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Full text of "Italian Swiss Colony and the wine industry : oral history transcript / and related material, 1969-1971"


The Rossi twins, about 1906. 
Robert D. Rossi, left, Edmund 
Rossi, right. Photograph 
courtesy Edmund A. Rossi. 



Group at Asti, California, about 1894. Standing, left to 
right: Kucich, foreman of the Italian Swiss Agricultural 
Colony cooperage department; Louis Profumo, manager of 
the organization s New York office; and Dr. G. Ollino, one 
of the founding members. Seated: Robert D. Rossi, Ettore 
Patrizi, editor of the newspaper, L Italia; Edmund A. Rossi: 
and Andrea Sbarboro. Photograph courtesy Edmund A. Rossi. 





Andrea Sbarboro, about 1915. Photograph 
courtesy California State Library. 



Pietro C. Rossi. 
Wine Institute. 



Photograph courtesy 



University of California Berkeley 




J. (_t 1 1 L, X o 



September 26, 197*1 








EDMUND A. ROSSI- 

Family of vintners 

/ 

.. 

A Mass for 
Winemaker 
E. A. Rossi 



A Mass of Christian Burial 
for Edmund A. Rossi, a 
member of a pioneer Call- 

fornia wine-making family, 
will be offered at 10 a.m. 

tomorrow (Friday) at St. 
Edwards Church, 3320 Cali 
fornia street. 

Mr. Rossi, the son of the 
1 late Pietro Carlo Rossi, one 
of the founders of the Italian 1 
Swiss Colony Winery, died 
Tuesday at a Pacifica con- 
; valesccnt hospital. He w;is 
1 i ,6. 

f 

At the time pf his" death he 

; was the oldest alumnus of 
llic. University of San Fran 
cisco. 

Mr. llo-si was prcsidc- if of ; 
Italian Swiss 
Winery for 27 years. 

He v, :js one of the foui !- 
ing members of the Vine In 
stitute in 10?4 and serve. I as 
a director there until U47. 

! > :>! ii ;, :;;. eel a vi 

in the in 

ard 

and serve."! ;; I i^cr 
fur 12 



When he retired, he was 
honored for his "outstanding 
and unselfish personal con 
tribution to the advance-, 
ment of the wine industry" 
by the American Society of 
Enologists. 

Mr. Rossi, a man of wide 
cultural interests and was a 
sustaining member of the 
San Francisco Opera Asso 
ciation, the Leonardo da 
Vinci Society and the San 
Francisco Wine and Food 
Society, of which lie was a 
charter member. 

lie \\ss also a pioneer 
member of Die Cenacoln 
Club. . 

Mr. Rossi s \\ife, the for 
mer Beatrice Brandt, rlicd 

in \<m.. 

lie is .survived by a spn, ; 
Edmund Jr. of Ifcaldsburg; ; 
a daughter, Yvonne Dolan of 
Oakland; a brother, the Rev. 
P. Carlo Rossi, S. J. ; five sis- 
lets, Sister Aimee Rossi and 
Sister Olga Rossi, both pf 
the Sacred Heart Order, Be 
atrice Torrens, Albina Wall 
and Eleanore O Donnell and. 
by sik grandchildren and 
two great grandchildren. 

The Rosary will be recited 
at S Vcloek tonight (Thurs 
day) tit the Memorial Chap 
els of Carcw & English. Ma- 
yonic at Golden Gate ave- 
niie. 

The family prefers memo 
rial contributions to llv- 
Francisco College for \Vi mi 
en .or ! the Vnhen-i;. 
S .in FJ . I Cisco. 



CISCO 



September 26, 197** 

Edmund Rossi, 
ex-chief Italian 
Swiss Colony 

Edmund A. Rossi, presi- 
. dent of Italian Swiss Colony 
Winery for 27 years, {lied 
Tuesday. He was 86. 

The son of the late Pietro 
Carlo Rossi, one of the 
founders of Italian Swiss 
Colony, Mr. Rossi followed 
in. the family tradition. 

He was a founder and a 
director of the Wine Insti r 
lute, the trade association of 
California wine growers. He 
was also instrumental in 
creating the California Wine 
Advisory Board, where he 
served as manager for 12 
years. 

During and alter his long 
career, Mr. Rossi received 
numerous awards including: 
a merit award from the 
American Society of Enolo- 
gists. a professional wine- 
makers organization; the 
Christ the King award from 
St. Ignatius College Prepa 
ratory, and accolades from 
the Cenacolo Club for his 
"outstanding character as a 
family man, citizen and 
businessman." 

Until his death Mr. Rossi 
was the oldest alumnus of 
the University of San Fran 
cisco. 

\ 

Mr. Rossi outlived both iris 
wife Beatrice Brandt Rossi, 
who died in 1955, and his 
twin brother, Robert D. Ros 
si, who was managing exec 
utive of Italian Swiss Colony 
Winery. 

He is survived by his son, , 
"Edmund A. Rossi Jr., a , : 
daughter, Yvonne. Dol an, 
one brother, Rev. P. Carlo 
Rossi, S.J.; five sisters: Tor- 
rens, Albina Wall, Eleanore I 



O Donnell, Sister Ai nice 
ftossi and Sister Olga Rossi; 
grandchildren Christine, 
Therese and Brandt Rossi 
and Paul, Anne and Peter 
Dolan an d great 
grandchildren Jason and 
Edmund Dolan. 

The Rosary will be recited 
today at 8 p.m. at the Me 
morial Chapels of Carew & 
English, Masonic at Golden 
Gate Ave. A Mass of Chris 
tian Burial will be offered at 
10 a.m. tomorrow at St. Ed- 
I ward s Church. 






University of California Bancroft Library/Berkeley 

Regional Oral History Office 



Edmund A. Rossi 
ITALIAN SWISS COLONY AND THE WINE INDUSTRY 



With an Introduction by 
Maynard A. Amerine 



An Interview Conducted by 
Ruth Teiser 



1971 by The Regents of The University of California 




Edmund A. Rossi 



Photograph courtesy 
The Wine Institute, 
circa 1960. 



All uses of this manuscript are covered by a 
legal agreement between the Regents of the University 
of California and Edmund A. Rossi, dated 1^ January 
1971* The manuscript is thereby made available for 
research purposes. All literary rights in the manu 
script, including the right to publish, are reserved 
to the Bancroft Library of the University of California 
at Berkeley. No part of the manuscript may be quoted 
for publication without the written permission of the 
Director of The Bancroft Library of the University of 
California at Berkeley. 

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



TABLE OF CONTENTS Edmund A. Rossi 

PREFACE i 

INTRODUCTION BY MAYNARD A. AMERINE ill 

INTERVIEW HISTORY iv 

THE FOUNDERS OF THE ITALIAN SWISS AGRICULTURAL COLONY 1 

THE ROSSI AND CAIRE FAMILIES 10 

WINERY CHANGES AND EXPANSION 17 

AFFILIATION WITH THE CALIFORNIA WINE ASSOCIATION 25 

THE ROSSI TWINS 30 

1911 TO PROHIBITION 3^ 

ASTI GRAPE PRODUCTS COMPANY AND THE C.W.A. 40 

PROHIBITION PERIOD ACTIVITIES 50 

INDUSTRY ORGANIZATIONS AND THE PRORATE 55 

REPEAL TO 19^-2 63 

WITH NATIONAL DISTILLERS, 19^2-19^7 73 

THE WINE ADVISORY BOARD AND THE WINE INSTITUTE 76 

PROGRAMS AND FUNCTIONS 86 

OVERVIEWS 95 

INDEX 99 
(For Wines and Grapes see page 103) 



PREFACE 



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 
purpose. 

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



ii 



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



Ruth Teiser 
Project Director 
California Wine Industry 
Oral History Series 



1 March 1971 

Regional Oral History Office 
4-86 The Bancroft Library 
University of California, Berkeley 



iii 



INTRODUCTION 



Edmund A. Rossi was associated with four distinct phases 
of the California wine industry: the pre-prohibition winery 
at Asti, Prohibition operations there, wine distribution after 
Repeal, and Management of the Wine Advisory Board. In all of 
these activities he exercised considerable influence. 

Before Prohibition Edmund Rossi and his twin brother, 
Robert, were associated in managing Italian-Swiss Colony at 
Asti. Mr. Rossi remembers and recounts many of the details 
of their operations. During Prohibition the extensive 
vineyards of Italian-Swiss Colony were maintained. Grapes 
were shipped to markets all over the United States. Later 
grape concentrate was also produced. 

Following Repeal Italian-Swiss Colony had very wide 

(perhaps the largest) distribution of its brands throughout 

the country. In 19^-2 the winery and vineyards were sold to 

National Distillers. The price is not given. 

After a few years of retirement Mr. Rossi became the 
General Manager of the Wine Advisory Board. He remained in 
this position for twelve years and has been permanently 
retired since 1960. 

He gives many details of the California grape industry 
during Prohibition and also of the early organization of the 
Grape Growers League of California, of which the present Wine 
Institute is the descendent. 

Mr. Rossi at eighty-two is still active in the San 
Francisco Wine and Food Society, of which he is now the senior 
member. His friends know him as a good judge of wine, a 
gourmet, soft spoken and with a sense of humor. Those who 
worked with him will remember his unfailing courtesy and 
politeness. 



Kaynard A. Amerine 

Professor, Viticulture and Enology 

16 March 1971 

101 Wickson Hall 

University of California at Davis 



ERRATA - Rossi 



Page and line 



Error and correction 



iii, para 4 



not a few years but "a few months" 
not General Manager but "Manager" 



5, 1. 9 from bottom 



not that s his wife but "that s his 
mother, the wife of Andrea Sbarboro" 



15,1. 15 from bottom not 1905 but "1900 or 1901" 



17, 1. 5 and 6 from 
bottom 



Malesano should be "Malesani" 



69, 1. 13 from bottom not the son of one of my sisters but 

"some of my sisters" 



iv 



INTERVIEW HISTORY 



The letter asking Edmund A. Rossi to record his 
recollections for this series was sent to him on March 26, 
1969, the Regional Oral History Office being unaware that Mr. 
Rossi was then in the hospital following a serious automobile 
accident injury. The interview was delayed until he had 
recovered, some weeks after he had returned to his home. It 
ws-s held in four sessions on June **-, June 11, June 20, and 
July 9, 1969, in the home in Pacific Heights, San Francisco, 
which Mr. Rossi and his family had built and occupied since 
the 1920 s. 

Mr. Rossi spoke slowly and thoughtfully for the most part 
but occasionally, when discussing facts or events about which 
he held definite opinions, fast and assertively. Both firmness 
and tact were evident. His interest in the wine industry and 
the pleasure he took in recalling the past were manifest. 

In the initial transcript of the tape, the interviewer 
deleted a few repetitions and some questions that failed to 
elicit recollections. The transcript was then taken to Mr. 
Rossi on December 3 1970, and the editing explained to him. 
Later he read it over and made some notes. On January 13, 1971, 
in consultation with the interviewer, he made a few corrections 
and additions, all with meticulous regard for correct detail. 



Ruth Teiser 
Interviewer 



22 March 1971 

^86 The Bancroft Library 

University of California at Berkeley 



(Interview #1 - June 



1969) 



THE POUNDERS OF THE ITALIAN SWISS AGRICULTURAL 
COLONY 



Teiser: 

Rossi: 
Teisers 

Rossi: 



Teiser: 



Rossi: 



Do you know this pamphlet, The Story of Italian 
Swiss Colony? It was published in 1967, I presume 
by United. Vintners.* 

United Vintners. 

If it is accurate we can rely upon it for some 
facts. 

I think it s pretty accurate. [Looking at pamphlet] 
Now, for example, you can t question the time that 
Andrea Sbarboro came here to California. You can t 
question that he got into the grocery business. And 
that he established a sort of savings and loan 
society. 



Yes. What sort of a man was he? 
personally when you knew him? 



What was he like 



Well, he was not a technical man. He was more of a 
front man, you might say. What I mean, he liked to 
be before the public. He enjoyed making talks, 
speeches. He wasn t a technical man, from the wine 
industry standpoint. That depended strictly on my 
father. 

Teiser: Did Mr. Sbarboro himself ask your father** to come in? 



*See Appendix. 
**Pietro C. Rossi 



Hossi: Yes. 

Teiser: How did they know each other? 

Hossi: Well, it might have been through this Dr. G.* 

Ollino. Dr. G. Ollino was here in San Francisco and 
was close to my father. 

Teiser: Who was he? 

Hossi: He was a physician, bachelor physician, and came 
from Italy. And he made UD his mind that after a 
certain number of years he would, retire back to 
Italy, even though his health was in good condition, 
which he did. And the fact of the matter is that he 
had retired back to Italy before his inactive days, 
and both my father and mother and the rest of us saw 
him in Italy after we went back there. He acted as 
a sort of chaperon, guide, you know, through the 
towns of Italy during both the trip my father took 
with my eldest sister and another one my brother and 
I took with him and my mother and sisters after we 
got through the university in 1909, before we got 
into business. 

Teiser: I see. And Dr. Ollino was back in Italy then? 
Rossi: Back in Italy. 

Teiser: I read somewhere that he had sent cuttings to Italian 
Swiss Colony. 

Rossi: Yes, that s right. Of course I don t know now... 
because they say about cuttings from Spain and all 
of that. Well, that might have been exaggerated a 
little bit from the different countries. But there s 
no question about it, he did send cuttings from Italy, 
As far as having gone to other countries, I wouldn t 
vouch for that. But you can say cuttings from 
Europe, without being specific about the nations or 
the countries from which they came. 

Teiser: And he was a friend of Andrea Sbarboro s? 

Rossi: Well, he was more a friend of my father s. He was 
from that part of the country that my father came 



*Giuseppe Ollino 



Rossi: from. Piedmont. 

Teiser: Mr. Sbarboro remained... what? 

Rossi: Secretary. 

Teiser: Secretary of the company all through? 

Rossi: Yes. 

Teiser: This you would know as a matter of family tradition, 
I suppose: Was it actually Mr. Sbarboro whose idea 
Italian Swiss Colony was? 

Rossi: Yes. Agricultural Colony.* 

Teiser: But, as I understand it, it didn t quite work out. 

Rossi: It didn t work out as he originally intended it. 

Teiser: How did it change? 

Rossi: Well, you can say this, that they were going to sell 
shares on a small installment basis, but these 
people, immigrants, didn t have even those few dollars 
to put aside out of their savings. And so, anyhow, 
it was a matter of years and years before they could 
expect to get any return out of it. And they couldn t 
be expected to live on future prospects, because they 
were poor; they were immigrants. 

Teiser: Was the idea that they should go up there and work 
in the vineyards? 

Rossi: Yes. 

Teiser: Did they? 

Rossi: Oh, they did. 

Teiser: They actually went from San Francisco up there? 

Rossi: Because then they became employees, nothing more. 
Nor less. 

Teiser: So the ownership of the company.... 



*The original name was Italian Swiss Agricultural 
Colony. 



Rossi: Was stockholders. 

Teiser: Did some of the officers own stock? 

iiossi: Oh yes. Andrea Sbarboro. My father. My father was 
one of the principal stockholders eventually. 

Teiser: Was Mr. Sbarboro a good manager, good businessman 
that is? 

Rossi: Well.... I think that he depended on others. He had 
a son, who is still alive, who was very smart and 
shrewd. And he really ran the bank,* his son did, 
Alfred. He s 93 years old now. 

Teiser: Was Mr. Sbarboro active in the actual management of 
the Italian Swiss Colony? 

Rossi: No. When it was a question of making a talk, he*d 
be there. He enjoyed entertaining. And making 
talks, especially when it came to the time [before] 
Prohibition. He led the fight against Prohibition. 
I was trying to locate here the number of shares that 
these different people that you have on your list** 
owned. 

Teiser: Dr. Ollino became a shareholder, too, then? 
Rossi: Oh, yes. He was a vice-president. 

Teiser: Mr. Sbarboro, as I understand it, left the industry 
entirely at the time of Prohibition? 

Rossi: Yes. Well, no. After my father.... You see, in 

1911, my father was killed by a horse on the ranch, 
and he was one of the principal stockholders. Now 
my twin brother*** and I [had been] with him two 
years, learning the wine business from him. 



*Italian-American Bank. 

**Andrea Sbarboro, Mark J. Fontana, Dr. Giuseppe 

Ollino, Henry Casanova., Dr. Paolo de Vecchi, Stephan 
Campodonico, M. Perata and L. Vasconi. These were 
so-called founders of Italian Swiss Colony. For 
others, see t). 5. 

***Robert D. Rossi. 



Teiser: You d been there since 1909? 

Hossi: 1909, yes. And when my father died, he had practically 
all his eggs in one basket, which was not good for 
his family of ten children and for a widow. So we 
had the opportunity of selling out. Now at that time 
already half of the ownership of the Italian Swiss 
Colony was in the hands of the California Wine 
Association, since 1901. In 1901, there was formed 
an Italian Swiss Colony holding company, which 
consisted of 50 per cent of the stockholders of the 
Italian Swiss Agricultural Colony and 50 per cent 
California Wine Association holdings. Now when my 
father died, two or three years afterwards, we wanted 
to put ourselves the family particularly in a 
better financial situation, where we weren t depending 
on one source of income, and we sold out the Italian 
Swiss Agricultural Colony stockholders sold out the 
other 50 per cent to the California Wine Association. 
And my brother and I went to work for the California 
Wine Association. 

Teiser: Had most of the stock of the original shareholders 
by then come into your possession? 

Hossi: Oh, no, no. They still held it as far as I know. 

Mr. Sbarboro was the second largest individual stock 
holder. My father was the largest. Dr. Ollino held 
some shares. Vasconi was not a stockholder. Ke was 
the superintendent at Asti. Somewhere I came across 
an item that said the number of shares that were 
originally issued to the founders: [Reading] 
"Italian Swiss Agricultural Colony was incorporated 
March 10, 1881, with 300,000 shares authorized. The 
incorporators held 858 at par value $60, giving 
original capitalization of" $51, 4-80. The following 
are the directors and shareholders: Henry Casanova, 
50 shares; Mark J. Pontana, 50 shares; Nellie T. 
Pontana" guess that was his wife "10 shares; M. Perata, 
10 shares; A.E. Sbarboro, 50 shares; Mrs. Romilda 
Sbarboro 11 that s his wife "10 shares; G.B. Cevasco, 
25 shares; B. Prapolli, 50 shares; A. Daneri, 20 
shares; V. Ravenna, 5 shares. The balance of the 
shares were to be sold to employees through monthly 
wage deductions. Few employees desired this, however, 
thus ending the founders wish that the organization 
would be a cooperative venture." 

Teiser: I see. Could you then give your personal recollations 
of each of these shareholders as you remember them? 



Teiser: What sort of people they were? 

Rossi: Oh yes. 

Teiser: What did Mr. Sbarboro look like? 

Rossi: He was bald. And rather heavy-set. Very pleasant 
personality, affable. And smooth talker, very 
polished. My father was purely the business man. 
He never made talks. 

Teiser: Your father was certainly a handsome man. 



Rossi: 



Teiser: 
Rossi: 

Teiser: 
Rossi: 



Teiser: 



Rossi: 



Yes, he was. But he had the technical knowledge, my 
father did, and being a druggist and a chemist, he 
was well-qualified to take on the responsibilities 
of wine making. 

There is still a Rossi drugstore in San Francisco. 

Well, we have no connection whatsoever. You see that 
was not my father s. It was my uncle. 

Oh, what was his name? 

D.P. Rossi.* There was the difference between night 
and day between my father and his brother. They both 
came out of the same town in Italy. But my father 
was a family man and his brother was a bachelor, an 
artist sort of. He liked to play the harp. And he 
had an apartment over his drugstore two blocks away 
from my father s drugstore. 

So there were two brothers who had two different 
drugstores; I see. 



They didn t get along. They had nothing in common. 
They simply had nothing in common. When my uncle got 
sick and was like to die, my mother was good enough 
to take him into our house, and he died in our house. 
That was after lay father passed away. But he 



as I say, a bachelor x<ri.th his cronies. Music, art, 
things like that. 

Teiser: And he had no interest in Italian Swiss? 



^Domenico P. Rossi. 



Rossi: No. So when my uncle died, his partner, or one of 
his clerks and Dr. Sartori,* asked our family if we 
had any objection to their incorporating themselves 
as the Rossi Drug Company, which we didn t. So 
that s the present owners of the Rossi Drug Company. 
But we have never had any interest in that one there. 
As I say, strictly on the part of my uncle, not on 
my father s side. 

My father got out of the drug business completely 
when he had to take over complete charge of Italian 
Swiss Agricultural Colony. Well, now here you can 
see how in the beginning here they issued 858 shares. 
Eventually of course there were more than that. 

Teiser: Who was Mark J. Fontana? 

Rossi: He was the California Fruit Canners Association. 

Teiser: How did he happen to be interested in Italian Swiss 
Colony? 

Rossi: He was in the Italian colony. 

Teiser: Was he active in Italian Swiss? 

Rossi: Oh yes, he was the first president. 

Teiser: Do you remember him? 

Rossi: Oh, yes. 

Teiser: What was he like? 

Rossi: He was a very small man. Handing out cigars all the 
time. Nail in your coffin if you smoke cigarettes. 
Every cigarette was a nail in your coffin. 

Teiser: But not a cigar? 

Rossi: Not a cigar, no. He used to smoke one cigar after 
the other. Now, I have very fond recollections of 
Mr. Fontana because, you see, after my father died, 
he became president again of the Italian Swiss Colony 
for a few years. 



*Henry J. Sartori, who married a daughter of Andrea 
Sbarboro. 



8 



Rossi: 



Teiser: 



Rossi: 

Teiser: 

Rossi: 

Teiser: 

Rossi: 

Teiser: 

Rossi: 

Teiser: 

Rossi: 



And I at that time was still living up at Asti. 
I was ten years a resident of Asti, from 1909 to 
1919 I was in charge of the winery. And after my 
father died in 1911 and Mr. Pontana became ^resident, 
he used to cone up and occasionally visit me for a 
weekend, which was fine with me because everything 
I did was fine. He never criticized me. I was on 
my own. And so I was glad of his visits because he 
always went away happy. And so then afterwards in 
191^ Ttfhen Italian Swiss Colony was completely taken 
over by California Wine Association, my brother and 
I went to work for the California Wine Association 
under the aegis still of Italian Swiss Colony, but 
it was owned and directed by Mr. [A.R. ] Morrow, 
general manager. 

I want later to ask you a good deal about thafc 
neriod. 



Was Mr. Henry Casanova very active in the.... 



No. 



He was a shareholder but not a participant? 

That s right. 

Who was Dr. Paolo de Vecchi? 

Dr. de Vecchi* was a surgeon in San Francisco, who 
then retired.... Who went to live in New York, and 
he died in New York. His family lived in New York. 

Was he active? 

No, just a shareholder. 

Did he have a son who later was interested in Italian 
Swiss Colony? 

No. He had two sons, but they weren t interested 
Well, he had two sons and one daughter, Marguerita. 
She never married. We used to know them very well. 
Of course they had a summer home up there [at Asti], 
and that was near our summer home, right down the 
road from us. 



*Al though his name appears frequently as "De Vecchi," 
according to Edmund A Rossi, it was actually spelled 
with a small d, "de Vecchi." 



Teiser: Mr. 3. Campadonico? 
Rossi: I don t remember him. 
Teiser: And Mr. Perata? 

Rossi: Mr. Perata was another small.... Well, these were 
names that i-rere well known in the Italian colony. 
Frapolli was a well-known name in the Italian colony. 

Teiser: Frappoli was a wine merchant, was he? 
Rossi: I think so. 

Teiser: It seems to me that the Bancroft Library has some 
letters which I gave them not many years ago, Mr. 
Frapolli *s correspondence with other members of the 
wine industry, ordering wine and so forth. In 
Italian. He was in San Francisco, wasn t he? 

