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Full text of "Italian Swiss Colony, 1949-1989: recollections of a third-generation California winemaker : oral history transcript / and related material, 1988-1990"





University of California Berkeley 
REGIONAL ORAL HISTORY OFFICE 



Regional Oral History Office University of California 

The Bancroft Library Berkeley, California 



The Wine Spectator California Winemen Oral History Series 



Edmund A. Rossi, Jr. 

ITALIAN SWISS COLONY, 1949-1989: 
RECOLLECTIONS OF A THIRD -GENERATION CALIFORNIA WINEMAKER 



With an Introduction by 
A. Dinsmoor Webb 



An Interview Conducted by 
Ruth Teiser 

and 

Lisa Jacobson 
in 1988, 1989 



Copyright (c) 1990 by The Regents of the University of California 



Since 1954 the Regional Oral History Office has been interviewing 
leading participants in or well-placed witnesses to major events in the 
development of Northern California, the West, and the Nation. Oral history is 
a modern research technique involving an interviewee and an informed 
interviewer in spontaneous conversation. The taped record is transcribed, 
lightly edited for continuity and clarity, and reviewed by the interviewee. 
The resulting manuscript is typed in final form, indexed, bound with 
photographs and illustrative materials, and placed in The Bancroft Library at 
the University of California, Berkeley, and other research collections for 
scholarly use. Because it is primary material, oral history is not intended 
to present the final, verified, or complete narrative of events. It is a 
spoken account, offered by the interviewee in response to questioning, and as 
such it is reflective, partisan, deeply involved, and irreplaceable. 



All uses of this manuscript are covered by a legal 
agreement between the University of California and 
Edmund A. Rossi, Jr. dated June 26, 1989. The 
manuscript is thereby made available for research 
purposes. All literary rights in the manuscript, 
including the right to publish, are reserved to The 
Bancroft Library of the University of California, 
Berkeley. No part of the manuscript may be quoted for 
publication without the written permission of the 
Director of The Bancroft Library of the University of 
California, Berkeley. 

Requests for permission to quote for publication 
should be addressed to the Regional Oral History Office, 
486 Library, University of California, Berkeley 94720, 
and should include identification of the specific 
passages to be quoted, anticipated use of the passages, 
and identification of the user. The legal agreement 
with Edmund A. Rossi, Jr. requires that he be notified 
of the request and allowed thirty days in which to 
respond. 

It is recommended that this oral history be cited as 
follows : 

Edmund A. Rossi, Jr. , "Italian Swiss 
Colony, 1949-1988: Recollections of a 
Third-Generation California Wnemaker," 
an oral history conducted in 1988, 1989 
by Ruth Teiser and Lisa Jacobson, 
Regional Oral History Office, The 
Bancroft Library, University of 
California, Berkeley, 1990. 



Copy no. 




EDMUND A. ROSSI, JR. 
1983 



Cataloging Information 

ROSSI, Edmund A., Jr. [1924] 
Winemaker 

Italian Swiss Colony. 1949-1989: Recollections of a Third- 
Generation California Winemaker. 1990, 148 pp. 

Three generations of Rossi family winemakers; winery at Asti, 
California; various owners of Italian Swiss Colony; flavored wines; 
influence of Louis Petri; winery personnel; brandy and high-proof 
wines; research and development of products; international 
investigations for Heublein; professional organizations and 
research papers; modern advances in the vineyard and the winery. 

Introduction by A. Dinsmoor Webb, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus, 
Department of Viticulture and Enology, University of California, 
Davis. 

Interviewed in 1988 by Ruth Teiser for the Wine Spectator 
California Winemen Series. The Regional Oral History, The Bancroft 
Library, University of California, Berkeley. 






WEDNESDAY, MARCH 27, 1996 



A20 San ^Francisco (Lljruim Ir 



OBITUARIES 



Edmund A. Rossi Jr. 

Funeral services will be held to 
morrow for Edmund A. Rossi Jr., a 
member of one of California's 
most famous wine families. 

Mr. Rossi died Monday at a rest 
home in Oakland of complications 
brought on by a major stroke in 
1992. He was 72. 

A grandson of pioneer wine- 
maker Pietro Rossi, he spent a long 
career with Italian Swiss Colony 
after graduate studies in enology 
at the University of California at 
Davis. 

Mr. Rossi was an expert on re 
search and product development 
and a former president of the 
American Society for Enology and 
Viticulture. He served as vice pres 



ident in charge of quality control 
for Italian Swiss Colony, which 
was acquired by Beringer Vine 
yards in 1988. 

He was a native San Franciscan 
who attended St. Ignatius High 
School and the University of San 
Francisco. His college years were 
interrupted by service in the Navy 
during World War n. 

A widower, Mr. Rossi is surviv 
ed by three children, Christine of 
Denver, Therese of San Diego and 
Brandt of Alameda; a sister, 
Yvonne Rossi Dolan of Oakland; 
and two grandsons. 

The funeral will be at 9:30 a.m. 
at St. Ignatius Church at Parker 
and Fulton streets in San Francis 
co, with burial in Holy Cross Ceme 
tery. 



TABLE OF CONTENTS -- Edmund A. Rossi, Jr. 

PREFACE i 

INTRODUCTION, by A. Dinsmoor Webb v 

RECOLLECTIONS OF THE ROSSI FAMILY, by Leon D. Adams vii 

INTERVIEW HISTORY viii 

BRIEF BIOGRAPHY ix 

Childhood and Education 1 

The Rossi Family and Its Associates 3 

Early Experience with Wine 10 

The Winery at Asti 11 

The Sale to National Distillers, 1942 13 

Working for National Distillers, 1949-1953 17 

The Many Owners of Italian Swiss Colony 26 

Flavored Wines 30 

Practical Projects with Elbert M. Brown 32 

Louis Petri Buys Italian Swiss Colony, 1953 34 

Developing Wines 41 

Post -Repeal Generic Wines 47 

Wines of 1950-1969 52 

Flavored Wines of 1968-1983 62 

Traditional and Innovative Wines of 1968-1983 69 

Soft Wines 72 

The Petri Period, Continued: 1953-1960 76 



Quality Control 81 

Petri Personnel 84 

Plant Personnel 86 

Brandy and High -Proof 93 

More on the Petri Period 97 

Inglenook 98 

The Heublein Period, 1969-1983 101 

The Colony Label 109 

Research and Development 112 

International Investigations for Heublein 116 

ISC Sale to Allied, 1983 119 

ISC Sale to ERLY Industries, 1987 [?] 122 

Distinctions of Italian Swiss Colony 125 

Responsibilities Since 1983 130 

The Beverage Source, 1988 131 

Industry Organizations and Research Papers 133 

Advances in the Vineyard and the Winery 139 

Awards 143 

TAPE GUIDE 146 

APPENDIX I -- Letter from Edmund Rossi, Sr. 148 

APPENDIX II -- "A Historical Perspective," 

by Edmund Rossi, Jr. 150 

APPENDIX III -- List of Chairmen of Technical Advisory 

Committee 178 

INDEX 179 



PREFACE 



The California wine industry oral history series, a project of the 
Regional Oral History Office, was initiated in 1969 through the action 
and with the financing of the Wine Advisory Board, a state marketing 
order organization which ceased operation in 1975. In 1983 it was 
reinstituted as The Wine Spectator California Winemen Oral History Series 
with donations from The Wine Spectator Scholarship Foundation. The 
selection of those to be interviewed is made by a committee consisting of 
James D. Hart, director of The Bancroft Library, University of 
California, Berkeley; John A. De Luca, president of the Wine Institute, 
the statewide winery organization; Maynard A. Amerine, Emeritus Professor 
of Viticulture and Enology, University of California, Davis; the current 
chairman of the board of directors of the Wine Institute; Ruth Teiser, 
series project director; and Marvin R. Shanken, trustee of The Wine 
Spectator Scholarship Foundation. 

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

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



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 

The Wine Spectator California Winemen 
Oral History Series 

September 1990 

Regional Oral History Office 

486 The Bancroft Library 

University of California, Berkeley 



iii 



CALIFORNIA WINE INDUSTRY INTERVIEWS 

Interviews Completed by 1990 
Leon D. Adams, Revitalizing the California Wine Industry. 1974 

Leon D. Adams, California Wine Industry Affairs: Recollections and Opinions. 
1990 

Maynard A. Amerine, The University of California and the State's Wine 
Industry. 1971 

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

Philo Biane, Wine Making in Southern California and Recollections of Fruit 
Industries . Inc . . 1972 

John B. Cella, The Cella Family in the California Wine Industry. 1986 

Charles Crawford, Recollections of a Career with the Gallo Winery and the 
Development of the California Wine Industry, 1942-1989. 1990 

Burke H. Critchfield, Carl F. Wente, and Andrew G. Frericks, The California 
Wine Industry During the Depression. 1972 

William V. Cruess, A Half Century of Food and Wine Technology. 1967 

Jack and Jamie Peterman Davies , Rebuilding Schramsberg: The Creation of a 
California Champagne House. 1990 

William A. Dieppe, Almaden is Mv Life. 1985 

Alfred Fromm, Marketing California Wine and Brandy. 1984 

Louis Gomberg, Analytical Perspectives on the California Wine Industry. 1935- 
1990. 1990 

Joseph E. Heitz, Creating a Winery in the Napa Valley. 1986 

Maynard A. Joslyn, A Technologist Views the California Wine Industry. 1974 

Amandus N. Kasimatis, A Career in California Viticulture. 1988 

Morris Katz , Paul Masson Winery Operations and Management. 1944-1988. 1990 

Legh F. Knowles, Jr., Beaulieu Vineyards from Family to Corporate Ownership. 
1990 

Horace 0. Lanza and Harry Baccigaluppi, California Grape Products and Other 
Wine Enterprises. 1971 

Louis M. Martini and Louis P. Martini, Wine Making in the Napa Valley. 1973 
Louis P. Martini, A Family Winery and the California Wine Industry. 1984 



iv 



Eleanor McCrea, Stony Hill Vineyards: The Creation of a Napa Valley Estate 
Winery. 1990 

Otto E. Meyer, California Premium Wines and Brandy. 1973 

Norbert C. Mirassou and Edmund A. Mlrassou, The Evolution of a Santa Clara 
Valley Winery. 1986 

Peter Mondavi, Advances in Technology and Production at Charles Krug Winery. 
1946-1988. 1990 

Robert Mondavi, Creativity in the Wine Industry. 1985 

Michael Moone, Management and Marketing at Beringer Vineyards and Wine World. 
Inc. . 1990 

Myron S. Nightingale, Making Wine in California. 1944-1987. 1988 
Harold P. Olmo, Plant Genetics and New Grape Varieties. 1976 

Cornelius Ough, Researches of an Enoloeist . University of California. Davis. 
1950-1990. 1990 

Antonio Perelli-Minetti, A Life in Wine Making. 1975 

Louis A. Petri, The Petri Family in the Wine Industry. 1971 

Jefferson E. Peyser, The Lav and the California Wine Industry. 1974 

Lucius Powers, The Fresno Area and the California Wine Industry. 1974 

Victor Repetto and Sydney J. Block, Perspectives on California Wines. 1976 

Edmund A. Rossi, Italian Swiss Colony and the Wine Industry. 1971 

Edmund A. Rossi, Jr., Italian Swiss Colony. 1949-1989: Recollections of a 
Third-Generation California Winemaker. 1990 

Arpaxat Setrakian, A. Setrakian. a Leader of the San Joaquin Valley Grape 
Industry. 1977 

Elie Skofis, California Wine and Brandy Maker. 1988 

Andre Tchelistcheff , Grapes. Wine, and Ecology. 1983 

Brother Timothy, The Christian Brothers as Wine Makers. 1974 

Ernest A. Wente, Wine Making in the Livermore Valley. 1971 

Albert J. Winkler, Viticultural Research at UC Davis (1921-1971). 1973 



INTRODUCTION -- Edmund A. Rossi, Jr. 



The first, 1887, vintage in the newly constructed winery at Asti 
was a sad disappointment, more nearly resembling vinegar than 
drinkable table wine. This led Andrea Sbarboro to recruit his San 
Francisco druggist friend, Pietro C. Rossi, for help in the 
winemaking. Rossi, a graduate pharmacist of the Univerity of Torino, 
understood the basic biochemistry of fermentation. Sbarboro had tried 
to develop the Italian Swiss Colony as a cooperative in which members 
were compensated with room, board, wine, and a basic wage, part of 
which was withheld for purchase of vineyard land. Worker reluctance 
to agree to the twenty-five year contract prompted Sbarboro to 
organize instead as a private vineyard and winery venture. Pietro 
Rossi was soon one of the managing partners in the company. Killed in 
a horse and buggy accident in 1911, Pietro left his twin sons, Edmund 
and Robert, who continued management of the technical side of the 
buisiness when the Italian Swiss Colony was taken over by the 
California Wine Association in 1913. Edmund and Robert correctly 
foresaw the failure of the prohibition experiment, and with the 
cooperation of the former vineyard manager at Asti, Enrico Prati, 
bought the property from California Wine Association. They supplied 
home winemakers with grapes, juice, or grape concentrate for home wine 
production. It was during this phase of the Italian Swiss Colony 
story that the donor of this oral history, Edmund A. Rossi, Jr., made 
his appearance. 

Although it is possible that I met Ed Rossi, Jr., in 1941 or 1942 
on the campus of the University at Davis, or at one of the various 
wine technicians' meetings, by late 1948 or early 1949 we had 
established a friendship developed from the new professor-graduate 
student relationship at Davis. We continued the friendship when Ed 
started working for Italian Swiss Colony. Ed apparently felt a need 
to discuss production problems, and initiated a long series of 
telephone conferences to this end. I enjoyed talking with Ed because 
he frequently presented problems the solutions of which led to 
fundamental discoveries in wine chemistry as well as to an answer to a 
practical problem in the operating winery. I also became acquainted 
with Ed Rossi, Jr.'s father, the late Edmund A. Rossi, who as manager 
of the Wine Advisory Board was the person to whom I reported on the 
research they sponsored in the University of California. 



vi 



Throughout the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s, Ed., Jr., and I met and 
worked together on the Technical Advisory Committee of the Wine 
Institute, the American Society for Enology and Viticulture, and the 
Wine Industry Technical Symposium. Invariably reserved and courteous, 
Ed was nevertheless a productive worker on committees, frequently 
smoothing rough spots in discussions. His ability to suggest 
compromises between opposing positions often led to group conclusions 
facilitating quality advances of California wines. 

With the many changes in ownership of Italian Swiss Colony, Ed's 
positions, titles, and responsibilities changed, with the result that 
our close cooperation of earlier years became less frequent. In 
essence, contacts were reduced to brief personal exchanges at the 
annual meetings of the various grape and wine organizations of 
California. You may imagine my pleasure and surprise one late summer 
morning in the mid eighties, in Verona, to see Ed come into the lobby 
of the Due Torre Hotel. As my Italian host arrived at about the same 
time, I introduced the two gentlemen. I couldn't help being impressed 
again with Ed's quiet and courteous response, delivered in flawless 
(to my ear) Italian. 

The most recent owner of Italian Swiss Colony, the Beverage 
Source, has sold the winery at Asti and is apparently leaving the wine 
business. This change leaves Edmund A. Rossi, Jr., consulting for 
Heublein, one of the earlier owners of the winery. What of the future 
of the winery at Asti? Desirable from the romantic traditional 
viewpoint, the fact is that the entire establishment, which was built 
to the standards of the 1880s, is not designed to make the finer wines 
of today in an efficient manner. Perhaps it is appropriate that as 
this winery fades away, the grandson of one of its founders carries on 
in the field of grapes and wines. 



A. Dinsmoor Webb, Ph.D. 
Professor Emeritus of Enology 



University of California 
Davis, California 
22 March 1990 



vii 



RECOLLECTIONS OF THE ROSSI FAMILY 



Edmund A. Rossi and Edmund A. Rossi, Jr., represent both 
lifelong wine careers and lifelong devotion to the cause of California 
wine. 

The father carried high ideals and practices from his boyhood before 
Prohibition, becoming president of the once-great Italian Swiss Colony 
winery and vineyards at Asti in northern Sonoma County. There in the 
1880s his father, former San Francisco druggist Pietro C. Rossi, had 
produced the Italian Swiss Colony's first successful wines. 

Edmund Rossi, Junior, after studying viticulture and enology at the 
University of California at Davis, joined his father, who since the 
repeal of Prohibition had become president of the Italian Swiss Colony 
and presided at the Colony's San Francisco headquarters on Beach Street. 
Edmund Junior's job there was to protect the quality of the Colony's bulk 
wines, then being shipped to the national wine trade. Quality 
consultation continued as Edmund Junior's principal responsibility in 
later years at the onetime Mission Bell winery near Madera. Still later 
it extended to a winery in Portugal. 

It was about 1948 that I was successful in persuading Edmund Rossi, 
Senior, who by then had been retired from the Italian Swiss Colony, to 
accept the managership of the Wine Advisory Board at San Francisco, 
supervising the nationwide wine educational program then being conducted 
by the Board for the entire California grape and wine industry. He 
continued in that capacity until 1960. 

Edmund Rossi, Junior, in the 1980s was recalled to the Italian Swiss 
Colony winery at Asti to accept a new challenge- -to create a new premium- 
quality California wine brand of varietal California table wines to 
restore the Colony's quality reputation. The name selected was that of 
the Colony's founder in 1880--San Francisco grocer-banker-philanthropist 
Andrea Sbarboro. 

The first Sbarboro Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon produced by 
Edmund Rossi, Junior, at Asti delighted the nation's connoisseurs. But 
in the meanwhile, the entire Colony property at Asti was being sold to an 
entirely new owner. Edmund, Junior, returned to Madera and to his 
present endeavors of improving grapes and wines in Portugal and southern 
France . 



Leon D . Adams 



Mill Valley, California 
March 1990 



vili 



INTERVIEW HISTORY -- Edmund A. Rossi, Jr. 





Edmund A. Rossi and Edmund A. Rossi, Jr. , represent two 
generations of a highly respected three-generation California wine 
industry family. The welcome task of interviewing both fell to me. 
That with Edmund A. Rossi, Sr. , whose career was in both the industry 
and the industry organization, the Wine Advisory Board, was completed 
in 1971. Presented here is the interview with Edmund A. Rossi, Jr., 
whose career has been entirely with the organization, in all its 
mutations, that descended from the Italian Swiss Colony winery. 

Through the years, under the various ownerships, the original 
Italian Swiss Colony property at Asti, California, had been maintained 
and used. At one time its lively tasting room was one of Northern 
California's leading tourist attractions. Edmund A. Rossi, Jr.'s work 
was done here and at the other installations affiliated with it, as he 
discusses in this interview. 

The initial sessions of the interview, in which Lisa Jacobson 
participated, were held in Mr. Rossi's office at Asti shortly before 
the last company that held it sold the premises to another wine 
organization, which has ceased maintaining it as a separate entity. 
They were held on February 22, 23, and 24, March 7, 8, and 9, and 
April 4, 1988. Mr. Rossi brought notes, having frequently between 
sessions reviewed records. 

After the transcript was sent to him, he reviewed it carefully, 
checking many points and making minor corrections, and making notes on 
additions. He wanted to make some clarifications, and especially he 
wanted to include the names of those who had worked constructively 
with him over the years. On June 7 and 8, 1989, in the conference 
room at a Heublein installation outside of Madera, his headquarters, 
he and I went over the changes and additions to work them into the 
transcript. The result is a highly informative account of many 
aspects of the California wine industry, its nuts and bolts as well as 
its larger issues, from the point of view of a remarkably steady 
contributor to that industry. 

Ruth Teiser 
Interview/Editor 

July 1990 

Regional Oral History Office 

486 The Bancroft Library 

University of California at Berkeley 



Regional Oral discory uiiice un^cj.^,.,. >.*. ^.u.^.^.. ^. 

Room 486 The Bancroft Library ix Berkeley, California 94720 



BIOGRAPHICAL INFORMATION 
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Date of birth /Z-//7 /2. t/. Place of b'irth 



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Mother's full name 

Birthplace 

Occupation 



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Present community /? 1 ~flc;\) i 



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Childhood and Education 

[Interview Ij 22 February 1988 (re-recorded 4 April 1988 due to 

machine failure the first time)], Asti, California////^ 



Teiser: Where and when were you born? 

Rossi: I was born in San Francisco on December 17, 1924, and I spent my 
childhood days in San Francisco. I went to a grammar school run 
by French -Canadian sisters, Notre Dame des Victoires on Pine 
Street between Grant Avenue and Stockton. The idea was that I 
could learn a little French, which I did. Then when I graduated 
from there I went to St. Ignatius High School between 1938 and 
1942. 

Teiser: What part of the city did you live in as a child? 

Rossi: I lived at 3445 Jackson Street, which is between Laurel and 

Locust Streets, in the Park Presidio District. That's the only 
home I remember, but I'm not sure when my father built the home. 

Teiser: Was it built before you were born? 

Rossi: I think it may have been built after I was born. In fact, the 
architect for the home was Remo Sbarboro, one of the three sons 
of Andrea Sbarboro. The other two sons were Romolo and Alfred, 
who were associated with the Bank of America. 

Getting back to St. Ignatius High School, I had no sooner 
graduated from there than I started at the University of San 
Francisco in the Fall of 1942. I enlisted in the Navy in 
December 1942 for the V-12 program. It was a program for deck 
officers in the Navy. 



This symbol (//#) indicates that a tape or a segment of a tape has begun 
or ended. For a guide to the tapes, see page 146. 



I reported for duty in June, 1943, to Gonzaga University in 
Spokane, Washington. I was there for university training from 
1943 to 1944 before I went on to a midshipman's school, and then 
ultimately was commissioned. 

Teiser: What was your rank? 

Rossi: I was commissioned an ensign and retired an ensign. The truth 
is, I received my commission in the summer of 1945, and, as I 
recall, V-J Day was August, 1945. So I missed the fireworks. 
But I did go out to the Pacific and served on a small anti 
submarine ship, USS PCE 875 out of the Philippines. It was a 
good experience, actually; I enjoyed it. 

When I returned from the Navy I went back to the University 
of San Francisco and finished there in 1947. During 1948 I went 
to the University of California at Davis and took all the 
viticulture and enology courses without trying to get a Master's 
degree. A Master's degree would have entailed my going back and 
getting many more basic courses in either Pomology or Food 
Science. At that point I felt I was twenty- five years old and 
should get started in the business world, so I simply didn't take 
the time to get a Master's degree. Actually, if I had had time 
more on my side, or if I had wanted to take the time, I think I 
would have gone back and taken a Master's degree in Business 
Administration. I've always felt that to be a good combination 
with the scientific training. 

Teiser: Didn't you wait until [Maynard A.] Amerine was there? 

Rossi: Yes. I came back from the Navy in 1946 and actually finished my 
degree at the University of San Francisco in the summer of 1947. 
In the Fall of 1947, Amerine wasn't there, so I took some post 
graduate business courses there for the balance of 1947. In 1948 
I was able to take all of the enology and viticulture courses, 
including those which Maynard taught in 1948. I waited six 
months so I could specifically have him teach the enology 
courses . 

Teiser: Who else did you study with then? 

Rossi: I studied with Dr. [Albert J.] Winkler. He had a dry sense of 
humor. He was told I was from San Francisco the first day of 
class, and he handed me a pair of pruning shears and said, 
"Rossi, this is the handle; the other end is the cutting edge." 
[laughter] I still tease him about that, and he still laughs. 
It was good for a laugh then, and it's still good for a laugh 
now. 



Teiser: 
Rossi : 



Teiser: 
Rossi: 

Teiser: 
Rossi: 

Teiser: 
Rossi : 
Teiser: 
Rossi : 



Then I studied with Dr. [John G.] Castor in microbiology and 
yeast. He was very good in microbiology. I also studied with 
Jim [James F. ] Guymon on distillation and other engineering 
operations. 

Were you interested in distillation at that time? 

Yes, I found it interesting. It was an interesting course. I've 
always felt it would have been good to get into pot 
distillations, the way they do it in Europe, which is what 
they're beginning to get involved in now [here] --Jack Davies-- 

He's out of it now, but he was in a venture with Remy Martin. 

Miles Karakasevic, who used to work for us at Escalon, I think 
still has a pot still up here in Mendocino someplace. 

Yes. Another fellow named Ansley Cole, Jr., has a pot still near 
Ukiah, too, and there are several at Guild. 

Oh, Elie Skofis [of Guild] . I knew Elie was always involved and 
interested. He and Bob [Robert M. ] Ivie and Guymon went to 
Europe on at least one occasion to view brandy making firsthand. 

What was your training as an undergraduate? 
Chemistry. 



Did you always expect to be in the wine industry? 



gave 



And 



No, for the first few years, when I was taking chemistry, I 
a thought to being a doctor and going into the medical 
profession. Then I decided against that, and the next most 
promising thing seemed to me to get into the wine business. 
so I did. With an undergraduate degree in chemistry it was a 
very good support for me to have going into enology. Actually, I 
believe I realized more chemistry than would otherwise have been 
required. 



The Rossi Family and Its Associates 



Teiser: You had a very strong wine tradition, certainly, from your father 
and your grandfather. What do you know of your grandfather from 
family tradition? How would you describe him--Pietro C. Rossi? 



Rossi: He died in 1911, and I didn't make my appearance until 1924, so 
there was a thirteen-year span. But from what I have heard 
others say, he was a very gentle person and quite a religious 
person, and treated people fairly. As I recall, there was a 
story of when he was in the cellar and somebody pumped wine into 
two tanks which were dry and so were not ready to hold wine, and 
consequently they lost a considerable amount of wine. My 
grandfather, instead of just blowing up over the matter, went up 
to the man and said, "You've made a mistake, you realize that? I 
expect it won't happen again," without losing his cool. That 
seemed to be the way he was . 

In 1906 , after the fire , when they had the winery in San 
Francisco, there was a considerable inventory of wine, 
apparently. They were able to preserve the wine through the 
fire, and I recall my father telling me that they did not 
increase the price of wine in virtue of a natural disaster. They 
felt that it wasn't right for them to take advantage of others 
who had lost their wine, when they had been spared their wine-- 
actually, after a lot of pleading with army engineers not to blow 
up the building. 

Teiser: Where was the winery? 

Rossi: It was at Battery and Greenwich Streets. 

I have a little historical document that my father wrote 
that is kind of interesting. 

Teiser: Was your grandfather tall? 

Rossi: I don't think he was exceptionally tall. For some reason I 

visualize him as being maybe five-feet-ten; I don't think he was 
six feet tall. You often see him next to Mr. Sbarboro, and I 
think Mr. Sbarboro was exceptionally short, so that may have made 
him look tall in stature. Maybe they didn't drink as much milk 
in those days; I don't know. 

Teiser: I found in The Bancroft Library a letter your grandfather had 

written suggesting that American wine be served to American Navy 
people, or at Navy banquets. It made him a very strong American 
Italian, expressing great patriotism. It was to Frederick 
Taggert, who was in the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce. 



See Appendix I . 



Rossi: [reads it] That's the first time I've seen this letter. It's 

interesting that the tone of the letter is not for them to serve 
exclusively Italian Swiss Colony; he'd like for them to serve 
Italian Swiss Colony, but if they didn't, at least serve a 
California wine in preference to other wines. Which is a good 
spirit. 

Teiser: The other item I have is an 1895 bill. 

Rossi: Oh, for goodness' sakes. [reads it] Fourteen cases of Zinfandel 
for forty -six dollars! That's quite a bargain by today's 
standards . 

Teiser: Continuing to trace the wine tradition in your family, your 

father [Edmund A. Rossi] was in the wine industry throughout his 
life, was he not? 

Rossi: Yes. He went to St. Ignatius College, which is the same as the 
University of San Francisco today. Then I believe he spent a 
year with Professor [Frederic T.] Bioletti at the University of 
California in Berkeley. (When I speak of my father, I'm speaking 
also of his twin brother, Robert [D.]; they were very close, and 
certainly their educational backgrounds and business careers 
paralleled one another's very, very closely.) Anyway, they went 
to the University of San Francisco, graduated. I think in those 
days they had more of a liberal arts degree, and then he went on 
to take the scientific winemaking course from the University of 
California at Berkeley. 

They finished their studies in 1909. Then they went to 
Europe shortly thereafter with my grandfather to tour some of the 
winemaking regions of Europe. As a matter of fact, they found a 
type of fermenting tank in use in Northern Algeria which provided 
for automatic infusion of the fermenting red juice over the 
pomace to extract color. This system was adapted at Asti. They 
also learned of the use of a material called sulfur dioxide, 
which turned out to be quite an asset, when used in proper 
amounts , for making wine . 

My father and uncle were hardly in the business before my 
grandfather died, in 1911. That was a terrible tragedy and an 
enormous shock to the family with ten children. So in virtue of 
that, it was shortly thereafter that, in 1915, they sold their 
share in Italian Swiss Colony to California Wine Association, 



first half interest was sold in 1901, the second in 1911, although 
it was not announced until later. 



and then both Bob and Ed worked for California Wine Association 
for several years. My father was here at Asti as superintendent 
of the plant, and Robert was in charge of the San Francisco 
operation. Robert was absent for Army duty during the First 
World War. 

In any case, in 1920 they formed a company- -this was after 
the start of Prohibition- -that was called the Asti Grape Products 
Company, which sold grapes and concentrate for home winemaking or 
for juices. They survived through Prohibition in that way. Of 
course, it was not just themselves: there was Enrico Prati, who 
was a partner of theirs through their business life; and then the 
Seghesios had an interest in the company. From my father's 
recollection, the initial capital was $240,000. Their assets 
were the vineyards and the winery at Asti. In 1924 they received 
from California Wine Association the right to use the Italian 
Swiss Colony brands. The Seghesios sold their interest in 1933 
to a gentleman by the name of A. J. Merle. 

Teiser: So there was continuity, really, at least in grape products and 
vineyards? 

Rossi: Oh, yes. Following Prohibition, during which Mr. Andrea Sbarboro 
had died (in 1923), his son, Alfred Sbarboro, stayed in touch 
with the company. The Sbarboros made an investment in the 
Italian Swiss Colony in the 1930s and, as a vice president of the 
Bank of America, Alfred had an interest as a banker in the 
Italian Swiss Colony. On Alfred's retirement from the bank in 
the 1940s, he joined the executive staff at Italian Swiss Colony. 

At the same time there was a man by the name of Bartolomeo 
Coppo, who was one of the first cellarmasters at the winery here, 
who was a very devoted and loyal employee for many, many years. 
Two of his sons, Joe and Louis, devoted their working lives 
largely to Italian Swiss Colony. 

Teiser: Was Bartolomeo a particularly talented man? 

Rossi: He was an intelligent person. His son Joe tells me he went to 

England from Italy to learn something about the selling of wine. 
Apparently they owned their own winery in Italy, and so he came 
here to the United States with some experience. He was a good 
taster. I remember him. He and Enrico Prati really made the 
blends. And he was the type of person who, just in 



deference to my father, when I took an interest in winemaking, 
was most helpful to me. 

Teiser: What kind of a person was Enrico Prati? 

Rossi: Enrico Prati was a very dynamic person. He was hard- driving, and 
I would say, having emigrated from Italy with little of anything, 
he really started from scratch and had to work very hard to 
accomplish what he was able to do in his lifetime. From his 
start in 1909 he was associated with the vineyard, so he knew the 
vineyard operation. Then in 1920, after the formation of Asti 
Grape Products Company, he took charge of the plant. He was a 
good detail man, and there was no question about who was giving 
the instruction; he was giving orders, which was fine. He was a 
very good family man, devoted to his wife and children. 

When I first started in the business in 1949, and even 
before, he would drive to Asti from San Francisco and back in the 
same day, every day. It's a chore today, but in those days it 
was even more of a chore because we didn't have the freeways. If 
he had to go down to Clovis , once the company had bought [ the 
winery at] Clovis, he'd start out a little bit earlier and go all 
the way down to Clovis and come back to Asti in the same day. I 
don't see how he did it. 

I remember one time he asked my father why he and Bob tied 
up with Prati. His answer was so typical of him, yet so 
straightforward: "We decided we didn't want him working against 
us, so we decided we'd have him work with us." That's just about 
the way those things worked. [ laughter p A typical answer for 
him. You didn't need six pages of personnel questionnaires to 
answer that one . 

Teiser: Is it Prati sons and grandchildren who are with Martini & Prati? 

Rossi: In addition to Edward Prati and Elmo Martini, Ed's son, Edward R. 
Prati, and Elmo's two sons, Jim and Tom, are working for the 
winery. 

In 1951 Enrico Prati and Elmo Martini leased the W. A. 
Taylor Winery, a two-million gallon plant near Forestville. 
After Enrico died in 1952 , Edward Prati and Elmo Martini bought 
the winery. They were in the bulk wine business and bottled 



further recollections of Bartolomeo Coppo, see pp. 24-25. 
2 For additional recollections of Enrico Prati, see pp. 17-18 and 21-22 



under both the Fountain Grove label and the Martini & Prati 
label. 

Teiser: Let's go back into your family on the other side. Your other 
grandfather was Justinian Caire, but did you say you had no 
special relationship with his vineyard or his interest in wine? 

Rossi: Justinian Caire, as I understand it, came around the Horn in the 
mid-nineteenth century and established a hardware store in San 
Francisco to serve the miners who were coming out for the gold 
rush. His initial investment in Santa Cruz Island in the Channel 
Islands was in 1869. He was a major stockholder in 1880. Under 
his direction a vineyard and a winery was established. Wine was 
made and sold-- 



Teiser: Your father and his brother went to Santa Cruz Island? 

Rossi: Yes, for vacations. It was something more than a Boy Scout trip, 
because it had fairly rough facilities. I guess they had wild 
pigs or boars on the island, and they rode horses. You had to 
get to the island through fairly rough seas; the water is choppy 
through the Channel Islands of Santa Monica. I suppose a boat 
came over once a week with supplies for the people who were 
running sheep there on the island, or whatever their activities 
were. I remember him speaking fondly of his summers, however 
frequently he went there as a boy. 

Teiser: Was it through that connection that you happened to have an 
interest in learning French as a child? 

Rossi: No, no. Because as a boy my father spoke both French and Italian 
before he spoke English. As a matter of fact, when he went to 
the first grade at St. Brigid's in San Francisco, he couldn't 
speak English. So they called him Froggy because he couldn't 
speak English. But the fact was that all his life he spoke 
fluent French and fluent Italian; he just cherished the ability 
to speak fluently in three languages. My mother spoke French 
fluently . 

We had a family reunion over the weekend, and I should send 
you a copy of the article that appeared in the Press Democrat. 
There were 130 of us that met; we had a family reunion from all 
over California at the family home up here at Asti. The central 
figure was Father Carlo Rossi, who is a Jesuit at the University 
of San Francisco. He has a Doctor's degree in romance languages, 



Teiser: 
Rossi: 



and speaks six languages quite fluently, 
were quite fluent in languages. 

You have an aunt who taught French, too? 



So all of the Rossis 



I have two aunts who went into the Sacred Heart order. One was 
[A.] Olga, who taught languages. Aimee, the elder of the two 
sisters, had a degree in education and she started the University 
of San Diego, which is a private school. She was a little bit of 
a thing, but she was very enthusiastic and had a winning way. 
Her enthusiasm was meant for leadership, and people found it hard 
to refuse her, I guess, when she wanted donations or something. 

Teiser: Are there others in that generation who are still alive? 

Rossi: I have three aunts who are still alive, of my dad's sisters. One 
was not able to be here. Albina [Rossi] Wall, who is the mother 
of five boys, was here, and four of her five sons were here. 
Eleanor [Rossi] O'Donnell has two daughters, one in San Diego and 
the other down the Peninsula, and they were here with some of 
their children. So we had a very good party. 

Teiser: What sort of person was your uncle, Robert Rossi? Your father 
spoke of him in his interview, but not at any length. 

Rossi: [pause] Well, of course he and my father were very close, and 

there was just complete confidence and loyalty between the two. 
From a personality point of view, I would say that perhaps my 
father was a little more serious, and my uncle was a little less 
serious. To put it another way, everything else considered- -not 
to say anything against my father, but to say something pro 
Robert- -Robert had a better sense of humor. That may have 
developed over the years, since he married a lady by the name of 
Nellie Mahoney who had a marvelous sense of humor. She probably 
fine-tuned his sense of humor in a hurry. 

Teiser: His son is Robert? 

Rossi: His son is Robert, and he has another son, Richard. And then 
there was a daughter, Mary Elena, who died. She married a 
doctor. Her husband died very young, and then Elena died several 
years ago, in 1983. So there are just the two sons left. 

Teiser: The son, Robert, is now with Heublein, is that right? 



L Mrs. Wall died December 26, 1988. 



10 



Rossi: Right. Our careers paralleled one another. He is some four 

years older than I. Initially involved in operations, in more 
recent times he has been concerned with Heublein Wine's grape and 
wine acquisition programs. 

Teiser: Is Richard in the wine business? 

Rossi: No. He went with his father-in-law's firm, Sinks Manufacturing. 
They manufacture paint-spray guns and other equipment; their 
headquarters are in Chicago. 



Early Experience with Wine 



Teiser: I asked you earlier if you had always had wine at home as a 
youngster, and you told the story about your father- - 

Rossi: Where my father had given me a taste test about red and white 
wine? I was just a little shaver, and he was overjoyed when I 
could tell the difference. [laughter] 

Teiser: How old were you? 

Rossi: I think I was probably ten or twelve. 

Teiser: Did he make you close your eyes? 

Rossi: He made me close my eyes, and he gave me a glass of red wine and 
a glass of white wine. And I was able to tell the difference. 
He was always naturally enthusiastic, but, gee, he really got 
excited over that. As youngsters, as my sister and I grew up, 
we'd get just a few more drops of red wine with the water than we 
had the previous year. From the time we were seven or eight 
years old we always had a little bit of red wine in the water, 
with the idea of moderation. We always respected that. As a 
matter of fact, the whole family did that. It was the same thing 
with my cousins. 

Teiser: Were you as kids encouraged to go into the family wine business? 

Rossi: Not really. I think that my mother, having lived through the 
difficulties my father had, felt that maybe going into the 
medical profession would be a better life in many ways: one has 
his own profession, a degree of independence, and I guess it was 
financially rewarding then (and I guess it's still rewarding 
now). But even more than that, one has an opportunity of doing 



11 



something for others. In my mother's family there had been 
doctors on the Brandt side. They were Dutch people who had gone 
to England, and then from England they went out to the Azores. 
Some of the family not only stayed on the Azores but were also on 
the island of Madeira. 



George Henry Brandt, a great grandfather, was born in the 
Azores and became a doctor. He married Amie Ellicot, who came to 
Madeira in 1821 from England. He established vineyards and a 
winery during the mid-nineteenth century. With his death the 
venture went to other hands. I would like to look into the 
history of this wine endeavor from my mother's side of the 
family. 

To turn back to George Henry Brandt, the doctor, he came to 
Lisbon to work there during the yellow fever epidemic of 1858, at 
the risk of his own life, for which he was given a medal by 
Pedro V, the King of Portugal. The interesting thing was that 
one of the ancestors several generations back in the Fonseca 
family (the people who are associated with Lancers ; as a matter 
of fact, the Fonseca family still owns Jose Maria de la Fonseca 
Successors) received the same award from King Pedro V within two 
or three years of my great-grandfather's receiving it. Antonio 
Grillez, who is the general manager there at Lancers, was amazed 
that one of his forebears and one of my forebears had received 
exactly the same award from the same king within two or three 
years of each other. It's a small world; an amazing coincidence. 



The Winery at Asti 



Rossi: I think it's important for people to realize that this winery, 
which has a capacity of some 25,000 tons, which is a large 
capacity for grapes in terms of this area, was really built 
that way to handle those tons ; they handled that kind of tonnage 
through the 1960s and 1970s, but they also handled very large 
tonnage almost immediately after Prohibition. After Prohibition, 
of course, the predominant class of wines that was being sold was 
the dessert wines, fortified wines. So Italian Swiss Colony had 
its base here at Asti, in contrast to other large wineries in the 
business which were essentially San Joaquin Valley-based and who 
came to the North Coast for whatever premium wines they 



Edmund A. Rossi, Jr., has worked with Lancers as a consultant for a 
number of years. 



12 



needed from Sonoma, Mendocino, and Napa counties. As a matter of 
fact, they brought the grapes from the Valley up here to process 
them. 

So this plant crushed grapes not only for table winemaking, 
but also crushed grapes for dessert winemaking. I can show you 
the sign, "Sherry Cookers," over the door of the building where 
we used to bake sherries. And we used to have a large still to 
make neutral grape spirits to fortify, and we had another area 
where we had set aside tanks specifically to make vermouth 
extracts, as well as dry and sweet vermouth. So this was a plant 
that was totally integrated for the whole wine business, right 
here. That's what its mission was. 

Then it was only later, as business was reestablished to 
avoid the cost of hauling grapes up from the San Joaquin Valley, 
that Italian Swiss Colony made the decision to buy the winery in 
Clovis from the Tarpey family. Dessert wines were then made at 
Clovis. 

Teiser: About when was that? 

Rossi: I believe it was in 1940, and before they sold to the National 

Distillers [Corporation] in 1942. I believe it was a year or two 
prior to that that National had bought Shewan-Jones Winery at 
Lodi. 

To meet the need for grapes for dessert wine needed for 
sales after Repeal, the Italian Swiss Colony people made a deal 
with Di Giorgio for so many gallons of dessert wine; they gave 
him an equity share in the business. 

Teiser: From what I have learned, I think the arrangement with Di Giorgio 
began just before Repeal, when everybody could see Repeal coming. 
There's a printed program in the Huntington Library that was 
issued at the time of the dedication of a plaque in honor or 
memory of Joseph Di Giorgio, at the town of Di Giorgio. There 
was a banquet, and a number of people, including your father, 
spoke. That arrangement began when Joseph Di Giorgio was driving 
past Asti from Ukiah. He looked over and saw this winery, and 
said to his driver to stop. And he came and asked, in short, do 
you want some grapes? They said yes, and so the arrangement 
began by which he sent grapes here. Somehow he was paid for them 
in stock, and so the longer he continued the more stock he owned. 
He continued until he built his own winery. I think that's the 
way the story went. 

Rossi: That's interesting. 




An early sunny morning view of one of the vineyards surrounding the Asti 
winery, winter 1988. 



13 



Teiser: That's from several sources, including an interview with two 
Di Giorgio nephews, Joseph A. and Robert, cousins. Joseph 
Di Giorgio, Sr. , had more grapes than he knew what to do with. 
He had an arrangement with a winery, and something went wrong 
with it. That was the story. 



Rossi: Well, that's fairly typical of the way my father thought, you 
see, being fairly conservative on the financing. He'd rather 
give away a portion of the equity and then have a stronger 
capital base to work on. 

