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Regional Oral History Office University of California
The Bancroft Library Berkeley, California
The Wine Spectator California Winemen Oral History Series
Myron S. Nightingale
MAKING WINE IN CALIFORNIA, 1944-1987
With an Introduction by
Maynard A. Amerine
An Interview Conducted by
Ruth Teiser and Lisa Jacobson
Copyright 1988 by The Regents of the University of California
Monday, November 28, 1988
Funeral services will be held
today for Napa Valley winemaker
Myron Nightingale, 73, a dean of
California viticulture and enology.
Mr. Nightingale died Friday at
St. Helena Hospital
He was born in McMechen,
W.Va., and moved to California in
1929. He was a 1940 graduate of the
University of California at Berke
His wine career included jobs
with Italian Swiss Colony, Cresta
Blanca and Roma before moving to
the Napa Valley and becoming
winemaster for Beringer Brothers
Since 1983, he was winemaster
emeritus at the firm's St Helena
winery. He was named a "Living
Legend" by the Napa Valley Vint
ners hi 1987.
He is survived by his wife of 47
years, Alice; three sons, Myron Jr. of
Red Bluff, Dan of Napa and Barry
of Fremont, and two granddaugh
Today's services are scheduled
for 10 a.m. at Morrison Funeral Cha
pel in St Helena.
The family prefers donations to
the Scholarship Fund of the Ameri
can Society of Enology and Viticul
ture, P.. Box 1855, Davis 95617.
MYRON S. NIGHTINGALE
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
Myron S. Nightingale dated 10 March 1987. The manuscript
is thereby made available for research purposes. All
literary rights in the manuscript, including the right to
publish, are reserved to The Bancroft Library of the
University of California, Berkeley. No part of the
manuscript may be quoted for publication without the
written permission of the Director of The Bancroft Library
of the University of California, Berkeley.
Request for permission to quote for publication should
be addressed to the Regional Oral History Office, 486
Library, University of California, Berkeley 94720, and
should include identification of the specific passages to be
quoted, anticipated use of the passages, and identification
of the user. The legal agreement with Myron S. Nightingale
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
Myron S. Nightingale, "Making Wine in
California, 1944 - 1987," an oral history
conducted in 1987 by Ruth Teiser and Lisa
Jacobson, Regional Oral History Office,
The Bancroft Library, University of
California, Berkeley, 1988.
Copy no .
TABLE OF CONTENTS -- Myron S. Nightingale
INTRODUCTION by Maynard A. Amerine v
INTERVIEW HISTORY vi
BRIEF BIOGRAPHIES vii
INTERVIEW WITH MYRON S. NIGHTINGALE
I MYRON S. NIGHTINGALE 1
Family Background and Early Education 1
Work in the C.C.C. Camps 2
Early Interests 2
Formative Experiences in the C.C.C. Camps 3
College Education 4
II EARLY EXPERIENCE IN THE FOOD INDUSTRY, 1940-1944 5
V.R. Smith Olive Company 5
Mission Dry Company 6
Getting into the Wine Business 7
III HILGARD HALL, UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA, BERKELEY 8
Recollections of Dr. William V. Cruess 8
The Class of 1940 9
Recollections of Maynard A. Joslyn 9
The Food Science Department 10
IV SHEWAN-JONES, 1944-1949 13
Recollections of Lee Jones 13
Brandy Tasting with Mr. Jones 14
Jones' Leadership in the Wine Institute 15
Recollections of Elbert M. Brown 15
Wine, Brandy, and Champagne 16
Consumer Preferences in Wines 17
Ownership by National Distillers 19
National Spirits Companies and the Wine Industry 19
Marketing Practices during World War II 20
Responsibilities as Wine Chemist 20
Educating New Winemakers 21
The Lodi Wine District 22
V ITALIAN SWISS COLONY. 1949-53 24
The Move to Astl 24
Key Personnel: Paul Heck, Ed Prati, and the Rossis 25
Wine and Brandy Products 26
Reflections on National Distillers and the Role of Big
Corporations in the Wine Industry 26
The Potential for Increased Wine Consumption 27
Bartolomeo Coppo 28
Enrico Prati 's Management Style 29
Photograph of Ed Rossi, Jr. and Rosalyn Simis 29
Italian Traditions at Italian Swiss Colony 30
Underground Tanks 30
VI SCHENLEY INDUSTRIES, 1953-1971 32
Joining Cresta Blanca 32
Schenley's Plans for Cresta Blanca 33
The Early Days of Schenley's Operations in California 34
Upgrading the Cresta Blanca Label 35
Del Loma Plant 35
Sale of Schenley Properties to Guild 35
VII BERINGER VINEYARDS, 1971-1983 37
Decision to Leave Schenley and Join Beringer 37
Peter Jurgens' Management of Beringer 38
Bob Brass' Tenure: Acquiring Vineyards for Beringer 39
Richard L. Maher's Tenure: Capital Improvements 39
Nestle 's Commitment to Quality 41
Upgrading Beringer 's Cooperage 41
Vineyard Plantings 42
Los Hermanos Label 43
Winemaking in the San Joaquin Valley 44
Upgrading the Beringer Label 46
Herman Wente 47
Innovations in Winemaking 48
Sulfur Dioxide Theories 49
Adding Stems during Fermentation 49
Cold Fermentations 50
Protein Stabilization Theories 50
Problems with Ion Exchange Techniques 51
Problems with Metal Contamination 52
Grape Varieties 53
VIII DEVELOPMENT OF BOTRYTISED WINE 56
Necessary Climatic Conditions 57
Early Laboratory Experiments at Davis 57
Experiments at Cresta Blanca: Perfecting the Technique 57
Experiments with Freezing the Spores 59
Botrytis and Grape Varieties 59
Natural Incidence of Botrytis 60
First Volume Production at Cresta Blanca 61
Grand Cru's Botrytised Gewurtztraminer 62
Public Relations Efforts 62
IX THE CALIFORNIA WINE INDUSTRY IN THE 1980s 63
Nestle 's Involvement in Self -Education about Wines 63
Nestl^'s Investments in Wine Research 63
Educating Nestll about California Wines 64
Knowledge of Winemaking in the Big Corporations 65
Movement of Wine in Bulk 66
Maintaining Continuity of Quality 66
The Wine Industry: A Risky Business 67
X WORK AS A BERINGER CONSULTANT, 1983-PRESENT 69
Winemaking Responsibilities 69
Evaluation of Career with Beringer 70
XI INDUSTRY ACTIVITIES 72
Technical Advisory Committee 72
American Society of Enologists (ASE) 74
Charter Meeting 74
Offices Held 75
Research and Promotional Activities 75
Name Change to Include Viticulture 76
ASE Merit Award 77
Establishing Principles of Quality in Winemaking 77
TAPE GUIDE 79
APPENDIX "Long road for winemaker, but lots of help from
wife", article from the Napa Register. April 19, 1984 80
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; Jack L. Davies, the 1985 chairman of the board of directors
of the Wine Institute; Ruth Teiser, series project director; and Marvin R.
Shanken, trustee of The Wine Spectator Scholarship Foundation.
The purpose of the series is to record and preserve information on
California grape growing and wine making that has existed only in the memories
of wine men. In some cases their recollections go back to the early years of
this century, before Prohibition. These recollections are of particular value
because the Prohibition period saw the disruption of not only the industry
itself but also the orderly recording and preservation of records of its
activities. Little has been written about the industry from late in the last
century until Repeal, There is a real paucity of information on the
Prohibition years (1920-1933) , although some commercial wine making did
continue under supervision of the Prohibition Department. The material in
this series on that period, as well as the discussion of the remarkable
development of the wine industry in subsequent years (as yet treated
analytically in few writings) will be of aid to historians. Of particular
value is the fact that frequently several individuals have discussed the same
subjects and events or expressed opinions on the same ideas, each from his
own point of view.
Research underlying the interviews has been conducted principally in
the University libraries at Berkeley and Davis, the California State Library,
and in the library of the Wine Institute, which has made its collection of in
many cases unique materials readily available for the purpose.
Three master indices for the entire series are being prepared, one of
general subjects, one of wines, one of grapes by variety. These will be
available to researchers at the conclusion of the series in the Regional Oral
History Office and at the library of the Wine Institute,
The Regional Oral History Office was established to tape record
autobiographical interviews with persons who have contributed significantly
to recent California history. The office is headed by Willa K. Baum and is
under the administrative supervision of James D. Hart, the director of
The Bancroft Library.
The Wine Spectator California
Winemen Oral History Series
10 September 1984
Regional Oral History Office
486 The Bancroft Library
University of California, Berkeley
CALIFORNIA WINE INDUSTRY INTERVIEWS
Interviews Completed by 1988
Leon D. Adams. Revitalizing the California Wine Industry 197A
Maynard A. Amerine. The University of California and the State's Wine
Maynard A. Amerine, Wine Bibliographies and Taste Perception Studies
Philo Biane. Wine Making in Southern California and Recollections of
Fruit Industries. Inc. 1972
John B. Gel la. The Cella Family in the California Wine Industry 1986
Burke H. Critchfield. Carl F. Wente, and Andrew G. Frericks. The
California Wine Industry During the Depression 1972
William V. Cruess, A Half Century of Food and Wine Technology 1967
William A. Dieppe. Almaden is My Life 1985
Alfred Fromm. Marketing California Wine and Brandy 1984
Joseph E. Heitz. Creating a Winery in the Napa Valley 1986
Maynard A, Joslyn. A Technologist Views the California Wine Industry
Amandus N. Kasimatis. A Career in California Viticulture 1988
Horace 0. Lanza and Harry Baccigaluppi. California Grape Products and
Other Wine Enterprises 1971
Louis M. Martini and Louis P. Martini, Wine Making in the Napa Valley
Louis P. Martini, A Family Winery and the California Wine Industry
Otto E. Meyer. California Premium Wines and Brandy 1973
Norbert C. Mirassou and Edmund A. Mirassou, The Evolution of a Santa Clara
Valley Winery 1986
Robert Mondavi, Creativity in the Wine Indsutry 1985
Myron S. Nightingale. Making Wine in California. 1944-1987 1988
Harold P. Olmo. Plant Genetics and New Grape Varieties 1976
Antonio Perelli-Minetti, A Life in Wine Making 1975
Louis A. Petri, The Petri Family in the Wine Industry 1971
Jefferson E. Peyser. The Law and the California Wine Industry 1974
Lucius Powers. The Fresno Area and the California Wine Industry 1974
Victor Repetto and Sydney J. Block. Perspectives on California Wines
Edmund A. Rossi. Italian Swiss Colony and the Wine Industry 1971
Arpaxat Setrakian. A. Setrakian. A Leader of the San Joaquin Valley Grape
Elie C. Skofis. California Wine and Brandy Maker 1988
Andre Teh el ist chef f. Grapes. Wine, and Ecology 1983
Brother Timothy. The Christian Brothers as Wine Makers 1974
Ernest A. Wente, Wine Making in the Livermore Valley 1971
Albert J. Winkler. Viticultural Research at UC Davis (1921-1971) 1973
INTRODUCTION by Maynard A. Amerine
This interview nicely covers the saga of Myron S. Nightingale from
West Virginia to the Napa Valley. The text includes Myron's schooling,
life in the C.C.C. camp, college and the University, the food industry
and then the wine industry. It ends with his highly successful years at
Beringer from 1971 to 1987. There is a chapter on the history of the
wines he and his wife, Alice, made from botrytised grapes, which includes
details of the technique.
The account indicates that Nightingale has been making a wide variety
of types of wines from grapes from Lodi, Asti, Livermore, and the Napa
Valley. He is a master of winery organization and administration; he
knows what he wants and why.
There are, in addition, some revealing remarks about the men he has
been associated with. For example, at his first job in the wine industry
he met Lee Jones and Elbert Brown. He paints a sharp picture of Jones,
a softer one of Brown. He praises Bartolomeo Coppo, whom he met later at
Italian Swiss Colony, and comments wryly on Enrico Prati's management
style. He reserves for the boss at Schenley, and for that organization,
his most acid comments undoubtedly fully deserved.
It has a happy ending, though. Nightingale got the job at Beringer
and lived happily ever after. In 1987 he was named a "Living Legend" by
the Napa Valley Vintners for "his attention to detail, dedication to
quality, and vast enological and viticultural experience."
Maynard A. Amerine
St. Helena, California
INTERVIEW HISTORY -- Myron S. Nightingale
Myron S. Nightingale has been a well respected and well liked member of
the California wine industry since the 1940s. He has worked for large
corporate wineries whose influence upon the course of the state's winemaking
history has not been fully discussed. As he was a responsible, equable-
minded, and observant employee, his account of the experiences in these
organizations is of particular value.