Rossi: Yes. 

Teiser: He s the same one, then.* 

Rossi: Cevasco** was a salesman. 

Teiser: Did he remain active in the company? 

Rossi: No. Well, yes. He retired to New York and he was a 
salesman in New York. After my father opened a New 
York office, he sent, him back there. After they had 
established headquarters in New York. So he worked 
as salesman in New York. He was a good salesman too. 
I knew him well. 



*Langley s San Francisco Directory of 1881 lists: 
"Frapolli , B. & Co. (Baptista Frapolli ) , native 
i^ines, 710 Samsome." 

**Giovanni B. Cevasco. 





The Rossi twins, about 1906. 
Robert D. Rossi, left, Edmund 
Rossi, right. Photograph 
courtesy Edmund A. Rossi. 



Group at Asti, California, about 1894. Standing, left to 
right: Kucich, foreman of the Italian Swiss Agricultural 
Colony cooperage department; Louis Profumo, manager of 
the organization s New York office; and Dr. G. Ollino, one 
of the founding members. Seated: Robert D. Rossi, Ettore 
Patrizi, editor of the newspaper, L Italia; Edmund A. Rossi; 
and Andrea Sbarboro. Photograph courtesy Edmund A. Rossi. 





Andrea Sbarboro, about 1915. Photograph 
courtesy California State Library. 



Pietro C. Rossi. 
Wine Institute. 



Photograph courtesy 



10 



THE ROSSI AND CAIRE FAMILIES 



Teiser: Were there any others of the founders that you recall? 

Rossi: Well, there was also someone not mentioned here, 

Adrian Merle, who was a relation of Justinian Caire. 
He was an original stockholder and a director of the 
agricultural colony. His son, A.J. Merle, a cousin 
of my mother s, later became a heavy stockholder in 
our reorganized comapny, Asti Grape Products Company. 
He bought out Mr. Prati s* mother-in-law s interest. 
He was a director of Asti Grape Products Company. 

Teiser: Well, that I think brings us to your father. A good 
deal has been written about him, but I know that 
there s a great deal of family recollection that you 
have, and personal recollection, of him. You mentioned 
that he was born in. . . 

Rossi: Piedmont. He was a graduate of the University of 
Torino. In pharmacy. He was one of the youngest 
graduates in the university. 

Teiser: Had his family been in the wine business? 



Rossi: 
Teiser: 

Rossi: 

Teiser: 

Rossi: 



Teiser: 
Rossi: 



I don t know. There s some reference to that, but I 
question it. 

His family must have been fairly well-to-do to send 
him to the university. 

Yes. 

Do you know anything about his parents? 

Well, we used to have pictures around, but he came to 
this country because he didn t get along you see, 
his mother died, and his father remarried, and he 
didn t get along with his stepmother, so the two boys 
left Italy to come to America. And they had an uncle 
here. 

What was his name? 

Zabaldano.** Maybe that might have been an inducement 



*Enrico Prati 
**Alexander Zabaldano 



11 



Rossi: for them to come here. He was in the drugstore business 
too, Zabaldano, their uncle. 

Teiser: In San Francisco? 
Rossi: Yes. 



Teiser: So they came directly here? 

Rossi: They did. Came directly from Italy to San Francisco. 
Well, that was something in those days, you know, 
because most of the immigrants got stranded in Hew 
York, and it took the hardier individuals to come all 
the way to the Pacific Coast. More energetic, and 
those maybe who had more means, education, and so 
forth. 

Teiser: Do you know about what year it was? 

Rossi: 18?5. 

Teiser: Then he met your mother here? 

Rossi: Yes. My mother was the daughter of Justinian Caire. 
She was born in San Francisco. 

Teiser: Very interesting family on both sides, then, that you 
have. Do you know what year she was born? 

Rossi: Well, now let s see, she was around 55 when she died, 
and she died in 191?. 

Teiser: What was her name? 

Rossi: Amelie. With the accent. Amelie Caire. Her mother 
was a Genovese, Italian. He came in 1850, my grand 
father, around the Horn, with a cargo of merchandise 
on a sailing vessel, cargo of merchandise for the 
miners. I think it took him six months to get here 
from France. Around the Horn. 

He started himself in business in San Francisco, 
then the year afterward he went back to Italy to get 
married. And when he came back, they came across 
the Isthmus of Panama. Or was it that other route 
down there, Central America? Tehauntepec. That took 
a lot of energy on my grandmother s part to make that 
trip. She t*as a hardy individual. 



Teiser: Do you remember Justinian Caire? 



12 



Rossi: 

Teiser: 
Rossi: 



Teiser: 



Rossi: 



Teiser: 

Hossi: 

Teiser: 

Rossi: 

Teiser: 
Hossi: 



Oh, yes. They used to live in Oakland, you see. And 
my brother and I used to spend weekends there at my 
grandmother s and grandfather s. 

What sort of a man was he? 

He was a rather stern fellow. And he was.... He met 
with an accident too, on Santa CruT: Island. He was 
thrown from a horse, and he became an invalid, became 
crlpr>led. So that he died in his home from a stroke. 
At Eighth and Harrison. They lived at Eighth and 
Harrison, well, near where Chinatown was, the Chinese 
section of Oakland. They had almost a square block 
of land there. Half a square block there. They had 
a big garden, front garden. I remember that very well, 
as I say, because I used to spend the weekends there 
when I was a schoolboy. 

When your father came to San Francisco, he must have 
brought a little capital with him? 

Capital, yes. Because he became a partner with a man 
by the name of Steylaars* in the drug business. He 
had a partner in the drug business at the corner of 
Columbus Avenue, which was called Montgomery Avenue, 
and Dupont, now Grant Avenue. Right where the topless 
joints are now. It was where Dupont turns into 
Columbus Avenue. And he was there all these years. 
I remember going to that drugstore very, very well. 

Was it on the triangular lot? 
On the east side of the street. 

Did he continue operating the store after he went to 
Italian Swiss Colony? 

Yes, until it became too much. Then he had to give 
up his drug business and devote himself completely 
to the wine business. 

I m amazed that he was able to keep them both going 
at all. 

Well, he used to spend all his weekends up at the 
vineyards. 



*Charles L. Steylaars. 



13 



Teiser: That was 1888 that he took charge of the winery. 
Was that the year you were born? 

Rossi: Yes. 

Teiser: How many children were there in your family? 

Rossi: Well, my mother and father had 1^, but never more 

than ten because four of them died as young children. 
In those days, you know, they used to get children s 
diseases and they didn t last. So four of them died 
young. 

Teiser: Of those who survived, who was the oldest? 

Rossi: Mrs. Gherini. Mrs. Ambrose Gherini. She has four 
children surviving her. Two attorneys and two 
daughters. 

Teiser: What was her first name? 

Rossi: Maria. Maria Gherini. 

Teiser: And who was second of those who survived? 

Rossi: My brother and I. 

Teiser: Oh, the twins. You and Robert. 

Rossi: Yes. And then my sister Esther. She never married. 
She sort of took care of the family after my mother 
died. She only died about a year or two ago. And 
then two nuns, Sacred Heart nuns. M. Aimee Rossi 
and A. Olga Rossi. They hold Ph.D. s, one in 
education and one in languages. Aimee has a Ph.D. 
from Stanford, was Dean of Studies at San Diego 
College for Women. Olga was in charge of public 
relations at San Francisco College for Women at Lone 
Mountain. And she s in languages, got her Ph.D. at 
Cal. With my brother, the Jesuit priest who became a 
Ph.D. at Cal, too. He s now head of the department 
of languages at U.S.F. 

Teiser: And he was named for your father? 

Rossi: Yes, P. Carlo Rossi. And then I have three sisters 
that married eventually that live in San Francisco, 
all widows. Beatrice Torrens. And Albina Wall. It 



Rossi: was her son, Dr. Wall, that operated on me.* And then 
Mrs. Eleanor O f Donnell. Her husband, was the general 
counsel for Stauffer Chemical Company. 

Teiser: Well, you certainly have a distinguished family. 
Rossi: Yes, they all did well. 

Teiser: Going back to your father. He was a druggist, but 
how did he happen to know about wine? 

Rossi: Well, Italians, you know, all drink wine, and it 

might have been that he d had some connection with 
the grape industry in Italy. I don t know about that. 
And then, being a chemist, you know. Because my 
father got into the Italian Swiss Agricultural Colony 
in 88, and it was established in 81 and 82. But 
they put out some vineyards in 81 and 82 and 83. 
They got their first crop in 8?. That s when they 
determined to put up a building, in 8?. The building 
is still there. But they had an Italian winemaker, 
was supposed to be an expert, but he made vinegar 
instead of wine. 

Teiser: What was his name? 

Rossi: I don t remember. So it was then that they went to 

my father and got him to take over. So they made him 
president and winemaker and everything from then on. 

Teiser: He must have been an outstanding man to... 

Rossi: Yes, he was very energetic and enterprising. There 
again it was the difference between him and his 
brother. His brother was perfectly satisfied to 
remain up in North Beach with his cronies. He never 
learnt the English language well. Whereas my father 
talked like an American. Yes, he talked English 
without an accent. 

Teiser: Oh, he did? That is unusual. He must have made 
quite an effort. 

Do I remember correctly? You were born in Oakland 
at your grandparents house? 



*Dr. C. Allen Wall. Mr. Rossi had recently had an 
accident and required surgery. 



15 



Rossi: Yes, at my grandparents home. It was my mother s 
family. 

reiser: Were your parents living there at that time? 

Rossi: No. 

Teiser: Your mother went there? 

Rossi: She just went there for the event. 

Teiser: Where was your family s residence at that time? 

Rossi: In North Beach. On Union "between Powell and Mason. 
We were right in back of the Russian Church. The 
Russian Church s garden in the back adjoined our 
garden in the back. It used to kind of scare me, 
Easter services you know because they used to have 
their I was a little boy, you know. They d have 
their services at night, ten at night, you know, and 
you d hear this. And to me, five and six years old, 
you know, it scared me. Because my room was right 
in back of the house adjoining the garden. We lived 
there until 1905. 

Teiser: So you spent your whole boyhood there? 

Rossi: Yes. 

Teiser: Where did you go to school? 

Rossi: St. Ignatius High School. 

Teiser: Did they have a grammar school there also? 

Rossi: Well, no, we went to St. Brigid s, Van Ness and 

Broadway. We went there for the first few years of 
grammar school and finished grammar school at St. 
Ignatius, then finished high school, and university 
at St. Ignatius College.* 

Teiser: Did you, by the time you got into school, think you 
were going to be in the wine business? Were you 
interested as a youngster in wine, at all? 

Rossi: Well, we used to go up to the vineyards. We spent 



*Later the University of San Francisco. 



16 



Rossi: our vacations up at the vineyards, you know. We had 
a summer home up there. That is to say, the company 
had a home that we occupied until well, in 1905 we 
built our own home. My father built a family home 
in 1905. Which is still there. Half is owned by me 
and half by my brother s two sons. 

Teiser: I wanted to ask you about your own family. You have 
two children? 

Rossi: Two. Each of them have three children. I ve got 
six grandchildren. 

Teiser: What are your children s names? 

Rossi: Yvonne is xay daughter. Yvonne Dolan. 

Teiser: And her husband is? 

Rossi: Paul Dolan, Jr. Paul S. Dolan, Jr. 

Teiser: And your son? 

Rossi: He married a girl that lived in Portland, Gerardine 
Doyle. 

Teiser: And he s Edmund A. Rossi, Jr.? 

Rossi: Yes. 

Teiser: And he s with Italian Swiss Colony? 

Rossi: United Vintners; Heublein. He s vice-president in 
charge of research. 

Teiser: What year were you married? 

Rossi: 192^. 

Teiser: And your wife s maiden name? 

Rossi: Beatrice Brandt. Her father was an engineer from 
London. 

Teiser: And she died some years ago? 
Rossi: Oh, yes, in 1955. 

Teiser: Did your father continue maintaining his residence in 
San Francisco after he became active in the winery? 



1? 



Rossi: 



Teiser: 

Rossi: 

Teiser: 

Rossi: 

Teiser: 

Rossi: 



Yes, because after we left North Beach, we 
went out to Vallejo and Pillmore. Mo, I ll take 
that back; we went out on Vallejo and Octavia. And 
Laguna; in that block. On, now I m getting a little 
bit behind time. Because.... When was the fire and 
earthquake? 1906. Yes, well, we were already out on 
Vallejo and Octavia, and we lived there about eight 
or ten years. We had a home there. But then it 
wasn t big enough for the big family. That s why 
we moved out there on the southwest comer of Vallejo 
and Fillmore, where now there s that swami temple. 

Did your father spend much time at Asti? 

Every weekend. 

But the offices of the Italian Swiss Colony... 

Were in San Francisco. 

So he mainly stayed here at the offices? 

Oh, yes. 



WINERY CHANGES AND EXPANSION 

Teiser: Who did he have in immediate charge up there? 

Rossi: Superintendent. Vasconi was one. And then a fellow 
by the name of Allegrini after Vasconi died. 

Teiser: What was Allegrini s first name? 
Rossi: Julius, I think. 
Teiser: Was he a technologist? 

Rossi: Well, he was a vineyardist. But then he had Giulio 
Perelli-Minetti as the winemaker, you see. And then 
he had a man by the name of Malesano later on. After 
Allegrini died, Malesano was the superintendent of 
the vineyard. 

Teiser: But Perelli-Minetti was the winemaker throughout a 
long period? 



Rossi: Yes. 



18 



Teiser: Did he leave because... 

Rossi: They went to form their own company. That s what 
gave me a chance. It was fortunate for me he did. 
It happened while we were on this trip to Europe, 
my brother and I, after we graduated. We were on 
this trip to Europe* when we got word that there 
were three or four of them in the company who were 
going to form their own company, and Perelli-Minetti 
was one of them. And he was going to compete, you 
see. But it gave me a chance to assume responsibility 
under my father that I wouldn t have had if the man 
hadn t quit. So it developed me. I became winemaker. 

Teiser: I heard the story from Mr. Antonio Perelli-Minetti 
who said his brother and two of the other men were 
fired by Italian Swiss Colony. He apparently thought 
it was reasonable of your father to fire them.** 

He fired himself I 

Oh, did he? I thought they were fired. 

Oh, no, no, no, not at all. I was with my father in 
London when we got the news and had to cancel our 
steamer reservations and make new ones so as to get 
hone a week sooner. My father didn t fire them. My 
father s assistant, Mr. Federspiel, may have fired 
them, but my father didn t; we were done out of a 
week s visit in London. They quit to form the 
California.. .. 

Teiser: Anglo-California Wine Company. 

Rossi: My father s nephew was among them. 

Teiser: Oh, he was? What was his name? 

Rossi: Mario Tribuno. 

Teiser: How was the Tribuno family related then? 

Rossi: Through my father s family. 



Rossi: 

Teiser: 

Rossi: 



*In 1909. 
**See A. Perelli-Minetti interview in this series. 



19 



Teiser: Somebody uses the Tribune label for vermouth now. 

Rossi: Well, that s Tribune s son. He s got his office in 
New York. And he sells through 21 corporation. 

Teiser: That s it "21" Brands. It must be manufactured for 
him. ... 

Rossi: Perelli-Minetti manufactures it... or produces it. 

We don t like the word "manufacture. " Produces the 
basic wine. And Jack Tribuno, the son, supplies 
the formula for the herbs, supposed to have a secret 
formula. And he s very active. Jack Tribuno is the 
one that s running it. Mrs. Tribuno is still alive, 
Louise Tribuno; lives out on Long Island. 

That s profitable business they have, the 
vermouth. Good distribution. 

Teiser: After your father took over Italian Swiss Colony, I 
gather that they continued to build more wine making 
facilities at the winery. Was he in charge of that, 
and everything of that sort? 

Rossi: Yes. Not only that, but they bought land in Madera, 
in the San Joaquin Valley. The Italian Swiss Colony 
had several wineries in the San Joaquin Valley. In 
fact, one of the principal things that he wanted, to 
find out when we went to Europe in 1909 was how to 
make table wine in a hot country. You see? And 
there s where he was ahead of the industry, because 
in 1905 in Prance they were talking about the pure 
yeast culture method and sulphur dioxide method of 
making wine. 

That was one of the modern techniques that was 
of the greatest value to the quality of California 
wines. Because when we were in Paris we got acquainted 
with equipment manufacturers and people that had 
connections with the wine industry, and my father 
made arrangements to buy the sulphur dioxide in the 
various forms that it came in. Came out of Germany 
in the form of potassium meta-bisulphite, and it came 
out of France in a liquid sulphur dioxide in gas form 
in drums, and he bought some right then and there and 
sent it back home and we got it as it arrived September 
first just at the beginning of vintage season. And 
that was 1909, the first time we went to work my 
brother and I. The first thing I did was to put into 



20 



Rossi: fermentation practice the use of the sulphur dioxide 
together with pure cultures, and did that among the 
company s different wineries. I had to do it 
surreptitiously because at that tine Dr. Harvey Wiley 
was death on the use of sulphur dioxide. 

Teiser: Who was Dr. Wiley? 

Rossi: He was the head of the federal department in 
Washington Pure Food. 

But the action of the suphur dioxide was to 
control the wild yeast on the grapes. You see, the 
grapes have yeast on their "blooms and there are 
good and bad yeasts. Now the wild yeasts are the 
ones that develop first when your grapes are crushed, 
and if you use sulphur dioxide in limited quantities 
you ll sort of innoculate the wild yeast until the 
good wine yeast can take hold, and by that time the 
good wine yeast has performed its action of fermenting 
the sugar of the grape and you ve got a sound 
fermentation. Well, my father was the first to 
establish that on a commerical scale. 

I remember after the California Wine Association 
took over and I became district manager of the 
wineries of the California Wine Association and of 
Italian Swiss Colony in Napa and Sonoma counties I 
got the California Wine Association wineries to use 
the sulphur dioxide method. I m the one, not Mr. 
Morrow, because he really wasn t up to it yet. This 
was 191^. And when I submitted the samples of the 
wine that had been made on the fifteenth of October 
in the different wineries under my jurisdiction, he 
complimented me. I never told him one of the principal 
reasons why the wines were so good. They were 
excellent I Sound fermentation, beautiful color, fine 
flavor and all that. 

He never knew what was one of the contributing 
factors, because the grapes, at the same time, they 
were handled in the proper way. They were sound. 
The wine was sound really. I was complimented on it 
because of the quality. I used to ship this sulphur 
dioxide from the winery at Asti where I was, and used 
to ship it out as cleaning solution to different 
wineries. But then it became standard procedure in 
the wine industry to have pure cultures and the 
sulphur dioxide method of fermentation. 



21 



Teiser: Under your father s directions quite a number of 
other premises were acquired, were they not? 

Rossi: Yes, the Madera was the principal one, Lemoore, 
Kingsburg. 

Teiser: Did the Italian Swiss Colony build the Kingsburg 

Winery that is now the Roma one that Louis Martini 
had in the meantime? 

Rossi: I don t know that they built it, but they used to 
operate it with a man by the name of uh he was 
superintendent, I remember.* I remember him. And 
Louis Martini eventually got it after Prohibition 
came. 

Teiser: What was the Brotherhood Winery? 

Rossi: In New York. 

Teiser: Was there a plant here that produced for it? 

Rossi: I think so. 

Teiser: Which was that? 

Rossi: Maybe, it might have been Kingsburg. It might have 
been. Paladini was the man s name at Kingsburg 
Winery, and that was owned half by the California 
Wine Association, but my father operated it for 
account of half California Wine Association, half 
Italian Swiss Colony. My father had charge of 
operating it. 

Madera was built by Italian Swiss Colony. That s 
a big place. Now it s terrific. 

Teiser: Is it still part of Italian Swiss Colony? 
Rossi: Yes. They re making twenty million gallons. 

Teiser: I have here in a list of about 1912 that it was making 
three million gallons. It has Asti at four million, 
Cloverdale at five hundred thousand. Pulton what was 
at Fulton? 



*jfaladini. See below. 



22 



Rossi: About the same a half million. 

Teiser: Where is Fulton? 

Rossi: Five miles north of Santa Rosa. 

Teiser: Had Italian Swiss Colony built that? 

Rossi: Well, they operated it my father did. A fellow by 
the name of Carlo Colabella was the superintendent. 

Teiser: And one in Sebastopol. 

Rossi: Yes. That was owned half by California Wine Association. 

Teiser: And at Clayton? 

Rossi: That was a small place a vineyard in Contra Costa 
County. 

Teiser: And Leinoore, was it a big one? 

Rossi: Yes. They made Muscat wine there. 

Teiser: Was it owned entirely by Italian Swiss Colony? 

Rossi: Yes. 

Teiser: And was it established by your father? 

Rossi: Yes. 

Teiser: And Kingsburg was rated here at a million. And one 
at Selma. 

Rossi: Selma, yes; well, that was mostly brandy operation. 

Teiser: And in San Francisco? 

Rossi: That was a storage and a shipping point. 

Teiser: And in New York? 

Rossi: That was a shipping point. My brother was in charge 
of the San Francisco plant after we got into the 
business. 

Teiser: Did you age wine in San Francisco? 
Rossi: No. In and out. 



Teiser: 

Rossi: 

Teiser: 

Rossi: 



Teiser: 

Rossi: 

Teiser: 

Rossi : 

Teiser: 

Rossi: 



23 



And the same in New York? 
Yes. 

I have read about your father s interest in champagne 
making and. . . 

We looked into it in 1909 when we went to Europe. 
Through a manufacturer of champagne machinery in 
Paris, we got into a connection with Charles Jadeau 
in Saurnur, and invited him to come to California. 
That is incorrectly stated,* that he came to Rheims. 
He did not. Charles Jadeau was in Saumur, which is 
a district where they have cavalry in Prance. They 
used to have. And it s a nice wine district, very 
well known, and they make sparkling wine, vin mousseux, 
but they re not allowed to call it champagne there. 
Sut the system of fermentation is the same. This 
man came [to California a few months later] in 1909, 
Jadeau, and we built a champagne plant up at Asti. 
And he really made a very good sparkling wine. But 
in Prance they don t allow wine that is made outside 
the Champagne district to be called champagne even 
though it s fermented the same way that it is in the 
Champagne district. And the French people are sore 
at the United States people, the New York people, 
for calling our wines California or New York champagne. 
They d rather that we just called them sparkling wines. 

Did Mr. Jadeau stay here then until Prohibition? 

Until Prohibition. 

And you continued making... 

I worked with him. 

Was he a chemist? Or a winemaker? 

Oh, he was a winemaker. He had his own little plant 
in Saumur. 



Teiser: And he just gave it up and came here? 
Rossi: Came here, to California. 



*In The Story of Italian Swiss Colony; appendix. 



Teiser: What did he do when Prohition came along, go back to 
Prance? 

Rossi: Back to Prance. By that time he was an older man. 
He was ready to retire. 

Teiser: What was he like personally? 

Eossi: Well, I had to talk French to him, you know, because 
he didn t talk English. He was a typical Frenchman, 
you know, from the country. Small businessman, I 
guess. 

Teiser: But a good champagne maker? 

Rossi: Yes. Fact of the matter is that when they had those 
riots in the Champagne district of France due to the 
fact that the champagne makers of France were bringing 
in grapes from outside the district and turning it 
into champagne, you see, which they didn t want firm 
by the name of Ayala Brothers, two brothers, had their 
factory destroyed by riots, and they came to look the 
situation over in California to see whether they d 
want to get interested in making California champagne. 
And they came up to Asti; I was with them. And they 
got ahold of Jadeau on the side and as one Frenchman 
to another, they said, "Is there any foreign wine in 
this champagne we ve just tasted?" You see? 

Teiser: That was a compliment. 

Rossi: Yes. I learned to make champagne under Jadeau. 

Teiser: Is it more interesting than making a still wine? 

Rossi: Oh, yes. More difficult. 

Teiser: What kind of grapes did you use for it up there? 

