150 to 200 gallons apiece. One row to each side
of the central alleyway of this wine tunnel and then that row
is double stacked, two high.
Here is a fancy carved wine cask. Probably about 600 to
700 gallons capacity. It has some lettering on it but I can't
read it. By golly, it has what looks like a date. It looks
like a photographer inscribed the date in the photo. It has a
S 10-19. I think this means September 10, 1919, is probably
the date. Now that would be almost the date that Prohibition
The cask at the top of this ornamental cask has the name
David Woerner very plainly marked. David Woerner was a cooper
in San Francisco.* I understand that one of his relatives is
still living in San Francisco. We had a little correspondence
with the lady, I guess a granddaughter.
This is a wine tunnel again. Probebly also at Cresta Blanca
at Livermore - -that 's the way it appears to me—showing the bottle
aging of wine in bins on the left of the photo and a little
railroad track arrangement that looks like it was portable. A
little cart on it with a couple of men that look like they're
associated with the cart and one sitting on it. Then a couple
of other men on each side that probably were also working on the
project of stacking bottles into place. One of these men has a
little wooden box full of bottles apparently ready to stack in
one of these tiers of bottles for bottle aging of wine. These
stacks look like they're about four feet deep from bottom to top,
and then this would be a solid shelf or platform running through
the middle, and then the stock goes up another tier. So it looks
like about two four-foot tiers of bottles running up the whole
*Cask markings: David Woerner, N.W. Cor., Main & Harrison Sts.,
MONT LA SALLE
Rear view of main stone cellar, with addition in foreground. Photograph made
some time prior to 1919.
Main stone cellar, interior, second floor, some time prior to
Timothy: thing. It's kind of a structure like a cabinet with no doors or
facing on it. Then to the right of this picture there are some
casks. It looks like they range from about ten gallons or
fifteen gallons on up to about 150 gallons in size. They're in
a couple of racks, or a two-tiered rack.
Here's a picture showing the back of the wine cellar here
at Mont La Salle in Theordore Gier's time, taken about 1906 I
believe, and showing a rather fancy additional structure. It
even has a little chimney projecting up through the roof. This
additional structure was put on the back or the uphill side of
the old stone wine cellar, probably about or between 1903 and
I think this picture would quite likely date from 1906.
It shows a lot of people rather fancily dressed standing around
in the vineyard, looking like they are posing for the picture.
Nobody looks like they're working, [laughter] so it's not a
harvest scene, but it's intended to look something like a
harvest scene. Everybody is in their Sunday clothes. Probably
a picnic party or something like that, and the photographer
wanted to get a good shot.*
Here's a little book that comes from Theodore Gier's time.
I don't know if we can find the date in it. It's a little
promotional piece printed by the Stanley Taylor Company of San
Francisco. It's kind of a chamber of commerce piece. This
would undoubtedly have to be prior to Prohibition. The central
fold paper, a very long photo running across two pages, shows
the vineyard of Mont La Salle here in Gier's time with the
winery appearing over in this corner. It looks like it was
retouched to some degree. We have the same shot dated 1906,
framed under glass and hanging in our laboratory upstairs. It
has a couple of inserts in the corners, of some of the other
photos that are in this album.
In this little book promoting just everything about the
beauty and the healthfulness and the commerce of the Napa Valley
it shows a picture of Greystone, the largest stone wine cellar
in the world. At least it was claimed to be in those days.
I might mention while I'm talking about this subject that
we have somewhere in our archives a copy of a geography book that
was used in the public schools of California in 1919. It shows
a picture of the old Greystone winery and it says largest stone
wine cellar in the world, and so apparently it was accepted.
* See photograph on preceding page.
Timothy: Perhaps they meant the largest stone wine cellar in the world
all under one roof. I say that because I've heard of wineries
in Europe large enough that railroad trains would run right
into the winery for loading purposes, and run out the other
Then here's an envelope full of old Gier photos. I don't
know if we should go through all of them. Now this one showing
an elk- -the next neighboring ranch to this Mont La Salle property
was called Elk Park ranch; most of it is now owned by us. We
bought it, expanded our property.
Teiser: Which direction from this property?
Timothy: This is to the north of our original Mont La Salle property.
The people who owned this property (the name was Marx) called
it Elk Park because they had built a very high fence and put
elks inside that fence.
Now Mr. Justus Benkiser, our vineyard foreman, was born in
Napa. His mother was a girl who had been brought over from
Germany to be the maid or a servant in this Marx family home on
the Elk Park property. Then Mr. August Benkiser, Justus
Benkiser 's father, met her and later married her. Justus
Benkiser had taken over the job of vineyard foreman here from
his father. His father and he have been the only vineyard
foremen on this property since about 1914. So the Benkisers
have a very ancient and honorable history in this area.
This is one of the garden plantings showing the formal
garden near where they had the principal home on the property.
The garden still exists but it's in the area that we don't use
very much nowadays. The garden hasn't been taken care of in
recent years, the way it was carefully manicured in those old
days when the Giers lived on the property. I understand from
Mr. August Benkiser, who has passed away, that Theodore Gier at
one time employed six gardeners on the property just to take
care of the ornamental gardens. This is in addition to the
field crew who worked in the vineyards.
Here's a picture in what we called "the picnic grove" and
it's not identified on the back, but the redwood trees are
existing today, and this large redwood tree with rather abnormal
branch growing off to the side is identifiable.
Now this photograph would have been considerably later.
Ivy has grown up on the walls of this old stone winery building
(COL. THEO. GIER'S VINEYARD!
UNDER THI MANAOIMINT OF
OR. CHAS. M. TROPPMANN FRANK J. GORDON CARL TROPPMANN
A SPOT PICTURESQUE, IDEALLY LOCATED
IN THE NAPA VALLEY
PHONE NAPA i4Fii
PO*T orPICI BOX 1«0
154 SPECIES OF TREES ON THE GROUNDS
THIS well-known Rnort. property oi Col. Theo. Gier, of O.U.nd, u uiu.icd in one of the mo« raouK
mounwin wnsci of N»p« County, tit'ni miles norAwwl of ihe city of N«p*. wilh in tlntuoV of 800 («».
Beautiful iiirtounclinei. Two ipringt on ihe groundi. The wilet of one hu been pronounced by Prof. E.
W. Hiljud. Univcriily of C«Iifotni«. one of the puie«t »nd 6n« drinking w»len in this lUle. Th« olSei, ibt
•Francis Sulphur Sprinj.. 1 «ft« in .n.lyiii by Prof. Ceo. E. Colby. College of Agriculture. UnivemW of
California. wa» found to contain Sodium Sulphate 12.3. Sodium Chloride 28.S, Magneiium and Calcium
Carbonate* 1 0.0. etc., etc.. per milli, an Exceptionally Efficaciaui Afxritnl. Daily mail lervice.
Orchard and vineyard. Large poultry yard. Shady walki. La ke> and boating. Dance pavilion, iwinji.
croquet and lawn tennu ground*, lhu01«board, batht, etc.
Rate* from $10.00 per week up. Children under 8 years $5.00 per Week
Round. Trip to Napa, Southern Pacific via Valleio J?.00
Round Trip to Napa by Monlicello Sleanuhip Co., good for 30 dayi . . SI. 50
Staae will meet gueiK upon rcqueit (phone or write.) $1.00 Round Trip to Retort. I 1-2 houn anv*
from Napa: by automobile 30 minute*. Fine roada.
BEST TABLE IN STATE. EXCELLENT SERVICE
Dean Room>. Own Dairy. Penonal Attention to All Cuetu. TenU, Collagea, Roomt
SPECIAL RATES FOR FAMILIES AND WEEK-END PARTIES
Notify bv Phon- Auloniohil. Accamn.aJ.tion. OPEN ALL YEAR ROUND
Timothy: until the ivy is now touching the eaves in this photo. I think
this photo would date about 1919 or 1920 or some time in the
twenties. Grass grows up out in front of the winery. This
would look like a Prohibition scene when there was little
activity around the winery and the ivy was growing rather
untended up the wall.
The entrance gate showing the old wrought iron gates as
well as the stone gate posts.
Teiser: "Sequoia Vineyard" on the sign.
Timothy: Yes. "Theo. Gier" was the way he normally wrote his name. He
didn't bother to spell out Theodore. And the Roman numerals
MCMIII meaning 1903.
A vineyard scene marked on the back "taken from prune orchard."
So there was some prune orchard on the property. This prune
orchard existed right on up to about the time of World War II,
perhaps even a little bit later. The prune orchard was high up
on the hill, so this view shows the vineyards looking down from
high on the hill.
Looking again at the album, another shot showing the
fountain in the lake. This is marked on the back, "Lotus lily
pond opposite lake at foot of picnic ground." Well, there
were actually two ponds. This was a rather circular smaller
pond and they called it lotus lily pond. And then the other
they called the lake. The two ran together, but there was a
pathway running between the two. This one was a circular little
lake with a fountain sprinkling water out in the middle of it,
whereas the larger one didn't have a fountain in it.
The stone gate posts again with the wrought iron gates
hanging in place. Things look quite a little different today;
we moved one of these posts and relocates it to make the road
wider, about 1940 or perhaps a little bit earlier. The one
shown here to the right, that would be to the south side of the
road, was not moved. It stayed in the original position.
In the same album we next come to a large photo mounted on
cardboard. It is marked on the back "Merchants Exchange of
Oakland, guests of Mr. Gier."* And Mr. Gier shows in a light
*Theodore Gier was an organizer of the Merchants Exchange and
served as its president several years.
Timothy: colored suit. An X is marked under his foot on the photo.
He has a kind of soft western style hat under his arm. Some
of these men are wearing badges and I think that Mr. [Sophus]
Federspiel probably is here in the photo. Now, Federspiel was
one of the great old gentlemen of the early days of the wine
business of California. I don't think I ever had the pleasure
of knowing him but I knew two of his sons.
Here's another photo also mounted on some kind of cardboard.
This shows men a little more formally dressed. Now Theodore
Gier shows in this photo as a very handsome gentleman, with his
moustache and his hair parted about in the middle. He is holding
in his hand a soft light colored grey western style hat. Some of
the men are wearing derbys. One is wearing a kind of homburg hat.
Another photo mounted on cardboard, and it's inscribed on
the back "Path down to lake from house." It shows some girls
and a couple of men. Kind of a picnic scene. I guess that was
what they would call informal posing in the old days when that
photo was taken. [Laughter] It's rather arty.
A page out of the Oakland Inquirer, Monday evening, June
27, 1904, showing Alameda County's exhibit. Under a photo that
is in the story it is inscribed "Alameda County World Fair exhibit,
Commissioners Gier and Wilby, Creator Webb and Pierce, and a
young lady demonstrator in the foreground." [Laughter] They
didn't bother to identify the young lady. [Laughter]
Here mounted on cardboard is a photo of some sort of an
exhibit with the word "Giersberg" on an attractive sign over a
photo taken in the vineyards here at Mont La Salle, Theodore
Gier's vineyards at that time. And showing a couple of the
wood boxes in which he shipped his wines in those days. They
are very attractively inscribed—probably branded on the ends
of the boxes—with his name "Theo. Gier, Oakland, California."
"Burgundy" is the word on one of these boxes. And in the
center of each of these boxes a set of ornamental initials shows
Teiser: Why Oakland?
Timothy: Well, Mr. Gier first got started in the wine business, I guess
after establishing himself in the grocery trade in Oakland.
In one of his old clippings I understand that he ran for mayor
of Oakland at one time too. I guess he was defeated.
Timothy: He had a grocery store and a wine shop associated with it.
Then later had two outlets in Oakland. I kind of think that
perhaps he had a third one in San Francisco too. We have an
old wagon on the property, a kind of delivery wagon, that used
to have his name on the side of it until someone repainted it.
It was used for delivering wine and groceries and that kind of
thing around Oakland. It has only three wheels now instead of
four. That's the end of that album.
CHRISTIAN BROTHERS CHAMPAGNE
Teiser: I think you mentioned the changes you made at the Greystone
cellars to install your champagne equipment. How did you
happen to decide to go into champagne making?
Timothy: Well, as you grow in size, you get more and more requests for a
complete line. "If you don't have a champagne to sell me I'm
going to buy somebody else's." A retail store or a restaurant
has to have something to sell. So there's always some pressure
from the trade or from your own distribution firm to give them
a more complete line. There was some pressure like this on us
for a number of years. Well, when we had our hands full and
our buildings rather fully occupied, we would defer that kind
of decision. Once we had acquired the Greystone cellars in 1950,
we had some available floor space, and additional wine cooperage
for the aging of wine. When you have that facility, then you're
able to do something more. So we finally decided to get into
the champagne business to satisfy that sort of market demand.
We made our initial steps in the preparation of our
facilities for the champagne in 1950.
Teiser: How did you make the decision about which process to use?
Timothy: We made that decision in conjunction with our Mr. Auguste Pirio,
our champagne maker, the man on the job right now. Well, I guess
you would have to say that we had made a decision even a little
bit earlier. We had in 1954, perhaps early in the year, hired
a Mr. Joseph Allegretti as our champagne maker. We had made the
decision with him to use the Charmat process as the process that
was more efficient, that allowed us better temperature control
than was normally the case with bottle-fermented champagne, that
would allow us to avoid variable fermentations that might occur
in bottle-fermented champagne. One bottle might ferment at a
Timothy: faster rate than another. It might have a little different
taste than another. It might have a different sugar level
than another when the fermentation was finished.
So this was a matter of doing things more efficiently,
in the more modern and more scientific way, in a manner that
would allow greater uniformity and reliability of products; a
greater clarity of the products too in that Charmat process
champagne can readily be filtered, where champagne fermented
in the bottle was not filtered. We had a number of understood
benefits to be gained by going to Charmat process. I mention
the word efficiency. Well, this efficiency would also enable
us to have a lower price on Charmat process champagne than if
we had gone with bottle-fermented champagne. So we felt that
the product would be better as well as less expensive, and we
could therefore offer maximum value to our customers. This is
before we had learned anything about a transfer star being
available anywhere in the industry.
The transfer star operation with bottle-fermented champagne
in more recent years has enabled the people who are bottle-
fermenting champagne to gain some of the benefits of both the
bottle fermented process and the Charmat process. They have a
hybrid process, you might say, if they're using a transfer star.
This allows them to get the higher price associated with bottle-
fermented champagne and still to enjoy some of the scientific
and technical benefits of the Charmat process. But we made our
decision to go with the Charmat process before there was any
transfer star in use in the wine industry in California.
This Mr. Joseph Allegretti, who had started work for us
and who was in favor of the Charmat process, had come to us
from Italian Swiss Colony at Asti. He had a little knowledge
of the Charmat process there and he brought along with him
another man, Gus Tedeschi, who had been a co-worker with him at
Italian Swiss Colony at Asti, who had more intimate knowledge
of the Charmat process. So really the two of these men came to
us at the same time.
Now then, however, Mr. Allegretti had a heart condition
that we didn't know about. Either he didn't want to talk about
it or he didn't want to admit to himself that he had it or
whatever, and I believe before he had worked for us for even
one full year he passed away very suddenly at his home of a
Timothy: We didn't have our champagne operations set up yet. The
very day that he died he and I had been in San Francisco and in
the East Bay to order up according to our specifications some
Charmat process tanks and also a stainless steel champagne
filter that we had drawn up to our own specifications. He and
I worked together on the engineering or the design of these
two units. That was the last thing we did on the day that he
died; he and I together had gone to the people in Richmond who
manufactured our first eight one thousand gallon Charmat process
champagne tanks. Then we had gone from there to San Francisco
to order a Hercules stainless steel filter that could handle our
champagne and was equipped with a by-pass plate in the center of
it or at whatever point we wanted to place it, where we could
get two filtration jobs done in one pass through the filter.