Some time in the early 1930s, if not in the late 1920s, my 
aunts put some money into the company. There was Esther, who was 
the elder, and Beatrice, Albina, and Eleanor. I think they all 
put money in. They bought a minor interest. 

Teiser: What were their married names? 

Rossi: Albina Wall, Esther Rossi (she never married), Eleanor O'Donnell, 
and Beatrice Torrens . 



The Sale to National Distillers. 19A2 



Teiser: When National Distillers came shopping to buy in California, how 
did they happen to light upon Italian Swiss, and how did Italian 
Swiss happen to sell? 

Rossi: I think they had had an interest in the wine business, because 
they had already bought Shewan- Jones . Schenley, of course, had 
bought Roma, and Seagrams had bought Paul Masson. I'm not 
certain about that sequence- -when Seagrams bought Paul Masson; it 
could have been later. 

Teiser: I think National's purchase of Shewan- Jones was really the first. 



See Robert and Joseph A. Di Giorgio, The Di Giorgios: From Fruit 
Merchants to Corporate Innovators, an oral history interview conducted 1983, 
Regional Oral History Office, The Bancroft Library, University of California, 
Berkeley, 1986. 

2 

^Seagrams bought an interest in Paul Masson Vineyards in 1943, 

controlling interest in 1950. 



14 



Rossi: Then I think the Cellas saw that that was a good chance to sell 
Roma to Schenley, and then they turned around and established 
their own winery two years later. 

My father was fifty- six at that point, in 1942 [when Italian 
Swiss Colony was sold to National Distillers). I remember my 
uncle saying, "Well, the time to sell something is when you have 
a buyer, not when you don't have a buyer." That's pretty simple, 
but if you think about it for a moment, it makes a lot of sense. 
So that was a dominating factor in the issue, plus the fact that 
as the wine business was growing it became more and more capital 
intensive. 



Finally, there were stockholders in the company- -my aunts, 
my father's sisters- -who had equity in the company. I think he 
and his brother, Robert, felt it was an opportunity for them to 
get their share out and into cash so they could reinvest it in 
something that was more marketable and would have a dependable 
return on their investment, so that they could realize a more 
pleasant lifestyle. The Sbarboro family had an investment 
interest dating from the Repeal years which they may have desired 
cashed out. Di Giorgio, with 37.5 percent interest, was a 
factor. Lastly, they sold because the Rossi brothers, E. Prati, 
and A. J. Merle wanted to sell. 

When National Distillers approached Italian Swiss Colony 
with the idea of selling, it was my father and Alfred Sbarboro 
who went back and negotiated with National Distillers on the sale 
of Italian Swiss Colony to National Distillers. My father took 
Alfred with him because he was a good financial man who knew the 
business. I think between the two of them they came out with a 
better price than they would otherwise have.*- 

They decided they would continue to work for National 
Distillers on a day-to-day basis, not with a contract but on a 
handshake. Because I know my father, and very likely Robert, 
felt that, well, if they weren't getting along, the contract 
would be useless. They didn't want to have a contract and then 
collect on the contract for not having worked. They wanted it 
clean. If they got along, they wanted to work with them; if they 
didn't get along, they wanted to be free to walk out. 

That lasted from 1942 to 1947. There was just a year or a 
little more than a year between the date that my father left the 



Paoli Gumina, The Italians of San Francisco, mentioned the price 
at $3,673,000. 



15 



Teiser: 
Rossi: 



Teiser: 



Rossi : 



company and the date that I joined. I remember, just as a side 
story that father told me, that the people from National came out 
and mentioned to my father that now that he was the president of 
the company he was going to get such-and-such a salary, and that 
Enrico Prati and father's brother, Robert, were going to get 
another salary, somewhat less, because they were vice-presidents. 
My father said, "No, that's not the way it's going to be. We've 
always been partners, and we're partners now, and we will all 
have the same salary." That was the way he wanted it to be. 
That's the way he felt about his partners. 

Was your uncle a good executive, a good business manager? 

Oh, yes, the best. He knew the entire business. He'd take a 
sales trip East, and he'd call my father at home and they'd be 
screaming at each other over the telephone. I remember my mother 
saying, "I don't understand why you have to yell at each other; 
you can still hear each other over the telephone." It was the 
Italian temperament; as they got more excitable the voices became 
louder. But they were both good executives and they understood 
each other, and they got along very well. 

And they had a philosophy between the three of them. If 
there was a project that came up that they all endorsed, they 
would go on it. If there was one who was reticent, they 
wouldn't. It was a fairly good philosophy, because it meant that 
one could queer an idea for the three . They might miss an 
opportunity, but, on the other hand, if they took a risk on a 
certain venture and they had all gone for it, then the 
responsibility would be divided three ways, for better or worse. 

#* 

You told a story earlier about Louis Martini giving a talk- -in 
relation to Italians shouting at each other- - 

I remember they used to have these Sonoma County winegrowers ' 
meetings up here, and sometimes the Sonoma County group would 
meet with the Napa County group. Maybe it was just the Sonoma 
County group, but in any case Louis Martini was the guest 
speaker. He had started down in Kingsburg, and he was talking 
about the days during Prohibition, I suppose when there was a 
certain amount of wine made and sold illegally. He made a 
comment that implied that Italian Swiss was involved in this sort 
of an operation, if nothing more than in an ancillary way. There 
must have been 150 in the room, and my father stood up like a 
bolt and said, "No, Louie, you got it all wrong. We weren't 
involved in that kind of an operation at all." And the two of 



16 



Teiser: 



Rossi: 



them stood and argued, you know, as if they were standing on a 
street in Rome and there was nobody else in the room. Everybody 
else was kind of astounded. After they had their argument, they 
had a glass of red wine and everybody was happy; everything 
cooled off and they were as good friends after the meeting as 
they were before . 

There were some things where my dad would call the shot 
right then. He wasn't going to let five seconds go by before he 
got that one organized. The two of them were funny, because they 
were pretty much the same vintage and pretty much the same 
temperament. I would say Louis was a little bit more volatile 
than my father. But if you stirred my father the wrong way, he 
was volatile, too, particularly on any issues of right or wrong- 
-moral issues. I used to tease him that the only time I ever saw 
him drive fast was on the way to church. [laughter] 

Did you work in the winery as a youngster, before you came to 
work there as an adult? 

Before I started to work in 1949, I worked in the laboratory with 
Lyman Cash, I guess for maybe a couple of summers. 



Teiser: What was he like? 

Rossi: Lyman was a good chemist. He was a very good technician. He was 
amazingly productive in running analyses, and he himself had 
developed what has been used all these years as the Cash 
modification of a volatile acid still. I guess there have been 
thousands of stills made according to his modification. I think 
he was in the Navy during the war. He wasn't married when I knew 
him, and I always had the impression that he was sort of a lonely 
person. But he was good to me and helpful to me. He was one of 
those persons who could be aggressive if people hit him the wrong 
way, simply because I think he had a little bit of a chip on his 
shoulder. But if you approached him right and instead of telling 
him to do something asked him to help you, there was no end to 
what he would do. I remember people sort of scoffed when he went 
to Gallo, and they said he wouldn't last there for three months. 
And he was with Gallo for years and turned out to be one of the 
most loyal employees they ever had. 



17 



Working for National Distillers. 1949-1953 



Teiser: 



Rossi : 



Teiser: 
Rossi: 



When you came out of college you went directly to work at 
National Distillers? 

Yes, in San Francisco. When I first came to Italian Swiss Colony 
it was in February 1949, and I worked at 781 Beach Street, which 
is across from Aquatic Park. John R. Deane, who I believe had 
been a two-star general during the war, was the one who hired me. 
He was the one who took my father's place as the president of the 
company. The man who was in charge of production was Enrico 
Prati, because Enrico Prati stayed on with the company after my 
father and uncle left. The vice-president in charge of sales was 
Bruno (B. C.) Solari, more commonly known as Larry Solari. The 
premium brand at that time was called the Asti brand, with 
several generic labels and several varietal labels. The Asti 
brand wines were under the responsibility of Ray Giordano. At 
the same time, another man from my father's era, Bernard Davitto, 
who lived in Sonoma County near the town of Sonoma (in fact, he 
was a friend of August Sebastiani) , would come down once a week 
and have lunch with General Deane. He acted as a consultant to 
the winery, or a consultant to Deane. 

My first boss was Elbert [M. ] Brown, who was a top man in 
the business. He was a good wine taster and had a strong 
academic background. He used to think academics, and he had a 
way of applying chemistry to winemaking. He was very capable on 
yield numbers- -gallons of juice per ton of grapes, and pounds of 
skins and pounds of stems and pounds of seeds per ton of grapes, 
by way of determining what the expected yields could be. He had 
done a lot of that kind of work. I would say he was as advanced 
as anybody in the business in that area of technology. 

What kind of man was he personally? 

Personally I think he was a little bit shy. He and Enrico Prati 
were very different people, and they didn't always hit it off all 
that well. But once they agreed on an idea, and Prati could get 
Brown's academic thinking on something, and Brown could put his 
thinking to some practical idea that Prati wanted to put 
together, then the two of them were unbeatable. They could bring 
different backgrounds and different views to the same project. 
Prati was always going off on something new or something 



further recollections of John R. Deane, see pages 22-24. 



18 



different; he was very imaginative. On the other hand, Elbert 
was a top winemaker. 

Anyway, when I first went to Italian Swiss Colony I was 
there on Beach Street with Elbert Brown, and we acted as a 
quality control center. We'd have samples sent in of a current 
blend, a proposed blend or two, and we'd give the okay on which 
blend we wanted the winemakers to make. When it was made they'd 
send another sample in. 

We had a small laboratory there where we could do some 
practical research projects. I recall that we did quite an 
extensive study with dry and sweet vermouths. Another project 
was to refine the Hubach test which was used as a control for 
blue fining and later Cuf ex in wines . 

Back to Enrico Prati, he was the first person to put 
commercial vineyards in the Anderson Valley. In 1946 Italian 
Swiss Colony established a two -hundred- acre vineyard and had 
contracted for another one hundred acres. The project was 
abandoned in the early 1950s because the grapes didn't sugar up 
as much as expected. We were ahead of our time; early ripening 
varieties and sparkling wine making had not yet made their mark. 

He wasn't highly educated, you might say, from a book point 
of view, but he was very intelligent and had an extraordinary 
amount of drive. So he would just try these ideas in a practical 
way. For example, Enrico developed an invention on which I 
believe he wound up getting a patent, which had to do with 
putting the cases in railroad cars and then shoring them up or 
arranging them in such a way that there would be less breakage. 
It was not unusual for him to come up and see Elbert Brown and 
say, "Brown, I have an idea. Let's do this." Brown's initial 
reaction was that it was crazy, and then he'd get to thinking 
about it. Though they were a bit competitive, they were the kind 
that if they put their heads together they would make a 
tremendous team, because Brown had the technical knowledge and 
Prati had the practical knowledge and tremendous drive to get 
things done . 

The man who used to come out from New York was Ira Siphert, 
who was the chief chemist for National Distillers. He was great 
on manuals of analytical methods, sanitation, production manuals, 
and all that sort of thing, which was valuable. So we would go 
over these manuals to be sure that our analytical procedures were 
okay. But it tended to emphasize that the people in the 
laboratories were more chemists than winemakers. National 
Distillers, at least at that time, were not tuned in to 



19 



winemakers ; they were tuned in to chemists. We had to try to 
break away from that attitude in the industry. 

As a matter of fact, we did, because the truth of the matter 
was that in 1950 the American Society of Enologists was formed, 
with the idea of giving more statuff to the winemakers. Up to 
that point the people who were running the cellars were really 
the cellar foremen, and if the cellar foreman moved a wine from 
tank A to tank B, he'd take a sample from before and after and 
run it into the laboratory and ask for an analysis. The chemist 
was there just to give them the results. But the decisions about 
what to do with the wine really came from the cellar foreman, who 
might have been wonderful from a practical experience point of 
view, but who likely was not a trained winemaker. 

So the transition had to come when the trained people from 
Davis, and subsequently Fresno State, came in and said what they 
wanted to do with the wine. Then they would issue instructions 
as to what should be done with the wine, and the cellar foreman 
would see that it got done. And the chemist, who was a lab 
technician, would run the analysis. University- trained men had 
to be something more than bench analysts. Winemakers had to take 
charge. They needed professional status. 

Actually, this morning I was reading about how Charlie 
[Charles] Holden, who was the first president of the American 
Society of Enologists, initiated all of that. He had been 
associated with the brewing industry, and the brewing industry 
had put out a very good magazine called something like 
Wallerstein Laboratory Communications. It had excellent 
articles, and they were done on a technical basis for the whole 
industry. Charlie foresaw that this was what the wine industry 
needed. The idea of having trade secrets to the exclusion of 
good technical communication wasn't really the broad and best way 
of doing things to advance an industry. 

Teiser: You've seen a lot of changes. 

Rossi: Yes. That took us into National Distillers until about 1953. 
Most of the wines were dessert wines, fortified wines, in the 
early 1950s. Table wines we had were from North Coast for 
Italian Swiss Colony brands, and from the Lodi area for Shewan- 
Jones brands. At that time the plant people that I worked with 
during my years under National Distillers, in addition to Elbert 



additional recollections of the formation of the American Society 
of Enologists, see p. 25. 



20 



Brown and Lyman Cash, were Myron Nightingale at Lodi; Elie 
Skofis, my cousin Bob Rossi, and Russ Overby were all at Clovis; 
Ed Prati, Joe Aligretti, and Doug Davis were at Asti. Paul Heck 
was first at Lodi and then at Asti. 



Rossi: General Deane was appointed president in 1946. My father and my 
uncle had pretty much of a five-year understanding with National. 
After General Deane came in they stayed about another year. 

I remember Alfred Sbarboro was fairly short in stature, but 
he was lean and had an enormous amount of energy. He was really 
in charge of what would be described today as capital projects. 
If we were spending and investing money in one of the wineries, 
he'd go out and see how it was coming and maybe do some of the 
negotiation of the contracts and that sort of thing. It wasn't 
that Enrico Prati couldn't do it; there's just so much a person 
can do with his time. So, as I recall, that's what Alfred did, 
and they were a good team. 

Getting back to my father for a moment, he was in charge of 
the bookkeeping out here. That's kind of a simple way of putting 
it, but he was in charge of the company's finances, keeping track 
of them. When one of the top finance people came out from 
National Distillers to see his books, he was really amazed that 
they were so accurate. The interesting point is that it had been 
my father who had introduced a system of LIFO--last in, first out 
account ing --which he considered to be very appropriate for a 
commodity business. Because if the last wine in would be at a 
low price, the first wine out would be at a low price; if the 
last wine in would be at a high price, the first wine out would 
be at a high price. This method minimized distortions between 
the evaluation of inventory and the current price. LIFO system 
was in contrast to LIFO, where the first wine in was the first 
out. 

One of the executives at National Distillers, Mr. Tom Balfe, 
brought LIFO back to National Distillers from Italian Swiss 
Colony, and I believe he introduced it to them. I'm not quite 
sure what he expected to see out here in California, but in any 
case he found the books were kept right. My dad was very 
conscientious about it. 

I have at home some records of the inventory that they kept. 
They kept an inventory down to the horses, and they'd show the 
horses' age. [laughs] At the end of the year they'd say, 
"Tommy, aged forty, died last year," and they would write his 



21 



value off --$25 or something, that was gone. I say that 
facetiously, but the fact is that it showed that they didn't miss 
too much, really. 

Those are two points I wanted to make about my father and 
about Alfred. Enrico appeared on the Italian Swiss Colony scene 
in 1909. He was out in the vineyard; he turned out to be the 
vineyard foreman for years. I think my father was the actual 
manager of the winery when they sold to California Wine 
Association in 1915, following my grandfather's death in 1911. 
The fact is that in 1920 my father and uncle and Enrico formed 
this partnership and bought Italian Swiss Colony- -this plant- - 
and the Seghesios were involved. I'm not sure; perhaps the 
Seghesios bought Italian Swiss Colony with Prati first, and then 
my father and uncle bought their share from them. 

Teiser: You told a story one day when I was here about Prati calling you 
on the phone -- 

Rossi: Yes. Like a lot of Italians, he would put an "h" in front of his 
vowels, and he used to call me "Hed." If he asked you a question 
and you answered the truth, you were fine, but if you bent it a 
little bit you were in trouble right away. He'd ask me to figure 
out what I thought the price of a wine should be and then he'd 
call up half an hour later and ask, "Hed, do you have the 
answer?" Or, "You will bring me the answer?" I'd say, 
"Mr. Prati, I don't have the answer yet." "That's all right, 
Hed, you bring it down when you have it." But if I told him that 
I would have the answer in five minutes and I knew I wouldn't 
have it for an hour, I was in huge trouble, because six minutes 
later he'd call up and ask, "Hed, where are you?" [laughs] 

Teiser: Was he a good wine man? 

Rossi: Oh, yes. In those days we used to buy a lot of wines from 

wineries up and around, and he'd horse-trade with the winery 
owner, you know. Then he'd say, "Send samples." He'd take the 
sample and we would taste the wine. From the degree of redness 
in the foam you could pretty much tell how dark the color was. 
But if the color was dark, he'd say to me, "Hed, you will run an 
S02?" If the S02 was low, that would make the color appear 
darker. Say you're looking for a level of S02 that would be 
maybe twenty-five or thirty parts free, with a hundred parts per 
million total, and the S02 was almost nil free and maybe fifty 
parts per million total, the wine's going to appear darker. So 
before he'd buy the wine just on the color of the foam, he'd 
always say, "Hed, you will run the S0 2 ?" And I'd say, "Yes sir, 
Mr. Prati," and run the S02 . 



22 



Teiser : 



Rossi: 



Teiser: 
Rossi: 
Teiser: 
Rossi: 



Then I'd call him up, and he'd say thank you. If the SO 2 
was low, he'd say, "Hed, that's not the real color; we'll offer 
them ten cents less." [laughs] Then the fellow on the other end 
of the phone would scream in agony. Prati would put the phone 
down and say, "Hed, you will see, he will call me back and come 
to our price. " 



He was always very good to me. 
affection for my father. 



It was obviously out of 



So that is a little bit about Enrico. He had a little bit 
of a difficult transition from the padrone system to the more 
modern system. He didn't delegate too well, and that was hard 
for him. But as he got into dealing with more educated people 
and winemakers , then he would respect their opinions. 

It was earlier on a very feudal system here at Asti, was it not? 
As much as it was an attempt to be cooperative, it sounds as if 
the Sbarboros and perhaps even your grandfather's attitudes were 
that they were taking care of people rather than that they were 
sharing responsibility. So whatever Prati was reflecting was 
perhaps inherited. 

Yes, I think that's true. The problem with the system was that 
if a man or his wife was in poor health and the padrone said, 
"I'll take care of you," that's great. But then supposing the 
padrone passes on, dies? You don't know what promises were made 
to the thirty- or forty-year-old worker, and so where does that 
leave the worker, unless that's perpetuated? It had some 
inherent weaknesses. On the other hand, the dictator system is 
marvelous and it's the best of everything, assuming that the 
dictator is a wonderful person. [laughs] 

So Prati worked after my father and uncle left the company, 
as the vice-president in charge of production, with General 
Deane. Shortly after General Deane came in he brought over 
Bruno [C.] Solari as the vice-president in charge of sales. So 
the triumvirate when I first joined the company were Deane, 
Prati, and Solari. And on the technical end, [Elbert M. ] Brown. 

That was quite a bunch. 

Yes, a good team. 

Tell a little about General Deane. 

General Deane apparently was a very, very good administrator. I 
think he was very just and very honest. But he didn't know the 



23 



wine business, and he tended to be a little bit aloof from having 
been a two-star general- -which didn't make him any less human, 
but he tended to be a little bit distant. I remember once when I 
was in San Francisco he called me up from his office down below 
and said, "Ed, are you there?" I said, "Yes, this is Ed Rossi." 
He said, "Well, I'm looking for Ed Prati." There was also 
another fellow there in purchasing named Ed Vallejo, and I made 
the comment, "We have too many Eds." There was just a dead 
silence on the other end of the phone, except to imply, "We can 
take care of that one." It was kind of a bad put-down. The next 
day he came around and put his arm around my shoulders and 
everything was fine. He realized that he had been unnecessarily 
caustic. 

Those things can happen. But he was a good administrator, 
and I think he saw the needs. One of the things he saw the need 
for was an adequate wine inventory control . So he put me in 
charge of that, along with Elbert Brown. Wine inventory control 
was really my baby, and it was a difficult task because I was 
just one and I was trying to keep the records myself, or else I 
had a young lady there doing that. But it was sort of the 
forerunner of what we're doing today, and I think we were among 
the first to do that. He was perceptive enough to see that from 
a business point of view we had an exceptionally large proportion 
of our assets tied up in wines. 

In those days maybe three quarters of our wines were dessert 
wines and one quarter were table wines. If you had a mix of 
dessert wines that was lopsided, then you wound up with a fairly 
significant amount of money that instead of being used up that 
year would have to wait for the following year to be liquidated. 
In the meantime it was inefficient financially to be carrying 
inventory that you didn't need. So it was important to always 
know pretty much where you were in relation to sales, which is 
the same thing today. If we weren't in balance, then we had to 
get in balance. That's standard operating procedure today. 

But I think he was one of the first who actually effected a 
wine inventory control. That doesn't mean to say that the other 
wineries didn't pretty much do the same thing. But he saw that 
need and I think it's fair to say that he was one of the first 
who at least formally recognized that need. 

General Deane was a very pleasant man. Bernard Davitto, who 
was in the original Gambarelli & Davitto from New York, had come 
out to retire in Sonoma. Bernard was very perceptive; he found 
all kinds of opportunities . He always wanted to go back into the 
wine business out in California because he foresaw tremendous 



24 



Teiser: 
Rossi: 



Teiser: 
Rossi: 



opportunities. The fact of the matter is, he was more aggressive 
in his views than my father and uncles were , because they were 
here and he had come over from Italy and saw what tremendous 
opportunities there were. He always wanted to go back into the 
business, but I think he had a son and a daughter who were too 
young to do it. If either Bob Rossi or myself would have been 
inclined, we could have gone into business with him. As it 
turned out, he would have been very right, because from 1950 to 
now- -if a person had gone into the wine business in 1950, he 
would have done very well. That was sort of an aside. 

Bernard would come down and have lunch with Deane once a 
week and was sort of his consultant. He'd keep his ear to the 
ground for whatever was going on in the wine business. He was a 
crony of August Sebastiani, so he talked with Sebastiani and some 
of his other friends up there. Then he'd come down and chitchat 
with Deane, they'd have lunch together, and that was it. That 
was sort of the way Deane would operate . He would come up and 
ask my views of something, or he'd ask Prati's views about 
something, or he'd ask Davitto's views about something- -sort of 
intelligence gathering, which is a carryover from the Army. Then 
he'd make his decision. I'd say he was a good administrator. He 
once said that getting along in the wine business was 
considerably more difficult than dealing with the Russians. 
[ laughs ] 

What was Bartolomeo Coppo like? 

I talked to his son the other day, who is into his eighties now. 
Bartolomeo came to San Francisco in 1919 and worked for my father 
or uncle. Then he came to Asti in 1921 and was with the company 
until he died in 1956. So there was Bartolomeo and then there 
were three children: there was Joe, who worked in the bottling 
department here; Louis, who was considerably younger, who worked 
in the cellar; and a sister, Lena, who married Frank Seghesio. 
Frank was a brother of Eugene and Arthur Seghesio, Eda Prati 
(Enrico's wife), and Inez Curnow. 

Apparently the family had had a winery and vineyards in 
Italy, and Bartolomeo himself apparently went to a wine sales 
school in London. He was extraordinarily devoted and a good wine 
man. His tasting was good and his blends were good. I learned a 
lot from him. His loyalty was just totally unswerving. 
What was his position here? 

He was in charge of the cellar. Which brings up a kind of an 
interesting point: I joined the company in 1949, and in 1950 and 
up until the point that Petri bought it, we were under National 



25 



Distillers. Those of us who were in the technical end of the 
business were not all that readily referred to as winemakers; we 
were referred to as chemists. And that was sort of a carryover 
from National Distillers, because the National Distillers' chief 
chemist would come out and we'd have meetings with him and Elbert 
Brown- -maybe myself, Lyman Cash, and Myron Nightingale. It was 
sort of a meeting of the chemists. Other people who didn't have 
that influence from National Distillers would be more inclined to 
call these technical people winemakers. Although I notice in 
some of the notes with Petri in 1950 or '51, Jim Gott, before he 
was the plant manager at Escalon, was designated chief chemist- 
winemaker. So it was sort of the concept of the chemist. 

This ties in, in a certain sense, to the formation of the 
American Society of Enologists in 1950, which was promulgated by 
Charlie Holden. It was the American Society of Enologists in 
those days, and was subsequently changed to the American Society 
for Enology and Viticulture. The idea was to provide a forum for 
effective communication and exchange of ideas among the technical 
people in the wine industry on a scientific basis rather than 
just an informal exchange of ideas, which we had at the Technical 
Advisory Committee. Which was okay. They weren't really 
scientifically written papers, where you'd research the 
literature and then put together your research protocol, do the 
research protocol, and then report it. You'd report your 
findings in light of what had been done before. So they wanted 
to provide that kind of a forum, and of course the University of 
California people were delighted because it gave them a place to 
publish their scientific papers. 

But the other thing was to promote the status of winemakers, 
or enologists, in the industry, so it did that. The Davis class 
of 1948 were Ernest Digardi, Guy Baldwin, Joe Stillman, [Joseph] 
Heitz, and myself and Ken Kew. Ken became associated with Martin 
Ray. We were one of the first enology classes post-World War II. 
The famous class pre -World War II, that you hear so much about, 
was Myron Nightingale, Charlie Crawford, Ze'ev Halperin, and Aram 
Ohanesian. I don't think they were a Davis class; I think they 
were a Berkeley class, perhaps under [Maynard] Joslyn. I know 
Joslyn never left Berkeley. 



26 



The Many Owners of Italian Swiss Colony 
[Interview 2: 23 February 1988 ]## 



Teiser: I wonder if we can start today by recapitulating the ownership 
of Italian Swiss Colony from Repeal on. 

Rossi: It was in 1920 that my father and Robert and Enrico Prati 

incorporated Asti Grape Products Company. One of the major 
owners at that time was also the Seghesio family. Of course 
they incorporated with the idea of selling grapes and grape 
concentrate for home winemaking, keeping the grapes that we had 
up here intact- -the good quality grapes. My understanding was 
that during the Prohibition period the grape acreage actually 
grew. (I find myself referring more and more often to that 
Sonoma County history that I wrote. The numbers seem to 
continue to be helpful.) In 1918 there were 16,000 acres of 
grapes in Sonoma County, and by 1930 the grape acreage in 
Sonoma County had increased to 21,000 acres. The fact is that 
the home winemaking was a boon for the grape growers; they just 
sold the grapes. 

In 1941 Italian Swiss Colony bought the Clovis winery from 
the Tarpey family. There are some histories written about 
Italian Swiss Colony that date the acquisition of the Clovis 
winery after 1942, which was the date that National Distillers 
bought Italian Swiss. This is not so. 

Teiser: I looked at a clipping this morning that told of Italian Swiss 
Colony enlarging that winery in 1941 and '42. 

Rossi: Exactly. 

Teiser: The Clovis winery- -was it called La Paloma? 

Rossi: Yes. You may recall that Paul Tarpey was a wine broker, and he 
was associated with Bob Salles in the wine brokerage business. 
When Paul Tarpey died, Bob Salles took it over. As a matter of 
fact, Bob Salles lived in Marin and was friendly with Joe 
Ciatti and Dante Bagnani. So when Bob died, Claire 
(Mrs. Salles, who was a niece of Paul Tarpey) had his business 
on her hands, which she sold to Ciatti and Bagnani. So the 
business Joe Ciatti has today [Joseph W. Ciatti Company] 
originated with Tarpey and Bob Salles. 



See Appendix II, "A Historical Perspective." 



27 



National Distillers bought Shewan-Jones in 1939, and they 
subsequently bought Italian Swiss Colony in 1942. Many people 
wonder how was it that Chateau Lejon and Lejon and Hartley 
brands got into the Italian Swiss Colony fold of products. 
Well, they got in because when they bought Italian Swiss 
Colony, Shewan-Jones was the main wine company that National 
Distillers owned. The operation and the coordination of 
production and sales activities was then dominated by Italian 
Swiss Colony people. Of course Italian Swiss Colony had their 
own brands: they had Italian Swiss Colony Gold Medal, Italian 
Swiss Colony Black Label Private Reserve Stock, and they had an 
Asti brand, which was a premium brand of some varietals and 
generics. At the same time they managed these brands that had 
come in from Shewan-Jones . 

Teiser: Do you know the background of Shewan-Jones? 

Rossi: I don't know who Shewan was, but Mr. Lee Jones was a grape 
grower turned winemaker up there. I think he was a fairly 
bright person, a shrewd businessman. They had a good winery 
there. I know that after 1949 and 1950 they had some wine left 
over that was essentially lees. This is an amusing story: 
they said they made the brandy out of lees . Of course , in the 
lees of the wine one accumulates a lot of the fatty acids that 
esterify from the yeast. That is what forms a cognac oil, so 
the lees brandy was always high in cognac oil character. 

In any case, they had this wine and they decided they 
would make brandy of it. They made the brandy out of it, but 
since the brandy had to be named lees brandy because it was 
made out of something less than the best material, the 
government regulations insisted that they put lees brandy on 
the label. Well, they had the label attractively made up with 
lees brandy on it. The amusing part of the story was that in 
Lodi a friend of Mr. Jones came along and looked at the brandy 
label and said, "Well, you must be very complimented--! see 
they've got your name on the label." Because his name was Lee 
Jones. [laughter] 

Of course, Lejon brand was really a contraction of Lee 
Jones' name. I don't think Lee Jones was French, but by the 
time they got through putting a French nasal tone to Lejon, 
why, "Lee-jon" turned into "Lejon," and that was the brandy. 
Anyway, they had what I would say was a good group of products. 



Mrs. J. A. Shewan was a partner initially. 



28 



They had the Chateau Lejon red, Chateau Lejon white, the 
Hartley brandy and the Lejon brandy, Lejon dry vermouth and 
Lejon sweet vermouth. I think we ultimately came out with a 
Le j on champagne . 

Shewan-Jones was really the winery where Elbert Brown 
worked; so he was a Shewan-Jones man. Shewan-Jones was one of 
the wineries where Myron Nightingale started. Also at Shewan- 
Jones, when I first went up there, Paul Heck was there as the 
plant manager --Paul, of course, being the brother of Adolph. 
I'd like to follow through on the ownership of Italian Swiss. 
It was bought by National Distillers in 1942. Then in 1949 
Petri bought Mission Bell winery from [Krikor] Arakelian. Then 
Petri formed Allied Grape Growers, who bought the wineries from 
Petri in 1951. Subsequent to that, Italian Swiss Colony was 
sold to Petri by National Distillers in 1953. At this time 
United Vintners was formed. The ISC wineries- -that is, Asti, 
Shewan-Jones at Lodi , and Clovis--were leased to Allied. In 
1958 Allied bought Community winery in Lodi. At that point 
they closed down the Shewan-Jones winery and concentrated their 
efforts on the Community winery, because one was just across 
the street from the other. 

In 1959 Petri sold United Vintners to Allied Grape 
Growers. United Vintners, up to that point, had been retained 
as Louis Petri 's winery, which was the marketing arm of the 
organization. So Petri kept the marketing arm, and the growers 
had the wineries. Profits were split between Petri and Allied 
up to 1959. In 1959 Petri sold everything to the growers, so 
United Vintners then became a subsidiary of the growers; it was 
the marketing arm for the growers, with Petri continuing to 
manage the company. At this point any profits went entirely to 
Allied Grape Growers. 

In 1961, just to get this in the record, Cella was sold to 
Allied Grape Growers. In 1964 Inglenook was sold to Allied 
Grape Growers. In 1969 United Vintners was sold 82 percent to 
Heublein. In 1978 Heublein bought the balance of United 
Vintners, the other 18 percent. In 1982 R. J. Reynolds bought 
Heublein, and in 1983 ISC wines were sold to Allied Grape 
Growers. It was about that time, in 1984, that the term United 
Vintners was dropped and Heublein Wines was substituted. 

In 1987 ISC wines were sold to ERLY Industries and we were 
renamed The Beverage Source . The other thing that happened in 
1987 is that Heublein purchased Almaden. They had no sooner 
bought Almaden than Heublein itself was sold by R. J. Reynolds 



29 



to Grand Metropolitan of England, 
isn't it? 



It's kind of a long history 



Teiser: We were wondering if there was any other California company 
that had had so many owners? 

Rossi: I don't think so. It's just mind-boggling. Then through each 
period we had a number of presidents and changes of management. 
I've served under thirteen or fourteen different presidents 
over thirty-nine years, so it's an average of one every three 
years. Even if each of the thirteen were absolutely brilliant 
people, it's always been my opinion that it has been one of the 
things that has tended to hinder our growth. In competition 
with Gallo, for example: Gallo had two men who started in the 
mid- 1930s, and they're there today, so it's an uninterrupted 
forward thrust. A person may not agree with everything they've 
done or the way they do everything, but the fact remains that 
they have a decided advantage of just having the one management 
over the years. That's just a side comment. 

Jacobson: Between all these transitions, how much sensitivity was there 
to trying to maintain some sort of continuity of traditions or 
culture? 

Rossi: Well, I think that up to the time of Heublein it was pretty 
well recognized. It was either grape growers or California 
wine people. The Heublein people were sensitive to the wine 
business, but I'll put it this way: it was a bit more 
difficult for them to understand the traditions and the family 
heritage that really merged into making United Vintners. And 
unless you're living with it on a day-to-day basis, it is more 
difficult. 

To deviate slightly, somewhere along here the Santa Fe 
wines were dovetailed into this; that was maybe in the 1960s. 
At the very least we had the Rossi family with Italian Swiss; 
Lee Jones with Shewan- Jones ; the Inglenook brand from John 
Daniel [Jr.]; the Cella brands from the Cella winery, which was 
formed once J. B. Cella and Lori [Lorenzo] Cella had left Roma; 
then we had the Santa Fe brand. So we had a lot of brands that 
represented wineries or wine brands that had been started by 
families and that had come down to one ownership. 

First off, it was difficult to totally appreciate the 
traditions and the heritages of each of five or six families. 
Then from the non- traditional side, from the strictly business 
approach, it was very, very difficult to cull out some of the 
wines that we had. Because we wound up with a tremendous 



30 



hodge-podge of brands, which made operational efficiencies very 
difficult. Maybe you'd have a Petri wine or a Santa Fe wine 
that was very, very popular, say, in one part of the country. 
Maybe total sales for the item would be 25,000 cases annually, 
and you'd have a concentration of perhaps 15,000 cases in one 
market. So in the overall scheme' of things it may not be an 
efficient brand by the time you take it, say, at a level of 
15,000 cases, split them to two or three different sizes for 
two or three different wines. It's not an efficient operation 
to keep that brand. But the person who is selling 70 or 
80 percent of that brand in a given market has a very strong 
opinion about holding his share of the market in that 
particular place, so he doesn't want to give that up. 

Another aspect of the Heublein's acquisition of United 
Vintners is that they had had a very, very successful campaign 
where they had branched out from the traditional vodka into the 
small -packaged mixed drinks in a number of shaped bottles. 
They had the martinis, the manhattans , the old fashioneds, and 
all of that just as a convenience package. It represented a 
marvelous line extension from the vodka, the best known brand 
being Smirnoff. 

They successfully had branched into these various 
cocktails, which they call "line extensions." With large 
companies line extensions are important because they feel that 
you run into certain limitations from a marketing point of view 
as to what you can do with what you have. So there's always 
the question of whether to have line extensions, and then 
there's another judgment that comes into it: how many line 
extensions is enough, and how many would be too much? 



Flavored Wines 



Rossi: Having had a huge success, described above, Heublein came into 
the wine business in 1969, and we already had had twelve years' 
experience under our belts with the flavored wines. So I think 
they saw, perhaps through rose -colored glasses, tremendous 
opportunities in the wine business by taking a relatively 
inexpensive -based wine and adding flavors to it, and then 
having a very attractive package and having a very successful 
markup. All of which rationale is perfectly okay. I think 
that what maybe wasn't totally appreciated was the 
extraordinary competitive pricing that exists in the wine 
business . 



31 



Through the 1960s, I would say, we were right down neck 
and neck with Gallo, from the 18 -percent -alcohol -flavored wines 
down to the under-14-percent-alcohol wines at 12 to 13 percent. 

The next generation down was the 9 -percent- alcohol - 
flavored wines. Well, Gallo had Boone's Farm series of wines, 
which started off with strawberry and was a huge success. Then 
we came in with our Annie Greensprings country series , and 
subsequent to that we went into our T. J. Swann series. In the 
Annie Greensprings series we simply had named the fruits on the 
label, and we had kind of a paper label that would be somewhat 
similar to somebody doing it in his own garage and putting a 
paper bag label on the bottle. On the T. J. Swann series they 
opted to just simply name them by the times of the day- -Easy 
Nights, Mellow Days- -but they didn't name the flavors, with the 
idea that perhaps the life span of the item would be extended. 



Rossi: The idea with these flavored wines --it was clearly recognized 
that up front a company would have to spend money getting the 
brands off the ground. Then, hopefully, once it had caught the 
imagination of the public it could perpetuate itself as the 
advertising funds were dropped. And if the lifespan was long 
enough you'd make up what you had invested [in advertising] in 
the early stage of the life cycle and make it up on the end of 
the life cycle. By extending the end of the life cycle by, 
say, six months, one could make the difference between making a 
profit on it versus just trading dollars. So that was the 
idea. 

Generally speaking, the first person with a new flavor was 
the one who got the lion's share of that particular market. 
Say, in 1957 we countered Gallo' s Thunderbird with our Silver 
Satin. Our Silver Satin volume never came close to 
Thunderbird' s volume. But then several years later we 
initiated a product that was under 14 percent alcohol that was 
called Bali Hai, and we enjoyed a volume of something like two 
million cases at the height of the popularity of the brand. 
And Gallo had a tropical flavored wine, but I don't think it 
ever reached that proportion. So clearly the first on the , 
block was the fellow who got the biggest piece of the pie. 



32 



Practical Projects with Elbert M. Brown 



Teiser: Getting back to the beginning of your career at National 

Distillers, you said you started work under Elbert M. Brown. 
What was he like? 

Rossi: He was a very bright person. Technically he was ahead of his 
time. He was a good wine taster, and knew wine chemistry and 
applied wine chemistry to day-to-day winemaking. It was a 
privilege to work with him. 

Teiser: Did he teach you a great deal? 

Rossi: Well, sometimes he was a little bit cranky in the morning, but 
after we had lunch things would loosen up. If you listened to 
him you could learn. In those days, in 1949 and 1950, we were 
shipping three gallons of dessert wines to one gallon of table 
wine. So we were concerned with the idea of the alcohol 
equivalency of a given wine, the equivalent proof gallon 
content of a gallon of wine as it relates to the proof gallon 
equivalent to a ton of grapes and what efficiency you could 
realize from a ton of grapes as being converted into wine. We 
developed a scheme which showed how many equivalent proof 
gallons you could get out of a ton of grapes, as translated to 
wine. 

Then we carried that through for years, as a matter of 
fact. And I think we developed a fairly sophisticated system 
of showing that it tended to relate, you might say 
unromantically , to getting a ton of grapes and determining the 
actual proof gallons on a sugar basis in the ton of grapes, and 
then calculating the proof gallons that one had as wine 
products at the end of production. So what one would have to 
do would be to work from the total grape received, and then 
determine what percent the stems and skins were, and then 
deduct the stems and skins from the total weight of the grape. 
Then you'd get the sugar solids in the juice and determine what 
sugar you had, and once you had the sugar then you'd get the 
equivalent potential alcohol out of the ton of grapes. 

Simplistically, a person could visualize that if your 
operation was a matter of converting tons of grapes into grape 
concentrate, then you could get a very high efficiency because 
you wouldn't be undergoing any fermentation, you see. But the 
minute you start to ferment there were losses inherent in 
fermentation. So if you had one winery and you were making a 
lot of concentrate , and then you had another winery making a 



33 



lot of wine with a lot of fermentation, and then you had a 
third winery that not only made wine but distilled it, you 
would find that the more operations the more opportunity there 
was for losses. 

We tried to pinpoint the losses, which a person almost had 
to do to appreciate what the winery was doing. It wasn't fair 
to say that a given winery had a 95 percent efficiency versus 
another winery at 90 or 85 percent, when you come to find out 
that they have two different operations going. In the same way 
it wouldn't be fair to compare a winery, say, on the North 
Coast with a relatively small berry with a high proportion of 
skins to the size of the berry with two or three large seeds in 
it, to a fairly large Thompson Seedless berry in the Valley 
where there were no seeds at all and very thin skins . 

Teiser: Didn't you have to feed Brix into that? 

Rossi: Brix came into that, yes. Brix was a measurement of total 

solids on a weight basis- -percent by weight total solids. But 
then you'd have to deduct from that total solids the non- sugar 
solids in order to arrive at the sugar solids. Then that would 
give you the initial proof gallons in the ton of grapes . Brown 
was very good on that, and I picked up on that. I learned a lot 
from him in these matters . So we had some very good numbers . I 
would say he was ahead of his time on that. That was a 
critical consideration in the early 1950s when the dominant 
crush was toward dessert wines. 

I worked with Elbert Brown as an assistant chemist. 
Because of the influence of National Distillers, Italian Swiss 
Colony didn't have a lot of winemakers; we had more chemists 
because that was the title that they gave to their technical 
people. So in a certain sense a chemist was a substitute for a 
winemaker. Anyway, I was an assistant to Brown. I did work 
envisioned as practical research and development and quality 
control. Then, independent of Brown, I got into this wine 
inventory control. I started with Brown in 1949, and then 
wound up coming to Asti in 1953. 

When National Distillers bought out Italian Swiss Colony, 
Elbert Brown moved from Lodi to San Francisco to be at the 
headquarters. Italian Swiss Colony offices were at 781 Beach, 
which is just down from that Irish coffee cafe, the Buena 
Vista, across from Aquatic Park. Brown and I had our office 
and laboratory upstairs from the general office. 

Teiser: Did your work then feed right into production? 



Rossi: Oh, yes. Then we'd go out to the wineries and bring them a 
method of analysis that we had worked up, or discuss the 
quality of a wine that we didn't think was up to par and how we 
could get it better. 

Teiser: Did you monitor all production, actually? 

Rossi: Yes, I did monitor production, now that I stop to think of it. 
We just had a lot of wines coming in. We reviewed production, 
reviewed finished blends . The winemakers would make up a 
laboratory sample of a blend that they would propose. Then 
they would send in to us a sample of the current blend and a 
sample of the proposed blend. We would taste them together and 
then decide whether the inherent quality was satisfactory and 
whether the continuity of product was okay. That was what we 
did. 