Reflected but not spelled out in the interview is the influence Myron
Nightingale has had upon many younger people who have worked under him. Ed
Sbragia, who succeeded him as winemaker at Beringer, articulated what others
have said in other ways: "He didn't just show you, he let you do it. But he
was always there to watch and guide . . . Myron became my mentor, teacher, and
The interview sessions were held in Mr. Nightingale's office in the
winery at St. Helena on February 24, March 3, and March 10, 1987, with Alice
Nightingale participating in that of March 3. Lisa Jacobson joined Ruth
Teiser in interviewing.
13 September 1988
Regional Oral History Office
486 The Bancroft Library
University of California at Berkeley
Regional Oral History Office University of California
Room 486 The Bancroft Library vii Berkeley, California 94720
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I MYRON S. NIGHTINGALE
[Interview 1: February 24, 1987] ////
Family Background and Early Education
Teiser: I'd like to begin by asking you where and when you were born.
MSN: I was born back in West Virginia on May 3, 1915, in a little town
called McMechen, which is about five or six miles down the river
from Wheeling, which at that time was the largest city in West
Virginia. It's about sixty miles south of Pittsburgh on the Ohio
River. It was a railroad, steel mill, mining area; that was all
the industry that was up in the panhandle in the days when I was a
My father worked on the B&O Railroad. He got killed in 1920
working on the railroad, so my mother and I and my sister struggled
around for a while. My first trip to California was in 1923 when
my mother came out here for a short period of time. In 1925, '26,
my mother remarried and in 1929 I came to California with my step
father and my mother and a half-brother. That's how I got my roots
down in California so I'm almost a native son. [laughter]
We settled in Southern California in Glendale for a very short
period of time. Then I went to Venice High School in '29-'30. My
stepfather, who had worked in West Virginia for Wheeling Steel
Corporation, went to work for the United States Steel Corporation
in Torrance. Obviously, that was a job, so we moved to Torrance
and that's where I went to high school. Later on, I went to junior
college and eventually the University of California.
////This symbol indicates that a tape or a segment of a tape has
begun or ended. For a guide to the tapes see page
Work in the C.C. C . Camp s
MSN: But the Depression days from '29-'36 I really spent in Southern
California. I graduated from high school in '33 and in 1934 I went
in the government C.C.C. [Civilian Conservation Corps] camps. That
was one of Franklin D. Roosevelt's babies and probably one of the
best babies he ever had as far as doing something for the country.
I was stationed up at Big Bear Lake and Lake Arrowhead and' that
area for two years.
While I was up there, I got acquainted with a man who was the
educational advisor, and he encouraged me to go on to school. Mind
you, I got $30 a month $25 a month went home and $5 I got to keep.
But I had a place to sleep and I had something to eat, which in
the thirties was a prime concern because it was really right in the
middle of the Depression.
When I got out of the C.C.C. camps in 1936, I went to school
at Compton Junior College until 1938, then transferred up to Cal
at Berkeley in 1938.
Teiser: Did you have any strong interests in your early years as a young
man in high school, say?
MSN: Oh, I guess I was the typical teenager: I was floating all over
the block. I don't think I accomplished very much. I didn't know
very much what I wanted to do. In fact, at one time, when I first
got out of high school, because I had been the editor of a high
school newspaper and had helped with advertising on our local paper,
I suddenly decided I wanted to be a journalist. So I applied for
a scholarship at the University of Southern California.
Unfortunately, I guess I wasn't the calibre that they wanted so I
gave up on that .
Of course, you have to understand the times. It was really a
mixed period. A job was a job, and everybody was competing for
jobs. It finally just got to me: there just weren't any jobs.
When you get tired of standing in bread lines, well, then, you do
the most obvious thing. That's when I jumped into the C.C.C. camps.
I thank God I did.
Formative Experiences in the C.C.C. Camps
Teiser: Did your experiences there stand you in good stead in general?
MSN: Oh, I think so. [laughs] In fact, some of the things that
happened to me in those camps I put to good use years later. When
I went into the camps I worked out on the firebreak for about four
or five months. Boy, I thought I was really being persecuted
because you got out there behind Lake Arrowhead and out in that
desert area toward Bar stow and it was pretty, pretty dry and hot.
There was a Mexican fellow by the name of Eugene Miranda. I will
never forget him. He used to call me "Night." One day he came
to me in the barracks. He says, "How'd you like to be a cook?"
"Oh," I says, "that's great. That will sure beat that 110 heat
out there on that firebreak. " Little did I know what I was
I became an expert at cleaning pots and pans and pretty deep
containers and the usual run of stuff. Eventually I worked my way
up through the grades in the camps until I became a cook, a mess
sergeant. The sequel to the story was that after I got out of camps
and went to school I cooked a couple summers for youth camps. 1
went down to Southern California and cooked at one near Santa Monica,
and then I cooked for one year up here. The San Francisco Boy's
Club used to have a camp between Willits and Fort Bragg called Camp
Marwedel. So I cooked there one summer.
I used that so-called restaurant experience at two or three
places when I went to school at Cal. A fry cook didn't make much,
but [laughing] I'm telling you, a buck was a buck. I ate at
Barrington Hall, which was down on Dwight Way. I think that cost
me $16 a month plus work, and my room was $10 a month down on
Ellsworth, right around the corner. Twenty-six dollars a month,
you know, and you really pinch yourself.
Then part of the time when I was in the camps there, I worked
as an assistant educational advisor. I think this is one of the
things that kept me from getting into a rut. I thought, "Here I am
now. When I get out I'll get to do something." I picked up things
in the camps that made me become interested in medicine. I thought
I would be a great doctor. I thought, "This is what I'm going to
MSN: I made up my mind when I came back out of the camps. I was going
to go to college and I was going to study bacteriology and hopefully
get into medicine. As my wife says, I'd have made a heck of a
doctor. [laughter] But, anyway, I came back and went into
bacteriology and then when I transferred to Cal I continued in that
major. With some good advice in my junior year at Cal and with the
amount of finances I had available, I was told to forget it in so
many words. "Either you may not have brains or you may not have
the money at best it ' s a big gamble."
Now this is back in the thirties. I really have to thank two
men at Cal. One of them was Karl Frederick Meyer, who was the
head of the Department of Bacteriology at Berkeley at that time,
and also Dr. William Vere Cruess, the late Dr. Cruess, over in the
College of Agriculture.
Dr. Meyer, who was probably one of the greatest pathologists
there ever was, God bless him, said, "Why don't you consider putting
this bacteriology to work in an industrial field?" He said, "That's
going to be a big field some day." So I went over and I talked to
Dr. Cruess at Hilgard Hall. I don't know how many evenings I talked
to Dr. Cruess. And I talked to Dr. [Emil] Mrak over there who was
later the chancellor at Davis, and I talked to Dr. Reese Vaughn and
Professor George Marsh. All these men were in what was then the
Food Science Department at Berkeley. The Food Science Department
did everything with foods, including the production of wines.
Finally, in my last year at Cal I thought, "Well, I've got to
salvage something out of this thing." I went over and I took all
the upper division courses I could find in what was then known as
Fruit Products and learned about processing and preservation of all
types of fruits and vegetables. Of course, my bacteriology fell
right in with that.
II EARLY EXPERIENCE IN THE FOOD INDUSTRY, 1940-1944
V. R. Smith Olive Company
When I graduated in 1940, I went to work in the gas station for
Standard Oil. I graduated in May, and one evening this was, I
guess, about November or December I got a letter from Dr. Cruess.
Dr. Cruess told me that there was an opening for a chemist in the
olive plant down in Lindsay.
Who headed that plant?
V. R. Smith of the V. R. Smith Olive Company.
Cruess says, "If you're interested I suggest you get up there."
Well, I don't think I had that letter in my hand more than two hours
and I was on my way, because this was '40 and jobs were still pretty
scarce. That was before the war, of course.
I went up there and got the job at the V. R. Smith Olive
Company and I started out at $110 a month. I won't tell you the
hours because they started on Monday morning and when I got through
the following Sunday night that's when you got ready to get ready
for work on Monday morning. It was one of those fifteen- or
sixteen-hour day jobs. When you start processing olives you try to
do as much of it in the winter and spring as you can. Then when it
gets into the summer, then you really get into problems because of
spoilage. My bacteriology really came in handy there. I worked
there from 1940 to about '42.
Where do olives stand in the war production picture? Where they
I don't know whether they were essential or not. I know we were
putting up an awful lot of government contracts with olives. An
awful lot of them. I guess that was one of the reasons.
MSN: I got married in October '41. Maybe the fact that I was married
and the fact that I was working on some government contracts kept
me out of the draft. I don't know. It caught up with me
I worked there in the olive plant and, believe me, that was an
education in labor. Long hours. More than once I had my shoes
figuratively taken off my feet by the lye solutions. [laughs]
Once I was so tired I fell into a vat of lye and that was -an
interesting situation. But that ended pretty well thanks to an
ex-Ford mechanic out of Detroit who knew what to do with some acid
I worked there, in the middle of the San Joaquin Valley, until
Mission Dry Corporation
MSN: Along came 1942 and I got this letter from the Mission Dry
Corporation in Los Angeles. They had just built a new plant down
on South Soto Street. The Mission Dry Corporation was producing
citrus concentrates for the British and American governments in
addition to their so-called domestic products: fountain bases for
fountain drinks and this sort of stuff. They asked me if I would
like a job with the company.
They told me that they had contacted Dr. Cruess at the
University of California, who seemed to follow me, thank God. By
that time in 1942, I think I was up to $125 a month at the olive
So, anyway, I went down and I told Alice, my wife, "Boy, you
know, if they offer me $25 or $50 a month more, I'm going to grab
it . " Lo and behold , I got down there and there was a woman by the
name of Sara Blangsted. She was a Danish pharmacist who was the
chief chemist, and she hired me. She says, "Your starting wage will
be $175 a month." Well, I didn't know whether to scrape through the
bottom of the floor or tear the chair apart. I was trying to
control myself. [laughter]
She says, "However, there's something that you have to
understand." I thought, "Well, here we go, Catch 22." She said,
"We are on government contracts and it'll be shift work. You, of
course, will get paid overtime, but there's going to be a lot of
work and you're going to be dealing with a lot of products." I
eventually wound up dealing not only with running vitamin assays on
concentrates, but I got into essential oils and before it was over
I was even fabricating ice creams for the armed services.
MSN: It was good experience because it drew on all this learning that I
had picked up at Berkeley in the Fruit Products Division, right
down there in the bottom of Hilgard Hall with Professor Cruess and
his men. I worked there at Mission Dry for two-and-a-half years
until '44. Often, my overtime check there alone was a lot more
than my salary, because they were working on this cost-plus
business and money was no object. We put in long hours.
Sometimes I'd work for 20 hours at a stretch; until you drop off
you'd keep going. I had a wife and a baby on the way, so that
dollar looked awfully good.
Eventually, Miss Blangsted and I came to a parting of ways.
It started over something very, very innocent [laughs] and grew
and grew and grew. I just told her that I felt I had to change
positions. It all started over whether she had told me I could go
to Oregon or not on a trip. I had saved up my money and bought a
section in a Pullman car, which was then on the end of the cars.
Those were really something. I says, "I'm going to see my father."
She says, "Well, something's come up, you can't go." I says, "I
asked for this three months ago." Well, being young, I figured to
hell with it, I'm going. So I went.
Getting into the Wine Business
MSN: The day before I was supposed to go and this is a true story
guess who calls me up and wants to know if he can take me to
lunch? It was Professor George Marsh, one of my professors at Cal.
I says, "Well, sure." (In those days you could get a pretty good
lunch in Huntington Park for 60c.) We went to lunch and right in
the middle of the lunch this is how I got started in the wine
business he says, "I'm down here looking for a couple of food
technologists, chemist/bacteriologists. One request came from the
Star Fruit Products up in Portland, but the one I'm really looking
for is somebody to go to work as a wine chemist up at Lodi." I
says, "George, you're looking at him," and that was how I started
in the wine business.
Teiser: That's a wonderful story. [laughter] "How to get into the
wine business: Start in C.C.C. Camp."
Ill HILGARD HALL, UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA, BERKELEY
Recollections of Dr. William V. Cruess
Teiser: I'd like to ask you to characterize Dr. Cruess.
MSN: Dr. Cruess, to me, was a very quiet individual, a very sincere
individual. A very devoted man to the University and to what he
was doing with food products. He took a personal interest in
everybody. I thought he was a hell of a lecturer. Very few
people could ever hear him, though, because every time he started
talking he would turn his face to the board and mumble. But he
was a really fantastic individual; a very patient individual. He
could say little things to you that really made you want to dig in.
Lots of times he would have some of his students come back at night
if we were processing peaches or something where you just couldn't
finish it all at one or two in the afternoon. Such remarks as,
"Well, I assume, Nightingale, you're coming back to work this
evening, or are you going to sit there and smoke that cigarette?"