Rossi: Well, you have to use a blend. You have to kind of 
work around to get this quality in the wine and that 
quality, a certain amount of tartaric acid and a 
certain amount of flavor and things like that. 

Teiser: What was your main champagne grape there? 

Rossi: Well, there was some Riesling and some French 

Colombard and Golden Chasselas and Pinot. It was a 
blend. Champagne s going like a house afire in 
California today. They haven t got enough graces. 



25 



flossi: They really haven t got enough grapes in California 
to make champagne. They have to make them out of 
different varieties than the typical champagne grapes, 
That s between us. My son* tells me that they just 
can t produce enough. 

Teiser: What are their labels now? 

Rossi: Lejon. Lejon was taken over by National Distillers 
just before they bought us. 



AFFILIATION WITH THE CALIFORNIA WINE ASSOCIATION 



Teiser: One thing I ve read a little about that I think must 
have been very interesting: in the *90 s, California 
Wine Association was so dominant that the California 
Wine Makers Corporation was established. Was your 
father the...? 

Rossi: One of the prime movers of the California Wine Makers 
association. And Henry J. Crocker. He had a summer 
home opposite Asti up in the hills. 

Teiser: He had not been interested in the wine industry 
before? 

Rossi: No. 

Teiser: But became interested because of this situation? 

Rossi: Yes, I imagine. 

Teiser: How large an organization did it become then? 

Rossi: I don t think it operated too many years. Apparently 
they didn t succeed. 

Teiser: Do I understand correctly that the California Wine 
Association was dominating the market? 

Rossi: Yes. Well, they and others, like Lachman & Jacob! . 



*Edmund A. Rossi, Jr., vice-president and director of 
quality control at the Italian Swiss Colony winery, 
now owned by United Vintners, a subsidiary of 
Heublein, Inc. 



26 



Rossi: 
Teiser: 

Rossi: 
Teiser: 

Hossi: 
Teiser: 

Rossi: 

Teiser: 

Rossi: 

Teiser: 

Rossi: 

Teiser: 
Rossi: 



Lachman & Jacob! was quite a big strong factor. 

Did they get together to set prices and so forth; 
was that how it worked? 

I imagine they must have done something like that 
because in those days they didn t have the anti-trust 
laws like they have today. 

I think at one time the California Wine Association 
was said to be controlling more than half of the 
market. 

Half, yes. They had forty wineries. 

Someone told me that the California Wine Association 
was said never to have made a great bottle of wine 
and never to have made a bad bottle of wine. 

Might have been. 

Was that a joke that was well known? 



Well, really, the California wine is good, 
to find a bad bottle of California wine. 



It s hard 



I think the idea was that the California Wine Associa 
tion had stabilized the quality. It didn t attempt to 
make very fine wines, but it did make good wines. 



Standard quality, 
of Prance. 

At that time? 



An average higher than the average 



I think so. I think the average quality of California 
wine today is better than the average quality of 
French wine, especially now since they can t import 
the Algerian wines. Or that they don t. You see, 
France had to import Algerian wines to blend with the 
Midi wines of the south because the Midi wines of the 
south didn t have enough alcohol in them, enough 
sugar in the grapes. So they used to import millions 
of gallons of Algerian wines. 

That s why my brother and father and I went to 
Algeria, find out how they were making table wines 
in Algeria in the hot climate that resembled the 
Fresno district. And that s where we learnt that 
they used.... In Algeria in that hot climate where 



27 



Rossi: have the sirocco winds and all that, they use 
attemperators to control the temperature of 
fermentation. Because fermentation causes heat and 
heat can get too high in hot climates, especially 
in climates of hot winds. 

Teiser: Sone kind of refrigeration? 

Rossi: Yes. Now, my father was one of the first to establish 
a refrigerated system up at Asti. 

Teiser: Did they use refrigeration then, after, at Madera? 

Rossi: Yes. 

Teiser: And at Leinoore? 

Hossl: Yes. And up at Asti, too, you see. Now especially 
it s important because they make table wines a great 
deal in the [Central] valley now because they have 
to; they haven t got enough wine grapes in the 
northern districts to take care of the demand. Now 
they make an awful lot of table wines in the valley, 
the central valleys, Fresno, Stockton, Lodi, places 
like that. Because Napa, Sonoma, Mendocino Counties 
and places like that can t produce enough table wines 
to take care of the demand. 

Teiser: So the California V/ine Makers Corporation finally 

wasn t successful and the affiliation with the 
California Wine Association was effected, is that it? 

Rossi: That s right. 

Teiser: Do you think that your father felt defeated when it 
seemed necessary to join the California Wine 
Association in 1901? 

Rossi: Oh, no. Oh, no. 

Teiser: The two companies continued operating independently? 

Rossi: Well, yes, because.... In my father s day they 

operated independently because they weren t owned by 
the California Wine Association. Italian Swiss 
Colony was only half owned, and they were great 
competitors. They competed. It was only after 
Italian Swiss Colony was completely sold out after 
my father s death that California Wine Association 
owned Italian Swiss Colony completely. And while for 



28 



Rossi: years they operated separately, still there was a 
close affiliation there that didn t exist before. 

Teiser: So at the time of your father s death it was still 
indeDendent ? 

Rossi: Yes. Oh, yes. 

Teiser: You said they were making some brandy, too? 

Rossi: Oh, yes. 

reiser: Was that just a normal part of being in the wine 
business or was it... 

Rossi: They had to make brandy to make fortified wines. 
Teiser: Did they market it also? 

Rossi: Oh yes. Madera brandy was very well known. They 

made grappa too, you know. Out of pomace. They were 
one of the very few firms in California that made 
grappa. Because it s difficult to make. 

Teiser: Is it? 

Rossi: Well, you have to have special stills. And there s 
only a certain limited demand for grappa anyhow. 
Among the Slavonians. Certain amount among the 
Italians, but less so. 

Teiser: I tasted it only once, and that shortly after Repeal, 
and it was awfully fiery. 

Rossi: Yes, it is. 

Teiser: Young, isn t it? 

Rossi: Yes. And a high aldehyde. It had a bite to it. 

Teiser: I think I was asking someone what happens when you 
have wine that turns too bad to market. He said, 
well, you can put it into brandy. 

Rossi: You can do that. 

Teiser: Did Italian Swiss Colony put its failures into brandy? 

Rossi: No, I wouldn t call it failures because they weren t 
exactly failures because there s so much demand for 



29 



Rossi: 

reiser; 

Rossi: 

Teiser: 

Rossi: 



Teiser: 



Rossi: 



Teiser: 

Rossi: 

Teiser: 

Rossi: 



Teiser: 
Rossi: 

Teiser: 
Rossi: 



brandy that there -wasn t that much wine that failed. 

I see. Tli ere wasn t enough to supply? 

No. 

So it wasn t just a "by-product? 

No. No. No. The fact of the matter is that half the 
market was fortified wine and you had to have a lot of 
wine to roake brandy for fortified, sherry, port, tokay, 
muscatel, Madeira. 

I was interested in the Italian Swiss Colony "tipo" 
wine. Where did the name come from? Oh... this is 
an article explaining it? "Wines of Asti," in the 
Wine Review.* What does the word t-i-p-o mean? 

It means "type." Type of chianti. My father called 
it "Tipo Chianti," to be honest, and then competitors 
began saying Tipo this and Tipo that for competition. 
So my father registered the name "Tipo" just by 
Itself. 

You said that more than half of the gallonage went 
into sweet wines? 

Yes. 

Much more? 

Well, you see, it takes twice as many pounds of 
grapes to make one gallon of sweet wines as it does 
to make table wine. More grapes went into sweet wine 
than table wine. 

But did more table wine come out than sweet wine? 

I think it used to be about 50-50- And then it got 
way down, 25 per cent - 30 per cent [table wine] 
after Repeal. And now its coming back to 50-50. 

Were Italian Swiss Colony wines all bottled and 
labelled? 

No. 



*Issue of May, 1939- 




Ron furl s Wine anil Spirit Circular 



Mayor Rossi of San Francisco presents 

Tito Schipa. the famous tenor, with a 

case of California Tipo 



Mayor Angelo Rossi (right; no relation 
to the Rossi family of Italian Swiss 
Colony) presented raffia-covered bottles 
of Tipo wine to tenor Tito Schipa for 
this 1934 publicity photograph. 



30 



Teiser: Some sold in bulk? 

Rossi: Good deal. Most of it. 

Teiser: And then went out under other labels? 

Rossi: Yes. We had a good reputation. Used to always get 
a just a little bit more than the average market. 
That s how we kept the name on a high level. My 
brother and I were always very particular about that, 
and after Repeal, you see.... You see, during 
Prohibition, we marketed grapes, grape juices and 
grape concentrates under the name Asti Colony and 
kert the name alive. And we used to ship the grapes 
under Asti Colony. And talking about modern methods 
of wine making, whenever we shipped a carload of 
grapes, we used to include a certain number of packages, 
cartons with four ounces of this potassium meta- 
bisulphite, this sulphur dioxide. One package for a 
ton of grapes. If there were twelve tons of grapes 
in a car, there were twelve packages and we d say to 
use one package per ton of grapes. The result was 
that those who did that didn t fail to make a good 
wine. They d give credit to the grapes. Well, 
naturally, the grapes had to be, first of all, good. 
But you can make a poor wine out of good grapes. But 
if they used the sulphur dioxide, it couldn t fail; Just 
couldn t fail. 



THE ROSSI TWINS 

Teiser: Let s go back then to your own biography. You 

graduated from U.S.F. What did you study there? 

Rossi: It was Just a liberal course. An academic course. 
And then we* went to U.C. and took chemistry and 
viticulture and wine making and enology. 

Teiser: What year did you go there? 

Rossi: 09. We only stayed there one year, but we were 



*Edmund A. Rossi and his twin brother, Robert D. 
Rossi. 



31 



Rossi: fortunate to get a degree out of there. They didn t 
want to give us a degree but we managed to wiggle it 
out of them. They wanted us to stay two years. 

Teiser: Did you work hard? 

fiossi: Yes, but you see, we wouldn t have gone back a second 
year because my father was anxious to get us in the 
business. We got enough out of it so that we were 
able to apply what we learnt in Europe very satis 
factorily. And, as I say, what we learnt theoretically 
and then learnt practically in Europe constituted the 
biggest single factor, I think, in the development of 
quality table wine in California. Because this pure 
culture method of fermentation and sulphur dioxide 
was just revolutionary. And they were Just starting 
to talk about it in the laboratories in Marseilles 
and places even in Europe it wasn t generally accepted. 
It was only years later. 

Teiser: Had your father heard about it before he left here? 

Rossi: Yes. Yes. We had come across it at the University. 
My brother and I picked it up at the University. 

Teiser: So it was known here but not used. 
Rossi: Not used. It was just a new theory. 
Teiser: Whom did you work with at the University? 

Rossi: Hans Holm. And Professor [Frederic T.] Bioletti, 

mostly. Bioletti and Holm in the enology department. 

Teiser: That was before Dr. William V. Cruess time? 

Rossi: Dr. Cruess was doing post-graduate work there at the 
same time at a desk opposite us. We were the same 
year. 

Teiser: He was in zymology? 

Rossi: Yes, well, that s what they call it. Hans Holm was 
teaching zymology, the science of fermentation. 

Teiser: Did you know Dr. Cruess well? 

Rossi: Not well, just... 

Teiser: You were all working hard r>robably. 



32 



Rossi: Well, he was good. Better than we were. 
Teiser: Well, he d been specifically trained. 

Rossi: That s just it, you see; we were there only for post 
graduate work. We were there to pick up whatever we 
could in the way of knowledge so as to apply it 
wherever we could in a practical way because we weren t 
going to be given that much more time to prepare our 
selves. My father was too anxious to get us in the 
business, which was fortunate, because that was the 
way things happened, that he was killed. We got two 
years of experience with him, which we wouldn t have 
had if we had continued our studies. And we would 
have been at a disadvantage in order to get established, 
because when he passed away we were able to carry on 
until such time as we were able to sell out and 
establish ourselves on a new basis. 

Teiser: How long were you in Europe? 

Rossi: Oh, just about three or four months. The whole trip 
took three and a half months. 

Teiser: And you were in France, Algeria.... 

Rossi: We went to Bordeaux, Algeria.... Algeria was one of 
the most interesting things because we were there 
for a specific purpose, to learn hovr to make table 
wines in a hot climate. And then at Bordeaux we 
found out the way they make Bordeaux wines, and in 
Paris we found out about the sulphur dioxide methods 
and things like that. 

Teiser: When did you come back to this country, then? 

Rossi: September first. 

Teiser: 1909. And you immediately went to work at Asti? 

Rossi: Day after I got home. 

Teiser: Let me ask, by the by you must have gone to Asti 

all through your childhood from San Francisco when 
you were a little boy, how did you travel? 

Rossi: Train. Northwestern Pacific. Took three and a half, 
four hours. 

Teiser: Where did you catch the train? 



33 



Rossi: Sausalito. Tiburon. 

Teiser: You went over on the ferry? 

Rossi: To Tiburon first, then Sausalito later. 

Teiser: And that was what your father did. every week end? 

Rossi: Every week end. That s right. Until the days of 

automobile. But even then he used to take the train. 

I used to come hone after I got to work, every 
other week, you know, spend the week end. I was 
bacheloring up there you know, living alone, but I d 
come home every other week. But I used to pay strict 
attention to business. I had no social life up there 
at all except entertaining customers. Otherwise I 
had no social life. 

Teiser: Didn t go down to Healdsburg? 

Rossi: No, very little. 

Teiser: Did you know the people at Simi. The Simi brothers? 

Rossi: Well, I knew who they were. Fred Haigh, you know. 

And his wife*s family. They still have a nice winery 
there. 

Teiser: The daughter, Vivien, died recently, and Mrs. Haigh s 
still running it.* 

Rossi: Is that so? There isn t very much left, I don t 
think. 

Teiser: They still make wine. 
Rossi: They do? 

Teiser: And four or five years ago the daughter was making 
new plantings. They just liked it. 

Rossi: Well, it s hard to get away from it. 

Teiser: In 1909 then you went to work at Asti, and your 

brother went to work in San Francisco, is that right? 

Rossi: San Francisco, that s right. [Giulio] Perelli-Minetti 
used to take care of Asti and San Francisco. So San 
Francisco was without a head. And my father mit my 



*The Simi Winery was sold in Kay, 1970, to Russell 
H. and Betty Jean Green. 



Rossi: brother in charge * 

Teiser: And what was your official title? 

Hossi: I was superintendent of the winery. 

Teiser: How many acres of vineyard did you have around that 
winery at that time? 

Hossi: Fifteen hundred. 

Teiser: Was that good wine grape land? 

Hossi: Well, 1*11 put it this way. It was good wine land, but 
poor for quantity, in inverse ratio. The higher the 
quality, the poorer the crop. But that s just it, you 
see; thin soil, but it wasn t irrlgs-ted and it was 
awfully difficult to make it pay. But then you got 
the quality. 

Teiser: How old was your father when he died? 
Rossi: Fifty-six. Prime of life. 
Teiser: In an accident. 

fiossi: Yes. One Sunday morning. He d just finished break 
fast. Went down the road. The stableman came with the 
horse that he wanted to try out. The horse began to 
get skittish, one thing and another, my father got nervous, 
went to jump, and he fell on his head. That was it. 

Teiser: He was mounted? He was on horseback? 
Rossi: No, he was in a little carriage. 

Teiser: Well, it was fortunate that you and your brother by 
then had had experience. 

Rossi: Experience. Yes, it would have been a different story 
if we hadn t. Because we were able to carry on, you 
know, without my father s management. 



TO PROHIBITION 



Teiser: It has occurecl to me that 1911 was n year of groat 

crisis for nil of you the year of your father s death, 
What had your position been in 1909, when you entered 
the business? 



35 



Rossi: To start with, superintendent of the Asti winery. 
Teiser: And you continued in that until 1911? 
Rossi: Well, until 1914. 

Teiser: I thought that there was some indication that after 
your father s death, you had been given broader 
responsibilities . 

Rossi: Well, I was on my own up there, whereas before I was 
under my father. 

Teiser: "General superintendent of wineries" I have as your 
title after your father s death. I suppose it was 
just what you had been before, was it? 

Rossi: Well, maybe...! actually did assume greater rest>onsi- 
bility because my father was always present to veto 
or approve any decision made prior to 1911. 

Teiser: Then I came across something about a real estate 
dealer named Marcellus Kriegbaum vrho brought suit 
about a commission due him in 1911. 

Rossi: Yes. That s correct. 

Teiser: I wasn t so much interested in the problem of the 
suit as the indication of the properties that had 
been acquired. You remember about the suit, do you? 

Rossi: I remember, in general, that he had brought a suit, 
but the details I m not too familiar with. 

Teiser: Well, according to a newspaper account, he charged 
that California Wine Association and Italian Swiss 
Colony were attempting to corner the wine market of 
the entire state and control it, and that Italian 
Swiss Colony was owned by the California Wine 
Association and apparently that had not come out 
yet. This was in May, 1911. There was an article 
in the San Francisco Call on May 8th, 1911. Apparently, 
it had not been made public that... 

Rossi: No, no, I guess not. That was before my father died. 

Teiser: Yes. William Hanson, secretary of the California 

Wine Association, said that it held 50 per cent stock 
ownership of Italian Swiss Colony. As you mentioned 
earlier. 



Rossi: That was correct. 

Teiser: But he said that they were not at all in the same 
organization so far as marketing went. 

Rossi: They were absolutely independent one of the other. 
Teiser: Hanson said they were great rivals. 
Hossi: They were. Competitors. 

Teiser: Kriegbaum was filing suit against your father and 

all the other directors of the Italian -American Bank. 
He said that he had had an agreement to handle the 
sale of several vineyard properties to the California 
Wine Association. Then the board of directors of 
the Italian-American Bank decided that they would be 
sold to Italian Swiss Colony instead, and thus they 
avoided paying him his fee, his commission. I suppose 
it didn*t come to anything, did it? 

Hossi: Apparently not. 

Teiser: You would have inherited the problem if it had 
continued, wouldn t you? 

Rossi: Yes. I think it must have been dropped for some 
particular reason. I can t recall the details. 

Teiser: The properties were named.... 
Rossi: Oh? Were they named? 

Teiser: Yes, and I thought I d like to ask you about each of 
them. There was Mount Diablo Vineyard of 600 acres, 
owned by California Consolidated Vineyard Company. 

Rossi: Well, I knew that property existed and was bought by 
Italian Swiss Colony. 

Teiser: I believe they also bought some wine at the same time, 
did they? 

Rossi: Yes. Well, the Inventory of wine went with the 
property. 

Teiser: Who had owned that property? 
Hossi: I don t know. 



37 



Teiser: I think somewhere a name of an earlier owner is given, 
T. Froelich. 

Rossi: I think he was a director of the California Wine 

Association. There was a Mr. Froelich connected with 
the California Wine Association. I don t know if 
it s the same one, or not. 

Teiser: The Mount Diablo Vineyard, where was that located? 

Hossi: Clayton. 

Teiser: Was it a good vineyard? 

Rossi: Yes. 

Teiser: What kind of. grapes? 

Rossi: Table wine grapes. They were good quality. 

Teiser: Then, the Brookside Vineyard. Doesn t say where that 
was. 

Rossi: That was near Concord. That was only a vineyard, and 
the grapes used to be brought to Clayton, to the 
Mount Diablo Winery. 

Teiser: Did it have a big capacity? 

Rossi: Oh, I think it had nearly a million gallon capacity. 
Half a million to a million. More likely half a 
million. 

Teiser: I was confused about Brookside because that s now 
the name that Mr. Philo Biane s winery uses. 

Rossi: No connection. 

Teiser: Then there was the Bernard Vineyard, 150 acres. 

Rossi: I m not familiar with that, at all. 

Teiser: And the Portola Vineyard of ?0 acres. 

Rossi: I m not familiar with that either. They never owned 
it. 

Teiser: Well, apparently they were considering buying all 
these t 



38 



Rossi: They didn t apparently, because I would have known 
about it. Brookside I knew x-ras owned by Italian 
Swiss Colony, but as far as the Portola and Bernard, 
I m not at all familiar. 

Teiser: There s another called the Theresa Vineyard of ^4-0 
acres. 

Rossi: Same way. I don t remember that. 



Teiser: 

Rossi: 
Teiser: 

Rossi: 
Teiser: 

Rossi: 

Teiser: 
Rossi: 

Teiser: 
Rossi: 

Teiser: 
Rossi: 

Teiser: 

Rossi: 

Teiser: 



The total value of them all was said to be ;p500,000. 
I suppose some of them were bought and some were not. 

Did that include the winery? 

Apparently so. Yes. I was interested in the directors 
of the Italian-American Bank. Your father was one and 
I suppose had been for many years. 

He was vice-president. 

And Mr. Pontana. And C.A. Malm. I think his name 
has been mentioned. 

He was one of the original stockholders of the Italian 
Swiss Agricultural Colony. 

Was he Italian himself? 

No. He was more German than anything else, as I 
recall. His family lived on Stelner near Jackson. 
They had a home there for many years. They were in 
the luggage business. 

Mr. Pontana, of course. And then there s A.J. Merle. 

A.J. Merle. Well, he was the one that eventually 
bought an Interest in the Asti Grape Products Company 
that was effective during the Prohibition years. 

And Luigi de Martini? 

That was the L. de Martini Supply Company, candies 
and sweets, wholesale. 

And Henry J. Crocker, whom you ve mentioned. 

Yes. 

And Henry A. Sartori. 



39 



Hossi: Dr. Henry J. Sartori, son-in-law of Mr. A. Sbarboro, 
president of the Italian -American Bank. 

Teicer: And. Ambrose Gherini? 

Hossi: My brother-in-law. He married my eldest sister. 

Teiser: And Alfred 3. Sbarboro. 

Rossi: Mr. A. Sbarboro *s son, who was actually running the 
bank . [ Lau^ht er ] 

Teiser: And "Rhoma" A. Sbarboro. 

Rossi: Romolo A. Sbarboro was a son also of A. Sbarboro. 
These were the directors of the bank, you say? 

Teiser: In 1911. And most of them had wine interests then? 

Rossi: Wine interests and banking interests through Mr. 
Sbarboro *s connections. 

Teiser: Was a member of your family married to a member of 
the Sbarboro family? 

Rossi: No. rlo relationship. 

Teiser: Who owned major interest in the company at the time of 
your father s death? 

Rossi: Well, 50 per cent of it was California Wine Association, 
The largest individual stockholder was my father. 

Teiser: And you continued operating it until.... 

Rossi: Well, California Wine Association, with Prohibition 
coming on in 1918, began selling properties, and 
they contemplated selling Asti too, 1919 1920. 

Teiser: They had by this time become full owners of it? 

Hossi: Oh, yes; 191^ they became full owners. 

Teiser: But you were continuing to operate it? 

Rossi: I continued to operate it. I was superintendent. 

Teiser: You worked with Mr. A.R. Morrow then? 

Rossi: Yes, since 191^ I was under Mr. Morrow. 



Teiser: What sort of a man was he? 

Rossi: Oh, very capable. He was general superintendent and 
then becarae general manager. Mr. Pontana was 
president of the California Wine Association after 
wards. And Mr, Morrow and Mr. Fontana used to work 
very closely together, especially during the years 
right prior to Prohibition. 

Teiser: I keep hearing fron a variety of sources that Mr. 
Morrow had very acute taste. Is that right? 

Rossi: Oh, yes. Yes. He was a wonderful wine taster. 
Teiser: Was he very anxious for high quality? 

Rossi: Oh, yes. Oh, yes. He knew the wine business 
beautifully. 

Teiser: Was he a good business nanager, too? 

Rossi: Yes. Yes. I got along very well with him. 

Teiser: And your brother too? 

Rossi: Yes. 

Teiser: Your brother continued in charge here in San Francisco? 