Teiser: One thing that's been said is that National Distillers was an 
inconsiderate employer- -was not very thoughtful of its people 
here . 

Rossi: I didn't have the experience or the contact to make a judgment 
on the impact or the relationship between the National 
Distillers people and Italian Swiss people, say at the 
marketing level or the sales level. In those days we didn't 
have marketing people. The president was John R. Deane. I 
mentioned that Bernard Davitto was a consultant. The vice- 
president in charge of production was Enrico Prati, and the 
vice-president of sales was Bruno (B. C.) Solari. Then we had 
a man in charge of Asti brand sales by the name of Ray 
Giordano. 

My contact with National Distillers was through Elbert 
Brown and Ira Siphert, one of the chemists for National 
Distillers. As I recall, he was a very pleasant person; he was 
not an unreasonable person. I think that although the salary 
levels in those days were relatively low by today's standards, 
the salary advancements that I had over the years were 
satisfactory. And I found General Deane to be a good boss man. 



Louis Petri Buys Italian Swiss Colony. 1953 



Rossi: In 1952 we had a change of management; National Distillers were 
anticipating selling the company. General Deane left the 
company, as did Solari, and for the better part of the ensuing 



35 



year they brought in Adolph Heck as an interim president. I 
always got along with Adolph well. Adolph knew the management 
at National Distillers, and I think it was his job to sell the 
company . 

I don' t think they sold the company because they were 
dissatisfied with it. The president of National Distillers at 
the time was a man by the name of John Bierwirth, and I think 
it was a matter of policy that he wanted to get out of the wine 
business with the idea of putting assets to work in the 
petrochemical business. In retrospect I don't know that that 
was such a good decision, because I don't know that they made 
that much money on the petrochemicals. In fact, I have a vague 
idea that they did not. 

I'm not sure for what amount they sold Italian Swiss 
Colony to Petri, but then they turned around and put a 
substantial amount of money into Almaden, which was a much 
smaller company. I wonder if that was really all that 
consistent. If they had wanted to stay in the wine business 
they could have kept Italian Swiss Colony and then bought 
Almaden, and they would have had a pretty good piece of the 
pie. They would have had a very, very strong position. 

Teiser: As I remember, the Gallos were interested in buying Italian 
Swiss at that point. 

Rossi: Yes, they were. When it was understood that Italian Swiss was 
up for sale, as I recall Ernest and Julio Gallo came in and 
made a down payment of a sum of some $25,000 to take a look at 
the company. I don't know if they made a bid for the company 
that was unacceptable, or whether they decided that they wanted 
to keep a one -brand company. But I think for the money they 
put down they got a total look at our sales and inventory 
positions, so they got their value out of the money they 
advanced. 

By the time they looked at the company and walked away 
from it, that was the exact time for Petri to strike. Because 
National had missed on one potential buyer , and they knew there 
weren't a lot of potential buyers out here. So Louis Petri 



'According to Louis Petri, "Totally we paid about eleven and a half or 
twelve million dollars for it." Page 23, Louis A. Petri, The Petri Family 
in the Wine Industry, an oral history interview conducted 1969, Regional Oral 
History Office, The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley, 
1971. 



36 



stepped in. Maybe he took a few samples of wine, but he didn't 
look at the company with a microscope the way Gallo did. He 
just knew what he wanted to spend for the company, and he made 
his pitch and bought it. And he bought it very well, because 
as a matter of fact the wine inventory at that time I believe 
was in the range of thirty to thirty- five cents a gallon, and 
within a year he'd made a substantial amount just on the 
increase in value of the inventory. So he was a smart 
operator. 

Teiser: He should have been conservative, from his background, but he 
was innovative. 

Rossi: And he had a flair for the dramatic, but it wasn't the dramatic 
that got him way out on a limb. Of course, he had Lelio 
Bianchini with him, who was bright and who was his older 
cousin, and then he had Benny Mortara, who was the treasurer of 
the company. Benny is still alive today. Benny was very 
conservative, and so I guess he'd tend to hold Louis back from 
some moves that maybe he shouldn't make. He had a system of 
putting ideas out to people and then mulling them over. I 
think once the risk was fairly well defined, he said either go 
or no go. [If go] everything went into action, and everything 
started to happen. [laughter] 

Teiser: Did he bring his people in? 

Rossi: When he came in, you might say that on the production end of 

things Bianchini took over. You have to think back and realize 
that a year before Petri bought the company, John R. Deane and 
Solari had left so Petri had his team. Petri had those three 
that I mentioned, and then he had a man by the name of Lloyd 
Shelley, who was in charge of credit. Then he had a man by the 
name of-- 



Rossi: --Frank Underwood, who was vice-president of sales; at least in 
1950 he was. And another man by the name of Frank (Tommy) 
Tomlinson, who was in charge of the bottling at Escalon. Then 
on the Escalon staff they had Jim Gott, who was in charge of 
winemaking; he was the chief chemist and winemaker. When he 
moved up to being the plant manager they had a man by the name 
of Tommy Leong, who was a winemaker and chief chemist. Then 
they had two long-term employees, Jack Wiesenbeck, who was the 
cellar master, and John Oliveri, who was in charge of 
maintenance . 



37 



On the West Coast they had Clair Fischel, who was the 
western division sales manager. Interestingly enough, in 1950 
Petri brought in for a period of time Lou [Louis R. ] Gomberg as 
an executive assistant. Here it is, in the Petri Grapevine. 
November 1950. 

Teiser: [reading] "Appointment of Louis R. Gomberg, wine consultant and 
executive assistant, has been announced by Louis A. Petri. 
Gomberg' s appointment becomes effective November 1." 

Rossi: This July 1951 issue of what Petri used to put out as the Petri 
Grapevine shows that Professor Edwin Twight served in an 
advisory capacity at Escalon. And here is a picture of Tommy 
Leong, who was the chemist. They have his title here in 1951 
as assistant chemist and winemaker. They put the titles of 
chemist and winemaker together, which is along the lines that I 
talked about. 

Teiser: Petri had the quality of being able to make people loyal to 
him, did he not? 

Rossi: I think so. He had a very bubbly personality. It was hard not 
to like him. 

Teiser: Had you known him before he became associated with the company? 

Rossi: No. I joined Italian Swiss in 1949, and he bought the company 
in 1953. In '49 I was only twenty- five years old, so I was 
between the ages of twenty-five and twenty -nine- -I was under 
thirty while I was with Italian Swiss prior to its having been 
bought out by Petri. But Louis would have been ten or fifteen 
years my senior, so there was too big a disparity in our 
particular positions in the industry for me to have known him. 

Teiser: Were your families friends? 

Rossi: No, I don't think so. Not too much. I don't think my father 
was particularly close to him as a personal friend. But I 
think, there again, that Louis Petri came between the 
generations of myself and my father. 

Teiser: And his father and uncle were not your father's generation 
either. 



Rossi: No, we were just sort of half between. I don't think my father 
got married until he was over thirty. I made my presence known 
in the world a year later, so there was a thirty-year spread 
between myself and my father. So Louis could have been fifteen 



38 



years junior to my father and fifteen years senior to me, which 
would have just thrown the whole thing out of whack. 

Teiser: Angelo was his father, and I guess he was older. 

Rossi: Angelo was older. They knew each other, and I'm sure they 
respected each other. 

Petri had Signature wines at that time which were premium 
wines, endorsed by a number of prominent wine connoisseurs and 
experts. This was just about the same time, in parallel, with 
Italian Swiss Colony's introduction of the Asti brand wines, 
which included both generic and varietals. So we were thinking 
along the same lines. We had our standard wines, but then as 
history progressed and the grapes in the North Coast counties 
became more valuable and expensive, then we had to move into 
premium wines . 

Teiser: When the two companies came together, what facilities did Petri 
bring in? 

Rossi: As I recall, Petri had three facilities: they had their home 

base at Escalon, and then a table winemaking North Coast winery 
up here in Forestville. The manager there was Ed Offut. They 
also had the Mission Bell winery down at Madera. That was the 
big one. 

Teiser: How did your duties change? 

Rossi: In 1953 I came up to Asti and I worked as an assistant 
winemaker, and then as a chemist winemaker until 1957. 

Teiser: What did you do? 

Rossi: I was in charge of the laboratory and in charge of making wine 
here at Asti. 



Teiser: Did that take you into procuring grapes? 

Rossi: No, because we had Allied Grape Growers grapes. They had the 
grapes and we had committed to take them, so they just brought 
them in. There wasn't a lot of choice at that time. 

Teiser: When your grape supply is beyond your control, what do you do? 
Do you just create categories of labels? 

Rossi: You're hitting a very sensitive point. Petri 's alliance with 
Allied Grape Growers was formed in 1951, so they were in place 



39 



in 1953. In 1953 Petri acquired ISC, and our wineries were 
leased back to Allied. So the Petri-Allied combination swung 
into effect. I think one of the key thoughts behind Petri 's 
idea was that he would take those grapes and make them into 
wine and market the wine, and they would retain for the grapes 
a given number of dollars per ton, which constituted operating 
capital for Allied Grape Growers. Then he would return to the 
growers the difference between what they generated as profits 
less the retains. 

There were two things that happened at that time, as I 
recall. One, the thought that Petri had was that in having the 
growers own the winery directly there was an elimination of one 
income tax, because you didn't have a corporate income tax and 
then an individual income tax. Two, they thought they had a 
sufficiently successful marketing program (or, really, I might 
say sales program in those days, because we're not talking 
marketing) that they would be able to return to the growers a 
price per ton that was in excess of the average market price 
even after they took out the money for the retains. And Louis 
Petri was able to do that. Gradually, from this operation, he 
and his associates were paid off. So he made a fairly handsome 
amount of money out of it, but it wasn't just a cash deal that 
he walked away from. He had to make it work, and he really 
did. 

There were two things in his favor, as I see it. When 
they signed the grapes up they signed them up likely with the 
view in mind that those grapes matched the sales. In those 
days you had grapes down in the Valley that were used for 
making dessert wines, and the North Coast grapes that were used 
for making red wines were good quality grapes but the price was 
inexpensive. So as time went by and they brought grapes in for 
winemaking, they were in fact in concert with the mix of 
products that were being sold. As long as the grape supply and 
the product mix were pretty much in concert, then everybody was 
happy . 

But as time went by, and as it shows on this chart of 
mine, the mix started to change from dominantly dessert wine 
into table wine. The key date for that was in the late 1960s, 
where table wine started to dominate over dessert wine, you 
see. In 1968 table wine sales exceeded dessert wines, and in 
1976 white wine sales exceeded red table wine. So I think 
that's where the whole idea ran into trouble. You see, we were 



^Appendix II, Chart II, in "A Historical Perspective." 



40 



getting into more expensive grapes and we were getting into a 
mix to accommodate sales- -because after all, it was less 
expensive grapes that were used to supply that two to one ratio 
of dessert wines over table wines . The minute we got into 
table wines- -and, further, the minute we got beyond 1970- -then 
the North Coast table grapes became more expensive. 

You can see here, for example [refers to "A Historical 
Perspective" ], that during the Petri era of 1954 to '59, the 
average price of grapes in Sonoma County had not exceeded a 
hundred dollars a ton except in these two years back in the 
1940s. From 1950 to 1959, the average price of grapes might 
have been sixty to sixty-five dollars a ton; it was low. That 
was fine, because they were pumping out a lot of red table 
wine. We had our burgundy, Petri had his "Pastoso" burgundy, 
we had our G&D Fiore de California burgundy, we had our Italian 
Swiss Colony Zinfandel, we had our Tipo Red chianti and a Gold 
Medal chianti. All those are fairly substantial volumes of red 
wine. We could afford to put grapes in that were of good 
quality, because they were all North Coast grapes. So they had 
tremendous quality. 

The difficulties started to present themselves from 1959 
to 1969. You can see that the prices started to go up a little 
bit, and they may have averaged $140 a ton. After 1969, 
getting into the 1970s and up to 1983, when Heublein had the 
winery, you can see the price of grapes just skyrocketed. They 
went from $255 up to $540, and that's where the bind came in. 
Because we had these grapes, and many of them were Carignane 
grapes that did not represent the quality that we wanted for 
our wines, and they were higher priced. The difference in 
quality between the North Coast and Valley grapes was less, 
say, with grapes like Carignane than it would ever have been 
with Zinfandel, yet these were high-priced grapes and we had 
signed a contract with Allied for them. 

So it started off in harmony, because grape supply and 
need were in concert. Then, as table wines became more 
popular, there was less need for the less expensive grapes down 
in the Valley. We said that in 1968 it swung from dessert 
wines to table wines, and then in 1976 white wines dominated, 
which was fine . By that time the mix of grapes in the North 
Coast counties had swung out of Carignane, out of Golden 
Chasselas, out of Sauvignon vert, into grapes like Cabernet 
Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Johannisberg Riesling- -grapes that 
weren't available. The thing fit when Petri put it together, 
but as time went by the conditions changed, really through 
nobody's fault. But they did change. 



41 



Teiser: When you were working here, then, were you in charge of quality 
control for the whole series of wineries? 

Rossi: No. After Petri came in I came up here. As I recall, we had a 
system whereby we somehow monitored each other's wines; so 
there was no head quality control person. We had wine being 
made at Clovis, at Escalon, at Asti, at Madera, and over here. 
Each one sort of checked on the other person. 



Developing Wines 



Rossi: In 1957 that came to a halt, because at that time Gallo came 
out with Thunderbird. That was what implemented a big change 
in my career. In 1957 they said to me, "We want you to break 
away from the day-to-day winemaking at Asti," and they put me 
in as a director of quality control and research development. 
My job was to come up with a product that was competitive with 
Gallo 's Thunderbird in six weeks. ^ 

Teiser: How did they happen to choose you? 

Rossi: I guess they just knew that I was interested in wine quality, 
and maybe good with the detail- -more of an R and D person than 
a production person. Like lots of people, one can do both, but 
they thought that my temperament fitted that. 

Teiser: Am I right in believing that you are known as being a good 
blender? Am I using the right term? 

Rossi: Yes. You might say it's product development, which includes 
blending, and then clarification and processing in wines to 
bring out the best in the blend. 

Teiser: By then you must have shown your talent in that area, in order 
for them to have chosen you. 

Rossi: Yes. I think it was that, plus they knew my temperament- -that 
that was more to my liking. It seems to me that in R and D 
you have to have a temperament that wants to shoot for the very 
best. From a practical point of view, a marketing person is 
always going to be on the side of, "Let's get all the quality 
we can because it makes the product easier to sell." On the 



For more on special flavored wines, see pp. 53-70. 



42 



production side, the production man is saying, "Hey, you know, 
you're putting too much quality into this blend," or, "You're 
being too fastidious in the way in which you're asking us to 
prepare the blend. It's not a practical way of doing it. 
Can't we do it in a more simple way?" And maybe, "Your mix of 
grapes and your ingredients are too expensive." 

So you have the production man saying, "I want to do 
things simply," you have the accountant saying, "Your 
ingredients are too expensive," you have the marketing man 
saying, "I think that's a wonderful blend; let's go with it." 
Then you have the product development man who says, "I think 
this is the best mix that we can get." 

There has to be some push and pull. For a top 
administrator, as long as he plays the tune right, you have an 
equal credence given to each end of the business. As the team 
works together they begin to understand what you can do and 
what you can't do. I guess the thought I have in my mind is 
that if the product development man doesn't come up with the 
very best, then the production man and the marketing man never 
know what is possible. If a product development man on a scale 
of one to ten always comes in at a six or a seven, because he 
himself has the idea in his mind that that is where he wants to 
be, they never see the best. I think you owe it to them to 
show them the best, and then somewhere you reach a compromise. 
That's point one. 

Point two, I think it's a terrible mistake for a product 
development man to say, "I have an exact idea in my mind of 
what you, the marketing man, needs, and I'll see you in four 
months." You wind up pursuing a particular line of attack to a 
point of refinement where the basic blend or the character of 
the wine may not be what the marketing man wants. 

** 

Rossi: So if a product development man wants to develop something 

fairly quickly for marketing and the company needs it in order 
not to lose time, it's very, very important to put together 
something "quick and dirty," say, within a matter of three or 
four weeks. Then he can bring a prototype to a marketing man 
and ask, "Is this what you want?" The marketing man then says, 
"Yes, but--." Then, the next time, you bring in your original 
product and you bring in the "but" --you bring in what 
additional characteristics of the blend he needs. Then you 
reach a consensus of opinion more quickly. 



Teiser: 



Rossi: 



Jacobson: 



Rossi: 



43 



The other ingredient that has to come into it- -it seems 
that all my life we've been pressed to shoot from the hip and 
make estimates of what the shelf life was going to be. Making 
a wine, putting it in, and holding the wine for five days at a 
hundred degrees does not give you a reliable measure of what 
the wine's going to be like after, say, six months on the 
shelf. Ideally (and I don't know that I've ever seen the 
ideal) a person should be working on product development- - 
ideas, concepts, and products- -way ahead of their potential 
use. Then put them on the shelf and let the time on the shelf 
show you what you want to have. That way one is not guessing; 
you're basing your knowledge on what's happening. 

Surprisingly enough, we've had very few new product 
failures due to the product. We've had new product failures 
because the concept hasn't been all that good. 



I should ask you about bulk sales . 
engaging in bulk sales also? 



In all this time were you 



That's a good question, and I don't have a ready answer for it. 
I don't think through the Petri period and the Allied period we 
were making that much wine we couldn't use. It only got to the 
point where we couldn't use it after the North Coast grapes got 
too expensive. When we started to backlog North Coast wine 
because we couldn't use it, then we had some bulk sales, as I 
recall. Of course, all through the Petri and the Allied and 
the Heublein period we were constantly monitoring our inventory 
position, so we'd either buy or sell or trade. That was just a 
standard operating procedure to keep the inventory in balance. 
A person has to make a judgment as to how much age he wants on 
a wine to begin with, and then target for that age so that his 
inventory is always in balance. You have what you need, but 
you don't have too much. I think everybody does that pretty 
well. 

When they moved you into R and D in response to Gallo's 
introduction of Thunderbird, did they do other things to 
strengthen R and D? 

They gave me a couple of technicians. Over the years, as that 
activity grew, I added to the group. Over a period of time we 
had a very good group up here at Asti. 



Jacobson: What did the R and D department consist of before 1957? 



L See page 58. 



44 



Rossi: Well, we didn't have it. It was just nonexistent. It was only 
initiated by necessity. 

Teiser: When you create a product, do you start by analyzing what you 
want to achieve? 

Rossi: You taste the competitive product and you decide pretty much 
how you think you ought to make it. In that particular 
instance we used a neutral base and we added citrus flavors. 
So you adjust to the same level of residual sugar and the same 
level of total acidity and the same color, and then you get 
flavors from the flavor companies and add them. You either 
match it exactly or you come up with a characteristic that you 
think might be even more acceptable to the consumer. That's if 
you're targeting after a given product. 

If you're going out into new ground- -for example more 
recently on the flavored champagnes, Franz ia had come out with 
that strawberry -flavored champagne. We decided that instead of 
being just another "me, too," and coming out with a strawberry- 
flavored Jacques Bonet champagne, we'd come out with a 
raspberry -flavored one, which is just as nice as the 
strawberry. If it's a non-flavored table wine you have to make 
a decision as to what price category it's in. Then if you know 
your inventory you can go into the winery and say, "I'll use 
some of this variety, or some of that variety, or something 
from Asti, or something from Escalon," and you pretty much can 
conceptualize just how you're going to put it together. 

I suppose if there is one thing that I've done 
consistently over my career- -because I've had a lot of 
different titles; when National came in there was a certain 
change of titles and change of responsibilities with people who 
would take over various spots. But the one consistent theme 
through the whole thirty-nine years is that I've always dealt 
with wines, and I've always dealt with what could be called the 
product development or the development of new blends, of new 
wines. I've never let go of that. I've never been asked to 
let go of that, principally because that has always been my 
main interest and longest suit. 

Teiser: This implies that you have some intellectual concept of what a 
wine should taste like, or what this kind of wine should taste 
like compared to that kind of wine, which must come partly from 
experience . 

Rossi: It comes from experience, and I think it comes from an 

appreciation of working with marketing people. You know, in 



45 



developing an idea, when marketing people say what they want, 
it translates to my mind to what they want in a glass. But 
then from what they want in a glass it translates in my mind to 
what ingredients I need to put together to get where I want to 
be. That's always been fairly easy for me to do. I think that 
in any relationship, if you are willing to recognize what the 
other fellow has in mind you're well on your way to coming to a 
meeting of the minds. If you're too rigid and say that this is 
the way it's going to be, forget it. Go buy your own winery. 

Teiser: But in order to understand what that other fellow wants, you 
have to have some almost abstract idea of wine. 

Rossi: Yes, exactly. Then there are always some precepts that I've 
carried in my mind. I don't mind saying that I've always 
carried from Amerine that a wine is born in the mind of the 
winemaker. I've never forgotten that. So a wine is born in 
your mind. As long as you try to conceptualize in your mind 
just about the right thing, and then you work toward that, then 
you have a target to work toward. 

One of the things that I always felt important in working 
toward a blend is that I've always felt that a blend is 
analogous to a chain. The chain is no stronger than the 
weakest link. If you make each component of a blend in a 
certain way, then you can maximize the quality of the overall 
blend. This is sometimes a hard bill of goods to sell to 
production people, because if you're putting together, say, a 
50,000 gallon blend and you have 10,000 gallons each of five 
components, it's easier for the production man to put the whole 
50,000 gallons together and then refrigerate it or clarify it 
in a certain way so that the whole blend shapes up . 

Maybe two of those 10,000 gallon legs have a very good 
North Coast wine in them, and when you clarify the whole 50,000 
gallons you lose some of the flavor of the top quality wine. 
What you really want to do is hone in there on the weakest link 
of that 50,000 gallon blend and get that 10,000 gallons 
straight. Once you get that 10,000 gallons straight you maybe 
don't have to fool around at all with the other 40,000. You 
maximize the quality inherent with the blend and you get the 
10,000 straightened away so that, although it may not be the 
nectar of the gods, at least it's not something negative. Then 
you get the maximum out of the blend. 

On a scale of one to ten, if you have a wine that's a five 
and you clarify it in such a way that you get it to a six or a 
seven, and your other ingredients are eights, then you're going 



to maximize the whole blend. If you fine the whole wine, 
you're going to go from a five to a six on the whole wine, when 
actually your target could be the eight. But you have to have 
the patience and the persistence and the mental attitude to go 
after each leg of the blend. Essentially you say the quality 
control of the blend is not necessarily how the blend comes 
out; the real quality control is to quality control each of 
those five legs. Because if each of those five links comes out 
strong, the entire chain will be strong. 

I should point out that often an entire blend can be 
processed without losing overall quality. Good understanding 
between development and operational people works these things 
out. 

In essence, that's my whole career. [laughs] It's been a 
long thirty-nine years, but that's it. 

Teiser: There's a lot of skill and experience that goes into it. 
Rossi: That's the fun part of it. 
Teiser: Hard work? 

Rossi: Yes, but it's rewarding. You can't be in it only for the 

money. You've got to have the joy of coming out with a good 
wine. 

Jacobson: Would you have ideas of your own about what the market might 
need or want, independent of your chief marketing person? 
Would you go after some of those? 

Rossi: Yes, sometimes. 

Teiser: Was there someone sitting on top of things when they asked you 
to make decisions, a person in the company who made the final 
decision? 

Rossi: On all of these product development projects over the years? 
It was generally the president of the company. He generally 
would take into account what the marketing people would want. 



47 



Post-Repeal Generic Wines 
[Interview 3: 24 February 1988 ]## 



Teiser: I'll begin, if I may, by going back and asking you about 

something that is probably before your time, but that you may 
know about, and that is the nomenclature of generic wines just 
after Repeal. As I recall, red wines were called claret and 
burgundy, and white wines were called sauterne. 

Rossi: And chablis? Not too much chablis. In 1949, when I first got 
started, I remember very clearly that the Livermore Valley- - 
the Wentes and the Concannons--had very good Semillons and very 
good Sauvignon blancs, and they also had a sauterne. Then 
somehow or other the Semillon, Sauvignon blanc, and the 
sauternes seemed to fade out of favor. Then the chablis came 
in. I think there was more sauterne, maybe in the 1940s, and 
as we got into the 1950s and 1960s chablis emerged. 

Teiser: Do you think the sauterne in that earlier period was closer to 
French Sauternes than chablis? It seems to me I remember (and 
I might be wrong entirely) that almost any white wine was 
called sauterne. But maybe it was because by necessity they 
made sweeter white table wines, for one thing. 

Rossi: I remember one of the first things I experienced when I was 
with Elbert Brown was tasting the Shewan- Jones Chateau Lejon 
red and Chateau Lejon white. And the white was a Sauternes 
style. One point that makes the tracing of the evolution of 
white generic nomenclature difficult is the fact that in the 
1940s we had very little idea of protecting the wines from 
oxidation. In 1949 and 1950 I can remember reviewing the white 
wines that Italian Swiss Colony had, and by today's standards 
they were largely oxidized! And I don't think we were the 
exception; I think we were much more the rule than the 
exception. 

Teiser: And in Europe, too. 

Rossi: In Europe, too. So it could have been that the heavier style, 
with a little more sugar and a little darker color, was more 
reminiscent of Sauternes, and therefore the nomenclature of 
sauterne for that particular style of wine at that time- -say, 
in the 1940s and early 1950s- -was appropriate. 

But then it seems to me that, as we moved from the dessert 
wines into the table wines in the 1950s, most of the wines that 
were being sold were red table wines, not white table wines. 



48 



Then in 1957 we moved into the flavored, 20-percent-alcohol 
wines. And in the mid-1960s we moved into the lower alcohol 
flavored wines. Towards the end of the 1960s and into the 
1970s the flavored wines, or the special natural wines, seemed 
to taper off. It was in the mid-1970s that the white wines 
emerged as being of more consequence than reds. [looks through 
notes] It was in 1976 that white table wine sales exceeded red 
table wine sales. I think as we moved into that era chablis 
seemed to be a very popular wine style. It was a chablis to 
the extent that it was less sweet, maybe, than the original 
sauterne; it was made from maybe a more neutral grape. By 1976 
the volume of white wine had come on strong. 

As a consequence, instead of the source of grapes being 
mainly the North Coast areas, whether it would be Napa, Sonoma, 
Mendocino, or maybe even Livermore, I believe that many of the 
grapes that were going into the white wine sales in 1976 were 
already from the San Joaquin Valley. So they had more than 
their share of Thompson Seedless , which is not to knock the 
wines. But at the same time, when you got into wines that were 
a little more neutral initially and didn't have the ability or 
the character to develop with age, then people emphasized 
avoiding oxidation and concentrating on having a fresh wine. 
And a fresh, pale, less sweet wine fit the chablis category. 
That would be my assessment of about what happened. 

Teiser: It seems to me that one of the earliest jokes I heard about the 
wine industry after Repeal was that you would go in to visit a 
winery and women would be sitting there bottling by hand. Over 
here they'd be bottling burgundy, and over there they'd be 
bottling claret, and both wines would be coming out of the same 
pipe in the next room. Was there actually much distinction 
between those two labels? 

Rossi: I don't think there was a great deal of distinction between 

claret and burgundy, because I think a lot of the traditional 
red wine blend that I remember here in Sonoma County was a 
blend of a Carignane, Zinfandel, and Petite Sirah. The 
Carignane gave volume and was a very good grape viticulturally 
because it withstood mold and rot and threw a good crop; it was 
a reliable grape. The Zinfandel, of course, gave the aromatic 
qualities, but you had to get through any rain, because the 
clusters were tight and tended to mold. So that was touch and 
go, but for that risk you got the flavor of the Zinfandel. In 
the case of the Petite Sirah, it had a fairly dark-colored 
wine, and that gave the body. Petite Sirah is sometimes not 
considered quite as noble a grape as Pinot noir, but 
nevertheless for, say, a burgundy or a claret or what is now 



designated as a red table wine, Petite Sirah is still a very 
good grape . 

That was sort of the mix of grapes. I don't recall, 
really, a blend of claret going out from the time that I was 
with the winery; I think it was mostly burgundy. 

Teiser: Were they made with a higher residual sugar than now? 

Rossi: I'm not sure about that. I think the traditional residual 

sugar for burgundy has been around 1 to 1.2 percent. By the 
time a person gets up to 1.5 percent, it's coming off too 
sweet. I think that in the late 1950s, as the reds came out, 
there were some wines that were specifically called "red vino," 
and the red vino wines were maybe 2 to 3 percent sugar. So 
they had a considerable amount of sugar to them, but they 
telegraphed that on the label. 

Let's talk for a moment about the white wines. I think if 
a person has a good base wine, non- sweetened tank of white 
wine, then you can add various levels of either a sweetening 
material- -concentrate or juice- -or what we call light sweet 
white to sweeten that white wine. You can add 5 percent and 
wind up with 1 percent residual sugar; 10 percent is 2 percent, 
20 percent is 4 percent. Out of the same two ingredients, if 
you just jockey the proportion of the sweetening material, you 
wind up with a chablis and a sauterne, and maybe a Rhine and a 
Rhineskeller or a Rhinegarten. You have four blends of varying 
levels of sugar with two ingredients. A person can do that, 
and you can be within the generally accepted norms, which would 
be a positioning of the sugar and acid. 

I've never felt that that really was giving the customer 
the true value that he deserves , because the only variable 
there is the level of sugar and the level of acid. I think the 
base wine itself should have a variance. The aromatic 
qualities are going to be essentially the same on all four of 
those blends. I think it's better to blend in some varietals 
into the base wine and have a different base wine for each of 
the wines. That, to me as a winemaker, makes more sense. I 
think as the consumer becomes more knowledgeable and is more 
perceptive he will be able to appreciate that. 

The argument against that is that, in fact, we don't have 
that perceptive a consumer, so why not just make a blend as 
simply as we can and put it out? It goes back to the 
philosophy of how you want to be in the wine business: do you 
want to be totally led by a consumer who isn't all that well 



50 



informed, or do you want to take a position as a wine man of 
leading the consumer? I think probably the best alternative 
would be somewhere between the two extremes . 

Getting back to the red wines, again I'd have to say I 
don't recall having the same-based wine and sweetening to one 
level for claret and another level for burgundy. That could 
have been, but I don't recall that. 

Teiser: That is to say, there wasn't much difference. 

Rossi: I think right after Prohibition there was not much difference, 
because I've talked to people who made wine right after 
Prohibition and they shot the same wine out to both labels. I 
don't think that was too much of a deception. If they had 
good, sound red wine that had low volatile acids- -that is to 
say, that didn't have any vinegar flavor- -and they put a wine 
that was stable in the bottle, there were going to be some 
customers who just preferred the shape of a claret bottle and 
other customers who preferred the shape of a burgundy bottle. 
The whole industry was in such infancy, and we had regressed in 
a certain sense to the point that people were drinking three 
gallons of dessert wine to one of table. We were struggling 
just to get the table wine back, just to get the table wine 
out, rather than to make refinements of the table wine; it was 
premature to make refinements of the table wine. 

Teiser: Your chianti-type wine: you had used the term "tipo" chianti 
before Prohibition, and I see that occasionally the word 
"chianti" was used after that. 

Rossi: Way back in the early beginnings of Italian Swiss Colony they 
put out a red and white chianti. I guess it was in my 
grandfather's time, because it was right around the turn of the 
century. I suppose the Italian government was upset about that 
because, they said, a Chianti can only come from Italy. 

In 1906 the Italian Swiss Colony people changed the name 
to Tipo Red and Tipo White, "tipo" meaning, in Italian, "type." 
In two or three years the following statement appeared on the 
back label: 



Please be advised that hereafter our TIPO CHIANTI 
WINES will be known as TIPO. 

We find this change necessary in order to 
differentiate from various brands of chianti that are 



51 



Teiser : 
Rossi: 

Teiser: 
Rossi : 



Teiser: 
Rossi: 



now on the market in imitation of our well known 
product. Please call for TIPO. 

Before and after Prohibition it was consistently labeled 

California Tipo Red and California Tipo White. 



Was the word chianti used after Prohibition? 

Yes. In recent years there were competitive wines in claret 
bottles and in jugs labeled chianti. 



Was there an attempt to make it like the Italian Chianti? 
you ever use Sangiovese in it? 



Did 



In general our Tipo Red was a softer, less tannic wine than 
Italian Chiantis. We had some grapes here on the property that 
were Sangiovese grapes. Reportedly they were brought over from 
Italy. As I recall tasting the wine, we made a large tank or 
two of that wine every year. In the lineup of wines, between 
the Zinfandel, the Carignane, the Petite Sirah, and the 
chianti, the chianti did have its own characteristic. Trying 
to relate that back in time to years later, say around 1980, I 
went to Europe looking for Trebbiano to import for Heublein 
wines. In the Romagna area, you can't taste Trebbiano without 
tasting Sangiovese. And as I recall, the Sangiovese wine was 
fairly similar to what we had here as Sangiovese. Of course, 
they have Sangiovese throughout Italy, and in Tuscany they use 
it for Chianti. The Sangiovese in Romagna they use for another 
wine. I think there could be some soil and climatic 
differences that would be impacted on the quality of the wine. 

But to get back to the answer, the simple answer is yes, 
we did have Sangiovese. The blend, typically, for Tipo Red was 
a blend of Sangiovese with the best Zinfandel we could find, 
and that would be aged for two to four years . That was our 
"Tipo Red." 1 

It sounds good. 

It was good, and it was always bone dry, never sweet. 



L See also "The Story of Tipo," by Edmund A. Rossi [Sr.], Wines & Vines . 
August 1938, p. 6. 



52 



Wines of 1950-1969 



Rossi: In the 1953 to 1969 era we also introduced the Inglenook 

vintage wines, which included both table wines and dessert 
wines . 

Teiser: Were they actually made over there at Inglenook? 

Rossi: Yes, the table wines were. They never generated a huge volume, 
but we were trying to find a niche, again, for use of wines 
made from the more expensive North Coast grapes. Our constant 
thrust was in that direction. It was a big problem, because we 
had a lot of North Coast grapes that we had to absorb into our 
system, from the agreement with Allied. 

Jacobson: Looking over the report of United Vintner's R and D department, 
you have this section which lists various products developed 
over the period 1960 to 1975. I was wondering if you could 
describe what was the idea behind developing the products. Was 
it in response to a particular marketing demand, or was it 
something that you came up with internally? Most of these 
products seem to be flavored wines . 

Rossi: Going back to the little report on the history of winemaking in 
Sonoma County that I wrote, I would say that it tends to 
delineate the progression of the swing from dessert wines into 
table wines over that period of time, from 1950 to 1980, which 
is a fairly long span of time. In the 1950 period, just as I 
got into the business, it was still one quarter table to three 
quarters dessert. 

As we said before, it progressed by 1968, a roughly 
twenty-year span of time, to where table wines approached those 
of dessert wines and surpassed them at that point in time. In 
the meantime, the sale of all wines had gone from roughly 
150,000,000 gallons per year to about 220,000,000 in 1969, and 
245,000,000 in 1970. From 1970 to 1983 they went from about 
250,000,000 to almost half a billion, or 477,000,000 gallons. 
Of course, in that period of time the growth was almost 
entirely from table wines, and after 1976 it was almost 
entirely white wine. 

I think we can just divide our discussion into two periods 
of time, one from 1950 to 1969, which was the Petri through the 
Allied period, and from 1969 on, which would essentially be the 
Heublein period. To me there are two characteristics there. 
We had the emergence of the flavored wines, and then the demise 



53 



of the flavored wines, you might say, with the peak around 
1977. [looking at notes] These figures show 1974 with 
52,000,000 gallons of under- 14 percent flavored wines, so that 
was about the peak. 

Let's talk about the flavored wines for a moment. The 
kickoff was in 1957, when Gallo came out with their 
Thunderbird. Italian Swiss Colony's response to that was to 
come up with a match for Thunderbird in a matter of a couple of 
months, which we were able to do. Our answer to that was 
Silver Satin. Then there was just sort of a race, one on one. 
I remember Gallo had a Coca-Cola flavored wine called Eden Roc, 
and we countered with our Golden Spur. Then we had our Swiss 
Up, which was a flavored wine- -all 20-percent-alcohol wines- - 
which had lemon and lime. And just down the list here: we had 
lots of flavored wines, and this list shows both 20 percent, 
16 percent, and 14 percent. The truth is that most of these 
wines were 20-percent-alcohol wines. Some were only 16 percent 
because in certain states they only allowed a low alcohol wine. 

Teiser: Which wines were they? 

Rossi: These show 20 percent and 14 percent. As I recall, these were 
dominantly 20-percent-alcohol wines, and to a lesser extent 14- 
percent-alcohol wines. The wines were Silver Satin, Silver 
Satin with Bitter Lemon, Golden Spur, Swiss Up, Arriba, Rhythm, 
Hombre, Red Showboat, Vin Cafe, Collins, Zombie, Cuba Libre. 
These were all developed prior to 1968. In that period of time 
we also had some wines that were under 14 percent alcohol. 
Bali Hai was an under -14 -percent -alcohol wine and was never a 
20-percent-alcohol wine. It was the first significant 
departure from the 20-percent-alcohol flavored wines. We had 
that developed in the spring of that particular year (late 
1960s), and Petri sat on the idea until he had his new budget 
for the next fiscal year before we brought it out. It was an 
immediate hit; it went beautifully. 

Jacobson: Was it a deliberate choice to make it under 14 percent? 

Rossi: Yes. 

Jacobson: What was your thinking behind that? 

Rossi: Well, that it would be more palatable and more drinkable it if 
had lower alcohol. So we did do that. 

There were some other wines here [looking at list]: we 
had a Gypsy Rose and a Satin Rose that could have been under 



54 



14 percent (it's not indicated here). But that was sort of the 
product development prior to 1968, or you might say prior to 
Heublein; Heublein bought United Vintners out in 1969. 

In this same period of 1953 to 1968, which we could call 
the Petri-Allied period, we have to remember that, 
notwithstanding the efforts on the 20-percent-alcohol flavored 
wines, there was an emergence of red table wines- -or just plain 
table wines, with the emphasis on red table wines, at least 
early on. Then whites emerged later. 

These were blends that were sort of old standbys. 
Standard burgundy- -and incidentally, I have claret here, so I 
guess maybe we did have a claret. And Zinfandel. And in that 
period of time we had Napa- Sonoma -Mendocino wines. It was a 
play on words there, where they mixed up the pronunciation and 
put the words together in a cute way on the t.v. or the radio. 
We had red, white, and rose wines. 

Speaking to that specifically, if that was Napa- Sonoma - 
Mendocino, it had to be North Coast grapes. We have to recall 
that at that particular time the price of North Coast grapes 
was increasing, so even then, as we are now, we were making an 
effort to come out with wines or brands that would use North 
Coast grapes and be able to command a price that would give us 
a return on those grapes. So that particular endeavor has been 
going on for some time. 



Jacobson: I'm curious to know how many of those wines introduced in the 
period 1957-68 were introduced as a direct response to a 
competitor product already existing on the market, and how many 
were the first of their kind introduced on the market. 

Rossi: Are we talking about the flavored wines or the standard wines? 
Jacobson: Both. 

Rossi: I think the standard burgundy and the standard Zinfandel was a 
competitive thing that had just been ongoing. I think the 
Napa-Sonoma-Mendocino was a clear example of trying to be 
innovative; that was a first for that. Probably that was the 
first proprietary wine that was brought out having been made 
from grapes from three counties . 

Then I list blends such as Sweet Vino, light sweet red, 
and light sweet white. Those were in keeping with the times of 



55 



the emergence of red wines and white [table! 
were specifically designed as more sweet. 



wines, but these 



Terser : Were they for the Eastern market more than California? 

Rossi: I don't know that I could comment on whether they were 

specifically for one market more than another. No, I think it 
was fairly universal. The Italian population that we have on 
the East Coast, in New Jersey and New York, really like their 
red wines fairly heavy and less sweet. But we have to remember 
that Italian Swiss Colony brand, as such- -at least initially, 
in the days after Prohibition- -was never that strong in New 
York. The reason was that as a result of the difficulties of 
shipping grapes during Prohibition, my father and uncle and 
Enrico Prati made an arrangement with Gambarelli & Davitto in 
New York for them to monitor the quality of the grapes that 
were shipped from California to New Yorkand not always 
received in the best of conditions- -and get them into cold 
storage before they would break down completely. I think they 
did that fairly religiously for us. 

As a consequence, when Prohibition was over they made an 
arrangement with Gambarelli & Davitto, with them as a franchise 
bottler, to bottle the wines that we sent them. But rather 
than bottle them as the Italian Swiss Colony brand, they'd 
bottle them out as Gambarelli & Davitto and use the G&D label. 
So G&D reds were shipped directly by Gambarelli & Davitto, not 
really through a distributor; they had trucks that would 
deliver the wines directly to retailers. It was a very good 
business. But the point is that the G&D label was what was 
promoted in New Jersey and New York, and not Italian Swiss 
Colony. 

In the meantime, our market in other parts of the country 
went along fine. For example, in Philadelphia I think we were 
probably doing business with Spatola, which is an old-time firm 
that was a franchise bottler. We had franchise bottlers in a 
number of areas. We had a franchise bottler in Denver; I think 
the name was Carbone . That was fairly common. We had a good 
share of the market under the Italian Swiss Colony brand in 
Chicago. 

Teiser: Did you have a market in New Orleans? 

Rossi: Yes. I think we were okay in most areas of the country. It 

was only in that New Jersey/New York area where Italian Swiss 

Colony wasn't that well known. But it was that way by design. 

Gambarelli, incidentally, was a woman- -Victoria Gambarelli. 



56 



She was one of the first women executives in the wine business. 
She was a very bright person and a good business manager in 
those days. She was a forerunner of women in business today. 
Davitto was Bernard Davitto. 

I also have other wines that we worked up prior to 1968 
which were natural wines. We had a red, white, and rose Paree; 
we had a red, white, and rose Swizzle. Then we had Italian 
Swiss Colony chianti, which was different from the Tipo 
chianti. We had an Italian Swiss Colony Rhineskeller with, as 
I recall, residual sugar of around four and a half percent. We 
also had the [sparkling] Cold Duck. It emerged on the scene 
and was a blend of red and white wine, and part of the red wine 
had the Concord flavor in it. So that boosted champagne sales. 

Through this whole span of time, if there was a consistent 
growth in anything there was a consistent growth in champagnes. 
I have here that from 1914 to 1918 there were one million 
gallons of sparkline wines sold; in 1948-1950 there were 
1.5 million gallons. It was ten times itself to the 1969-1974 
period of time, and by 1983 it was three times again, from 
roughly 15 million gallons a year to where in 1983 there were 
43 million gallons of sparkling wines used. I guess a simple 
way of saying it is that total wines went from 150 million 
gallons to 477 million, which would be a tripling, in the span 
of time from 1948-50 to 1983. The sparkling wines, on the 
other hand, went up about thirty times, from 1.5 million 
gallons to 43.4 million gallons. And Korbel was in there early 
on, so you can see why they are such a success. They were just 
the early birds. 