It wasn't that he was a caustic individual. He was a very
knowledgeable individual when it came to food and the preservation
of food. Forty-some years ago, I believe it was, he won the
Nicholas Appert award. Appert , of course, was one of the first ones
who came up with a method of preserving foods by canning.
Dr. Cruess was a recipient of a good many awards and he was really
liked by his students. I guess one of the reasons I liked him was
he was short, so I could look him straight in the eye when I talked
He was clearly a devoted individual, a stickler for details
at times, repetitious. I can still remember the first time I
opened a can of peas and graded them under his inspection, and
having him look at me.
He had quite a bit of humor, too. I can remember one time
it maybe wouldn't be very polite in this company, but, anyway he
was talking about some of the wines of France. He was showing us
MSN: some of these wines one afternoon up there in the top of Hilgard
Hall on the second or third floor, and he says, "We have some wines
here from the Hospice de Beaune." Everybody got very quiet. Here
I was a guy out of theC.C.C. camps, two years out of junior college
in Compton, who had never seen a bottle of wine. Really, I'd seen
a bottle of wine, but didn't know whether the Hospice de Beaune was
road or railroad or what it was. In later years, when I visited
there, why, I thought about a great many things that Creuss said.
One of the things that happened that afternoon that brought
the class down was he says after we'd tasted the wine, "This is
supposed to be a very good example of the area." He picked up his
glass and I never will forget it because everybody was so shocked
I can still see him and he tasted it. He says, "They misnamed it.
It is Hospice." [laughter] I don't know whether you get that or
not, but anyway I never will forget that. That was something that
you didn't expect from Dr. Cruess. I can still see him slamming
that glass down on the table.*
The Class of 1940
MSN: For several years a group of us from the fruit products Class of
1940 used to have reunions. There was Charles Crawford, who's
the vice-president of Gallo, and, of course, Louis Martini down the
road here of Martini winery, myself, and then there was a gentleman
by the name of Ze'ev Halperin, and a gentleman by the name of Aram
Ohanesian. That was the so-called Class of '40. The last reunion
we had was over at El Macero maybe six or seven years ago, at
Professor Marsh's house. He still lives over there. Of course,
Dr. [Emil] Mrak lives over there also and they're up in their
eighties. Dr. [Reese] Vaughn's over there and he's up in his
Recollections of Maynard A. Joslyn
Teiser: You have had a reunion with Joslyn?
*See also William V. Cruess, A Half Century of Food and Wine
Technology, an oral history interview conducted in 1966, Regional
Oral History Office, The Bancroft Library, University of California,
MSN: Joslyn, yes, Dr. Maynard Joslyn. In fact, one year we had it at
the Silvarado Country Club and Alice and I went down and picked up
Maynard at the Veterans' Home and brought him back that day.
Teiser: Had he been teaching when you were an undergraduate?
MSN: Yes. My teachers were Maynard Joslyn, Dr. Cruess, Emil Mrak,
Professor Marsh, and Dr. Reese Vaughn.
Teiser: Quite a stellar group.
MSN: Oh, yes, indeed. You know the story, of course, of Dr. Joslyn and
his work during the war with the Australian government. He did a
tremendous amount of work with the armed services. He and Cruess
together did an awful lot of work in the formulation of food bars
that the soldiers could take in the field and eat at all times. He
was very instrumental in that, a very brilliant man. When he used
to come into the classroom we used to say, "Here comes Mr. Chem
Abstracts," because he could quote Chem Abstracts until you were
blue in the face. He was really quite a scholar.
Teiser: I've heard people say that he had the most creative mind in the
department and over a period of years was the most original
MSN: Yes, I would certainly go along with that. The book that he and
Maynard Amerine wrote on dessert wine is almost a classic. He was
quite a professor. When you got through with his class, you knew
you'd been through a class. There weren't any examinations to see
how many pine cones there were on the top of a sycamore tree or
some stupid thing like that.*
The Food Science Department
Comparing it with other departments in the university which I had
been exposed to on occasion over the years and that's been a long
time now I really realize now how strong a department that was.
*See also Maynard A. Joslyn, A Technoligist Views the California
Wine Industry, an oral history interview conducted 1969 and 1973,
Regional Oral History Office, The Bancroft Library, University of
California, Berkeley, 1974.
MSN: First of all, it was not only strong in food, but getting back to
our own industry and with all due respect to Maynard Amerine and
Dr. [Albert J.] Winkler at the University of California at Davis,
in my opinion, the rebirthing of the California wine industry after
Prohibition occurred right there in Hilgard Hall under the direction
of William Vere Cruess.
MSN: I mean, he was a man that got in and pulled the heads together and
found out problems such as the Fresno mold, which was actually not
a mold at all but it was a bacillus that grew in dessert wines
because of low sulfur dioxide. Dr. Reese Vaughn worked on that.
Dr. Mrak, for example, selected I would hesitate to even put
a number on it numerous yeast collections from the vineyards
throughout the state. In fact, when I was an undergraduate, a man
by the name of Finkelstein from Chicago and I went through and
worked with about twenty-five or thirty of these yeasts to see
what their alcohol production was, because some of them would
produce a little bit of alcohol, some none, and some, like the
Saccharomyces cerevisiae today, would produce up to twelve or
These things look like simple things now, but back then we
had these spoilage problems, we had fermentation problems. We had
cold fermentation and some of the fermentation techniques that
were employed in Europe weren't even employed over here. Those
had to be brought over and worked in together with ours. Of
course, we've developed our own techniques now. But between the
spoilage problems and the stardardization of wine types in
California, we had something to shoot for. A lot of this came
right out of the University of California. I'm not saying that
there weren't other agencies that didn't contribute, but the
heartland if you'll forgive my A,B,C connotation came out of the
University of California, in Hilgard Hall.
Eventually, in the fifties, that whole department was
transferred to Davis.
Teiser: Gradually, I guess?
MSN: Yes. Dr. Cruess never did go up there even though there's a hall
named for him up there. Dr. Joslyn never went up there. Of course,
Reese Vaughn and George Marsh went to Davis. The expertise that
was being developed there at the university is what has propelled
the University of California at Davis to its status as one of the
finest enology and viticulture schools in the world.
MSN: This all had a budding other than at Davis. I'm sorry that there
aren't some Davis people here, because they'd throw me out, but
I have to say that because I truly believe it and I think it can
be substantiated. I think Charles Crawford would tell you the same.
They all worked with Cruess and they all had their wellsprings
Cruess, of course, had worked and studied with [Frederic]
Bioletti and I don't know who else. My first boss in the wine
industry, Elbert Brown, was a student of Cruess 's. In fact, he
and Cruess and Herman Wente were all classmates at Cal. Cruess
eventually became a professor there.
IV SHEWAN- JONES , 1944-1949
Recollections of Lee Jones
Teiser: That brings us to Shewan- Jones .
MSN: Oh, God, yes. That's where I first started out: Shewan- Jones
Winery in Lodi.
Lee Jones was the president. I never did meet this Mrs.
Shewan. When I went in '44 I think she was completely out of the
picture or way in the background. Or maybe she'd passed away by
Teiser: She died later.
MSN: Did she? Anyway, Lee Jones had control of it. There was a horse
trader if there ever was a horse trader. He was really a sharp
individual. He was crippled, a hunchback, had a home in San
Francisco. He'd come up to Lodi, had a home up there on Acampo
Road, a beautiful place out there. Then he had his own little
guest house in which he had a bar underneath. In fact, I stayed
there for a few months one time when I was looking for a place.
He probably had the largest stockpile of empty Granddad bottles
of anybody in the whole United States. [laughter]
I never had much to do with Mr. Jones. He already treated me
all right. He'd given me a place to live out there for a while
when I was looking for a place and had no place to go. But you
never went to Mr. Jones and asked him for a raise. You had to think
pretty much what you were going to say and then just go in and blurt
it out and then get the hell out as fast as you could. Because if
you stood around and talked to him, which I found out, you got
talked out of it before you knew what was doing. [laughter]
I told him one time when I went in and I asked for a raise,
"Well, you know, I'm not here to trade. I'm no horse trader, but I "
He says, "Well, stop right there. I am a horse trader." I never
will forget that.
Teiser: He had started as a gauger as I understand it.
MSN: That's right, he was a government gauger. Also, at one time, I
understand that he sold rabbits in Lodi from door to door. He was
a pretty sharp guy.
Teiser: Did he know anything about winemaking?
MSN: I don't think he knew an awful lot about winemaking. Elbert M. Brown,
my boss, was the man he depended upon for the wine. Lee liked brandy
pretty well; he was a pretty good brandy taster.
Brandy Tasting with Mr. Jones
I never will forget my first occasion to sit in on a brandy
tasting with Mr. Jones. I didn't sit in; I was running back and
forth to the sink, really, while he and Mr. Brown were tasting
brandy. It all started out very innocently. Mr. Brown told me one
morning, "Mr. Jones is coming to taste brandy. Will you go down
the steps" there were about 25 steps down there "and bring up
that large black rubber mat?" "Well, yes, sure, fine. I'll go
down to bring it up." I brought it up it was rolled around and I
just plunked it in the co-ner in the lab. Mr. Brown says, "Roll it
out there for Mr. Jones." I said, "Where do you want me to lay it
down?" Mr. Brown said, "Lay it right down there in front of the
bench." So I did. And then Mr. Brown told me, he says, "Now you
get about 15 or 20 glasses out here. Here's four or five bottles of
brandy. I want you to do some cutting with these in various proofs
and set these all up for Mr. Jones."
Well, this was a thrill. I was really going to witness
something I'd never seen in my life. So, I did this and Mr. Jones
started in with tasting the brandy. I said, "Oh, excuse me, I'll
get you a bucket before you spit any." He says, "I don't need any
goddamn bucket." [laughter] Why I brought that mat up there was
for him to spit on. This mat was about as long as from here to the
door [about ten feet]. I'm sorry to tell you these things, but it's
a true story. I never will forget that day.
Mr. Jones and Mr. Brown left the lab and they said, "Would you
like to join us for lunch?" So I stared at them and I said, "Well,
gee ." "Well, don't worry about that, Myron," Mr. Brown says.
"You can clean that up when you get back." We got down to get into
my car, and I never will forget it because Lee Jones had an old
Chrysler New Yorker. That was really the humbug in those days, and I
said, "Mr. Brown, I just thought of something. I've got that brandy
to cut over there and about forty minutes to get it ready for
bottling, so I'd better stay here." "Okay, whatever you think 's
right." I just couldn't face going out to lunch and coming back to
clean up that mess. "When we get back." That just killed me right
there. But isn't that funny how you think of something like that?
Jones' Leadership in the Wine Institute
MSN: Lee Jones was also a powerful political figure in the Wine Institute
in those days.
Teiser: So I understand.
MSN: Very powerful.
There was a man, also, in there who was a manager of the Wine
Institute at that time by the name of Harry Caddow. He was a very
powerful influence, too. I'm not saying they weren't honest people-
don 't misunderstand me I'm just saying that there was a lot of
wheeling and dealing going on in those times. Maybe it's very
similar to the situation you have today where there's actually a
big institute, but probably the power rests in very few hands.
Lee Jones was very influential and that's the reason he kept
his office in San Francisco. He had his home over there and he
could be right there in the middle of everybody. The Palace Hotel,
as a matter of fact, was practically his second Wine Institute.
That's where all the decisions were made.
Recollections of Elbert M. Brown
Teiser: What was Mr. Brown like?
MSN: Brown was a very quiet individual, not one to go screaming or
anything like that. He knew how to give you the devil. It took me
a long time to understand him. First of all, he was rather shy and
one of the reasons he was shy was because he couldn't hear very well,
Rather than embarrass himself he just kept back. But he was a very
brilliant chemist and a brilliant mathematician. Without a doubt,
he was the finest winemaker of his day.
Teiser: Is that right?
MSN: Absolutely, unqualified. He was just terrific and he was respected.
You could go up and down the breadth of this state today and ask -
about Elbert Brown and they'll tell you about Elbert Brown. Some
of the old-timers will remember him. And, of course, he was one of
Cruess's favorite boys.
He had a young son, about twenty, twenty-one years old and he
was divorced; he lived by himself. He used to come over to Alice's
place and mine, where we lived at the winery, and to show you how
shy he was, he would walk around our house until we'd see 'him.
He'd never really come up the door and knock unless there was
something he really had to get me to do urgently, and then it was
never one of those things, you know, where it's a panic. He would
come over on Sunday afternoons and it was a big deal for us. "Come
on, get your wife and the kids ready. I'll get you out of here and
take you for a ride." Well, we'd go up through the Mother Lode
country, you know, and he knew it pretty well.