Rossi: Yes. 



AST I GRAPE PRODUCTS COMPANY AMD THE C.W.A. 



Rossi: In 1919 they wanted to sellAsti. And Mr. [Enrico] 
Prati and his family (that s explained in some of 
the literature) wanted to buy it out on time, and 
break it up into 40 acre lots, you see. But before 
that tine came, before they made financial arrangements 
and all that, and ny brother got back from the First 
World War, and he and I went to them and said: well, 
you re trying to finance this. It s going to not be 
easy for you to do it and instead of eventually 
breaking it up, let s form a company and shin grapes, 
make grape juices. And we ll heln you to finnnce 
this. So we formed the Asti Grar>e Products Company. 
And I became president of the Asti Grar>e Products 
Company. This was April, 1920. 



IKL 



Teiser: Who were the other officers of it? 

Rossi: Well, for the first few years, my brother was secretary 
and vice-president. And Mr. Prati was vice-president 
in charge of production. And that s about what it 
amounted to for the first few years. 

Teiser: Did your headquarters remain in San Francisco, or 
were they in Asti at that time? 

Rossi: No, I moved to San Francisco. 
Teiser: Who was in charge up there then? 

Rossi: Prati. He was a director of the company. Then we 
later on got the Di Giorgio fruit company, the Earl 
Fruit Company, interested. That was nrior to just 
prior to Repeal, I guess it was. 

Teiser: Yes, I notice there was a Di Giorgio member of the 
board of directors. Which Di Giorgio was that? 

Rossi: Joseph. He was the president and director of the 

Earl Fruit Company. And they owned a 37-1/2 per cent 
stock interest. 

Teiser: And you were shipping fresh grapes? 

Hossi: And making grape juices and grape concentrates. 

Teiser: How did you learn how to make concentrates? 

Hossi: Oh, well, with a vacuum pan. 

Teiser: It was not anything you had done before though? 

Rossi: No. 

Teiser: Before Prohibition who were your main customers for 
bulk wines? 

Rossi: Well, you mean, in my father s day? 

Teiser: Yes. 

Rossi: Oh, everybody. Wholesalers in every town. 

Teiser: Would you sell in small quantities? 

Rossi: In barrels. Fifty gallon barrels. Eventually in 
tank cars. 



Teiser: Oh, in tank cars in your father s day? 
Rossi: Yes. Mostly barrels, though. 
Teiser: But local wholesalers. 

Rossi: Yes. In the cities. We used to ship by water in 50 
Gallon barrels to New York through the Panama Canal. 

Teiser: Did a large r>ercentage of your wines go east? 
Hossi: Yes. 

Teiser: Then during Prohibition who were the customers for 
the grape juices and concentrates? 

Hossi: That, see, I had to develop. That was work. That 

you had to ferret put, and induce people to get into 
it. We sold grapes more easily. 

Teiser: But what kind of people were your customers for the 
concentrate and juice? 

Rossi: Well, it wasn t too heavy a business. It required a 
lot of work, detail work. It never amounted to a 
big, big business. Grapes were more important. 

Teiser: And those were just the grapes from the acreage at 
Asti? 

Rossi: No, we bought grapes too, neighbors grapes. It was 
a risky business. Oh, yes. 

Teiser: You must have felt all along, though, that Prohibition 
wasn t going to last? 

Rossi: Well, we were gambling on that. It was a gamble all 
right. Because it took capital all the time, putting 
hands in your pocket. 

Teiser: You must have felt very loyal to the business to work 
that hard and put in that much faith and time and 
effort. 

Rossi: Yes. Well, that s all we knew. 

Teiser: Did you ship many grapes to San Francisco? 

Rossi: Yes. 



Teiser: Someone told me about the big wineries in apartment 
house basements here. Did you know about those? 

Rossi: Yes, people used to.... We used to have a plant at 
Broadway and Davis, where we*d crush the grapes that 
they f d buy and then they d deliver then home in kegs 
and ferment then. We did the crushing for then. 

Teiser: Did you sell to the scavengers association? 

Rossi: No, I didn t. 

Teiser: These just went to the individual homes? 

Hossi: Yes, family. We had French, German, Italians. I 
used to cs.ll on them at home. 

Teiser: Did you help them bottle their wines the way Fruit 
Industries did? 

Hossi: Yes. Well, we had two or three men that did that on 
their own. 

Teiser: That really was a hard way to market wine, wasn t it? 
Rossi: It was. 




Edmund A. Rossi 
January 13, 1971 



Photograph by Ruth Teiser 



(Interview #2 - June 11, 1969) 



[A copy of a list of California Wine Association 
stockholders as of February 23, 191? (from the 
Association s Minute Books in the library of the 
California Historical Society) was left with Mr. 
Rossi to look at following the first interview. ] 



Rossi: I looked at the stockholders list of the California 
Wine Association and there wasn t anything of 
particular interest. I recognized the directors 
because I served on the board of directors after my 
father died. He d been a member of the board of 
directors of the California Wine Association, so 
after he died, they made me one. 

Teiser: That was the time they were liquidating the properties 
though? 

Rossi: Even before. Even before, because.... 
Teiser: 1911? 

Rossi: 1911 they weren t.... The threat of Prohibition wasn t 
imminent enough. It was only four or five years later 
that they made up their minds they would start 
liquidating some of their properties. 

Teiser: Did you have anything to do with Winehs.ven? 

Rossi: My only contact was I used to go over there to the 
board of directors meetings. The official home. 

Teiser: Was it a very good winery? 

Rossi: It was a practical winery. It was a large, sprawling 
plant, and they had big capacity for storage. Used 
to go over there in a schooner that they owned. 

Teiser: From San Francisco? 
Rossi: San Francisco, yes. 

Teiser: That was really going to a directors meeting in 
style! 

Rossi: Well, they used to bring wine over from Winehaven to 
San Francisco. 



Teiser: Oh, the schooner had a practical purpose. 
Hossi: Oh, yes. 

Teiser: I guess it was easier to ship in it than on the 
railroad? 

Rossi: I suppose so. 
reiser: Was it a big boat? 
Hossi: Mo. 

Teiser: So you were a member of the board of directors during 
the period of liquidation. And that was how you knew 
immediately when they decided to sell the Asti 
property. 

Yes. Well, not only that, but I was superintendent 
of Asti at that time. 

So you knew it from both points of view? 
Yes. 

Did they offer you the first chance at it? Or did 

you simply. . . 

Ho. No, I had been atroroached, I guess, by Mr. Prati 
and his family. I helped him begin negotiating the 
details of the proposed purchase and sale, and that s 
how I knew that the proposed buyers had in mind to 
subdivide the property, because that was about the 
only thing they could do on their own. That s when 
my brother and I offered to establish a business 
shipping grapes and making grape concentrates and 
grape juices. 

Teiser: Was there someone else interested in it? 
fiossi: No. Just Mr. Prati *s in-laws. 

Teiser: Tell me a little bit about Mr. Prati. Where did he 
come from? 

Hossi: I think it was Rome. His family I think came from 

Rome. He was a very energetic fellow, very energetic, 
full of vitality and ambition. 



Hossi: 

Teiser: 

Rossi: 

Teiser: 

Rossi: 



Teiser: How did he happen to come to Italian Swiss Colony? 



Teiser: Do you know? 

Rossi: His older "brother had preceded him. And his older 
brother went down to South America. I think he had 
another brother down there in the Argentine. Because 
that s where he lived the rest of his life. In the 
Argentine. 

Teiser: What had the brother done? 

Rossi: Well, he d been the foreman of the vineyards. 

Teiser: Do you remember his first name? 

Rossi: Olinto. And Mr. Prati, our partner, was Enrico. 

Teiser: About when did he come then? 

Rossi: Enrico Prati? The same day my brother and. I went to 
work, first of September, 1909. 

Teiser: Just by chance? 

Rossi: Yes. 

Teiser: Was he a contemporary of yours? About the same age? 

Rossi: About the same age. 

Teiser: And what was his first job there? 

Rossi: Sub-foreman under his brother. 

Teiser: I see, and he worked his way up through.... 

Rossi: Up through. That s right. 

Teiser: So between 1911 and. 1920, he must have gathered some 
capital if he had been interested in buying the 
property; is that right? 

Rossi: Well, it was mostly he was depending on his in-laws 
I guess. His in-laws owned the winery and the 
vineyard two miles south of Asti. Good vineyard. 

Teiser: Who were they? 

Rossi: Seghesio. 

Teiser: Did it have a name? 



Rossi: No, no. Seghesio vineyard. Seghesio winery. The 
old man, Mr. Pratl s father-in-law,* he used to be 
one of the original laborers at the vineyard when it 
was established. At the Asti vineyards when they 
were established. 

Teiser: And then he went and established his own? 

Rossi: Yes. 

Teiser: And he had done well enough to help his son-in-law... 

Rossi: He had died by that time. It was the mother-in-law 
that had a good business head. Eventually she sold 
out her interest though because, being very con 
servative, they were always afraid of debts, borrowing, 
loans. So a third cousin of mine bought out their 
interest. A.J. Merle. He was a man that was well-to- 
do, retired. 

Teiser: Didn t take an active part in the business? 

Rossi: Just a director of our company, Asti Grape Products 
Company. 

Teiser: Under what terms did you buy it from California Wine 
Association? Did you have to give them all cash? 
Or were you able to pay it off 

Rossi: We paid it off. Mr. Prati couldn t have done it. 

That s why we suggested to him that we, my brother and 
I, get an interest in a property as we set it up, e. 
corporation. $240,000, I think we originally put up. 

Teiser: It was a lot of money for that time. 

Rossi: It was. $60,000 apiece. Originally, I think, it was 
$200,000. $50,000 apiece. Then we went up to $60,000 
apiece, four of us. 

Teiser: That was the initial payment? 

Rossi: That was the initial and final payment. 

Teiser: Oh, that was the total. How long did it take you to 
pay it off then? 

Rossi: Oh, not too long. 

Teiser: That was quite an enterprise for a group of young men, 



*Edoardo Seghesio 



Teiser: wasn t it? In a period that wasn t exactly.... 
Hossi: We were banking on Repeal. Big chance. A big chance. 

Teiser: How did it happen in 192^- that the matter came up of 
getting back the Italian Swiss Colony name? 

Rossi: Well, because those first four or five years following 
Prohibition, Italian Swiss Colony wasn t operating as 
a corporation. Business being done was one of 
liquidation. And at that time, as I suppose even 
today, you had to pay franchise tax, annual franchise 
tax, and they weren t using the facilities and name 
of the company, Italian Swiss Colony, so they decided 
to disincorporate. 

Teiser: The decision was made by California Wine Association? 

Rossi: That s right. California Wine Association. And I 
was on the board of directors and I knew what was 
doing. And Mr. Morrow, and Mr. Fontana, who was then 
president of the California Wine Association, both 
felt that the Rossi family connections were entitled 
to use the name if anybody was. And as they weren t 
going to use it, we changed our name. 



Teiser: 



Rossi: 



Teiser: 

Rossi: 

Teiser: 



Rossi: 

Teiser: 
Rossi: 



You continued on the board of the California Wine 
Association for some time then? 

Well, I might have continued... Oh, yes, I did 
continue because they changed the name afterwards to 
Calwa Corporation. And I \flas still on the board of 
the California Wine Association. 

Did you have some shares in it, too? 

Yes. I notice that I m on the list of stockholders. 

Oh, yes, that s one of 1917, isn t it. I was 
interested in that list of stockholders because so 
many people who had no direct connection with the 
wine business seem to have bought shares. 

Well, it was on the market, in the stock exchange. 
It was listed. 

I think your father s estate is represented. 

372 shares, estate of Pietro Carlo Hossi, on one of 
the lists. I don t know what particular year this was, 



Teiser: 1917* Do you think some of the other people had 

bought into it because they just wanted to support 
a California enterprise? 

Rossi: No. 

Teiser: They just went In it because it was a good investment? 

Rossi: It was strictly a business deal. One of the biggest 
stockholders was E.S. Pillsbury, the attorney. He 
was the attorney for the California Wine Association. 

Teiser: How did he happen to own so many shares? 

Hossi: Well, he took a very active interest following 

Prohibition. During the liquidation of the California 
Wine Association, he took a very active interest. lie 
was a very shrewd man. I remember this is rather 
comical. He used to inveigh against telephone bills. 
He had a particular grir>e against mounting telephone 
bills, long distance calls. In other Words, he 
figured that quite a few calls could be supplanted 
by correspondence. Mr. Korrow felt that the telephone 
was handy to get a decision fast and put the matter 
out of your mind. It was rather amusing because at 
board of directors meeting he used sometimes to bring 
this matter uo. 

Teiser: Was the Crocker Bank represented there among the 

stockholders? Some other banking families were, I 
thought, but perhans they weren t prominantly 
represented. 

Rossi: Well, there s a stockholder here by the name of 
Charles H. Crocker. 850 shares. 

Teiser: But they didn t take an active part in the nanagement? 

Rossi: No, oh, no. There was nobody on the board of directors 
during ray time by the name of Crocker. Those that 1 
do remember were C.O. G. Miller. He was quite a stock 
holder. 

Teiser: Was he active in the organization? 

Hossi: Very active. 

Teiser: What did he do? 

Rossi: He was quite active. He... 



Teiser: Took Dart in the board s decisions? 

Rossi: That s it. M.J. Pontana x-jas a big stockholder. 

Teiser: So you continued to participate in the affairs of 
the California Wine Association for some time? 

Rossi: Well, I was close to the management. And district 
manager for Napa and Sonoma counties. 






Teiser: Were you involved in it later when it became r>art of 
Fruit Industries? 

Rossi: No. 

Teiser: By then you had ceased connections? 

Rossi: Yes. Oh, yes. 

PROHIBITION PERIOD ACTIVITIES 

Teiser: Someone mentioned to me the Pioli Brothers.... 

Rossi: Well, they were old-time employees prior to Prohibition 
up at Asti. 

Teiser: Why vrere they of interest? 

Rossi: Well, one of the two brothers lived in San Francisco 
and was well known among the Italians, and so we had 
him as a salesman for our grapes that we brought 
during the years of Prohibition to San Francisco 
market. And he was our salesman. 

Teiser: What was his first name? 

Rossi: Astolfo. The other brother used to be housekeeper 
for me for a while when I lived up at Astl as a 
bachelor. 

Teiser: What was his name, do you remember? 

Rossi: rto, I don t remember. 

Teiser: Worked in the winery, did he? 

Rossi: i lo. Wo. In later years he retired to a oronerty ur> 



51 



Bossi: in Sonoma County up around Healdsburg, one of the 
valleys around Healdsburg. 

Teiser: Perhaps it was the one in San Francisco who was 
known. 

Hossi: Yes. He was connected with our selling of grapes in 
San Francisco market for quite a few years. And 
then he used to also helu make the wine out of grape 
juice that.... People used to buy the grape juice 
in barrels from us and Mr. Pioli used to go to their 
house and see that it fermented right. 

Teiser: What facilities did you maintain in San Francisco 
through these years? 

Hossi: Well, during the Prohibition era we built a corrugated 
iron building and office at the end of Broadway, 
where we put up a crushing plant. 

Teiser: You mean near the waterfront? 

Hossi: Waterfront. See, we brought the grapes into the San 
Francisco market on the waterfront, and then t>eople 
who bought their grapes from us or from others would 
bring them over to our plant if they wanted. And we 
supplied the crushing facilities and the containers 
for home delivery. We d lend them the containers. 
They were 15 or 20 gallon barrels with handles on 
them so they could dump them into their barrels or 
tanks at home. In the case of white grapes, we d 
press the grape juice out of it. In the case where 
they were going to make red wine, we d just crush 
their grapes and deliver the pulp and everything except 
the stems. We maintained the plant all through the 
years of Prohibition, those 12 years, in San Francisco. 

Teiser: How did you ship your grapes down? By railroad? 

Hossi: Yes. Sold them right off of the tracks. That s where 
Pioli came in because he used to make his headquarters 
in the particular cars of grapes that we were selling. 

Teiser: I see; sold just right out of the cars. 

Rossi: Yes. 

Teiser: Had you offices, too, in San Francisco, at that tine? 

Hossi: Yes. 



Teiser: Where were they? 

Rossi: Well, for a while there, we were at 216 Pine Street. 
Prior to that, we were at 12 Geary. 

Teiser: Had you earlier had any storage facility in San 
Francisco? Before Prohibition? 

Hossi: Oh, yes. Had it on Greenwich Street. There we had 
a million gallon capacity. That f s a building that 
my father put up. 

Teiser: Is it still standing? 

Rossi: Still standing. Battery and Greenwich. Went through 
the fire. 

Teiser: Did you use it for storage, or blending, or...? 

Rossi: Both. Mostly for in-and-out though. Delivery by 
boat to eastern markets. 

Teiser: What year was it built, about? 

Rossi: Oh, I think it was around 1903 or *04. 

Teiser: And did you then dispose of it at the time of 
Prohibition? 

Hossi: Well, at that time, we belonged to the California 
Wine Association, and they disposed of it. 

Teiser: Over the period of Prohibition, did you plant any 

varieties of grapes that ship well instead of those 
that specifically make good wine? 

Rossi: No. No. We had the wine grapes, the real wine grapes 
at Asti in Sonoma County that made the best wine. 

Teiser: Were you able to ship those grapes well during 

Prohibition? Or didn t you ship them as far as some 
others did? 

Rossi: We shipped them all over. One of our principal 

markets was San Francisco though. We did ship to 
Chicago and to New York and eventually to those who 
represented our wine business in New York, Gambarelli 
& Davit to. They were eventually bought out by the 
National Distillers Corporation, but they were our 



53 



Rossi: 



Teiser: 
Rossi: 



Teiser: 
Rossi: 
Teiser: 
Rossi: 

Teiser: 
Rossi: 

Teiser: 

Rossi: 

Teiser: 

Rossi: 

Teiser: 

Rossi: 



representatives in New York that we trusted implicitly. 
We gave then a lot of credit. I may say we always 
shipped them on open account. And they saw us through 
bad times too. They saved many a precarious situation 
for us back in the New York market when grapes went 
to pieces in prices and it was almost difficult to 
get the freight money out of it. So they eventually 
put the fresh grapes in storage. And we were fortunate 
there too because the storage peonle trusted them and 
eventually they got every last dollar that was coming 
to them, but it took sometimes maybe three or four 
years before we completely oaid off the storage 
charges. 

It must have been a gamble. 

It was because Gambarelli & Davitto would buy new 
barrels and take the fresh grapes out of boxes to 
be shipped in and put them in barrels and put the 
barrels in cold storage and freeze them solid, kee-n 
them for years two or three years sometimes before 
they liquidated the inventory. 

Did other people do that, or were .they...? 
No, they were the only ones that did it. 
Did it work well? 

It worked well because it saved the situation for us. 
We were able to pay off all the storage charges and 
keep the name alive. 

And the grapes were perfectly usable after? 

Yes. We had put in sulfur dioxide. There again.... 
I talked to you about that the last time. 

Yes. That held them stable. 

That held them, yes. 

Then what would they do when they took it out of 

Home-made wine. 

They crushed the frozen grapes as they took them out 
of storage? 

Yes. That really was a venture. That was a real 



Teiser: 
Rossi : 

Teiser: 

Rossi: 

Teiser: 

Rossi: 



Rossi: venture. And Gambarelli Davitto did that for us. 
It was essential that we trusted them, because if 
we hadn t they d have sacrificed and dunroed the 
grapes and we d have got nothing out of it. They 
were honest. 

V/hat varieties of grapes were these? 

They were good grapes. Zinfandels, Carignanes, 
Petite Sirahs. They were excellent wine grapes. 

And you continued in association with Gambarelli & 
Davitto until 19^2, was it? 

Well, yes, because they handled our wine after Repeal. 
Who were the principals in Gambarelli & Davitto? 

Originally Miss [Victoria] Ganbarelli, who had been 
secretary to V. Langnann; she made a connection with 
[Bernard] Davitto, and they acquired V. Langmann & 
Company. 

Teiser: What did you people in the wine industry drink durinr 
Prohibition? Did you use your 200-gallon family 
allowance? 

Rossi: [Laughter] Not the 200 gallons because that was quite 
a bit. But we did make a certain limited amount out 
of the grape juice and grape concentrate. 

Teiser: In your home? 

Rossi: Ho.... Oh, yes! Oh, it had to be in your own home. 

Teiser: Was it good? Could you make good wine at home? 

Rossi: Oh yes. If you knew how, you know. You had to know 
the techniques. 

Teiser: What about the power of gangsters in the industry 
here during Prohibition? 

Rossi: Well, in California, we personally did not have any 
contact with them or any disturbances with them. 

Teiser: Wo winery in California? 

Rossi: Well, I wouldn t say. I said, our own. Oh, there s 
no doubt that there was n lot of illegal trnffic in 



55 



Rossi: alcoholic beverages, wine included. But they didn t 
worry so much about the wine end of it, you know. 
It was mostly stronger liquor that was popular. 

Teiser: I had understood that there were some gangs that got 
wine from some of the wineries. This is not familiar 
to you? 

Rossi: Ho, I m not familiar with it. No, the only thins is 
that quite a few of the wineries had connections with 
people that would supply sacramental permits, or 
medicinal permits. 

Teiser: Did any of the California wineries make brandy during 
Prohibition that you know of? 

Hossi: Well, they made brandy because they made sacramental 
wines, sweet wines, and they had to have brandy for 
these sweet wines. Fortified wines. 



INDUSTRY ORGANIZATIONS AND THE PRORATE 



Teiser: 



Rossi: 

Teiser: 
Rossi: 



Teiser: 

Rossi: 

Teiser: 

Rossi: 



There s been much discussion of the California 
Vineyardists Association. 

Donald Conn was manager. My brother opposed joining 
California Vinej^ardists Association. 

Why? 

Wanted to be independent. And we did maintain our 
independence, fortunately. Because eventually they 
went out of business. And we still maintained our 
identity. So my brother was right. 

If you had gone into it, what would you have had to 
do? Was it that tight an association that you would 
not have been able to operate your own way? 

I think so. 

Why? Because of price controls? 

No. No. Nothing of that type, I don t think. Well, 
we remained small and independent. I think that 
Fruit Industries became a r>art of it. 



Teiser: A lot of vineyardists became a part of it, and I 
thought I saw that Italian Swiss Colony had a 
contract with it in 1930.* 

Rossi: It might be. 



(Interview #3 - June 20, 1969) 



Teiser: Did you consider Fruit Industries an important factor 
in the Industry in the early 1930 f s? 

Rossi: Oh, yes. 

Teiser: I guess Walter Taylor came in about then, didn t he? 

Rossi: Have you talked to Walter Taylor? 

Teiser: No, I haven t. Do you think I should? 

Rossi: Well, he was well-posted, especially in Donald Conn s 
day. He came out of George West and Sons, too, I 
think. He could give you a slant on him, on George 
West. He [Taylor] was active in the ind.ustry. He 
spoke for Fruit Industries, always.** 

Teiser: I ve seen articles by him on the wine industry from 
the point of view of Fruit Industries. Were his 
ideas sound from, say, your point of view? He had 
definite ideas on marketing, I think. 

Rossi: Well, he was a little inclined to be critical of 

things. I don t know that he was always right though, 
[Laughter] I mean, whether he carried his weight is 
another thing. 

Teiser: He was very strong for stabilization programs, was he 
not? 

Rossi: He was. 

Teiser: And there were those of you who were not? 



*Under "Miscellaneous County Acreage Holders," 
Membership List. California Vineyardists Association, 
August 15, 1930, in Wine Institute library. 

**Mr. Taylor declined the Regional Oral History Office s 
invitation to be included in the wine industry inter 
view series. 



57 



Rossi: 

Teiser: 
Rossi: 

Teiser: 
Rossi: 



Teiser: 

Rossi: 

Teiser: 

Rossi: 

Teiser: 
Rossi : 
Teiser: 

Rossi: 



That s right. Have you ever gotten a slant from 
Mario Perelli-Iiinetti? 