Now this was the first time we had heard of anybody in
the wine industry in California utilizing a by-pass plate like
this, so we thought this was advanced technique, and it did
enable us to produce a brilliantly clear champagne and to do it
in the one pass through the filters, so that the amount of
agitation of the champagne would be at a minimum. We're still
using that very same principle today, although we have recently
bought a new filter and we are not using that old filter any
longer. However, we did use it right up until the past year.
It was 1955 when we got started, so that would be approximately
sixteen years that we used that Hercules filter, and we have just
retired it from service during this past year.
Teiser: Did others in the industry adopt that technique?
Timothy: Well, they were very impressed when they looked through our
champagne operations. In the first ten years of the operation
of our Charmat process, with our filter, the way we had set it
up with the bottle filling machine that we had imported from
Germany for the work, all the people in the champagne industry
in California who came to view our operations were very impressed
with what we were doing. Many of them went home and copied some
of our ideas. One or more of our ideas that happened to fit
into their programs.
Another thing that may have been a first in the industry
at that time: most Charmat process champagne operations up to
that time had been using a kind of a brine solution as a chilling
material to go through the double jacket of the tank. Whenever
any valve would drip and leak a little bit, this brine would
cause the corrosion of the valves and iron pipes. A lot of rusting
Timothy: would take place. When we were getting the tanks and our
refrigeration equipment installed, we began to think of
whether there was some other way of improving the situation.
This brine not only caused the pipes to corrode and give some
trouble there, but it seemed to be very hard on the insulation
too. Good insulation is needed on anything that is chilled like
this. At that time block cork was the insulation used and it
was cemented in place. But brine would tend to make this insula
tion material come loose.
The thought came to me that propylene glycol (a sort of
permanent anti- freeze that you might put in the radiator of your
car in the winter time) in a water solution would be an advanta
geous thing. I believe we were the first in the Charmat process
industry in California and perhaps in the world to begin to
utilize propylene glycol solution as a refrigerant fluid. It
is in common use in the California wine industry now. It is a
better material than brine by far. The first cost is higher,
but then it's rather permanent. You don't have to let it leak
away or disappear, and it won't evaporate. Once you've invested
in the solution, why, you have it for a long time.
CHRISTIAN BROTHERS WINES AND VINEYARDS
Teiser: You have produced some wines here not duplicated by other
Timothy: Yes. Not very many. Our Chateau La Sal.le is a wine that we
developed and brought to its present state of quality. Very
few if any others in the industry have been able to produce a
wine like this. It has a lot of flavor. It has good keeping
qualities. It's only 12 per cent alcohol but it has a lot of
residual grape sugar. When we began to experiment with this
wine about sixteen or seventeen years ago or a little more,
Brother John told us that we were fooling around with a Tojo
bomb. (This was not very long after the Japanese defeat out
in the Pacific and Tojo was one of the great old Japanese
generals. That's why Brother John used that expression.) He
had the thought that we would not be able to make that wine
stable and that we would not be able to keep it from exploding
bottles. However, with sterile filtration which had come into
the picture some time around 1950 or maybe earlier, we were able
to filter the yeast cells out of the wine, practically all of
Timothy: them, so that to this day we've never had that much fermentation
ever get organized in a bottle of Chateau La Salle that it would
cause the bottle to explode.
Now we have always used a metal cap on the Chateau La
Salle. We've never used the long dry wine cork in that wine,
thinking that the cap with the proper liner inside it was a
more nearly hermetic seal than the natural cork. But we do use
the natural cork in all of our table wines other than the Chateau
La Salle, which we might say is kind of a specialty item. You
could call it a light dessert wine or you could call it a sweet
table wine. It is on the order of a very sweet haut sauterne,
or a very sweet Chateau type sauterne.
We have a Pinot St. George produced of Pinot St. George
grapes grown on this property.
Teiser: Are you the only bottlers of that?
Timothy: I believe we were at least until a little while ago. There may
be somebody else on the market now, but I can't think who it is.
There are not many people that are growing this grape, and of
course grown on these volcanic hillsides of our place right here,
it produces a very high quality. Perhaps higher than the
University of California would rate it if we can judge from the
books like Dr. [A.J.] Winkler's General Viticulture.
This book, and also the old Hilgardia about grape quality,
do not rate the Pinot St. George as a very high quality grape.
They rate it lower let's say than Pinot Noir in quality. However,
we feel that it produces a very high quality wine when grown on
these hills right here.
I might say in passing that these grapes were planted by
Theodore Gier and were here when we moved on to this property.
The name that we were told Theodore Gier used for this grape
was "Petit Pinot." The name Pinot St. George was not used at
that time. We had Dr. [Harold P.] Olmo and others look at the
grape and help us to determine that it was Pinot St. George.
Since that time we have planted more of it. So we have more
extensive plantings on the property than Theodore Gier had. But
even to this date we're growing all of our Pinot St. George just
on this property and nowhere else.
Teiser: Is your Pineau de la Loire unique?
Timothy: Yes. This wine we put on the market only a little over a year
ago. Now it happened that we had a wine on the market already
called Chenin blanc. We used the Chenin blanc grape in this
wine that we called Pineau de la Loire, but we wanted to make
this wine different than our Chenin blanc. We knew we could and
we knew it would be a very interesting wine. By a very long
cold fermentation and by sterile filtration we were able to
produce this wine with a pretty fair level of residual grape
sugar, with a lot of fruitiness in flavor, from the Chenin
Since we had Chenin blanc as a wine already on the market
and we didn't want to withdraw that, we searched our minds as
to what we would call this wine. And since the Chenin blanc
grape in some parts of France is called Pineau de la Loire, we
thought, well, it's a secondary name of the very same grape, so
both will be varietals if we utilized the two grape names of
the one grape variety. The two wines will taste enough different
that nobody could mistake the one for the other.
I don't know if we're the only ones in the industry with
two labels and two names for two differant wines produced out of
the very same grape. But at least that happens to be the
situation with our Pineau de la Loire and our Chenin blanc.
Teiser: Do you have other wines that are quite distinctively yours...
Timothy: Well, I don't think you can find any other wines in our list
that are distinctively ours. I can name a couple others that
are very high quality and that we're very proud of in the dessert
wines. Our Meloso Cream Sherry and our Tinta Cream Port are two
items that fit the description. They are outstanding for their
quality. We have others. Our Cabernet Sauvignon is very good
Our Pinot Noir is extremely good. Our Johannisberg Riesling and
our Sauvignon blanc are extremely good.
Well, I guess right there I've named almost all of the ones
that I consider, myself, to be near the top of our quality range.
Teiser: Do you rely largely on your own plantings, or do you rely more
upon purchased grapes, or how does it fall?
Timothy: Well, it can vary with each different wine. But in the over-all
picture, we have to buy more grapes than we grow. Our business
has grown to that point that the grapes we grow ourselves on our
own property are in the minority of those grapes that we crush.
This is more so in the Reedley area, where we buy mostly
Thompson Seedless for our brandy. We need a neutral tasting
grape with very little, if any, volatile component to go over
in the stills and get into the brandy. Thompson Seedless is
an ideal neutral tasting grape to utilize in our brandy. It
has no seeds, so there's no problem of a grape seed or raisin
seed oil. There's no problem whatsoever with Thompson Seedless
as a brandy grape.
So brandy, in that it's a large part of our business and
in that one ton of grapes makes only a small amount of brandy,
the Thompson Seedless grape then is naturally the one of which
we have to buy the most tonnage. We don't grow much Thompson
With the other grapes that we buy we have to buy more
grapes of a given variety than we can grow. Only a few grapes
are in the category where we would grow more than we are required
This is another subject:
is unionized completely?
Concurrently, I believe, your labor
Yes. In the vineyards we have been in the union for about three
years. All the physical work out in the vineyards is done by
union people. Planting vines, picking grapes, driving tractors-
all this kind of thing. We have some supervisory personnel,
monthly salaried and so on, but pretty much according to the
terms of the union contract. They are not allowed to do very
much physical work out in that vineyard. It's pretty much a
matter of every bit of physical work done in our own vineyards
is done by union labor. This union is the Cesar Chavez United
Farm Workers Organizing Committee, later changed to United Farm
We have been union for more than twenty-five years in all
of our winery operations, and this again applies to all the
people who work on an hourly payroll and do physical work like
the moving of the wine from one tank to another, filtering wine
and clarifying wine, bottling wine. We have both men and women
in the winery and distillery workers' union.
Teiser: Do many of the Brothers work in the winery?
*Later (1973) changed to United Farm Workers of America.
Timothy: There are only four of us Christian Brothers involved full time
in the wine and brandy business, though there are thousands of
Brothers throughout the world.
OTHER RELIGIOUS ORGANIZATIONS THAT MAKE WINE
Teiser: Would you tell a little about other religious organizations
that are involved in making wine?
Timothy: Yes. I know very little about the several other operations by
other religious orders in the wine industry of California. But
I think I can say for the record that the Jesuits are engaged
in the wine business, mostly in the sacramental wine business,
with their headquarters for their wine business being located at
Los Gatos, California.* The Assumption Abbey wine operation,
with their winery operations being at Guasti, California. I
think you probably have that on Philo Biane's tape.**
Teiser: I keep hearing about Brotherhood winery of New York.
Timothy: Oh. In New York there is a company just called Brotherhood,
but it has no connection with any religious organization as far
as I know. Apparently if two brothers get together and if they
want to call a winery "Brotherhood Winery," they can do it.
Now there may be other religious organizations in the wine
business in the United States. I have heard of a group at
Conesus, New York. It is called 0-Neh-Da. I believe it is a
church based operation. I don't know if it is the Fathers of
the Society of the Divine Word, who use the initials S.V.D.,
or just which order it is. I've never visited the area. I have
visited the Novitiate Winery, and I have visited the winery at
Gua&ti where Assumption Abbey wines are produced.
**See Philo Biane, Wine Making in Southern California, an
interview by the Regional Oral History Office completed in 1972.
THE CALIFORNIA WINE INDUSTRY
Teiser: Does Fromm & Sichel have an affiliation with the Paul Masson
Timothy: No. Fronnn & Sichel officially doesn't have an affiliation with
Paul Masson. However there is a kind of relationship there in
that Seagram owns stock in Fromm & Sichel, and Seagram also
owns Paul Masson completely. But there is supposed to be no
direct connection between Fromm & Sichel and Paul Masson.
Teiser: So you don't feel that your winery is in any special relation
ship with the Paul Masson winery?
Timothy: We and the salesmen who work for Fromm & Sichel selling our
products quite often feel that we're in direct competition with
Paul Masson. There's no animosity or anything like that, but
then by the same token there's really no animosity between us
and any other winery operator anywhere in the states.
On that subject I could say that with the Wine Institute
as one of these cohesive influences and the Wine Advisory
Board as another and the University of California as a third
influence in this direction—the wine industry of California
has a rather good compatibility between one winery and another.
We don't have to my knowledge any animosity or serious feuds
in the wine industry of California. Even those competitors
that are competing most vigorously in the market place, the
winery operators get along very well with each other. Now,
perhaps I should say it this way: that if there is any kind of
conflict or if there's any kind of a feud--if you want to use
a strong word like that--maybe it's in the marketing. Maybe
it's among salesmen.
Teiser: I've been told that one of the factors in that harmony in the
industry is that you are one of the people who at meetings, when
people disagree, are able to bring them together — that this is
a special talent of yours.
Timothy: Well, I don't know if I have much of that talent. I guess I
have a little of that. But it seems to m<2 that the three factors
that I mentioned have this great tendency to bring the techno
logical people of the industry and also the management people
of the wine industry together in a kind of a harmonious way. In
a way of all working together for the common good. I don't know
Timothy: whether you would rate these three influences that I'm talking
about in the order that I gave it or whether you should give the
University of California the number one position and then put
Wine Institute and Wine Advisory Board in either of the number
two or three positions. I don't want to rate it one way or the
other like that.
There are many other things that could be said . I know
that you have interviewed people at the University of California
at Davis. There's a marvelous and endless amount of information
that you can get from the University of California at Davis as
to all the things that they have done over the years for the
improvement of the condition of California grape growers and
California wine producers. The technology of wine and the tech
nology of grapes too is a great and complicated science. The
art of wine making is the other thing that each individual wine
producer has to have somewhere at his command. But both the
art and the science of wine have to go together and have to be
evaluated each on its own.
Teiser: You yourself have served on many industry committees...
Timothy: I don't think I can name from memory all the different committees
that I either am serving on or have served on in Wine Institute
and in Wine Advisory Board. But I'm on at least a half dozen
committees and more. I might reiterate what I have indicated
before: that I believe this is valuable and important work and
that both Wine Institute and the Wine Advisory Board are doing
things every day that are solidly based and good for the entire
wine industry of California. So it's for such reasons that I'm
willing to serve on those committees and to spend time at that
job and to contribute whatever I can contribute to the work of
both Wine Institute and Wine Advisory Board.
Teiser: I think we have covered most of the subjects I had listed to ask
you about. Do you have anything further to add?
Timothy: If you will permit me, let me add a couple of items.
Timothy: As you know, my name is Brother Timothy and my namesake or patron
is St. Timothy. He's the one that Paul wrote to, saying "Take
a little wine for thy stomach's sake and thine often infirmities."
So I like that quotation. It's one of my favorite quotations
Timothy: A second favorite quotation that I use quite often is the
observation of Benjamin Franklin that "wine is a constant
proof that God loves us and loves to see us happy."
(Interview #4 - May 16, 1973)
GRACE AND THANKSGIVING PRAYERS
Timothy: Here are a few prayers ,* grace before meals and thanksgiving
after meals. I have originated all of them myself, and I think
it might be interesting to tell you about them.
You know, in any operation like our business, you'll have
large gatherings once in a while, and somebody may or may not
get up and say a grace or ask a blessing on the food you're
going to eat. Now, we happen to be a Catholic organization and
a religious organization, and we're in the wine business, and
we're doing business with, say, Fromm & Sichel. Their general
background is in the Jewish tradition. Now, any time that some
one of the Brothers would say the regular traditional Catholic
grace, it kind of bothered me that here we're doing this in the
presence of, say, Alfred Fromm or some other man of the Jewish
faith, rather than the Catholic faith. It just bothered me that
our grace wasn't a little bit more ecumenical.
So when Pope John was on the job as the Pope, and the Church
was getting more ecumenical in its general spirit, it happened
that I was watching a western on TV one time (and I just don't
have time to do much of this), but one of the old characters in
this western was Walter Brennan. He was the father of this family,
and the group got together, you know, ir a rough ranch house,
and they stood at the table, and he said something like, "Bless
this grub, oh Lord, and us that eats it. Amen." [Laughter]
That was the whole thing.