Brown was a man that really taught me champagne production.
He taught me brandy production, production of concentrate,
production of fine sherries. He had one of the finest sherries
there was in the State of California right over there in the yard at
Lodi, about 1,500 Spanish butts, which was then quite a chore in
the sense of the amount of upkeep that it took to maintain those casks.
But it was a pioneering effort. He loved his sherry. He was
really a fantastic sherry man. He knew a lot about clarifying.
Actually, I almost could say his field was unlimited. He had it by
He did a lot of work with the Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearm
division of the federal government in those early days. For example,
in the addition of caramel in wine, he did an awful lot of work, just
tremendous. Probably 90 percent of just the things that he did is
Wine, Brandy, and Champagne
Teiser: That was quite a good winery, was it not, physically?
MSN: Yes, it was. It was a good winery. It had a good distillery
there, good fermentation facilities for the time. If you look back
on it now, though, you'd say, "My God, how did you get by with dirt
floors in the fermenting room?"
Teiser: A continuous still?
MSN: Yes, yes. We had a pot still there, too.
Teiser: Oh, you did?
Oh, yes, we had a big pot still. Brown was a great fan of lees
brandy. We put out two brandies, then. We put out one brandy
called Lejon, a lees type, and the other one, a straight brandy,
was called Hartley Brandy. The Hartley Brandy was named after Lee
Jones's son-in-law. Then we also put out a red and a white wine
there called Lejon White and Lejon Red. Then there was the Lejon
Vermouth. Of course, that eventually went up to Asti and Italian
Swiss Colony because the National Distillers, as you know, owned
both Asti and Shewan- Jones .
What was your champagne label?
You know, that's been so long ago I don't remember. We put that out
under an Italian Swiss Colony label, I think, because it was only in
operation down there at Lodi maybe a year or so and then the whole
plant was moved to Italian Swiss Colony of Asti. Later on, I
think National Distillers took that Chateau Lejon label and put it
on a champagne bottle, but it was back east in one of the plants
they had up in Ohio. That's where the Hecks [Adolph and Paul Heck]
were. They came out here to California, through Italian Swiss
Colony, and eventually wound up with their own winery at Korbel.
Consumer Preferences in Wines
Teiser: What about the change in tastes in wine from fortified, sweet wines
to table wines: During that period when you were at Shewan-Jones ,
what were the predominant wines that people drank?
MSN: Port, muscatel, and sherry. That was it. Our biggest production
there was the production of sherry, really. We made port, some
muscat, but sherry was the big thing there, along with brandy.
Teiser: What residual sugar was it?
MSN: Oh, we had a dry and sweet sherry. If I remember correctly, the
dry was around 1 percent. The sweet I think we had that up around
four or five or six Balling. I don't remember exactly. It was
standardized for its time at about 19-1/2 percent alcohol, which,
of course, was the law then in California. You couldn't make it
under 19-1/2 percent. Of course, that was instituted by the pioneers
who wanted to make the best use of California Thompson grapes, you
MSN: Yes. We finally got the law changed to where we could cut down on
the alcohol in sherry and in those dessert wines. But when it
happened, and that was years and years and years ago, it was about
twenty-five or thirty years too late, because people had gotten
tired of those types of wine. Along came the advent of your dry
wines in the fifties. That's really when they started catching
fire your dry whites and your dry reds, whether they be a varietal
or a non-varietal doesn't matter.
Teiser: Your red and white, what residual sugar were they?
MSN: They were sweet. The so-called red and white we made there the
Chateau Lejon Red and White were sweet. The white had a residual
sugar of 3-1/2 percent. That went primarily into the Baltimore,
Philadelphia, and New York areas. The clientele demanded that
there. The red had some residual sugar in it, but I don't recall
right offhand. In fact, I was looking through some of my old notes
from Lodi several months ago and I saw where I had made some
calculations for the addition of blending wine to bring up the sugar
to 3-1/2 percent. I had made some notation that I had overshot it.
It was 3.75 instead of 3.50, or something like that.
But we had a good business. In the period '44 through "49, we
sold about 350,000 gallons of Chateau Lejon a year just out of that
one plant. That doesn't sound like an awful lot, but it was an
awful lot of that type for the winery at that time in history.
Because when you went to the store, you bought muscatel and port
that's what you bought. It was primarily a Jewish population in
those areas that wanted that sweet wine, Philadelphia and New York.
There was a tremendous market. It practically sold itself. There
wasn't anybody out there telling you that this wine tastes better
than this one, so you'd better buy mine.
Actually, there was very little advertising of wine in those
days when you stop to analyze it. I haven't gone back in historical
records or anything like that, but I know just from experinece. The
only advertising you'd see once in a while might be on a billboard,
but as far as really direct advertising on the radio, it was just
Teiser: Cresta Blanca, I guess, was the first.
MSN: Yes, they were the ones that came booming out with their C-R-E-S-T-A
The red and the white were sizable pieces of business, but they
were very small compared to this sherry and port and muscat.
Teiser: Did you make much concentrate?
MSN: Yes, we didn't have a big modern concentrator like you have today,
but we made a lot of concentrate there.
Teiser: Where did it go?
MSN: Primarily in our own products additional sweetening for the
fortified wines like the port, muscatel, the sherries; and it also
went in the Chateau Lejon Red and White wines. That's primarily
where it went .
Ownership by National Distillers
Teiser: Didn't National Distillers dictate your production?
MSN: As far as actually what had to be produced, I suppose there were
policies laid down that I didn't know about, but as far as running
a winery was concerned and how we did it, it was all Lee Jones and
Brown. I'm sure that National had something [laughs] to say about
the economics of it, because they would have their engineers out
there. They put in a new distillery while I was there, in '45 or
'46. Of course, that all came out of National: they said, "We have
to have more facilities, the wine business is going to grow."
They didn't know at the time that there were box cars and box cars
of wine sitting out there ready to come back that they couldn't
shove down people's throats. I never will forget that.
National Spirits Companies and the Wine Industry
Jacobson: Were the national distillers trying to create a demand for any
particular kinds of wines by producing them?
MSN: I don't think so, no. You have to understand that what happened
was that the National Distillers and Schenley and Seagrams had
their alcohol production curtailed quite a bit by the war effort.
Ethyl alcohol just wasn't available in the form of hard spirits.
They had to have some income, so they went into wines. It was just
an outlet for their business, to get something to sell, because
they didn't have any whiskey to sell, they didn't have any gin to
sell, so they hooked onto wine.
Unfortunately, some of them had to pull back their horns later
on and lost their shirts. A lot of that wine came back into the
wineries and had to be converted into alcohol. Then we went into all
these marketing programs following that. The only reason that they
ever got into wine was because, "Hey, look, alcohol's going into
torpedos and a few other things and you're not going to have it for
Marketing Practices during World War II
Teiser: I remember there was a certain amount of whiskey and gin on the
market. Where did it come from? Was it old stocks or was it new
MSN: They were limited as to their production. What they did was they
came up to you and told you, "Look, if you want a case of whiskey,
you're going to have to buy three cases of wine." This is how the
market got loaded up. Then there was the backlash of that all into
California and into the wineries. It broke a lot of wineries,
broke up the economy to beat the devil, but that's what happened.
It was all under the table: "You want the whiskey, you've gotta
take so many cases of wine." Here's this guy with the warehouse
full of cases, regardless of how he was pricing his whiskey,
because there was an awful lot of bootlegging going on. I know
that for a fact.
In a way it was very damaging to the efforts of the Wine
Institute because here, after all these years, we're still not a
wine drinking country. You could imagine the effect that that would
have trying to get them to drink wine. Wine was associated with one
name really in those days in the forties and that was Howard Street.
If you read anything about wine, it wasn't anything good about it.
"I picked up this wino down on Howard and Such-and-Such and he had
an empty bottle of muscatel." This was the kind of "advertising"
that we had around the industry.
Responsibilities as Wine Chemist
Teiser: When you were at Shewan-Jones what were your own duties?
MSN: When I was at Shewan-Jones I was a chemist. A chemist not in the
sense that I stood in front of a lab desk eight hours a day. A wine
chemist had to be out there in the fermenting room when the crush
came. He's checking temperatures; he's checking the sugar content
of the grapes; he's checking the overall operation of that facility.
A wine chemist in the winery where the wine is made was finishing
MSN: that wine: clarifying it, processing whatever it took to stabilize
it so that you would get a bottle at your home or on the shelf that
was palatable, that didn't have a bunch of stuff in the bottom;
whether it'd be protein or tartrate crystals, which everybody thought
was glass at one time
You're sort of a supervisor, but you had to use your chemical
background, because you would get down and supervise things in the
plant and you had to run back upstairs and do your analysis.
That's how I really learned something about the wine business.
Educating New Winemakers
MSN: I don't think, unfortunately, that some of the students today have
had a chance to be exposed to that. The university has tried to
promote working-on-the-job programs, but I don't think they have
been very effective, so a lot of these people that come out of the
universities have good theoretical knowledge but are really
handicapped as far as getting any practical knowledge.
For example, we have people out here whose only responsibility
with fermentations in the winery is checking the temperatures off
the computer morning and night. Well, what do you do when the
concentrator runs out of juice at midnight, or the Brix is falling
and you want it up higher? What do you do if the grapes are
fermenting too hot? You go down there and you take care of it
yourself. It's more than telling somebody you'll turn a valve on
that's crazy. So there's a lot of exposure they can get.
Some of the students had no conception of what was involved in
the addition of wine spirits to grape wine or grape juice for
fortifying, although it's a very simple thing. It's just that the
poor kids never had a chance for the exposure. I know some of them
that have worked for me in the last fifteen or sixteen years and
some other places, too, probably thought that I was the meanest
(pardon me) SOB that God ever created. But I tell you, it almost
makes you cry when they leave, or have to leave, for one reason or
another and come up to you and say, "Mr. Nighingale, I thank you for
everything you've done," because then I really feel that I've
One of them came up to me, she says, "You were rough. I learned a
few words from you, but I'll never forget you." . [laughter] One of
those gals happens to be Jill Davis who's a winemaker at Buena
Vista. I'm very proud of that gal. Doug Davis he worked with me
at Asti is the executive winemaker now at Sebastiani's . So you
get compensated, and I know when those kids went out of here, by
God, they knew where the fortifying tank was, and they knew
what to do. [laughs] That's what's important. I'm not saying
that the ones we have out there don't know anything, because
they're all very energetic and most of them in the laboratory
today are very interested in what they're doing, for which I thank
God. I don't have very much respect for people who come to work
at eight and quit at five, because I like to come at nine and quit
at three myself. [laughs]
The Lodi Wine District
When you were at Shewan- Jones were you drawing mainly upon the Lodi
area for your grapes?
Yes, primarily Lodi.
Can you characterize that area at that time?
I would say that really that area wasn't known for its wine grapes.
But didn't it have an old reputation for Zinfandel?
It had an old reputation for Zinfandel. Some of the finest
Zinfandels in the country came out of there and even spread back
into the hill country. But what put Lodi on the map was the
shipping of Flame Tokay. I can still hear those cars running at
night. Some of those grape vines over there I'm sure you've seen
them, I don't think I'm exaggerating are damn near two feet in
diameter. They're huge big things. Have you seen them?
Well, if you're ever over around Lodi and you see some vineyards and
the vines look big big you can bet those are Tokays.
During the war years, we made an awful lot of wine out of
Tokays. Yes, we made concentrate out of them, we made brandy out of
them, and we made white wine. When I first asked Mr. Brown, I said,
"That isn't a wine grape, Mr. Brown. How do you make wine out of
that?" "You just do what I tell you." He told me how much tannin
to put in and how much citric acid to put in it and let it go. "It'll
come out," he says, "with some alcohol in it."
MSN: Lodi was always, in my opinion, famous for its Zinfandels. That's
probably one of the most outstanding wine varieties of that area.
In fact, I'm still buying Lodi Zinfandel there. The first of the
White Zinfandels that were produced came from there. But that
sleepy little town was primarily a shipping center. There's a lot
of packing sheds, you know, along the railroad tracks to
Sacramento Street. And the wineries. Roma had a big winery there.
Then there was Community [Grape Corporation], which was a co-op,
and then East Side [Winery] was a co-op; Bear Creek [Vineyard
Association]; Del Rio [Winery]. Those are all now under the Guild
[Wineries and Distilleries] who put up that big huge plant over
there. I guess that was back in the forties.
Teiser: The Lodi area must have drawn on a lot of other areas then?