Jacobson: Staying within this '57- '68 period, what were the biggest 
sellers of all your flavored wines and other products? 

Rossi: I daresay that Silver Satin was the single best seller that we 
had in the way of 20-percent-alcohol (which was maybe actually 
19-percent-alcohol) flavored wine. Of the under 14-percent - 
flavored wines, Bali Hai, I would say, was the biggest seller. 
Again, we were first, and the first guy on the block is the one 
who gets the lion's share of that particular market. 

Our sales on red wines were always strong in that period 
of time. But I would say the single strongest wine we 
introduced in that period of time turned out to be the ISC 
Rhineskeller, the white; because it was popular then, and it's 
still popular. It had staying power for over twenty years. 
ISC chianti had a good volume. 



57 



Teiser: 



Rossi: 



Jacobson: 
Rossi: 



Teiser: 



Rossi : 



Was that in a typical chianti bottle, like the earlier 
wines? 

No. That was just a standard -shaped bottle. 



'tipo" 



Those would be the three standouts introduced during that 
period of time. 

Were there any introduced during that period that fell flat? 

Oh, we had a lot of those. I don't think too much came of the 
three products prepared after mixed drinks. The Collins, the 
Zombie, and the Cuba Libre didn't amount to too much. 

Another wine that we introduced was a half and half 
vermouth, half dry and half sweet. For some reason or another, 
to a traditional wine man that would seem like a crazy idea. 
But it wasn't so crazy. It made a different blend and it sort 
of emerged with a distinctiveness all of its own that had a 
charm of the flavor; it had a little bit more flavor than the 
dry vermouth, but it wasn't as sweet as the sweet vermouth. 
Somehow that tended to stick. 

The Napa-Sonoma-Mendocino wines did fairly well, too. And 
we held our own on Cold Duck; that was a popular item. But I 
think that, industrywise , the Cold Duck made its appearance and 
then seemed to fade. I think on these new wines that come out 
it's important for a company to participate, particularly if 
you're one of the larger companies. But it's fairly important 
to understand that when you're allocating budgets for the 
promotion of new wines that it be done with a lot of 
consideration. One has to have enough money to fully promote 
the new item and get it off the ground, but at the same time a 
certain amount of caution has to come into the decision so that 
one doesn't go overboard on a wine that isn't destined to have 
a long period of popularity. At the time of making the 
decision to initiate, a person can't know. 

Did these wines take you into purchasing of materials- - 
flavorings and so forth- -that you were inexperienced with? 

Oh, yes, that was always a big problem. The problem, as often 
as not, was that people wanted the product yesterday. We 
always seemed to be struggling with high- temperature , short- 
term stability tests on wine that were designed to try to 
approximate what the wine was going to be like after six months 
or a year on the shelf. We never did pinpoint what the 
correlation was. 



58 



But what we did, we had a protocol that we followed In 
developing all the wines, but particularly the flavored wines. 
We would get an idea of what kind of a flavored product the 
marketing people would want, and then we would put out the call 
to the various flavor companies to send in samples . Say we 
were working with Swiss Up, which was essentially lemon and 
lime; we'd get a number of samples in of lemon and lime, and 
when we'd got all the samples that we wanted, we would add the 
flavors to wine and just make a rough judgment as to the 
intensity of the flavor. 

Actually, we'd add them to the wines pretty much in 
proportion to their cost. We would arbitrarily say, well, 
let's add enough lime and lemon flavor to the wine that the 
investment in flavors would be, say, twenty cents a gallon 
(just to take a number out of the air) . If you have twenty 
flavors and you can hardly smell six out of the twenty, 
obviously they've stretched the flavor to the point where 
you're not getting the value of the intensity of the flavor 
that you are trying to buy. So just on the quantitative 
measurement alone, some will be discarded. 

The next judgment a person makes is just based pretty much 
on the characteristic of the flavor: do you like it or not 
like it? Does it have too much of a lemon rind or lime rind 
taste? Is it overly turpiney? Is it overly juicy? Or is it 
juicy enough? Those kinds of characteristics, just on a flat 
out, first taste. 

Then we would add these flavors to wines and would set 
them up at three different temperatures . One we would hold 
cold, the other we would hold at room temperature, and the 
other we would put for five days at a hundred degrees. Then we 
would set them up at two levels of sulfur dioxide, one a fairly 
low level of sulfur dioxide, perhaps in the area of twenty- 
five to thirty-five parts to the million S02-free; the other 
would be at a level that would be maybe double that- -fifty to 
seventy parts to the million S02-free. We'd also have another 
variable where we would test these wines: the bottles would be 
kept just partly full. 

Essentially, what we were testing was the stability of the 
flavor under heat, as a reaction to oxidation conditions; as a 
reaction to reducing conditions which would be brought about by 
the SO 2; and then we'd taste the wines. When we got through 
that tasting, that would further cull out some of the flavors. 
We were looking for the most stable flavor under the widest 
range of shelf -life circumstances that we could possibly 



59 



imagine. Sometimes the sulfur dioxide would tie up with the 
citrus flavor and just totally offset it; it would get some 
odd, peculiar flavors. 

Later on, when we got into working with almond flavors, 
which have aldehydes in them- -it \s commonly known that 
aldehydes and 80s combine. One minute you'd have an almond 
flavor, and by the time you put the SO 2 in it would bind the 
aldehydes and you wouldn't have the almond flavor. So that's 
the sort of thing we were looking for. 

Getting back to the Swiss Up example, we would then be 
working with the most stable flavors that we selected. Maybe 
out of twenty flavors we'd work it down to two or three that 
were exceptionally good. Then we'd put a mix in of the lemon 
and the lime flavors which we thought was pleasant. Then you 
had to work on the base wine --the neutrality of the base wine, 
the degree of vinosity or lack of vinosity that a person 
wanted, and of course, finally, the sugar and acid level. We'd 
put that together and present it to marketing. 

Oh, as a matter of fact, in those days, almost before we 
would present it to marketing, sometimes we ran an enormous 
number of consumer taste tests here at the tasting room at 
Asti. 

Teiser: How did you do that? 

Rossi: Well, we had a regular machine going, I think [laughs]. We had 
two very good men on flavors . We had a fellow by the name of 
Frank Robirds and, of course, the other fellow was Ferrer 
Filipello. I don't remember the exact date that Ferrer came to 
us. We'd make up these blends during the week and then we 
would test them on the weekend. 

We'd have fifty consumer taste tests, and we'd have them 
broken down rather simply by sex, extent of consumption, age, 
and then the preference. We had a scale of maybe one to ten 
degrees of liking or disliking, and they would mark it off. We 
would total the scores on the fifty taste tests, which actually 
was a comparison between one variable between two different 
products. We could have the same sugar and acid level, but we 
would have a little bit more intensity of lemon and lime flavor 
in one versus the other. Then we'd run another test where we'd 
keep the lemon flavor the same and increase the lime, and we'd 
run another test keeping the lime flavor the same and 
increasing the lemon. 



60 



So all these variables we'd test out fairly thoroughly, 
with the idea of getting a consumer reaction. And they worked 
very successfully, because even though people weren't that 
precise on being able to verbally describe the differences, 
they were a lot more precise on their taste results. 

Teiser: When people came into the tasting room, did you ask them to 
fill out a questionnaire? 

Rossi: Yes. We'd have the consumer taste testing set up in the back. 
We had two young ladies who would come in on weekends and work 
all day Saturday and all day Sunday. They'd say we were 
running some consumer taste tests in the back, and invite 
visitors to participate. Most people responded very quickly. 
Sometimes we'd maybe garner three to five hundred taste tests 
over a weekend. By noon on Monday we had them all worked out, 
and by afternoon Monday we had the results. 

Then we'd work up other blend variations that we'd want to 
do, and we'd do that from Tuesday to Friday and be ready the 
next weekend. It just worked great, because we had a lot of 
work to do, and it was very inexpensive. It seems to me that 
the expense of running these taste tests--! hate to tell you 
the figure, because if I tell you the figure it's going to make 
everybody else look as if they were the original spendthrifts . 
I think it was around ten or fifteen cents a test, which is 
like the price of a cup of coffee in 1900 or something 
[laughs] . 

Anyway, they were fantastically helpful to us. Then we'd 
go down and review the results with the marketing people. This 
wasn't designed to be a very sophisticated rundown. 

Did you have any way of checking the results? 

Well, sometimes we'd run our proposed blends against existing 
competitive wines. If it was important enough, we'd run one 
hundred taste tests to see if the second fifty confirmed the 
first fifty. During the summer it was an absolute bonanza 
because we'd have people from all over the country, people on 
vacation going through the winery. We had quite a bit of 
variability. So that was very helpful to us and really gave us 
a lot of guidance. 

Jacobson: I was curious about Silver Satin. You said that was one of 
your best sellers , and that it was introduced in response to 
Thunderbird. You also said that it has been your experience 
that when you weren't the first out with a product, it didn't 



Teiser: 



Rossi: 



61 



do as well. 
Satin? 



What do you think made the difference with Silver 



Rossi: Silver Satin was relatively a successful item with us, but I'm 
sure the volume never was close to Thunderbird' s , for two 
reasons: one, Gallo introduced a good product early on; they 
were the first. And secondly, they put an enormous amount of 
money behind it. 

Teiser: Thunderbird was said to be the most alcohol for the money on 
the market. Was that right? 

Rossi: Probably so. Because it was 20 percent alcohol on the label, 
and of course the California labeling regulations allowed us a 
plus or minus 1 percent actually in the wine, in contrast to 
what was on the label. So if it was 20 percent alcohol on the 
label, it meant that the wine had to test 19 percent or better, 
which meant that most of the bottles would be 19.1 percent to 
19.3 percent. It was likely in those days that it was Thompson 
Seedless that was used as the base wine, and the price was 
quite inexpensive. 

Looking at it another way: I don't know what the price of 
those wines were, but whatever they were --if they were $1.50 a 
bottle, you still had a full (in those days) 757 milliliters; 
and if you look at it from a proof point, you had 38 to 40 
proof of alcohol in that bottle, and that was half of the 
alcohol that one would have in a bottle of whiskey or a bottle 
of brandy. Because the bottle of whiskey or brandy would be 
80 proof, so they were only 40 percent alcohol. And a bottle 
of whiskey (I'm not very good on prices) was probably in the 
area of four to six dollars a bottle. Without trying to get 
very specific on the comparison of prices of Thunderbird and 
Silver Satin in those times vis a vis the distilled spirits, 
that would be a true statement. 

Of course, it was in response to the fact that, I think, 
the blacks in the South used to buy white port, and then they'd 
take a drink of the white port out of the bottle and then put 
concentrated lemon juice in the bottle and mix it. That was 
the way they used the white port. So then Gallo was perceptive 
enough to come along and say, well, if that's the way they want 
to drink the white port, we'll give them the white port already 
mixed. 

The other advantage you had in making the Thunderbird in 
the same way as we did in making the Silver Satin was that the 
source of the sugar didn't have to be grape sugar; it could be 



62 



sucrose. That made a difference in the taste. Sucrose made it 
a softer taste, and you didn't have the non- sugar solids that 
you get in grape concentrate. It turned out to be a smoother 
product. As a matter of fact, that goes without saying for all 
of these flavored wines . We were able to use flavors and we 
were able to use sucrose. 



Flavored Wines of 1968-1983 



Jacobson: Why don't we move to the products introduced after 1968? 

Rossi: Okay. The scene now, in 1968 or 1969, was that table wines had 
already overtaken dessert wines -- 

n 

Rossi: --and furthermore, the flavor wines were still going strong, 

except we were heading into an era in the early 1970s where the 
20-percent-alcohol flavored wines were going to be about flat, 
and the lower alcohol flavored wines were going to become more 
popular, with a peak in about 1974. And at that time in the 
history of the wine business, as exemplified at least by Sonoma 
County grape prices, 1970 was the first year in history that 
the average price of grapes in Sonoma County was over $200 a 
ton. That was somewhat of an aberration, as a matter of fact. 
I guess there was an increase in the demand for the grapes 
simply because they needed the wine, and it was the lowest year 
of acreage yield in a number of years . There was only one and 
a half tons per acre yield, so there was probably some crop 
loss that year. What I'm trying to say is that there was 
apparently a double effect there: there was an increased 
demand for the wine and a decreased supply. 

So that catapulted the average price per ton in Sonoma 
County from $133 per ton in 1968, to $166 per ton in 1969, and 
$256 per ton in 1970. And then it kept going pretty much 
straight up. 

Teiser: I believe earlier in that "Historical Perspective" you pointed 
out that in the middle thirties, at the time of the prorate, it 
was $12 per ton. 

Rossi: Exactly. So that was the scene post-1968. In our company that 
was just exactly the year that Heublein made their entry, in 



63 



1969. You can see that they headed into an era in the wine 
business that was going to be pretty tough going. 

Then our thrust was pretty much towards flavored wines, 
[looking at confidential company reports] As a matter of fact, 
our production of 20 percent flavored wines peaked in 1972. On 
the other hand, the 14-percent-flavored wines were picking up a 
pretty good head of steam, and they peaked for us in 1976. 
Therefore, our thrust was to try to maintain or slightly 
improve the sales of our 20 percent flavored wines . But we 
were really into the 14 percent alcohol flavored wines at that 
particular point in time because, without divulging the actual 
numbers , at the peak of the 14 percent flavored wines our 
volume was five times the peak of the 20 percent flavored 
wines . 

I don't think that we were any aberration from the 
industry, because it shows over here on these figures for U. S. 
wine consumption (which, incidentally, I have through the 
kindness of Lou Gomberg) a peak of about 12 million gallons for 
20 percent flavored wines in 1970, and a peak in 1974 (which 
may not be the precise peak) of 52 million for 14 percent 
flavored wines . So this is about a four and a half to one 
ratio, and our company had a five to one ratio. So we were 
just about in sync. It's hard to be really different from the 
industry anyway. 

In any case, that's sort of the background of what we had. 
Therefore we had the flavored products after 1966. One was 
called Key Largo; another one was called Sangrole, which was a 
sangria type; Zapple was an apple -flavored type; and Waikiki 
Duck I think was a tropical -flavored sparkling wine. You might 
remember my having mentioned a few minutes ago that the 20- 
percent-alcohol wines came out first, and then one of our most 
popular under- 14-percent wines was Bali Hai. Bali Hai would 
have been about a 12 -percent- alcohol level. 

After 1968 we got into another total area. We got into 
our Annie Greensprings , which were in response and competitive 
to Gallo's Boone Farm wines. The alcohol levels on these wines 
were about 9 percent to 10 percent. We had Annie Greensprings 
Cherry, Annie Greensprings Berry Frost, Annie Greensprings 
Peach Creek, Annie Greensprings Plum Hollow, and Annie 
Greensprings Apricot Splash, all pretty much made with the same 
protocol as I described for the 20 percent flavored wines but 
with lower alcohol levels. That was one marketing thrust, and 
there we had the flavors clearly delineated. 



Some time later we came through with another series of 
flavored wines, where we thought we might be able to stretch 
out the life cycle of the flavored wines by not mentioning the 
fruit flavors. We gave imaginative, proprietary names to them: 
Mellow Days, which I remember was a strawberry -flavored wine; 
Easy Nights, After Hours, Magic Moments, and Stepping Out. I 
can't answer my own question: I'm not sure whether the T. J. 
Swann wines had a longer life cycle, vis a vis the Annie 
Greensprings , or not. 

Those were our offerings . 

Teiser: How did you coin the names- -did you have an advertising agency 
think of them, or did someone here come up with them? 

Rossi: I think that was pretty much a function of the sales and 

marketing people. We probably had an ad agency that would 
design a name or a label or a concept for introducing the new 
product. 

Teiser: Did you do any research on the names, which kinds would work 
better than others? 

Rossi: The marketing people would. They'd put a name and a product to 
what would be known as focus groups, with the idea of getting a 
cross -section of consumers' reaction to the product and the 
name. On a number of occasions I was invited (I was never 
excluded) to go to some of those focus sessions, but just 
simply never took the time to do it. They were fairly 
interesting sessions, and I think that they were worth the 
effort to do. It's my own personal opinion, which may not be 
totally authentic, but I think when a person is in the area of 
introducing new products, your hope is to have a big winner, 
but on the conservative side you want to avoid a big loser. 
You want to avoid any losers. So the consumer taste test on a 
product, and the focus groups on the concept, label, and the 
name- -they can't all be big winners, but if they can head off 
the losers--! think those purposes were served by what we were 
doing. 



Teiser: In the matter of coolers, are they direct descendants of the 
low alcohol wines? 



Rossi: I have to think about that for a moment. Yes, there seems to 

be a consistent trend, from 1957 to 1987, over that thirty year 
span. In 1957 we were still in the era where we were shipping 



65 



considerably more dessert wines than table wines. The first 
wine that anybody thought of introducing in a flavored wine was 
a 20 -percent -alcohol flavored wine. As time went by, the 
popularity of table wines increased and the attention turned 
to, say, 12-percent-alcohol flavored wines, vis a vis Bali Hai 
which would be one example. Even some of the 20-percent - 
alcohol wines that we talked about we had out at 16 percent 
alcohol for one or two states, and we had them out at under 
14 percent alcohol. The next step down from 12-percent-alcohol 
flavored wines was to drop down to the 9 -percent or 10-percent - 
alcohol flavored wines. Then we find in the 1980s that we're 
talking about coolers, and we're not even concerned about a 
wine category. We're talking about a cooler which is not 
7 percent alcohol anymore, and if it's below 7 percent alcohol 
it's not considered a wine. 

On the one hand a person might take the position and say 
that there's no relationship between a cooler and a low-alcohol 
flavored wine. The low-alcohol flavored wine is at 9 percent; 
the cooler might be at 6 percent alcohol. You still have wine 
in the product, and you're still building up the product to 
have a good taste balance, and the flavors are there. The only 
thing that has been projected into the equation is the use of 
juices, and the juice adds an extra dimension of taste. So 
we're almost following a sociological trend towards lower 
alcohol products, the use of juices, which are more healthful, 
and you might say lower calorie drinks, because as the alcohol 
goes down there are fewer calories. 

While there aren't neon signs going on about these 
coolers, they are in concert with sociological trends that are 
happening. They are healthful, they're easier to drink, they 
seem to be more popular, plus they are easier to reconcile with 
the fact that there's a movement against alcoholic beverages. 
That could be subscribed to by some people as worthwhile. But 
instead of these more radical approaches towards solving the 
problem of alcoholism, or even alcohol and driving, we can get 
into a solid educational program. We have a good educational 
program, and the problem is still there, and it's being 
reflected in the selection of beverages. So I would say there 
is very definitely a tie-in. And, of course, it's apparent 
that over the last few years these coolers have become very, 
very popular, and they have become a significant asset to the 
wine industry. 

Where we'll go from here is difficult to tell. It's 
common knowledge that in the summer or fall of 1987 we had a 
flattening of cooler sales. I don't know what that portends, 



66 



but I would agree that if you're going to stay in the game you 
have to have exceptionally strong financial resources. 

Teiser: Another trend that I haven't heard much about recently, that I 
think Jerry Lohr keeps following, is simply lower- alcohol, more 
or less traditional wines, and no -alcohol wines. He is using, 
I think, reverse osmosis. Did you ever follow minor trends 
like that? 

Rossi: Well, we did come out with a low-alcohol wine called Asti 

Spumante. It was made with Muscat. It had a nice flavor and no 
alcohol, made in conjunction with equipment that Fresno State 
University had. Essentially we took a dry Muscat and put it 
through some kind of a vacuum system that took the alcohol off, 
and then we added juice back. And we came up with quite a 
palatable product. Then we carbonated it. It was an okay 
product. The reverse osmosis I'm sure puts out acceptable 
products, but it has a limited production volume there; it's 
slow. 

My own opinion is that these low- alcohol or no -alcohol 
products --let's talk about no-alcohol products for a moment: 
you essentially need to have a significant sales and marketing 
program. What do you do? Do you put them in with the wines, 
or do you put them in with the juices? Do you keep them on the 
shelf, or do you put them in the cold box? The lack of shelf 
space is one of the more serious problems that the wine 
industry has these days. Between the new offerings coming out 
of California, to say nothing of other states in the United 
States, plus imports, I don't think there is a store in the 
United States that you can go to that says, "My goodness, I'm 
glad you walked in the door. It just happens that I have 
twenty linear feet of shelf space that I want to fill up." 
It's just not happening. The number of offerings is just mind- 
boggling. The fight for that shelf space is where the real 
battle is. To introduce not only a new item but a totally new 
concept, when it's difficult to get people tuned in to what you 
have already- -what I'm really saying is that instead of a no- 
alcohol wine, people may say they might as well drink juices. 
It's such a totally different category. 

Teiser: Juices are a lot cheaper. 

Rossi: Sure, and they're easier to make. Sometimes there's a great 
deal of disparity between what would seem right on paper and 
what practically is achievable. Sometimes what is practically 
achievable for a relatively small winery is not practically 
suited as a product to pull an industry out of difficulties. I 



67 



think the coolers are here to stay, but I don't know if the 
growth will continue to stay as strong as it has been. I would 
also venture to say that in the area of blush wines, including 
White Zinfandels, they may peak, but I think they've hit a 
chord with the American public. They may level out and at the 
same time bring consumers to try white and red table wines. 

Teiser: Do you think the traditional wine types are going to stay in 
about the same balance that we have them today- -sugar , acid, 
and so forth? Will they taste the same? 

Rossi: [pause] I would hope. And maybe it's a realistic hope that as 
time goes by people will, on the traditional wines, break away 
from too much sweetness and too much blandness and too much 
emphasis on lack of tannin, to recognizing the place for less 
sweetness and a little bit more tannin- -I'm talking good 
tannins, not press wine tannins; tannins that are soft and 
would lead to an appreciation of a wine that is more aged; that 
would lead to an appreciation of a white wine that has an age 
tone to it without being oxidized, but at the same time doesn't 
necessarily have to have the degree of freshness that seems to 
be demanded today . 

By the same token, I think that maybe somewhere along the 
line there will be a greater appreciation of red wines. 
Because as people begin to tie in food and wine they'll begin 
to see that they don't always have to have a white wine. Not 
that I have anything against white wines, but I personally 
think that red wines to a large extent are more complex than 
white wines. I don't think that's fully appreciated. But I'm 
not sure that won't come about fairly soon. American industry 
and American consumers seem to have the ability to compress 
time in the world, if anybody can. So I don't think we have to 
look for a generation or two generations to change these 
things. It could happen a lot faster. 

Jacobson: To what extent would you say has the popularity of the blush 

wines, including the White Zinfandel, displaced the popularity 
of, say, flavored wines? 

Rossi: The volume of flavored wines has gone way down- -the special, 

natural flavored wines. I think we have the coolers, which is 
a plus. Maybe the coolers are detracting from some of the jug 
wine business, which is hurting. I really haven't looked at 
the statistics, but my hunch would be that the blush wines have 
displaced some of the more traditional roses. So what was a 
more traditional rose is now being moved into a blush type. 



68 



Essentially what we're saying is that we have a very, very pale 
rose instead of a rose of normal depth of color. 

Jacobson: Maybe I should ask what you think has accounted for the ebbing 
of the popularity of the fruit -flavored wines. 

Rossi: I think that the American consumer doesn't have all that much 
loyalty to products. They tend to be sort of a shifting group, 
and unless you catch their fancy on something that is really 
solid that they are ready to stay with over a long period of 
time, they'll move into a category of a beverage and then move 
out of it when there's something new. And if there's one thing 
that's sure on the American scene, it's new offerings in 
markets in almost every area of food and beverage. 

In a certain sense, the more intensely flavored something 
is, the larger the risk of olfactory fatigue, not only when 
you're consuming an individual bottle. When you taste a bottle 
of wine that has a very intense flavor of another fruit added 
to it and it's fairly sweet, the person will say, "That was a 
lovely wine, but I had trouble getting to the bottom of the 
bottle." Unless you take that wine and mix it with a soft 
drink, which dilutes it. What I'm trying to say is that if 
olfactory fatigue is established in a consumer's mind on one 
bottle or two bottles, then it seems to me that would tend to 
diminish his desire to buy a case. 

Whereas on chablis, a person either likes it or he 
doesn't. If he likes it, there's no olfactory fatigue. He 
might figure, "This is 1.5 residual sugar, and I might like it 
a little bit sweeter, or I might like it a little bit dryer, 
but the fact is it does pretty well with whatever I'm eating." 
So come the 10th of November, you put a case of wine in to 
carry you through Thanksgiving and Christmas. You think 
nothing of buying a case of table wine. But I think a person 
would think twice about buying a case of flavored wine. That's 
just my own opinion. The more intensely flavored, the faster 
the olfactory fatigue, not only on one bottle but on the reuse 
of the wine . 

Teiser: I think Ernest Wente said that their Gray Riesling was figured 
out on that basis. It didn't have a very salient flavor and he 
thought it could be consumed day after day. 

Rossi: Yes, I think that's true. If you make a wine that's palatable 
and you're not afraid to have a fairly strong acidity with a 
good, low pH, without overdoing it, then the flavor stays with 
a person. There are a lot of imported wines that are quite 



68a 




Winery Tours 



WELCOMES YOU TO OUR TASTING ROOMS 

May We Suggest . . . 

To most enjoy and learn about the wines of the Italian 
Swiss Colony, first taste one of the White Table Wines, 
then one of the Red Table Wines, and then the others 
in the order listed below. Finish with a Dessert or 
Cocktail wine. 

White Table Wines ' -*v 

Light, dry, refreshing 
Rhine, Chablis, Sauterne 

. Red Table Wines 

Mellow, dry, full-bodied 

Burgundy, Cappella, Tipo Red Chianti 

Vin Rose 

The "all-purpose" wine 
Pink, fruity, very mellow 

Aperitif fir Dessert Wines 

Sweet, mellow, refreshing 

Pale Dry Sherry, Sherry and Lejon Vermouths, 
Cream Sherry, Tokay, Port, Muscatel 

< Special Natural Flavored Wines 

New, American cocktail favorites 

Bali Hai, Silver Satin, Arriba, Swiss Up 



Join one of our winery tours through the vast Redwood 
Cellars. The time of the next tour is shown on the clock 
at the end of the bar. It will be announced in the Tast 
ing Room and starts outside in the courtyard. The tour 
takes about 45 minutts. You'll see how wine is made 
and mellowed. Your questions are always welcome. 



For your convenience . . . 

Candy, cigarette and soft drink vending ma 
chines are provided adjacent to the Tasting 
Rooms. (Sorry, we can't serve wine to minors.) 
You are welcome to postcards and wine recipe 
pamphlets stocked in the writing desk racks. 




Since 1M1 
P.O. Box 1, Asti, California 



Card given to visitors at the Asti tasting room. 



69 



popular that don't have a great deal of flavor; they are fairly 
neutral, but they seem to hold that popularity. 

Teiser: Soave? 
Rossi: Exactly. 



Traditional and Innovative Wines of 1968-1983 



Rossi: The other wines that we developed in this period of time after 
1968 were the table wines. The Navalle wine was first worked 
up in late 1971 or early 1972, and that was a very big move on 
our part. We had a burgundy, apparently we had a claret, we 
had a chablis, a Rhine, and a rose. 

Teiser: Were those all actually Napa Valley grapes? 

Rossi: No, they would have been, at least initially, predominantly 
North Coast grapes. As time went by the percentage of North 
Coast grapes that we could put in them had to drop, just from 
the economics of the price of grapes from the North Coast. 

Teiser: How did you happen to develop the Navalle blend? 

Rossi: We decided that we had to develop table wines. Prior to the 
Heublein buy-out we did have the Inglenook estate wines, and 
then we had the Inglenook vintage group of wines. That was 
prior to 1969. There were a number of wines that we can allude 
to that we brought on the market in an effort to increase our 
table wine sales. The first and foremost by far was the 
Navalle wine, which was initiated in late 1971, and I believe 
first sold in 1972. I can remember that occasion very clearly, 
because at the time Mr. Solari was still the president of the 
company and we had a discussion as to which brand name we 
should introduce to complement the Italian Swiss Colony wines. 
There was a considerable amount of consideration given to the 
decision as to whether it should be Lejon or Inglenook Navalle. 
And they decided that of the two, the Navalle would be the more 
popular and would have the greater chance of success. 

So we introduced Navalle wines, and at that time they were 
all generics. We had a burgundy, a claret, a chablis, a Rhine, 
and a rose. We introduced them and we had very good success 
through the years. It lasted into the 1980s, and they're still 



70 



going strong. So that Inglenook Navalle brand is definitely a 
success story. 

Teiser: What standards did you bring those wines to? 

Rossi: When we first started out they had a very high percentage of 

North Coast grapes in them. Then as time went by we had to cut 
down on the North Coast grapes more and more. 

Teiser: Why? 

Rossi: Because of the cost factor; because of the cost of the grapes. 
It was just inevitable that that had to happen. We looked for 
a distinctiveness of the wine, we looked for a good balance on 
the wine, we looked for a certain freshness. We wanted no 
faults in the wine. We wanted a wine that had a good mouth 
feel in the case of the reds, and we wanted a pleasant 
sugar/acid balance with a fresh, fruity aroma in the case of 
the chablis, the Rhine, and the rose. Something that was 
essentially pleasing to the palate of the consumer without 
necessarily being cloyingly sweet. And I think we managed to 
do that. I think that over the years those wines have 
maintained their quality. 

Teiser: You weren't trying to make those wines for aging? 

Rossi: Not with the Navalle. They can be aged, but they were 

essentially for the consumer to use now. We were obviously 
taking advantage of the name and the prestige of Inglenook, and 
we may have been subject to criticism for that. 

Teiser: I think there was some criticism of the name Navalle because it 
wasn't all Napa Valley grapes. 

Rossi: Yes, I think so. But again, you see, if you look to a very 
small group, maybe one tenth of one percent of the consumers, 
that are familiar with the point that Navalle is a contraction 
of Napa Valley, then one would be subject to criticism for that 
group. I know there was one wine writer who took us to task on 
that point. The fact is that Navalle turned out to be a brand 
that represented a good value to the consumer. As a matter of 
fact, the Navalle line impacted on their Napa Valley estate 
wines . They turned that around and put through extraordinary 
efforts to make wines of top quality. They increased the 
distinctiveness of the Inglenook estate wines in order to 
create a very definite distinction between the Inglenook 
Navalle and the Inglenook estate. It was a difficult marketing 



71 



job, and I think they went about it very astutely and honestly 
and just did the best they could in a difficult situation. 

Teiser: When did Beaulieu come into this? 


Rossi: They did buy Beaulieu during that period of time, in 1969. 

Teiser: Did you have any contact with Beaulieu? 

Rossi: No. I'll say this: they bought Beaulieu after they bought 
United Vintners, and they were very careful always to keep 
Beaulieu at arm's length from Inglenook and from United 
Vintners, and with good reason. They did not want it to be 
said that the wines of Beaulieu were the same as Inglenook or 
were wines that were associated with United Vintners. Not that 
there was anything wrong with United Vintners wine, but they 
just wanted them to be separate entities in the public's mind. 
They were always operated as separate entities . They went 
after their own grapes, they had their own standards for the 
grapes and the wines, their own methodology for making wine, 
their own marketing organization. They were totally and 
absolutely separate. As a matter of fact, Legh Knowles was 
very protective of Beaulieu brand, and he did a very good job 
for them in protecting Beaulieu. 

Teiser: They pulled that off. People don't think of Beaulieu as allied 
with any other brands. 

Rossi: No. 

There were other wines that we introduced during the 
Heublein period in an effort to sell table wines. There was a 
Heritage Colony and a line of Lejon Cask wines. They went into 
the 1970s, having been started before 1970. We had a wine 
called Chill Light Burgundy, which was a very light-bodied wine 
that a person could serve chilled, and the chilling of the wine 
did not increase the tannin taste. That was a pleasant wine, 
but that didn't last beyond several years, to 1982. 

Then we had another wine to compete with the Lambruscos 
that were being imported from Italy that was called Borsalino. 
That unfortunately didn't do too well. I think the marketing 
idea could have been a little bit better on that one. They 
said, "Here's Borsalino: not too sweet, not too dry; just 
right." The implication was that it was compared to the 
Lambruscos, but if a person didn't know what a Lambrusco was, 
the comparison tended to leave people up in the air. I think 
that was one wine that we could have done a better job of 



72 



introducing. That and the fact that it was difficult to make a 
wine that was comparable to the Lambruscos . 

Teiser: Are the Lambruscos that different from anything else? 

Rossi: Oh, yes. The Lambrusco grapes are very heavy, very dark 

grapes. They have the characteristic of being very dark but 
not necessarily very tannic, so they're not very harsh. They 
have high color tannins , but the other tannins are not so high 
in relation to the color tannins. So they have the 
characteristics of being very dark in color and still 
maintaining a certain softness. But in order to maintain a 
balance with the high tannin, one can increase the acidity and 
also have a high level of residual sugar and it comes off as a 
very well-balanced wine. 

Teiser: Couldn't you do this with Missions? 

Rossi: On, no, because Missions wouldn't begin to have the tannin 

level. It's a very, very dark wine. Oh, maybe with something 
like a Royalty or a Rubired you could approach the intensity, 
but they don't have enough intensity or flavor characteristics. 
Besides not having the best message to convey the merits of the 
wine to the consumers, the only other problems were that we 
didn't have the right grapes, the right weather, the right 
soil. Other than that we didn't have any problems. [laughter] 
That came in 1980, and by 1981 we had to give it up. But we 
still went in where angels feared to go, and sometimes we came 
out all right. 



Soft Wines 



Rossi: Another line of wines we had were the Lejon soft wines in 1981- 
1982, where we had a burgundy, a Camay, a chablis, a French 
Colombard, a rose, and a Chenin blanc. They were a pleasant 
group of wines that did quite well for several years. They 
tended to be a little bit sweet, and so perhaps that shortened 
their life cycle. I'm not sure there was anything wrong with 
the wine . 

Teiser: How did you define the term "soft"? 

Rossi: Well, soft probably had a little bit less tannin and a little 
bit more residual sugar. They were just pleasant tasting. 



73 



The frosted bottle was fairly imaginative. As a matter of 
fact, it was one of the best packages that we came up with. 
And Heublein was strong on packaging; they had good ideas on 
packaging. Not that they didn't have good ideas on product- - 
they had good ideas on product, and they listened and looked 
for innovation; they were responsive to it. It was a pleasure 
to work with them. 

Lastly, we had a group of wines called Jacare, introduced 
in 1982. That was a white wine, a rose, and a white rose. 
That had a fairly good life span. They were pleasant wines, 
easy to drink, not all that traditional. But probably the most 
distinctive thing about the Jacare was a frosted bottle. It 
was a very attractive bottle, and I think that was what 
attracted people to the wine. Then once they tried the wine 
they liked it and kept right on going. The white rose was a 
blend wine ahead of its time. The packaging there, I think, 
carried it. 

That gives a bit of an idea of our efforts to hold our own 
in the table wine business. Of course, the amount of red wine 
and white wine that was sold with the Navalle label, and the 
amount of red wine and white wine that was sold under the 
Colony brand was not insignificant. We were trying to have 
other brands that would keep up with demand and hopefully 
increase our share of market. 

I think it was in 1981 that we introduced Italian Swiss 
Colony varietals. As a matter of fact, that wasn't the first 
time Italian Swiss Colony varietals were put out, but I think 
we had a new package and a new emphasis on Italian Swiss Colony 
varietals at that point. From my own part in the organization, 
I had tended to taper off in the mid-1970s away from the day- 
to-day quality control, and even from quality assurance. I 
stayed in the area of doing some practical research, but I 
stayed with the product development- -that is, the development 
of new blends. 

With the introduction of the ISC varietals from 1981 on, I 
also started to get more and more into public relations work. 
Not to the exclusion of the technical end, but a considerable 
amount of my time, perhaps 20 percent, was involved in PR work, 
which I enjoyed doing. I always felt it was important. I 
never wanted to get away from actually doing blends at the 
bench, because I felt that was what I enjoyed doing most and 
hopefully did well. I didn't want to lose touch with what was 
going on in the technical end of wines. 



74 



That about did it for the period after 1968 to 1983. One 
of the last blends that I worked on were wines called Navalle 
Blanc de Blanc and Grenache, which turned out to be good items 
for the Navalle label. 

Jacobson: I noticed from looking at R and D budgets that from 1970 on 
they were doubling each year, getting quite big. Was that 
Heublein's-- 

Rossi: Yes, they supported our R and D effort up here at Asti. Much 
of that R and D effort went into these flavored wines . And 
then we stepped up our quality control effort. Having started 
with this in 1959, where our mission was one of quality control 
and R and D--with the emphasis on the D, development- -by the 
time fifteen or sixteen years had gone by it was true that our 
budget ten- timed itself (without getting into specific numbers) 
over that span of years. But, you see, we were doing all of 
the work up here at Asti on laboratory research, but on 
practical projects. Then we got into process development, 
appraisal of equipment for use in the winery, and we had 
developed a more sophisticated quality control team, which 
included sanitation and microbiology. And, of course, we 
stayed with product development. 

We even had on the drawing boards drawings for an R and D 
center here at Asti, but the prevailing thought at the time was 
that the quality control was critically important in Madera, 
because that's where the volume of the wines was being bottled. 
They didn't feel that it was a good idea to have quality 
control at Asti with the major portion of our business going on 
down at Madera. That made a lot of sense. 

I hated to give up on the idea of having that R and D 
center here at Asti. What might possibly have emerged was an R 
and D center at Asti, just for R and D, and then the quality 
control at Madera. The difficulty is that, as R and D units 
go, we weren't that large; it didn't make too much sense to 
split the two functions. Because if you have a quality control 
or a quality assurance center where you're set up to run a 
routine analysis in some volume and with a good degree of 
accuracy, if the research or the product development people 
need analyses done , then those people are the ones who do the 
analyses. It's better to have one group to do those series of 
analyses rather than split the group. 

So it was decided, then, in 1973, that this whole function 
of quality control and research and development would move down 
to Madera, which it did. They built a handsome and very 



75 



practical R and D center at Madera. It was in 1975 that 
Mrs. Rossi and I moved down to Madera to be part of this group. 
From 1975 until 1980 I stayed associated with this group, and 
in a certain sense I'm still associated with this group. But I 
prescinded from the day-to-day administration of these 
functions and pretty much concentrated my effort on product 
development and some research projects, not the least of which 
was a project on grape color extract. 

In 1980 I devoted some of my time to public relations. 
Teiser: Did that include your work with marketing, then? 

Rossi: Yes. Well, public relations had a two- fold function. For 

example, I would go to a city and introduce a new product to 
newspaper people or magazine people or radio people or t.v. 
people. And at the same time I'd visit our distributor and 
make a presentation to our distributor salesmen of the same 
product. So when I say public relations, I'm really talking 
the media as well as distributors. That for me was easy and it 
was enjoyable. It's just important that you don't get too good 
an opinion of yourself, because when you come home you find out 
that you're not as smart as they think you are [laughs]. 



For further discussion of quality control, research, and development, 
see pp. 113-114. 



76 



The Petri Period. Continued: 1953-1960 
[Interview 4: 7 March 1988 ]## 

Teiser: To go back to the Petri period- -how did they handle Italian 
Swiss Colony staff? 

Rossi: During that period of time, once they had taken over Italian 
Swiss Colony, there were a number of people on the Italian 
Swiss Colony staff who stayed with the company. I was one of 
them. I moved from San Francisco up to Asti and got involved 
in the winemaking at Asti from about 1953 until 1957, when I 
became the director of research and development and quality 
control . 

Teiser: Were you director for all of the wineries in the group? 

Rossi: Yes, for research and development and quality control. Up to 
the time they asked me to be the director for quality control, 
we had an in-house quality control group where the winemakers 
at one plant would act as a check on the wines of another 
plant. But then it got to be a little bit too cumbersome and 
it was decided it would be better to put it in one place. 

The thing that actually gave the momentum to start a 
separate group for R and D and quality control, to be truthful 
with you, is the fact that in 1957 Gallo came out with its 
Thunderbird, which had all the earmarks of being a huge 
success. I remember Mr. Bianchini asked me for a comparable 
product in six weeks, because we just couldn't stand still and 
not have something competitive on the market. So we did it, 
and it worked out okay. It worked very well, as a matter of 
fact. Our comparable product was called Silver Satin, a lemon- 
flavored white wine. 

Teiser: What was Bianchini like? Can you characterize him? 

Rossi: I would say that he was a very bright person, and he had years 
of experience. One way of putting it would be to say that he 
knew his way around the block as far as wine was concerned. He 
was a veteran in the wine business, and he had worried through 
Prohibition, and when Prohibition was over he got started up 
again with Petri. He was just a good, practical man. He was 
quite a good wine taster. I remember being on a panel tasting 
wines with him and John Daniel at Inglenook. He had a 
practical approach to things. He was interested in quality, 
but he wasn't interested in quality that had to be attained at 
a price of being too impractical, where there would be risks 



77 



taken at the plant level because there would be open tanks of 
wine. There was a practical way of doing things and a sensible 
way of doing things, and then there was a "book" way of doing 
it. Sometimes the book way isn't necessarily the most 
practical way. So he was a pleasure to work with. I learned a 
lot from him. 

His assistant turned out to be my cousin, Bob Rossi. He 
became assistant production manager in 1956. Bob, I would say, 
was not a trained enologist, but again his background fitted 
Bianchini's very well in that he had a lot of good common sense 
and was a good administrator. He made good judgments; he saw 
the forest, not the trees. So that was a good combination. We 
all worked pretty well together. 

Teiser: How about Benjamin Mortara? 

Rossi: Benny was the money watcher, and he was a good man in that 

regard because he watched the day-to-day expenses, but not at 
the expense of being ridiculously penurious. But at the same 
time I think he was a good offset to Louis Petri, because he 
would point out to Louis --well, he knew Petri well enough that 
he could speak up to him, and he would tend to curb some of the 
impetuousness of Louis Petri. He'd say, "Now look, Louis, I'm 
not sure we ought to go all the way that you're suggesting." 
And Louis would listen to him, and Louis needed somebody to 
listen to. Because, after all, Benny was on his team. It was 
just a team approach, and it was almost a family approach, 
where one listens to the other and gives considerations to 
various aspects of a problem. And I think Bianchini was in the 
group. He certainly was family, and Louis listened to 
Bianchini. In some of the history write-ups Louis acknowledges 
that he had a great deal of respect for Lelio Bianchini, or Bob 
Bianchini, as his friends called him. 