Not Mario, no; his father. 

He d be more likely to give you a better slant than 
his father. Because he was managing Fruit Industries. 



Has the industry, in your experience, been s 
between those who wanted heavy cooperation and those 
who wanted to be independent? 

Oh, I don t think there was an out-and-out program 
set out by anyone in particular. They took up these 
problems as they came up, without being Just adamant 
about their viewpoints. 

I believe the last attempt at a stabilization program 
was the so-called set-aside, which people apparently 
felt strongly for and against. 

Well, there, that was one instance where they did feel 
strongly one way or the other. 

Why did those in favor, favor it? And why did those 
who felt they disliked it, dislike it? 

I suppose those that didn t have distribution and 
outlets maybe felt they were in a better position to 
acquire them than if they were restricted to certain 
operations. 

Those who had less were less willing to be restricted? 



Thai 



right. 



it s interesting that with all the attempts at 
organisation there s never been any really tight 
single control. 

No, there hasn t been anything in the way of a, you 
might say, real anti-trust operation. The government 
did get after the industry, and I think rather unfairly-- 
I mean, it wasn t well-founded, the accusation although 
the industry had to rather give in to the government 
viewpoint. I felt that it didn t have a solid basis 
in fact. So that you re right when you say that they 
didn t have any solid program of control. 



Teiser: What was the r>oint at issue? 



Rossi: That they were forming one of these control programs 
to really control. 

Telser: When was that? 

Rossi: In the early *K) s maybe or the late 30 s. 

Teiser:. I suppose the prorate was about the only thing that 
cut right through the industry. 

Rossi: Well, the people were for prorate, I think, as a rule. 
That seemed to have worked out all right. 

Teiser: Did you know Donald Conn? 

Rossi: Yes, I knew him. 

Teiser: What kind of a man was he? 

Rossi: Very... Well, he was a promoter. He had been an 

employee of the Railroad Associations of America, and 
he was a fine r>ronoter when it came to that, you know. 
No doubt about that. And he was instrumental in 
forming this California Vineyardists Association. 

Teiser: Did you ever hear that Hr. Hoover was somehow in 
favor of it? 

Rossi: No. I don t know if it was because...! think Mr. 

Hoover s family had a vineyard in the Fresno country. 
The sons particularly had a vineyard; raisin business. 

Teiser: Whose interests did you feel Mr. Conn had at heart? 

Rossi: Oh, I don t think anybody s in particular. I think 

it was just a question that he wanted to get everybody 
in it so as to have a big organization. I don t think 
he had any other interest than that [laughter]. You 
know, a promoter always wants everybody to go along 
with it, and he was a promoter. 

Teiser: It was said that it was an attempt to establish an 
orderly marketing system. 

Rossi: Well, that might have been. 

Teiscr: But you ircmted to market on your own? 

Rossi: Well, we always more or less went our independent way. 



59 



Teisers 

Rossi: 
Teiser: 

Rossi: 
reiser: 

Rossi: 
Teiser: 

Rossi: 
Teiser: 

Rossi: 



Teiser: 
Rossi: 



The California Vineyardists Association was 
instrumental in getting a loan from vjas it the 
Federal Farm Board ? 

Yes. 

For Fruit Industries. Do you remember something of 

that? 

Yes, I think so. I think Perelli-Hinetti s family 
vjas connected with then at that tine. 

It seems to me that organization, Fruit Industries, 
generated so much heat I 



Yes. 



[Laughter] 



Another thing that s been said, and perhaps you have 
some thoughts on this, was that Mr. Harry A Caddow 
was an associate in some way of Mr. Conn.... 

Yes. 

...and that the Wine Institute developed somewhat 
from. . . 

No, that wasn t so. The Wine Institute is the result 
and successor of a couple of other organisations that 
preceded it, whose origin I was partly responsible 
for. 

Could you tell about it? 

Because in October, 1932, just a year or so prior to 
Repeal, I joined, with about six or eight others in 
the wine industry of California to form the G-rane 
Growers League of California, among whom were J3.Ii. 
Sheehan, who was a vineyardist near Sacramento I 
think. Among others were the de Latour vineyards 
represented by a gentleman named St. Amant,* who was 
vice-president of Beaulieu Vineyards, and Mr. Horace 
Lanza, and Henry Koater of the California Barrel 
Company. The first week of December, 1932, we went 
back to Washington to meet with our attorney that we 
had hired, by the name of Marion de Tries, Judge 



*V7.L. St. Ana-it. 



60 



Rossi: I larion de Vries. And we got quite a "bit of publicity 
on it because at that time they were trying to 
liberalize the Prohibition law so as to nermit the 
sale of wine as being non-intoxicating in fact; that 
was our argument. Eventually, we appeared before the 
Ways and Mea.ns Committee and strangely enough it s 
still the same head of the Ways and Means Committee 
today 

Teiser: Who was that? 

Rossi: Mills.* I think he was a member of the committee. 
And I appeared and gave a talk on the chemistry of 
wine making to explain to the committee what wine 
really was. Mr. Lanza gave a talk on some other, 
legal r>hase of it I think it was. And Mr. St. Amant 
on some other phase of it. But this little group of 
us constituted the high-sounding name of Graoe Growers 
League of California. And we hired Harry Caddow as 
our manager. So he went way back too. I don t know 
whether Harry Caddow went to Washington with us, but 
we put him on our payroll, a small salary because vre 
were just organizing. I think we originally put up 
$500 apiece personally to form this organization. 
Then eventually that became the Western Wine Producers 
Association, and eventually that was changed into the 
Wine Institute. That s the beginning of the Wine 
Institute.** It s an outcome of the original Grape 
Growers League of California. We appeared on December 
6, 7, 8, 1932. We got a review in the New York 
Times. It was reported. It s in the Congressional 
Record.*** 

Teiser: What effect did it have, your appearing before that 
committee, in the long run, do you think? 

Rossi: Well, it kept the wine industry of California before 
the public. We were trying to prove to this 
Congressional committee, Ways and Means Committee, 
that in the way wine was normally consumed, in wine 



*Wilbur D. Mills. 
**See also pp. 77-79- 

***See: U.S. Congress, House Ways and Means 

Committee. Prohibition. Modification of Volstead 
Act. Hearings. 1932. Y^.W36:V83. 



61 



Rossi: drinking countries, it wasn t intoxicating in fact 

because they consumed it with food, so that it didn t 
have the same effect. That was the argument that 
the beer x)eot>le used back there before the same 
committee, and they won out because they were allowed 
to sell for a limited number of years 3*2 per cent 
beer as being non-intoxicating in fact. We Tinted to 
try to get wine in the same classification as long 
as it didn t have more than 12 per cent alcohol, 
table wine. We weren t plugging for dessert wines, 
fortified wines; we were just trying to get table 
wines defined as being non- intoxicating in fact. 

Teiser: It seems to me Dr. Maynard Joslyn mentioned an attempt 
to produce 3-2 per cent wines. 

Rossi: We did. Asti Grape Products Company through Mr. Prati 
did actually nroduce 32 ner cent wine. It was quite 
palatable. 

Teiser: What grapes did you make it out of? 

Rossi: Well, we had to dilute it, you know. 

Teiser: How did you stabilize it? 

Rossi: It was carbonated, I think. 

Teiser: Did Dr. Joslyn say you sold it through Mission Dry 
Conroany? 

Rossi: Maybe for a while. 

Teiser: Did you sell it under your own label for a time? 

Rosai: Yes. We sold it under our own label. It didn t last 
very long though. 

Teiser: Sounds like a pleasant beverage. 

Rossi: It was pleasant. It was a good substitute for what 
you couldn t get. Yes, it was a good substitute. 
I v lr. Prati was responsible for it. 

Teiser: Back to your organization, how did you hannen to know 
Mr. Gaddow? 

Rossi: I don t know whether it was because of connections 

with i-ir. Leon Adams of the Pacific Advertising staff 



62 



Rossi: 



T eiser: 

Rossi: 

Telser: 

Rossi: 



Teiser: 
Rossi: 



that did some promotion work for us at that time... 
Might have been through Mr. Adams because Mr. Adams 
was so many years connected with the wine industry 
under Gaddow that it might have been a personal 
acquaintance there. Mr. Caddow came out of the 
railroad business, too. He was an agent in the San 
Joaquin Valley. Employee of Southern Pacific in some 
town in the San Joaquin Valley, I think. 

Mr. Adams had been down there, hadn t he? 
I don t know. 

He told me that he worked on a newspaper in Fresno 
for a few years. 

Well, his partner in the Pacific Advertising staff 
was Bob Smith. Robert L. Smith. -We hired Mr. Adams 
in 1932 at the time I went east to appear before the 
Washington committee. I remember Mr. Adams was 
trying to build my image up [laughter]. He had 
charge of the advertising and public relations work 
at the time that Repeal came, and i<re made a shipment 
of a trainload of wine to market. 

And he got a good deal of publicity for it? 

Oh, yes. Yes, that was his first contact with wine 
was through me. Yes. He s done very well. 



Teiser: He s a very articulate spokesman. 

Rossi: Well, he knows what he s talking about. He s learnt 
authentic information. So whatever he writes in his 
books is pretty authentic. 

Teiser: How did you and Mr. Lanza happen to get together in 
the Grape Growers League? You come from quite 
different segments of the wine industry. 

Rossi: Well, might have been that he was making grape 

concentrate up at Ukiah. At that time I think he 
might have been connected with the Tribunos and 
Victor Renetto, that winery in Ukiah that they 
acquired. Mr. Lanza had come out from western New 
York state, from Predonia, I think it was. 

Teiser: Mr. Repetto is still in this area. 

Rossi: 1 was with hin last night. We attended our annual 



63 



Rossi: meeting of an Italian cultural club we both belong 
to. 

Teiser: He s no longer in the wine business at all? 

Hossi: Mo, he s retired. I think he sold out to the 
Tribunes.* 

i 

Teiser: Did you? organization then work toward Repeal from 
1932 on? 

Rossi: Well, we cot Repeal within a year after that. 
Teiser: Oh, yes, of course. 

Hossi: We were trying to break in again ahead of the official 
declaration of Repeal. 

Teiser: You knew it was coining? 
Rossi: Yes. 

Teiser: Had Hoover ever indicated that he was in favor of 
Repeal ? 

Rossi: IIo, it was Alfred Smith. Hoover called it the noble 
experiment. I don t think he had anything to do with 
Repeal. 

Teiser: You were really paving the way for the transition to 
Repeal? 

Rossi: Oh yes. We sow the light, at that tine, between 

Roosevelt and Al Smith that eventually Repeal would 
be a fact. 



REPEAL TO 194-2 



Teiser: What did you do at hone with Italian Swiss Colony? 
What moves did you make to take advantage of the 
coming Repeal? 



*Hr. Rer>etto was subsequently interviewed in thin 
series. 



Rossi: 



Teiser: 
HOG si: 
Teiser: 

Hossi: 

Teiser: 
Rossi: 



Teiser! 
Hossi : 
Teicer; 
Hossi: 

Teiser: 
Rossi : 

Teiser: 

Rossi: 

Teiser: 

Hossi: 
Teiser: 



Well, we began to acquire some wines in the way of 
fortified wines because we were in the dry wine 
district, Sonoma County at Asti; we hadn t acquired 
a winery down at Fresno as yet. We eventually 
acquired the La Palona Winery, which belonged to 
M.F. Tarpey and Sons. We bought that. My brother 
was instrumental in getting that deal through. 

That s the one at Clovis, is that right? 
Yes. 

What was the history of that winery? Had it been 
started before Prohibition? 

Well, yes, 1912, I think. 

Who was Tarpey? 

Well, it was a well-known family in California. 
Democratic background. He had a brother by the name 
of Paul Tarpey. Brother or first cousin. V/e used to 
do business with Paul Tarpey in the way of buying 
wines from others, getting ready for Repeal, because 
we didn t make wine during the 12 years of Prohibition, 

You didn t carry any over? 

We only carried over some dry table wine. 

Did. you carry over much? 

Oh, I don t know. We had 100,000 gallons or 200,000 
gallons, something like that. 

Did it come through all right? 

Well, we eventually used it. Eventually we blended 
it up with new wine. 

You must have talc en good care of it. 
Yes. 

You maintained your cooperage in good shape all 
through? 

That s right. 

That must have taken a lot of work and a lot of faith. 



65 



Rossi: It was a gamble. 

Teiser: So you started buying some sweet wines. What else 
did you do? Did you add to your facilities or did. 
you reconstruct any, or were you all ready to go? 

Rossi: Well, we were ready to go. 

Teiser: You must have increased your capacity? 

Rossi: Yes, we increased our Well, we acquired this 
La Paloma Winery. 

Teiser: Did you acquire Shewan-Jones , too? 

Rossi: No. That was afterwards. That was National Distillers 
that acquired Shewan-Jones. 

Teiser: After they acquired your company? 

Rossi: Yes. Well, no, maybe they acquired Shewan-Jones 
later. But about the same time. 

Teiser: La Paloma then you operated? 

Rossi: We operated. We did a big job down there because we 
put in big redwood tanks and cement tanks. 

Teiser: How large a capacity did it have? 

Rossi: I think we built it up to about two million gallons. 

Teiser: And how great a capacity did you build up at Asti? 

Rossi: I don t know. I think that went to seven or eight 
million gallons. 

Teiser: What was it just before Prohibition? 

Rossi: Well, we didn t really increase the capacity very 
much at Asti. What we did was before Prohibition. 
Because we put in the first cement tanks that were 
built in California, storage tanks. 

Teiser: Were they lined? 

Rossi: No. There were only one or two tanks that were lined. 
With glass. But we treated them with silicate. And 
that closed the pores, but there was no particular 
lining. They use steel a great deal now. 



66 



Teiser: VJhat was the tank up there known as the biggest wine 
vat in the world? 

Rossi: That was, yen, 300,000 gallon tank. 

Peiser: When was that put in? 

Rossi: 97, I think. 1897. 

Teiser: What material was that? 

Rossi: Cement. 

Teiser: That was the first cement one? 

Rossi: Yes. This was underground. 

Teiser: Whose idea was that? Your father s? 

Rossi: Yes. 

Teiser: Why underground? Cool? 

Rossi: Cool, I guess. At that time, you see, there was a 
big crop, and the company didn t have money to r>ay 
cash for it, so they just offered these facilities. 
After they got promises of delivery, they went ahead 
and built the underground tank. It s been used all 
the time. 

Teiser: Still? 

Rossi: Oh, yes. 

Teiser: Not still the biggest in the world, I suppose. 

Rossi: Well, it s been divided up into three sections now. 

Teiser: What kind of wine is it used for? 

Rossi: Red wine. Red table wine. 

Teiser: A blended wine? 

Rossi: Yes. Although eventually I don t know that we didn t 
use it for port, things like that, you know, but I 
think it was mostly for red table wine. 

Teiser: ilost of your cooperage, though, was redwood? 



67 



Rossi: Redwood. 

Teiser: Large and small, both? 

Rossi: Mostly large. Comparatively large. 

Teiser: What size is that? 

Rossi: 15,000 to 40,000. 

Teiser: Who supplied your cooperate? Any one company, or...? 

Rossi: Well, there -was a firm by the name of Heger & Conroany, 
I think it was. Well, that might have been the 
manager s name. I forget the official title of the 
company. I think they did most of the work. 

Teiser: Who supplied your equipment? 

Rossi: Healdsburg Machine Shop. 

Teiser: Did they supply you with a good deal? 

Rossi: Well, that was before the days of the Valley corroany* 
down at Fresno. The Healdsburg Machine Shop. One of 
the earliest in northern California. 

Teiser: I ve heard the name of the peonle who owned it, and 
I can t remember. 

Rossi: Scalione was one. Ferrari. He s still alive. He s 
an old man. Those are the two names I remember. 
There were three in the firm.** 

Teiser: Someone suggested that we interview Mr. Ferrari. 

I suppose he would have a long memory of the industry. 

Rossi: Yes. He s still active. Someone said he was still 

very much around. I once in a while go up to a dinner 
that the local association gives in Sonoma County, and 
he s generally there. 

Teiser: Was his company an important factor in the wine industry? 



* Valley Foundry and Machine Works. 
**Cesare Rafanelli, Mario Scalione, and Abele Ferrari. 



63 



Rossi: 
Teiser: 
Hossi: 
Teiser: 

Rossi: 

Teiser: 
iiossi : 
Teiser: 
Hossi: 

Teiser: 
iiossi: 



Rossi: 



Teiser: 
Rossi: 



Oh, not to that extent. 

Did you make any of your own equipment there at Asti? 

Ho ... no . 

Where did you set your corks in the first days following 
ReiDeal? 



Oh, I guess local sur>t>lierf 
Portugal and Smin. 



I used to get thera from 



Was there a rood supply? 

Oh, I think so. 

Now, I understand, it s not easy to get good corks. 

Well, they don t use them much. They don t use corks 
very much. Use caps. 

Was there any problem of getting good bottles at 
first? 

l. : o. Well, there was in the Tipo bottles, the Tipo 
Chianti bottles. 



eiser: Those were to your own special mold, were they? 



V/ell, we used to import them originally. My father 
imported those from Italy. Straw covers. From 
Florence and Fiesole. And then at the time of the 
Second World War, Mussolini put an embargo on the 
export of these flasks. He thought we were pirating 
to use his bottles to put out a wine that competed 
with an Italian wine. So Mr. Prati had to become 
ingenious and develop a substitute. We got Owens- 
Illinois to make the bottle. First we tried to get 
it out of Mexico, but they were so un-unifom, you 
couldn t depend on them. 

You were using filling machines by then? 

Yes. So Mr. Prati got Owens-Illinois to supply the 
botblc. He got Zellerbach Par>er Companjr to su-o-oly 
was it Zellerbach Paner Company? Anyhow, there vias 
somebody who supplied o. substitute for the straw, 
and there was cellophane wran and a plastic base. 
So that we had just as fine a looking, attractive 
package as we had previoti.sly imported from Italy. 



69 



reiser: So when you went "back into the business of wine 

making with great relief I m sure then you said, 
that the Di Giorgio interests came in. Did they 
Give you capital for getting back in? 

Rossi: Well, what happened was they gave us a million and 
a half gallons, I think it was, of fortified wines. 

Teiser: Where did they get it? 

Rossi: They produced it. They had a winery down there at 
Balcersfield. Delano. So we used to ~buy originally 
from him. But then you got into bigger quantities, 
and Di Giorgio didn t have an outlet for his surplus 
grapes, so he d make wine with it, but he didn t have 
an outlet for it, so we went to him and offered to 
give him an interest in the company if he d supply 
the wine to us. Well, it worked out all right for 
him because afterwards we sold out at a good r>rofit 
and he made a good profit on his stock. 

Teiser: Did you bring in any other new interests or -neople 
at that time? 

Rossi: Well, I got my own family to, yes. Well, they came 
in ahead of Di Giorgio. Di Giorgio was the last to 
come in. When we saw Repeal coming, and this was in 
Prohibition days still, we sold a minority interest 
to the son of one of my sisters and to Mr. Sbarboro s 
family, some of Mr. Sbarboro s family. 

Teiser: They wanted to come back into the company? 

Rossi: Well, it was on a limited scale. Di Giorgio was a 

pretty substantial block. A 37-1/2 t>er cent interest. 

Teiser: And the members of your family, then, held the rest? 

Rossi: And Prati, of course. We were on a sort of 50-50 
basis with the Prat is and the Seghesios. 

Teiser: Then, as I remember, your own label became very strong 
during the thirties. 

Rossi: Well, it had a good reputation. 
Teiser: Were you supplying bulk wines, too? 
Rossi: We were supr>lying bulk wines mostly. 



?0 



Teiser: But you must have built up your own label considerably. 



Rossi: 



Teiser: 

Rossi: 

Teiser: 



Rossi: 

Teiser: 

Rossi: 

Teiser: 

Rossi: 

Teiser: 

Rossi: 



Teiser: 

Rossi: 

Teiser: 

Rossi: 



Well, yes. And we d always get a little bit more 
than the average market for quality and our reputation, 
Italian Swiss Colony is now the principal brand that 
United Vintners features. 

You continued shit>ping to New York, Gambarelli & 
Davitto. . . 

Mostly Hew York and the eastern seaboard, and a little 
bit in Chicago. We had our own office in Chicago. 

This is a general industry question: During those 
years immediately following Repeal, I remember there 
was a good deal of to-do about wineries which had 
borrowed money from banks (maybe just against current 
expectations, not long capital loans) having their 
wines forced onto the market young. 

Oh, I don t think there was any particular difficulty 
about that. I think it was probably the first years 
after Repeal that you didn t have capable winesakers. 

Did all the people from the University come around 
then... 

Oh, yes. 

Did they help you? 

Oh, yes. 

Did they also get you to help theni and to give them 
information that they had, in effect, forgotten? 

No, they really hadn t forgotten particularly. 
Because [William V.] Cruess was always there and 
Cruess knew the score. It was Cruess who was the 
principal man at the University and Cruess knew the 
score. 

Dr. Maynard Joslyn was with him a great deal. 
Shortly af terwards . Cruess I think was the first. 

What kind of help did you need at the time that they 
could give you? 

1 

Well, I think maybe in stabilization of wines. That 



71 



Rossi: 

Teiser: 

HOGS!: 



Teiser: 

Rossi: 

Teiser: 

Rossi: 



Teiser: 



was one of the principal problems that the industry 
faced, stabilization of wines. 

It was the Berkeley Yeast Laboratory that had a part 
in the whole program? 

Well, Berkeley Yeast Laboratory supplied the culture, 
pure cultures. A man by the name of Pessler. He was 
a technical raan, too. He had quite a bit to do, 
Fessler did. Julius Pessler. He s still alive. He 



lives in Oakland, near Piedmont, 
to the industry, Fessler was. 



He was a great help 



Before Prohibition, had peotxLe simply kept their own 
cultures? 

They didn t use them. 

Just what was on the grapes? 

Yes. Before Prohibition they didn t use them, except 
what we found out in 1909. Yoti see, prior to 1909 
when my father introduced this on a commercial scale., 
Well, the fact of the matter is, they hadn t known 
very much about it in France, either. Was developed 
at Montpelier in France in the early part of the 
century. We imported it in concentrated liquid form. 
As I said, that was the biggest advance in California 
wine mailing from the quality standpoint, use of pure 
cultures and sulfur dioxide. 

Did people who were starting wineries, and hadn t 
had experience in the industry, come and ask you 
questions at that time? 



Rossi: Not particularly. 

Teiser: Did you bring in any technical people at that time 
that hadn t been with you before? 

Rossi: No. 

Teiser: Did you immediately start shipping east? 

Rossi: After Repeal? Yes. 

Teiser: And found a reasonably good market? 

Rossi: Yes. 



Telser: 

Rossi: 

Teiser: 

Hossi: 

Teiser: 

Rossi: 

Teiser: 

Rossi: 

Teiser: 
Rossi: 



72 



Someone said that California wines had at first a 
rather poor refutation in the eastern narkets 
because so many of then spoiled in transit. 

That*s it. The quality the first few years of Repeal 
wasn t particularly good. 

I would thin]: it was amazing it was good at all. 
-That s right. 

There weren t so many of you who had had the courage 
to stick with it for all those long years. 

Well, that was true, that was true. People got out 
of the wine industry. 

Your operations at Italian Swiss Colony, then after 
Repeal, did they continue growing? 

Well, we began to expand our production, yes, in the 
late thirties. 

With the acquisition of still other...? 

No, we didn t acquire properties except La Paloma 
Winery. That s the only big property and the only 
outside property we acquired. 



Teiser: You expanded the facilities you owned then? 

Rossi: That s right. Those two big wineries, Asti and La 
Paloma Winery at Clovis. 

Teiser: Did you invest in more acreage? 

Rossi: No. 