So, when I heard that I thought, "Well, by golly, that
really does cover the essentials, even chough it's in very few
words. It covers the essentials of what a grace or a blessing
of food ought to be. Well that's pretty good." So, once in a
while after that, when I was called upon to say grace, I said
it in a very brief form like that, and I called it the "Cowboy
Timothy: Grace," you know. [Laughter] Then I decided to let it evolve
in my mind, you know, and after a little while I called it a
"Grape Stompers' Grace." [Laughter]
And at one time, for one of our little old parties, why I
aaid something like this and called it the "Grape Stompers'
Grace"--"Bless this bread and wine, Lord and all of us who
eat and drink together." That was the whole thing. Then, at
other dates, I've delivered a blessing, say, like this: "0 great
God, creator of a universe so immense that our most brilliant
scientists, capable of sending men to the moon and bringing them
back home again, are unable to measure its extent. You are the
same God who made the microscopic yeast cells that convert grape
juice into wine. Benjamin Franklin, while wondering about the
mysterious process of fermentation, once said: 'Wine... a
constant proof that God loves us and loves to see us happy. ' We
ask You God to bless us and the foods and wines we are about
Now, on that same occasion, I delivered a thanksgiving after
the meal, and it went something like this: "In Your solicitude
for us, God, You have made it possible for farmers, fishermen
and others to bring to our dining table a perennial supply of
foods and beverages. The miracle of the loaves and fishes is
repeated every day. We thank Thee, God, for this bounty and
ask You to look with love on farmers, fishermen, and all of us."
And then, I let it go at that.
Now, each time I do one of these blessings before a meal,
I do it kind of ad lib; I never read it off like I'm reading
from these papers right now- -but I give it a little thought
beforehand, and so on. And on another occasion, for a harvest
luncheon we had at Ernie's restaurant in San Francisco, October
23, 1969, I gave the blessing before the meal like this: I said,
"0, great God of the universe, who created stars, moon, sun, and
planets and set them on their immense but precise paths, You are
the same God who created the microscopic yeast cells and placed
them on the skins of ripening grapes, so that when crushed, the
sweet grape juice comes in contact with uhese living yeast cells
and they ferment the grape sugars into grape alcohol, changing what
was grape juice Into wine. We ask You* God, to bless us and to.
bless the fine foods and wines that You have made available to us
and which we are about to share with each other. Amen."
All of those are original, all of those have that ecumenical
spirit. We're not trying to divide up the one God for a lot of
Timothy: different religious denominations. We're sticking with the
thought that there is one God and only one, and all of us who
worship God do worship that same God.
THE SOUTH ST. HELENA COMPLEX
Would you add something about recent progress at the South St.
We have, oh, about half completed the South St. Helena develop
ment. We were very busy constructing a ?.ot of new work there
last year, and we still haven't really finished up every little
tag end of the things that were under construction mainly last
year.* We built a large warehouse, 100,000 square feet, had
it completed last year. We built a new fermenting area addition--
Teiser: You had not been making wine there before?
Timothy: Well, we had a little crusher out in the back. We had crushed
some grapes there, as a convenience mostly to the grower; we
could receive the grapes and crush them there, and we were
crushing directly into a tank truck and then moving the tank
truck over to Mont La Salle here. We were doing something like
that for two years prior to 1972, but we didn't actually have
fermenting tanks and a fermenting department there.
In '72 we installed a new scale, we built a new fermenting
department, we put in a couple of crushers, one of which is a
second-hand one, one of which is new. We put in about seventy
brand new stainless steel fermenting tanks, we put in two new
presses. We're now still installing two new vacuum filters in
That fermenting area has been rather thoroughly covered in
print, in newspapers and a few of the wine industry trade journals,
and it's quite an unusual kind of a thing. It's a sort of radial
complex, or you could call it a star, or let's say a daisy—a
flower with the petals projecting out. It has a pattern that
radiates from a central point where the presses are, and it's
designed this way so that all the conveyors that carry the solids,
*See p. 46.
Timothy: the grape pomace or grape pulp, from the fermenting tanks go
straight to the presses. We don't have to have a lot of turns
or right hand angles in conveyors taking this pomace to the press.
It also simplifies the supervision of the fermenting area. The
one man in charge can be on a kind of a central platform that
we built there, and he can see down each alleyway or each space
between the tanks. He can see right down through the fermenting
area. All he has to do is turn his head a little bit or rotate
his body around, and he can see every man working in the place.
He can see the crushers from where he is, and so on. He has
an electrical control panel there, where he's pretty much in
control of anything and everything that is going on. It's a new
concept. We don't know of any fermenting area ever built like
this anywhere before. It lends itself well to the supervision
of the quality of the wine, or quality control if you like that
language better. Half of this fermenting area is connected to
a water cooling tower that will maintain fermenting red wine at
72 degrees Fahrenheit, and we want to hold the red wine very
close to that point for what we think is optimum development
of flavor and quality.
The white wine half of that fermenting area is all connected
with mechanical refrigeration and with cooling jackets around
the stainless steel tanks. The cooling jackets and the whole
wall of the stainless steel white wine fermenters is covered with
polyurethane insulation. So for all the white wine tanks we have
the capability of maintaining the temperature down below 50 degrees
Fahrenheit. We want to have those white wine fermentations quite
cold, and then we will retain full flavor and freshness and
fruitiness of the white wines this way. We think the optimum
temperature is a little below 50, but the optimum for the red
wines is around 72.
I have some newspaper clippings that have to do with this
South St. Helena complex.*
*"Phase One At Christian Brothers Hearing Completion," Napa
Register. May 4, 1972; "Christian Brothers Build New Fermenting,
Crushing Plant," Napa Register. June 22, 1972; "Phase Two Expan
sion Receives First Grapes," Napa Register. Sept. 13, 1972; and
"Phases 1 and 2 of Multi-Million Dollar Expansion Completed at
Christian Brothers," St. Helena Star. November 9, 1972.
What relationship now does that operation have to this?
you shifting any functions from here to there?
Yes, we are. This property has never had a railroad siding,
and it does not have a railroad siding now. So one of the
basic considerations when we first decided on that spot was
that we had to be on a railroad siding for the shipping of our
case goods. Since on this property, Mont La Salle, up in these
hills, shipping is the kind of problem that it is, we decided
a long time ago that we would be better off to have our bottling
department and our case shipping somewhere else.
Well, the bottling department is still here. It's still
working upstairs on third floor elevation of this property. But
the bottle aging of the wine, after the wine is in the bottle
and in the carton--! believe we might be the very first in the
industry to have come up with the thought of putting the wine in
the bottles and putting those bottles in the carton ready to
ship, but then putting those cartons on pallets and using a
fork lift truck to stack them in a warehouse and do the bottle
aging of the wine in such a warehouse situation, with the wine
all being enclosed in the shipping carton already. I don't
think anybody else did this before we started it at Mont La
Salle in 1952 or earlier.
The old bottle aging used to be in terms of what they call
"binning." The bottles would individually be placed in bins,
and then those bottles would be removed from those bins after
the wine had been bottle aged.* The bottles might need to be
polished up a little bit to get the dust off them, and then
labels would be applied at that time, and then they would be put
in the shipping carton to be shipped.
Is there a technological advance implied here?
have to inspect the bottles?
Did they used to
Well, I think you're right there, yes. It does signify a little
technological improvement in that, in the old bottle aging bins,
they used to be worried about the wine clouding up a little bit
or throwing some deposit, and if it threw much deposit or if it
developed much clouding, then they might pull the corks and dump
that wine out of the bottles and refilter and rebottle, go
through the process again.
*As in the photograph described on pp. 61-62.
Teiser: Or leakage?
Timothy: Leaky corks too would have been a problems, yes. They could
segregate the bottles that had leaky corks and put new corks
In them, or if they had lost much wine by the leakage, they
might top them off a little bit and then recork and put them
out on the market.
We began to bottle age this way in the cartons on wooden
pallets, with an average of about fifty cartons per pallet,
here on this property about nineteen or more years ago.
Teiser: Do you seal the cartons?
Timothy: Yes, all sealed. So then in the way of the technology of things,
this indicates that nineteen years ago we had a level of confidence
in our product and the way we had handled things that we were,
let's say, as certain as we felt we needed to be that there would
be no problem with any of these wines and any of these bottles.
That we didn't have to candle the bottles or anything like that
or check for leaky corks to know that those wines were ready to
go to the market.
So when we first built our bottle aging warehouse here on
this property about nineteen years ago, people from some of the
other wineries came to look and see what we were doing, and then
since that time some of them have built bottle aging warehouses
just on the style of what we started here.
Now, we were talking about the change between this place
and going to South St. Helena: we planned to shut down our
bottling here and to bottle at South St. Helena whenever we
get around to it, whenever the time is right in our budgeting
schedule to do this without too many aches and pains. So our
master plan for our South St. Helena location does call for the
bottling to be there and to close off here. Now just last year
we closed down all crushing here, and we closed down all crushing
at our old Greystone cellars; that fermenting area at the north
end of the old Greystone cellars will not crush grapes any more
in the foreseeable future.
This fermenting room on this property, since it already
exists and it doesn't cost us much to keep it in existence, we
plan to hold it like a spare tire just ir. case we need it--in
case we have some kind of a serious breakdown or some kind of
an incapacity of our South St. Helena fermenting area. We could
Timothy: come back and crush grapes here again, as we have done for
years. But we don't want to haul grapes up this hill; this
last four miles is a pretty mean little mountain road for many
trucks loaded with grapes. We've been doing it for years, and
we still bring bottling supplies like empty bottles, and we
still bring bulk wine in stainless steel tanks up this hill
from our other winery locations to keep our bottling room going
here. We're still doing those things. But as of the fall of
1972, we have closed down our crushing on this property until
we need that spare tire. So changes are contemplated on this
place, as we get our South St. Helena complex more and more
When we've reached the final stages of completion of our
South St. Helena complex, then this place will not be very
active any more; it'll be kind of a sleepy wine aging cellar.
Our old Greystone cellar, right now, is just about that, except
that on the third floor we are still preparing, or giving the
secondary fermentation to champagne. So we're producing
champagne from still wines on the third floor of the old Greystone
cellar. And then that champagne, once it is bottled and in the
carton, is moved down to our South St. Helena location now for
bottle aging there.
So the two bottling departments have not been closed down
and moved yet, but whenever we reach the final stages of develop
ment at South St. Helena, both will be moved there.
Teiser: Will all the champagne production also be moved to South St.
Timothy: Yes. Both Greystone and this Mont La Salle property will be Just
sleepy wine aging cellars when we get to that point in time.
Teiser: And you're now trucking your grapes frorc here down there?
WINERY SIZE AND WINE QUALITY
Teiser: As you showed us, before we started today, how you had developed
the lower floor of this building into offices, you said that
your operations were expanding fast. There's a tradition that
expansion, large wine making, is incompatible with fine wine
making. Let me turn the tape just befcre--
Timothy: You asked the question about whether it's more difficult for a
large winery to make good wine and maintain its quality than
for a small winery.
Well, there are things to be said on both sides of the
question. Of course, the small winemaker may think that in a
large winery the wine may not get individual attention, as he
might be able to give such a wine, and maybe there's truth to
that — that the larger winery with more labels and more different
kinds of wine and bigger operations and more distractions does
have, let's say, a greater number of things to be concerned with.
And if it were inclined to be sleepy or lazy or to get into a
rut or to oversimplify its wine making technique to where it
couldn't give individual attention to individual wine- -it is
possible that a large winery could just produce a lot of ordinary
However, another way of rationalizing it a bit, too, is
that the large winery is quite likely better financed and better
able to hire competent people to do its work and to finance and
have available the proper equipment that it needs to do the job
on the wine. So that there are some things that a large winery
can do that a small winery might find beyond its finances or
beyond its general capability. I know small wineries where the
winemaker isn't very competent, and where it's totally impossible
for the people running it to be able to afford any competent
wine chemist or wine technician, so that they stumble along
without proper personnel on the job. So that's a way of looking
Now, there's also a lot to be said for the fact that the
winemaker is an artist, he's a creative person, he's working
with wines and each blend that he makes represents his degree
of skill or artistry. Well, this is where a competent man is
needed in the winery, whether large or small. If that competent
man is on the job, and he is concerned with the blending of the
wins and so on, he works with greater resources at his command
Timothy: if he has a position with a larger winery than he does with a
small winery, where he may have only a very small number of
wines of the correct type that he may use in his blend. So
he's like an artist working with a pallette with a smaller number
of colors on it to do the job if he's in a small winery. We
have had occasions where we're making, say, a cabernet sauvignon
blend, where we can provide from our cellars more than fifty
different cabernet sauvignon wines all as potential material to
go into that blend. These are, you know, different lots from
different casks, of different aging periods too, since we do not
And on the subject of vintage dating- -it has been by choice
that we have never gone into that. In not having the requirement
of vintage dating, vintage labeling of the bottle, we are
more free to exercise that artistry of the wine taster than if
we were hampered by the vintage dating.
So the fact that we may blend between one year and another
year in our bottle does a lot of things for us in the way of
giving us greater uniformity from bottle to bottle and from
purchase to purchase, when you're talking about the retail
consumer. A greater uniformity, greater reliability, greater
dependability are there. We also are able by this blending
technique to create greater complexity in the wine, so that all
of our wines, I believe, have depth and complexity that they
would probably not have if they were simply varietal wines,
rather than being blended as they are.
So there are a lot of things to be said on both sides of
that question of whether you're a small winery or a big winery.
Now, let's say there may be such a thing as a winery being
too big. If there is it would be when a winery would get to
that point where individual attention can't be provided to the
individual wine, but that things are moving so fast and the
staff of personnel competent to do things right is so weak and
small in relation to the gallonage of wine moved through the
winery that they're all doing their job in a kind of a perfunctory
way, not paying any attention or much attention to, let's say,
the quality level of the different things they're putting out.
This is conceivable to me. I've heard of how some of the very
large operations in France operate, the very large vin ordinaire
operations that sell the wine very, very cheap. At a low price
their revenue per unit is so small that they just can't afford
to have the right kind of personnel on their payroll to do the
Timothy: right thing with each different wine, so none of their wines
have any individuality whatsoever. They're just handled in an
extremely bulk manner, without even, let's say, individual
tasting. They just bring the wine in and assume that it is
what it is said to be and throw it all together and hope for
So it's possible for a winery to be too big or to be
inattentive to detail.
Teiser: There have been cases in the past in which financial pressures
have caused wineries to overextend themselves, shall we say,
and lower the quality of their wine on the strength of a label
that's established in the market.
Timothy: Oh yes, well that kind of thing could happen any time. There's
some old business philosophy to the effect that it's always
possible for somebody to come out with something cheaper than
what is now on the market, you know. But it doesn't mean that
it's a good thing for you to be interested in that or to buy it.
That brings you to the other buying philosophy of "let the
Teiser: I think during the Depression perhaps, or during the period when
there were interests that bought into the wine industry which
were not aware of the qualities of wine, some people were more
interested in merchandising than quality.
Timothy: Well, to me I'd have to consider it very unlikely that any
deterioration of quality would occur ir. any of the wineries of
the state. I'm speaking really of the whole state. For various
reasons—the competitive picture is such that any winery that
would let its quality slip would be so noticeably out of step
with the rest of the industry that it would start going downhill
very fast and would not last very long in this competitive
industry. I know for a fact that, oh, about 1935, when I first
started in the wine business, I believe there were 751 wineries
registered or licensed in the state of California, bonded
wineries. Today there's a little less than 300, I think. So
the number is less than half what it was then. So that would be,
what, thirty-eight years? Now, some of those wineries that
went out of business were very large, and a whole lot of them
were very small. The reasons for going out of business would
be either poor quality wine, bad management, improper handling
of finances, and even reasons that indicate success in business-
like the winery was a very successful operation, but that it was
Timothy: then bought out by somebody larger and then maybe closed down
because the larger unit didn't need it any more. Let's say
they bought it perhaps to acquire a label and a place in the
market, and so on, and just didn't need the old physical premises
any more, so it could be closed down even though there was
nothing wrong with the operation of the winery in the past.