But there was no question about it that once the facts got 
on the table, Louis Petri was the one that said go. And when 
he said go, the rest followed. Even if there wasn't absolutely 
one hundred percent agreement, once it was go, then they put 
their shoulders to the wheel and decided that if there was any 
way on God's green earth of making something go honestly, they 
would do it. 

I think another thing we might talk about for a moment is 
that it was in 1957 that the S. S. Angelo Petri was launched. 
I don't have an intimate knowledge of the difficulties that the 
wine industry was running into at the time with respect to the 



78 



railroad tariffs for shipping wine east, but I think we have to 
remember that in 1957 we were still shipping a preponderance of 
dessert wine over table wine . And I suppose maybe the 
railroads were getting too ambitious on the rates that they 
wanted to charge the wine industry. So one of the ways of 
beating this was to figure out an alternate way of getting wine 
from the West Coast to the East Coast, and Louis Petri did 
that. 

He launched a project to reconvert a Liberty ship to a 
wine tanker, and it was not a small undertaking. The ship had 
to be put together, and they built a receiving depot at 
Stockton for wines to go from points in California to Stockton 
so that when the ship arrived in Stockton it could be loaded 
immediately. Of course, the idea was to keep the ship going as 
constantly as possible. We weren't making any money on the 
ship as long as it was sitting for days in port, so within 
reason the ship would come into port and would be loaded 
immediately. 

Then it would leave and go around and stop at a port, I 
believe, in Houston, where there was another depot. Wine for 
Chicago was loaded onto barges that would go up the Mississippi 
and then unload at Chicago. The rest of the cargo would go 
around from Houston to Port Newark, where it would unload at 
Port Newark for wine to be discharged to the East Coast- -the 
New Jersey and New York markets. 

To my recollection, I don't believe we ever shipped any 
white wine bulk. I think it was quite a bit of red wine, 
particularly for the New Jersey and New York markets, for 
Petri 's Pastoso line and our G&D, and much dessert wine. They 
stood the voyage, I would say, quite well. We had to be 
scrupulously careful about cleaning the tanks and the 
sanitation, and we had our share of near heart attacks when 
we'd receive a sample of white port that would have a red color 
in it. We would think it was red wine that had gotten into the 
white port. On closer investigation we'd find that the man who 
took the sample hadn't cleaned the thief out from the red wine, 
and then he took a sample of the white port and put it in the 
bottle. We'd get a sample of pink-colored white port and 
wonder if we didn't have forty or fifty thousand gallons of 
contaminated white port. (They would not have been 
contaminated in an ill health or sanitation point of view, but 
from a wine point of view.) We -might have been premature in 
having a blush white port by about thirty years. [laughter] 



79 



Teiser: As I remember, when the tanker ran into trouble you had to do 
some special analysis. 

Rossi: That was an interesting time. Incidentally, the tanker handled 
about 2.5 million gallons of wine. I believe it was in 1960 
that, just outside the Golden Gate, when it was very stormy, 
the ship took waves in the stack and blew out the generators. 
So the ship was afloat, really, without being able to make any 
headway. It was just floating aimlessly out there on the other 
side of the Golden Gate. How near it was to the Farallones, 
I'm not sure. It may have been close enough that it prompted 
Herb Caen to refer to the incident in his column the next day 
as "Petri on the rocks" being the new "in" drink. 

What they did was to send barges out and brought it back 
into port, and then they sent several of us down from Asti 
here to take samples of the wine . You see , in those days we 
used to take samples of the wine from the tanks at Port 
Stockton, and then we'd take comparable samples as holdback, 
those quality tasting samples plus holdback samples from the 
ship tanks. Then we would compare the two, and then we'd have 
holdback samples that we'd keep for perhaps a year. 

We went down and took samples from the ship tanks . Of 
course, we were smelling the wine or tasting the wine or 
checking the aroma of the wine, and declared that it seemed to 
be fine. But that was with considerable reservations when you 
think that we had all the various odors of the San Francisco 
waterfront conflicting with the wine aromas. I think we could 
tell pretty much; maybe we couldn't appreciate the good 
qualities about the wine, but we could tell that it wasn't too 
bad. The critical issue was whether or not salt water had 
gotten into the tanks. We were down there in the afternoon, 
and we brought samples back here to Asti- -there must have been 
fifty or sixty samples- -and started to analyze them. We 
analyzed both the samples from the tanks at the depot as well 
as the tanks on the ship. We ran a complete analysis and found 
that they coincided very closely. 

But the interesting point was that just a matter of 
several weeks before we had bought, for $1,500 or $2,000, our 
first D U spectrophotometer. This spectrophotometer , with a 
flame photometer attachment, had the ability to determine 
sodiums. I don't think I'll ever forget that salt water 
contains ten thousand parts per million of sodium. Now, the 
normal sodium in wine would run somewhere between fifty and a 
hundred parts per million. So if there was as little as a 



80 



Teiser: 



Rossi : 



1 percent contamination of salt water in the wine, with a 
normal alcohol analysis of, say, twenty, you could have an 
analysis of 19.8 and it would be within the limits of the 
ability of the analysis- -the two tenths. It would not be solid 
proof that water, fresh or salt, had gotten into the wine. 

The key analysis that told the story was the sodium 
analysis. Because if 1 percent salt water had gotten into the 
wine, then 1 percent of ten thousand parts to the million would 
be a hundred parts per million of sodium in the wine, which 
would have doubled, if not more, the normal content of sodium 
in the wine. Say the normal content was 75, then with a 
1 percent contamination it would have been 175. So all the 
comparative analysis of the samples taken from the port of 
Stockton tanks, in contrast to the ship samples, were all plus 
or minus maybe ten or fifteen parts per million which again 
would be within the limits of the method of analysis. 

In the meantime, Louis Petri had made the statement to the 
papers that he was quite confident there was nothing wrong with 
the wine, that it was all right. We finished our analysis 
about one in the morning, and I remember we caught a two 
o'clock mail truck. At seven o'clock the next morning this 
report was delivered to Mr. Bianchini's desk, and of course he 
was elated when he could see from the sodium analysis that we 
were, in fact, 100 percent okay. Samples had been sent out to 
a commercial laboratory, and samples had been taken by a 
California state organization, but their analysis didn't come 
through for a week or two or three later. But it was by the 
next morning that they were able to be confident that the wine 
was okay. That dramatically showed where instrumentation was 
going to be a part of wine analysis, and it worked out fine. 

That's an interesting story. We have some record of the ship 
itself in Louis Petri 's interview, but not that aspect of the 
event . 

The side story of that, on a personal note, was that I had 
brought down a heavy coat that I had in the Navy. I think my 
claim to fame was that they had a shot of me smelling the wine 
on board the ship for about fifteen seconds. My children were 
watching t.v., and of course Dad was the big hero because they 
saw me on t.v. I remember them calling to my wife "Hey, Mom, 
come down and watch Dad; he's on t.v." She may have gotten a 



81 



glimpse of me on t.v. , or not. 
the family that day.^ 



But I made a few points with 



Quality Control 



Teiser: When you took charge of quality control, did you set up the 
labs and new facilities? 

Rossi: No, I worked pretty much with the laboratories that were 

intact. We had a good laboratory at Madera, Escalon had a good 
laboratory, and Asti had a good laboratory. It was more a 
question of reviewing the wines that we had in the tanks as 
well as the wines that we had in the bottle, and then each 
month we would bring in competitive wines and taste them. We 
would make quite a comprehensive report, and it went to 
everybody in the company- -the production people, sales people, 
Louis Petri--so that everybody had a look. There must have 
been others, other than myself, who were tasting the wines, but 
it was our group that tasted them and made the comments and 
took the analysis down. It gave us a very comprehensive look. 

Teiser: When you have a broad group of people like that tasting, does 
that make them more interested in working together on wine 
quality? 

Rossi: I think so. Wine quality can tend to take a second place if 

you let it take a second place. If a person has a demand from 
sales for, say, a given number of cases of a given wine, and 
the warehouse inventory is low, that wine gets bottled in a 
hurry so we don't have to back order a wine. That tends to 
take top priority. So the production requirements, of 
necessity, just seem to take care of themselves. And every 
wine, of course, is tasted before it's bottled. But the 
inherent quality that one has in one's wines, plus the 
comparative quality of one's wines in contrast to competition, 
just has to be kept up, and we have to know where we are. 
Reviewing one's wines monthly- -or periodically; it doesn't have 
to be monthly- -for quality, from an overall point of view, 
could be defined as a quality assurance function. 

Quality assurance pertains to an overall company policy 
direction for product quality, in contrast to the day-to-day 



further reminiscences of the S. S. Angelo Petri. see pp. 92-93. 



82 



Teiser: 



Rossi: 



appraisal of wines as they're bottled, which could be defined 
as quality control. We didn't use to have the distinction 
between quality control and quality assurance. The whole 
function of quality seemed to emerge in the 1950s and 1960s, 
and then by the time Heublein bought us out, why, the two 
functions of quality assurance and quality control became 
apparent. They wouldn't necessarily be done by the same 
people, and they really were two functions. 

Organizationally speaking, companies handle it 
differently. Quality control could be the responsibility of 
operations, as also could quality assurance. I've always felt 
that the stronger way of handling it, or giving quality its 
proper place in the world, is to have quality assurance and 
quality control functions report directly to the president of 
the company. I think that's the strongest way of doing it. It 
takes its place on a one-on-one basis, or with equal 
forcefulness , with people who are in charge of production, 
marketing, sales, finance, or a lot of these other functions. 

I've seen it written often that Ernest and Julio Gallo both 
taste frequently. If that is correct, what does that imply? 

Well, I've heard that Julio Gallo tastes almost every day, and 
it may be that Ernest tastes almost as frequently. I couldn't 
cross that "t" or dot that "i," but I think the fact that they 
do a lot of tasting together says two things. First of all it 
says that they're staying. right on top of their business, and 
quality is absolutely tantamount to their success. If there 
are any shortcomings in quality, I'm sure they want to find out 
about it ahead, before the wine gets bottled and out on the 
shelf. 



Teiser: You say tasting takes a great deal of discipline? 

Rossi: It takes a great deal of discipline. Wines have to be tasted 
as unknowns, blind, and it has to be done in an environment 
where no person is going to be right all the time. And even if 
there are duplicate samples that are not recognized by people, 
that isn't necessarily a way of trying to check on the person. 
The fact is that if there are duplicate samples that are not 
ranked as high with any one person or people within the group, 
then perhaps the distinctions that one is looking for in a 
given wine aren't as strong as one would like to imagine. It 
has to be done in an environment where there's total 
objectivity, and there's no sense of trying to check on the 



83 



tasters. If a person's worried about being embarrassed, why, 
he shouldn't be there. It just has to be a given that people 
are going to make mistakes, if you want to call it that. 

And there are procedures for determining whether a person 
is appropriate for a given wine panel or not. That's a totally 
different exercise. But once a person's on a wine panel, then 
there should be total trust that everybody's doing the best 
they can. People will have off days, and the consensus of the 
group is what will rule. I think it's important to have a 
great deal of objectivity about it. It's a disaster for a less 
knowledgeable chief executive officer or chief operating 
officer to come in and taste a wine and either praise it to the 
heavens or say it's terrible. In which case the whole panel is 
biased because you're not judging the wine objectively, you're 
judging your courage at whether or not you're ready to 
challenge what the president says on tasting the wine. I think 
most wine companies do taste objectively now, and they do have 
these taste panels which they establish. 

Teiser: How many people does it take to make an adequate panel? 

Rossi: I think it depends on the task at hand. If you're just 

reviewing a group of wines for a good reproduceability of a 
given blend from one blend to another, a panel of three can do 
that satisfactorily. And I wouldn't have any objection to a 
panel of five. But I think if you're making a judgment on a 
wine as to its appropriateness for a new product, then you're 
really delving into the unknown a little bit and it's probably 
better to have a littler larger panel, say either five or seven 
people that would represent various areas of the company- -say, 
two people from production, maybe two people from research and 
development, one person from finance who's concerned about the 
expenses involved, and then maybe two or three people from 
marketing and sales. Then you get a consensus opinion. A 
person can get the various factors that are involved on the 
table early on, as to all the ramifications of a given wine. 

Teiser: When you're tasting wines like that, do you discuss expenses? 

Rossi: We taste them for taste, and then we discuss expenses. It's a 
disaster to say that this proposed blend is fifty cents a 
gallon more than the other proposed blend. The person who is 
tremendously interested in quality will say this [the more 
expensive one] is far and away better; and the finance man's 
going to think it's a disaster, because he sees his profits 
going down the tubes. 



84 



Petri Personnel 



Rossi: If you like, I could discuss for a few minutes some of the 

people who worked under Louis Petri during the period 1959 to 
1969. The group that I had mentioned before were those who 
were in place as Petri took over Italian Swiss Colony in the 
early 1950s. Larry [Bruno C.] Solari came back to work for 
United Vintners under Louis Petri in 1954. In 1962 the sales 
organization was something like this: Irv Cotanch was in 
charge of open state sales; Greg Lutz was in charge of 
franchise states; Bob Woodward was in charge of control states; 
we had a man by the name of Ed Angioni who was in charge of the 
Eastern division; Joe Calabrese was in charge of Central 
division out of Chicago; a man by the name of C. Toomey was in 
charge of Western division. John Emmart was in charge of 
advertising; Richard Knox was in charge of sales promotion; 
Vince Vandevert, who wrote quite a presentable article on the 
history of ISC, was in charge of public relations. 

That was in 1962, and that was the group who was organized 
by Larry Solari. 

Teiser: What were the circumstances of Solari coming in? 

Rossi: I'm not sure about that. I think Larry Solari was known to be 
a good salesperson. I recall that he personally had almost a 
computer-like mind. He could remember the sales position and 
the relative percent of market share that we had for various 
wines throughout the country, amazingly. I think that Louis 
Petri just found that he was a man that he needed. 

Teiser: What was his position? 

Rossi: He was the vice-president in charge of sales. As I mentioned 
before, he had left the company with General Deane in 1952, a 
year prior to when Louis Petri had bought the company in 1953. 
Larry Solari had associated himself with Guild from 1940 to 
1948. He came back to United Vintners in 1954. He took over 
from Louis Petri as the president of the company in 1964 and 
became chairman of the board in 1969. 

Teiser: What was Solari like? 



85 



Rossi: He was quite a personable man. He had a lot of ability on 
sales, he knew the overall wine business well, and he was a 
fairly ambitious person both for himself and the company. He 
had good contacts around the country, and he had the ability to 
surround himself with good people. I think that he kept us 
really quite competitive to Gallo. And he was quite a good 
taster. It was good to have a president of the company who 
knew wine quality. And you could disagree with him and the 
world wouldn't come to an end, and that was important. 

At one time he owned the winery that Hanns Kornell has 
now. It was Larkmead; he had the brand Larkmead, and that was 
when he was with Italian Swiss Colony- -he bought the Larkmead 
winery and built that up. He built his home there in the Napa 
Valley amidst vineyards that he had planted. He was quite 
farsighted; he put vineyards in in the Napa Valley early on and 
did very well financially from his investments in the wine 
business . 

What I'm trying to say is that he had an overall 
background: by the time he came back to us and worked with 
Louis Petri, he had owned a winery, had put his own vineyards 
in, had sold his own wine; he had worked for Guild, which was a 
fairly large operation in Lodi, and he had previously worked 
for Italian Swiss Colony, which handled a lot of dessert wines 
as well as our premium Asti brand wines. 

So by the time he came back he was a seasoned executive , 
and Louis Petri was wise enough to see that and to say that he 
was the man to help build the sales. Because Louis had 
committed himself. He had his own wineries, and then he had 
Italian Swiss Colony wineries that he was leasing to Allied 
Grape Growers. There was one major thing that would make the 
whole thing collapse, and that would be if he didn't have the 
sales. So Solari was a key guy, there's no question about it. 

I'm not certain of the circumstances under which Louis 
decided to phase out, but the fact is that he did, and then 
Larry took over as president. Larry was the man at the head of 
Italian Swiss Colony when we were negotiating and eventually 
sold to Heublein in 1969. He was a good man to have there at 
the helm of our company to guide the transition, because he 
knew the game. But he wasn't at all adverse to new things. I 
mean, we didn't really wait for Heublein to come out with 
flavored wines, as I mentioned before; he had flavored wines 
starting in 1957, and then we moved into low alcohol flavored 
wines in the mid-1960s. That was all under Solari. Given the 



86 



fact that Heublein was at least initially attracted to the idea 
of having flavored wines, it worked out well. 

Through the Petri- Allied pejriod, I would say that there 
were not an unreasonably great number of personnel changes on 
the R and D side, or on the production side. There were people 
at the plant levels that were doing a good job and that had job 
security, which provided good continuity of product to the 
company. 



Plant Personnel 



Rossi: I was the winemaker up until 1957, when I left the day-to-day 
production and went into quality control and research and 
development, and Min Okino made his appearance at Asti in 1957. 
To relate Min's story with this company would almost take 
another chapter. There's hardly any phase of this operation 
that Min hasn't been involved with. From the date that he 
started to the present day he has been of extraordinary value 
to the company. 

Teiser: What is he now? 

Rossi: Min is in charge of production and winemaking for Heublein 

wines at Madera. That is, he has charge of the production for 
all of the Inglenook Navalle and Almaden wines. He has a very 
big job, although you wouldn't know it to talk to him. 

Those are some of the key people during the Petri period, 
both at Escalon and at Madera. 

[tape off brief ly]## 

Rossi: At Asti for a short period of time we had Ed Prati, Enrico 

Prati's son, as the plant manager, and Paul Heck was here for a 
short time as the plant manager. Joe Vercelli came in, I 
believe, in 1954, and he stayed as the plant manager until 
1971. On the winemaking side we had people like Myron 
Nightingale and Joe Aligretti, who were here in the 1949 to 
1953 period. Doug Davis was at Asti for a time in this period. 

Following Min Okino 's period as winemaker here, Bob 
Delsarto, who started, I believe, in the late 1940s (and who 
was the third generation in his family to be in the wine 
business), became the winemaker. Then Bob Delsarto became the 



87 



plant manager in 1971 and remained the plant manager until 
1981, when Scott Stoner, the present plant manager, took over. 
Following Delsarto we had a number of winemakers who carried us 
through a twenty-year span of time. One was Rob Rife; another 
man was Tom [Thomas G.] Eddy, who then went to Souverain, and 
from Souverain went to Christian Brothers. Another man was 
John Monier, who is now with Krug. Finally, we have Kevin 
McGuire, who is the current winemaker. 

As laboratory directors we've had such people as George 
Kay; [Edgar] "Pete" Downs, who is now with Chateau St. Jean; 
Dick Arrowood, who is now with Chateau St. Jean; Ron Brown, who 
I believe is still in the wine business. Bob Pike, who I 
believe is with a cork supplier in the wine business, was with 
us for four years . 

In the research and development group early on, I 
mentioned Dr. Herb Zimmermann; then we had Frank Robirds; then 
we had Ferrer Filipello, who had formerly been on the staff of 
the University of California at Davis. All very good men. As 
I said, George Thoukis was with us for one year, which was all 
too short; he was a top man. 

In later years, when we moved down to Madera, there are 
several people who come to mind: Gregg Hahn was a very good 
man; Derek Holstein, who subsequently went to Christian 
Brothers and then went to Domaine Chandon, and I believe now 
has moved to Guenoc Winery in Mendocino County. 

Without belaboring this too long, heading south to 
Escalon, there were many good people that had been with the 
company there with Louis Petri. Obviously, the key man there 
was Bob Bianchini; and I would say Jim Gott, who was the plant 
manager from 1951 until 1960, was also a key man. Jim stayed 
past 1960. He came into San Francisco with Petri and was the 
assistant production manager, and later was a vice-president in 
charge of production- -a good man. 

Paul Halpern would have to be mentioned as a plant manager 
at Escalon, but he would also have to be mentioned as having 
been in charge of the bottling operation up here at Asti, and 
as a plant manager at Madera, and as a plant manager at Sanger. 
I think he was one of our unsung heroes . He was a very 
versatile man, hard working, very practical, and knew how to 
get the job done. 



88 



Staying with Escalon, Joe Roullard would have to be one of 
the outstanding men in the organization. He was the plant 
manager from 1962 to 1983- -absolutely invaluable over that 
twenty-year span of time. Joe not only ran the winery at 
Escalon as the plant manager, but also during the years of the 
operation of the S . S . Angelo Petri ship he organized and 
coordinated the movements of wine from the various wineries to 
Stockton, and then shipment from Stockton out on the ship. 

We also had a very good man there by the name of Ed Moody, 
who was the plant manager from 1983 to 1986. He had started 
with me here at Asti in the research department several years 
before that, and then he followed me down to Madera. Then he 
decided he wanted to get into operations , so he went up to 
Escalon in 1975 and was the winemaker from 1975 to 1983. Then 
he took over as plant manager for three years. 

Staying with the plant managers at Escalon, we come down 
to the present plant manager, Bruce Weeks, who started as plant 
manager in 1986, and is still the plant manager. He had been 
transferred from Madera in 1985 to go to Escalon as the 
winemaker. He was winemaker for one year. Then Ed Moody had 
another employment opportunity and he left the company. So 
after one year as winemaker , Bruce Weeks took over as plant 
manager and has done a superb job. 

We had prominent names at Escalon before my time. Max 
Goldman was there between 1940 and 1946, and then apparently 
Ze'ev Halperin was there for a period of time following Max 
Goldman. I think Ze'ev Halperin had been at Asti for a short 
period of time, but Ze'ev's contribution to the wine industry - 
-he will go down in history as being a very good employee of 
Christian Brothers. 

The winemakers I remember at Escalon, not only with 
fondness but with respect, were Tom Leong, who was there 
between 1951 and 1958; Bill Witsky, who was there between 1958 
and 1960; and Bert Silk, who was there between 1960 and 1961. 
Ray Paolucci was the winemaker between 1963 and 1972; Miles 
Karakasevic was there between 1972 and 1975. As I mentioned, 
Ed Moody was there between 1975 and 1983. He was followed by 
Kevin McGuire, who came to Asti; who was followed by Bruce 
Weeks, who I mentioned above was there for a year. Of course, 
from 1986 to the present time Harley Kakiuchi has been the 
winemaker, and he's doing a very capable job. That takes care 
of Escalon. 



89 



Heading further south to Sanger--the key management people 
at Sanger plant until 1961, when it was sold to United 
Vintners, was the Cella family itself, including John Cella 
(II) and Phil Krum, who was the plant manager at the winery 
from 1945 until 1970, a full twenty- five years. An extremely 
capable man. He knew his winery, and he knew how to make 
things run. Paralleling his tenure there was Aram Ohanesian, 
who was the winemaker from 1946 until 1977, a thirty-year 
stint. He was a good winemaker and of extraordinary value to 
that plant. They were both very dedicated men. 

More recently, the people that have been there were Paul 
Halpern, whom I mentioned; Ken Ford was there for three years, 
between 1976 and 1979; Ron Nino was there for a year (he's now, 
I believe, with San Martin Winery). Adrienne Iwata was there 
as the winemaker from 1977 until 1980, and from 1981 until 
November of 1987 she was the plant manager. Now she's in 
charge of operations in the San Joaquin Valley for Beverage 
Source, and Gary Nakagawa has taken over as the plant manager. 
Randy Asher, whose experience extends back to the days of 
Heublein, when he was involved in the research and development 
department at Madera, is currently the winemaker there at 
Sanger. 

As far as the Madera plant is concerned, there were a 
number of changes in plant management over the years since 
Heublein took charge. One of the most important people in the 
stability of the Madera operation was Kasuo Sanbongi. He was 
with us from 1960 until his death in 1983. He was responsible 
for an enormous amount of production; it was the single biggest 
plant that United Vintners had, and he discharged that 
responsibility. His co-workers at the winemaker level were Joe 
Rossi, who happened to have studied with Professor [Vernon L. ] 
Singleton at the University of California and wrote several 
very good papers on phenolics and wine- -for which I sometimes 
get credit, but quickly have to correct. He is very bright, 
very innovative, and carries a lot of responsibility. The 
other winemaker down there who carried out a lot of 
responsibility was Ray Paolucci. More recently we've had a 
younger man by the name of William Matasek, who is very 
capable . 



Rossi: In addition to that, we've had a champagne maker turned 

winemaker- -Chris Bonner. Chris Bonner is at the present time a 
winemaker connected with Heublein wines. He is responsible for 



90 



the Almaden blends, but while I was there he was responsible 
for the champagne making. Whatever he's done, he's done well, 
and I think he should be mentioned as one of the outstanding 
people there at Madera. . 

On the managerial and administrative side, that brings up 
Bill Weber, who was in charge of administration, and he's still 
associated there. The top man is the vice-president in charge 
of operations for Heublein, Martin D. Yocum. In my opinion 
he's one of the most capable administrators that I've ever 
worked with and for. He won an outstanding award last year, 
the John Martin Award, from the Heublein organization, which is 
worth mentioning. There was another man, W. "Pete" Holloway, 
who was there for a period of time in charge of operations. He 
left the company, and now he has returned to our company, 
Beverage Source, as vice-president in charge of operations. 
Richard Hanley, in charge of distribution and business 
development, is a long-term and valued person at Madera. 

To talk about the research and development and quality 
control center down at Madera, I believe that in previous 
discussions I mentioned that whole area of activity had been 
initially assigned to me at Asti in 1957. As the organization 
grew, and as it became necessary to gradually switch part of 
the organization from Asti down to Madera, the man who took 
over the day-to-day operation was Peter Tan. He was a man that 
I hired, I suppose some twenty- five years ago, and he is now 
the director of the Heublein Wines technical center at Madera. 
That covers a multitude of facets. It covers quality assurance, 
quality control, product development, process development, 
basic research. I have to say I have a bias, because we're 
very close personal friends; but bias or no, he's one of the 
brightest people that I've ever run into in this organization 
or most anywhere. He's been an outstanding man in this 
company. He would be on a par with Min Okino, as far as his 
contribution to the company would be concerned. 

There are others down there: one is Hon-Kong Kwok, who 
started with me up at Asti, who is in charge of the quality 
assurance. There are two other men, Jim Kutschinski and Steve 
Kupina, who are in charge of basic research. Then there's Joe 
Alioto, who is in charge of product development and process 
development. These are all men who have made significant 
contributions to the company. 

It's only proper that I should mention my first cousin, 
Robert Rossi. Our fathers were twins. He started with the 



91 



company in 1946 and is still associated with Heublein today. 
His career followed the lines of operations and production more 
than the winemaking side, and from operations he went into 
grape management and grower relations, bulk sales, and vineyard 
and property management. He's certainly been a real asset to 
the company over his career. 



Teiser: When was it that more so-called educated winemakers started 
coming into the industry? 

Rossi: I would say that that happened in the late 1940s and in the 
1950s. 

Teiser: By then there were quite a few well -trained men coming in? 

Rossi: Yes. And at the same time, 1950 was just about the time that 
the American Society of Enology got started. That came into 
the picture, too, where the place of the enologist or the 
winemaker in the wine business was fortified. 

Teiser: What does a plant manager do? 

Rossi: He has overall responsibility for the plant operation- - 
winemaking included. 

Before it goes out of my mind, I want to mention that the 
S. S. Aneelo Petri had its last voyage in 1975, so its tenure 
extended past the Allied ownership into the ownership of the 
company by Heublein. 

Teiser: What happened to it? 

Rossi: I don't know what ever happened to it. 

Teiser: While we're on the subject, Louis Petri said that he found a 
return cargo that wouldn't contaminate the tanks. 

Rossi: Yes, there could have been. I don't know all of the products 
that they had coming back. 

Teiser: At any rate, he didn't return them empty or full of water? 



Rossi: 



Teiser: 
Rossi: 



Teiser: 
Rossi: 



Teiser: 



92 



No. As they could, they would pick up a return commodity 
coming westward. The ship operation was under the direction 
of a vice-president that we had at that time, Jim McManus 
[James 0. McManus]. , 

Aren't there two Jim McManuses in the industry? 

There's a Jim McManus [James R. McManus] who was associated 
with the Brandy Advisory Board; and then our Jim McManus was in 
charge of the Petri operation. He was a very nice gentleman. 
He was very capable, very well organized. He did a great job 
for us . 

But it's true, there were return cargos. I can't really 
think why the ship operation was terminated, except that I 
suppose it got a little bit more cumbersome. To go back to 
some of our original key dates: in the mid 1960s, table wine 
began to outsell dessert wine, and then in the 1970s white 
wines outsold table wines. So that meant that the main cargo 
that we started with in 1957 really wasn't to be the cargo for 
the S. S. Angelo Petri in the 1970s. People had to make a 
decision as to whether all these white wines, which had then 
become the popular drink, were appropriate to be shipped East 
on a tanker or preferably bottled in California. 

Would the spoilage be high? 

Well, spoilage or just the absorption of oxygen and a certain 
amount of oxidation, which white wines don't withstand. As I 
recall, the barge at Houston was one of the facilities first 
shut down. In other words, we terminated our shipments to 
Chicago before we terminated our shipments to Newark. The net 
of all of this is that from an industry point of view Louis 
Petri was responsible, there's no question about it, for 
bringing down and controlling railroad rates. He made the 
capital investment, and he pulled off a feat that was sort of 
flamboyant and not unlike Louis [laughs]. I don't think it was 
seriously deleterious to the quality of the wines in 1957, 
given the fact that three quarters of the wine was dessert 
wines, with the balance red wines- -not white wines. The fact 
is that he did do a service to the industry. 



By 1975 weren't bulk shipment decreasing anyway? 
bottlers dropping off? 



Weren' t 



See Louis Petri, op. cit. . p. 36. 



93 



Rossi: Yes. I think franchise bottlers were dropping off; there were 
fewer and fewer bottlers around the country. They just found, 
with the advancements of technology, that it was better to have 
the shortest line between a bulk storage tank and the bottling 
facility. From the bulk storage tank in California to the 
bottling facility in new Jersey was a fairly long line 
[laughs]. I think it just turned out that it was probably the 
sensible thing to do. But it's a key bit of history in the 
California wine industry. 

Three persons I haven't mentioned to date are Paul Huber, 
general manager at Escalon, later at Madera, when Petri took 
over Italian Swiss Colony. Then there was a man by the name of 
Art Card, who was the wine chemist here a for a while. He left 
and went into an allied business. Ted Yamata was the plant 
manager for a while. 

Teiser: Could you tell a little of the background and history of the 
Madera plant? 

Rossi: It was one of the larger plants that Italian Swiss Colony owned 
pre-Prohibition (three million gallons). In 1915 my father and 
uncle sold the family's interest in Italian Swiss Colony to the 
California Wine Association. So it was then that the Madera 
plant went over to the California Wine Association. Then, in 
the mid- 1920s, the Arkelians bought it. They held it until 
Louis Petri bought it in 1949. 

Teiser: By then it was a very large plant? 

Rossi: Yes. I started to mention some of the key dates under the 
Petri-Allied era: in 1962 the plant size was doubled to 
increase its capacity from having 75,000 tons to having 150,000 
tons. Two years later more of the packaging was transferred 
from Asti to Madera. Those are two key things that happened 
during the Petri-Allied period. 



Brandy and High- Proof 



Teiser: As I remember, it had a big column still. 

Rossi: Yes, we put in a large column still; it was all stainless 
steel. 



94 



Teiser: Just one? 

Rossi: They probably had more than one,, but there was one that was 
exceptionally large. 

Teiser: Did you make brandy down there, or just high-proof? 

Rossi: They made just high-proof. The truth is, in the light of 
subsequent use , we needed to put copper in the top of the 
column to have a clear distillage. The sulfides would go up 
the column, and if they didn't have some copper to react with, 
which would make copper sulfide, then the hydrogen sulfide or 
the reduced sulfide flavors would persist in the distillate 
with serious off flavors. At the time we thought that an all- 
stainless steel column would absolutely be the ultimate, but 
the fact is that it wasn't. We were bucking the small copper 
pot stills in France, and that was a mistake. With added 
copper the column was a success. I remember we set up a little 
glass still up here at Asti and distilled some brandy through 
it, and had essentially the same flavor as what they had in the 
distillate off of the column at Madera. Then we put some 
copper gauze in the top of the still, and the distillate came 
through nice and clean. 

Teiser: Have you worked much with brandy or with high-proof? 

Rossi: Well, not a great deal. I've worked with beverage brandy 
blends and brandy rectifying. We used to buy some of our 
brandy, and I was instrumental in setting up quality standards 
for brandy. I'm not just talking the proof, but how we 
distilled it and also the ingredients. We had a standard of 
fusel oils, and then we had a colormetric method for analysis. 
This method gave an idea of total fusel oils in the brandy, but 
it did not distinguish between the individual higher alcohols - 
-the propyl, the butyl, and the amyl alcohol. Today this can 
be done very accurately with gas chromatography . We found that 
the proportion of one higher alcohol to the other had a key 
impact on the flavor of the brandy. 

Another quality ingredient was the aldehydes, and we'd 
also run the ester content. We did quite a bit of work on 
that. Of course, the distilling material made a difference, 
whether the distilling material was Thompson Seedless or 
Tokays , which were used a lot for making brandy material , as 
were Missions and French Colombard. 



95 



Teiser: Did you use them indifferently, or did you choose blends among 
them? 

Rossi: In Lodi we tended to have more Tokays, and down in the Fresno 
area where we made some brandy at one time at Clovis , we had 
Missions and Thompson Seedless. 

Teiser: Was there much difference in the brandy or the distillate made 
from various grapes? 

Rossi: Yes, there was some difference. I would say there was a 

discernible difference, even on a continuous still. But by the 
time the brandy was aged for two years in the wood and was then 
dumped, and we were allowed to use rectifying materials, the 
differences based solely on varietal differences tended to 
diminish. As a consequence, one of the dominating factors that 
determined what grapes you used to make brandy was price , 
truthfully. As the years went by and we wound up finding that 
we had too few white grapes, then people would use black 
grapes, or red wine, to be distilled. 

Teiser: You haven't operated pot stills? 

Rossi: No. 

Teiser: As far as high-proof is concerned, you don't age that, do you? 

Rossi: No, we don't. We try to do what I think a lot of wineries do: 
they try to pre-plan their accumulation of distilling material 
to produce high-proof so they have enough high-proof come 
August to get started on fortifying whatever dessert wines they 
make early in the following season. 

Teiser: So they don't have to hold it over? 

Rossi: Exactly. So they don't have to wait to make high-proof to do 

the fortifying that they need. Another way of putting it would 
be that if a person makes a good quality white wine early in 
the season, it would be a shame to use some of that white wine, 
say, in late August or early September to distill into high- 
proof. It's more economical to have high-proof from the 
previous year to use. 

Teiser: Given full control, do you make the wine to a different 

standard when you know you're going to distill it than if you 
were going to use it for bottling or whatever else? 



96 



Rossi: Not to make high-proof; yes, to some extent, for beverage 
brandy . 

Teiser: I think the pot still people here bring it in at a lower 
alcohol content. 

Rossi: They bring it in at a lower alcohol content and a higher 

acidity, and that tends to make a better brandy. Brandy, to a 
large extent, is a function of the quality of the wine, and I 
know that in Europe they bring in the white grapes early. In 
Italy they use what they call the Trebbiano; in the brandy area 
of France they call it the Ugni blanc. But the interesting 
point is that if a person harvests the grapes early, which will 
give a lower alcohol, the person will wind up with a relatively 
high proportion of fusel oils to the alcohol. Because on early 
harvested grapes you get perhaps as much fusel oil at, say, ten 
alcohol as you would at twelve alcohol. As a consequence, when 
you distill the alcohol you have a relatively higher level of 
the congeners, of the fusel oils; and if you have a higher 
level of the congeners, then they in turn react with the fatty 
acids of the yeast and with the acids of the wine, so that you 
would tend to have a higher level of esters. With a higher 
acid you also have a lower pH, and the lower pH would act as a 
catalyst for the combination of these aromatic ingredients. 

I think that when it's all said and done, there's good 
reason for what the French are do ing --harvest ing wines earlier. 
Plus the fact that in the small farms where they make wines 
they may have to wait for the man who has a small, portable 
still to come around and distill their brandy, and their wines 
are going to keep much better if they have a high acid and a 
low pH. Very often in life you think that something is done 
totally in the interest of quality, but sometimes it's done to 
survive and it happens to help out the quality, too. 
[laughter] 



97 



More on the Petri Period 
[Interview 5: 8 March 1988 ]## 



Teiser: 
Rossi : 



Rossi: There are a number of things that happened during the Petri - 
Allied period that I don't think we talked about yesterday. 
For example, Allied purchased Community Winery in 1958. 
Shortly thereafter they closed down the Shewan- Jones winery, 
which is just across the road there in Lodi, and they moved the 
facilities over to Community. 

How did that happen? 

Well, Shewan- Jones was purchased by National Distillers prior 
to 1940. They actually bought Shewan- Jones before they bought 
Italian Swiss Colony. I think it was quite a modern winery. 
Then for some reason, in 1958 the Community winery became 
available for purchase. Allied bought it. I don't recall the 
specifics. 

Teiser: Had it been a co-op? 
Rossi: Yes. 

In 1961 Cella Vineyards was brought in by Allied, and 
that's when John Cella [II] came into the picture and joined 
the staff of United Vintners with Louis Petri. Following the 
Cella purchase, the Santa Fe brands were purchased in 1963. So 
that was another group of brands that came into our fold. I 
might say, going back to the Cella Vineyards- -I 'm sure John 
Cella pointed out in his interview^- that they had developed a 
business of selling juice in concentrate to industrial users 
throughout the United States. So he had wide contacts in that 



B. Cella, II, The Cella Family in the California Wine Industry. 
an oral history interview conducted 1985-1986, Regional Oral History Office, 
The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley, 1986. 



98 



area, which is fairly commonplace today. As a matter of fact, 
they bottled grape juice under the Betsy Ross label. So I 
would say they were very likely ahead of their time on that 
particular piece of the business. 

Teiser: I remember that plant was built by the Cellas. 

Rossi: Yes. That plant was built by the Cellas after J. B. and 

Lorenzo Cella sold Roma. I believe J. B. was the father of 
Lori Cella, who married Louis Petri. I think he was the 
California man, and then his brother, Lorenzo Cella, was on the 
sales end and he resided in New York. Of course, Lorenzo was 
John Cella [II] 's father. They were apparently two very astute 
men. 

[tape off] 

Rossi: In that same Petri-Allied period, coming down to my own career, 
it was in 1969 that Mr. Solar i changed my particular status in 
the company from the director of research and development and 
quality control to being a vice-president. 



Inglenook 



Rossi: A year later, in 1964, Inglenook was purchased by Allied Grape 
Growers . I recall that at the time the volume at Inglenook was 
very small; John Daniel was very quality conscious. I don't 
think there were a great deal more than 25,000 to 30,000 cases 
[annually] at the time, but it was top premium wine. 

Teiser: All estate bottled, was it not? 

Rossi: All estate. He had bottling facilities that were adequate, but 
they were beginning to be obsolete in the sense that if he 
wanted to expand his business to a larger volume he would 
have had to make a considerable capital investment into his own 
winery. At the time he didn't feel that he wanted to do that. 
I believe he had two daughters who perhaps didn't show interest 
in going into the wine business at that time, though I 
understand now that they are going back into the business with 
a great deal of enthusiasm and intend to come out with a very 



99 



high quality, high-priced wine.^ 

Going back to that time, Mr. Daniel either had the option 
of putting significant capital investment into his winery or 
selling, and he opted to sell. I know that we established a 
taste panel for the Inglenook wines that consisted of John 
Daniel, Bob Bianchini, myself, and whoever happened to be the 
winemaker at that time. Al Dal Bondio, G. Deuer, J. O'Connell, 
and Bob Steimiller all contributed. This panel worked over 
1964 to 1969. 

Teiser: John Daniel was said to have had fine perception. Could you 
confirm that? 

Rossi: Oh, yes. He was a very good wine taster. He was long-term in 
his thinking. He wasn't the type of person who was interested 
in taking shortcuts for immediate profit; he wanted to 
establish himself as producing the best possible quality and 
directing his efforts towards that. He was a very fine person. 
It was a privilege to work with him. 

Teiser: Was this your first real first-hand contact with the Napa 
Valley- -when you first worked with Daniel? 

Rossi: Yes. 

Teiser: Do you have any general observations that you can make on the 
character of the Napa Valley as a wine producing area, as 
compared to northern Sonoma County? 

Rossi: As I recall, in those days--1964 to 1965--I believe the 

preponderance of wines that we tasted were still red wines more 
than white wines. That area up in Napa Valley for the estate 
wines for Inglenook was Region One or Two by Amerine and 
Winkler's definition of viticultural areas. They had cooler 
evenings and the wines were heavier in body, and therefore they 
needed a longer aging period to develop. And fortunately the 
Inglenook estate wines happened to be in a price category that 
they could afford to age them for a longer period of time. 

It was my first detailed experience with the effect of a 
longer-term aging program, whether it was in small tanks or oak 
casks or whether it was in the bottle- -more than the wines 
which to that point we had produced here in Sonoma County. The 



They established a winery under the name John Daniel Society. 



100 



Sonoma County wines were relatively lighter bodied and they 
were able to be marketed younger with a greater degree of 
freshness because they didn't have as heavy a tannin level. 
They were more palatable younger. That isn't to say that they 
couldn't be aged, but the fact is that the Napa Valley reds 
were heavier in tannin, needed more age, were in a sense more 
complemented with the wood that they found in the barrel. 

Yes, that was my first experience. 
Teiser: Does that generalization still hold for the reds of each area? 

Rossi: With many more Cabernets now in Sonoma County, I wouldn't make 
that judgment today. 

Teiser: Was there a difference in cooperage that was customarily used? 

Rossi: I think the casks at Inglenook were largely oak. It seems to 
me that he had oak casks more than a large number of fifty- 
five gallon oak barrels. So the smaller oak casks did a good 
job. There were economic considerations there, too, since oak 
casks are less expensive than oak barrels. 

At that particular period of time we weren't all that 
conscious of the importance of controlling oxidation in the 
winery, or oxygen absorption in the winery, either for whites 
or for reds. That came on a little bit later. But in any 
case, with careful racking and careful handling of the red 
wines they developed well. 

I remember that George Deuer was a very careful winemaker, 
and when he talked about fining a wine, for example with 
gelatin and a little bit of tannin, he was talking a fraction 
of a pound per thousand gallons. In many instances in other 
winegrowing areas of California we were using amounts of fining 
materials that would be half a pound to several pounds per 
thousand gallons . 

I was impressed that George was very careful in saying 
that we may only need so many ounces of a given fining material 
to a wine. I've found since that that was to be an accurate 
prediction of what we were going to find to be best with finer 
varietals that came later in Sonoma County. That's become a 
favorite area of endeavor, and hopefully of some expertise, for 
me. I try to get wines in a condition that is almost perfect 
in an effort to minimize excessive use of fining materials. 
That was always George's thinking, and he was absolutely right. 