Teiser: You bought more grapes? 

Rossi: Bought more grapes or acquired more wine. 

Teiser: By the end of the thirties was Roma still the 
dominant winery? Or had you come up to...? 



Rossi: No, no. No, they were always dominant. 



73 



WITH NATIONAL DISTILLERS, 



Teiser: I believe it was in 19^2, then... 
Hossi: We sold out to National Distillers. 
Teiser: What were the factors? 

Rossi: Well, the factors were that we got an offer. 
[Laughter] 

Teiser: Why do you think they made the offer? 

Hossi: Because they couldn t get grain for whiskey. And 
they wanted to have the appearance with their 
distributors to keep them happy. So they got into 
the wine business. And then there s also alcohol, 
which was wine, so most of their distributors got 
into the wine business. And they offered us a fair 
return, a fair price for our plants, so we sold out. 

Teiser: Why did they choose you? 

fiossi: Well, we had a good reputation and fair volume, and 
we were willing to sell. 

Teiser: At the time of the sale then, you and your brother 
remained in executive positions, did you not? 

Hossi: For five years. Hot quite five years. We didn t 
have a contract. 

Teiser: Oh, you didn t? 

Hossi: HO, it was a day-to-day proposition. 

Teiser: My word, you must have trusted them. 

Hossi: Well, they wanted to make that a condition of sale 
and purchase, back in New York. And I was back in 
Mew York, and I said, "As far as my brother and I are 
concerned, we don t want a contract. Let s get along. 
If we have a contract, and. we don t get along, what s 
the use?" I said, "But I think we ought to get along 
if we re happy and you re happy. And if we re not, 
well, what s the u:;e of the connection?" So it lasted 
four years and. nino months. On a d.ay-to-day basis. 

Teiser: I ve heard it said that the whiskey people didn t know 



Teiser: enough about the wine business to run it. 

Rossi: That was pretty nearly right. That is, you don t run 
the wine business like you do the whiskey business. 
Because the nrofits are not there in the wine 
business. In the wine business you work with pennies, 
and in the whiskey business you work with dollars. 

Teiser: Didn t they know that before? 

Rossi: ITo. 

Teiser: And nobody thought to tell them. 

Rossi: [Laughter] Well, once or twice I was good enough to 
tell them, "We don t do it this way in the wine 
business." For example, they wanted to give a brand 
name to every different product. Port, sherry, 
muscatel, tokay, Madeira, different name for everything, 
I told them, "Your nane is Italian Swiss Colony. Then 
you put the word -oort, sherry, muscatel. And as 
long as it s Italian Swiss Colony sherry, that s 
enou.ghl " 

They found out after a while. Then they came to 
the viewpoint that the name Italian Swiss Colony was 
the brand name. You only had to advertise one brand 
name instead of half a dozen or a dozen. 

Teiser: Were they satisfied with the kind of wine that you 
made, or did they want you to change the wines? 

Rossi: No, the wines were all right. 

Teiser: Did they understand your production cycle? 

Rossi: I think so. At least the man that was in immediate 
charge of the wine division, who was, you know, the 
director of the wine division from a policy stand 
point, even though they didn t operate directly 
themselves the day-to-day operations. 

Teiser: Did they have anyone out here? 
Rossi: Eventually. After vie got out, yes. 
Teiser: But not before? 

Rossi: Well, yes, there wrs General Deane. General John 
R. Deane . 



75 



Teiser! 
Hossi : 
Teiser: 
Eos 



reiser: 
Rossi: 



Teiser: 



Hossi: 

Teiser: 

Honsi: 

Teiser: 

Hocsi: 



Teiser: 
Hossi: 
Teiser: 
Hossi: 



What had happened to Mr. Prati? 

Oh, he was kept on as production manager. 

After you left? 

Yes,* they didn t have anyone in the production end 
of the business. And they kept Hr. Prati. He was 
capable. But from the executive standpoint, they 
wanted their own peor>le after four or five years. 

General Deane came though before you left? 



He had no e3merlen.ce in the wine industry, did he? 

No. But he was sort of representing National here. 

Was he a good executive? 

les. 

How did you happen to leave? You and your brother? 

We were asked, to resign. [Laughter] They would have 
kept one of us, but we decided to both resign. We 
had worked, together all our lives. They didn t want 
too many executives. So we resigned. After four 
years, nine months. Well, after all, they owned the 
company, they could do as they pleased. We refused 
a contract. 

Well, it didn t work for them very well, did it? 
Oh, I wouldn t say... 
Oh, did it? 

Oh, yes, they got along all right. Only thing is, 
eventually they found out they felt they didn t 
belong in the wine business, the whiskey people. 



Teiser: Now they re all taking another look. 



" r ln 1951 Enrico Prati left to become a founder of 

Martini & Prati Wines. He died May 25, 1952. 



76 



Rossi: 



Teiser; 



Rossi: 

Teiser: 

Rossi: 



Teiser: 
Rossi: 



Teiser: 



Rossi : 



That s another thing today, they re getting back 
into it. Well, days of conglomerates, you know. 
[Laughter] Heubleln has just bought out BV,* 

So I see. 

Must have made a very good offer. 

Heubleiii now owns... 

Italian Swiss Colony, Well, that is [now owned by] 
United Vintners. United Vintners had already effected 
their last acquisition, the Inglenook Vineyards, by 
the time they sold out recently to Keublein. They re 
a quality house, the Heubleins. 

I hope they ll... 

They ll maintain the quality. It s an indication 
that they will when they buy out these best brands. 
I think they re going to try to keep the Inglenook 
brand at a high level. 

I wonder if they ll be using just grapes from that 
area. 

Well, the estate-bottled will be Inglenook one hundred 
;oer cent. At a dinner of the Wine and Food Society 
board of governors, Professor [I-Iaynard] Amerine was 
asked that question, whether he thought they would 
maintain the quality, and he said unquestionably yes. 
I was glad to hear him say that. He s just resigned 
from the board of governors of the Wine and Food 
Society because of taking his sabbatical. 



THE WINS ADVISORY BOARD AND THE WINE INSTITUTE 

Teiser: After you left National Distillers, you then went 
immediately to the Wine Advisory Board as manager? 

Rossi: Well, yes, because we retired on the first of October, 
19^7. And I was offered this position with the Wine 
Advisory Board in llovember, 19^7 but actually did 
not go to work for them until the first of January, 
a month and a half later, because I wanted to become 
familiar with the operation in an informal way. So 
I worked without any for a month and a half, just to 



*Beaulieu Vineyard 



77 



Rossi: get acquainted with the operation, feeling I could 

do better if I wasn t under pay than if I sunplanted 
the manager I was replacing. 

Teiser: Who was he? 

Rossi: A Mr. Jackson.* 

Teiser: And you had been instrumental in the formation of it? 

Rossi: Oh, yes. 



(Interview #*f - July 9, 1969) 



Teiser: Perhaps you could recapitulate the sequence of events 
that itfent into the formation of the Wine Institute. 
You said before we were taping that you and your 
brother perhaps had gotten Leon Adams interested in 
the Wine Institute.... Or how did it go? 

Rossi: No. The Wine Institute was the result of a small 
organisation fornied right prior to Repeal. We had 
hired Mr. Adams and his partner, Robert Smith, in a 
public relations job. And Leon Adams became very much 
interested in the wine industry of California. In 
fact, every time I see him almost, he refers to me as 
"my tutor." 

Teiser: You tutored well. 

Rossi: Well, I gave him a few basic ideas and he fast 

surpassed my knowledge. And from then on, he became 
very closely associated with the wine industry of 
California, because when I became manager of the Wine 
Advisory Board on January 1, 19*1-8, he was a fine man 
to work with because he was so enthusiastic. 

Teiser: At the time the Wine Institute was formed in 193^, you 
were one of the first... 

Rossi: ...organizers. As I say, the Wine Institute is the 
aftermath of an organization of about eight or ten 
wine people who went to Washington to try to get table 



*Eugene Jackson 



78 



reiser: 
Hossi: 



Teiser: 
Rossi: 



Teiser: 

Sossi: 

Teiser: 

Hossi: 



,-tonsi: wines declared non-intoxicating in fact, so that it 
would qualify as a legitimate product to sell even 
though table wines had at that time 12 per cent 
alcohol.* Our argument in that regard, was that a 
beverage Is either intoxicating or not, according to 
the manner in which it is customarily used., and. table 
wine was not generally sold in bars; it was sold. 
niostlj - for home wine use at table or in restaurants 
with food. Now when you use alcoholic beverages of 
a mild alcoholic volume, you generally don t go for 
the alcoholic effect on the system but more as an 
item of enjoyment, making food more ar>r>ealing. And 
also in a medical way, it has its virtues. So this 
Gra-oe Growers League of California in a year or two 
expanded its ambition and appeal by gathering in a 
wider segment of the ind.ustry. I think it became at 
that time the Wine Producers Association, something 
like that, I can t remember exactly the technical 
name we ooerated und.er. And the Wine Producers 
Association then also expanded, in turn, to the V/ine 
Institute. But more or less it was the same rteople. 



Who were those people, principally? 

Well, the original members that constituted the Grape 
Grovjrers League wer<3 small organizations like Beaulieu 
Vineyard, Lee Jones, a gentleman by the name of 
Edgar M. Sheehan who was a vineyardlst near Sacramento. 
Of course there was Italian Swiss Colony. 

Were you and your brother both active? 

Oh, yes. We were very active. And Mr. [Sophus] 
Pederspiel, who in my father s day had been my father s 
assistant manager of the Italian Swiss Colony. And 
H.O. Lanza, who had recently come to California. He 
came out of Predonia, New York. He was an attorney. 

He s one of the few who came from out of state, isn t 
he? 

Yes. He s still alive. 
I have interviewed him. 
The Wine Institute vra.s a voluntary organization and. 



See also T^D. 60-61. 



79 



Hossi: had no legal standing, compulsory membership, so it 
didn t quite measure up to potentialities of 
cooperation of an industry. 

Going to the formation of the Wine Advisory 
Board, when the Agricultural Act of I think 193^ was 
passed, in Sacramento to favor agricultural industries, 
we recognized that this was an opportunity for the 
wine industry to form an organization that could 
avail itself of the so-called nolice powers of the 
State of California. By oolice powers, I mean that 
it could be made compulsory on every member of the 
wine industry if, after a public hearing, the director 
of agriculture could find legitimately that it was 
to the advantage of all members of the industry even 
though they might not agree to it voluntarily. So 
the director, after the first hearing, did so find 
that it was to the benefit of the members of the wine 
industry, and it became effective.* 

Teiser: About how much of the industry had the Wine Institute 
itself represented ? 

Rossi: Voluntarily? Well, I would say at least half, but 
that wasn t enough. 

Teiser: No. I believe the members of the industry voted, did 
they, on the marketing order for the Wine Advisory 
Board? 

Hossi: Oh, yes. On the wine marketing order, certainly. 
It had to be, under the law. 

Teiser: Did you do some campaigning to get up industry support? 
Rossi: Oh, sure did. 
Teiser: How did you do it? 

Hossi: Oh, just by arguin ;. We had to educate the American 
public to the prop3r use and knowledge of wine. 



*"A Marketing Order for Wine, under the California 
Agricultural Marketing Act of 1937* was placed in 
effect on October 2^4-, 1938," according to Outline of 
Recent Stabilization Plans in the California Grape 
Industry, a typewritten Wine Institute report , a cot>y 
of which is on deposit in the Bancroft Library. 



80 



Teiser: You sold, that idea to the winemakers? 
Rossi: To the winemakers, that s right. 
Teiser: Was there nuch opposition? 

Rossi: Oh, a fair amount of opposition. They went to court 
about it. 

Teiser: Who went to court? 

Rossi: The members that were in favor of it. Because sorae 
members of the industry, a minority, in numbers 
particularly a minority, refused to pay the dues. 
They agreed, to r>ut the funds representing what would 
be compulsory dues in a special fund pending the 
determination of t:ie constitutionality of the 
agricultural code provisions that bound all members 
of an industry when. 65 per cent of an industry, either 
by volume or by individual numbers, voted in favor of 
it. Provided, that the director of agriculture found 
that it was to the good, of the entire industry. 

Teiser: Who were those that opposed it? 

Rossi: I think Mr, Gallo r; organization was the rrincit>al 
one. 

Teiser: There were others? 

Rossi: It was a minority, by numbers. 

Teiser: I suppose it was by volume as well, wasn t it? 

Rossi: But they had. to be a certain number by volume and by 
numbers . 

Teiser: Hadn t Mr. Gallo boon a member of the Wine Institute? 

Rossi: I don t think so. 

Teiser: Because he s quite a loyal member now, isn t he? 

Rossi: Oh, yes. I guess he s in favor of it now. There 
were a few that would, have sr>ent considerably more 
in the way of dues so as to accomplish more quicker. 
But ... 

Teiser: There are some that would rather siDend more? 



81 



Rossi: At that time. Particularly in the beginning. He 
eventually had to conform, but always voted, for a 
moderate assessment, 

Teiser: Gallo? 

Rossi: Yes. He figured h3 could best spend his money in 
his way. 

Teiser: I suppose it s mors to the advantage of a large 

company establishing an individual brand to spend 
less with the industry and more for itself, is it? 

Rossi: For the immediate present it would have been, but.... 
Immediate results. But I was always one in favor of 
a larger assessment. 

Teiser: Were there any other notable industry members who 
were not enthusiastic? 

Hossi: No, I don t think so. I think it was nretty generally 
accepted.* As I say, I figured there was so much 
work to be done in the way of education, and there 
was such a limited amount of dues available for 
spending on rsublic relations advertising. However, 
half a loaf is better than none, and quite remarkable 
results were obtained. 

It shows ut> now in that table Trine usage has 
come so far UP as compared to sale of dessert wines. 
Used to be that dessert wine sales were much higher 
than the table wine sales, and now it s almost 50-50. 
And there s no doubt that before long the table wine 
business will surpass the dessert wine business. 

Teiser: In the San Joaquin Valley, as you probably remember, 
there x*as the Sweet Wine Producers Association. I 
think I heard that its members were in favor of the 
Wine Institute. 

Hossi: Oh, yes. Mostly. Because they needed almost more 
educational results than the table wine people. 

Teiser: Why? 



*The marketing ordor "received the written assent of 
nearly 90 per cent of the industry. " Ibid. 



32 



Hossi: 

Telcer: 

Hossi: 

Teiser: 

Rossi: 



Teiser: 

Ilossi: 

Teiser: 

Hossi: 



Teiser: 



Hossi: 



they had. less of a "background of cooperation 
in the history of the wine business nrior to 
Prohibition. 

Tnat was one of the early efforts like your Grape 
Growers League? 

Yes. 

./as it similar to that, would you say? 

Yes, I imagine. But that cane later. The original 
set-up was the Graoe Growers League of California. 
Big sounding name, but few oeoule involved, and 
people with imagination. 

Were the Wentes involved in that? 

Oh, yes, but they were a small factor. 

I wonder if the small companies didn t really gain 
more by the Wine Advisory Board than the large? 

They did. The small wine producers gained a good 
deal more proportionately for what they contributed. 
But the bigger factors realized that the Image of 
the wine industry vias enhanced by the spreading of 
the knovrledge of the use of table wine rather than 
by that part of the business that defended on people 
using dessert wines more for the alcoholic content 
of the dessert win 3 and the reasonableness of the 
nrice. 

I think I heard somewhere that in the earl?/ days, 
the Wine Advisory Board nubile relations campaign 
stressed the small wineries more than the large 
because it was trying to create an image of quality. 
Am I correct? 

That s right. That s right. And the fact of the 
matter is that the president of the Wine Institute, 
I guess, was generally a small factor in the industry, 
and even in the l/ine Advisory Board program, the 
industry has seen fit to keep as its president or 
chairman, rather they call it, a so-called small 
grower like lir. I-lirassou,* who s been 15 years, I 
think, chairman of the board. 



A. Mlrnssou. 



83 



Teiser: And much of the informational material that was given 
out was stressing the smaller wineries? 

Rossi: Yes. Well, stressing the beverage that had a higher 
image* 

Teiser: The book by Frank Schoonmaker and Tom Marvel Ame r i can 
Wlries.,-" must have been a kind of landmark. Did yon 
view its publication as an important step for the 
wine industry in California? 

Rossi: Well, Schoonmaker, I think, came lately. He was 

representing foreign wines more than American vrir.es. 
That was his business, importation of foreign wines. 
And it was only after American x-rilnes, following 
Repeal, had improved their quality to the extent 
that the quality was really superior, you might say 
American wines were beginning to make an impression 
on the consuming public that he had, to take a position, 
He couldn t continue to say that the wines were no 
good. For a long time there, the importers in America 
and the exporters in Europe were downgrading American 
wines, and it got to the point where the tests were 
made blindfolded, not exactly blindfolded but without 
labels on the bottles; we began to prove that the 
average American public didn t know much difference, 
couldn t on a blind test say unequivocably this is 
domestic American -fine and this is foreign because of 
the fact that the foreign wines are supposed to be 
so much better. VJell, that isn t true. One has to 
be absolutely -prejudiced to make statements like that 
today. 

Teiser: Have there ever been any wine industry tastings of 

the kind that the canning industry has in its annual 
cuttings? 

Rossi: No, not to that extent, other than taking part in 

the California State Fair exhibit of California wines 
when the public is invited to participate in the 
tastings without cost. 

Teiser: I was thinking of the aspect of the Canners League 
cuttings where the; r just buy cans off the grocers 
shelves and open them, and the industry, not the 
public, examines them. It s kind of a brave thing, 
for an industry to do. 



*New York: Duell, Sloan and Fearcc, 



Rossi: Well, to a certain point it s also a brave thing for 
wine industry members to participate in the State 
Pair award s. 

reiser: Yes. At one time though there was criticism of 

entries that they said were wines that were not the 
ordinary purchasable wines. 

Rossi: v/ell, that is true to a certain extent, because the 
test tastings were made not so much to prove that 
the ordinary table wine was high quality but to prove 
that the possibilities were there if the industry 
wanted to avail itself of the possibilities that 
existed in the soil and climate of California. And 
that s why you did not have to have a big quantity, 
commercial quantities available to prove the point. 
Fact of the matter is that there were two general 
classifications, the higher classification, and the 
bulk classifications. 3y bulk classifications I mean 
wines that were exhibited with e. stated minimum 
quantity, and it was set nretty high. But the other 
classification was available to those who had only 
minimum quantities of certain grades and varieties 
of wines. 

Tel sen You were on the board of the Wine Institute from the 
beginning. What were its initial efforts? 

Hossi: Well, the Wine Institute went more for protesting 

legislation, unfavorable legislation. And its public 
relations.. . . 

Teiser: Was Kr. Jefferson Peyser with the Wine Institute? 

Rossi: Yes, right from the very beginning. He was right 
from the very beginning. 

Teiser: Who was the first manager of the Wine Institute? 

Hossi: Harry Gaddow. 

Teiser: And was Mr. Leon Adams with it in the beginning? 

Rossi: Yes. 

Teiser: What was his position then? 

Rossi: Assistant manager. 



85 



Teiser: 

.Rossi: 
Teiser: 

Hossi: 
Teiser: 

Hossi: 



Teiser: His job was r>ublic relations? 

Hossi: Yes. 

Teiser: What was Mr. Caddo^ s, the same? 

Hossi: Yes, but Mr. Caddo;? was concerned a great deal r.ore 
than Mr. Adams with legislation. Educating the 
legislators. The Wine Advisory Board was educating 
the consumer. Both were necessary. 

So the Wine Advisory Board was established in 38, 
is that right? 

38, yes. 

It must have been a difficult task to get it established 
in a period of ecoioinic stress. 

Necessity is the mother of invention, 

But it Ttfas a time :ihen it was hard to give up a 
dollar. 

That s right. That s right. That s why I felt that 
even if it hurt, there was more to be accomplished by 
taking a little less profit. It didn t make too much 
difference, to my -.jay of looking at it, because every 
body was paying his pro rata. It wasn t as if one 
was gaining an advantage that the other didn t have. 
Except that those Trho were more affluent could afford 
to go their OT-m way more easily than those who were 
smaller and had limited capital. And my position was 
that in the long run, those with more capital could 
develop their business faster and grow much more 
strongly established if they still were able to sell 
more wine through cooperative efforts. 

Teiser: One of the other big wineries of that period was Homa. 
Were they for... 

Rossi: I think so. 

Teiser: They were in support of the Wine Advisory Board? 

Rossi: I think so. i-iaybe they xreren t as enthusiastic, but 
they didn t oppose It. 

Teiser: When it began, who was the manager, first? Who was 
the first manager of the Wine Advisory Board? 



36 



Rossi: .That was Hr. [3uge ie] Jackson. 

Teiser: He stayed until you came in? 

Rossi: Yes. I became manager January 1, 

Teiser: Had he had a background in the wine industry? 

Rossi: No, I don t think so. 

i eiser: What was his function? 

Hossi: Well, he had a crew of men out in the field like, 
subsequently, I did too. 

Teiser: What they were doing? 

Rossi: Well, when I cane, we stressed the educational 
features. 

Teiser: liad he been doing that? 

Hossi: Yes. 



PROGRAMS Ai-JD FUNCTIONS 



Teiser: Did you change anything from the way he d been doing 
it? 

Rossi: Well, yes. I think one of the principal changes that 
came about after I came in was that I felt it was 
more necessary to reach the general public economically 
by giving out leaflets rather than booklets. I mean 
leaflets that cost you one cent apiece insteo.d of 
something that cost you ten cents, twelve cents, 
fifteen cents apiece. You could reach more t>eot>le. 
Educational material that cost little enough that 
you could just take a chance on wasting a certain 
amount because we were reaching a much bigger public. 

Teiser: I think I know the leaflets that you mean. They were 
very well designed. 

Hossi: Yes. And then they were very generally used at 
tastings and lectures. Before, they had recipe 
booklets. Well, that appealed only to rseoule who 
knew something about it already. The booklets. But 



xiossi: 



>P, 



Teiser: 



fiossi: 



Teiser: 

liossi: 

Teiser: 

Rossi: 

Teiser: 

Rossi: 

Teinor: 

Rossi: 



here you had to get the interest of people who didn t 
know anything about wine. And you had to take a 
certain element of chance of wasting say half of what 
you... but it wasn t that riuch. I remember the first 
big change thr.t cane about. I don t remember if I 
mentioned this to you before or not. That the first 
leaflet I got out >ias one on cheese and wine. 

Well, the reason was that some people who don t 
like wine, like cheese, and some people that don t 
like cheese, like -iiiie. So we figured that there 
must be something In the combination that had its 
appeal, general appeal. And the only question was 
of reaching that particular public. And we got out 
neat and wine, fish and wine. The same thing with 
fish. Use white wine for cooking fish. Lot of people 
don t like fish, "but maybe with wine they d like it. 

Then your organization was receiving funds from the 
whole Industry, Were you hiring the Wine Institute 
to perform some functions for you? 



Yes 



In fact, the 
Institute were sup 
Advisory Board, be 
the Wine Advisory 
had established it 
standpoint, the Wi 
the Wine Advisory 
Wine Institute was 
its operations. 



principal functions of the Wine 
sorted financially by the Wine 
cause the Wine Institute preceded 
.Board, program by a few years and 
self. And from a legislative 
:ie Institute represented more than 
Board. And the personnel of the 

immediately available to expand 



Did the relationship between the Wine Institute and 
the Wine Advisory "3oard change? 

r!o. It was pretty well stabilized. 
You didn t change it in any way? 

No. It was felt that they could have more freedom 
operating as Wine Institute in legislative matters. 

And your field men, so-called, what functions did 
they serve? 

They held wine tastings, gave wine lectures. 
How did you find men to hire who could, do that? 
Well, you had to educate them. Bring them in, and 



38 



Hossi: 

Teiser: 

ilossi: 



reiser: 



ilossi: 



Teiser: 
Hossi: 



Teiser: 
Rossi: 
Teiser: 
Rossi: 



teach then. They did a good lob. 