Now, I don't think we want to get into the names of
wineries and to specify which went out of business for which
reasons. This would all be guesswork on my part anyway.
Teiser: But it's good to have your view of it over those years.
One thing I forgot to ask about the South St. Helena
winery--will your administrative offices be moved there also?
Timothy: Yes, we have that in the master plan too.
Teiser: You said it was a variable plan, depending upon your finances,
but do you expect it to be finished in the next few years?
Timothy: Well, I think I mentioned elsewhere maybe four or five years or
so, but even that is to be taken with a little grain of salt.
It may take us six or seven years. Or if business keeps growing
fast, we might have to move a little sooner.
GRAPE AND WINE PRICES SINCE 1961
Teiser: Don't you find it increasingly difficult to get grapes on the
open market now?
Timothy: Yes, sure it's difficult, but grapes, the right kinds of grapes
and the right number of tons of the good varieties and all that,
have always been a bit difficult to buy; even when prices were
lower some of these things were not easy to find. So for quite
a number of years now there have been wines in short supply,
there have been wines under allocation, where we notify our
distributing firm at the beginning of each year how many cases
we're going to have of each different type of wine during that
period of time.
Timothy: So this is a regular thing with us. Now, the worst of this
shortage of good varieties dates back from about 1961. We had
a very severe frost in 1961. I believe Napa Valley only had
about 25 per cent of a normal crop. Then '61 in my mind marks
the beginning of this heavy escalation of prices upward, due to
that short crop. Now it happens also that the old federal
marketing order that was a kind of a set-cside program or what
ever, and had been sponsored by Sox SetraUian,* was in effect in
'61 and '62. And that federal marketing order was designed to
solve the problem of surplus grapes, which were thought to be
mostly Thompsons at that time.
You know, there were surplus raisins and surplus grapes.
And various people in the industry, but especially Sox Setrakian,
thought that these surplus grapes were going to break the market,
so that the federal marketing order had to be, or was desirable.
Well, the federal marketing order required people, by law, to
set aside, and not put on the market for any beverage purposes,
a certain percentage of the tonnage (it was about 25 or 26 per cent)
of grapes crushed.
Those set-aside wines, then, were mostly distilled and then
kept as set -aside brandy. Most of it was high proof brandy.
Being produced as high proof brandy, it would take up the minimum
amount of storage space. The other type of thing that could have
been utilized at that time, but which did not get into any
significant tonnage as I recollect, would have been grape con
centrate. You can concentrate grape juice and that would have
occupied a relatively smaller space in tank storage, and perhaps
it could have been feasible to do that. But the easiest thing,
and the way to do it to take up the least amount of storage
space, was to make high proof brandy.
Anyway, about the end of that federal marketing order, that
brandy was all sold to this big Publicker Industries, some kind
of an alcohol or distilled spirits corporation--! really don't
know anything much about the Publicker Industries. But they
bought that high proof brandy from the California Industry at,
let's say, give-away prices, with the stipulation that that high
proof brandy could not be used for beverage purposes. I don't
know whoever policed it after they got ii. I don't know anything
about the disposition of it, whether it was ever used for beverage
*Arpaxat Setrakian, nicknamed "Sox."
Timothy: purposes or whether it was sold in foreign markets and not
sold for beverage purposes in the United States, or whether it
was used in the manufacturing of industrial products rather
than being used in beverage products. However, there was a
stipulation that Publicker Industries, in buying this high
proof brandy at those low prices, was not entitled to use it
in any beverage in the United States.
Now, the reason I got diverted off on that subject is that
that federal set-aside program and that short crop of '61 tied
in together to create a very severe shortage throughout the whole
industry. Both of those things had the same influence, then, in
causing winery people and growers to run out and plant vineyards
just as fast as they could plant them- -because the winery, to
maintain its position in the market, to maintain sufficient
gallonage of wine in the winery to age that wine and to have wine
available at a later date after an aging program, every winery
had to be worried a bit with a federal set -aside program like
that. Nobody knew when the federal marketing order would be
dropped; we didn't know how long it would last.
We had to anticipate that maybe next year we had to be
crushing 25 per cent more grapes than we actually needed for our
wine so that we'd have 25 per cent to put into this set-aside
program. It was mandatory by law. So this forced you to run
out and plant more vineyard or to do something to assure yourself
of those added supplies of grapes. So both of those things then
tended to cause grape and wine prices too to start to escalate
The set-aside program was then killed after the grape season
of '62, and so we didn't have it in '63 and thereafter. However,
'64 turned out to be another frost crop year up here in the north.
The severity of the short crop of '64 was not as great as the
severity of the short crop of "61, and the set-aside program
wasn't in existence any more, so it wasn't as bad a situation.
But the '64 short crop did push our varietal grape prices up
here in the north up higher again. And I think if you review
grape prices from '61 on to the present time, you'll find an
absolutely constant upswing of grape prices all the time from '61
to the present. We've had no leveling off and no dropping of
grape prices in all those intervening yearc. There might be a
few exceptions to that. There may have been a few ups and downs,
say, in the Thompson market. But in these North Coast grapes
that I'm concerned with up here, I think it is absolutely true
that there has been no slacking off of that upswing of grape
prices since '61.
then '71 was a
bad short crop
I think '72 was
So these things
grape prices up
to fill all the
want, have been
the next very severe short crop year was 1970,
reasonably normal crop, then '72 we had another
all over the state, up and down all of California.
the shortest crop in about the last forty years.
all point to the fact that: grape prices have
behind the power of the shortage to push those
Shortages in the market, too, not being able
bottles of wine that the buying market might
with us right along since that time.
So, to get back to where 1 started on this whole little
discourse—that 1961 in my mind was the key year that triggered
this whole thing off, both shortages of inventory and shortage
of supply, and the grape demand on the part of the consumers
greater than the supply. This whole thing fitted together about
At the same time, of course, land prices have gone up, so to
acquire new vineyards is more expensive.
Yes, well land prices would go up, I guess, the way the dollar
devaluates or whatever; that's just general inflation.
But vineyard lands specifically?
Well, other farm lands have gone up
land, but in the agricultural scene
one crop in the way of interesting
the speculator and interesting the
grapes have been the glamor boy, or
scene for quite a few years now. I
back to 1961 too. At least the big
thing to develop would come back to
too t other than vineyard
grapes have been the number
the farmer and interesting
financial backers of agriculture-
whatever, of the agricultural
think that would date right
impetus for that sort of
about that date.
In your acquisitions of vineyard land, have you thought of going
into other areas, as Paul Masson has done, or even going into
the Central Valley with new grape varieties?
Oh yes, we've thought of those things, but in general, we've
made up our minds to fight hard for our position in the Napa
Valley and to stay in the Napa Valley with all of our vineyard
production for our dry wines just as long as we possibly can.
We have not invested any of our money in any lands outside of
the area of our winery locations. We did put some money into
vineyard developments around the Mount Tivy area close to Reedley
and rather close to Dinuba too. Dinuba is not awful far away
Timothy: from Reed ley; let's say about fourteen miles. So in that area
near our winery locations we have planted grapes, mostly for
the dessert wines. But here in the north, we're in the Napa
area, in all the climatic regions of the Napa Valley. I think
I may have told you that before. But here in Northern California,
we have no vineyard land other than in Napa County.
Teiser: Have you made any grower contracts as some of the others have?
Timothy: Yes, sure. Yes, we grow grapes; we also buy grapes. And we
buy grapes on annual contracts, which are the old traditional
thing, from growers who are located in good areas and have good
varieties. We buy also on long-term contracts, rather than
just annual contracts. So, we're doing just about everything
in the way of grape contracting that any other winery might do.
However, maybe different in degree rather than in type.
CORKS AND CAPS
Teiser: May I ask you about a matter that really hasn't been discussed
in this interview series, the question of the cork versus the
Timothy: Well, the cork is the natural thing and the old traditional thing.
The cork is used in these table wines that we do wish to lay away
for further bottle aging after they are bottled. The cork is
perhaps the closure that lends itself best to helping the wine
improve with bottle aging. Now, the cork is the bark of an oak
tree. We use oak casks and oak tanks in the winery, and oak
flavor in the wine is thought to be desirable in most table
wines. Well, let's say in practically all wines, a little oak
cask or oak barrel flavor is thought to be a desirable adjunct
to the flavor components of the wine. So a little bit of cork
taste in the wine may be all right; maybe it enhances the wine.
Now, the modern caps that are on the market, like the crown
cap or the twist-off aluminum cap (and there are many other types
of caps on the market, and there are plastic champagne corks and
things like that) these things are good peals, and some of them
are hermetically tighter than a cork. The crown cap is certainly
a tighter seal against leakage of gases than a cork is. Most
screw caps would quite likely be tighter than the cork. And
when we have wines like this table wine, we don't want the air
Timothy: in any large quantities to get into that table wine. The
small amount of air that might get through, a cork is probably
just the right amount to enhance the development of that wine
in the bottle. So, let's say, we're not against a tiny bit
of air getting through that cork.
But a cap like a crown cap or a good screw cap would quite
likely be tighter and let perhaps no air whatsoever get past
that closure into the bottle.
Teiser: Is there an ideal head space for the bottle aging of wine?
Timothy: Well, that's kind of a tough question to answer. Some people
believe in filling the bottle just as tight as they can get it,
you know, with as little head space as possible. And whatever
your head space is, you'd better have it uniform. You don't
want to have one bottle with a lot of head space and another
bottle with very little head space. Now, all the bottles are
built to have a certain exact fill point, you know, so that they
have the correct cubic contents. Your government taxes are paid
on those cubic contents of that bottle, and your consumer pays
for the cubic contents of the bottle and is entitled to get
what he pays for. So you don't want to htve short fill.
If you have overfill, then the federal government claims
that you're giving away some wine without paying tax on it.
[Laughter] So, you'd just better be correct in what you're
doing. You're either cheating the customer or you're cheating
the federal government if you have a variable fill.
Teiser: When you age wine in the bottle, it's against the cork, but
there's air space then in the side. That gives you more air
Timothy: You're talking about the bottle lying down or standing upside
Teiser: Well, either will give you more area.
Timothy: You're right. The neck is the smallest part of the bottle, and
so if your bottle stands upright and your head space is up in
here, there would be the smallest surface contact between the
air and the wine. If the bottle is lying on its side, the
surf act contact will be a little greater, but the volume of air
will be the same. And if the bottle is upside down (we pack all
our table wine bottles in the cartons upside down with the cork
Timothy: down, so then the air is in the bottom) the surface contact
between air and wine will be greater. But that volume is the
So it's nothing to be concerned about really. It's such
a minor difference that it's hardly worth talking about.
Harroun: Is there a difference in champagne corks?
Timothy: Champagne corks are put together in pieces, so that there are
no pores of the cork tissue that run through from bottom to
top. Champagne corks are put together in layers and pieces and
wedges so that all those pores can go through just the one little
piece of cork, but not through the whole cork, so that the C02
pressure, the natural gas pressure, in the champagne does not
leak out very readily. So a champagne cork is a tighter seal
than the regular dry wine cork. It has to be to hold the gas
pressure in the bottle.
Teiser: Are corks coated?
Timothy: There's a little bit of paraffin normally, around the champagne
cork in a little band. It helps to improve the seal, and it
helps to improve the job of having a machine jam that cork in
the bottle too. It is a little bit of wax lubricant, you might
call it. I did mention natural wax in the cork earlier. However,
you raised this question of coating. We do a certain amount of
wax coating of corks by tumbling the corks in a big drum with
some chunks of paraffin in the drum. It's like an empty, dry
washing machine, you might call it. And the chunks of paraffin
in there with the corks rub against all the corks and the corks
rub against each other, and some solid paraffin is wiped off
on the corks so they get a very minor film of paraffin. And
we do this paraffin treatment of corks ourselves right here on
our own property, rather than trust anybody else to do it for us.
Some of the cork sales houses will sell wineries corks that
are already paraffin treated. But we don't buy those because we
have found that their paraffin treatment may be very variable.
One lot of corks will have too much, and another lot of corks
won't have enough, and so on. And so we do it ourselves.
Teiser: May we ask you to tell about your corkscrew collection?
Timothy: The corkscrew collection is somebhing I got personally interested
in, oh, about 1949. I collected about four corkscrews, very
old, beatup looking things from a littla antique shop in
Yountville. Now the type of thing, though, that caused me to
get started in the collecting of corkscrews was that we had had
quite a little bit of trouble pulling corks and ripping holes
in corks with poor corkscrews. Customers were beginning to
write in telling us that they had ripped a hole in a cork, and
then accusing us of using cheap corks, where we have almost
always used the best we could get our hands on. So it wasn't
the fault of the cork, but it was more generally the fault of
the corkscrew. There's lots and lots of bad corkscrews made
and still being manufactured even today, when you think that
people would get wise some time to the first principles on which
a good corkscrew should be constructed. You'd think that the
manufacturers would get wise and that they would begin to make
a corkscrew that would work, rather than continue to make a lot
of old, junky stuff that is no good at all, but still made and
still sold on the market.
So that kind of thing frustrated me, and I was, let's say,
mad at bad corkscrews, and I was sort of determined to find out
what kind of corkscrews were available that were manufactured
on good engineering principles or good mechanical principles
that would work properly when you tried to use them. And then
it was about that time, actually 1946, the Wine Institute had
conducted an engineering study on corkscrews.* And I had gotten
a copy of it, and I had studied it carefully. And of course
I had learned that a good corkscrew of the old traditional-style
spiral, or you can call it a "helix," a good corkscrew should
be an open-centered wire spiral. It ought to have an open center
so that a toothpick could run right down through the center of
it. It should not have a solid metal shank running through the
center that would block any such toothpick if you tried to give
it the little old toothpick test. So when you analyze why it
needs to be that way and what was wrong with a solid shank being
through the center of the corkscrew, it comes down to something
like this: that if you have a solid metal shank running through
*A condensed version of the report was given in the May, 1946,
Wine Review under the title "Corkscrews That Work!"
Timothy: the corkscrew, and you screw that down into the cork, you're
damaging a lot of cork tissue in a straight line right down
through the center. When you pull hard, you're going to rip
a hole right through the cork; quite likely you will if the
cork sticks very tight at all to the bottle.
We also learned that there's a kind of natural wan in
natural cork, and it tends to adhere or stick like glue, you
might say, quite tight to the glass. So when you begin to
pull a cork, you've got to break that seal between the cork
and the glass, and then the cork will come much more freely
after that first seal has been broken.
The Wine Institute, in running a series of scientific tests
on corkscrews and corks, found out that this open wire spiral
was important, just as 1 have said to you, so what I've recounted
comes from that study. I don't think anybody anywhere in the
world prior to 1946, when the Wine Institute study was published,
had conducted any such scientific study of corkscrews. Now,
the Wine Institute, in conducting that test did things like this:
they would take some corks and glue them with some sort of a
good cement into the bottle, and then test how many pounds of
pull they could put on a corkscrew to either break that cork
loose or to rip a hole through the cork. They wanted to find
out which corks had most strength or whatever, and which cork
screws had real purchase inside that cork. And they found out
that a good open wire spiral of good diameter, about one-third
of an inch, is about the best. I' think this one is about a third
of an inch. This one is undoubtedly a little bit smaller.