101 



Teiser: There was a tendency a few years ago to market unfined-- 
unf iltered- -wine . 

Rossi: I'm not in sympathy with the idea of marketing an unf iltered or 
an unfined wine. I think to do that is to ignore all the 
technical advances that have been made over the last hundred 
years . I suppose there are some knowledgeable winemakers who 
do that, but that's one practice which I question. 



The Heublein Period. 1969-1983 



Teiser: 
Rossi : 



Teiser: 
Rossi: 



Teiser: 



Did you produce a flor sherry at any period? 
Yes. I don't think we produced a flor sherry to market as a 
flor sherry, but as a blend. I would say it was probably in 
the early 1970s. 

Why didn't you market it? 

Well, as I recall, by the time Heublein came around the dessert 
wines were a bit on the wane. But interestingly enough, at 
that time Phil Posson, who was the vice-president in charge of 
winemaking for Sierra (which became owned by ERLY Industries 
later) , was making flor sherry for bulk sale to other wineries 
for their blends. He was acknowledged as one of the experts in 
the business on making flor sherry. 

Why was it used so often as a blend and so rarely bottled by 
itself? 



Rossi: I think it lent itself more to being a dry sherry, and it had 
sort of a flat, aldehydic character, with a sort of cheesey 
tone to it from the flor itself. I guess I'd characterize it 
as an acquired taste. Once a person likes a flor sherry, 
similar to the Spanish sherry, then it can be delightful. 

Teiser: Why did Heublein buy the Petri -Allied organization? 

Rossi: At that period of time the wine business was in a desirable 

growth phase, and Heublein anticipated that the use of wine was 
going to have significant growth over the years ahead. The 
consumption trends and so forth seemed to be favorable. They 
looked for good profits in the wine business and expected that 
the flavored wine business was an area they could exploit. 



102 



Teiser: By then you had developed some flavored wines? 

Rossi: By then we had developed all of our 20-percent-alcohol flavored 
wines, and we also had fielded the Bali Hai. There were a 
number of popular items; I think we had a demonstrated ability 
not only to produce them but also to sell them. This was in 
concert with their thinking. They had come off a period of the 
successful introduction of the cocktail products that they had 
marketed as extensions to their vodka. So they saw as a 
favorable trend the growth characteristics of the wine 
business, as well as their ability to put together good- tasting 
products and do a good job marketing them. 

Teiser: Was your organization itself pleased to have Heublein take 
over? Did you think it was going to work out well? 

Rossi: Yes, we were all pleased. Because we felt that Heublein had a 
great deal of marketing expertise. As a matter of fact, they 
did have it, and it was proven. So we felt that their 
marketing expertise, with the production facilities and product 
development and research capability that we had, would go in 
concert and wind up being a successful venture. And I have to 
say that one of the characteristics of Heublein over the years 
was that they tended to be innovative and they supported 
innovativeness. I don't think I ever heard a word of criticism 
or put -down for coming up with a new idea. That's the kind of 
an organization they were . 

Teiser: Did they actually encourage innovation? 

Rossi: Oh, yes, they did. They were very keen on that --on new wines, 
particularly on the new flavored wines. 

Teiser: They were quality minded, weren't they? 

Rossi: Yes, they were quality minded, and they had good organization 
for what we defined as quality assurance as well as quality 
control. 

Jacobson: Had Italian Swiss Colony been doing tasting room consumer 
testing before, or did this come in with the Heublein era? 

Rossi: As I recall, we did some consumer taste tests pre-Heublein, but 
the majority of the consumer taste tests that we did in the 
tasting room- -and they amounted to a significant number of 
taste tests- -were done during the Heublein era. We had a whole 



103 



line of Annie Greensprings to develop, and there was an almost 
unlimited number of variables to try to explore. We did the 
product development work during the week, and we'd try out 
variations on consumer taste tess that we would run here over 
the weekends. We ran the taste test in groups of fifty, and 
we'd run as many as five or six hundred taste tests in a 
weekend, which gave us a very thorough look. They weren't 
really designed to give very precisely definitive results, but 
they tended to head us off from making a mistake. 

Teiser: Why did you stop doing them? 

Rossi: We stopped when we had most of our flavored wines developed. 
Then when we got to the second stage of appraising the wine, 
the marketing people wanted to run a controlled taste test or 
panel testing- -concept testing. Sometimes they would test a 
concept and then they would often test the product under more 
rigidly controlled circumstances than we did. 



Rossi: I think the period that Heublein came into the wine business in 
1969 was characterized by several phenomena. First of all, we 
were in the middle of the growth phase of the table wine 
business. Furthermore, we were in the period of the switch 
over within the table wine category from red wine to white 
wine. Into the mid- seventies the low- alcohol flavored wines 
were popular, and so we enjoyed good business there. But as 
the flavored wine business tapered off after the mid- seventies , 
then we were really in a period where we had to get back to 
traditional wine business. 

There weren't enough white grapes in the North Coast 
counties --that would be Mendocino, Sonoma, Lake, and Napa 
counties --to take care of the needs for the wine industry's 
white table wine business. As a consequence, white table wine 
had to be made from grapes grown in the San Joaquin Valley or 
the Central Coast, down in the Monterey area and San Luis 
Obispo. There were new areas that had to be discovered in 
order to supply the consumer with the white wine needs. 

This was fine, but there were several caveats. One was 
that you can't make a good white table wine without a fairly 



See also pp. 60-61. 



104 



intensive capital investment, partly in crushing facilities, 
because you have the necessity of separating the juice from the 
skins before fermentation, which one doesn't have with red 
wines. And the juice at the very least must be cold fermented. 
Once the wine is made it's a more delicate wine and has to be 
more carefully processed in order to hold the flavor. Then 
when it's bottled it is important to minimize any absorption of 
oxygen. As a consequence, the wine business had to make 
significant capital investments in that period of time. 
Heublein was included, and Heublein did make capital 
investments at all of the plants. By all of the plants, I mean 
at Asti, at Escalon, at our plant at Reedly, and the plant at 
Madera. 

Teiser: 1 think you showed me yesterday at this plant some facilities 
that they had put in that must have required a good deal of 
capital. 

Rossi: Oh, yes. We had one building across from the main cellar for 
processing white wines. That went in in 1974 and represents 
maybe half a million gallons. Then we have our stainless steel 
tanks that are under cover, on the top of the hill, installed 
in 1978, and that represents two million gallons. And those 
are just a part of the facilities that were put in at Asti. 
There were even more extensive facilities put in at Escalon and 
at Reedley. It was not only the tanks, but we had to have more 
sophisticated filters, we had to have centrifuges and 
decanters, and of course refrigeration capacity. So during 
that period of time we had an increasing competitiveness in the 
business, and at the same time we weren't able to rely on the 
facilities that Heublein found that we had when they bought us 
in 1969, so they made the investments. 

Also during that period of time, from 1970 on, the price 
of grapes in the North Coast counties steadily trended up. So 
that was another factor that we had to cope with. Heublein had 
an agreement with Allied Grape Growers to use grapes that had 
been committed to Allied Grape Growers here in the North Coast 
counties . 

Teiser: Perhaps we should clarify just what it was that Heublein 
bought . 

Rossi: In 1969 they bought 82 percent of United Vintners, which 

included both the wine business and the plants. In 1978 they 
bought the other 18 percent. 



105 



Teiser: But they maintained the same contracts with Allied that United 
had? 

Rossi: Exactly. As time went by, really through nobody's fault- -you 

can't anticipate what the future is going to bring to a person-- 
Asti was receiving a lot of North Coast grapes through the 
years that became increasingly difficult to absorb into our 
blends and get a return on the investment. My records show 
that in 1977 the average price of Sonoma County grapes was $256 
per ton, and five years later they were $239 per ton, having 
been as high as $500 a ton in 1973. In 1980 the average price 
of grapes in Sonoma County was $506 a ton. The last year that 
I have the average price for is 1983, when it was $542 a ton. 

Teiser: What about the grapes supplying the Reedley and other Valley 
wineries? 

Rossi: I don't have the prices of the grapes in the Valley, but they 
were obviously less. 

Teiser: Were they also going up? 

Rossi: I don't have verification on this point at the moment. The 
fact is that in order to maintain a profit margin, what we 
needed to do was to bring Valley grapes into table winemaking, 
vis-a-vis dessert winemaking. And to make a good table wine 
out of grapes grown in the Valley we not only had to change the 
mix of the grapes in the Valley to a degree, but we also had to 
have expensive facilities, which I alluded to earlier. So 
those were all concerns. 

I'm not sure that Ruby Cabernet, for example, had yet made 
its presence felt in the Valley, but that was an example of 
where one of [Harold P.] Olmo's grapes really took over and was 
a big success. And it's a widely grown and widely used grape 
now. 



Teiser: 
Rossi: 



For example, there wasn't a great deal of variation in the 
tons processed for United Vintner's plants of North Coast 
grapes from 1970 through 1982; in almost every year it exceeded 
20,000 tons. That's not an insignificant tonnage, when you 
have a trending increase in the price of grapes . 

How did it relate to the profits? 

It definitely impacted on our profits, because it was a very 
significant cost factor. 



106 



Teiser: How did it happen that Heublein didn't in the end sell only 
this winery and keep the Valley wineries? 

Rossi: Because they wouldn't have had a buyer for this plant. This 
plant has a cooperage capacity in the area of eight to ten 
million gallons, we have the capability of producing five 
million cases, and we have a crushing capacity of twenty- five 
thousand tons. But when the winery was developed, at least 
initially, by my father and uncle and Enrico Prati, Italian 
Swiss Colony was making all of its wines here. After Repeal, 
even in the period when it was three-quarters dessert wine and 
one-quarter table wine, we made all the dessert wines, the 
sherries, and the vermouths- -and the white table wines, and 
then dominantly red table wines, all at this plant. So the 
capacity of this plant has to be viewed in the light of 
history, at least to understand it. 

Going back in history just a bit, before 1940 in order to 
get some relief from transportation costs of grapes from the 
Valley up here, that was when the family bought the La Paloma 
plant at Clovis from the Tarpey family. Subsequently, into the 
1950s, when the price of grapes was less here and Petri bought 
the plant, we had these grapes here not only to supply quality 
wines for our own Italian Swiss Colony brands, but also for the 
Petri brands. The Petri red wine needs were not insignificant, 
so things were fine until the demand of history said that the 
price of grapes had to be increased. That's where the 
difficulty came in. 

Teiser: Were the Petri wines blends of Valley wines and North Coast 
wines? 

Rossi: Yes, they were, at least initially. All of these wines were 
blends of North Coast wines and the Valley wines. When I say 
Valley wines, they're mostly Escalon, Lodi district red wines, 
which were good red wines. 

Teiser: Does that go for the Italian Swiss Colony label, too? 
Rossi: It goes also for Italian Swiss Colony label, yes. 

At the same time, I think I should mention that Heublein 
was further plagued, through no fault of their own, with an FTC 
suit which claimed that they were monopolizing the wine 
business . 

Teiser: Because they had purchased--? 



107 



Rossi: Because they had purchased United Vintners, and they also had 
interest in Harvey's Bristol Cream, which they were importing, 
as well as Lancers wines which they were importing. On the 
surface it was ridiculous. They didn't have the slightest idea 
of ever monopolizing the wine business, in my own opinion. 

Then we had some difficulty with our labor relations with 
[Cesar] Chavez; at least Allied did. As I recall, that 
impacted on our business to some degree. And we had the 
difficulty of trying to resolve the matter of the more 
expensive grapes in the North Coast that we had committed to 
Allied for. Heublein-United Vintners had increasing difficulty 
working the more expensive North Coast grapes into our blends 
in a way in which we could still come out with a profit. And 
I'm not talking exorbitant profits. I don't know what profits 
we had, but I don't think that they were looking for 
unreasonable profits. 

All of these things impacted during the period of time 
when Heublein owned the company. We had a series of management 
changes. Larry Solari was the president initially, and then 
there was a man by the name of Victor Bonomo as president for a 
short period of time. Then he left and Solari took over again, 
and he brought in a man by the name of Dick Oster, who was very 
capable. Following Dick Oster, Jack Powers came in, who is now 
the chairman of the board of Heublein. Following Jack Powers 
there were several others. I believe we had a man by the name 
of Bob Sanders, and then for a while we had John Keller. In 
1983, when [R. J.] Reynolds divested themselves of ISC wines, 
Bob Furek was the president. These were all very capable 
people. I must say, again, that we were in a highly 
competitive business, and I could see that there was a certain 
degree of distraction from day-to-day business that was caused 
by these legal difficulties that presented themselves to the 
scene. 

Teiser: How did they interfere? 

Rossi: I think Heublein has openly said this: that while they had 
that FTC suit pending they were naturally conservative about 
pouring capital into a company that maybe the government would 
rule had to be broken up. I mean, they weren't talking small 
amounts of money; it wasn't as if it was a little boutique 
winery where maybe something less than a million dollars would 
do it, and if you had to break up, your potential loss might be 
something in the area below six figures. They were talking 



108 



multi-million dollar investment. And they were responsible to 
their board of directors . They had other directions to put 
their assets. They had to be responsible to their 
stockholders. They had a public hearing, just like any other 
public company. 

They were extraordinarily difficult times for those men. 
It was difficult enough to try to cope with the wine business, 
but to cope with the wine business with these other 
considerations that were impinging on their efforts and their 
time and their thought made it difficult for them. I felt a 
great deal of empathy for them individually, and because I 
wanted the company to be successful. 

Teiser: During all these years Heublein maintained their contracts with 
Allied, did that also force them into high-priced grapes? Did 
they have fixed contracts, or were they variable from year to 
year? 

Rossi: The price to be paid to Allied Grape Growers was what was 

subsequently determined to be the average market price for the 
various varieties of grapes in the various districts according 
to the California Department of Food and Agriculture grape 
report of average prices . 

Teiser: But it locked Heublein into price rises? 

Rossi: It locked Heublein into price rises, and when the initial 

contract with Petri and Allied Grape Growers was forged I don't 
think it was possible to anticipate what kind of modification 
of contract could be made in order to compensate for these 
industry changes that were later to present themselves, that 
really nobody could foresee at the time. We just have to 
recall that Allied was formed in 1949, and we're talking about 
difficulties that occurred in 1979, thirty years later. I 
don' t think there was anything other than truthfulness and 
honesty on both sides. It was just a set of circumstances that 
developed that created difficulties. 

Teiser: Was Robert Mclnturf himself, the president of Allied most of 
that time, a factor in this? 

Rossi: He was the president of Allied Grape Growers, and I think he 
felt the responsibility of filling his commitment to the 
growers who had committed their grapes to Allied Grape Growers . 

Teiser: Could you tell a little bit about his background? 



109 



Rossi: Bob Mclnturf was a grower in the Fresno area, for his own 
grapes and those of his wife's family. Bob always took an 
active interest in grapes, agriculture, and co-ops, so I think 
he was the logical choice in Louis Petri's mind when he 
initiated the formation of Allied Grape growers. Bob Mclnturf 
became organizing director and president five years later, and 
remained so for thirty-one years. 

During the whole Petri period, Louis Petri's concept was 
that he and his people would concentrate on the marketing side. 
Then he would sell his assets, and subsequently Italian Swiss 
Colony's assets, to the growers. Then, from the sale of the 
wine made from their grapes, he would be able to return to the 
growers not only the average price of grapes but, in addition 
to that, from any additional funds Petri and his associates 
would be paid. This was essentially accomplished by 1968. 

His job was to sell wine, and once he sold the wine he had 
a very strong selling point. His point obviously was: come in 
to Allied Grape Growers and you'll get market price and better 
than market price, and you'll get your share in the assets of 
the wineries for nothing. 

Teiser: It happened, didn't it? 

Rossi: And it happened; he pulled it off. 



Teiser: 



Rossi : 



That was entirely new in the industry, wasn't it? 
ever heard of doing that sort of thing. 



No one had 



No. As a matter of fact, if he hadn't pulled it off he 
wouldn't have gotten paid. His profit out of this whole caper 
came from generating the funds not only for the growers , but to 
pay off his contract with Allied. It took innovativeness , and 
it just plain took courage [laughs], and he did it. 



The Colony Label#tf 



Jacobson: When did the name change from Italian Swiss Colony to Colony 
brand? 



110 



Rossi: That's kind of a key point. You hit a nerve center with me on 
that one, Lisa. Let's talk about that, but I'm at a bit of a 
loss to know just exactly when that happened. It would have 
happened under Heublein. I think one has to realize that this 
happened in the late 1970s when Heublein was struggling with 
these fairly expensive North Coast grapes and wondering what to 
do with them, and how to get their investment back for the 
grapes from the sale of the wine . 

You recall we talked about them having introduced the 
Inglenook Navalle. Some consideration had previously been 
given to introducing an Italian Swiss Colony Heritage line, 
with the idea of having a premium line of Italian Swiss Colony. 
Somebody decided that maybe the Italian Swiss Colony and the 
"little old winemaker" image didn't fit any more and that we 
should modernize to the simple use of the word "Colony." So 
that change was made with the idea of having a new label, a new 
name, and a new face, without necessarily a total change from 
the past. Colony was to be the brand, but then in the 
mandatory print it indicated Italian Swiss Colony Winery. 

As I recall, one of the considerations in the minds of the 
marketing and administrative executives of Heublein wines was 
that they felt that Italian Swiss Colony conjured an image of 
inexpensive, fortified wines in flasks having been sold in the 
Chicago area in the late 1950s and early 1960s. This image, 
they felt, maybe persisted, and it was a difficult image to 
overcome to get to the point where we could generate a higher 
price for table wines in the 1970s. 

Teiser: By flask do you mean the raffia-covered bottle? 

Rossi: No, I'm talking about a flat half pint, or half -pint flask, of 
just inexpensive dessert wine. And I'm sure that was a 
problem. At the same time we have to remember that during 
those years there must have been a considerable amount of this 
same wine sold on the New York market. But the red table wine 
and the vermouth that were sold to the Italian segment- -it was 
not only Italians, but that's what I'll call it- -of the New 
York and New Jersey markets did not bear the name of Italian 
Swiss Colony; it bore the name of Gambarelli & Davitto- -G&D. In 
short, Italian Swiss Colony had a position in Chicago which was 
very strong in the inexpensive dessert wines; this was not the 
case in the New York market, since the brand wasn't that strong 
there . 



Ill 



Notwithstanding the fact that the "little old winemaker" 
had a tremendous appeal, I don't know how much attention was 
really ever given to trying to turn the "little old winemaker" 
and the saying, "You can't miss with Italian Swiss," which were 
very catchy tunes [singing commercials], to the advantage of 
Italian Swiss Colony wines. But for certain, when we changed 
the name from Italian Swiss Colony to Colony, we may have 
gotten rid of some of the inexpensive dessert wine image from 
Chicago, but at the same time it seems to me that we eliminated 
the possibility of using the little old winemaker, and we 
eliminated the phrase, "You can't miss with Italian Swiss." So 
it wasn't a cut and dried decision; there were some serious 
trade-offs there. I think it is very difficult to run surveys 
to come up with really definitive results as to what a name 
means to certain people. 

I speak with a considerable amount of prejudice, but at 
the same time I must say that I believe that particular 
decision was a mistake. I believe it was a mistake for several 
reasons. I think that, looking at the issue from a competitive 
point of view, our competitors didn't have dominantly red and 
white wines in the Chicago market in the 1950s; they had their 
inexpensive dessert wines in the same market as we did, in the 
same flask, at the same price, with the same ignominy if you 
will. It was an outgrowth of Prohibition, during which people 
lost the habit of using table wines. So when our competitors 
came in with table wines, we had the same opportunity with 
"Colony" brand and, in my opinion, even more so with Italian 
Swiss Colony. 

It's a sensitive point with me. Suffice it to say that 
the word "Colony" can be used for cookies, or it can be cheeses 
or condominiums, or it can be a mobile trailer; it can be used 
for almost anything. The distinctiveness of Italian Swiss 
Colony is really lost when one drops down to Colony. The 
tradition and heritage is totally lost. For that reason I 
personally feel that was a mistake. There's no way of knowing 
whether I'm right or wrong, but those are my sentiments. 



112 



Research and Development 
[Interview 6: 9 March 1988 ]## 



Rossi: Our research and development and quality control effort 
really started in 1957. It was impacted by two 
considerations. One was the fact that our main competitor, 
Gallo, had introduced Thunderbird, and we could see at the 
time that it was going to be a totally new, innovative, and 
lasting product. This was at the time that Louis Petri was 
the president of the company and Bob Bianchini was in charge 
of operations. They asked me to step away from the day-to 
day winemaking and chief chemist responsibilities at the Asti 
plant and establish a small group at Asti to develop a wine 
in a matter of weeks that was competitive to Gallo 's 
Thunderbird, which we did. 

At the same time, we needed to consolidate our efforts 
with respect to quality control. It was my group's 
responsibility here to review the wines of the company on a 
monthly basis. I didn't review all of the wines every month, 
but I would review them in segments . What we did was to 
bring in samples of our wines from the warehouse, and also 
wines from our bulk tanks and our competitors' samples. We 
would taste them, evaluate them, and analyze them, and then 
send out the results across the company. It was totally 
objective. So we saw where we stood with respect to 
competition. And if there were some improvements that were 
needed, we wanted to know that up front so that we could get 
back on target. Today this exercise would come under 
"quality assurance." 

That started in 1957, and over the better part of the 
next twenty years it stayed at Asti and the organization 
grew. We didn't have a great deal of sophisticated 
facilities, but what we did do was to take over the 
laboratory on the second floor which had been used for the 
production control of the winery operations. Then the winery 
built a laboratory on the first level which was then taken 
over by winery personnel for the day-to-day operations of the 
Asti plant. This was in 1957, 1959, 1960, along in there, so 
this was actually under Petri. We had three groups with few 
people: a research group, a quality control group, and a 
product development group. I say group, but actually there 
were one and two persons serving each function. As the years 
went by and the needs seemed to increase , we expanded the 
number of people. But essentially we stayed within those 
three categories. 



113 



Teiser: Were you in charge of all of them? 

Rossi: I was in charge of all three. I was in charge of research 
and development and quality control as a director. Through 
most of those years I was responsible directly to Louis 
Petri. 

Teiser: Who was in charge of product development? 

Rossi: I had a man by the name of Frank Robirds doing that. And I 
had several people in charge of quality control in the early 
1960s. One person who was in charge of quality control for 
the better part of two years was Bertram Silk. Following 
Bert Silk was Peter Tan, who was also very bright. He is now 
in charge of the entire research and development and quality 
assurance complex for Heublein wines at Madera. He's proven 
to be exceptionally valuable to the company. He had an 
assistant, Hon Kong Kwok, who joined us in 1967, and he's 
been with us now for twenty years. He's been very valuable 
to us . 

Over on the product development side, joining Frank 
Robirds, was a man who was well known in the industry, Ferrer 
Filipello, who was very bright, a good mathematician, and a 
very good wine man. Between Frank Robirds and Ferrer 
Filipello, they did all of our product development work for a 
number of years and carried us through the era of the Annie 
Greensprings, T. J. Swann--well, actually we were initially 
involved in the 20-percent-alcohol flavored wines. Then the 
12. 5-, 13-percent-alcohol Bali Hai was theirs, and as we went 
further down the line we got into the Annie Greensprings and 
T. J. Swann, the 9-and 10-percent-alcohol wines designed to 
be competitive to Gallo's Boone's Farm line of wines. 

Without trying to mention everybody, on the research 
side of things one of the stars we had in the early 1960s was 
Dr. Herb Zimmermann, who came to us from Berkeley Yeast 
Laboratories, which was the forerunner of Scott Laboratories. 
Herb was a marvelous chemist and was responsible for 
developing and refining the dichromate method of analysis for 
alcohol, which turned out to be very valuable, among a lot of 
other things. Those were the days when the industry didn't 
have a lot of instrumentation for analysis, so it was more 
what is known as "wet chemistry," just plain bench work. 
Herb had a facility to get a tremendous number of very good 
answers with very simple equipment. 



114 



We had a good man by the name of Hsia Chao, who had 
come to us from Taiwan. He was with us for several years 
and, on a laboratory basis, developed some technology for ion 
exchange which is still in use today. 

And so it went. It's difficult to mention all the 
people we had. For several years we had Dr. Charles W. 
Nagle. I believe he came to us from Washington State 
University at Pullman, and then he lived in California and 
opted to go back to Washington State, where he is now. In 
any case, the group grew over a period of time so that in 
1969, when Heublein bought the company, our records show that 
we had a group of fourteen serving those three functions. 
Then it developed to the point where in 1973 we had a group 
of nineteen or twenty. It wasn't an exceptionally large 
group, but by that time we had added another function, sort 
of as a split-off between research and product development, a 
group called process development. 

Prior to 1973 we had developed plans for an R and D and 
quality control building here at Asti. I always felt that 
had a lot of merit for the company, but that wasn't to 
happen. It turned out that the top executives of the company 
decided that it would be a better investment to have the 
research and development and quality control functions set up 
in a new building down at Madera, since Madera was really the 
place where we had the major portion of our wine finishing 
and bottling operations recalling for the moment that in 
1964 we had moved most of the bottling from Asti down to 
Madera. I think the dominating consideration there was that 
we really needed to have as much technical manpower and 
ability to be put against day-to-day quality and production 
problems. The product development was put on the back burner 
as a second priority to the immediacy of day-to-day problems. 
Further back from that were the longer-term research 
projects . 

In any case, in 1973 the move was made down to Madera. 
Between 1973 and 1975, and even up to the late 1970s, more 
and more of the administrative functions of the research and 
development group were directed to Peter Tan, and I devoted 
my efforts more to the product development side of things and 
to special research projects. One, I might mention, was the 
development of a way of making Enocianina, which is a dark 
red color extract from red-black grape skins. We brought a 
man in to help us do this work in the early 1980s, Dr. Anil 
Shrickhande, who was a very bright person. We wound up 
commercially producing and selling this Enocianina for 



115 



several years. It was probably the darkest and of the 
highest purity of any Enocianina that was sold in the world. 
I don't know of anybody who ever had a better product than 
what we had. 

Teiser: Does that take the place of, say, Alicante Bouchet in a 
blend? 

Rossi: No. It's interesting that you mention that. It's against 
the law to have Enocianina on a winery premise. You can't 
put Enocianina into a wine product. As a matter of fact, the 
Italians have made Enocianina from Lambrusco grapes, which 
are the same grapes that make the Lambrusco wine (it's 
actually from the Modena area of Italy, which is north of 
Bologna) . They are intensely dark grapes with very dark 
skins. The characteristic that those grapes seem to have is 
that they are very dark with modest tannins, at least the 
coarse tannins . The tannins and the color are in the same 
family of chemical components, which are known as phenolics. 
It's sufficient to say that they have very, very dark color, 
and the color tannins are soft to the taste. So it served to 
make not only dark red juices and wines for blending in 
Italy, and also for putting out the Lambrusco wines, but the 
best Italian Enocianinas were made there in Modena. Of 
course, if they made a single extraction of color from a 
given amount of grape skins, their grape skin extract would 
be considerably darker than ours, because our grapes did not 
have the inherent color on a per-unit basis of the skins that 
the Italian ones did. So our mission was to extract the 
color and then to develop a way of concentrating the color so 
that it would be acceptable commercially, which we did. 

This activity is being phased out now, principally 
because of the difficulties of complying with the health and 
safety regulations. You can't argue against the safety of 
the public, but at the same time one has to face up to the 
realities of life. We made the decision that the capital 
investment to try to cope with this problem disallows us 
continuing with the project, which is too bad. 

Teiser: Do you have other by-products like that? 
Rossi: No, that would be the main one. 

In any case , down to this day the research and 
development effort is carried on at our technical center at 
Madera, where I still have my office through the kindness of 
Peter Tan and other Heublein people there. 



116 



Going into the late 1970s and 1980s, my efforts 
continued to be concerned with product development. I think 
the product development area had always been a constant in my 
mind and in my efforts through my entire career. As an 
adjunct to this product development work, I did direct my 
efforts in doing public relations work for the company for 
the Colony brand. 

Somewhere in the mid-1970s the company decided to 
change the name of our Italian Swiss Colony brand to Colony 
brand for at least the table wines. I believe it was in 1980 
or 1981 that we initiated a new series of varietal wines for 
Colony, and then a year or two later we revised the generic 
wines, which were the rose, the chablis, the Rhine, and the 
burgundy, towards having less residual sugar. At about that 
same time we had the Chilled Light Burgundy. I can remember 
being on the PR trail, so to speak, talking about those 
wines. Of course, it was easy for me to talk about because 
I'd been instrumental in developing the wines and I was 
familiar with the history of the company. They had the added 
advantage of billing me as the third- generation winemaker, 
which by California standards isn't too bad. (By European 
standards it is not too much.) 

So my activities took that course over the period of 
years of Heublein ownership. 



International Investigations for Heublein 



Rossi: At the same time, in the late 1970s, I became less 

immediately attached to the day-to-day problems and concerns 
with United Vintner's efforts in California. I was assigned 
to international wine projects with Heublein, and that 
included two trips to Italy that I remember. As people 
learned that I was going to Italy, the projects seemed to 
accumulate [laughs]. One was to search for a Trebbiano to 
import, which we found. Not too much came of it from a 
marketing side. On that same trip I recall that Mr. Stuart 
Watson, who I think was the president of Heublein at the 
time, had asked me if I would look into a number of Italian 
wineries that were for sale, with a view of seeing whether 
any of those wineries would be worthwhile being acquired by 
Heublein. Which I did, and enjoyed doing. The answer was 
that I didn't find anything that I thought they should buy. 



117 



On another occasion I was asked to go down in February 
to South America to look into their operation in Brazil, and 
that was an interesting and pleasant experience. 

Teiser: What is their operation there? 

Rossi: They had a winery down there, Dreyer Winery, and then they 
had a distillery named Drury. The winery was in Rio Grande 
do Sul, near a place called Bento Gonsalvez. It was very 
difficult for the grapes to come to maturity there . As a 
matter of fact, it was at that particular time that Almaden 
had started growing their grapes down in the very southern 
part of that state, near the Uruguayan border, where the 
grapes attained a better maturity. So that was their project 
for Brazil for that year. 

On another occasion I recall that Mr. Powers- -I'm 
talking about Jack Powers now, who was the president of 
Heublein- -asked me if I would go over and work with the 
Hungarians to develop a Chardonnay and a Cabernet Sauvignon, 
because Heublein was responsible for distributing Hungarian 
wines in the United States. Because of the difficulty of the 
names of the grapes and the places where the wines were made 
in Hungary, they were difficult to sell. I think Mr. Powers 
and Ted Eisenberg, who was immediately in charge of those 
sales , felt that if we could have a Chardonnay wine and a 
Cabernet wine from Hungary it would help things out. As a 
matter of fact, Heublein was responsible for maintaining a 
certain sales level, and they were frankly having a 
difficulty doing that. The truth is that I think anybody 
would have difficulty doing that, with the difficulty of the 
names they had on the wines . 

Teiser: What did you do, then? 

Rossi: Well, I worked with the people there in Hungary and came back 
with blends for Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay. That was 
a fairly difficult assignment because the people in Hungary 
are behind the Iron Curtain and don't think or act the way we 
do. They are much slower to react. I remember I sent the 
equivalent of maybe a thousand dollars worth of our wines 
over to them, just so they could taste the wines and 
experience the kind of product that was doing well in the 
United States. It took me the better part of a week to 
encourage them to get the wines out of storage and set up a 
tasting. It was inconsistent with Mr. Powers' view; he 
wanted me to go over there and get it all done in a week, 
[laughs] I had to tell him that sometimes you have to be 




Edmund A. Rossi, Jr., who had been for many years a consultant to Lancers 
in Portugal, tasted in 1985 with three of the winery's key men. Left to 
right: Helder Carreira, chief of the laboratory, Miller Guerra, winemaker, 
Mr. Rossi, and Luis Oliveira, Cellermaster . 



118 

disappointed. These people just don't react the way you hope 
they're going to react. 

I can't say now how much impact the Hungarian wines had 
on the American market or the degree of success we had, but 
we did develop the wines and they were bottled and brought 
here. Heublein's agreement with Hungary has since been 
terminated. Of recent years, Hungary has become more 
entrepreneurial in its views and action. 

Probably the most extensive experience I've had on the 
international front for Heublein has been my work with 
Lancers, which started in 1978 or 1979, and I visited them 
virtually every year since. I felt it was productive for 
Heublein, productive for Lancers, and it was certainly 
productive and most enjoyable for me. I think my mission 
there was really to review their wines and to make 
recommended revisions of their blends to make their wines 
more appropriate for the American market. I've done that 
over the years. For example, I was instrumental in revising 
their blends in the direction of having a lower alcohol 
level, with less sweetness to make them more palatable; I 
worked with fining materials so that they were softer wines; 
I tried to enhance the inherent vinosity of the wines as made 
from the grapes in Portugal. 

One of the projects involved making champagne out of a 
red grape called Periquita, which is indigenous to the 
Setubal peninsula where the winery is located. As a 
consequence, once the base material was made, which I was 
more involved in, they then went ahead and made the champagne 
using a unique continuous method. The original research work 
had been done in Russia, but the application of this work was 
done by Seitz works in Germany. The facility there at 
Lancers, Jose Maria de la Fonseca Internacional, is jointly 
owned between Heublein and the family. It makes a very fine 
champagne . 

A more recent project was the development of Lancers 
blush wine; that took place in fall of 1986. More recently I 
was involved with the revision of several other blends, just 
in November of 1987. ^ 

Teiser: I see there is a Periquita varietal wine on the market. 



1 For further details of recent work with Lancers, see pp. 131-132. 



119 



Rossi: 



Teiser: 
Rossi: 



That Periquita varietal I believe is a red wine, and that's 
made by another section of the Fonseca family. It's not 
distributed by Heublein, but it's made in the immediate 
vicinity. 

You had nothing to do with that? 
No. 



ISC Sale to Allied. 1983M 



Teiser: 



Rossi: 



Shall we talk about Heublein' s sale to Allied? I've never 
been clear on what Heublein kept or still owns. I'll start 
by asking the immediate causes of Heublein' s decision to sell 
at that point, and what did it sell? 

First off, I have to say that I wasn't privy to the 
negotiations between Heublein and Allied, so I speak from a 
bit of a distance as to the details. 

To me, the background of the sale is simply this: that 
in 1982 R. J. Reynolds bought Heublein lock, stock, and 
barrel. And R. J. Reynolds, just like the other successful 
tobacco companies, because of the social issues involved with 
tobacco and smoking, was obviously diversifying in the 
direction to de-emphasize its dependence upon tobacco. So 
they decided to buy Heublein. 

They bought Heublein with all the best intentions, but 
then I think as they saw the business they saw how capital 
intensive it was and decided that maybe the investment in 
Heublein- -that for minimum give-ups in potential earnings 
they could get back some of the capital they had put in the 
wine business and use that capital more profitably in another 
direction. So after having looked at the business, along 
about spring and summer of 1983 it was decided that the 
Italian Swiss Colony brand, which was the name for the 
dessert wines, and the Colony brand, which was the brand name 
for our table wines, as well as the Petri brand, the Annie 
Greensprings brand, the Lejon brand, and the J. Bonet 
champagne brand, should be sold. 

They looked around for a potential buyer, and 
apparently they had several people who were interested. As a 
matter of fact, I know that they had several people who were 



119a 




OF 
ITALIAN SWISS COLONY 

Producers ol California'! Most Famous Win* 




TIPO 



RED 
WHITE 



MENU 



SANDWICH PLATE No. 1 



MoHal'i assorted cold meats on 
Parisian Bread with glass of 
Italian Swiss Colony Tipo Red. 
Sauterne. or Sweet California 
Sauterne ..... 35c 

SWEET WINES 

Glass of Italian Swiss Colony 

California Port, Sherry, Muscatel, 
with Cookies or Panetone 2UC 



SANDWICH PLATE No. 2 
Kraft's assorted cheese on Pa 
risian Bread with glass of Italian 
Swiss Colony Tipo Re<d. Cali 
fornia Sauterne, Sweet Sau- 
teme 35c 

DRY WINES 

Glass of Italian Swiss Colony 

California Sauterne, Sweet Sau 
terne, Burgundy, with Kraft's 
cheese, bread or crackers 20c 



S (I V I R faun 



TIPO - (Souvenir Bottle) Red or White . . . 25c 

GIFT PACKAGE State regulation prevent making direct 
shipment outside of California. Package contains: ! pint ol Tipo 
Red and Tipo White, 1 pint Italian Swiss Colony Cali- A (\ ~ir 
fomia Port and Sherry, 1 tenth each ol California Jj/ /J 



Sauterne and Burgundy. 



plus sales tax, and express 
charges outside of bay district 



SAV.7 HiiJTORiCAL VALUE 



Menu, Italian Swiss Colony Wine Garden at the Golden Gate 
International Exposition, 1939. 





A fiesta was held in 1984 to 
celebrate the reopening of 
the Asti tasting room after 
a period of inactivity. 
Booths were erected in front 
of the champagne celler, 
built early in the century, 
and the "little old wine- 
maker," featured in a once 
famous company commercial, 
greeted guests. 



120 



Teiser: 
Rossi: 

Teiser: 
Rossi: 



Teiser: 
Rossi: 



Teiser: 
Rossi: 



interested from firsthand information from Mr. Powers. Among 
them was Allied Grape Growers. I think that Bob Mclnturf was 
concerned because he wanted to maintain a home for the grapes 
of his members. After considerable negotiation, in the fall 
of 1983 our company, then known as ISC wines, which embraced 
the brands that I just mentioned and four wineries: at Asti, 
the Lodi plant, which was the Community plant, the Petri 
plant at Escalon, and the winery at Reedley, which is now 
known as Sanger (the previous Cella plant) --were sold to 
Allied Grape Growers. It was a fairly complex financial 
arrangement whereby the growers put in a considerable sum as 
equity, some $12,000,000. They had financing from Heublein 
of $9,000,000, and loans from two banks, Union Bank and B. T. 
Commercial, approaching $40,000,000. So overall it was a 
$61,000,000 deal. 

I think part of the arrangement was for Heublein to 
continue to bottle our wines at Madera, which was of 
advantage to us because we needed somebody to bottle our 
wines; and it was of advantage to Heublein because Heublein 
didn't want to lose the business or the volume. 

They were in effect doing custom bottling for you? 

Yes. The arrangement was signed, and we got started as ISC 
wines, which was the wine arm of Allied Grape Growers. 

What did Heublein keep, then, in California? 

Of course they kept Beaulieu. That wasn't ever in the United 
Vintners picture. They kept the Inglenook estate line at 
Rutherford. They kept the Inglenook Navalle line, which was 
a line of blends that were made and bottled at Madera. You 
recall my alluding to Jacare, which was a line of wines in 
the frost-covered bottles; they kept the Jacare. They maybe 
kept the T. J. Swann flavored wines line. But they did not 
keep any champagne nor any of the brandies. So they slimmed 
down their line. 

What did they keep in the way of facilities? 

The whole Madera facility was theirs and still is. And they 
kept the Inglenook winery at Rutherford and Beaulieu. 

What's at the Madera facility now? 

Oh, it's a huge grape processing, crushing, finishing plant; 

wine processing and finishing; and bottling. They would have 



121 



the capability of bottling well in excess of twenty million 
cases a year. 

Teiser: Does it do much of that for others, or some on its own 
account? 

Rossi: Well, subsequent to 1983, ISC wines came under the management 
(I'm jumping ahead a bit) of ERLY Industries, who were Los 
Angeles-based and who had owned Sierra Wines. We broke away 
from having our wines bottled at Madera to being bottled at 
California Growers at Cutler. That diminished the business 
that Heublein enjoyed there at Madera. Their volume was not 
cut in half, but it was significantly reduced. So in 1987 
everybody at Heublein was overjoyed when they learned of the 
acquisition of Almaden, because this virtually doubled their 
potential through-put (that is, wine blending and bottling) 
at Madera, and definitely tended to make the Madera operation 
whole again. 

Then everybody--! mean the whole world- -was a bit 
surprised when within a matter of weeks it was announced that 
R. J. Reynolds had decided to sell the entire Heublein 
organization to Grand Metropolitan of England. But Heublein, 
I understand, had business dealings with Grand Metropolitan 
over the years . Among many other things , one of the 
contractual relationships was that Grand Met distributed 
Smirnoff Vodka in the U. K. And that's just one example of 
what had preceded this whole thing. 

Teiser: So that plant is now busy with Almaden? 

Rossi: That plant's now busy with Almaden as well as Navalle, and 

I'm glad for them that they are. I have a lot of friends who 
have more job security than they had a year ago, and that's 
fine with me . 

Teiser: Was the Allied purchase motivated by the desire to keep a 

home for their grapes, or did they think it was a good going 
proposition? 

Rossi: I think there was another facet to that. We had talked about 
the difficulty that Heublein had with the contractual 
arrangement for their grapes. With the sale of ISC wines to 
Allied, the contractual obligation that Heublein had with 
Allied to take the grapes was greatly diminished over a 
three -year period and beyond. So they felt freer about where 
they could get their grapes. They just didn't want to carry 



122 



that financial burden any longer, and so that was a strong 
motivating factor to Heublein. 

Teiser: From Allied' s point of view, did they think it was going to 
be a good business deal? 

Rossi: It turned out that the purchase of ISC wines by Allied in 

1983 was based upon a degree of optimism that our ISC sales 
would increase, when in fact they were on the decrease and we 
had all we could do to stem the decrease, to say nothing of 
effecting a significant increase in sales. The viability of 
the whole purchase from Allied' s point of view was predicated 
on the fact that our sales were going to increase. I think 
the records will show that '83 and '84 were very difficult 
years for the wine business in general. In that environment, 
the purchase of a company on a highly leveraged basis really 
had a greatly diminished chance of success. And in fact it 
did not work out for the growers ; they essentially wound up 
losing all of their equity. 



ISC Sale to ERLY Industries. 1987 



Rossi : 



Teiser: 
Rossi: 



Teiser: 
Rossi: 



Then ERLY Industries came in and took an option to buy the 
company and took a management contract to run the company, 
with the idea of infusing the company with fresh ideas. And 
they've had considerable success with their own ventures, I 
think particularly with the olives. They were very 
successful in the olive business. 

Was that the Early California olives? 

Yes. Two key people there are Gerald Murphy, president of 
ERLY Industries and chairman of Beverage Source (it includes 
Colony wines), and Bill McFarland, who is the president of 
Beverage Source now. 

So they took charge and slimmed the company down. 
We're running with a much smaller administrative staff. If 
we've added anyplace, we've added to the sales area, which is 
where we need the effort to be made. 

Were your administrative headquarters shifted? 