MSN: Probably a little bit up toward Elk Grove and then down toward
Manteca, and out west toward the islands there were grapes, too, of
V ITALIAN SWISS COLONY, 1949-1953
The Move to Asti
Teiser: How did you happen to switch to Italian Swiss Colony, or was it
MSN: It was switching all right. In fact, I was told to go. The man
who was the chief chemist at Asti unfortunately differed in his
opinions with a gentleman who I had always respected very highly
and was one of the pioneers of California wine industry. That was
Enrico Prati. The chief chemist up there at Asti was relieved of
his position by Mr. Prati, who was then supervising both Asti and
It's a very interesting and intriguing story because Enrico
Prati and Lee Jones were kind of at loggerheads. When I look back
now after all these years, it was really Enrico Prati 's desire to
close Shewan-Jones down, and he did. In '49 he closed it down, sent
everything up to Asti, and that's when I went to Asti.
He came into the plant one day and he called me over in the
office, "Mr. Nightingale, you will go to Asti tomorrow." Just like
that. So I was on my way to Asti.
Teiser: Did Brown go to Asti?
MSN: No, Brown went to San Francisco.
I went up there the early part of '49. Several months later,
Alice moved up there and we lived in Cloverdale. That's how I
got started at Asti because, as I said, it was all National
Distillers, and Enrico Prati was in power. So I went up there to
work on a much bigger winery, with much larger bottling facilities
and everything else. I was there until 1953.
Key Personnel: Paul Heck, Ed Prati, and the P.ossis
Who else was there besides Prati?
Well, I'll tell you who else was up there. National Distillers
also sent up there at that time Paul Heck. Of course, as you know,
Paul Heck and his brother [Adolph] bought Korbel in the fifties.
They took over that operation. Ed Prati, that was Enrico's son,
was pretty much in charge of Asti when I left there in '53'. There
was a missing period, I don't know exactly the year, but I know it
was somewhere in the early fifties when the Heck brothers went over
to Korbel.* Ed Prati was working at Asti when I went up there in
'49. I don't know whether he was a plant superintendent then or
just what his title was, but he was one of the bosses. He was in
complete charge over Paul Heck when I left. I think that was one
of the reasons the Heck brothers left and went out on their own at
Korbel and apparently made a pretty good success out of it.
Edmund Rossi was out of it by then?
Yes, Edmund and Bob.
Robert senior had died.
Ed Rossi, Jr., who still works for the company down at Madera, was
working for Mr. Brown in San Francisco in the laboratory. They
all had a laboratory down there in the old ISC building with a big
red brick front. It was down on Beach Street.
Bob Rossi, Bob Sr.'s son, was down at the Italian Swiss Colony
plant at Clovis for a good many years. Of course, he's now with
Heublein, San Francisco, I guess. Ed Jr. is still down at Madera.
He's getting up there too. He's around sixty.
Yes, the Rossis were a very powerful influence,
have the old place there at Asti, you know.
Yes, I've seen it.
I used to go up there and listen to the USF basketball games with
Ed Rossi, of all the crazy things to do. What do you do in the
country, you know?
MSN: He's a very sincere, dedicated, religious individual. I always had
the highest respect for Ed Rossi, Jr. He's a very clean-cut man,
Wine and Brandy Products
Teiser: What was Asti doing then at that time?
MSN: Let's put it this way, when the Shewan-Jones plant was divided up in
'49, the brandy operation went down to Clovis, Italian Swiss Colony
Teiser: It was Thompson Seedless, I suppose.
MSN: Yes, primarily. Anything in those days that we could get that made
wine that we could convert into alcohol. It isn't as sophisticated
as now where they actually make special lots of wine for the brandies,
which is good, rather than taking all the dregs.
Asti had wines being shipped up there from Clovis, which were
the dessert wines, and we did all the bottling up there. All the
dry wines were made up there. I don't remember the exact gallonage
of those now but they were made up there, bottled up there, and
shipped out. They did an awful lot of shipping of wine out of that
place to the eastern franchise bottlers. One of them was Gambarelli
& Davitto. That was quite a business. Probably four or five cars of
wine went out of Asti every other day during the working week, which
was pretty good business. I don't know how much money was in it for
National Distillers, but a lot of tank cars, as many as ten cars at a
crack, went out.
Reflections on National Distillers and the Role of Big Corporations
in the Wine Industry
Teiser: Did National Distillers lay a heavy hand on Asti as far as you knew?
MSN: Not as far as the internal operation was concerned. You know, it's
funny that you bring that up. This is something that has always
upset me because some way, some how, these people out here in the
trade, or let's say all of us, got the idea that when these big
companies come in, the first thing they do is get their nose in
there and it's never going to be the same. "They're going to change
things," and it's always for the worse. It's really something that
disturbs me, because as far as I'm concerned, the big corporations,
with few exceptions, have done nothing but good for the California
MSN: I can give you a prime example of a company that came in here that
has been very honest, and I thank God that I left the Guild and
came to work for Nestle when the Guild took over Schenley [properties]
in '71. It's been a tremendous fortune. We have the finest
facilities, we got the finest of equipment, and our business is
right on top. We haven't gone through any depressions in our
business in this plant. I attribute that to good leadership, good
I think there's a lot of good that's come out of these big
companies. Let me give you another example. It's a family company,
but it gets the image of what big can do. Look at Gallo wine
company. Probably the leader as far as moderately priced California
table wine for years and years and years. Still today putting out
a very good product. A company that has probably the largest
research department of any winery in the world. A lot of that
research has flowed over into the California wine industry. People
don't give his boys credit for it.
I'm not saying we're all angels. Don't misunderstand me.
Teiser: What about that great 1946 debacle while you were at Shewan-Jones?
Wasn't that caused by Lewis R. Rosenstiel?
MSN: Well, I think a lot of that probably was not only caused by Mr.
Rosenstiel, but maybe a few other people in some other places, too.
Rosenstiel, of course you know, was the big Schenley guy, and Seton
Porter was the big man for National Distillers then. I really
couldn't say, but I feel that probably a lot of that deluge of wine
that came back was a result of mismanagement by the industry itself,
aided and abetted by some of these distillers. If you order two
cases of whiskey and I tell you, "Okay, you put 45 cases of wine on
that order." You call me up and you say, "What am I supposed to do
with this?" "Sell it if you want any more whiskey." So I think he
and a few others aided and abetted these things.
The Potential for Increased Wine Consumption
MSN: You know, this industry kind of floats on a cloud in a way. If
you've got the money, fine, "Okay, let's buy it." But it's something
you don't have to have to live by. Maybe I do because this is my
income, but people are going to buy that loaf of bread before they
do the wine. You can't choke it down their throats.
People talk about the increase in the use of wine. Well, I'm
happy to see people drinking a lot of wine, particularly Beringer.
[laughs] I'm very happy about that and I stop to think of the
Nightingale evaluates a
Fume Blanc sample aged in
a French Limousin oak.
Ed Sbragia and Myron
sampling Pinot Noir.
Myron and Alice
Nightingale hand inspect
each cluster of Semillon
grapes for the 1980
Sketches by Beringer Vineyards
MSN: potential that's available out there in the field. Look at the
areas in the Bible belt that never have been touched as far as wine
is concerned. I wouldn't want to choke it down anybody's throat,
don't get me wrong, but as far as wine consumption going up compare
it with the soft drink business. We can say, "Well, about thirty
years ago it was about 1.8 and it's now 2.2 gallons per capita."*
Then I tell you, "Well, that's fine. Yes, that's right. We have
got increased wine consumption." But, let's take out all these
wine coolers and a few other things and see what we've got.
I often describe it at seminars if you'll pardon my language
as the greatest crapshoot in the world. Oh, yes. It takes a lot
of guts, a lot of foresight, and a lot of gambles, but it's the
most fascinating business, and I wouldn't trade it for anything in
Teiser: There's one other person at Italian Swiss Colony whose name I've
seen mentioned: Coppo.
MSN: Oh, B. Coppo, Bartolomeo Coppo. I first got acquainted with Mr.
Coppo in 1949, when I went to Asti. He had two sons working for
him up there: one in the production department, Louis, and Joe
worked over in the bottling part.
I don't know an awful lot about Italian culture, but I can
tell you one thing, Mr. B. Coppo as we call him, Mr. B. was
probably one of the finest gentlemen I ever met in my life. I've
met a lot of nice people. He was not only a perfect gentleman, he
was a very, very good winemaker. His specialty, of course, was dry
wines and, I guess, his real expertise lay in the field of red wine.
The things that I picked up on red wines from him, table wines, you
won't find in any textbooks because it was hand-to-mouth and you
either absorbed it or you didn't absorb it.
I don't know how long he was there. When I went there in '49,
Mr. Coppo must have been pretty close to 70. He was very active.
You know what they used to do? This came down from Prati. Every
morning they used to bring out the books of all the cellar
operations these big ledgers, you know, two-by-three feet and
they'd lay three or four of them out on the production desk in the
production department where they run all the cellar movements.
Those would come out every morning, and every night here would be
Mr. Coppo leading the path back to the safe down the hall to put
those books back in. All written in beautiful script, the most
beautiful handwriting you ever saw in your life. Some of it some of
-'Wine Institute statistics. M.S.N.
MSN: us might not have been able to read, but I think after a little
study you could. I can still see that writing: "It goes from this
tank to this tank to this tank." It wasn't like a cardex or a
Mr. Coppo was a hardworking man. He was there day and night.
Really, I think some of those people that worked there in those
days had the fear of God beat into them, figuratively. Enrico
Prati was a fine gentleman, but he was no slouch when it came to
giving orders. I think B. Coppo was himself in the original
Italian Swiss Colony colony up there. A lot of these Italian
immigrants got sent up to Asti, where they have their bunkhouses,
Enrico Prati 's Management Style
Teiser: It must have been an interesting place to work.
MSN: Oh, I'm telling you some of the funniest things in my life happened
up there, honest to God, because these people were so used to taking
orders. There was only one man around that place who gave orders.
That was Enrico Prati. If Mr. Prati says, "Everybody gets down on
their knees," everybody got down on their knees. I've seen those
guys when he'd stand in front of them and they'd just stand there
and shake. I'm not sure if that's good or bad; don't misunderstand
me. But it was a hangover from another era, an era that we couldn't
Teiser: We have an interesting description of it earlier than that, from
Antonio Perelli-Minetti when he first came to this country.*
Photograph of Ed Rossi, Jr. and Rosie Simis
Teiser: I think this is a good place to stop today, but let me show you this
picture. That was probably later than your time; was it?
*Antonio Perelli-Minetti, A Life in Wine Making, an oral history
interview conducted 1969, Regional Oral History Office, The Bancroft
Library, University of California, Berkeley, 1975.
Yes. That's Ed Rossi, Jr.? Oh, my God, there's Rosie. This gal
here [points to picture] was Rosalyn. This girl is Portuguese,
Her name was Simis. Whenver I used to get a little bit upset with
anything or wanted to kid Rosie, either way, I always gave her her
full name, "Rosalyn Alice Silvera Simis." Yes, that's Rosie Simis;
that's Ed Rossi, Jr., and those other two, I don't know who they
are. Oh, I haven't seen Rosie for about four or five years. I
don't think she's changed an awful lot since then. This is a
comparatively late photo, up at Asti I'm sure.
Italian Traditions at Italian Swiss Colony
[Interview 2: March 3, 1987 ]//#
Tesier: I'm very glad to have your recollections of Italian Swiss Colony,
because they fill in a period of its history that we didn't have on
MSN: Yes, that was quite a place. The Colony, in those days, was almost
a world apart. It was its own little settlement. There was still
a lot of the real strong Italian tradition there. The old [Andrea]
Sbarboro place down over the railroad tracks along the riverhead had
what they call a villa. It was a Pompeii villa-type of thing, if
you want to call it that. In fact, I stayed in it one night. I
felt like that was the first time I had slept in a deep freeze, but
I stayed there one night. What a cool place that was! But,
anyway, it was a very unique place. I don't know whether it's still
standing or not.
Teiser: Yes, it is.
MSN: Is it? I haven't been down in the Colony there in years. I guess
I was over there maybe nine years ago, looking for someplace to
store wine. We ran out of space. Brought back a lot of memories.
They weren't using that huge tank when you were there, were they?
Oh, yes. That was really something. You had to go back through a
long tunnel to get back to the tanks. They were underground,
insulated by good Mother Earth. There were two or three tanks back
Staff tasting as Asti, early 1960 's. Left to right: Edmund A. Rossi, Jr.,
Peter Swans ton, Rosalyn Simis, George Kay, and Minoro Okino.
MSN: there, but I forget what the size was now. I think it was somewhere
around a hundred thousand gallons or a hundred and fifty thousand.*
Teiser: It was a single one before the earthquake, I think.