Teiser: The first one you're showing us is a traditional waiter's cork
screw, is that right?
Timothy: Yes, the first one is a traditional waiter-type corkscrew, a
folding corkscrew that a waiter can carry in his pocket. It
has a little jack lever device at the side of it that is used
by putting it over against the edge of the glass on the bottle,
and then when you pull on this it's like lifting the handle on
a claw hammer to pull a nail. You get a lot of leverage, and
the leverage is based on the distance between the center of
this pin in the jack lever hinge and the center of that pin in
the screw hinge, and the length of the handle from this screw
hinge pin back down this way to its end. This handle is longer
than this distance right here between the pins. Now I haven't
measured this, but the distance between this pin and this one
would be pretty close to one inch, and this distance from this
Timothy: pin out to this end of the handle is around four, four and
a half inches, something like that.
So now, if you have four inches of length here and one
inch of distance here, you're going to get a four-to-one
leverage. Pulling a nail with a claw hammer, the handle of
the hammer is a lot longer than four inches, so then you're
going to get much greater leverage with a handle of a hammer
than with what I'm describing here on a corkscrew. At any
rate, that leverage principle is quite important, and any good
corkscrew should have some sort of a leverage device engineered
This type of corkscrew is a double wood body thing, with
two handles on the top, the small handle to turn the corkscrew
into the cork and the larger handle to rotate on a wooden thread
and to pull the cork out of the bottle. With this one, you
insert the corkscrew into the cork, you hold the bottle on top
of the table, and then hold both the corkscrew and the bottle
while you rotate the larger handle, twisting it to bring the
cork out. By the time you have twisted that up to the top, the
cork is back up in here, and it's already out of the bottle.
So this type of corkscrew is very good for someone who doesn't
have a lot of muscular strength. All you have to do is rotate
those two handles and the cork is out. This corkscrew happens
to have a very good open wire spiral, and so this corkscrew
is, in my opinion, about the most foolproof type there is, and
this was the one most highly recommended by the Wine Institute
Now, did you say you had a complete copy of that old Wine
Institute study on corkscrews?
Teiser: No, I don't.
Timothy: I have, since I'm in the business of collecting corkscrews as
well as doing a lot of other things and being able to answer
questions on what's wrong with a certain corkscrew. Since I
did get started in that whole thing, (and you know I've collected
more than 1200 corkscrews) I had some interest, too, in trying
to learn what I could about the history of corkscrews and about
other things like this scientific test that the Wine Institute
Teiser: We see now so often the kind of metal corkscrew that has two
arms that come up, and you push those down to pull the cork.
Was that in common use when they made the Wine Institute study?
Timothy: I think those were around, I think thay were available when
the Wine Institute made its study. That type of corkscrew is
one of those things; most of them are not well made. The
leverage principle is fine, and these two wing levers that come
out--I like the whole leverage principle, the whole idea, very
well, but most don't have a good metal screw.
This other little thing with the two prongs, you see, if
you hold it perfectly upright, the longer one is going to
touch the cork first. You'd have to put it in crooked if you
were going to do it the other way. So you make sure you start
with the longer prong. You begin to wiggle it down right there
between the cork and the glass, then you get the other one
started, then you rock it.
Now, some of these with the prongs (let's say north is
that way and this one is south) are made where these things are
east and west directions of the handle instead of the north and
south direction of the handle, so that then you'd have to rock
it this way back and forth instead of sideways. You rock it
towards the points, you know, to get it in. If you try to push
both down at the same time, just a straight push, you'll tend
to push the cork in. Then if I pull straight up, I'll pull
the corkscrew out and leave the cork in. But I rotate now;
I pull up only a very little while rotating. Now I'd like to
have the thing in a little deeper; I'm getting it in a little
Teiser: This is a corkscrew that gives you a second chance?
Timothy: Yes, that's right. Every restaurant ought to have one of these
things lying around, just in case they need to remove a cork
that has a hole ripped in it by another corkscrew. This cork
screw is not as foolproof as that double wood body corkscrew.
When you get off center, you're going to twist these points
out of condition and maybe bend the metal. It's a sort of a
spring steel, but it's not very thick.
This corkscrew has been said to be tha butler's friend.
Now, what that means is that the butler can pull the cork out
of his master's wine and drink some and then replace it with an
inferior wine, and he can put the cork back in again and the
master can't find a hole in the cork. [Laughter] So, this is
the butler's friend.
Teiser: What do you call it?
Timothy: Well, I call this type a two-pronged corkscrew. It's not really
a screw; you can call it a two-pronged cork remover.
My mother was born in 1873, and she has passed away now.
(She would be one hundred years old if she were alive.) My
mother said that when she was a girl they had these corkscrews
with the two prongs around. And then, I found one in an old
antique shop with a patent date on it and kind of primitively
built. A lot of them are built with more parts, more complicated
than this, indicating that they couldn't mass produce it. I
think it has the date 1868 on it. So I think that that was
probably the first patent of any corkscrew with these two prongs.
My mother would have been a girl around that time; so when she
was ten years old, the corkscrew patent was, let's say, fifteen
Teiser: Someone gave us one of the kind that you pump air into the bottle
to force the cork out.
Timothy: They're pretty good, and they don't do any harm to the wine
either. People raise all kinds of funny questions about "do
they spoil the wine?" I don't see that they do. Did you have
one that was like an air pump? Or did it have gas?
Teiser: No, it was like a bicycle pump.
Timothy: Well, 1 like that kind better than the ones that use a propellant
gas. There are several of those gas operated corkscrews on the
market. There are some that operate wich (X>2 gas, carbon dioxide
gas. There's others that operate with Vreon gas; that's a
refrigerant gas. Then the other ones with an air pump; there's
a number of different manufacturers of those too. I don't find
that those corkscrews that use a propellant gas do anything to
spoil the wine. I haven't noticed that even from the ones with
People do also raise this kind of question: they say,
'Veil, it might be dangerous. The bottle might explode in your
hands, and you'd better wrap the bottle with a towel." I've
never had any kind of problem like that either. I don't know
if anybody's ever exploded a bottle with one of these C0 2 powered
corkscrews, but I guess it is possible if the bottle is a little
Teiser: To get back to your corkscrew collection--! think you told a
little about a purchase you'd made--a whole collection that had
come to you.
Yes, I bought a whole collection from a Mr. Joe Vasconi of St.
Helena for $2000. It amounted to about 368 corkscrews that are
on display in one of our cabinets in St. Helena.
Teiser: They've been kept together?
Timothy: We've kept this collection all together. Now, each corkscrew
in our collection is serially numbered too, has a little code
nuuber marked on it. So they've gotten catalogued, and we've
gotten them insured, and then this Joe Vasconi collection we've
kept separate from the others—pretty much so. If anybody's
got some of them mixed up, we could re-separate them, because
they are serial numbered.
Now, there's another addition to the collection that is
interesting. A Mr. Jim Howe passed away over in Walnut Creek,*
and he was also a corkscrew collector. He had about 165 cork
screws, and he willed them to me. So after his death, I received
those corkscrews. Now Jim Howe was an interesting old retired
journalist. He had once been a foreign correspondent for one
of the major press services, you know, like Associated Press.
He was the China correspondent, and he was a foreign correspondent
at other times in other parts of the world. He lived in China
for a number of years. He developed an interest in a lot of
things, and in later life he became quite a wine judge, too, and
quite a wine taster--you might say an enthusiastic wine buff.
He even opened up a little winery on his own property in a little
old basement cellar built down under an old windmill tower or
whatever it was. Right on the edge of Walnut Creek is where he
had this. Jim Howe was a very unusual and interesting man.
He was the son of a famous editor,** also, who had worked in
Kansas. I think he was born in Atchison, Kansas.
To indicate how interesting the man was and what unusual
things he got involved in--he had a collaction of things called
"pigeon whistles," and he willed those to the University of
California at Berkeley I think. A pigeon whistle is a thing
that you fasten on the pigeon, and when the pigeon flies, it
*April 15, 1970.
Timothy: screeches and whistles--the air moving through this thing. And
the idea is that over in China, where you want to protect your
rice crop or whatever from the birds, you get some pigeons,
and you equip your pigeons with these hand -made pigeon whistles,
little things built of very light-weight material. And your
pigeons go flying around screeching, and they sound like a hawk
or whatever. Each whistle sounds a little different. They
scare the birds away, to keep the birds from eating your grain.
Harroun: In his corkscrew collection, did he have some from China?
Timothy: Oh, no, apparently nobody ever made a corkscrew in China.
Now, the other thing I want to say about Jim Howe is that
he had- -I don't know if he got it as a gift from some old
business or if he went and bought it some place—a set of
dental tools, like an old-fashioned dentist would use, the kind
that were actively in use about forty or fifty years ago. But
with these dental tools, he would build some corkscrews. He
would get some tusk or a horn, and then he would get some wire
corkscrew—he might buy some cheap corkscrew in a market some
place or in a hardware store, and he would remove the metal
part from the handle, and then he would put on a more ornate
hand -made handle. He would take something, say, like the horn
of a cow, you know, so big. The horns of animals like cows
have a kind of a nerve within them, making the horn hollow. The
nerve carries the blood supply and whatnot up into the horn.
Well, when you have the horn of a cow, then, it's an old
dehydrated thing; all this fleshy part of it is removed so it's
open on the one end like this.
So then this Jim Howe would take these dental tools or some
little old scroll saw or something, and at this open end—and
of course, it would be circular at the end there- -he would take
something, and he would saw some teeth in here; he'd make a
mouth, this way. [Laughter] If he'd cut r.his out this way in
that little triangle of this horn from here, down in this end, .
the sharp point of the horn, he'd cut a little slot down there
and then he'd stick this little piece that he took out of here;
he'd put it down in there and it would maka the tail of the fish.
So here's the fish with his mouth open and a little tail back
there. And maybe he'd take the other piece that came out of
this side and put it on the back for a fin, you know, a dorsal
fin. Then, he'd glue something in place fcr a couple of eyes
or drill a couple of little holes for eyes for this fish or shark.
Timothy: This was just things he'd do for a hobby-just for pastime.
But that would be made into a corkscrew; the corkscrew part of
it would stick out from one part of it.
So he did a lot of monkey business like that with these
old dental tools. And he had a jewelry store make up a little
tiny corkscrew about that big, not much bigger than a little
sugar cube. He'd have a little tiny thing like that made up
in a jewelry shop to give to me as a gift, so that I could say
that the smallest corkscrew in my collection came from Jim Howe.
Now, somebody--! think one of the Wentes, I think Herman
Wente or Ernest Wente--you know they have a blacksmith's shop
on the ranch where they make a lot of their own tools—did you
know that? You've interviewed Ernest Wente;* did you get Herman
Wente on tape too?
Teiser: No, he'd died before we started.
Timothy: Well, they do a lot of interesting things out there, make a lot
of their own cultivating tools and all kinds of things. I think
that one of the Wentes or one of the workers in their little old
home blacksmith's shop twisted up a left-h&nded corkscrew and
gave it to Jim Howe so that he'd have a left-handed corkscrew
in his collection. [Laughter] You know, most corkscrews you
twist to the right. You twist them clockwise, If you look down
at the top of it. They twisted one so he had a left-handed
corkscrew; you had to turn it the other way to get it into the
Teiser: Where is your collection physically stored now?
Timothy: Oh, it's on display, on the second floor at the old Greystone
cellar. Except the duplicates. Haven't you seen any of them?
Teiser: Not the Greystone cellar. We've seen some in the tasting room
Timothy: Yes, there's about a hundred and twenty-five or a hdndred and
fifty that are here. We have a little bit of a traveling display-
*Ernest A. Wente, Wine Making in the Livfermore Valley, an
interview in this series completed in 1971.
Timothy: another seventy-five or so—that we allow to travel around
once in a while. But the largest part of the collection is on
public display at St. Helena. Most of those that are not at
St. Helena are duplicates or very close to being duplicates
of those that are on display.
THE WINE MUSEUM
Teiser: What will go into the Fromm & Sichel museum?
Timothy: They're going to call it The Wine Museum of San Francisco,
housing The Christian Brothers Collection, you know, because
they are our distributing firm; they sell our products. We
have no financial interest in the museum itself. It's their
building; they're building the main office for their firm.
And San Francisco is the main headquarters of Fromm & Sichel.
Some years ago it used to be New York, but it's been San
Francisco for about the last fifteen years, I guess. They are
going to have a lot of artifacts having to do with wine.
They're going to have a lot of printed things, including
graphic arts. They're going to have all kinds of things. And
then there are some three-dimensional artifacts of various
kinds — little statuettes and little images of workers in the
vineyards. Lots of things of interest, and lots of things of
great historical interest. Some of these things date way, way
There's this wood carved statue of St. Genevieve of Paris
that dates from about 1490 or so, and it's supposed to be
carved in linden wood. There's also a very handsome little
statue of St. Urban of Langres, one of the districts of France.
St. Genevieve of Paris is said to be the patronness of the wine
growers of the area near Paris. The St. Genevieve of Paris
statue is holding a little model of a church, the church of
St. Genevieve, in one hand, and then I think in the other hand,
a cluster of grapes, indicating she's the patronness of the wine
growers. Then St. Urban, he's holding a missal or a bible, and
on top of the book is a cluster of grapes, indicating that he's
the patron of the wine growers of that are&, Langres.
Now, I have asked how many of the corkscrews they might
want for the collection. I asked that question when Norman Fromm
was still alive, and he passed away several years ago. Now, Mr.
Timothy: Ernest Mittelberger is in charge of setting up the program for
the displays, and in general fitting the collection together
to the floor space, and so on, and actually organizing it and
handling all the details of it. I sent them a big group of
corkscrews about seventy-five. I told them they could have all
of them on, let's say, permanent loan from me or from the
Christian Brothers, or they could select from that group and
send back to me whatever they didn't want. Well, they kept
They expect to vary their program of display. Now there
are lots of books about wine. I have a book collection, too,
and so does Alfred Fromm. And there are just thousands of books
about wine that either I or they have at our disposal. So they
might feature books one month, and the next month they might
feature something else.
Wine glasses too. There's an extensive wine glass collection
that were basically collected by Franz Sichel. He is also deceased,
probably about eight or nine years ago.
Harroun: Was that exhibited at the California Palace of the Legion of
Timothy: Yes, that glass collection was displayed et the Palace of the
Legion of Honor about four years ago. That's quite an interesting
collection of glasses.
Teiser: Do you ever expect to do a book on your corkscrew collection?
Timothy: Well, this interview is about the nearest thing I've ever done
to a book. In other words, if somebody other than me would do
all the work, that would be fine.
Teiser: You have other things to do'
Timothy: I just don't think I'll ever have the time to put together
anything in the way of a worthwhile book.
Teiser: I hope you're putting together at least notes on the corkscrews.
Timothy: We have a kind of catalogue, you know—at least, they're reasonably
well identified. We have each corkscrew described with a little
bit of written description. We put this together mostly for,
oh, our own guidance in knowing what we've got, so we can look
through a pile of papers and visualize the collection. Also,
Timothy: for reasons like this, we carry insurance on the corkscrews,
and if something would happen to a 'lot of them—let's say ten
corkscrews were stolen or something like that, because of our
little catalogue numbers on them, we could identify which were
those ten that were stolen. If our inventory didn't count out
right, we could identify which were the ones that disappeared
and maybe our insurance company then would be satisfied with
our documentation, paying us for the loss of those ten corkscrews.