The administrative headquarters for ISC wines had been at 
490 - 2nd street since 1983, and they're still there. The 



123 



president of the company initially was John Keller. He left 
after a year or two and Richard McCombs took over as 
president. He was a man who came into the company with a 
very strong financial background. When ERLY Industries took 
over the management of the company, Richard McCombs left his 
spot as president of the company to Mr. McFarland and took on 
the title of executive vice-president, which is where he is 
today. In 1987, to get down to where we are currently, ERLY 
Industries made an arrangement with Allied Grape Growers to 
buy Colony wines, or ISC wines, so it is totally owned by 
ERLY Industries. The idea is that we're now consolidating 
our operations. We don't operate the plant at Lodi any more. 

Teiser: What has happened to that plant? 

Rossi: I believe we plan to sell it. Incidentally, R. Gerzerske was 
the key man at the Lodi wineries- -first at Shewan- Jones and 
later at Community for many years. As far as the winery at 
Escalon, ERLY Industries leased it to Heublein with an option 
to purchase at a future date. [added later: The sale was 
consummated in August 1988.] 

Teiser: What are they using it for? 

Rossi: They're using it for the northern San Joaquin Valley grapes -- 
red, rose, and white wines. A lot of the wines are going 
into their brands, into the Inglenook, Navalle, and Almaden 
brands . 



Rossi: 



Teiser: 
Rossi: 



The company was renamed The Beverage Source in 1987. The 
name was initiated because Mr. Murphy and his associates 
wanted to have a name that would indicate a broader scope to 
the beverage industry, since they also had an interest in 
Hansen's juices as well as the wine business. The idea was 
to take advantage of some efficiencies and profit 
opportunities by having trucks that could be delivering 
Hansen's juices and wine at the same time. It just meant 
there were that many more items that our facilities could 
take advantage of. 

Where does Sierra fit into this? 

Sierra was also owned by ERLY Industries for a number of 
years. I'm not certain when ERLY Industries bought the 
Sierra Wine Company, but Sierra Wine Company has a plant at 



124 



Teiser: 
Rossi: 



Teiser: 



Rossi : 



Tulare and another plant at Delano, 
make wines for our brands . 

Did Allied change the labels? 



They will be operated to 



Teiser: 



While Allied owned the company they certainly sat on the 
board of directors, and Bob Mclnturf attended many of the 
executive meetings of ISC wines, but the decisions really 
were left to the wine executives of ISC wines. Oh, some 
labels were changed. We dressed up the Lejon label. We made 
a change in the Colony label: we used to have a black band 
across the bottom, and we realized that if that was displayed 
on a case where just the bottom was cut out, you could see 
the label but the word "Colony" was hidden; so we thought it 
was wiser to put the "Colony" across the middle. 

But they left all the marketing decisions to the ISC 
people, subject to their approval. Because there were some 
major financial decisions that had to be made: whether we 
put money against advertising on, say, radio, or whether it 
should go on t.v., or whether it should go towards point of 
sale- -those kinds of things that involved basic financial 
decisions of the company I think were certainly brought to 
the board of directors, and the board of directors were the 
representatives of Allied who owned the company. 

They certainly had what seemed an effective advertising and 
publicity campaign based upon "We got our company back," or 
something like that. 

I think it was reiterated effectively on t.v. I'm not an 
expert on advertising, much less t.v., but the difficulty 
about t.v. is that it lasts just so long and then you're 
almost put in a position where you have to start another 
campaign. I think it had a nice ring to it, that the company 
was bought back. From the inside, I have to be frank and say 
that I always felt that the t.v. ad never indicated who 
bought the company back. I had people ask me if I bought the 
company back. Well, that's about as far from the truth as 
you can get. But that really isn't an issue, and maybe I'm 
overly sensitive to that point because I've been so close to 
the company for so long that I happen to be personally 
sensitive to who bought the company back, but to the average 
person on the street it may not make any difference. 

The image on television was that one of the people working in 
it had bought the company back. 



125 



Rossi: Yes. It wasn't as effective as it might have been, you know, 
and I imagine for a lot of reasons. You can look back on 
something and Sunday-morning-quarterback almost anything as 
to why it didn't work. You could ask, "Who was buying the 
company back?" If it was the growers in California who had 
suffered adversity, at least one didn't suffer so much 
adversity that he didn't have an airplane to fly his wine 
home. Those are all things that people can criticize. 

As I look back over the years, the industry tended to 
go through a series of advertisements, I think largely 
started by Coca-Cola, as to who won the most gold medals or 
the most prizes. 

Perhaps the first people to hit with that advertising 
had some success, but then the other "me, toos" after that 
didn't enjoy too much success. Then there have been any 
number of campaigns where people have tried to point out the 
place of wine in gracious living, and serving wine with food. 
I think that could still be effective. People are looking 
for something that's innovative and still has something that 
will appeal to the average person on the street. 

But we still have these roadblocks in the way. We have 
the neo - Prohibitionists , we have the social aspects of wine 
drinking. Some people are really condemning the use of 
alcohol as a source of wrong instead of attacking it from the 
point of view of needing better educational programs. 



Distinctions of Italian Swiss Colony 



Teiser: Let me go back to some unique earlier aspects of Italian 

Swiss Colony. I haven't asked about the fiasco, the bottle 
which I suppose came in with the Tipo Red, "Tipo Chianti" 
originally. I read an article someplace about a Chinese man 
who had a factory in Cloverdale that wrapped them. Were the 
bottles imported from Italy originally? 

Rossi: The bottles were imported from Italy originally. There's a 
story on the Tipo Red that I can show you. That was one of 
the early wines that Italian Swiss Colony put out around the 



A grower's airplane figured in the television commercial. 



126 



turn of the century. Initially there was Tipo Red Chianti 
and Tipo White Chianti. It was changed to just plain Tipo 
Red and Tipo White. For sure it was one of the first 
proprietary brands in the United States. Whether it was the 
first is difficult to tell. It was certainly an 
extraordinarily popular wine with restaurants. It was 
strongly promoted through the years, and following 
Prohibition I know my father and uncle strongly promoted Tipo 
Red and Tipo White. Following the sale of the company to 
National Distillers, I know that in the first years that I 
was with the company in the 1950s they tried to expand the 
line of the Tipo into dessert wines. That didn't work. 

During the war my father and Enrico Prati had 
difficulty getting the raffia, and so as I recall they had to 
bring that in from Mexico. 

Teiser: They also had for a time a plastic filament that they wrapped 
it in, with a little plastic base. 

Rossi: Yes. You are correct. 

George Ng made these raffia bottles up in Cloverdale. 
Later the operation was transferred to a building east of the 
winery at Asti. In recent years they were brought in from 
Taiwan. It wasn't well done, because the bottle didn't seat 
well into the basket. If you looked at the bottle in the 
case it looked nice and straight, but when you took the 
bottle out, the raffia was too loose round the bottles. It 
wasn't a satisfactory package. 

Under Heublein management there was some difficulty as 
to just exactly where to market position Tipo Red and Tipo 
White wines. They didn't fit with the inexpensive jug wines, 
and at the same time they weren't in the premium class. I'm 
talking now of the 1970s, where we were dealing with the 
Inglenook estates, which were considerably higher priced. I 
don't know that this issue was ever constructively addressed 
as to how we could make it go. Because with the difficulty 
that Heublein had in making a profit from Heublein wines, 
they did make a policy decision that the wines they were 
going to emphasize were the Inglenook Navalles because they 
had the greater chance for bringing down profitability than 
the Colony wines did. 

The Colony wines were not discarded; there was simply a 
lesser allocation of promotional money, be it advertising or 
point of sale material supporting the Colony wines vis-a-vis 



127 



the Navalle wines. That was an okay business decision as far 
as I was concerned. But that left the Tipo Red and the Tipo 
White as the nickels falling between the cracks. It was hard 
to find a niche for them. By the time the mid-1970s came 
along we weren't talking Tipo White any more; we were talking 
Tipo Red. The sales of Tipo Red were not so large, though 
they weren't insignificant. It wasn't judged to have 
sufficient earnings potential to get the attention it needed 
to survive . 

Teiser: Was it phased out then? 
Rossi: Then it was phased out. 

Teiser: Back to the "little old winemaker" - -was that the slogan of 
both radio and television ads? I think the radio jingles 
started under Petri. 

Rossi: I think that the "little old winemaker" and "You can't miss 

with Italian Swiss" slogans were pre-Petri; they were when ray 
father was running the company. 

Teiser: They were effective, or at least they were surely memorable. 

Rossi: Yes. I think the little old winemaker probably had as good a 
recall as any advertising that was ever seen in the 
California wine industry. 

Teiser: It was on billboards and in printed ads. I have some old ads 
from Sunset magazine. Can you describe the figure of the 
little old winemaker? 

Rossi: Well, he was dressed in typical Swiss short trousers with 

socks that would come up to his knees . Then he had the green 
suspenders, as I recall, and the white shirt, and the alpine 
hat. I don't know whether there was a Mrs. there, or just a 
Mr. I think maybe it was just the Italian Swiss little old 
winemaker. 

Teiser: When was it that you had a celebration at the Asti Winery and 
brought him out again? 

Rossi: That was in 1983, after we had bought Italian Swiss Colony 
back from Heublein. We had a party here in early fall. 

Teiser: You had a ferris wheel and tours of the winery, and the 

little old winemaker was there. I took a picture of him. I 



128 



think it may have been when you opened the tasting room to 
the public again. 

Rossi: Yes. 

Teiser: Was the man who took the part of the little old winemaker one 
of the originals? 

Rossi: I can't say, because I don't remember who he was. There were 
several men. We had a number of male guides here at the time 
who dressed with the Swiss costume. As a matter of fact, I 
think the women in the tasting room had the maidens' Swiss 
costumes, too. It was a nice idea. And the whole idea of 
the tasting room, I believe, started very soon after 
Prohibition. I think we were among the first that had a 
tasting room in the wine industry here. 

Teiser: There was some possibility that it was the first after 
Prohibition, was there not? Have you ever established 
whether it was the first? 



Rossi : 



Teiser: 
Rossi : 

Teiser: 



No, I haven't established that. But I know that for years 
and years Mrs. [Isabelle] Haigh used to have a little tasting 
area in her winery down there at Simi, in Healdsburg. It 
wasn't the facility that we had here, but nevertheless she 
was a pleasant person and enamored herself to a number of 
people. There were many people coming down Highway 101 who 
wouldn't go by Healdsburg without stopping to see Mrs. Haigh. 
I don't know whether Mrs. Haigh started her tasting area 
before we did or not, but it was soon after Prohibition. 

Roma had an early one . 

Yes. And I think it was in the 1938 international exposition 
on Treasure Island^- that Italian Swiss Colony had the wine 
garden there. I think that was quite a large success. 

This is a little folder from the wine garden. It's either 
1939 or '40. 



Rossi: 



Teiser: 



Oh, my. Look at that: you could have a sandwich for 
35 cents , and a glass of wine for 20 cents . 

I think the 35 cent sandwich came with a glass of wine. 



the Golden Gate International Exposition. 



129 



Rossi: "Assorted cold meats with French bread and a glass of wine: 
35 cents. Sandwich plate #1." [laughter] And for 15 cents 
less you had the glass of wine anyway, but they gave you 
Kraft cheese and crackers. That seems extraordinary. 

Teiser: Did you go to that fair? You must have. 

Rossi: Yes, I do remember going to that fair. The wine garden was 
quite popular. For sure it was popular for the wine, but I 
think the second reason it was popular was that people just 
got exhausted walking around that fair and were delighted to 
find a place to be able to sit down. [laughter] 



130 



Responsibilities Since 1983 
[Interview 7: 4 April 1988 ]## 



Teiser: When Heublein decided to sell, -you must have been given the 
choice of going with Heublein or ISC. 

Rossi: I wasn't totally given the choice. It was pretty much 

mandated that I was going to go with ISC, because they felt 
that I had been doing public relations work for ISC and that 
I would be of more value to the ISC organization than I would 
have been to the Heublein organization. I think there was 
some logic to that, except that nobody came to me and told me 
that. That was just sort of planned for me. 

Teiser: How did Heublein plan to keep a month of your time a year? 

Rossi: That was an arrangement that Jack Powers of Heublein and Bob 
Mclnturf of Allied worked out- -that they would have a call on 
my time of up to a month a year for overseas projects. 

Teiser: Can you tell what those recent overseas projects have been? 

Rossi: The overseas projects from 1983--in other words, from the 
sale of ISC wines to Allied- -had been confined to going to 
Lancers. They were essentially centered around my consulting 
with them on their blends, whether it be the red wine, the 
white wine, or the rose, toward satisfying the American 
consumer. I consulted with them in making the base wine for 
the Lancers champagne. On later visits I always reviewed the 
champagne that they actually made through a continuous system 
of champagne -making, which is unique in the world. 

More recently, in 1986 the big project for that year 
was the Lancers blush wine. I think that did fairly well 
last year. This last year, in the fall of 1987, I revamped 
their red wine blend and also made recommendations regarding 
their white blend, and also came up with some ideas for 
product line extensions for new products, which they may see 
this coming year. 

Teiser: Lancers has had a very strong position in the United States 
market, has it not? 

Rossi: Yes, they've held their volume to be quite stable. I first 
started to go there in 1979. Their sales were roughly two- 
thirds rose; rose was their big item. Then they had maybe 
10 percent red and the balance would have been white. Given 



131 



the fact that the rose sales have dropped off in the United 
States and the fact that Lancers imports have stayed quite 
steady, I think it's a credit to the marketing department 
that they have compensated for that. One of the areas that 
compensated for that was the Lancers blush. More recently 
their sales in the U. S. dropped off in concert with other 
imported wines, but European sales picked up. 

Teiser: Have you kept them in tune with American tastes? 

Rossi: Yes, tried to. They're good people to work with, both on the 
other end in Portugal and in Hartford. They're open to new 
ideas. I've always found that with the Heublein organization 
one would never be ridiculed for bringing up a new idea. 
That's a very positive sort of an atmosphere to be working 
in. They'll really give new ideas attention right away. 
That's very encouraging. And not just the production people, 
but the management people and the marketing people --if you 
have a good idea it might be marketable. It's the same old 
story as in many other products: the first person on the 
street with the new idea is the one that gets the biggest 
piece of the pie. So they've always been aggressive in that 
way. 



The Beverage Source. 1988## 



Rossi: 



In 1986 ERLY Industries took a management contract and took 
an option to buy a portion of the company within three years. 
It was last year, in 1987, that ERLY Industries opted to buy 
the company from Allied Grape Growers in its entirety. They 
did that, and that's where we are today. At the moment the 
company is continuing to be under the management of Mr. Bill 
McFarland, our president, and Jerry Murphy, the chairman of 
the board. So our production facilities are not only the 
winery here at Asti, but also the winery at Sanger, the 
former Cella plant. We've closed down the winery at Lodi, 
which is the former Community winery. Of the two Sierra 
winery plants , the one at Tulare is working and the second at 
Delano is not. Our bottling is done at Cutter at facilities 
leased from California Growers. 

From a marketing point of view, our thrust now is to 
maximize profit potential, even with the smaller sales 
volume, to try to get into lines that will show a profit 
rather than just trading dollars. We need to maintain a 



132 



Teiser: 
Rossi: 



Teiser: 
Rossi: 



certain volume, for example, with Colony wines to pay for the 
bread and butter (that is, to cover the fixed costs) and at 
the same time generate sales in new brands. Our North Coast 
Cellars wines have good price/value relationships and at the 
same time will return us a good profit on the investment. 
That's what our main thrust is now. All of our sales people 
are geared in that one direction, and they're all optimistic. 
It's a matter of whether we can beat time on it. 

What about the new labels for the Beverage Source? 

I just alluded to the North Coast Cellars. We bought that 
brand from Souverain; it was the second brand of Souverain. 
We upgraded the quality in that. The brand includes a 
Chardonnay, a Sauvignon blanc, a white table wine, a red 
table wine, a Cabernet, and a white Zinfandel, all fairly 
successful. The varietals are more successful than the 
generics. Then we brought out Royal Knight champagne to be 
competitive with Cook's champagne, and that's doing fairly 
well. The other champagne that we brought out, with a 
traditional cork finish, is the Ranneau which has North Coast 
wine in the base wine. It's quite a pleasant wine that sells 
for around six dollars on the shelf. It was the only 
domestic champagne that was mentioned by Tom Stockley last 
winter as one of the three best six-dollar champagnes 
available in the Northwest. The other two were imports. So 
he was quite taken with it. It's a good wine. 

Those are the directions that we are going in. 
You have the little single-serving tetrapack. 

Yes. They hold 187 ml- -a split size. We have those going 
out under Colony brand and under another brand called 
Creekside Cellars. The Creekside Cellars are the varietals, 
and the Colony are the generics. I think it's a little bit 
too early to predict what's going to happen with that. 
People have to get used to the package. I've noticed over 
the years that new ideas take considerably more time than one 
generally plans for. 

Then we have the Sbarboro label. The Sbarboro brand is 
the top of our line. We have a number of 100 percent Sonoma 
County vintage wines, a Cabernet, a Zinfandel, a Chardonnay, 
a Johannisberg Riesling, a Gewurztraminer , and a Sauvignon 
blanc if we think it's good enough. Last year we didn't, so 
we didn't bottle it under the Sbarboro label. 



133 



Industry Organizations and Research Papers 



Teiser: 



Rossi: 



Teiser: 



Rossi: 



Teiser: 
Rossi: 



Let us ask about your industry activities. I believe you had 
been to the Wine Institute's Technical Advisory Committee 
meetings with your father when you were a young man. 

I started with Italian Swiss Colony in February of 1949, and 
it seems to me that I attended several meetings with him, 
perhaps in 1948. The two things that I was impressed by 
were, first, the fact that my father, who was the president 
of the company, took time out from his understandably busy 
schedule to attend those technical meetings . Because he was 
technically inclined, and he was very quality minded. He 
felt that the quality of the wine was a critical factor to 
the success of the business, and it wasn't something that was 
delegated to a vice-president in charge of research or 
something else; he himself wanted to go there so he could 
hear firsthand and ask questions about ideas that were being 
expressed. I'm not quite certain when that Technical 
Advisory Committee first started. 



I have here that it was formed June 6, 1944. 
record of it from the Wine Institute. 



This is a 



I see. Well, it was a fairly small group in those days, and 
we didn't stand on a lot of formality. I think there may 
have been twenty or twenty- five people who would attend. I 
have minutes of a meeting somewhere in my files that go back 
at least until 1949, and most of the subjects that were 
discussed were practical subjects. Sometimes it would evoke 
a difference of opinion and people would shout at one 
another, but they would all wind up friends. The fact that 
they did feel free to shout at each other and to get excited 
brought out the differences , and in bringing out the 
differences it sort of clarified the picture, whatever the 
issue was. It was a good exchange medium. It was not only 
an exchange of practical information, it served a second 
purpose, in my estimation. It reinforced the need for a more 
formal group to be formed, which turned out to be the 
American Society for Enology and Viticulture. 

Did it relate to that? 

I believe it led to it, because the TAG presentations were 
very practical. It's not that they weren't well made, it was 
just that some subjects needed to have a deeper treatment. 
They needed to be recognized as scientific papers on the part 




Edmund A. Rossi, Jr., interviewed by Lisa Jacobson, March 9, 1988. 



134 



of those of other scientific organizations in the world- -be 
it the food technologists, the beer people, the microbiology 
people, the American Chemical Society, or whatever it would 
be. The enologists needed to attain the degree of 
professional status which was their due. 



Rossi: Most of the people on this list are industry people. That 
isn't to say that there weren't some university people that 
took part. But university people, of necessity, must have 
high standards for the scientific papers that they write, and 
they must do a considerable amount of literature research. 
They often pursue a specific technical point in the light of 
research work with the idea of bringing out new information 
for the future. That wasn't always the nature of these 
Technical Advisory Committee presentations. Not that these 
weren't practical and valuable, because they were enormously 
valuable . 

In any case, the concepts went hand- in-hand. The 
industry recognized, certainly, that because we had the 
Technical Advisory Committee it was not reason not to have 
the American Society for Enology and Viticulture. Because, 
you see, the Technical Advisory Committee got started in 1944 
and didn't really get dissolved until 1973. That was a 
twenty-nine year span. The American Society for Enology got 
started in 1950, so it is obvious that the Technical Advisory 
Committee of Wine Institute and the American Society for 
Enology and Viticulture operated in parallel with one another 
for twenty- three years. So it had to work. 

The second point was that there were many instances 
where technical problems would be brought up at some of the 
other committee meetings of the Wine Institute, and those 
would be brought to the Technical Advisory Committee for 
answers. Or if not for answers, at least for investigation. 
A sub-committee of the Technical Advisory Committee would get 
together and put together a response. So it served a very 
good function. 

The first meeting relative to the American Society for 
Enology and Viticulture that I attended was at a place called 
the Wolf Hotel in Stockton. 



1 0f TAG chairmen; see Appendix III. 



135 



Telser: So far as I know, that was the first meeting. 

Rossi: In the late 1940s and early 1950s, the status of winemakers 
wasn't really that good, wasn't really that substantial in 
the wine industry. It even says here that some of the 
cellar people would make more money than the winemakers, and 
it was not unheard of that the winemaker would be fired 
before Christmas and then rehired before the next vintage. 
Well, you don't establish too much of a career on that sort 
of a scheme . 

Teiser: Do you remember from that early meeting at the Wolf Hotel who 
took the lead? 

Rossi: Charlie Holden clearly was the lead man. 
Teiser: What was he like? 

Rossi: I think he was a capable scientist and a good wine man, and I 
think he was a persuasive person. He was certainly not 
abrasive, and he was obviously forward thinking. According 
to this, he had had experience with the American Society of 
Brewing Chemists. He felt that the enologists, or 
winemakers, could take a page out of this American Society of 
Brewing Chemists. Apparently he had forwarded copies of that 
journal, the Wallerstein Laboratory Communications, which was 
an excellent publication, to Maynard Amerine! Once that got 
started and the university people saw that there was real 
interest and an opportunity for them to express themselves in 
a scientific way to the scientific community at large, then 
they got behind it. 

Some people might have taken the small view that the 
winemakers were trying to form a union. Well, I don't think 
that was so. I mean, there was a far cry between trying to 
form a union and trying to find yourself with a twelve -month 
a year job on a professional basis. That was the point at 
issue. I think it's a well-known fact that technical people 
have been very important. Just as an example, in the early 
years and even right up to today, Charlie [Charles M.] 
Crawford, who was a very good technical man, was one of the 
cornerstones of Gallo's growth. I think there would be many 
other instances where that could be shown, particularly with 
the technical difficulties that people had coming out of 



Leonard J. Berg, History of American Society for Enology and 
Viticulture [n.d. , n.p.], 1984. 



136 



Prohibition, with Fresno mold and all the rest of the 
microbiological problems. They just had to be solved- - 
oxidized white wine, champagne with copper sulfate hazes in 
them, and all the things that it's so horrendous to think 
about. But that doesn't mean that they didn't exist and that 
they weren't problems that had to be solved. 

They did have to be solved, and it was a question of 
the key technical people getting together and saying, "Look, 
we really have to get some recognition for winemakers as a 
group, number one; and number two, we have to establish a 
medium of exchange of ideas." Then it was further supported 
by the fact that the university people saw the merit. Then 
the people who were, after all, supporting the university and 
looking to the university for enology graduates supported it 
and sent their winemakers to these meetings. And they were 
willing to ally themselves as an industrial affiliate of the 
American Society of Enologists, which gave us some working 
capital to get started with. 

They started putting out a publication. The first few 
meetings that we had were actually at Davis. Here is the 
American Society of Enologists' first annual open meeting at 
Davis, July 26, 27, 28, 1950. 

Teiser: Let me ask you what your own activities were, first in the 
TAG and then in the American Society of Enologists. 

Rossi: In one of the early years of the American Society of 

Enologists I ran for treasurer and lost the election to Roy 
Mineau, who was with Roma. He was a very nice person, a 
capable man; I didn't mind losing to him. In subsequent 
years I was asked to run as an officer for the ASE, but I had 
other activities up here in Sonoma County. First off, I was 
on the school board in Healdsburg for a number of years , and 
second I was very interested in the Sonoma County 
Winegrowers' Association. I think I was interested in the 
Sonoma County Winegrowers' Association from about 1960 to 
1965, that five-year span. At the same time, this record 
here shows that I was the chairman of the Technical Advisory 
Committee from June 1963 to 1964. So the early 1960s, I 
guess, were fairly busy years for me, and I just felt I had 
to limit the number of activities that I tried to involve 
myself in. 

As I recall, I was in charge of the exhibits for the 
American Society of Enologists for two or three years, likely 
1956-1957. I remember when we first had the exhibits they 



137 



were almost all on card tables at the University of 
California. Maybe twenty card tables would take care of the 
exhibits, and now, of course, we have a huge room with 
literally several hundred exhibits, some of them as large as 
bottling lines and centrifuges and that sort of thing. 
Talking about the American Society of Enologists, what 
started with a charter membership of less than a hundred has 
now virtually exploded into somewhere between fifteen hundred 
and two thousand. 

Teiser: Did you have special areas of interest as a member of the 
TAG? Did you make reports on certain subjects? 

Rossi: I think one of the most effective reports I made to the TAG 
was a report on a survey I made of champagne -making in 
California. I believe it was the Charmat process for 
champagne -making. I presented that to one of the early 
meetings of the TAG. 

Teiser: That meant that everybody knew just what was going on. 

Rossi: Yes, and that particular presentation was referred to as a 
source of information in the chapter on champagne -making in 
Amerine's book on winemaking later on. 

Teiser: About when was that paper? 

o 

Rossi: I believe it would have been in the sixties. 

Teiser: I know the committee did a lot of work on waste disposal. 
Were you in on that? 

Rossi: I didn't do too much work on waste disposal. I know that in 
the early days of our association with Petri, through Louis 
Petri's personal friendship with people at Bechtel 
Engineering, we had a project with Bechtel Engineering on 
waste disposal. I think from the very beginning that was 
recognized as a clear-cut need for the wine industry. 

Other papers that we did when we had our other 
practical research work that we did here at Asti were 
presented to the American Society of Enologists, and they 



^-Membership had grown to 2,300 by late 1989. 

2 "Sparkling Wine Production by Charmat Process," June 7, 1965. 



138 



Teiser: 
Rossi: 



Teiser: 
Rossi: 



turned out to be fairly valuable, 
matter of record, if you like. 
Yes, please do. 



We can list them as a 



One of the first was in the 1960 edition of the American 
Journal of Enologv and Viticulture, an article on "Low Level 
Carbonation of Still Wines." That was co-authored by myself 
and George Thoukis, George, of course, now being one of the 
top wine men at Gallo. It dealt with factors affecting the 
absorption of carbon dioxide into wine. It's kind of a 
reference article. 

Then there was an article that was presented in the 
1963 edition of the American Journal of Enologv and 
Viticulture, called "Ultraviolet Light as an Aid in 
Winemaking." That was presented by myself only. 

Was that a result of work that you did here? 

This was done at Asti. What it really showed was the 
effectiveness of ultraviolet light shining on the surface of 
wine in preventing acetif ication. It turned out to be a very 
practical way of controlling acetification. Where a winery 
must of necessity have open tanks, where the wine is exposed 
to some air, it's virtually impossible to exclude all oxygen 
from the head space; acetification is a serious risk. 

Another from my group was presented in the 1963 edition 
of the American Journal of Enologv and Viticulture, entitled 
"Studies on the Bichromate Method of Alcohol Determination." 
That was authored by H. W. Zimmennann. Herb Zimmermann had a 
Ph.D. degree and had worked for years with Julius Fessler at 
the Berkeley Yeast Laboratories before he decided to leave 
the Bay Area and come up and work at Asti. He was an 
excellent researcher, and he really did more than anybody, I 
believe, to promote this particular method of analysis, which 
is still used in many wineries today. This, of course, was 
prior to the advent of the use of gas chromatography for the 
analysis of alcohol. But nevertheless, it was a very basic 
piece of research work. 

In the 1964 edition of the American Journal of Enologv 
and Viticulture we presented a paper entitled "Alcohol Losses 
from Entrainment in Carbon Dioxid Evolved during 
Fermentation." This was co-authored by H. W. Zimmermann, 
E. A. Rossi, Jr., and E. Wick. This showed the effect of the 
physical circumstances under which fermentation occurred as 



139 



they impacted on alcohol losses. It explained where these 
losses would be incurred in a practical winery operation. 

You see, a lot of our papers at that time were very 
practically oriented. There was another paper that was 
presented in the 1965 edition of the American Journal of 
Enologv and Viticulture entitled, "Sugar Extraction from 
Grape Pomace, with a Three-State Countercurrent System." 
This was co- authored by R. J. Coffelt, H. W. Berg, Paul Frey, 
and E. A. Rossi, Jr. Again, you must remember that those 
were the days when people were still making a lot of alcohol, 
because it wasn' t until the late 1960s that the volume of 
table wine overtook the volume of dessert wine being sold. 
So the recovery of alcohol from grape pomace in the form of 
sugar was of critical significance. That was always a 
problem, the recovery of sugar from pomace. It was much 
harder to recover the sugar from pomace than to recover the 
alcohol from pomace. The alcohol was far more readily 
soluble, whereas the sugar is always tied up in the cellular 
structure of the skins. One always had the dilemma of how 
long to wait for a thorough extraction. The time factor was 
typical of many projects. 

In 1966 we made a presentation to the American Journal 
of Enologv and Viticulture called "Non- Sugar Solids in 
Various Varieties of California Grapes." That was presented 
by an associate of mine, Frank M. Robirds, and myself, 
Edmund A. Rossi, Jr. This gave an idea of what the facts 
were, what the difficulties were, in trying to predict the 
amount of alcohol in the form of wine or high-proof that one 
could realize starting with a given grape or series of 
grapes. What we essentially tried to do was to work back to 
pounds of sugar received, and then work towards pounds of 
alcohol produced, and then get an efficiency factor. Of 
course, the efficiency factor varied greatly depending upon 
what processing had been required. This, again, was a very 
practical sort of project. 



Advances in the Vineyard and the Winerv## 



Teiser: These were the days before there was much interest in 
harvesting at low Brix? 

Rossi: Yes. 



140 

Teiser: That came in with the increased interest in table wines? 

Rossi: Yes. 

Teiser: It was really quite a revolution, was it not? 

Rossi: Yes, very much so. When I made that trip to Portugal to 

consult with them on the making of a champagne base, they had 
to bring in red Periquita grape at maybe eighteen to twenty 
Brix, when all their lives, literally for generations, they 
had brought it in at twenty- two to twenty- four, simply 
because the higher the Brix the better the grape for red 
winemaking, the higher the alcohol. The standard for red 
winemaking was totally different than the standard for making 
champagne base . 

As better and better varieties were planted in 
California, and people were more concerned about making 
premium white wine and premium red wine, research and 
operation interest broadened. In the 1960s there was a great 
deal of understandable concern as to the effectiveness of 
alcohol recovery. We considered the grape as a means of 
making wine, to be sure; but, on the other hand, if 
50 percent of the grape had to be made into alcohol to 
fortify the wine to make a dessert wine, then we had to be 
concerned with how we could effectively and efficiently 
recover the material to distill into the alcohol. One can 
see from the studies that we were doing in those days that 
they were very much concerned with alcohol recovery. 

I think the last report that I read was in 1966. In 
1966 there was still more fortified wine being made than 
table wine. We have to remember that 1966 was about three 
years prior to the point that Heublein bought us, and it was 
right about in that period of time that table wine sales 
overtook dessert wine sales. Once Heublein took charge, it 
wasn't that they were adversely concerned with doing research 
work on basic issues for winemaking, but of necessity the 
priority shifted in the direction of the development of new 
products- -flavored products and natural wines. So that 
really took a lot of our effort, once Heublein took over. As 
a consequence, our portfolio of scientific presentations did 
not extend into the 1970s, when no doubt we would have been 
interested in the factors concerned with the production of 
table wine . 

Teiser: I've heard it said that following the revolution in the 

winery, which I think you've just been describing part of, 



141 



Rossi: 



Teiser: 
Rossi: 



Teiser; 



Rossi: 



Teiser: 



Rossi: 



was a revolution in the vineyard, 
oversimplification? 



Is that an 



I think as the demand for better table wines grew, the first 
place for the grapes to come from would be Napa, Sonoma, 
Mendocino, in the North Coast counties, and perhaps in the 
South Central Coast. I don't recall at the moment just when 
the Monterey County grapes were planted. 

It started about 1960, but it didn't grow to much until 1970. 

Exactly. I think in well-established counties one can see 
that with the price increase of Sonoma County grapes, also 
the mix of grapes improved. Just as an overall figure, in 
1948 there was a total of 16 thousand acres of all grapes in 
Sonoma County, and they were 57 percent premium grapes. In 
1983 there were 25.5 thousand acres, and they were 93 percent 
premium grapes. That's forty years, which is not an 
insignificant period of time, but this is a huge change. The 
premium grapes, for example, in Sonoma County (to reiterate 
those figures for a moment) increased over those forty years 
from 9.2 thousand acres to 23.8 thousand acres. That's 
almost a threefold factor, and that's just in terms of 
bearing acreage only. Because superimposed on that is the 
fact that with improved viticultural practices they were able 
to get better yields, so the actual tons of grapes were 
probably better than threefold. 



Did you at the winery demand those better varieties? 
part of why they planted them? 



Is that 



I think the people could see that the trend past 1970 was 
definitely towards table wines, and then past the late 1970s 
was towards white wines over red wines . This one chart 
showing Sonoma County grapes acreage shows that over that 
twenty-year span black grapes held about the same, but the 
expansion was in white grapes. The premium black grapes in 
1948 were 9 thousand acres , and they increased to 14 thousand 
acres in 1983. In the white grapes, in 1948 there were 156 
acres of what I designate premium grapes, and in 1983 there 
were 10,500 acres. So you can see where all the effort went; 
it clearly went into white wine. 

That was implemented by your ability to handle white wines 
better? 

Oh, yes. The technology for making red wine I think was 
clear in the North Coast counties for years. It was getting 



142 



Teiser: 



Rossi: 



Teiser: 
Rossi: 



the grapes at the right sugar level, and then the management 
of the grapes during fermentation. Once the wine drained, 
then you had a matter of aging the red wine --how you aged it 
and how long you aged it. The red wine was hardy enough that 
it pretty much took care of iOself . Whether you were dealing 
with a standard red wine made, perhaps, out of Carignane, or 
Petite Sirah, which was never considered a top premium 
varietal but a marvelous blending wine for, say, burgundy, it 
didn't make too much difference if you were making those 
kinds of wines vis-a-vis making a Zinfandel or a Cabernet. 
The key refinement that came in, in the late 1970s to 1980s, 
about making red wine would be the impact on quality of aging 
in, first, small American barrels, and, second, imported 
French ones. But the basic making of the red wine was 
essentially the same. 

Now, in the case of white wines, there was a total 
revolution. We had to learn about all of the factors that 
dealt with oxidation of white wines, clarification of white 
wines, the retention of the delicate flavor of white wines, 
and fermentation temperatures of white wines. So the whole 
technique for making white wines I'd say went through more of 
a revolution than did the reds. I think that was the 
technology that was developed from the 1960s to the 1970s to 
the 1980s. As the consumer demanded more table wine, if they 
wanted more red wines, people made better quality red wines. 
Then it went from red wines, with roses brought in there, 
too, into white wines, and that technology had to be dealt 
with. When we wound up developing the technology on the 
winemaking end, then we came to where we are today. Today we 
ask what factors are involved in growing the grapes that will 
impact on the quality of the wines. I believe the thrust of 
the next ten years will be viticultural developments to 
improve wine quality. 

Let us discuss your association with the Institute of Food 
Technologists and the American Chemical Society. 

I've been a member of the Institute of Food Technologists and 
the American Chemical Society to try to keep abreast as much 
as I could on scientific developments in fields other than 
enology. I can't say that I ever presented any scientific 
papers or even attended any more than regional meetings . 

Did you use what you learned from them? 

I would say that in a general way one would receive ideas as 
to what might be applicable in the wine business, whether it 



144 



Teiser: You were telling us off the tape that there was a long speech 
in Italian. 

Rossi: Mr. Cora was acting as the interpreter, and it was amusing 
because the mayor of Asti would make quite an extended 
comment to him, greeting me to the city. By the time it got 
translated to me, Mr. Cora would say, "Mayor Vigna has asked 
me to let you know that he wants you to feel most welcome to 
visit the city of Asti." I'd say, "Well, thank you very 
much. Mrs. Rossi and I are delighted to be here, and we're 
very touched and pleased with the lovely welcome that we are 
receiving today." That would get translated back to the 
mayor of Asti, but it would be maybe ten times the verbiage. 
I have to say that over the years I've always wondered just 
exactly how this fit together, but it worked out okay, 
[laughter] 

I think it gives a feeling of how the Italians do 
things, and maybe how other people in Europe do things. They 
sent me several pictures in color that had been taken of the 
people that day that we were there. They sent me two copies 
of the pictures; one was just for me to show to people, and 
the other picture was for me to keep. And the set for me to 
keep was personally signed by everybody in the picture on the 
back of each picture, which I thought was a nice touch. 

To me such an occasion is part of what this wine 
business is all about. I think the wine business has to have 
a dimension beyond scrounging for shelf space in the 
supermarkets throughout the country. It has to have a 
tradition or a heritage of it, and a feel for it. There are 
other and perhaps more opportunistic ways of making money 
than being in the wine business. So I think that's part of 
the enchantment of being in the wine business- -expressions 
such as this, where it was just meant out of true friendship, 
without any sentiment of reciprocity. 

Teiser: The local award that you received from the wine and cheese 
group here- -that's the same, is it not? 

Rossi: That is pretty much the same. That came about in 1981. My 
goodness, I was getting a lot of awards towards the end of 
'79 and '80, '81. The Riverside Wine and Cheese Exposition 
has a lovely show every year, and they would select one 
person to be the wine ambassador for that year. In 1981 I 
was asked to be their wine ambassador, and they carried a 
very lovely article on me and on our wines. Co -sharing the 
spotlight was Richard Paul Hinckle, a wine writer, who they 



145 



also honored at the same time; in addition to the wine man 
they have a wine writer. They named the wine writer a 
sommelier, so Richard Paul Hinckle was the 1981 sommelier for 
the Riverbank Wine and Cheese Exposition. This is a very 
nice affair; they are very warm people. It's an honor to be 
in the group of people who have been previous recipients of 
the wine ambassador award. They included Joe Franzia, Sr. , 
of Franzia; Tony Indelicate of Delicato winery; Dr. Maynard 
Amerine of the University of California; and Louis Petri. So 
I was in good company. 

The only other award I could speak of is that during 
the Heublein years, in 1980, they initiated an Eagle Award 
for outstanding performance at United Vintners. I was one of 
about half a dozen people who received this Eagle Award for 
outstanding service. That meant a great deal to me. That 
was a nice award, because it was recognition by my own 
associates at the company. 



Transcriber and Final Typist: Judy Smith 



146 



TAPE GUIDE -- Edmund A. Rossi, Jr. 



Interview 1: 22 February, 1988 (redone 4 April 1988) 1 

tape 1, side a 1 

tape 1, side b 8 

tape 2, side a 15 

tape 3, side a 20 

Interview 2: 23 February 1988 26 

tape 3, side b 26 

tape 4, side a 31 

tape 4, side b 35 

tape 5, side a 42 

Interview 3: 24 February 1988 47 

tape 5, side b 47 

tape 6, side a 54 

tape 6, side b 62 

tape 7, side a 64 
tape 7, side b not recorded 

Interview 4: 7 March 1988 76 

tape 8, side a 76 

tape 8, side b 82 

insert, tape 15, side a 86 

insert, tape 15, side b 89 

tape 9, side a 91 

Interview 5: 8 March 1988 97 

tape 9, side b 97 

tape 10, side a 103 

tape 10, side b 109 

insert, tape 2, side b 109 

Interview 6: 9 March 1988 112 

tape 11, side a 112 

tape 11, side b 119 

tape 12, side a 123 
tape 12, side b not recorded 



147 



Interview 7: 4 April 1988 130 

tape 13, side a 130 
tape 13, side b 

tape 14, side a 134 

tape 14, side b 139 



APPENDIX I 



148 



EDMUND A. ROSSI 3445 JACKSON STREET SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA 941 II 










149 







, 

o ' 



. J 



L 

APPENDIX II 150 



A HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE ON 



SONOMA COUNTY WINEMAKING 



PRESENTED TO 



THE SONOMA COUNTY HARVEST FAIR 



SANTA ROSA 



BY 



EDMUND A. ROSSI, JR. 



OCTOBER 6, 1984 



151 



SONOMA COUNTY FAIR SPEECH 



INTRODUCTION: Delineate that this presentation touches on 
four periods of wine industry history. 

Prohibition 

1919-1933 Survival 

Post -prohibit ion 

1933-1950 Recovery 

1950-1970 Moderate Growth 

1970-1983 Rapid Expansion 



152 



California winemaking predates even California's statehood, 
and Sonoma wine was its first star. The Franciscan padres first 
made wine from Mission grapes in 1769, and grapes were first planted 
in Sonoma in 1823. But it was Sonoma 's General Mariano Vallejo 
who made the first California wine worthy of note. Some of the 
grapes grown at his Lachryma Montis Estate were noble varieties 
brought over from Europe by his friend and neighbor, Agoston 
Haraszthy, now popularly known as the Father of California 
Winemaking. And, of course, Haraszthy made Sonoma the home of 
California's first premium winery, Buena Vista, founded in 1857. 

By 1900, Sonoma wines were winning awards and acclaim all 
over the world. And that's not too surprising, considering that 
so many immigrants to Sonoma came from Europe's best wine regions: 
France, Germany, Spain, and especially Italy. 

These immigrants brought not only knowledge, but a taste for 
good wine. Civilized and temperate, they took wine with their 
meals and took pride in their ability to taste and judge wine 
analytically. But the Prohibition movement was afoot in the country. 
Despite the best efforts of reasonable men like Andrea Sbarboro, 
who founded Italian Swiss Colony, Prohibition became law in 1919. 
And it had a devastating effect on Sonoma 's wine industry. 



153 
Before Prohibition, California wine production had risen from 

22 million gallons in 1899 to 32 million gallons in 1918, reaching 
a high of 45 million in 1911. The state had 700 wineries in 1918, 
of which Sonoma had by far the greatest number: 256 (refer to Table 
1). There were over 16,000 acres of grapes in the county. Americans 
were drinking California dry wine in preference to sweet by a margin 
of about 2 to 1. 

Prohibition destroyed all that. By the time it was repealed, 
in December 1933 (refer to Table 1), there were only 160 wineries 
in all California, and an estimated 25 in Sonoma County. Worse 
yet, a whole generation lost its taste for wine. 