MSN: Yes, that's right. The only way to get to it was through this
tunnel. You could go down through the top, but to get wine out of
it to clean it, you had to go through this long, windy tunnel. I
remember very distinctly the first time I went through that, because
they kept it white-washed. Even as short as I am, I had to bend
over, and if you weren't careful you hit the sides. I came out of
there looking like I'd been hit by a white-wash brush once in a
while. The tank was all concrete. It was very difficult to keep
Teiser: Ed Rossi, Jr. told me that he and his cousin used to play in that
tunnel when they were kids, and they'd scare each other. They'd
tell each other about ghosts.
MSN: Yes, Ed did all sorts of things. They even had dances back in
those tanks one time.**
Teiser: Yes, I have a picture with a band and everything.
*It held 500,000 gallons when built in 1898, but after the
earthquake of 1906 it was rebuilt and divided into three sections
with a total capacity of a little more than 300,000 gallons.
**To celebrate the completion of the original tank.
VI SCHENLEY INDUSTRIES, 1953-1971
Joining Cresta Blanca
So in '53 you went to Schenley.
Yes, in 1953 I went down to Schenley. Schenley came to me and told
me that they wanted a winemaker down at Cresta Blanca. They
wanted to know if I was interested. You better believe I was
interested for $125 more a month, but in addition to that although
it had its advantages and disadvantages they gave me a nice place
on the property, which was furnished. Pretty nice house: all
hardwood floors, which was pretty good for that time. I had three
sons and had two bedrooms; the company later on even built on
another bedroom, a big huge bedroom, and a bathroom. But, anyway,
I went down there and went to work in 1953 .
How did Schenley find you?
How do you think they knew about your
I don't know. I guess I was quite active on the Wine Institute and
Technical Advisory Committee. Maybe I was the only one they could
find. I don't know. [laughs]
But anyway, they came to me, and that's a nice position to be
in. We were living in Cloverdale in a rented place Alice and I got
when I moved up there from Lodi. I hated to leave because we'd put
a lot of work into the place that we were renting from an ex-San
Francisco business lady by the name of R. H. Jones. She had a
notary public office down on Washington Street. From the beginning
of the 1900s, her husband, who was much older than her, was in the
immigration business. His particular field was the Chinese. I
don't know how much of it was legal and how much of it was illegal,
but suffice it to say when they did bring in certain parties,
Asians, why she would go to the immigration office and make sure
they were well provided with things and arrange all the papers. I'm
sure they had a lot of connections in Chinatown. So she was
a very astute businesswoman.
She bought this place and her husband passed away in the thirties.
Very old place. In fact, I still remember pulling some of the
nails out of the boards on it. There were two houses with a lot
separating them and they had these old square nails in them, in the
wood. But, anyway, she kind of took a liking to Alice and me, so we
put a lot of personal effort into the place. There was this lot
between the houses and we landscaped it, but she helped us. She
put in a little pool so the kids could wade, since it gets awful
hot up there. Well, that was pretty nice to have a huge, big yard
all in grass, you know, right there in Cloverdale.
But finally we left and we went down to Schenley, money and
a chance at a better position as a winemaker at Cresta Blanca [at
Livermore] . I stayed there from '53 until '62, when I transferred
Schenley 's Plans for Cresta Blanca
Tesier: What plans did Schenley have for Cresta Blanca when you went there?
MSN: It was the same as all the other big distillers: they were looking
for a source of income other than pure distilled spirits. National
Distillers had long since gone into petrochemicals. So this thing
with Schenley, I think, was just a hangover from the war effort,
because Schenley had plants up at Elk Grove. At one time they
owned this beautiful building up the road here,
Teiser: What kind of wines did they want to make at Cresta Blanca?
MSN: I'll tell you, Cresta Blanca at one time had probably the finest
reputation for some of the white wines, right alongside of Wente.
Through a series of political maneuvers, family maneuvers et cetera,
even before Schenley got in there, there was some upheaval in the
company. Then Schenley took it over a whiskey company, in fact.
As far as putting out real premium wines, they said they wanted to
do it, but I got really very little support from them. Everything
was a struggle there, everything was a pair-of-pliers-and-a-piece-
Rosenstiel, sitting back there in New York City and maybe
justly so because after all it was his money and his business,
certainly saw more profit in $5 Ancient Age going down the bottling
line at 140 bottles a minute, than a bottle of wine which was $1.69
or $1.70 if it was Cresta Blanca or maybe $.80 or $.85 if it was
Roma because they owned Roma also.
The Schenley organization had a lot of good things about it, but
as far as going ahead in the business, particularly the wine
business, their heart just wasn't there. I don't think it ever
was there because for every dollar that was put out for capital
expenditures by Schenley in those days, as far as I'm concerned,
probably two cents of that dollar went in the wine business; the
rest of it was in the distilled spirits section.
Just to show you their philosophy and their long-term
projections, which as far as the wine industry was concerned were
practically nil, when they sold out the [wine] business in '71 to
Guild, was just when the wine business was starting to go uphill.
The Early Days of Schenley 's Operations in California
Teiser: Did you ever know Lucien Johnson, the former owner?
MSN: No, I never did know him. Leon Adams has talked to me about him
quite a bit.
The early history there of that operation I don't know.
Teiser: There was, I assume, nothing left of the Wetmore tradition then, or
very little, by the time you got there?
MSN: By the time I got there the only thing that was left of the Wetmore
was one of the Wetmores was buried out on a hill behind the winery
there. I can't remember which of the Wetmores it was now.
I remember because right down on the rock there used to be a
little geranium that'd come up every spring; then it didn't get
water, so it went right back down.
But to put it mildly, Schenley bastardized that label because,
first of all, I understand during the war years they were bringing
in wine from Elk Grove, shooting it in one door and bottling it and
shooting it out the other door. So there wasn't any long-term
planning. I'm not saying that some of the same kind of stuff didn't
go on in the wine business, because I'm sure it did, but that was
just the way it was.
Upgrading the Cresta Blanca Label
MSN: When I went to Cresta Blanca it was all explained to me, "We're
going to have a rebirth of this place." I worked very hard there
and I did, I feel, bring the label up, and we got recognition of
the label, particularly at the California State Fair. California
started to realize, and the Wente Brothers and the Concannon winery
that's down there, that, "Hey, Cresta Blanca 's coming alive out
there in the Arroyo." I can get very enthusiastic about it, but it
was always a sort of empty-feeling enthusiasm. In other words, am
I riding a bubble here, and when's it going to burst? Well, after
18 years with them it really burst on me, because for my faithful
service and the efforts that I put forth, I was given three weeks
vacation pay and terminated when the Guild took over in 1971.
That's a very long story. The Guild had offered me a position
when they took it over. I was, of course, down at Fresno at
Schenley headquarters. I had been transferred down there in 1962
from Cresta Blanca at Livermore. So I worked down there as chief
inventory controller of the wines of the Roma plant and, of course,
I had [responsibility for] the Cresta Blanca, Livermore winery and
the Cresta Blanca down at Delano, plus Kingsburg.
Teiser: What were they making at Delano?
MSN: When I went down there in '62 we were making dry reds, dry whites,
ports, sherries, white port. The dry whites and dry reds were, of
course, non-varietal. The whites were made out of anything we
got our hands on if you want to be honest about it, probably 80 or
85 percent Thompson Seedless. They jokingly used to say that the
Thompson Seedless was the great Johannisberg Riesling of the San
Joaquin Valley. [laughter]
There was a fellow by the name of Chet Steinhauer, though,
that ran a good ship. He has since now retired. He went to work
for the Guild in his retirement. He was a good man and he really
tried to do things down there in Delano as far as the dry wine
making was concerned.
Sale of Schenley Properties to Guild
Teiser: Who has that plant now?
MSN: The Guild owns that plant. I think the Guild still owns it. I
think they were trying to sell it. I don't know whether they've
sold in the last year or two or not, but it's closed down completely
now. They put a lot of money in it. The Guild had some ideas
about what they were going to do with these plants, but after all
they were working on the farmer ' s money and maybe he had something
to say about that, too. Then, I guess, there was some question
about the leadership, without going into names. The leader of the
Guild at the time resigned or departed that organization several
years ago, so they have struggled along. But as far as their
relative position to somebody like Gallo, or even Almaden, it is
very small. I don't know just what their ranking is now, but
they're pretty far down the list. It's a co-op; they were beset by
money problems. I just thank God that I made the decision to go to
VII BERINGER VINEYARDS, 1971-1983
Decision to Leave Schenley and Join Beringer
MSN: It was probably one of the smartest decisions that I ever made in my
life as far as this crazy business is concerned. I just felt from
a philosophical standpoint that at age 56, which I was then, I
thought to myself, "What is there in this wine business? Do I want
to stay in this wine business?" "Yes, I want to stay in it,
because I have to stay in it. That's the only thing I really know
now." But there I was stewing about what was going to happen,
because I was caught by what Schenley was telling me was going to
happen if I didn't go to work for the Guild. They didn't tell me
that until the last minute, and then they told me, "Well, since
you've really decided not to go to work for the Guild, why, we have
decided to keep you on here," after they had already released me.
Well, I could see through the great Schenley organization.
I'd been with them eighteen years. I figured no way!
Teiser: Would they have put you in the Fresno distillery that they kept?
MSN: Yes, they would have put me in the distillery making wines for the
Dubonnet product and maybe wines for some of the special whiskeys
for blending. But I figured after they had made good use of me then
I would have been out in the street somewhere, probably.
Along that line, that plant subsequently was closed down as an
operation. Even Schenley closed it out. They divided Roma up with
the Guild and they kept a portion of that operation as their own.
That's since been shut down.
They finally called me in after they'd told me this and this
and this, and they said, "Well, Mr. Nightingale, if you don't stay
with us, why, there'll be no severance pay," they'd promised me
about $10,000 severance pay "and you get your standard three weeks
vacation! That's it." Just two or three days before that, Harry
Serlis who was the president of the Wine Institute at the time,
a very knowledgeable wine man from my book, at least on marketing
called me up in Fresno one afternoon and he said, "Myron, how would
you like to go up to the Napa Valley?" Well, it almost took me back
to the day that I went to work for Mission Dry when I was shaking
so hard in my shoes that I didn't know whether to tell him, "Yes,
I'll take that," or what! I said, "Yes, I'm definitely interested."
After about two or three meetings with the Nestle people at
the Clift Hotel in San Francisco, thanks to Harry Serlis, I came to
work up here at Beringer.
Peter Jurgens's Management of Beringer
Peter Jurgens , who was the ex-president of Almaden vineyards, quite
a wine promoter, was the president then. He had just come to work
I think the sale was actually
Nestle had just bought Beringer?
Yes, they had bought it in '70.
consummated in January of '71.
Is that when it was? Because I came to work here in March. Peter
Jurgens is still alive, and I think he lives down in San Francisco,
out there in the Marina somewhere.
Jurgens is, yes. I've talked to him on the phone in recent years.
What a guy! God.
I came up here under him as a winemaker and he really gave me
a free hand. I guess you could put it that way, because after
working with Schenley for 18 years where you never knew which flag
was going to go up and when you were needed whether it was five
o'clock at night or seven in the morning or three o'clock in the
afternoon or four in the morning when Mr. Rosenstiel rolled out of
bed and it was seven o'clock back there and he wanted some answers-
it took me a while to get adjusted to this place.
But I think, with all due respect to Peter, most of his
objectives here at Beringer were very short range. I feel that
Nestle was looking for a long-term position, particularly when I
MSN: look back now to when Peter resigned and a gentleman by the name of
Bob Bras, from Nest le, came in here as the president. He's now
since passed away, but he is the man that put Taster's Choice
coffee on the market for Nestle".
Bob Bras's Tenure: Acquiring Vineyards for Beringer
MSN: He didn't know anything about the wine business, but he was a
fairly good marketing man; he had some crazy ideas because he had
some money behind him. And he got a few things done. We bought
grapes. He was a great guy to buy grapes. Everybody thought he
was nuts at the time, but he bought a lot of vineyards. See, this
place only had about 600 acres of vineyards when I came here. Bob
Bras got in and he says, "We're going to have a winery in the years
to come. We're going to need grapes and we're going to have to
have a good plant to process them in." So to that extent he was
very active in acquiring ground. We acquired ground all over the
Napa Valley here. We have Knight's Valley, but we acquired more
up there. We started out here with somewhere in the neighborhood
of 600 acres. Now you're looking at somewhere between 2,500 and
3,000 acres. Now there's a few hundred of that that has been
ripped out it's going to be replanted so you're looking at,
conservatively, 2,400, 2,500 acres that are producing right now.
That was quite a capital investment in itself, keeping in mind that
the company paid about $6 or $9 million for the place when they
But what they bought here was a label that they thought could
be revived and that was primarily it.
Richard L. Maher's Tenure: Capital Improvements
MSN: Getting back to management, after Bob Bras, of course, Dick
[Richard L.] Maher came in here. He was an ex-ISC and Gallo man,
an extremely sharp marketing man. He really went to bat for me.