I don't think we've collected anything yet from the insurance
company on any of the corkscrews. About the most we've ever
lost was two corkscrews that were stolen from a locked case
when they were on display in a department store in New York;
there were about one hundred corkscrews that were in the display,
and they were in locked cases. Somebody managed to pick one
lock or something; anyway, they claimed that two corkscrews
disappeared out of this cabinet while it was locked. Now, I
can't prove this, and I wasn't there. I was out here in California.
Transcriber: Keiko Sugimoto
Final Typist: Keiko Sugimoto
THE HISTORY OF
THE CHRISTIAN BROTHERS WINERIES
Brother Justin Meyer
May 5, 1966
"Christian Brothers is not a family name, but rather is
the name of a religious teaching Order of the Roman Catholic
Church. The income derived from their winemaking business is
primarily used to finance the educational goals of the Order."
These are the words of a tour guide which I overheard while
walking through The Christian Brothers Aging Cellars at
St. Helena recently. But, how frequently at wine tastings
and other functions have I had to explain this distinction
myself? Today The Christian Brothers products have become so
well known nationwide that even those who are not acquainted
with the Brothers primary work of Christian education know the
name "Christian Brothers" for excellence in production of wines,
champagne, vermouth and brandy.
When in 1881*, in Martinez, California, Brother Victor ick
experimented with his first lot of wine, little did he realize
the far reaching results his product would have. The Brothers
had purchased 70 acres of land in 1879 in Martinez principally
for a site for their novitiate, or training center for young
Brothers. With the property was included 12 acres of vineyard.
In 1882, with the permission of his superior, Brother
Victorick, along with Brother Cecilian, crushed the second
year's grapes in a water trough, using as a crusher a large
club at the end of a handle which they called a "mule's leg". A
*The pamphlet, "History of Winemaking at Marti aez", says 1891,
but this does not agree with several other dates. It is pre
sumed that this was a misprint and the actual date was 1881.
-i See literature cited for references.
Evidently the experiment was a success, so much so that
in 1883 the "mule's leg" was abandoned and a crusher and some
tanks were purchased. By 1887 the Brothers were purchasing
grapes from their neighbors, Mr. Babatt and Mr. Frasher, and
commenced to sell wines for commercial purposes.— Brother
Azarie, the genial successor of Brother Victorick, operated
the winery until his death in 1897. He came to be known as
"the schoolmaster of viticulture" for the whole neighborhood
It is known that Brother Raphael was assigned to Martinez
in 1904 and headed the winery until 1935.— In between the death
of Brother Azarie and the arrival of Brother Raphael it seems
that Brother Cecilian, described as "a very good, very faithful,
if rugged workman" filled in as operator* of the winery. Brother
Victorick, who started the winemaking and then devoted most
of his time to other employments at Martinez until 1911, probably
guided the work of Brother Cecilian. It is recalled by Brother
U. Basil, now retired at Mont La Salle, Napa, that Brother
Victorick taught Brother Raphael the rudiments of wine production,
and frequently would take him to meet and visit with the local
Italians to ask questions and learn more about the art.—
In 1904 the business had proven profitable enough that
a new three-story winery building was erected in Martinez.
This building was constructed incorporating all of the modern
conveniences of the industry at that time. The hand cranked
crusher and press were found on the third floor. Lugs full
of grapes were transported from the delivery wagons up a tram
way by the power of a horse-drawn conveyor. On the second floor
were the fermenting tanks from which the new wine was drained
to the aging cooperage on the ground floor. All wine was moved
by gravity flow. Not until many years later was the first
electric pump, a one-horsepower unit with a one inch discharge,
purchased. No room was provided for bottling because at the 1
time most of the wine was sold to Briests, Brothers or commercially
as bulk wine in small kegs and barrels.—
Yet, with all this success and progress, the wines must have
left something to be desired by present quality standards. Brother'
Raphael's training in winemaking was spotty and his favorite
motto: "hard work makes good wine" indicates more good desire
than skill and ability. During the period Mr. A. J. Salazar,
"one of the best experts in wines," was hired as a consultant
winemaker to do tasting and blending.—
The advent of prohibition in 1919 didn't seem to affect
the Brothers operation too adversely because they were able
to continue production of sacramental and medicinal wines.
If anything, prohibition proved providential for the Brothers.
By 1930 it seems that the town of Martinez was expanding and
encroaching on the Brothers property and privacy, which was not
desirable for the spiritual training of the young Brothers.
Because of this the Brothers began to search for a new site
for their Novitiate. It so happened that the Giersberger winery,
8 miles northwest of Napa, was for sale. Mr r Theodore Gier,
owner of the winery and 338 acres of surrounding land, was feeling
the economic effects of prohibition. The grape juice business
was not too profitable and bootlegging was risky. So on May 29,
1930 the Brothers purchased the property and began construction
of the monastery, which was completed and ready for occupation
on April 11, 1932. The history of the purchase indicates that
there were 100,000 gallons of dry wine included in the trans-
action.— This is a little confusing, because according to law
Mr. Gier was not supposed to have made any wine between 1919
and 1930. It could have been that this was, grape juice which
could be easily converted by fermentation into wine. Or,
considering the state of winemaking technology at the time,
it might have been that it was almost impossible to prevent
"wild fermentations" from converting the stored grape juice
to wine. Old time "bootleggers" tell of methods of hiding
illegal wine such as putting a layer of denser grape juice
on the bottom of a tank and floating the lighter wine on top
of the juice. Then if an inspector required a sample it was
drawn from a spigot at the bottom of the tank and only juice
was drawn. The fact is that the Brothers acquired 100,000
gallons of dry "wine" with the purchase.
Brother Timothy, present Cellarmaster of The Christian
Brothers, recalls being assigned in the summer of 1931 to help
Brother Raphael and Mr. Frank Sommer, cooper and winemaker at
the Giersberger winery, to dismantle and move several tanks
from Martinez to Napa. 54,000 gallons of "nearly sweet wine"
were also moved to the new home. The City of Martinez owned
the Martinez-Benicia ferry, which at the time was the only
way across that part of the bay. Brother Timothy recalls that
the city allowed the Brothers to move everything across the
ferry at no charge. It is not certain whether this was because
of the city's special esteem for the Brothers or a sign of
their extreme joy at seeing the Brothers move.—
- 4 -
The Napa property dates back to 1864 when a Mr. H. Huderaann
laid out the central gardens of the estate. He also planted
the initial vineyard some time before 1882, the year when he
was forced out of his property by a number of material mis-
fortunes. He had been concentrating on raising cattle and
sheep, the vineyard having been more of a hcbby and a new
adventure. When forced to sell and leave the property, Mr.
Hudemann did so at night, being unable - as he is reported
to have said - to part with it in full view of all its beauty
In 1884 Rudolf Jordan bought the ranch which was then
called the "Spout Farm" for its numerous springs. He first
changed the name to "Lotus Farm", being fond of an Egyptian-
Lotus that grew in the artificial lake on the grounds. Later,
after having planted 75 more acres of vineyard, the place
became known as "Lotus Vineyard". Jordan sold it to Theodore
Gier in 1900. It was Jordan who wrote in July, 1930:
"When the writer was informed that this
place had been acquired by The Christian
Brothers for an educational institution,
he felt that it had finally come into proper
hands, because the influence of its wooded
hills cannot help but be beneficial in the
education of young men. For its quiet
seclusion should further the contemplation
of the Infinite Mind in the deep shade of
its eternal redwoods."
Gier, impressed by Sequoia Gigantea tree which Hudemann
had planted, and which had developed to a heel thy, living
monument to this man's name, called his property "Sequoia
Vineyard." Gier himself went into grape growing and wine-
making. He planted additional acres of grapes and built
a spacious stone wine cellar in 1903. As a wine merchandiser
he met early success based to a large extent on his tireless
striving for quality. With the advent of Prohibition, how
ever, the years of prosperity ended and his fortune declined
until he sold out to the Brothers in 1930. —
1934 marks the beginning of an important chapter in the
winery history. Not only had Prohibition ended, bringing new
life to the industry, but it also was the year of the appoint
ment of Brother S. John to the winery staff. — He started
out as many other Brothers in the history of the operation,
as a barrel scrubber. Within a year's time he had advanced
to the position of general manager because of circumstances as
well as his business knowledge acquired before he joined the
Brothers. It seems that there were some differences of opinion
between Brother John and his superior in the winery, Brother
Raphael, which hurried this advance. Both were deeply religious
men of strong principle. Brother Raphael was a believer in
the strict, literal interpretation of the law. He would
frequently command the younger Brother to repeat jobs or to
do works of questionable value simply to ; test his obedience.
While these procedures might have been calculated to instill
the perfect obedience and patience, they seemed to have little
basis as sound business practices. Several other factors
disturbed Brother John. While he respected the older Brother
he was quick to find that Brother Raphael's training in wine-
making did not enable him to answer many questions crucial to
the production of fine wines. In addition, Brother John found
that the old winemaker was blind to the fact that some secular
representatives were dishonestly taking advantage of the
Brothers. Finally, under the burden of all these factors,
the young Brother approached the Brother Provincial and con
fessed that if something wasn't done to improve the existing
situation he could not continue in this work. Recognizing
the honesty of the young Brother, the Provincial put him in
complete charge of the winery. — Soon, Brother Raphael,
after many years of devoted service to God and his Order,
was retired at Mont La Salle where he spent his last years
until his death in 1944.—
One of Brother John's first projects was to enroll part
time at the University of California in Bexkeley in the
Food Science and Winemaking classes of Professor W. V. Cruess.
This was typical of his thorough grass-root approach to every
thing. Among the first purchases of the new manager were a
pasteurizer and a refrigeration unit. — This would seem to
substantiate the previous observation that the wines made
during Brother Raphael's time were probably not of very high
There were many stability problems with the wine, and
with his newly acquired knowledge from the university and this
added equipment, Brother John hoped to resolve them. Brother
John was so important in the history of The Christian Brothers
winery that if this paper did not convey an accurate and
complete picture of him to the reader it would certainly be
an injustice. And yet, in a work of this size, such a com
prehensive picture would be almost impossible. Brother John's
death at the age of 49 on April 16, 1962 came es a shock to
everyone associated with him. A quote from Brother T. Jerome,
Provincial of The Christian Brothers at the time of Brother
John's death, gives us a bit of an insight into the Brother's
personality: "We Brothers recognize in Brother John an astute
businessman, the man who built The Christian Brothers winery."
Brother John, in spite of his business success, felt
that one of his greatest achievements was the establishment
of a free grammar school for boys and girls, St. La Salle
School at Reedley. But one would be incorrect to think of
Brother John as a shrewd businessman who had built this school
as a pet project and a source of relaxation when he visited it.
Mr. Herman Ar china 1, manager of The Christian Brothers Reedley
winery, recalls how Brother John used to delight in sitting in
the school yard to observe the children during lunch period.
Mr. Archinal describes Brother John as a "student of human
nature*. — It was in the school yard where, observing
uninhibited children, he learned so much about the people
with whom he had to deal in the business world.
He could watch two children playing and predict if a fight
or a friendship was soon to develop. In the same way he was
noted for his ability to diagnose persons with whom he had to
do business. Dishonesty did not surprise him because he
frequently expected it from certain people. Always vitally
interested in everything and everyone around him. Brother John
impressed everyone he met as a vibrant and dynamic personality.
In 1935 Brother Timothy joined the winery staff. Four
years earlier he had been assigned to the summer job of moving
several wine tanks from Martinez to Napa. Now he was back at
the winery to stay. Thirty-one years later he is still very
active as Cellarmaster of The Christian Brothers winery.
The next ten years were extremely difficult for the
Brothers operation. Mont La Salle had been purchased in the
depths of the depression on little more collateral than faith.
From 1930 until the early forties the Brothers were constantly
in debt to the extent that at one time papers were drawn up
for the sale of the winery, and all acreage except for ten
acres which included the monastery proper. Faith and diligence,
and shrewd work by Brother John and financial advisors, enabled
the Brothers to go on.
The 1940 's brought prosperity to all business. The winery
and liquor business was no exception. The principal problem
was now to supply the demand. In 1941 the Brothers had begun
to blend and sell brandy. In the early forties the brandy
business was doing so well, that in 1945 when the Mount Tivy
Winery in Reedley, California was put up for sale, the Brothers
were ready to expand their business operation."
With the purchase of the Mount Tivy Winery the Brothers
acquired a considerable inventory of brandy and sweet wines.
Up until this time the Brothers had not made any of their own
commercial brandy. The still at Mont La Salle had been used
only to make high proof, or fortifying brandy. All commercial
brandy had been bought from other wineries, then aged and blended
by the Brothers.
In 1947 a new Vulcan still was purchased, and a fine
distiller, Mr. Phil Brighton, was hired. Much of the success
and quality of The Christian Brothers brandy is attributed \.o
the genius of this demanding perfectionist. Today the Brothers
may have the largest inventory of brandy in the world.
The purchase of this new plant enabled the Brothers to
divide their operation so that the sweet wines, vermouth and
brandy would all be produced in the warmer San Joaquin Valley,
where the climate is more conducive to production of grapes
suitable for this purpose.
At the same time the dry wine sales were constantly increasing
and the Brothers found themselves once again cramped for space.
In 1945, in need of more storage space for dry wines, the Brothers
rented cooperage from Roma Wine Company in the old Greystone cellars
at St. Helena. By 1950 the Brothers were leasing one million
gallons of storage space, and in April of that year bought the
old stone winery from Cresta Blanca, owned by Schenley Industries.
This building has quite an interesting history.
What prompted the construction of what ir, reputed to be
the "largest stone winery in the world" in an area of relatively
small grape acreage? The reason is unique in California's
wine history. By 1880 the rapid development of the vineyards
in the Napa Valley resulted in nearly 12,000 acres devoted to
wine-grape growing. This closely approximates the present
day plantings. Although many small wineries were in operation,
growers depended mainly on the bulk wine market in San Francisco
for an outlet. This market had become highly competitive,
and under such adverse conditions Napa Valley wines were subject
to many vicious price-fixing practices and dictatorial policies
set forth by San Francisco wine merchants. It. was estimated
that the wine growers loss of revenue under these conditions
exceeded $50,000 annually. With a firm resolve to fight back,
the growers banded together seeking a means to rescue the Napa
Valley wine business from the influence of the price-fixing
In the forefront of this effort to rescue the wine business
from economic chaos was William B. Bourn II. Rancher, financier,
president of the San Francisco Spring Valley Water Works, and
later developer of the old Empire Gold Mine at Grass Valley,
Bourn possessed rare qualities of leadership. With bold
imagination and a keen sense of business acumen, Bourn conceived
the idea of erecting a huge wine cellar equipped with the finest
cooperage to bring Napa Valley wines to maturity, and then to
market them as a quality product. Such an operation would pro
vide the growers a facility to store their wines at a nominal
cost, and, equally important, permit them to borrow money on
their wines to continue their farming operations. (Wine at
that time was not considered acceptable collateral for bank
Obviously, such a facility would require considerable
capital. Subsidies were arranged whereby one hundred growers
would subscribe five percent of their grape crop for a period
of three years to finance the project. With soms capital pro
vided by Bourn and his partner, Mr. Everett Wise, together
with the grape subsidies, sufficient funds were raised to
initiate the project. Construction started in April 1888. —
On June 18, 1888 the cornerstone was laid. — By autumn of that
year sufficient progress had been made to accommodate the crop
of that year. By the end of 1889 construction was essentially
complete, including a distillery with a capacity of one thousand gallons
per day. The incredibly short period of time taken to build
the winery not only signifies the urgency of the project, but
illustrates the singleness of purpose and drive exerted by Bourn
to bring it to completion.