Of course people were making wine at home. Grape juice or 
concentrate was sold with a packet of yeast and a warning not to 
add the yeast to the juice or it would ferment into wine! Limited 
winemaking for home and church use was still legal, and the "juice 
Grape" industry in California was flourishing. In fact, Sonoma 
grape acreage actually increased during Prohibition, to 21,000 acres 
in 1930. But the new vineyards were all planted to grapes that 
would ship well tough-skinned, high-sugar varieties which would 
produce wines with dark color and high alcohol. The people were 
drinking wines of lesser quality, and therefore, lost the concept 
of what fine wine was supposed to be. After Repeal, the number 
of wineries quadrupled overnight as people rushed to meet the pent-up 
thirst of our parched country (refer to Table 1). Wineries often 
operated 24 hours a day. What kinds of wine were they making? 



- 3 - 



154 - 
Well, they made both table and dessert wines, but no varietals as 

we know them today. There was still a bit of Zinfandel around -- 
but it went into blends sold as "Claret" and "Burgundy". Sometimes, 
in fact, grapes were simply thrown into vats marked "red" or "white," 
and crushed and fermented that way. The wines were often on the 
market within 30 days of production. Vfho had the time for aging? 

At that time, only half-a-dozen of the larger Sonoma wineries 
had bottling facilities; the rest were bulk operations, shipping 
barrels of wine direct to customers or for bottling elsewhere. 
Let me give you an idea of how one Sonoma County winery produced 
and bottled wines . . . and I think by now you can guess which winery 
I know best. 

Our friend Joe Vercelli came to Italian Swiss Colony on 
August 22, 1933. Anticipating Repeal, 38 million gallons of wine 
were made during the 1933 vintage. When the great day came, 
December 6, 1933, trains loaded with cases of wine which had been 
stored in tanks during Prohibition rolled out from Asti. 

In those days, almost all the reds were fermented in open 
redwood 10 , 000-gallon tanks, punched down by hand. There was no 
refrigeration or stainless steel yet, but we recognized the need 
for cool fermentation of white wines. Five-foot high tanks, about 
2500-3000 gallons each, were built low and wide and open to dissipate 
heat for fermenting the whites. It was virtually impossible at 
that time to make white wines as we know them today. Under these 
conditions, we still produced four million gallons of wine a year 
at Italian Swiss Colony yes, mostly red! 



- 4 - 



155 
We were considered the very cutting edge at ISC. We had 

k 

eight concrete fermenters, 25, 000-gallon tanks with a redwood tube 
down the middle to keep the red grape skins contained, yet in con 
tact with the wine for flavor and color extraction. My grandfather, 
with my father and uncle, visited Algeria in 1909 to learn hot- 
weather winemaking and that's one of the techniques they brought 
back. Concrete and redwood were prevalent for a good 50 years 
afterward. 


We were also the first to use a Krenz continuous pomace still. 

We pioneered the use of SC<2 in conjunction with pure wine yeast 
cultures, and the use of refrigeration in the stabilization of 
wine. It was at this time that bentonite was first used, which 
we take so much for granted today. It sounds like ancient history 
now, but then it was state of the art. 

In 1934, records show 804 wineries in California. But soon 
the boom went bust. By 1938, the number was back down to 541. 
Partly, this was due to poor-quality wine being produced. Bacterial 
problems led to a government quarantine of some wines, and even 
winery closures, in 1934. And remember, there was a Depression 
going on -- no money available to finance new plants or improvements 

During this recovery period, in fact, the whole industry 
struggled for stability against continuous boom-bust cycles. In 
1936, the crop was short and so prices increased, leading in turn 
to an oversupply in 1937. To deal with the glut, a one-year 
"pro-rate" was instituted which limited grape prices to $12 a ton 
and wine prices to 7C per gallon. 



- 5 - 



156 
Who can stay in business when a year of hard work yields revenues 



like that? 

Then during World War II came the restriction of making 
alcoholic beverages due to the nation's need of alcohol for war 
uses. Distillers flocked to California's winelands, since their 
industry had been so sharply curtailed by the Government. We wel 
comed the distillers with open arms, big guys and little guys. 
Wartime restrictions that disallowed the use of table and raisin 
grapes for making wine contributed to increased grape prices in 
Sonoma County (refer to Table 3). Immediately after the war there 
was again a boom leading to oversupply and a severe bust in 1947. 
Among others, Roma had been sold to Schenley Industries and Paul 
Masson was bought by Seagrams, Italian Swiss Colony was bought 
by National Distillers in 1942. Once I asked my father why he 
had sold the winery. His answer was characteristically pragmatic 
-- "Because we had a buyer I" 

As you can imagine, all these ups and downs did not have 
a healthy effect on Sonoma growers and winemakers . Wine grape 
acreage stayed flat or decreased for decades at a time. You can 
see the general relationship between grape prices and acreage in 
this chart (#3) behind me. 

Notice in 1935 (refer to Table 3), grape prices hit a low 
of $10 per ton. Except for the war years, acreage went downhill 
for quite awhile: Sonoma grape acreage decreased from about 20,000 
acres to about 11,000 acres in 1960. 



- 6 - 



157 
But despite all the hardships, there was progress being made. 

Scientific investigation in viticulture and enology was stepped 
up at Berkeley and UC Davis, under the guidance of people like 
Cruess, Joselyn, Amerine and Winkler. Dr. Cruess had followed 
Professor Bioletti at Berkeley with whom my father and uncle had 
studied. The UC Bulletins on making table wine, dessert wine and 
brandy were among the first definitive guidelines to the wine 
industry in California. I had the great good fortune to study at 
Davis during the 40 's for what would now be considered a short time. 
I had brought back some ideas about analyzing wine, not only with 
the senses, but through instrumentation and chemical analysis. 

I remember two incidents that illustrated how these notions 
could prove useful. Once, Elbert Brown, the Research/Quality Control 
man, and I went over to the old Shewan- Jones winery at Lodi to taste 
some white wines Myron Nightingale had made for the Lejon label. 
With us was a former competitive wrestler at UC -- named Lyman Cash, 
who was the chemist at Asti. We asked him to taste the wine and 
give us his opinion. He took a sip, swished it around, spit it 
out -- then he said he thought the wine was somewhat oxidized. 
Nightingale was getting more worried by the minute. If this guy 
didn't like the wine, who'd argue with him? Then Cash kind of 
grinned and said, "Now let me get rid of this plug of chewing tobacco 
and get a real taste!" That broke up the party! So much for 
delicate sensory perceptions. I wish to inject that I look back 
with much fondness and gratitude to Elbert Brown. He was the leading 
technical man in the industry during this period. 



- 7 - 



158 
Another time, the SS Angelo Petri -- yes we actually had a 

tanker full of wines for shipping to the East Coast ran aground 
just out of the San Francisco Bay. Herb Caen called it "wine on 
the rocks." Anyway, we worried that the wine had been contaminated 
with seawater. Petri tasted it and thought it was OK, but with 
all the conflicting odors coming off the bay, it was pretty hard 
to taste anything. We had to turn to instrumentation. At last, 
our new spectrophometer was pressed into service! After a feverish 
night of sodium analysis and other tests, the wine was pronounced 
pure and drinkable, and duly reported so in the next day's papers. 
But not in Caen's column, of course! Before leaving this story, 
it is important to note that the SS Angelo Petri was put into 
service to resist increasing rail rates. This move was effective 
and, of course, benefited the California wine industry. 

At the same time the scientific precepts of UC Davis were 
gaining acceptance, professional organizations were contributing 
to the industry's knowledge and stability. As far back as 1934, 
we had the Wine Institute, formed by Harry Caddow and Leon Adams 
(among others) as a direct descendant of the Grapes Growers League 
of Prohibition days. In 1938, the Wine Advisory Board was formed 
under a California State Marketing Order. In 1942, Louis Foppiano 
founded the Sonoma County Wine Growers Association. In the early 
50's, the American Society of Enologists was formed with 20 charter 
members . Our idea was to create a forum for exchanging ideas , 
and we hoped thereby to improve the quality of our wine so it would 
be comparable to the best European imports. It worked. Through 
the A.S.E. came reports on developments like the control of 



- 8 - 



159 

oxidation, the effective use of centrifugation. more use of stain 
less steel fermentation, improved vineyard practices, and closer 
control of the aging process by using different sizes and types 
of barrels. But perhaps more important, we started thinking about 
our markets and potential customers. We winemakers began to think 
like marketers - to respond to the public, and to contribute to 
their wine education. 

By 1950 (refer to Table 2), while total wine sales approached 
150 million gallons, the table wine market was still in the base 
ment, figuratively. We made jug reds for Italian-Americans and 
dessert wines, sweet and high alcohol the latter often for people 
who drank for effect. Wine had a bad name in America. It was still 
associated with hard liquor and often distributed by the same people. 
Since people in the distribution system made more money in spirits, 
why should they learn about wine? It wasn't until 1954 that the 
word "fortified" was eliminated from federal regulations. Though 
we graduated from making the harsh, coarse wines of the late 1930 's 
to the "sweet vinos," (from Table 2) it is apparent that dessert 
wines significantly outsold table wines throughout the 1950' s. 

But we had a secret weapon so secret not even we knew about 
it. By the early 60 's the Baby Boomers were coming of age. And 
not only did we have the means to analyze the wines -- we could 
also analyze people's reactions to them, with market research. This 
was a huge market, just outgrowing soda pop and looking for something 
with that sweetness, that fizz, and a little bit of jolt. Thus were 
born the special naturals otherwise known as refreshment or "pop" 
wines . 

- 9 - 



160 
My first assignment as Research Director at ISC in 1957 was 

to come up with a product tailored to match the appeal of Gallo's 
Thunderbird. Our entry was Silver Satin, which tasted like a mix 
of white Port and lemon juice, with 20% alcohol. Over a period 
years came our Bali Hai at 12% and finally, the Annie Green Springs, 
Boone's Farms and TJ Swanns , apple-based wines with a low 9% 
alcohol. The special naturals really pushed up table wine sales 
through the mid-60 's and 70's. By 1974, Americans drank 50 million 
gallons of special naturals. That's 250 million bottles more 
than one bottle for every man, woman and child in the country. 
We finally could control oxidation, and the "pop" wines, chilled 
and served as cocktails, helped lay the groundwork for more accept 
ance of white wines. Table wine sales, at last, were looking up; 
in fact, they more than doubled between 1963 and 1970. In 1968, 
more table wine was sold than dessert wine for the first time in 
the post-prohibition era. 

Looking at our charts (#2 and #4), you'll notice that with 
this consumption boom came increased new plantings in Sonoma County 
(refer to Table 4). In 1971, for the first time, new vines reached 
over 2000 acres. It peaked in 1975, with over 8000 non-bearing 
acres. Prices soared ... in fact, the real growth in new vines 
in Sonoma started when the price per ton consistently broke $200. 
Of course, I'm talking average price per ton. And thanks to im 
proved vineyard practices developed at Davis, and here in Sonoma 
County by Bob Sisson, yield per acre was increasing (refer to Table 
4, Column 4) even with the less-prolific premiums. If we separate 
wine grapes into common and premium varieties, the change is even 



- 10 - 



more striking (refer to table 5). Incidentally, premium varieties 
are defined as grapes.* that merit being bottled as varietals and 
so Zinfandel and Petit Sirah, two old standby's in Sonoma County 
are included as premiums. In the early 1970's. came the Cabernets 
and the Pinot Noirs (refer to Table 6), 4140 acres of these two 
varietals alone in 1973! The color change hits one, too. In 1959, 
white premiums weren't even mentioned in the report. But by 1973, 
there were 3083 non-bearing acres in four top white varietials 
alone: Gewurztraminer , Chardonnay, Johannisberg Riesling, and 
Sauvignon Blanc (refer to Table 6). And last year, non-bearing 
acreage of those grapes came to 2896 acres, for a total of 10,854 
acres of these four white varieties. Consumption figures bear this 
out. Remember the famous white wine boom of the mid-70 's? 
In 1970, reds accounted for 50% of the table wine sold versus about 
25% for whites; in 1980, reds had dropped to 27% versus 53% for 
whites! In 1976, white table wine sales in the United States 
exceeded sales of red table wines for the first time in history. 
Of course, in the more sophisticated high end of the market, -- 
fine Cabernets, Gamays , Pinot Noirs -- red wines will always hold 
their own. But what excites me is that the mass of American wine 
drinkers is regaining its palate. 

It took us over 50 years from 1919 to 1970 to get back 
to the consumption patterns that prevailed before Prohibition (refer 
to Table 2 and Chart 2). And it's taken us the 14 years since to 
improve upon them. From Table 2 and Chart 2, it is easily seen 
that from 1970 to 1983 total wine consumption in the United States 
doubled due to the almost tripled use of table and 'sparkling wines. 
Today, dry table wines outnumber sweet dessert wines on retailers' 
shelves and on customers' dinner tables by almost 9 to 1, and 

- 11 - 



sparkling wines are making an unprecedented showing. Sonoma County 
winemaking has really taken off in the last five years -- we have 
110 of 600 wineries in the state and all but one bottle their own 
wine. The days of bulk only producers are gone. Sonoma wineries 
have the most modern facilities for crushing, fermenting and 
storing, and grapes are a larger part -of Sonoma 's agricultural 
economy than ever before. As shown in Table 7, the value of Sonoma 
County's grapes increased by a factor of 25 from 1948 to 1983 - 
significant by any standard of growth. 

I might add, we also have some of the best winemakers in 
California. In fact, two of the very best are sharing this very 
table with me this morning, Dick Arrowood of Chateau St. Jean and 
Zelma Long of Simi. 

As the public has moved way from its taste for sweetness, 
we winemakers have moved away from the big tannin and acid levels 
once needed to balance all that sugar. Now we are bringing 
different styles of wine to the market, but always within the 
framework of what the consumer wants: balance and palatability . 

At the same time, we're educating the consumers. How did 
they learn what varietals were? They learned by drinking wines 
with a distinctive varietal character, as we were making in the 
late 70' s. Now they're graduating to wines with more subtleties. 
With the proliferation of varietals and appellations, each with 
distinctive characteristics to impart to wine, we have the privilege 
of creating wine with more style and nuance of character than ever 
before. But we also have a responsibility to the consumer. 

- 12 - 



163 

i 
Our sales and marketing efforts must show consumers how to appreciate 

these differences. After all, if we don't show the consumer the 
comparative value of our product, how can we compete with the 
imports? We have to wear two hats making sound wines, but 
remembering marketing considerations too. In other words, winemakers 
must follow consumer wishes and at the same time, give consumers 
direction. 

The pattern is established. Sonoma is reclaiming its rightful 
place in California winemaking. Let's not forget the Pedroncellis , 
the Sebastianis, the Foppianos, Seghesios, Martinis, and Pratis, 
as well as my own family and all those others whose perseverance 
helped lay the foundation for making good wine here in Sonoma County. 

Without their efforts, we wouldn't be talking about the 
nuances of American versus French oak and other subtleties of wine- 
making that consume our thoughts today. One has to wonder why people 
stayed in this crazy business. I asked my father that question 
once, and I suspect many of us share his reason: "Because," he said, 
"that's what my father taught me, and it's all I know." 

But the crown of quality is ours again. I hope everyone here 
today will join me in celebrating our regained heritage, and 
dedicating ourselves to keeping its luster bright. Thank you. 



- 13 - 



164 



LIST OF TABLES 

1. Number of California/Sonoma wineries 1920-1983 

2. Consumption by Category 1918-1983 

3. Sonoma Grape Acreage related to Price per Ton 1933-1960 
(Includes Yield Per Acre) 

4. Sonoma Grape Acreage (Bearing and Non-Bearing) related 
to Price per Ton 1961-1983 (Includes Yield Per Acre) 

5. Premium vs. Common Grapes 1948/1983 (Blacks and Whites) 

6. Grape Acreage by Selected Premium Varieties 

7. Value of Grapes in Sonoma 's Agricultural Economy 



165 




TABLE 1 




NUMBER OF BONDED WINERIES: 


CALIFORNIA 


[ 1920 


700 


[ 1925 


565 


Z f 1926 


483 


2 [ 1927 

EH 


422 


2 t 1928 


373 


3 [ 1929 
O 


325 


gj I 1930 


273 


[ 1931 


251 


[ 1933 TO 380 BY YEAR END 


160 


1938 


541 


1943 


408 


1948 


375* 


1953 


344 


1958 


417 


1963 


237 


1968 


234 


1973 


278 


1978 


416 


1983 


606 



SONOMA 

256 ] 

141* ] 

120* ] 

105* J 

93* ] 5 

00 

81 ] 
58* ]o 
62* ] 
25* ] 
98 
81* 
75* 
56 
48 
32 
26 
36 
68 
110 



* ESTIMATED FIGURES 









166 




TABLE 2 




U.S. WINE 


CONSUMPTION: 


BREAKDOWN BY 


CATEGORIES 






(Millions 


of Gallons) 




1914-1918 


TABLE 


DESSERT 


% TABLE/ 
% DES3ERT 


STILL 
TOTAL SPARKLING 


29.5 


18.9 


61/39 


48.4 1 


1948-1950 


35.8 


110.0 


24/76 


145.8 1.5 


1963-1965 
(A) 


69.6 


107.8 


39/61 


177.4 


U969 
(C) 


119.9 
( 8 ) 


100.0 
( 12 ) 


55/45 


219.9 16.1 


1970 
(B) 


149.8 
( 17 } 


93.4 
( 12 ) 


61/39 


245.2 22.1 


1974 


243.7 
( 52 ) 


85.9 
( 10 ) 


74/26 


329.9 19.8 


980 


384.8 
( 26 ) 


63.2 
( 10 ) 


81/19 


448.0 29.9 


*83 


420.4 
( 18 ) 


56.8 
( 11 ) 


88/12 


477.2 43.4 



1968 Table Wine Sales Exceeded Desserts 
1976 White Wine Sales Exceeded Red Table 

Numbers in parentheses shows sales special 
natural wines included in figures above. 






TABLE 3 167 

SONOMA GRAPE ACREAGE 

AND 

PRICES PER TON 
1933 - 1960 



YEAR 


BEARING 
ACREAGE 


YIELD 
PER ACRE 


PRICE 
PER TON 


1933 


20,383 


.81 


$ 34.82 


1934 


21.500 


1.97 


15.00 


1935 


20,000* 




10.43 


1936 


19,192 


1.15 


20.00 


1937 


19,859 


1.76 


22.00 


1938 


20,499 


1.85 


12.00 


1939 


20,950 


1.50 


16.00 


1940 


21,125 


2.16 


20.00 


1941 


21,370 


1.66 


27.50 


1942 


21,670 


2.02 


34.50 


1943 


23,453 


1.90 


87.24 


1944 


21,750 


1.66 


125.00 


1945 


21,958 


1.81 


71.68 


1946 


22,879 


2.00 


124.17 


1947 


22,704 


1.50 


35.00 


1948 


16,064 


2.36 


39.05 


1949 


16,277 


1.79 


42.90 


1950 


15,849 


1.13 


83.75 


1951 


14,772 


2.16 


55.00 


1952 


13,463 


1.97 


40.00 


1953 


11,689 


2.39 


41.79 


1954 


11,351 


2.51 


48.51 


1955 


11. 168 


2.90 


49.14 


1956 


11,057 


3.30 


52.77 


1957 


11,380 


2.31 


53.86 


1958 


11,262 


2.98 


59.70 


1959 


11. 159 


2.41 


68.00 


1960 


10.705 


2.20 


90.00 



* ESTIMATED 



TABLE 4 
" SONOMA GRAPE ACREAGE 






AND 








PRICES PER TON 








1961 - 1983 




YEAR 


BEARING 
ACRES 


NON-BEARING 
ACRES 


YIELD 
PER ACRE 


1961 


10,625 


449 


2.23 


1962 


10.600 


603 


3.15 


1963 


10,669 


624 


2.64 


1964 


10,770 


646 


2.44 


1965 


11,188 


863 


2.88 


1966 


11,572 


1,171 


2.73 


1967 


11.765 


1,049 


2.92 


1968 


12,764 


723 


2.39 


1969 


12,579 


921 


2.37 


1970 


12,597 


1,302 


1.50 


1971 


12,332 


2.611 


2.83 


1972 


12,689 


4,377 


2.25 


1973 


13.452 


5,838 


3.17 


974 


13.798 


7,766 


3.27 


|1975 


16,151 


8,245 


2.46 


1976 


19,474 


5,416 


2.02 


1977 


23,335 


1,935 


2.02 


L978 


24,087 


2,267 tore 
Than 


Whites 2.68 
Blacks 


979 


23,898 


2,783 


3.20 


980 


23,639 


3,737 


3.34 


981 


23,776 


4,665 


3.39 


982 


24,746 


4,502 


4.00 


983 


25,541 


4,632 


3.14 



PRICE 
PER TON 

$135.00 
96. 10 
96.70 
136.67 
107.20 
102.49 
112.00 
132.97 
166.29 
255.70 ( 
342.97 
455. 12 
508.00 
272.02 
238.94 
339.80 
453.23 
473.43 

455.95 
506.48 
590.34 
564.87 
542.56 



) First year average grape price in Sonoma County 
was over $200/ton 



169 



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171 
TABLE 7 

IMPORTANCE OF GRAPE-GROWING TO SONOMA AGRICULTURAL ECONOMY 

Sonoma County 
1919 - 1983 



1919 
.923 
928 
933 
938 


GRAPE TOTAL FRUIT % of TOTAL TOTAL FRUIT, GRAPE 
TOTAL CROP {, NUT CROP VALUE IN NUT & VEGE- ACREAGE 
VALUE VALUE GRAPES TABLE DROP 
(x $1000) (x $1000) ACREAGE 

65,701 16,307 
65,880 17,150 
68,641 20,000 
66,685 20,383 
72,603 20,499 


% OF TOTAL 
IN GRAPES 

24% 
26% 
29% 
30% 
28% 


943 


-- 














73, 


466 


23, 


453 


32% 


948 


1, 


484 


6, 


770 


21 


.9% 


76, 


654 


22, 


704 


29% 


953 


1, 


170 


10, 


078 


11 


.6% 


45, 


401 


11, 


689 


26% 


958 


2, 


006 


llr 


728 


17 


.1% 


42, 


604 


11, 


262 


26% 


9*1 


2, 


723 


11, 


121 


24 


.5% 


42, 


382 


10, 


685 


25% 


968 


4, 


057 


21, 


805 


18 


.6% 


45, 


511 


12, 


764 


28% 


373 


21 


,692 


39, 


427 


55 


.0% 


34, 


055 


9, 


685 


28% 


?78 


30 


,574 


47, 


368 


64 


.5% 


42, 


665 


24, 


087 


56% 


)B3 


43 


,514 


54, 


603 


79 


.7% 


41, 


016 


23, 


776 


58% 



43.5/1.5 = 25 Value grape crop in 1983 was 25 times 

value in 1948 



172 

W 



LIST OF CHARTS 

1. Number bonded wineries in Sonoma County 
and in California 

2. Sonoma grape acreage vs. price/ton 
1933-1960 

3. Sonoma grape acreage vs. price/ton 
1961-1983 

4. U.S. wine consumption by category 






IN 



:73 




US, 



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177 

ISC WINES OF CALIFORNIA, INC. 
MEMORANDUM 



TO: Richard McCombs 

FROM: E. A. Rossi, Jr. 

RE: History of Winemaking on Sonoma County 

DATE: October 31. 1984 



Attached is the final draft of my presentation as a panel 
member at the recent Sonoma County Harvest Fair. It 
is entitled "A Historical Perspective on Sonoma County 
Winemaking. " 

I hope you enjoy reading it. You may wish to pass it 
around. 




E. A. Rossi, Jr, 
EAR/vl 
Attachment 

cc : Judy Gollan ] Copy enclosed for people 
Scott Stoner ] interested at Asti. 



LIST OF CHAIRMEN OF TECHNICAL ADVISORY COMMITTEE 



M. W. Turbovsky - July 15, 19^2 - August 18, 

Harold W. Berg - August 19, lykk - April 26, 19^6 

Joseph S. Vercelli - April 27, 19^6 - February 28, 

Charles M. Crawford - March 1, 19^7 - March 2, 19^8 

W. E. Kite - March 3, 19^8 - March 7, 1950 

E. M. Brown - March 8, 1950 - March 3, 1952 

Max Goldman - March U, 1952 - March 8, 1954 

E. C. Skofis - March 9, 195^ - February 20, 1956 

Charles B. Holden - February 21, 1956 - May 13, 1957 

Philip Posson - May lU, 1957 - May 26, 1958 

Myron S. Nightingale - May 27, 1958 - May 25, 1959 

Ze'ev Kalperin - May 26, 1959 - May 23, I960 

M. J. Bo - May 2U, I960 - May 25, 196l 

William V. LaRosa - May 26, 1961 - May 28, 1962 

Hans Warkentin - May 29, 1962 - June 3, 1963 

E. A. Rossi, Jr. - June U, 1963 - May 28, 196U 

Leo A. Berti - May 29, 196U - June 7, 1965 

John Hoffman - June 8, 1965 - June 9, 1966 

Dawson Wright - June 10, 1966 - June 8, 1967 

Raul T. DeSoto - June 9, 1967 - June 6, 1968 

Alfred F. Pirrone - June 7, 1968 - June 9, 1969 

Ron Hanson - June 10, 1969 - June 8, 1970 

M. S. Nury - June 9, 1970 - June lU, 1971 

Hector Castro - June 15, 1971 - June 8, 1972 

Roy Mineau - June 9, 1972 - June U, 1973 

Wine Institute Technical Advisory Committee dissolved June U, 1973 



179 



INDEX -- Edmund A. Rossi, Jr. 



accounting methods, 20, 21 

aging, 99, 100 

alcohol potentian in grapes, 32, 33 

Algeria, 5 

Aligretti, Joe, 20, 86 

Alioto, Joe, 90 

Allied Grape Growers, 28, 38, 39, 

97, 98, 104, 107-109, 119-122, 

120-123 

124, 130 

Almaden Vineyards, 35, 90, 117, 121 
American Chemical Society, 142, 143 
American Journal of Enology and 

Viticulture. 138, 139 
American Society for Enology and 

Viticulture, 25, 133-137 
American Society of Brewing 

Chemists, 135 
American Society of Enologists , 19, 

25, 91, 136-138 see also American 

Society for Enology and 

Viticulture 

Amerine, Maynard A. , 2, 45, 99, 137. 
Anderson Valley, 18 
Aneelo Petri. S. S., 77-81, 91, 92 
Angioni, Ed, 84 
Arakelian, Krikor, 28, 93 
Arrowood, Dick, 87 
Asher, Randy, 89 
Astibrand, 38 
Asti Grape Products Company, 6, 7, 

26 
Asti winery, 6, 7, 11-13, 22, 38, 

43, 74, 76, 81, 112, 114, 131, 

138 



Baldwin, Guy, 25 

Balfe, Tom, 20 

Beaulieu Vineyard, 71, 120 

Bechtel Engineering, 137 

Beverage Source, The, 28, 90, 122, 

123, 131, 132 
Bianchini, Lelio "Bob," 36, 76, 77, 

87, 99, 112 



Bierwirth, John, 35 

blending, 44-46 

Bondio, Al Dal, 99 

Bonner, Chris, 89 

Bonomo, Victor, 107 

Brandt, George Henry, 11 

brandy, 27, 28, -93-96 

Brandy Advisory Board, 92 

Brown, Elbert M. , 17, 18, 22, 28, 

32-34 
Brown, Ron, 87 



Caire, Justinian, 8 

Calabrese, Joe, 84 

California Department of Food and 

Agriculture, 108 
California Growers, 121, 131 
California Wine Association, 5, 6, 

21, 93 

Carbone, bottler, 55 
Cash, Lyman , 16 
Castor, John G. , 3 
Cella, John B. , II, 89, 97, 98 
Cella family, 29, 98 
Cella Vineyards, 29, 97, 98 
Chao, Hsia, 114 
Charmat process for champagne - 

making, 137 
Chavez, Cesar, 107 
Clovis winery (La Paloma) , 12, 26, 

41, 95, 106, 131 
Cole, Ansley, Jr., 3 
Colony brand, 109-111, 116, 126, 

127, 132 

Community Winery, 28, 97 
cooperage , 100 
Coppo, Bartolomeo, 6, 7, 24 
Coppo, Joe, 6 
Coppo, Louis, 6 
Cora, Piero, 143, 144 
Cotranch, Irving, 84 
Crawford, Charles M. , 135 
Creekside Cellars brand, 132 



180 



Daniel, John, Jr., 29, 76, 98, 99 

Davies, Jack, 3 

Davis, Douglas, 20, 86 

Davitto, Bernard, 17, 23, 24, 34, 

56 

Deane, John R. , 17, 20, 22-24, 34 
Delsarto, Robert, 86, 87 
Deuer, George, 100 
Di Giorgio, Joseph, Sr., 12-14 
Digardi, Ernest, 25 
distillation, 16, 94-96 

pot still, 3, 95, 96 
Downs, Edgar "Pete," 87 
Dreyer Winery [Brazil] , 117 



earthquake of 1906, 4 

Eddy, Thomas G. , 87 

Eisenberg, Ted, 117 

Enunart, John, 84 

Enocianina, 114, 115 

ERLY Industries, 28, 101, 121, 122, 

123 

Early California olives, 122, 

131 
Escalon winery, 36, 38, 81, 123 

Filipello, Ferrer, 59, 87, 113 

fining, 100, 101 

Fischel, Clair, 37 

Fonseca family, 11 

Ford, Ken, 89 

Forestville winery, 38 

Fountaingrove label, 8 

Fresno mold, 136 

Fresno State College [University] , 

19, 66 
Furek, Bob, 107 



Gallo, Ernest and Julio, 35, 82 
Gallo winery, 28, 29, 31, 41, 61, 

135 

Gambarelli & Davitto, 55, 56, 110 
Gambarelli, Victoria, 55, 56 
Card, Art, 93 
Gerzerske, R. , 123 
Giordano, Ray, 17, 34 



Golden Gate International Exposition 

of 1939, 128, 129 
Goldman, Max, 88 
Gomberg, Louis R. 37 
Gott, Jim, 25, 36, 87 
Grand Metropolitan PLC, 29, 121 
grapes, purchasing of, 38-40, 62, 

70, 104-106, 108, 141 
Grillez, Antonio, 11 
Guymon, James F. , 3 



Hahn, Gregg, 87 
Haigh, Isabelle, 128 
Halperin, Ze'ev, 25, 88 
Halpern, Paul, 87, 89 
Hanley, Richard, 90 
Hansen's juices, 123 
harvesting, 96 
Harvey's Bristol Cream, 107 
Heck, Adolph, 35 
Heck, Paul, 20, 28, 86 
Heitz, Joseph, 25 
Heritage Colony label, 71 
Heublein, Inc . , 

Federal Trade Commission suit, 
106-108 

international operations, 116- 
122 

ownership and acquisitions, 28- 
30, 101, 104, 106, 119-122 

packaging, 73 

plants, 104 

products, 30, 73, 102 
high-proof, 93-96 
Hinckle, Richard Paul, 144, 145 
Holden, Charles, 19, 25, 135 
Holloway, W. "Pete," 90 
Holstein, Kerek, 87 
Hubach test, 18 
Huber, Paul, 93 



Inglenook Vineyards, 52, 69-73, 98- 

101, 120 
Navalle label, 69, 70, 73, 120, 

126 
Institute of Food Technologists, 

142, 143 
inventory control, 23 



181 



Italian Swiss Colony, 5, 6, 11-13, 
21 , passim 
Asti labels, 17 
brands, 27-30, 97, passim 
corporate culture, 28-30 
labels, 27, 40, 124 
"little old winemaker" image, 

110, 111, 127, 128 
marketing nationwide, 55, 110 
ownership, 13-16, 26-29, 34-41, 

119, 120, 122 
personnel, 84-91 
plants, Escalon, Madera, Asti, 
Sanger, 86-91 

see also plant names 
research and development, 87, 

90, 123 

sale to ERLY Industries, 122 
sale to Louis Petri, 34-41 
sale to National Distillers, 13- 

16 

varietals, introduction of, 73 
Iwata, Adrienne, 89 



Jones, Lee, 27, 29 

Joseph W. Ciatti Company, 26 

Joslyn, Maynard, 25 



Kakiuchi, Harley, 88 
Karakasevic, Miles, 3, 88 
Kay, George, 87 
Keller, John, 107, 123 
Kew, Ken, 25 
Knowles, Legh, 71 
Knox, Richard, 84 
Krum, Phil, 89 
Kutschinski, Jim, 90 
Kwok, Hon Kong, 90, 113 



Lancers winery, 11, 107, 118, 131, 

132 

Larkmead winery, 85 
Lejon products , 

brandy, 28 

cask wines , 71 

champagne, 28 

dry vermouth, 28 



soft wines, 72, 73 
sweet vermouth, 28 

Leong, Tommy, 36, 37, 88 

Lohr, Jerry, 66 

Lodi plant, 95, 123, 131 

Lutz, Greg, 84 



Madera plant, 93, 104-106, 120, 121 

marketing, 124-128, 131, 132 

Martin, Remy, 3 

Martini, Elmo, 7 

Martini, Louis M. , 15, 16 

Martini & Prati, 7, 8 

Matasek, William, 89 

Me Comb s , Richard, 123 

McFarland, Bill, 122, 131 

McGuire, Kevin, 87, 88 

Mclnturf, Robert, 108, 109, 120, 

124, 130 

McManus, James 0., 92 
McManus, James R. , 92 
Merle, A.J. , 6, 14 
Mineau, Roy, 136 
Mission Bell winery (at Madera) , 

28, 38, 41, 74, 75, 81, 114, 115, 

120, 121 

Monier, John, 87 
Moody, Ed, 88 
Mortara, Benjamin, 36, 77 
Murphy, Gerald, 122, 123, 131 



Nagle, Charles W. , 114 
Nakagawa, Gary, 89 

Napa-Sonoma-Mendocino label, 54, 57 
Napa Valley as wine producing area, 

99, 100 
National Distillers Corporation, 

12-21, 24, 25, 27, 32-35, 97 
Ng, George, 126 
Nightingale, Myron, 20, 25, 86 
Nino, Ron, 89 
North Coast Cellars label, 132 



O'Connell, J. , 99 
Offut, Ed, 38 
Ohanesian, Aram, 25, 89 
Okino, Min, 86, 90 



182 



Oliver!, John, 36 
Olmo, Harold P. , 105 
Oster, Dick, 107 
Overby, Russ, 20 



Paolucci, Ray, 88, 89 

Petri, Angelo, 37,38 

Petri, Louis, 28, 34-41, 77, 85, 

91, 92, 93, 109, 112, 137 
Petri Grapevine. 37 
Pike, Bob, 87 
Posson, Phil, 101 
Powers, Jack, 107, 117, 130 
Prati, Ed, 86 
Prati, Enrico, 6, 7, 14, 17, 18, 

21, 22, 34, 126 
product development, 17, 41-46, 52- 

75, 102, 103, 112, 113, 116 
production, 34 
Prohibition, 6, 15, 26 



quality control, 81-83, 92, 93 



R.J. Reynolds, 28, 107, 119, 121 
research and development, 18, 41- 

46, 52-75, 74-76, 112-116, 139- 

143 

Rife, Rob, 87 
Riverside Wine and Cheese 

Exposition, 144, 145 
Robirds, Frank, 59, 87, 113 
Rossi, Albina, 13 
Rossi, Beatrice, 13 
Rossi, Edmund A., Jr. 

awards 143-145 

becomes vice president, 98 

childhood and education, 1-3 

family, 8-10, 13, 14 

joins National Distillers, 17 

public relations work, 75 
Rossi, Edmund A. Sr., 5-8, 13-16, 

20, 21, 37, 38, 126, 133 
Rossi, Eleanor, 13 
Rossi, Esther, 13 
Rossi, Father Carlo, 8,9 
Rossi, Joe, 89 
Rossi, Pietro C. , 3-5 



Rossi, Richard, 9, 10 

Rossi, Robert, 77, 90, 91 

Rossi, Robert D. , 5-9, 14, 20, 21, 

77 

Rossi family, 9, 10, 13 
Roullard, Joe, 88 



sales of wineries, 28 

Salles, Bob, 26 

Sanbongi, Kasuo, 89 

Sanders, Bob, 107 

Sanger winery, 131 

Santa Fe brands, 97 

Sbarboro, Alfred, 1, 4, 6, 14, 20 

Sbarbaro brand, 132 

Sbarboro family, 1. 6, 14 

Seghesio family, 6, 21, 24, 26 

Shelley, Lloyd, 36 

Shewan- Jones Winery, 12, 27, 28, 97 

Shrickhande, Anil, 114 

Sierra Wine Company, 121, 123, 124, 

131 

Silk, Bertram, 88, 113 
Sirai Winery, 128 
Singleton, Vernon L. , 89 
Siphert, Ira, 18, 34 
Skofis, Elie, 20 
Smirnoff Vodka, 121 
Solari, Bruno C. (Larry), 17, 22, 

34, 69, 84, 85, 107 
Sonoma County as wine producing 

area, 99, 100 
Sonoma County Winegrowers' 

Association, 136 
Souverain Cellars, 132 
Spatola, bottler, 55 
Steimiller, Bob, 99 
Stillman, Joe, 25 
Stockley, Tom, 132 
Stoner, Scott, 87 
sugar, residual, 49 



Tan, Peter, 90, 113, 114 
Tarpey, Paul, 26, 106 
Thoukis, George, 87 
Tomlinson, Frank, 36 
Toomey, C. , 84 
Twight, Edwin, 37 



183 



Underwood, Frank, 36 

United Vintners, 28, 29, 71, 104, 

105, 107, 120 
University of California, Berkeley, 

25 
University of California, Davis, 2 

25 



Vandevert, Vince , 84 
Vercelli, Joe, 86 
Vigna, Gian Piero, 143 



W.A. Taylor Winery, 7 
Wallerstein Laboratory 

Communications . 19, 135 
Watson, Stuart, 116 
Weber, Bill, 90 
Weeks, Bruce, 88 
Wente , Ernest, 68 
Wiesenbeck, Jack, 36 
Wine Institute, Technical Advisory 

Committee, 133, 134 
winemaking, 19, passim 
wines 

coolers, 64-67 

dessert, 11, 12, 19, 110 

flavored, 30, 31, 41, 48, 52-70, 
102 

generic, 47-51 

low-alcohol, no-alcohol, 66 

red, 48-50, 67, 142 

sensory evaluation, 82, 83, 99, 
102, 103, 128 

shipping of, 77-80, 91-93 

soft, 72-75 

sparkling, 56 

table, 39, 47-51, 103, 104 

white, 49, 50, 103, 104, 142 
Winkler, Albert J. , 2 
Witsky, Bill, 88 
Woodward, Robert, 84 



Yamata, Ted, 93 
Yocum, Martin D. , 90 



Zimmerman, Herb, 87, 113 



Grape Varieties Mentioned in the 
Interview 

Alicante Bouschet, 115 

Cabernet Sauvignon, 40 

Chardonnay , 40 

Concord, 56 

Carignane, 40, 48, 51 

French Colombard, 94 

Golden Chasselas, 40 

Johannisberg Riesling, 40 

Lambrusco, 71, 72, 115 

Mission, 72, 94, 95 

Muscat, 66 

Periquita, 118, 140 

Petite Sirah, 48 

Pinot noir, 48 

Royalty, 72 

Rubired, 72 

Ruby Cabernet, 105 

Sangiovese, 51 

Sauvignon vert, 40 

Thompson Seedless, 33, 48, 94, 95 

Tokay, 94, 95 

Trebbiano, 51, 96, 116 

Ugni blanc, 96 

Zinfandel, 40, 48, 51 



Wines Mentioned in the Interview 

After Hours, 64 
Americano, 143 

Annie Greensprings line, 103, 113 
Annie Greensprings Apricot 

Splash, 63 
Annie Greensprings Berry Frost, 

63 

Annie Greensprings Cherry, 63 
Annie Greensprings Peach Creek, 

63 
Annie Greensprings Plum Hollow, 

63 

Arriba, 53 
Asti Spumante, 66 

Bali Hai, 53, 56, 63, 65, 102, l.J 
blanc de blanc, 74 
blush wines , 67 
Boone's Farm wines (Gallo) , 63, 113 



184 



Borsalino, 71 
burgundy, 40, 54 
Cabernet Sauvlgnan, 117 
California Tipo Red, 50, 51 
California Tipo White, 50. 51, 126, 

127 

chablis, 47, 68 
champagne (sparkling wines), 28, 

44, 56, 118, 132, 137 
Chardonnay, 117 
Chateau Lejon red, 28 
Chateau Lejon white, 28 
Chianti, 50, 51 
chianti, 50, 51, 56, 57 
Chilled Light Burgundy, 71, 116 
claret, 54 
Cold Duck, 56, 57 
Collins, 53, 57 
Cuba Libre, 53, 57 
Easy Nights, 64 
Eden Roc, 53 
Fiore de California, 40 
flor sherry, 101 
Golden Spur, 53 
Gray Riesling, 68 
Grenache, 74 
Gypsy Rose, 53 
Hombre, 53 
Jacare, 73, 120 
Key Largo, 63 
Magic Moments, 64 
Mellow Days, 64 
Paree, 56 

Pastoso burgundy, 40 
Periquita, 118, 119 
port, 61 
Red Showboat, 53 
red vino, 49 
Rhineskeller, 56 
Rhythm, 53 
rose, 67 
Sangrole, 63 
Satin Rose, 53 
sauterne, 47 
sherry, 12 
Silver Satin, 31 



Swizzle, 56 

Tipo chianti, 50, 51 

T.J. Swann wines, 64 



Thunderbird, 31, 41, 
Tipo Red chianti, 40 
vermouth, 12, 18, 57 
Vin Cafe, 53 
Waikiki Duck. 63 
White Zinfandel, 67 
Zapple, 63 

Zinfandel, 5, 48, 51, 54 
Zombie, 53, 57 . 



113 

53, 61 
125-127 



Silver Satin with 
Stepping Out, 64 
Sweet Vino, 54 
Swiss Up, 53, 58, 



53, 56, 60, 61 
Bitter Lemon, 53 



59 



Ruth Teiser 



Born in Portland, Oregon; came to the Bay 

Area in 1932 and has lived here ever since. 
Stanford University, B.A., M.A. in English; 

further graduate work in Western history. 
Newspaper and magazine writer in San Francisco 

since 1943, writing on local history and 

business and social life of the Bay Area. 
Book reviewer for the San Francisco Chronicle, 

1943-1974. 
Co-author of Winemaking in California, a 

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

History Office since 1965. 



Lisa S. Jacobson 



Born in San Francisco. B.A. cum laude , Pomona College, majoring 
in history; studied at Oxford University. Experience in market 
research and museum research. 

Editorial assistant and alumni news editor, Public Affairs 
Office, Pomona College. 

Research manager, interviewer, editor, and writer with private 
oral history organization, specializing in business history. 
Since 1986, researcher, interviewer, and editor with Regional 
Oral History Office, in fields of business history, wine 
industry, and social history. 



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