He went to bat for Beringer, period. He was the man who was
responsible for the start of the rebuilding of the Beringer
vineyard. All that was here was the buildings across the road.
Then they had the plant down at Carneros.
Teiser: When was that built, the Carneros plant?
Oh, God, I don't know. It was a very old place. Between the two
plants, I guess there was probably six, seven hundred
thousand gallons of cooperage. It was all old cooperage: old
tanks, concrete fermenters. I can tell you, I was a very sick
individual for a few weeks after I'd seen it for the first time.
All concrete fermenters that late?
No stainless steel?
No, we didn't have any stainless steel fermenters.
Well, I'll be darned.
I'll stand corrected, but I think you'll find concrete fermenters
around here in the valley today, right down the road.
Nestle" poured a lot of money in here, that is quite evident.
I don't know how many millions they must have in here now, when
you start thinking of the purchase of over 2,000 acres in Napa
At a time when it was high.
Oh! Just to have the interest for that for two months, you or I
could go around the world a few times.
Then the buildings I don't know how many millions we've got
tied into this installation, and they're going to put up a new
office building over there near the barn. That warehouse wasn't
here. None of this was here when I came here.
What's the capacity now?
You're probably looking at around 2.9 million, I guess. Somewhere
close to that. We bought Souverain, too, in the meantime last
year. So we have cooperage over there. Of course, that will
remain a separate operation as far as we can make it, with separate
marketing and that sort of thing.
Dick Maher did a lot of good things here for us. He got Nestle
interested in doing things, and I think how he got them interested
was pointing out to them the future of the wine business and what
was possible here in this place. Of course, Nestle" didn' t get that
"mountain of gold" over there in Vevey, Switzerland, by poor
business practices. You can imagine that they are rather astute
Nestle' s Commitment to Quality////
MSN: Nestle has a commitment here, and I think that commitment can be
summarized in a sentence or two. It's a long-range program, and
riding right on the wave of it is its quality. That's the reason
for the equipment that we've been able to get. I mean, you can
have equipment and you can make wine, but you've gotta have
somebody behind you interested in selling that wine, too. , You've
gotta move the product. That is the bottom line.
We've been fortunate in that we have moved the wine. We've
had strong market support started by Dick Maher, now carried on
by a man by the name of James Tonjum, who, as far as I'm concerned,
is one of the top marketing men in the United States. Dick Maher
really got us airborne, to put it mildly. He was the one who was
responsible for the improvement of the grounds all around the Rhine
House over there as you see it today. He's the man who was
responsible for a lot of different things, including the vineyards.
This man that succeeded him three years ago, Mike [F. Michael]
Moone, I think is even going to be better, for he is really
conscious, for one thing, of employee needs and desires. He's a
man that says, "I want everybody on my team," and really backs up
those words and he's backed them up in a good many different
ways, I can assure you, at least for me.
I guess you have to understand. Somebody could give you a
piece of bailing wire and a pair of pliers and tell you to go out
and fix a barrel. But somebody could give you a brand new oak
barrel and say, "Just tighten the hoops up and it'll work perfect."
There's an awful difference.
Upgrading Beringer's Cooperage
MSN: We have a brand new building we're just putting up out here now.
It holds twenty thousand French barrels. To start off with, the
barrels alone are about $300 apiece (but I think the market price
is $350 or $360 by the time you get the racks and the whole works
in position). Then there is the building itself. I don't know
what that building costs. It's a modified Butler-type building,
but it still costs money.
Teiser: When you ship that many barrels from France, do they send people
to assemble them?
We have got most of them [shipped] assembled. Those that have
not been assembled that come in, we've had other cooperage
outfits, their agents, assemble them here depending on who we
bought them from. But we brought in an awful lot of them assembled
already, at least when we first started.
Does it work as well that way as having them put together here?
Yes, yes. In my opinion it does, yes.
Did you specify the oak?
What is this last batch, or is it one kind?
We switch around from Limousin to Nevers oak. We've had
Czechoslovakian, yes. Probably right now I would say that maybe
it's fifty-fifty Limousin-Nevers. We may be leaning a
little more toward the Limousin. We have a few American oak
barrels that we have used on red wine, but that is in a very small
minority. We've been very cautious about that.
You know, the French oak and the American oak are two
different animals. Anybody can put oak in the wine. All you have
to do is go down here to the lumber yard and get some oak powder
and throw it in. In American oak, in my opinion, you get a
stronger oak character. But that isn't really what you want.
Do you have any redwood left?
Yes, we have some redwood left on the other side. We store in
that. We have two brands. We have a Beringer brand and a Los
Hermanos brand. Most of that redwood, with a few exceptions, is
used for the Los Hermanos brand. I cleaned out most of the
redwood so there might be in the whole winery now twenty,
twenty-five usable redwood tanks, and that's nothing.
Teiser: That brings us to the subject of your own acreage: it supplies
part, but, I suppose, not all of your requirements.
MSN: Our vineyards provide us with most of the grapes we need such as
Chardonnay, Sauvignon blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Chenin blanc.
The one variety that we buy widely is Zinfandel, and this is due
MSN: to the great demand for White Zinfandel. Until this industry
development, the demand for Zinfandel was very low. If somebody
had said, "Go out and plant Zinfandel" five or six years ago, you
would have said, "You're crazier than hell. Why should I plant
Zinfandel when everybody's drinking white wine?" And logically so.
But here we go from ground zero to a million cases in a couple of
years (at Beringer) . One never knows what the good old Americans
will jump on next.
In the categories of Chardonnay and Cabernet, we buy maybe
20 percent of our grapes. That's just simply been because of a
Teiser: This is for the Beringer labels?
MSN: Yes. Then for the White Zinfandel, probably 90 percent or better
of those are bought, because you have to keep up with the volume.
You take a million cases of White Zinfandel, that's two-and-a-half
Los Hermanos Label
The Los Hermanos, that's all San Joaquin Valley grapes. No North
Coast wines go in there except those that are just not up to par
for Beringer. For example, there may be certain varieties that
don't fit into a Chardonnay label because of their quality, but
you might use a portion in chablis. Things do happen to wine just
like they happen to individual humans. You may have something
that isn't going to fit in those two categories, so it goes down
another step in the Los Hermanos, which is a jug wine, bulk wine
mover. But that percentage is really very small.
In all practical purposes, those grapes all the Zinfandel,
all other reds, and the whites involve Chenin blanc and French
Colombard from the San Joaquin Valley, and I'll be honest with
you Thompson Seedless. There are probably a lot of people in
this state who will tell you, "We never put Seedless grapes in our
wine," but that's neither here nor there.
You don't believe them?
Well, I know those Thompsons have to go somewhere. Maybe that man
in the valley is telling the truth when he says, "We never use
Thompsons in our wine," but that's his business. But the Thompson,
as you well know, has been the backbone in this wine business. It's
been a business barometer in the wine industry. You've heard all
MSN: about these raisin programs, and look what you've got on TV now
with the little raisin boys dancing. I'm sure you've seen that
ad. You never saw anything like that years ago. We had surpluses
and they could export them into foreign countries. The market's
no longer there.
But the grapes for the Los Hermanos label are harvested and
crushed in the valley. Delicate Vineyards in Manteca does the
work for us. Sierra Wine Company down the valley does bus-iness,
and so does Bronco Wine Company. The wines are made to specifica
tions that I lay out, and subject to approval before we give them
the final check. There's a lot of wine in that market down there
There are certain things that we do with the fruit. For
example, we use arrested fermentation. We stop the fermentation
with residual sugar. Some of those wines, like some of the muscats
that we use for sweetening, have to be made right during the crush.
I mean, you just can't go out after the season and buy that kind
of stuff. It's the same way with the White Zinfandel. I specify
that those grapes shall be crushed and handled the same as
Beringer. In other words, they will be cold-fermented like a
white grape to maintain as much of the fruit or the chewing gum,
candy-like odor as some people call it. I think the public is
entitled to consideration; it's a big mover, and you try to make
the best product you can. There's no reason to cheapen a product
quality-wise simply because the price is lower by a dollar or so.
All those Los Hermanos wines are made down there and maybe
blended down there or blended here. Sometimes I bring them in
here, depending on the lot. I might call in Bronco, or I may
call in Delicato and make a blend whatever the situation may be.
Teiser: Delicato is ?
MSN: They're over in Manteca a very fine operation; very quality-minded
people over there trying to do a job.
Winemaking in the San Joaquin Valley
MSN: Over the years there's been a lot of this North Coast theory on
fermentations and the handling of grapes that has filtered down
into the San Joaquin Valley, so to speak. They have cold
fermentations down there now and they have stainless steel. Some
of them even have oak barrels, if they want to do that. I'm sure
Mr. Gallo has a lot of oak down there.
Teiser: He does, indeed, in the new cellar.
MSN: But, anyway, those practices are put into practice down there, and
the public is the recipient of all the benefits. Thank goodness.
I mean, it isn't a matter of throwing the grapes in the tank
anymore and saying, "Here it is. Drink it," and all because Ruth
Teiser knows what she likes and what she does not like. You didn't
have that in the forties: wine was wine.
Upgrading the Beringer Label
Teiser: Let me ask you about your part in upgrading the wines and the
image of Beringer.
MSN: I'll tell you, when I came here, this place had been allowed to
run down for some reason or another. It might have been the
people making the wine. I have a hunch a lot of it was due to not
having the money to do things; the Beringers were pretty well
strapped. I have to say that out of respect for the people. But
it was a family business, so it was, in plain words, kind of let
go to hell.
When Nestle bought this place in '71, all they really bought
was a label and those six hundred acres of vineyard, because the
wines in the cooperage were in pretty sad shape. In fact, in the
first six months I was here, I sold over 150,000 gallons of
wine for distilling material, because I felt that if you're going
to start to rebuild a place, you start from square one. That's
where we started. I was not going to start with anybody's
troubles, and I told Nestle" that. They said, "You're the winemaker
and that's what we've hired. All right, let's go."
I got rid of a lot of stuff. Then we replanted grapes in
some of the vineyards. We bought grapes those varieties that we
needed badly. We started refilling the tanks with some wines
that I'd made. Then we started thinking about oak barrels and
aging. There was no aging program when I came here. They had about
three hundred American oak barrels here, and those things had been
around so long I guess they'd come over on the Ark they were in
pretty bad shape, so I got rid of all of them. Then I wanted to
get a hold of some French oak, because I felt French oak might have
a place in here. That was not original with me, because other
people in the industry had tried it.
MSN: I was grabbing for everything I could think of to improve the
quality, from the grapes in the field to the winery equipment to
handle it, and some support staff to help me do my job. Gradually
we started a turnaround of the product. We had to start item
by item by item. One man from the University of California once
came in here and told me, "You know, Myron, I had not been in
this plant in eighteen years and I don't think anybody else has
either from the university." It had lost the respect of a lot of
people in the Napa Valley.
I know my good friend down the road here, that I went to
school with, Louis P. Martini, told me one night when he was over
for dinner, "Myron, we're sure glad that somebody came into
Beringer and is trying to do something with the wine." I think a
lot of the wineries here in the valley felt that Beringer was sort
of a dead weight from a quality standpoint, because the image had
been down so far.
So I think that is probably the answer to your question: a
hell of a lot of work, a lot of hard work. It may not be hard work
so much as it is devotion and time, babysitting with the wine.
That's what it amounted to. I figured it was my neck, and I'd
better start going to work and really doing a job. That's what
I've tried to do.
I know they have very definitely brought your name forward in the
publications that the company puts out, and identified you with
the product, published the explanations of what you were doing as
Some of the notoriety I got when I first came here if I do sound
a bit pompous was due to personal effort. I really worked at
Cresta Blanca in trying to produce some wine. We got recognition
at the State Fair. Regardless of what you think of judging, the
State Fair was, in those days, a good judging. It was a good
sounding board. I got my share of medals out of that place in
competition with my dear friend Brother Tim down the road [Brother
Timothy, cellarmaster at Christian Brothers] . Then I came here and
tried to apply those practices that I'd used at Cresta Blanca,
which in turn I had learned from my first boss, Elbert Brown, and
my late friend, Herman Wente. So why not put them to practice?
Where did you come into contact with Herman Wente?
MSN: I had met the man several times going to Wine Institute meetings
before I went to Cresta Blanca. But it was after I went to
Cresta Blanca and he found out that Elbert Brown was my boss over
at Shewan-Jones and discovered the connection with the University
of California, that he and I really started getting acquainted.
Teiser: What connection with the University of California was that?
MSN: Herman and Brown, I think, were in the class of '14. I think that
was the class that Bill Cruess was in, too.*
Herman was a fine man as far as white wine was concerned. He
was tops in his day.
Teiser: He was said to be a very fine taster.