How many had you, doing that kind of work? 

Oh, 15 or 16. 

Did you work rather closely with the University in 
any ways? 

Hot r>articularly. That was norc the function of the 
Wine Institute. But 30-90 per cent of the funds 
that were snent by the Wine Institute were under 
contract fron the /inc Advisory Board. There would 
have been no Wine Institute if there hadn t been a 
Wine Advisory Board. In the long run. In the 
beginning, yes, it might have lasted, but it would 
eventually have broken up because they couldn t have 
had a Wine Advisoi v Board in a program that was purely 
voluntary. 

And its funds kept growing as the industry grew and 
as inflation grew? 

Not necessarily. I don t think that its present 
budget is any biggor than it was ten years ago because 
they reduced the assessment per gallon. 



Teiser: What xras the assessment when you came in? 

/ 

Hossi: Three-quartern of .-. cent a gallon for table wine 

sales and one and a half cents a gallon for dessert 
wine sales. Then it went to one cent and two cents. 
Now it s back again to one cent and one and a half 
cents. 

Is there any other way that could have been levied? 

Mot that I know of. 

No other was suggested? 

Ho, couldn t have been because the profits on wine 
sales were minimum, in pennies. And that sometimes 
made the difference, especially before brands had 
become established and advertising budgets for brands 
becarie sizable. Before it was levied on bulk sales 
more than on case good sales. 

Teiser: Did you work with individual wineries in their 
promotion programs? 



39 



Rossi: No. Unless it was programs that benefitted the whole 
industry. Although I ll qualify that. There were 
those members of the wine industry who appreciated 
the cooperative efforts more than others, and naturally 
we d work with them, more by accident than by design 
because the same programs were available to anyone 
who wanted to avail themselves of the programs we 
were trying to put over. Some were more willing to 
cooperate. 

Teiser: Who were the members of the industry who were 
particularly cooperative in those programs? 

Rossi: Well, our own organization was very cooperative, 
Italian Swiss Colony, and naturally the smaller 
producers. They wore always ready to cooperate 
because they were getting quite a bit for the small 
amount they were contributing. But that was by 
design, too. The larger factors appreciated the Dart 
they were playing in establishing an image for the 
wine industry. 

Teiser: Herman Wente, was he active? 

Rossi: Yes. He was active and he cooperated well though his 
volume did not represent any sizable amount of money. 
But he had a fine reputation. 

Teiser: You were then manager of the Wine Advisory Board from 
19^ until 60? 

Rossi: Until July 1, 60. 

Teiser: You decided to retire then? 

Rossi: Yes. I quit work then. 

Teiser: Looking back on that period, what do you think was 
accomplished? 

Rossi: Oh, I think the educational work was responsible for 
the whole thing. You had a program that I ll be 
perfectly frank with you the members of the wine 
industry didn t realize how good it was. I ve always 
said they didn t realize how good it was. 

Teiser: You had some advertising help, didn t you? 
Rossi: J. Walter Thompson [Company]. 



90 



Teiser: And did Mr. Adams have a hand in the preparation of 
material for you? 

Rossi: I don t think so. 

Teiser: You mentioned working with him. 

Rossi: Yes, well, I mean to say you couldn t be in the wine 
industry if you didn t cooperate with the others in 
it to get the best advantage because there was so 
much to be done. 

Teiser: Was it the Wine Institute that got out press releases? 

Rossi: Yes, under contract. From us. 

Teiser: And you handled the advertising direct? 

Rossi: Yes. And the field work. Except in the facets of 

legislation when wo had dealings with legislators to 
educate them. 

Teiser: The assessments were handled by the Department of 
Agriculture? 

Rossi: The assessments were banked by the Department of 
Agriculture. 

Teiser: You never knew then from one year to another what 
your next year s budget was going to be, did you? 

Rossi: Well, it was pretty uniform. 

Teiser: You knew about what the sale would be? 

Rossi: Yes. Because one of the principal troubles before 
I got in there was that they didn t know from year 
to year just what they would have available for 
spending. And so having managed the finances of our 
own company, that bothered me. And I always was very 
conservative in budgeting activities so they always 
had quite a fairly sizable surplus. We didn t have 
deficits. 

Teiser: And you used the surplus of one year, the next? 

Rossi: Yes, we were always, if anything, half a year ahead 
of the soendinpc. 



91 



Teiser: So that if there were variations in the market, you 
were protected. 

Rossi: Yes. 

Teiser: Were the assessments collected annually? 

fio s s i : Mont hi y . 

Teiser: And banked for you every month? 

Rossi: Yes. We had a yearly budget, though. And naturally 
we were conservative. I was conservative in 
expenditures because there s nothing so bad as to 
propose to do something and then not do it. So, as 
I said, there was always an ample surplus to take 
care of what ever >ias budgeted. 

Teiser: Did you do any wor 1 : with people outside of California? 
Were your field men.... 

Rossi: All over the United States. 

Teiser: Did you travel all over the United States? 

Rossi: Myself too. Yes. Well, it was good to have that 
type of activity, to see the boss, who had been in 
the wine business himself. It was quite long, 12-1/2 
years . 

Teiser: I imagine that your experience was a factor that is 
impossible to evaluate. 

Rossi: Yes. Because your field men always boosted you up 
farther. I don t n :now whether they always believed 
what they said. [Laughter] 

Teiser: Well, I mean, for the whole industry to have some one 
who had long experience in it. 

Hossi: Yes, well, it is an advantage, there s no doubt about 
it. No doubt about it. 

Teiser: Are there aspects of your work and experience that 
we haven t covered? 

Rossi: No, I think you hit the nail right on the head two 
minutes ago when you said it s an advantage to have 
a part in establishing an industry and then actively 
connected with the promotion of it. Because then T /ihen 



92 



Rossi: you are out of the industry personally you could 

look at it a little more impartially and with a certain 
amount of prestige because of your past connections. 

Teiser: Did. you regret retiring? 

Rossi: No. I was tired. 

Teiser: Must have been a demanding Job. 

Rossi: Yes, and then people have different ideas, and so, 
say, well, I ve had. ray day, I guess. Like these 
young people today figure they have all the answers. 
Well, they think they have all the answers. Maybe 
they re right; who knows? 

Teiser: well, it must be a great source of satisfaction to 
you now to see the industry going ahead, in much... 

Rossi: Oh, it certainly is. It certainly is. Because I was 
always for cooperating with the others. It was a 
fortunate act, you know, that agricultural code. 
They couldn t get cooperation in non-agricultural 
industries, because they would be accused of anti 
trust. This took it out from under the threat of 
anti-trust, being an agricultural industry. 

Teiser: Puts it in a very favorable... 

Rossi: Position, that s what I say. People didn t appreciate 
what they had. 

Teiser: Was it necessary for you to build up a case that wine 
was an agriculture! industry or was that pretty much 
accepted? 

Rossi: Well, no, that was a perpetual argument we used to 
have to keep before the public. That was one of 
the Wine Institute s activities. 

Teiser: But did you have trouble establishing that with the 
State Board, of Agriculture? 

Rossi: No. No. 

Teiser: Or the courts? That was not contested in the courts? 

Rossi: No. They had special programs for wheat and tobacco. 
How could they refuse it to the wine? 



93 



Teiser: 

Rossi: 
Teiser: 

Hossi: 



Teiser: 

Rossi: 
Teiser: 

Rossi: 



What year was it, do you remember, that the courts 
upheld the marketing acts, or the protests were 
dropped? 

I don t know. 

I presume you didn t think it was going to "be declared 
uncons t i tut i onal . 

No. No. If it had been resisted by a great deal of 
the public and the trade..,. Let me put it another 
way: One of the reasons why I guess there wasn t 
too much resistance to the program by the state was 
that it didn t cost the State Treasury any money 
because it was all industry money that was being put 
out for advertising and public relations. The only 
thing that it cost the state was maybe five per cent 
for administration of the general program, but no 
sizable amount because there was just a certain amount 
of overhead in Sacramento and that s about all. Other 
wise it was all industry money that was being spent. 

And the hearings themselves were not of any particular 
significance, you Indicated. It was the voting, I 
presume, that was? 



That s right, 



\ 



Was Mr. Setrakian against this? Or did he take a 
stand? 

Oh, I think he was for it. How could he be otherwise? 
He was operating a raisin program. I think it was a 
particularly fortunate program, myself. It wouldn t 
have lasted all these years if it didn t carry a 
certain weight. You see, that s 30 years. That s 
a long time. And there i-ias only a short interval 
of a few months, I think, where they had some trouble. 
They went to a one-year program instead of a three- 
year program and then eventually went back to a three- 
year program.* 

Teiser: What was the trouble that made them make it that short? 

Rossi: Oh, a difference of opinion about the advantages of 
it by a minority. 



*The one-year program was in 



Teiser: 
Hossi: 

reiser: 
Rossi: 



Teiser: 
Rossi: 
Teiser: 
Rossi: 



Teiser: 

Rossi: 

Teiser: 



Teiser: 



Rossi: 
Teiser: 



Advantages of the whole program? Or aspects of it? 

Oh, aspects of it. If any aspect of it is strong 
enough to thwart an overall program, it doesn t make 
any difference whether it s one reason or another is 
the cause of it. 

Was there a special aspect that was objected to? 

Well, it was probably that the table wine people 
weren t paying their proportionate [share]. On the 
basis of a ton of grapes used, they actually were. 
They were paying as much for a ton of grapes. Because 
the assessment generally was twice the table wine 
assessment for dessert wines. Of course you only 
get half as many gallons of wine out of a ton of 
grapes when you make dessert wines. Generally 160 
gallons of table wine per ton, and generally 80 
gallons of dessert wine per ton, more or less. That s 
generally the formula. 

So they were finally convinced? 

Yes. 

It was the sweet xd.ne producers who were protesting? 

Well, what happened was this, the dessert wine people 
went into the table wine business and the table wine 
people went into the dessert wine business, so there 
really wasn t that division of opinion any more. 

I guess that was after they decided they could grow 
table wines in the Central Valley? 

That s right. Not as high a quality, no, but passable. 

There are very passable wines made there don t you 
think? 



Rossi: I think so. 



There are some people who say you can grow just as 
good wines any place... 

That isn t so. 

/ 

...if you know how to handle them. 



95 



Hossi: Oh, you could a passable wine quality, standard 
quality, but not as good as all districts. 



OVERVIEWS 



Teiser: Who are the outstanding wine industry men you have 
known? 

Rossi: Oh, I ve known them all. 

Teiser: Who among them have seemed outstanding? 

Hossi: Oh, I d say all those that are well-known today. 
Same ones. It hasn*t been changed. Hasn t been 
changed, except Mr. Gallo has come right up. I think 
he s appreciated the deal. More than he did in the 
beginning. What cooperative effort has meant. And 
he has established a good reputation for quality. 
And that s good. He has tried to make a product that 
would appeal to the American taste more than to the 
traditional connoisseur. The average American taste 
would not appeal to the traditional wine drinker of 
old. I use the word "traditional" in quotes because 
even the foreign wine standards and appeal is different 
today than it was 20 years ago, prior to Prohibition 
part i cularly . 

Teiser: How does it differ? 

Rossi: Well, for example, we have different standards of 

living, we have different tastes today. When people 
worked long hours, especially in the field and the 
field workers were mostly foreigners, either Czechs 
or Slavs or Latins or Greeks and they were more of 
an agricultural economy and worked hard, long hours. 
Well, they made wines that had a lot of tannin for 
example. They could handle the tannin and digest it, 
whereas American people wouldn t go for that. And 
Mr. Gallo recognized that and he made a wine of a 
different type than the traditional wine. You can 
see today the foreign wines mature much quicker than 
the old traditional foreign wines. 

Teiser: Those made in Europe? 

Hossi: Yes! They re changing them. They re changing the 



96 



Bossi: quality of their wines. The old traditional wine 

drinker would consider maybe the foreign wines that 
are being put on the market today second grade. 
Personally, I think it s better. Because they don t 
have as much tannin as they used to have before. And 
they mature quicker. And particularly today when 
everything costs so high, they can t tie up their 
capital to the extent that they used to tie up 
inventory. 

Teiser: California wines, are they held for a shorter period 
than they were say 15 years ago? Are they aged less? 

Bossi: They are aged, I would say, no more. No more. 

Personally, I like a kind of wine that s got a new 
taste. Particular wine I m drinking now is a compara 
tively new wine, and it has a very fine appeal, and 
I like it. For everyday use, I prefer it to the old 
wines. 

What is it? 

Burgundy. 

Whose? 

I won t say. 

They are finding an advantage in bottling white wines 
young? 

Yes. They ve developed a technique through the 
universities of getting a higher quality. You hear 
so much the old wines, pre-Prohibition wines, were 
so much superior to the wines of today. That isn t 
so. Today s wines are better, if anything, than the 
old wines. We used to have a lot more trouble in 
preserving a clear wine, for example. 

Teiser: The trend to wines in bottles rather than in bulk 
has this been good, do you think? 

Bossi: Yes. 

Teiser: You think more wine should go out in bottles? 

Bossi: Yes. Well, nearly all of it goes out in bottles. 
Except those who buy in tank cars and then they do 
their own bottling. They eventually sell in bottles 
too. 



Teiser: 
Bossi: 
Teiser: 
Bossi : 
Teiser: 

Bossi: 



97 



Teiser: 



Rossi: 
Teiser: 



Hossi: 



Teiser: 

Hossi: 

Teiser! 

Hossi: 

Teiser: 

Hossi: 



Teiser: 

Hossi: 

Teiser: 

Rossi: 



I remember when we could take a jug down to one of 
the little wine shops here in San Francisco and buy 
from a barrel. 

Yes, that s very true, 

Who was behind the legislation to stop that? 

Well, I think maybe one of the principal ones to 
stop it was Roma, because they figured they could 
get a higher quality to the consumer if the consumer 
bought it in the original package. 

I must confess that I felt for a while there that 
you could develop the business quicker by featuring 
bulk sales. But I changed my mind. You can get a 
better product buying the original package. 

Wasn t a law t>assed that... 
In certain states. 
In California? 
Yes. 

It seems to me that it s no longer possible to buy 
in bulk. For the consumer. 

Oh. I think you can. But it just doesn t pay any 
more. The American people don t want to bother with 
it. You have the bother of the large containers, 
what to do with them, you know, how to disnose of the 
barrels or kegs. People who want a larger quantity 
can get a case of four one-gallons quite reasonably. 
And then they can bottle their own gallons. I do it. 
Gallons or half gallons. When you use a certain 
amount, it pays. 

You have seen the national corporations come into 
the wine industry. Do you think that has changed 
the character of the industry so far? 

No. 

And you say that you don t expect it to? 

I don t think so. The very fact that they re getting 
in and staying in, or getting in and getting out and 



98 



iiossi: then coming "back again. 

Teiser: Maybe they learned something. 

Hossi: Yes. 

Teiser: Do you think they did, earlier? 

Rossi: Surely. People are going in for moderate things 
And wine is a moderate beverage. 



APPENDIX 



1966 



THE STORY OF 



ITALIAN SWISS COLONY 



98a 



ITALIAN SWISS COLONY V^Acf^Ai Wvtjev 

Asti, California 



98b 



San Francisco, in i860, was a sober town. The great de 
pression of the seventies had crippled its business and thrown 
thousands of its people out of work. The unemployed, in their 
desperation, had turned to radical leaders who at one time 
threatened the city s destruction. Now recovery had begun and 
the era of radicalism had passed. 

But the scars remained and so did many of the unemployed. 
Among them were hundreds of Italian and Swiss immigrants who 
had been lured to California by the glowing promises of steam 
ship agents. The plight of these immigrants attracted the 
attention of Andrea Sbarboro, a leader in the city s Italian 
colony. Out of his interest grew an institution which has be 
come a business landmark in California. 

Sbarboro had come to San Francisco in the early 1850* s at 
the age of 13 and went to work in his brother Bartolomeo s gro 
cery store. In 20 years he had acquired his own store and be 
came moderately successful. Then the banking collapse brought 
on by the panic of 1873 opened a whole new career to him. 

Constriction of credit resulting from the financial crisis 
had encouraged formation of mutual loan associations through 
which members might finance their cum needs. Sbarboro organized 
and became manager of such an association in l8?5; it was the 
first of five that he founded, which handled $6,500,000 in re 
ceipts and financed the building of 2500 homes in the San Fran 
cisco area. 

The grocer-turned-banker, conceived the idea of applying 
the building and loan principle to the problem of the Jobless 
immigrants. The bulk of them, Sbarboro knew, were peasants 
whose best hope of success lay in returning to the land. There 
was plenty of good land in California. All that stood between 
the immigrants and the land was money. Sbarboro set out to get 
the money. 

He went to the friends who had helped him launch his mutual 
loan association and uade a proposition. Let each of them con 
tribute a little each month to a fund with which to buy a tract 
of land to be worked by the immigrants. Let each immigrant con 
tribute at least $5 a month from his wages to the fund. After 
a set period of years let each immigrant use his accumulated 
contributions plus any dividends to buy a portion of the tract, 
thus liquidating the project and paying off the original in 
vestors. 



98c 



Sbnrboro s friends agreed and by-laws were dravn up pro 
viding that "This association shall be known as the Italian 
Swiss Agricultural Colony ar.d its objects shall be to buy 
and sell agricultural lands for colonial or other purposes, or 
to cultivate the same.,.." All permanent employees were to be 
members of the association and preference was to be given to 
Italians and Swiss immigrants who either were or intended to 
become American citizens. 

On March 12, l88l, the Colony was incorporated and Italian 
and Swiss businessmen in San Francisco subscribed 2,250 dollar- 
a-month shares. Among the leaders of the original corporation, 
in addition to Sbarboro who served as secretary, were M. J. Fon- 
tana, president; Dr. G. Ollino, vice-president; Henry Casanova, 
\ Vv treasurer; Dr. Paol^pDe Vecchi, and Pietro Rossi. There were 
\ o ^-^"* nine elected directors. After $lo,ooo had been accumulated, 

Sbarboro and two of his associates, M. Perata and S. Campodonico, 
began surveying likely sites for the Colony. More than Uo sites 
were examined before they settled on a 15oo acre tract of pasture 
land in Sonoma County, 90 miles north of San Francisco. 

The land, situated on gently rolling hills in the Russian 
River Valley, was ideally suited to vineyards, and the Colony s 
directors had the growing of grapes in mind since most of the 
immigrants had been vineyardists. The countryside reminded them 
of Northern Italy, where most of the immigrants had come from, 
so they named their tract Asti, after the region in Italy. 

The Colony paid $10,000 down on the land and agreed to pay 
off the $15,000 balance in thousand-a-month installments from 
their subscription income. Sbarboro set men to work clearing 
the hills of trees, and one of the Colony s directors arranged 
to import grape cuttings from Italy, France, Hungary and Germany. 

When the land was ready for cultivation, Sbarboro invited 
the city s jobless Italians and Swiss to a mass meeting. He ex 
plained the purpose of the Asti project and made the men an offer 

for each of them, board, room, wine for personal use, and 

$35.00 a month in return for his labor. Each would be required 
to subscribe at least $5 a month for five shares of stock, there 
by building his equity in the land. In the end, each man would 
be an independent farmer, having acquired his land on the in 
stallment plan. 



98d 



To Andrea Sbarboro s surprise, the suspicious peasants re 
fused his offer. The Colony s directors explained it several 
times over without success. No man would take a chance, though 
they all expressed a willingness to work. Not one took the 
chance which would have given him a retirement income of at 
least $60.00 per month for life, only 25 years later. Sbarboro 
little dreamed at that time, that, 75 years later his original 
plan for the land would finally become a reality and the Colony 
would in fact become wholly owned by the growers and producers 
of the grapes. 

Having already bought the land, the directors decided to go 
ahead anyway. They agreed to keep up their monthly subscriptions 
and operate Asti as a private venture. Several hundred jobless 
immigrants were set to work planting grape cuttings and building 
living quarters for themselves. Various parts of the new vine 
yards were named after certain sections or towns in Italy. 

By the time the vineyard matxired and the first big grape 
crop was ripening, the price had fallen from $30 to $8 a ton, 
which was less than the cost of prodxiction. Threatened with 
ruin, the Colony s directors made a momentous decision. They 
decided to "store" their perishable crop by turning it into wine. 

A $10 assessment was voted on each of the Colony s 2250 
shares, and with the $22,500 thus raised, a stone winery of 
300,000 gallon capacity was built in 1887. The Colony s first 
grape crush was also its worst due to mishandling, the wine 
turned to vinegar. 

After seven years of subscription, the Asti Colony was still 
apparently a failure, but Sbarboro s friends stood by him. Pietro 
Rossi, a San Francisco druggist who had studied winemaking in 
Italy, was sent up to take charge. From the day of his arrival 
in 1888, the Colony dated its success, though it had to undergo 
one more crisis. 

The first wines Rossi turned out proved to be excellent and 
the directors .could at last foresee some return on their invest 
ment. But they reckoned without the fluctuations in the wine 
market. The wholesale price offered for Asti wines proved to be 
as far below a profitable level as the price offered for Asti 
grapes. 

The Colony gambled once more. They had already gone from 
philanthropy to farming to winemaking, so they took one more step 
and become their own wholesalers. Italian Swiss Colony opened 
offices and wine vaults in San Francisco, Chicago, New Orleans 
and New York and set out to market their wine direct to the re 
tail trade 



98e 



Asti wines caught on immediately and Sbarboro, Rossi and 
their associates pushed ahead with a program of expansion, buy 
ing more land and making more wine. During the first 16 years 
all profits were ploughed back into improvements and additions 
and the stockholders, carrying out the cooperative principle did 
not pay the first dividend to members until 1897. By that time 
the organization had agencies in scores of American cities and 
more than a dozen foreign countries, 

Asti had become an established community with its own post- 
office, railroad station, school and church. Its laborers, most 
of them Italians, had built homes and raised families around the 
winery. The directors, proud of what had been accomplished, be 
gan to build summer homes in the valley and to make a social cen 
ter of Asti. 

No West Coast visit by members of Europe s nobility was com 
plete without an inspection of Asti and an outdoor banquet of 
stunning proportions with Sbarboro playing host. The winery s 
guest book was studded with the names of great personages from 
Europe as well as the United States. 

Andrea Sbarboro 1 s summer home at Asti exceeded all the rest. 
On a trip to Italy, he had visited Pompeii and seen the famous 
Casa cle Vetti. He secured a copy of its floor plan and dupli 
cated the Pompeiian villa on the banks of the Russian River. 

Then Sbarboro added a characteristic personal touch, he in 
stalled an elaborate underground sprinkler system. Its purpose 
was to sprinkle not his trees but his guests, for Sbarboro was 
an inveterate practical Joker. The grounds of the estate became 
a maze of hydraulic boobytraps for the unsuspecting. 

One of the sprinklers was hooked up within a stone grotto 
equipped with hammocks. The guests who flopped down to rest in 
the wrong hammock automatically gave himself a shower. Sbarboro 
loved outdoor banquets during the summer at which it was possi 
ble to shower his guests while he sat dry and roaring with laugh 
ter at the head of the table. Frequently his sons arranged the 
setting so that Sbarboro himself was doused. 

The treacherous sprinkler system at Asti was obviously cop 
ied from one built by Marcus Sittich, Archbishop of Salzburg, at 
his 17th century palace in Hellbrun Gardens, and which was fed 
by 116 underground springs. Sbarboro, however, had improved on 
Hellbrun for the Archbishop s sprinklers had to be turned on by 
hand, while the banker s operated by pressure valves. 



98f 



In the course of becoming one of the world s largest win 
eries, Asti had not sacrificed, quality. Within four years of 
the time that Pietro Rossi took over the winemaking for the 
Colony, it had won its first gold medals in competition. Many 
of the awards came from American fairs and expositions, but the 
ones that pleased the directors most were those won in competi 
tion with European wines abroad. 