Unfortunately, soon after the completion of the winery,
the phylloxera plague hit the valley in 1894 doing away with
any grape surplus. The same year the winery was sold to Mr.
Charles Carpy.— This was the first of six sales of the winery,
which, because of its tremendous size, became a real "white
elephant". Among its owners have been Bisceglia Brothers,
Central California Wineries and Schenley Industries. The low
point in the proud old building's history was in 1931, when in
the economic hardships of the depression and prohibition the
entire property was auctioned at §10,000.—
At the present "Greystone" is used as an aging cellar for
dry wines and is the center of the Brothers champagne production.
Mr. Auguste Pirio is the champagne maker in charge of the
Charmat process production.
A very important feature in recent history has been the
winery's participation in the Los Angeles County and the
California State Fairs. The Brothers came to the Napa Valley
long after many of the other name wineries had been long
established. No business or industry is overjoyed at the
prospect of new competition. These monks would have to prove
their worth and quality and make a name for themselves. The
Brothers had several factors working against them; one obvious
drawback was that being religious, the Brothers were not much
for social functions, and consequently, didn't do the selling
job that many other winery operators could. There was another
aspect connected with the Brothers being religious; for many
reasons, one being respect for those who conscientiously think
that religious shouldn't be in the wine or spirit business,
the Brothers shunned publicity. They did this even to the
extent of not letting any pictures be taken by reporters or
giving articles on the winery. Writers are not soon to forget,
and today it is not infrequent that the Brothers wines are
noticibly absent in articles on California wines. The results
of the fair wine judgings of the last ten years should seem to
indicate that these writers who overlook the Brothers wines are
not basing their choices on quality alone.
Beginning in 1949 the Brothers started to enter some wines
in the fair judgings at Sacramento and Los Angeles. At the
time most of the premium wineries were represented. In 1955
it was decided that it was time to see how the Brothers wines
stood up quality wise to anything in the fair. It was time
for the young Napa Valley winery to seat itself with the elders,
and either be accepted or humiliated. The results have been
most gratifying and reassuring, to the Brothers winery at least.
Beginning in 1955, and including evesy year up to the present,
the Brothers wines have won more awards each year than any other
winery. In the open division of the two fairs The Christian
Brothers wines have won 186 gold medals, 219 silver, 180 bronze
and 90 honorable mentions. 291 of these awards have been top in
their class. This may happen when the judges feel that no wines
in a class deserves a gold medal. Then the top award may be 1
a silver or bronze medal. In the special division, which is
more limited, the Brothers wines have done just as well: 100
first awards, 68 seconds, 54 thirds and 5 merit awards. In
all, this amounts to some 1,002 awards in the last 11 years,
a recognition of constant striving for quality. —
In recent years the Brothers have taken steps to insure
continued quality standards in their operation. The Brothers
have acquired nearly 1,000 acres of vineyard in the Napa Valley,
and another 1,000 in the San Joaquin Valley, to insure them
selves of a basic supply of the varietal grapes desired to
produce fine wines and brandy. This represents a small portion
of the grapes needed for the size of the operation today, but
at the same time is the nucleus of each year's vintage.
Last year a new warehouse was opened at St. Helena primarily
for the storage of bottled table wines. Much is said about
the aging of wines in wooden casks and tanks. Anyone who is
acquainted with the quality factor known as bottle bouquet can
attest to the benefits of additional bottle aging, or "binning"
as it is called. It was for this purpose that a warehouse with
the floor-space of a football field was built tc accommodate
approximately 160,000 cases of bottled wines. Connected to'
the warehouse is a progressive one million gallon stainless
steel bulk wine storage cellar, which will be used primarily'
in the storage of white table wines.
At present a mammoth warehouse, larger than that at St.
Helena, is u/.der construction at Reedley for the storage of
bottled wines and brandy.
Seventy-five years later the results of Brother Victorick's
experiment might cause him to blink his eyes in disbelief. And
yet basically, nothing has changed. This simple Brother long
ago started a small enterprise to help his Institute to carry
out its primary work. Today many may view The Christian Brothers
winery as a large business, one which has received notable
recognition in its field. Yet any of the Brothers involved
in the winery will tell you that it is only a small part of
a great picture. These Brothers, who at one time joined a
religious congregation for the purpose of helping and educating
young people, have been appointed to the challenge of becoming
the best winemakers and businessmen possible so that through
the support of the winery The Christian Brothers might continue
their work in Christian education. *
1. Anonymous; date unknown; History of Winemaking at Martinez
2. Contra Costa Gazette, Martinez, Calif; 1924
3. Fenlon, Edward; Dec. 1957; a letter regarding memories of
4. Raphael, Brother; Necrological Notice
5. Basil, Brother; April 1966; Personal Interview
6. Anonymous; date unknown; History of Winemaking at Martinez
7 . Ibid
9. Timothy, Brother; April 1966; Personal Interview
10. The Wine Review, March 1945
11. John, Brother; Necrological Notice
12. Timothy, Brother; April 1966; Personal Interview
13. Raphael, Brother; Necrological Notice
14. Timothy, Brother; April 1966; Personal Interview
15. Archinal, Herman; April 1966; Personal Interview
16. The Wine Review, July 1945
17. St. Helena Star, April 13, 1888
18. St. Helena Star, June 15, 1888
19. St. Helena Star, June 1, 1894
20. St. Helena Star, May 1931
21. California State Fair Wine Judgings, 1955-1965
HISTORY OF GREYSTONE
Built 1888 and 1889 by William Bowers Bourn II and Everett E. Wise.
Sold May 26, 1894 by William B. Bourn II to Charles Carpy and Company.
Sold August 10, 1894 by Carpy to California Wine Association (CWA was
incorporated on that date).
Sold April 1, 1925 by CWA to Bisceglia Brothers of San Jose.
Sold January 16, 1931 by Bisceglia Brothers to California Vineyards
Sold December 31, 1932 by California Vineyards Company to Bisceglia
Brothers at public auction for $10,000.
Ownership transferred in 1938 from Bisceglia Brothers to Bank of America.
Sold April 19, 1940 by Bank of America to Central California Wineries,
Sold November 20, 1942 by Central California Wineries, Inc. to Schenley.
Sold April 27, 1950 by Schenley to St. Helena Wine Cellars, Inc., a wholly
owned subsidiary of Mont La Salle Vineyards, which was dissolved by merger
with Mont La Salle Vineyards on March 31, 1971.
Corrected March 5, 1974
VINTNIIS SINCI 111]
f 101 It*. NAM. CAUFMNIA Mill • III f«> III IM«
THE . CHRISTIAN BROTHERS WINE AND CHAMPAGNE CELLARS
by Carl Wehr
Visitors to the Napa Valley, driving along State Highway
#29, are invariably awed when, just north of St. Helena, they
suddenly come upon a hugh castle-like stone building set im
posingly against a hillside. Originally called Greystone,
this massive structure built of sandstone and rising three
stories above ground level, is identified as The Christian
Brothers Wine and Champagne Cellars.
Long a landmark in upper Napa Valley, this winery has
played an important role in the history of winemaking in this
region. It is the principal aging cellars of the Christian
Brothers for their production of fine Napa Valley table wines.
Complete facilities for the production of their champagne
and other sparkling wines are also contained in this building.
The purpose of constructing what is reputed to be the
"largest stone winery in the world" here in an area of rel
atively small grape acreage is unique in California's wine
history. By 1880 the rapid development of vineyards in the
valley had resulted in eleven thousand acres of wine-grape
plantings Although many small wineries were in operation,
growers depended mainly on the bulk wine market in San
Francisco for an outlet. This market had become highly
competitive and, under such adverse conditions, Napa Valley
wines were not given the consideration due a fine vintage.
Moreover, vicious price fixing practices and dictatorial
policies, established by the wine merchants ware thoroughly
demoralizing to the valley growers. It was estimated their
loss in revenue under these conditions exceeded $50,000
annually, with a firm resolve to fight back, the growers
banded together, seeking a means to rescue the valley wine
business from the influence of the price fixing combine.
In the forefront of this effort to rescue the valley
wine business from economic chaos was William B. Bourn.
Rancher, financier, president of San Francisco Spring Valley
Water Works, and later developer of the Empire Gold Mine at
Grass Valley, Bourn possessed rare qualities of leadership.
With bold imagination and a keen sense of business acumen.
Bourn conceived the idea of erecting a hugh wine cellar,
equipped with the finest cooperage, to bring Napa Valley
wines to maturity, and then to market thorn as a quality
Such an operation would provide the growers with a
facility to store their wines at a nominal cost; and, equally
important, permit them to borrow money on their wines to con
tinue their farming operations. (Wine was not at that time
considered acceptable collateral for bank loans). Obviously
such a facility would require considerable capital. Sub-
sidles were arranged whereby one hundred growers would sub
scribe five percent of their grape crop for a period of three
years to finance the project. With some capital provided by
Bourn and his partner, Everett Wise, together with the grape
subsidies, sufficient funds were raised.
Construction started in April, 1888. On June 18, 1888,
the cornerstone was laid in the southeast corner of the buil
ding. By autumn of that year sufficient progress had been
made to accommodate the crop for that year. By the end of
1889, construction was essentially complete, including a
distillery with a capacity of one thousand gallons per day,
The incredibly short period of time taken to build the winery
(less than two years) not only signifies the urgency of the
project, but illustrates the singleness of purpose and drive
exerted by Bourn to bring it to completion.
Thus today, Greystone stands as a monument to those
growers who, nearly a century ago, had faith in the quality
of their wines. Their conviction has been confirmed as
attested by the prestige with which Napa Valley wines are
regarded by wine connoisseurs throughout the world.
Not only is the massiveness and beauty of this building
arresting. Equally remarkable is the planning and foresight
which attended its construction with respect to plant layout,
with little modification, the transition from 19th century
operation to modern methods and equipment, has been smoothly
effected. This can be better appreciated by examining the
building in more detail.
The building measures four hundred feet in length by
seventy-eight feet in^width, with a projection at the front
measuring twenty feet by fifty feet. Rising three floors in
height, with a spacious attic (in which originally was
located the crushers) , the total floor space i» just under
three acres. Both the transverse and exterior walls of hand- .
cut native stone are two feet in thickness. The visitor,
after entering through an impressive Roman arch, finds him
self in a broad vestibule, flanked on one side by a small
sample room and on the other by the old office. Both of*
these spaces contain the original cedar paneling, which has
taken on a soft luster through the years.
In the lounge the high vaulted ceiling and masonry -walls
are complemented by the tongue and groove paneling of the
huge doors. Here, the Christian Brothers have installed an
elevator communicating with the upper floors, as well as tas
ting facilities where guests may familiarize themselves with
the Christian Brothers wines. The solid mahogany bar,
gleaming glassware and illuminated displays of wines bespeak
the traditional hospitality of the valley vintners.
Open the wrought iron gates, swing back the massive
doors to the cellar, and there is revealed row on row of oak
casks extending down the two hundred foot length of the north
wing of the building. Bach cask is approximately two thousand
gallons in capacity. All made of imported European white
oak, they are part of the original equipment, of the winery.
These were coopered on the premises while the building was
under construction, and they represent the finest and largest
collection of oak casks in the country today.
In the opposite direction from the lounge a similar
array of cooperage extends the full length of the building's
south wing. These are upright redwood tanks, each of
'five thousand gallons capacity.
Glancing upward, one cannot escape taking special notice
of the ceiling. Throughout the length of the building this
consists of a series of concrete arches, each poured individ
ually with a maximum thickness of twenty-six inches, tapering
to eight inches at the crown. The base of each arch contains
three one-and-one fourth inch twisted steel reinforcement rods
extending the width of the building and tying the structure
together laterally. The crowns are similarly reinforced.
The span is supported on twenty-four foot centers by eight
inch steel columns. This (Ransom's Patent) method of ceiling
construction was the latest design in industrial construc
tion seventy-five years ago, and is believed to be the first
of this type in the west.
To the rear, and outside the west wall of the building
proper, is a fourteen foot covered alleyway extending the
full length of the structure and opening to the end areas.
This, too, is filled with oak cooperage; casks ranging from
three thousand to four thousand gallons in capacity. Orig-
inally this passage gave access to a series of tunnels,
thirteen .in number,. cut .into the limestone formation of the
hillside. Each tunnel was eleven feet high, sixteen feet
wide and two hundred-fifty feet in length. It has been said
that in. constructing the tunnels considerable blasting was
done, cracking the -roof -"of- the limestone strata aTRT causing
excessive seepage and falling rock during wet weather. Hence,
« '•in -more recent years moat of -the tunnels have be«*v T sealed of £*
and are no longer accessible.
The second floor is a duplication of the first, with
respect to the type and arrangement of cooperage. On these
two levels, casks 'and tanks total one million eight-hundred
thousand gallons in capacity. Here the ceiling of the center
section has been beautifully paneled and lighting fixtures of
19th century design are suspended. Several old hand presses
and a crusher dating back to the turn of the century are
displayed in this area. Here, too, contained in glass cases,
is a very interesting collection of corkscrews assembled by
Brother Timothy. Various design features and leverage principles
are to be seen. The United States and many foreign countries
are represented. Just off this area is a modern laboratory
in which samples of each lot of wine are analyzed to keep a
watchful eye on quality.
The third floor, where originally were located the
fermenting tanks, is today given over entirely to champagne
production. Gleaming stainless steel Charmat process pressure
tanks used for the fermentation of champagne dominate the
scene. Here, too, the ceiling of the center section of the
building has been paneled in mahogany. On the transverse
walls are three colored aerial photographs, each measuring
ten by twelve feet, showing Greystone, Mont La Salle and
Mount -Tivy Winery, near Reedley. -A fourth frame presents a
montage of the nine Christian Brothers high schools in Cali-
- .M...fornia,.-plus Mont .La Sail e and St. Mary 'a. College*.,, The— .
smaller frames show La Salle High School in Pasadena, and St.
La Salle primary school at Reedley, both built by the
Christian Brothers. ri-in
The pictures of the Christian Brothers' schools are very
appropriately -shown in this location, inasmuch as revenue for
their support is derived principally from the Brothers wine
and brandy making activities.
, __ . But now, returning .to the- history of the winery. The
optimism attending its planning and construction seemed
justified. The operation was a success, or so it seemed for
a few years. However, already the dreaded phylloxera was
creeping into the vineyards of Napa Valley. By 1894 the
damage to vineyards was so extensive that no surplus wine
existed to cause a marketing problem. In that year Mr. Bourn
sold the winery to Mr. Charles Carpy. Shortly thereafter
Mr. Carpy, as one of the charter members of the California
Wine Association, deeded the property to that organization.
During the next fifty years the ownership of Greystone changed
no less than six times. Built for the production of select
wines, the winery proved too vast an operation for most private
wine producers. Conversely, the compact arrangement of the
plant and the fine oak cooperage did not lend itself to
efficient operation in production of competitive, or low-
priced, -wines.. In short, Or aystone y through the years, became .,,•*...,
a "white elephant". Maintenance lagged. It is said that some
=*rr. -i -of the fine oak cooperage was taken .out and replaced with
wood and that some fell apart from neglect during the
- Prohibition era. In 1932 this property (whose original con
struction -cost .in 1888 was $400,000) sold at auction for $10,000^ .