Prejudice against American and particularly California wines 
was strong in Europe and such exhibitors competed under a heavy 
disadvantage. Despite this, Asti wines won gold medals at Genoa 
in 1892, at Dublin the same year, at Bordeaux in 1895 and at 
Paris in 1900. Diplomas of honor were conferred upon the Colony s 
wines at the original Asti in Italy and at Turin in 1898 and at 
Milan in 1906. 

Then, in 1909, Pietro Rossi undertook an experiment which 
resulted in one of Asti s greatest triumphs. Having noted an in 
crease in sparkling wines sales, he decided it was time to expand 
the Colony s champagne production. In the course of a visit to 
France with his twin sons, Rossi stopped off in J&eims, in the 
heart of the champagnrf count ry.*fiTherar he met Charles Jadeau, a 
noted champagne makex, and persuadedydiim to come to California. 



When the news of Jadeau 1 s departure became known, reaction 
in France ranged from outraged indignation at Jadeau for his 
desertion to riducule of Rossi for thinking be could duplicate -**.- 
French wines. The Paris newspaper, Le Petit Journal, devoted a * 
long editorial to the subject. "The Americans are wrong," the ~ r ^ 
paper wrote, "when they think they can do everything better than 
anyone else, and that nothing is impossible to them. The fact 
is that there are still in this world many, many things which TV> f~ 
they can never achieve. For example, they have not been able to 
manufacture champagne or even produce a sparkling wine that sug- 
gests the champagne of France." , ,. 

This, the editorial continued, was not for lack of trying. 
Americans had imported the methods, the grapes, the yeast and 
done everything possible to duplicate champagne, even to luring 
over champagne experts "by spanning the ocean with a bridge of 
gold." But despite these efforts, "The champagne of California 
has turned out to be fright full sour wine, only fit for German 
troopers". "Alas," Le Petit Journal concluded, "The imitators 
of champagne have forgotten one important thing, the soil of 
France with its subtle sorcery." 



98g 



Rossi ignored the blast and returned to California, with 
Jadeau. He unfolded his plan to the Italian Swiss Colony s dir 
ectors and they authorized the building of a new champagne plant 
with the finest equipment obtainable. A blend of Asti s finest 
white wines was made by Jadeau and 150, COO bottles of champagne 
were laid down in the Colony s cellars. 

A year later, a few experts were invited from San Francisco 
for a tasting. Rossi and Jadeau anxiously opened a few bottles. 
The wine had all the sparkle and flavor they had hoped for, and 
the experts pronounced it excellent. The Colony s directors or 
dered production expanded once more, and put their champagne on 
the market under a new label, GOLDEN STATE EXTRA DRY. 

Convinced that he had something to show skeptical Europeans, 
Rossi decided to exhibit his champagne at the international expo 
sition in Turin, Italy, in October, 1911. With Sbarboro s en 
couragement, a selection of Golden State was made and sent off to 
Europe. 

The Judges at Turin, among the most celebrated connoisseurs 
in Europe, were noted for their prejudice against American wines, 
but they promised an impartial decision. After seven days of 
tasting and arguing together, they finally announced their Judg 
ment. GOLDEN STATE had been awarded the Grand Prix, the highest 
award possible, and the first time a California wine had been so 
honored. Perhaps the crowning success of all came with the ad 
mission by Le Petit Journal that "The sun DOSS shine Just as 
gloriously in California as in France." 

Pietro Rossi never lived to learn that his new champagne 
had been so well received. While riding near his home at Asti, 
he was thrown from his horse and killed on October 9 1911 The 
news of the award at Turin did not reach California until late 
in the month of October. 

With the death of Rossi, one of the two great figures in 
the development of the Italian Swiss Colony had been removed. 
The management of the winery itself was carried on by Rossi s 
twin sons, Edmund and Robert, who had learned winemaking from 
their father s example. Andrea Sbarboro, then head of the Ital 
ian American bank in San Francisco, remained secretary of the 
Colony and split his efforts between banking and promoting the 
wine business. 



98h 



Sbarboro, during the first decades of the twentieth century ^ 
found himself and his Colony confronted by an enemy of imposing 
size the national prohibition movement. The movement, though 
aimed primarily at eliminating drunkenness, posed an obvious 
threat to Asti and to Sbarboro s way of life. He counterattacked 
with a barrage of speeches, pamphlets and appearances before con 
gressional committees. 

Whatever the earnest women of the temperance movement may 
have thought of him, Sbarboro considered himself a true temper 
ance advocate. He proclaimed his eagerness to end_drunkenness 
from every available rostrum. But his method lay in converting 
the hard drinker to light vines while the prohibitionists sought 
to impose temperance by drying up all alcoholic beverages. 

To prohibit the use of wine through prohibiting the use of 
all alcohol struck Sbarboro as insane. He sincerely believed, and 
produced the word of learned authorities to prove, that wine was 
beneficial to health, an aid to digestion and a necessary ingred 
ient of the good life. 

He argued that those states which already had prohibition 
suffered more from drunkenness than they had before, and that 
therefore prohibition was no easy road to temperance. He sug 
gested that America could achieve temperance overnight by switch 
ing from whiskey to vine and, incidentally, by cutting out tea 
and coffee. 

Sbarboro 1 s cure for the chronic drunk was unique. Every 
arrested drunk was to be sentenced to 30 days in jail and served 
light wines with his meals. Upon his release, Sbarboro believed, 
the fellow would be converted to temperance and an appreciation 
of wine, and would henceforth abstain from hard liquor. Back 
sliders were to be given 60-day sentences and the same therapy. 

He advocated following the example of France and 3/taly and 
providing every man in the aimed services with a daily wine ra 
tion. The wine-drinking countries of Europe, he argued, had lit 
tle drunkenness, and America should learn from their temperate 
example. He cited passages from the Bible to prove that wine was 
the favorite drink of the prophets and often he declared his belief 
that biblical evidence proved the Deity was not a prohibitionist. 



98i 



In his appearance "before Congress, Sbarboro was fond of de 
claring that if his crushacle succeeded he could die happy and have 
engraved on his tombstone the epitaph-- "Here lie the bones of 
Andrea Sbarboro who first sowed the seeds in the halls of Cong- 
gress which removed drunkenness from the United States." The 
seeds, of course, were; Down with prohibition and whiskey, up 
with wine and temperance! 

He once scandalized a WCTU deligation at a congressional 
hearing by a well meant suggestion. The women, he said, might 
best insure against their children growing up to be drunkards by 
starting them off in the highchair with a tipple of half wine and 
half water. 

Whiskey distillers resented Sbarboro 1 s method of fighting 
prohibition at their expense and even attempted a boycott of Asti s 
prodxicts. Others were amused by his crusade, but not the temper 
ance forces. For whatever his logic or the merit of his argu 
ments, he was three times credited with defeating national pro 
hibition bills before Congress. 

Sbarboro, of course, was only fighting a delaying action and 
he himself finally realized it. On the eve of World War I he 
withdrew from the wine business, convinced at last that national 
prohibition was coining to America. Within three years prohibition 
arrived and the Colony s operations were brought to a halt. Sbar 
boro died in 1923 at the age of 83, presumably of influenza, but 
possibly of disgust at the sight of his beloved Asti meekly bot 
tling grape juice for teetotalers. 

In 1920 Pietro Rossi s sons, Edmund and Robert, together with 
Enrico Prati, who had worked up from the ranks of Asti s laborers, 
revived the Italian Swiss Colony. They kept it going throughout 
the prohibition era by selling grapes and grape juice. Then, a 
decade after Sbarboro 1 s death, came repeal. The Rossi s and Prati 
plunged into a program of expansion which, within a few years, re 
turned Asti to the ranks of the world s largest wineries. 

Along with this growth went a strict adherence to the tradi 
tions of quality Pietro Rossi had originally established, tradi 
tions which have won the Colony more awards for excellence than 
any other California vintner. 



98j 



With the coining of World War II, governmental needs for alco 
hols for defense purposes were increased tremendously. In order 
to insure a continued source of alcohol for beverage purposes, 
many major distilling companies began to look towards the i;ine 
industry with its abundant potential. One by one, most of the 
larger vine companies and many of the smaller ones were leased or 
purchased outright by these large and wealthy distilling inter 
ests. In 19^2 the Rossi s and Prati sold Italian Swiss Colony to 
National Distillers Corporation, who continued to operate it until 
the war was over and won. During this regime the great LA PALOMA 
winery at Clovis, California, (near Fresno) was purchased and 
added to the growing Italian Swiss Colony as was the well known 
S & J (Shevan Jones) winery at Lodi, California. Addition of 
these two wineries, both located in the heart of the finest sweet 
wine grape producing region of California, vns to allow the com 
pany to concentrate its production efforts in the area in which 
the grapes were grown. It had been the practice in the past to 
ship the varieties of grapes which were grown in the central val 
leys to Asti in gondola cars to be crushed and made into wine 
there. Now it was possible to efficiently produce only table 
wines in the great Asti winery which is located in the heart of 
the table wine grape growing area, and sweet wines in the Lodi 
and Clovis wineries, which are in the dessert wine grape belt. 

By the early 1950* s the California wine industry could fore 
see the probability of tremendous post-war growth. The large 
distiller owners, however, had come to realize that the produc 
tion and merchandising of wine was not particularly akin to simi 
lar functions of the distilled beverage field and in spite of the 
optomistic future of wine, the distillers, for the most part, de 
cided to limit their activity to their traditional specialties 
and offered the wineries up for sale. It is possible that they 
had come to understand better Andrea Sbarboro s philosophy of 
temperance with moderate use of wine during their few short years 
of association with the wine industry. In 1953 National Distill 
ers sold ITALIAN SWISS COLONY to an organization of vintners 
which was known as UNITED VINTNERS INC. United s history dated 
back to 1886, when it was established by Rafello Petri with the 
purpose of buying and selling wines, and over the years it has 
experienced growth and expansion similar to that of the Colony to 
the point where, by 1953> it was the owner of several large wine 
companies in the large sweet-wine producing central valley of 
California. 



98k 



United Vintners had been closely associated with the estab 
lishment in 195.1 by 2 J !0 grape growers, and the subsequent rapid 
growth of a grape growing cooperative called ALLIED GRAPE GROWERS. 
Between the years of 195^ and 1959 United Vintners sold or leased 
several of its plants to the cooperative which was destined to 
"become the largest producer and merchant of wine in the entire 
world t 

Final culmination cane on September 1, 1959> with the out 
right purchase of all holdings of United Vintners by ALLIED GRAPE 
GROWERS, which by then had grown to include almost 1300 grower- 
members. This transaction gave the growers complete ownership of 
all the former United Vintners wineries and bulk storage plants 
which had a total capacity of about 55,000,000 gallons and a weekly 
grape crushing capacity of 1*5,000 tone. It also gave, the growers 
sole ownership of all wine brands and labels formerly owned by 
United Vintners as well as the large specially constructed ship, 
the S.S. Angelo Petri, which could carry 2,500,000 gallons of wine 
in its stainless steel tanks plus 1,500,000 gallons of other types 
-of liquid cargo. 

The wineries located at Asti, Clovis, Lodi, Madera, and Es- 
calon, the storage plants located at Stockton, Newark, Houston 
and Chicago, and the bottling facilities in Chicago and Newark 
all came under the ownership of the grape growers, and thus was 
finally realized the original dream of Andrea Sbarboro, over 75 
years after its inception, whereby the growers of the grapes 
would be the sole producers of the wines which bring fame to 
ITALIAN SWISS COLONY. Today, following expansion of certain of 
the above wineries plus subsequent purchase of wineries located 
at Reedley and Oakville, ALLIED GRAPE GROWERS are the world s 
largest grape and wine growing cooperative and have a total stor 
age capacity of over 80 million gallons. 



P.C.Rosa.. Mr,. sl oone. NEW YORK BRANCH N. E. Cor. W. IliK and WASHINGTON STS. A SBARBORG sre, a ry 



Ohio Arldrnss ASTICOIONY. 

Coilr.-vu;.m A n.C.Sf Coition. 

and W U r,-i.-q r ,,ph, c code ,,<1 cable Directory 




^TALIAH-SWJSS COLONY. 

^ ^.j^t <%$$* 

>^.sliSP-| Tssar 

pi OF <2^->f;^;/ ..!.. ..?!. & (EZitlgy MAOrRACO.CAL 



ASTI . FULTON. 
CLOVER DA 1 1. .SLBASTOPOL. 

SONOMA CO.CAI. 



XMI: ;m&^aJjmui& 



yy*~ I 1 KINGSBURG. 

rncs NO CO. 

LEMOORC. 

Kl NGS CO. 
S , 
LARGEST VINEYARD OFFICES , SALtSPOOMS 

OFCHOlCEtUROPMNWlNEGRAPES COR.BATTERY AND GREENWICH STS. 

UNITIDSTATES VAULTS 

1235- IZO7 BATTERY ST. -IOI-I6O OREENWICM ST. 



ASTI* TURIN. ITir.ieee. _-,,.... A41 *~> A t f\O 

GRAND DIPLOMA or HONOR /- f APTlJl 4&4 . UO 

o/i/v FRANCISCO. CAL. 

Mr. Frederick J. Taggert , 

San Francisco, Cal, ^^ /(^O ^ 

Dear Sir:- V ^ ** 

On the occasion of the coming of "The Fleet" with 
its attendant festivities, we believe the time opportune for 
one and all to show their loyalty and patriotism by using only 
CALIFORNIAN products in the entertainment of our distinguished 
visitors during their stay in this City. 

King Victor Emanuel of Italy, recently at an 

official dinner given at the Quirinal in honor of the Diplomatic 
Body, put into force his decree that henceforth only Italian 
Wines should be offered at his table. A like policy has been 
adopted by Emperor William of Germany. 

Let us, likewise, be loyal and show our dis 
tinguished guests that the "CALIFORNIA WINES", as recognized by 
connoisseurs, are equal, if not superior to the imported article. 

Our famous TIPO Chianti, Red and White, and our other 
numerous varieties of table wines, as well as our delicious 
Champagnes, "ASTI SPECIAL DRY" and "SPARKLING MOSCATO", produced 
in our celebrated Vineyards at ASTI, CALIFORNIA, may be obtained 
from all firstclass grocers, wine merchants, club?, restaurants, 
hotels, etc. and, we apfure you, can be served with pride to 
the most distinguished guests. 

We sincerely trust that when designating the Wines 
to be served at table on these festive occasions, that your 
selections will be confined to Native productions, thus proving your 
loyalty to CALIFORNIA and spreading our fame abroad in the land. 

Anticipating your favorable action and soliciting 
your valued patronage, through any of our distributors above 
referred to, we beg to remain, 

Yours very truly, 

ITALIAN-SWISS COLONY, 

GRAND PRIZE AWARDED AT MILAN EXPOSITION. I90. (J. ROSSI Pr68. 
H/S 



99 



INDEX Edmund A. Rossi 



Adams, Leon, 6l, 62, 77, 84, 85, 90 

Allegrini, Julius, 17 

American Wines (book), 83 

Amerine, Maynard [A.], 76 

Asti Grape Products Company, 10, 38, 40, 4l, 47, 6l 

Beaulieu Vineyard, 76, 68. See also de Latour vineyards. 

Berkeley Yeast Laboratory, 71 

Bernard Vineyard, 37, 38 

Biane, Philo, 37 

Bioletti, Frederic T., 31 

Brandt, Beatrice. See Mrs. Edmund A. Rossi. 

brandy, 28, 29 

Brookside Vineyard, 37, 38 

Brotherhood Winery, 21 

Caddow, Harry A., 59, 60, 6l, 62, 84, 85 

Caire, Amelie. See Rossi, Mrs. Pietro C. 

Caire, Justinian, 10, 11, 12 

California Barrel Company, 59 

California Consolidated Vineyard Company, 36 

California Fruit Canners 1 Association, 7 

California State Fair, 83 

California Vineyardists Association, 55 * 58, 59 

California Wine Association, 5, 8, 20, 21, 22, 25-30, 35, 37, 

39, 40, 44, 47, 48, 49, 50, 52 
California Wine Makers Corporation, 25, 27 
Calwa Corporation, 48 
Campodonico, Stephan, 4, 9 
Casanova, Henry, 4, 5, 8 
Colabella, Carlo, 22 
Conn, Donald, 55, 56, 58, 59 
Crocker, Charles H., 49 
Crocker, Henry J., 25, 38 
Cruess, William V., 31, 70 

Daneri, A., 5 

Davitto, Bernard, 54 

Deane, John R. , 74, 75 

de Latour vineyards (Beaulieu Vineyard), 59 

de Martini, L. , Supt>ly Company, 38 

de Martini, Luigi, 38 

de Vecchi, Paolo, 4, 8 

de Vries, Marion, 59, 60 

Di Giorgio, Joseph, 41, 69 

Dolan, Mrs. Paul E., Jr., 16 



100 



Sari Fruit Company, 4l 

Federal Farm Board, 59 

Federspiel, Sophus, 18, 78 

Ferrari, Abele, 6? 

Fessler, Julius, 71 

Fontana, Mark J. , 4, 5, 7, 8, 38, 4-0, 48, 50 

Fontana, Nellie T., 5 

Frapolli, B. , 5, 9 

Froelich, T., 37 

Fruit Industries, Ltd., 4-3, 55, 56, 57, 59 

Gallo [E. & J. Winery], 80, 81, 95 

Gambarelli & Davitto, 52, 53, 54, 70 

Gambarelli, Victoria, 54 

Gevasco, G.B. , 5, 9 

Gherini, Ambrose, 39 

Gherini, Mrs. Ambrose, 13 

Grape Growers League of California, 59, 60, 62, 78, 82 

grappa , 28 

Green, Russell H. and Betty Jean, 33 

Haigh, Fred, 33 
Haigh, Mrs. Fred, 33 
Haigh, Vivien, 33 
Healdsburg Machine Shop, 67 
Heger & Company, 67 
Heublein [Inc.], 16, 25, 76 
Holm, Hans, 31 
Hoover [Herbert C.], 58, 63 

Inglenook Vineyards, 76 
Italian-American Bank, 4, 36, 38, 39 
Italian Swiss Agricultural Colony, 3, 5, 38 
Italian Swiss Colony, Passim 

Jackson, Eugene, 77, 86 

Jadeau, Charles, 23, 24 
Jones, Lee, 78 

Joslyn, Maynard, 6l, 70 

Kingsburg Winery, 21 
Koster, Henry, 59 
Kriegbaum, Marcellus, 35, 36 

Lachman & Jacobl, 25, 26 
Langmann, V., 5^ 
Lanza, Horace 0., 59, 60, 62, 78 
La Paloma Winery, 64, 65, 72 
Lejon, 25 



101 



Malm, C.A., 38 

Martini, Louis [M.], 21 

Martini & Prati Wines, 75 

Marvel, Tom, 83 

Merle, A.J. , 10, 38, 4? 

Merle, Adrian, 10 

Morrow, A.R. , 8, 20, 39, 40, 4-8 

Miller, C.O.G., 49 

Mills, Wilbur D. , 60 

Mirassou, Edmund A. , 82 

Mission Dry Company, 6l 

Mount Diablo Vineyard, 36, 3? 

National Distillers Corporation, 25, 52, 65, 73-76 

O f Donnell, Eleanor [Rossi], 14 
Ollino, Dr. Giuseppe, 2, 3, 4, 5 
Owens-Illinois, 68 

Pacific Advertising, 6l, 62 

Paladini, , 21 

Perata, M."J 4", 5, 9 

Perelli-Minetti, Antonio, 18, 19, 57, 59 

Perelli-Minetti, Giullo, 17, 18, 33 

Perelli-Minetti, Mario, 57 

Peyser, Jefferson, 84 

Pioli, Astolfo, 50, 51 

Pillsbury, E.S., 49 

Portola Vineyard, 37, 38 

Prati, Enrico, 10, 40, 4l, 45, 46, 47, 6l, 68, 69, 75 

Prati, Olinto, 46 

Prohibition, 4, 21, 23, 24, 34, 38, 39, 42, 48, 49, 50-55, 

60, 64 
prorate, 58, 85 

Bafanelli, Cesare, 67 
Ravenna, V. , 5 
Repeal, 63, 64, 68, 71 
Repetto, Victor, 62, 63 
Roma Wine Company, 72, 85 
Roosevelt [Franklin D.j, 63 
Rossi, A. Olga, 13 
Rossi, Domenico P., 6, 7, 14 
Rossi Drug Company, 7 
Rossi, Edmund A., Jr., 16, 25 
Rossi, Mrs. Edmund A., 16 
Rossi, M. Aime"e, 13 
Rossi, P. Carlo, 13 

Rossi, Pietro C. , 1, 2. 4, 5, 6, 7, 10, 14, 16, 17, 21, 22, 
23, 25, 26, 31, 33, 3^, 36, 38, 48, 66, 



102 



Rossi, Mrs. Pietro C. , 11, 12 

Rossi, Robert D. , 4, 13, 18, 22, 30-32, 34, 40, 46, 55, 64, 

73, 75 
Rossi, Yvonne. See Mrs. Paul E. Dolan, Jr. 

St. Amant, W.L. , 59 60 

Sartori, Henry A., 38 

Sbarboro, Alfred, 4, 39 

Sbarboro, Andrea, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 39, 69 

Sbarboro, Romilda, 5 

Sbarboro, Romolo A., 39 

Scalione, Mario, 6? 

S choonmak er , Frank , 83 

Seghesio, Edoardo, 47 

Seghesio family, 46, 47, 69 

Seghesio winery, 4? 

Setrakian, A., 93 

Sheehan, Edgar M. , 59, 78 

Shewan- Jones , 65 

Simi Winery, 33 

Smith, Alfred, 63 

Smith, Robert L. , 62, 77 

Steylaars, Charles L. , 12 

Story of Italian Swiss Colony. The. 1, 23 

sulphur dioxide, 19, 20, 30, 31, 32, 53 

Sweet Wine Producers Association, 81 

Tarpey, M.F. and Sons, 64 

Tarpey, Paul, 64 

Taylor, Walter, 56 

Theresa Vineyard, 38 

Thompson, J. Walter [Company], 89 

Torrens, Beatrice [Rossi], 13 

Tribune, Jack, 19 

Tribune, Louise, 19 

Tribune, Mario, 18, 19, 62, 63 

"21" Brands, 19 

United Vintners, 1, 16, 25, 76 

Valley Foundry and Machine Works, 67 
Vasconi, L. , 4, 17 

Wall, Albina [Rossi], 13 
Wall, C. Allen, 14 
Wente [Bros.], 82 
Wente, Herman, 89 
West, George & Sons, 56 



103 



Western Wine Producers Association, 60, ?8 

Wiley, Dr. Harvey, 20 

Wine Advisory Board, ?6, 77, 79, 82, 85, 87, 88, 89 

Wine and Pood Society, 76 

Wine Institute, 59, 60, 77, 78, 79, 80, 81, 82, 84, 87, 88, 90 

yeast, pure culture, 71 

Zabaldano, Alexander, 10, 11 
Zellerbach Paper Company, 68 



Wines Mentioned in the Intervi ew 



champagne, 23-25 

Madeira, 29 
muscatel, 22, 29 

port, 29 
sherry, 29 

"Tipo Chianti" 29, 68 
tokay, 29 

vin mousseux* 23 



Grape Varieties Mentioned in the Interview 

Carignane 5^ 
French Colombard, 24 
Golden Chasselas, 24 

Petite Sirah 54 
Pinot, 24 

Riesling, 24 
Zinfandel 54 



Ruth Teiser 

Born in Portland, Oregon; came to the Bay Area 

in 1932 and has lived here ever since. 

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

work in Western history. 

Newspaper and magazine writer in San Francisco since 

1943, writing on local history and business and 

social life of the Bay Area. . 

Book reviewer for the San Francisco Chronicle 

since 1943.