In 1942, Grey a tone .was purchased by the Schenley ^.i
Industries, Inc., owner of Cresta Blanca Wine Company and
^Roma-Wine Company . .^In 4945 the Christian Brothers- commenced *- -•»•« «•;
. -leasing space in the cellars, and .by 1950 had nearly one mil-
lion gallons of wine atored there. In April, 1950,.. the
Christian Brothers purchased Greystone outright, together with
all cooperage and equipment.
A vigorous program of rehabiliation and modernization
was then instituted. This included an entire new roof,
extensive paving, and, in 1955, complete facilities for the
production of champagne and other sparkling wines. The lounge
and tasting bar were added, together with a ninety car parking
lot for the accommodation of the thousands of guests visiting
the winery each month.
Today Greystone, majestically overlooking the Napa Valley,
stands as a monument to past, present and future high quality wines.
THE NAPA VALLEY
Napa Valley, heart of the northcoast premium wine
production area, is as yet relatively uninfluenced by the
metropolitan atmosphere. Nestled in the coast range some
seventy miles north of San Francisco, the valley presents
an air of scenic beauty. Comparatively small, it extends
from the tide waters of San Pablo bay northward to the
foothills of Mount St. Helena.
The first white settlers arrived in the valley about
1825, but no appreciable growth in the population took place
until early in the 1840 's. With the arrival of many emigrant
families, considerable agricultural development took place,
principally in grain and livestock fanning. The Old Bale
Mill, three miles north of St. Helena, was built in 1846.
The town of St. Helena was founded in 1854, followed by
Calistoga (formerly known as Hot Springs) in 1859. A rail
road serving the valley was completed in 1868
The story of Napa Valley is closely allied with the
development of the wine industry in this region. Viticulture
on a commercial basis dates back some one hundred years.
Although highly successful in California, the growing of the
vitis vinifera species of grapes in other regions of the
United States met -with repeated failure. Indeed, -from
beginning of colonial times, shortly after the settlement of
Jamestown, numerous attempts were made by the wine growing
interests of the Old World to establish vineyards oh the
eastern seaboard. In the latter part of the 18th century,
the Franciscan Fathers, migrating north from Mexico, planted
vines near their missions. With the success of these plant
ings came the discovery that here in California were soil and
climatic conditions rivaling those of the famous wine grow
ing regions of Europe.
In Napa Valley the first vineyards were planted in the
1850's. In 1861 Colonel Agoston Haraszthy, often called the
father of California viticulture, headed a commission
appointed by Governor John Downey to study wzn* growing in
Europe as the means of developing the potential of the
industry in California. This commission returned with many
thousands of cuttings numbering several hundred varieties,
collected from all the principal wine growing ragions of
Europe and the Middle East.
So successfully did the vines thrive, and so high was
the quality of the wines made from the grapes, that it soon
became apparent that the Napa Valley had the soil and
climatic conditions required to produce wines comparable to
those of Europe. As a result the plantings reached a total
of eleven thousand acres in 1880.
But all was not well in this seeming paradise. Creep
ing into the valley was the scourge, phylloxera. This
insect pest, sometimes called a root louse, was first
identified in the vineyards of France about 1858. Inves
tigation revealed that the origin of this insect was on
American soil, where the pest fed on the roots of the wild
American grape vine. Inadvertently introduced to the
European vineyards, it attacked the roots of the vitis
vinifera species of grapes. Its devastating affect was not
realized until whole vineyards commenced dying off. By' s
importing infected vines from Europe to California, the bug
was transferred to our local vineyards.
With thousands of acres of producing vineyards in the
valley, phylloxera made its sudden and devastating appearance
about 1890. Within a short period of time practically all
the vineyards, not only in Northern California, but in the
temperate climatic regions of Europe, were laid waste. A
vigorous program of research to conquer phylloxera was
instituted by the California State Agriculture Department
and the University of California, together with federal
agencies and bureaus of foreign governments. It was determined
that the root of the wild American grape was resistant to
the phylloxera; and, furthermore, that the vitis vinifera
species of vine could be successfully grafted to the wild
grape root stock. A program of replanting and grafting was
instituted, and the success of this practice is attested to
today by the fact that most vineyards in temperate climates
throughout the world are growing on the root stock of the
wild American grape. However, with respect to Napa Valley,
the era of phylloxera resulted in large acreages being
returned to pasture land, or planted to prunes and walnuts.
Another serious setback in wine growing in California,
which, in many respects was as damaging to the economy, was
the era of Prohibition. Vineyards were torn out, wineries
closed down and went bankrupt, fine old cooperage — irre
placeable -- was allowed to dry out and collapse; the
science of enology was neglected with the resultant loss to
the industry of a generation of winemakers. The most
detrimental effect by far was the loss of a generation of
wine users and their appreciation of fine table wines.
Years of persistent effort on the part of the California Wine
Advisory Board, the Wine Institute, independent wine growers
and distributors, ara today restoring the fine wines of
California to their proper place in the diet and social
consciousness of the .American people.
Once again fine wines, their growing and production,
have become a vital force in the life and economy of the
U II II '
HARVEST LUNCHEON PRAYER
Brother Timothy, P.S.C.
The Christian Brothers Winery
October 23, 1969 !•
O, great Go4 -Of^JJje, jiniyerse, who created stare, .mpoxv
sun and planets/ and set them on their immense but precise .
paths. You are the same God who created the microscopic
yeast cells and placed them on the skins of ripening grapes,
so that, when crushed, the sweet grape juice comes in con
tact with these living yeast cells and they f emrent the
grape sugars into grape alcohol, changing what was grape
juice into wine.
We ask You, O God, to bless us and to bless the fine
foods and wines that you have made available to us, and which
we are about to share with each other. Amen.
Grape Storaper's Grace
Bless this bread and wine Lord and all of us who eat
and drink together.
O Great God, Creator of a Universe so immense that our most
brilliant scientists, capable of sending men to the moon and
bringing them back home again, are unable to measure its
extent, You are the same God who made the microscopic yeast
cells that convert grape juice into wine. Benjamin Franklin,
while wondering about the mysterious process of fermentation,
"Wine . . . a constant proof that God
loves us and loves to see us happy. "
We ask you O God to bless us and the foods and wines we are
about to enjoy.
In your solicitude for us, O God, you have made it possible
for farmers, fishermen and others to bring to our dining tables
a perennial supply of foods and beverages. The miracle of the
loaves and fishes is repeated every day. We thank Thee, O
God, for this bounty and ask you to look with love on farmers,
fishermen and all of us.
INDEX -- Brother Timothy
(Appendices are not indexed in detail)
Alemany, Joseph Sadoc (Archbishop) ,
Allegretti, Joseph, 66, 67, 68
altar wines. See sacramental wines.
Amerine, Maynard A., 7
Archinal, Herman L., 48
Assumption Abbey winery, 73
Azarie, Brother, 4
Bailey, C.E., 45
Bank of America, 54, 55
Basil, Brother, 4
Bechtel and Company, 45
Benkiser, August, 11, 63
Benkiser, Justus, 63
Beringer Brothers, 42
Biane, Philo, 16, 73
Bisceglia Brothers winery, 49, 53, 54
Boone, Mrs. Elsa [Gier] , 10
Botsford Ketchum, 41
Bourn, William, 52
brandy, 22, 25, 27, 41-44, 49, 50, 72, 73, 88
Brandy Advisory Board , 5*0
Brotherhood winery, 73
Brothers of the Christian Schools, 12
Bush, , 13-14
California Wine Association, 53, 57, 59-60
Carpy, C.A., 52, 53
Carpy, Charles, 52, 53
Cathedral High School, Los Angeles, 16
Cecilian, Brother, 4, 5
Central California Wineries , Inc., 54, 55
Charles Henry, Brother, 1
Charmat process, 66-69
Chinese coolies, 52
Christian Brothers label, 38
Christian Brothers order, passim
Christian Brothers High School, Sacramento, 18
Christian Brothers Wine and Champagne Cellar, 51, 55, Appendix III
closures. See: corks and screw caps
corks, 82, 91-92, 93
corkscrews, 94-102, 103-104
Cresta Blanca Plant #2, 50, 55
Cresta Blanca winery, Livermore, 59-60, 61
Cresta Blanca label, 60
Critchfield, Burke H., 55
Cruess, William V., 33, 35
De La Salle Institute, 5, 6, 8, 22
de la Salle, Jean Baptiste [St.], 1, 2, 12, 22
Depression, The 10, 14, 24, 27, 86
dessert wines, 7, 8, 38, 70, 71, 91
Diener, Al, 15
Diener, Anthony George (Brother Timothy), 15, 17
Diener family, 15, 16, 18, 19-20
Elk Park Ranch, 63
Federspiel, Sophus, 65
Forni, Carlo and Alfred, 46
Forni, Charles, vineyards, 45
Franciscan order, 1
Franklin, Benjamin, 76, 78
Frederick, Brother, 16, 50
Fresno State College, 37
Fromm, Alfred, 23, 25, 26, 27, 38, 39, 40, 41, 42, 42, 77
Fromm, Norman, 102
Fromm & Sichel, 25, 26, 27, 38, 39, 40, 41, 47, 74, 77, 102
Fruit Industries [Ltd.], 42, 53
General Viticulture. 70
Gier, Amelie, 10
Gier, Theodore, 10, 11, 24, 25, 28, 29, 57-66, 70
Golan and Lango (label), 54
Golan, Louis, 54
grape concentrate, 88
"Grape Stompers' Grace," 78
Gregory, Brother, 16, 17, 18, 50
Gregory, Brother (Provincial), 18, 19
Greystone Cellars, 50, 51, 52, 54, 55, 57, 62, 66, 82, 83, 101,
Appendix II, Appendix III
Guild Wine Company, 60
Hercules filter, 68
Hoffman, John, 46
Hoffman, Stanley S. See John, Brother
Howe, Ed, 99
Howe, Jim, 99-101
Hoyt, Frances C. , 45
Hoyt ranch, 45
Hudemann, Herman, 28, 29, 30-31
Italian Swiss Colony, 67
Jesuit order, 1, 73
John, Brother, 25-26, 33, 35, 36, 38, 40, 43, 44, 46, 69
Jordan, Rudolf, 28, 29, 30, 33
Jordan, Rudolf, Jr., 28, 30, 31, 32-33
Joslyn, Maynard , 7
Keith and Associates, Santa Rosa, 46
kosher wines , 7
Krug, Charles, 52
labels, 23, 41
Landor, Walter, 41
La Salle Products, Inc., 9, 22
"Lotus Farm," 30
Lotus Vineyard. Napa County. California. 1893 (album) , 28
Martinez novitiate, 3, 5, 6, 8, 11, 13, 14, 18, 20, 25, 35
Masson, Paul, winery, 74, 90
Mattei, A. & Sons, 42
medicinal wines, 6, 8, 39
Merchants Exchange of Oakland, 64
Meyer, Justin (formerly Brother Justin), 5-6, Appendix I
Mittleberger, Ernest, 103
Mont La Salle, 10, 12, 13, 18, 20, 21, 23, 24, 28, 29, 38, 45, 47, 58,
62, 65, 79, 81, 83
Mont La Salle label, 38
Mont La Salle Vineyards, 12, 16, 22, 23
Montelindo Recuerdo Vintage (wine label) , 30
Morrow, A.R. (label), 42
"Mount" La Salle (label), 23. See also Mont La Salle
Mount Tivy Winery, 43, 45, 46, 47, 48-49, 90
Muir son Label [company], 41
Niehoff, Walter, 41
Novitiate winery, 73
Oakland Inquirer. 65
Olmo, Harold P. , 70
0-Neh-Da winery, Conesus, New York, 73
Peralta Winery, 49
Picker-Linz Importers, Inc., 23, 25, 27, 38, 47
Pirio, Auguste, 66
Powers, Lucius, 46
Prayers, Grace and Thanksgiving, 77-79, Appendix V
Principles and Practices of Wine Making. 33
Prohibition, 6, 8, 9. 10, 11, 14, 15, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 24, 27, 34, 51,
54, 57, 58, 61, 62, 64
propylene glycol solution, 69
Publicker Industries, 88-89
Raphael, Brother, 14, 25, 35, 36, 40
Repeal, 15, 21, 33, 40, 53, 54
Roesch, Louis Company, 30
Roosevelt, Franklin, 15, 21
Rosenthal, Phil, . 45
Ruby Hill vineyard, 60
sacramental wines, 6, 7, 8, 21, 39
St. Helena Star. 56
St. Mary's College, 2, 3, 18, 19, 20, 25
St. Mary's High School, Oakland, 16, 18
St. Mary's residence school, Mont La Salle, 47
St. Timothy, 75
Salesian order, 1
Schenley, 55, 60
Schiefelbein, Hubert. See Gregory, Brother
Schools, Christian Brothers, 1-3
Scott, Richard W., 45
screw caps, 91-92
Seagrams, 46, 47, 48, 74
Sequoia Vineyard , 58, 64
Sempervirens (poem), 32-33
set-aside, 41, 88-89
Setrakian, Arpaxat ("Sox"), 88
Sichel, Franz, 103
Smith, Al, 15, 21
Sommer, Frank, 20
Sommer, Mrs. Frank, 20
South St. Helena winery, 45, 46, 51, 79-83, 87
"Spout Farm," 30
Stamps, commemorative, 12
Sunny St. Helena Winery, 46
table wines, 8, 38, 70, 91
tanks, wine, 44, 45, 59
tax, brandy, 42
Taylor, Stanley, Company, 62
Tedeschi, Gus , 67
Trepp, Leo, 7
Ulfinian, Brother, 14
United Farm Workers Union, 72
University of California, 36, 37
University of California, Berkeley, 33
University of California, Davis, 13, 37, 75
Vasconi, Joe, 99
Victorick, Brother, 4
vintage dating, 85
Wehr, Carl, 52, 55-56
Wehr, Mrs. Carl, 56
Wente, Ernest, 101
Wente, Herman, 101
Wine Museum, San Francisco, 102-103
Wheeler, William, 45
White, Rose, 45
Wine Advisory Board, 50, 74-75
Wine Institute, 50, 74-75, 94, 95, 96
Wine Institute technical advisory committee, 36, 75
Wine Review. 94
Winkler, A.[lbert], J., 70
Woerner, David, 61
Wurz, Louis, 45
yeast culture, 36
Wines Mentioned in the Interview
burgundy, 23, 65
Cabernet sauvignon, 85
champagne, 51, 66-69, 83, 93
Chateau La Salle, 22, 69-70
Chenin blanc, 71
MelosoCream Sherry, 71
Pineau de la Loire, 70-71
Pinot St. George, 70
port, 38-39, 71
sherry, 38-39, 71
Tinta Cream Port, 71
Grape Varieties Mentioned in the Interview
Alicante Ganzin, 10-11
Cabernet Sauvignon, 10
Chenin blanc, 71
Franken Riesling, 10
Johannisberg Riesling, 10
"Petit Pinot," 70
Pineau de la Loire, 71
Pinot Noir, 70
Pinot St. George, 10, 70
Sylvaner Riesling, 10
Thompson Seedless, 72, 88, 89
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 19^3, writing on local history and busi
ness and social life of the Bay Area.
Book reviewer for the San Francisco Chronicle,