MSN: Very good, excellent, excellent. He had a good memory and that ' -
what it takes for a good taster. I don't know whether I'll ever
become a good taster or not!
*Dr. Cruess received the B.S. degree in 1911,
VIII CHANGES IN WINEMAKING AND GRAPE PLANTINGS
Innovations in Winemaking
MSN: A lot of the kids today get exposed to the basic principles of
winemaking, but, unfortunately, they're never drilled into them.
I think I got a few scars on my back, but some of the basic
principles that are in practice today, that I still use, are
things that I learned when I first went in the wine business in '44,
Teiser: I don't know if you've adapted other people's innovations, or if
you've made innovations of your own besides the botrytized wine?
MSN: I'll tell you, I probably have adapted a lot of other peoples'.
I'll be honest about that. I would have to do a lot of soul-
searching to actually come up with a percentage of some of the
ideas that I could say, "Actually, I'm the guy that started this,
and I'm the one who did this." I heard a man one time a few years
ago get up in San Francisco and attempt to tell a very learned
group that he was the first one to practice cold fermentations.
Actually, the first true cold fermentations in the state of
California were done by Pete [Peter] Mondavi right over here at
Charles Krug winery, with the help of Professor Bill Cruess.
You've got to give credit where credit is due. I did a lot of
work on sherry with Brown at Shewan-Jones . I did a lot of work on
barrel fermentations, and that's pretty widespread in the industry
now on whites, particularly on Chardonnays. Just how much of my
MSN: work you could call innovation, I don't know. For the most part I
think you'd have to say that it was based just on good application
of sound winemaking principles. If I saw a shortcut here or there
that I thought was better, why not try it? That goes all the way to
exposure of Cabernet skins to the juice after the fermentation for
various periods of time, to prolonged periods and short periods of
skin contact with whites, of which there are a million different
theories, as you know.
Teiser: Do any of these things ever get settled forever?
MSN: No, that's the thing about the wine industry. The wine industry
is so intriguing, particularly from a technical point. It's never
done, it's never finished, it's never complete. It is never going
to be built like this machine here. That'll stand its form for,
under the right environmental conditions, forever, but not the wine
industry. It changes in taste.
Sulfur Dioxide Theories
MSN: Some of the things that we're doing today in making wine were
unheard of even fifteen years ago. The use of sulfur dioxide, for
example. The basic theory on sulfur dioxide, of course, is that
it is a preservative and an anti-oxidant . Years and years ago, as
soon as you crushed the grapes you added SO. That was regardless
of the condition of the grape. Now we are finding out that maybe
you can crush the grapes without the use of SO if they're in
perfect condition, and then add the SO- to the juice after the juice
has been extracted from the skin. By following that procedure you
may eliminate chemical damage in the sense of certain bitter and
browning compounds, oxidative compounds, which you don't want.
Adding Stems during Fermentation
MSN: When I first went in the wine business there were theories like:
you should never crush red grapes and put stems in with them.
Well, we had to find out from the French people, and a good many
years ago, that with Pinot noir, for example, a certain percentage
of the stems thrown into the fermenting tank is desirable. Is this
because of flavor or is it because you want to add more tannin to
the wine, or what is it? These things are still being studied.
Cold Fermentat ions
MSN: Let's talk about Chardonnay, or white wines period. Even as late
as fifteen or twenty years ago, everybody thought that if you
fermented whites, you had to ferment them cold. Well, there's a
lot of different theories of cold fermentation. Your cold
fermentation might be 45 and mine might be 60 and hers might be
65. Basically, what we're talking about is somewhere between 55
and 60. That way, if you have a nice cold fermentation, you'll
hopefully preserve all these flavoring compounds in the grape.
Now, through some research which we've done here at Beringer
and other people have done at the suggestion of the University of
California I have to plug the University once in a while we have
found that in the fermentation of certain Chardonnays, we might
want to elevate that temperature up to 75. Back in the early
days when you were trying to keep must cool, we didn't have the
modern refrigeration that we have today. We depended on the well
water to run through coils and keep the must cool.
But the thing was that there was no consistency in the
operation. In other words, when you first started out in the
morning at five o'clock, the water from the well was very, very
cold. I can tell you in the middle of the afternoon, particularly
in the San Joaquin Valley, that water can get up to 80 and 85.
I've seen it right out of the taps at Fresno.
We have found, not every time but a lot of times, that in
these elevated fermentation temperatures on white wines, we get
better extraction of flavor. For example, we do a lot of barrel
fermentation, same as everybody else, on white wines, Chardonnay.
There's a difference in the wines that are fermented in barrels
more than just putting the wine into a barrel for aging, particularly
in whites. In the fermentation process, a lot more extraction goes
on. But the point is you don't have any coils in that barrel so
the temperature goes up to 70 and 75. If you told anybody that
fifteen or twenty years ago, they would have said you'd lose the
flavor. So who is to say what will happen a few years from now?
Protein Stabilization Theories
Teiser: What about the stabilization for bottling? Have there been
advances in that?
I don't think there have really been too many recent advances in
that. We still depend on refrigeration. I think we have to go
through that. We still have grapes that have a lot of protein
content, which produces a white curtain on the bottom of the bottle.
If anybody sees anything in the bottom of the wine bottle, you know
it just scares them to death they're going to get poisoned.
Tartrate crystals have often been mistaken for glass!
You said there are a lot of different theories on protein--
Oh, yes, a lot of theories on protein stabilization. Probably the
most prominent agent that's used for protein stabilization in
California white wines is bentonite, although there are other
compounds that are used, like combinations of gelatine and tannin.
Egg whites sometimes too?
Egg whites. You have to be careful there, too. You can drop from
the frying pan right back into the fire again with egg whites
sometimes. Cold stabilization, chilling: some wineries even go so
far as slushing*, which I don't believe in.
Problems with Ion Exchange Techniques
Ion exchange was a red hot deal about twenty-five years ago, and
there are still ion exchange units in this country. A lot of them
are used in the right manner, but the ion exchange system for
tartrate stabilization in this country, I think, really led to a
very close scrutiny of the salt content of California wines
particularly one down the road on the Peninsula that had some
sodium content of 1200 parts per million, because of the over-
exchange in the sodium exchange system. The Wine Institute, of
course, stepped onto that hot potato after the physician back in
North Carolina or South Carolina put out her famous publication
about sodium content of California wines.
There was also a study at San Francisco General Hospital.
Yes. Some of the wineries really just overdid it. In other words,
they lowered the potassium content far below what it should have
been because potassium, of course, is what hooks onto the tartrate
for the precipitation for tartrate. But they lowered it way down
to ground zero. If you had seven or eight hundred parts per
million, for example, instead of lowering the potassium maybe down
to four or five hundred parts, they were lowering it down to a
hundred parts. Well, that's the old theory, which is if one pound
is good, then two pounds is better.
*Slushing is when they take a wine and half freeze it. M.S.N.
MSN: One of the best wine clarifiers that the California wine industry
ever had was taken away because of the one pound-two pound theory:
potassium ferrocyanide, "blue fining." Some people got carried
away with it and somebody down on Beach Street picked up a bottle
of California dessert wine with a blue coloring in the bottom of
it and says, "Ho, what is this?" It didn't take Milton P. Duffy
[of the California State Department of Public Health] long to
figure that one out. That was a man who was a real champion for
our industry, too, along with a Food and Drug fellow by the name of
McKay McKinnon in San Francisco. But Milton P. Duffy was 'a real
champion for California wines.
Problems with Metal Contamination
MSN: But those were back in the days when we had a lot of copper and
iron pipelines to transport wine around wineries. We had copper
casse and iron casse problems (clouding) . Then we all went to
With stainless steel a lot of the wineries for a while had a
lot of hydrogen sulfides in their wines, which they never had when
they had redwood tanks with copper valves, because the wine, in
going through the copper, would precipitate out copper sulfides,
the sulfide ion. Sulfide isn't a big problem. We know how to
handle it. What we do now, if you have a sulfide problem, is add
in and this is according to federal regulations a small amount of
copper to precipitate it out. You're talking about parts of a
million, which is nothing to worry about health-wise.
But it shows you the contrast. Let's take all the copper
valves out now and then let's put in stainless steel. So you go
from one condition to another. Louis Martini, that's Louis Sr.,
used to say, "Okay, you guys take out all these copper valves,
you're going to have sulfide problems." By God, lo and behold, we
did. But we've overcome that. Today it's overcome by racking the
wines fairly early and getting them off of the gross lees. You can
age lees that'll settle out later but getting them off the gross
lees is-how you stop all this gaseous formation (hydrogen sulfide).
Teiser: About your plantings of your new vineyards here I should have
asked you earlier when you were discussing the vineyards are you
changing your varieties?
MSN: That is the biggest crapshoot in the world: trying to advise
somebody about what to plant. Do you eat white bread or brown
bread? How many times a week do you have white bread and do I have
brown bread? "Well, I'll tell you, Myron, I used to eat a lot of
white bread, but I got acquainted with this neighbor friend of mine
who had the best brown bread, and I've been eating brown bread now."
Maybe that's carrying the point a little bit too far, but this has
been the situation with grape planting.
Look at the Zinfandels. How many of them in the past have
been cut off and grafted over to whites? Now what do we do? We're
coming back to Zinfandels simply because we got the White Zinfandel
I used to say French Colombard was a good variety. French
Colombard is, I guess, the largest white variety planted in the
State of California today.
I think some of these varieties are going to be good pillars,
particularly the Chardonnay. Not because it's the nice thing to
talk about at the cocktail party or the wine party up on Nob Hill,
but because it's a good strong variety. A Cabernet's always going
to be a good strong variety. The Cabernet Sauvignon is the
strongest red varietal type that we have in this state, probably
one of the strongest red varietal types in the world. I'm comparing
that, for example, against Pinot noir, which you know you'll find
a great many variations of, in contrast to Cabernet Sauvignon.
Chenin blanc has been a hot number for years, but why has Chenin
blanc been a hot number? We sell a lot of Chenin blanc. Charles
Krug over here Pete Mondavi got a good reputation for Chenin
blanc. I think we make a pretty good Chenin blanc and a few other
Teiser: It was initially very high in residual sugar.
MSN: Yes, well, this is the point I'm trying to make: Was it really the
grape or was it the sugar? Because you're a sweet tooth, and so am
I. That's our native taste. I don't know whether that's what
popularized it, and what we have today is just a carry-over from
that, or not. If you ask somebody, "Do you make a sweet Chenin
blanc or a dry Chenin blanc?" they'll have to put their thinking cap
on to tell you how many wineries make dry Chenin blanc. I think
one of the things that carried the Chenin blanc into prominence was
the sweetness. I really do, because basically the grape per se,
compared to something like Sauvignon blanc, is really a very bland
type. I'm not saying it can't be fruity, but basically it's a
rather bland type.
Grape varieties are really a big question as to what you're
going to be drinking 25 years from now. I'll call you up when I
look down from the clouds and say, "What are you drinking?'-' and
you'll say, maybe, "Black Chablis." I'll say, "What's Black
Chablis?" I mean, this is crazy. First time I heard of White
Zinfandel, I have to tell you honestly as a wineman, I said "What
in the hell is a White Zinfandel? Either the grape's white or it's
red, or black, or whatever you want to call it. A White Zinfandel?
Who are you kidding?" [Brief interruption. Alice A. Nightingale,
his wife, comes in.]
Oh, good morning. Hi, Alice. This is Ruth Teiser and Lisa
Jacobson. [introductions are exchanged] Well, you're right on the
We were talking about grape varieties. We covered a lot of
subjects here. I think that would be about all I could say about
grape varieties. I think a lot of these things come and go. I can
remember when Muscat was a big thing, but now it's more known as a
blender than it is a type. It adds fruitiness to certain types.
People use maybe two or three percent Muscat in a lot of different
varieties to give the wine a fruity taste. People look for something
that's different. When you consider the number of labels, for
example, Chardonnay or Fume or Cabernet, that are on the shelf today
confusing the consumer, you wonder what separates them, what's the
Teiser: Have you done grafting over T-budding?
Teiser: Does it take in one year?
MSN: Yes, that's right.
Teiser: Does it work well?
MSN: Yes, it works pretty good.
Teiser: How about Callaway's experiment grafting white and black grapes
on the same vine?
MSN: No comment.
Teiser: Didn't try it?
MSN: Never tried that.
Teiser: But T-budding does work?
Teiser: Gives you a lot of flexibility in changing your mind?
MSN: Oh, sure. We had a lot of varieties when I first came here that we
grafted over. They had varieties planted here, for God's sake,
that only should have been planted in the San Joaquin Valley. For
example, Palominos. What do you do with a Palomino? You make
sherry out of it. Or I guess you could throw it into grape
concentrate. It's a very good sherry grape. They used to make
sherry here years and years and years ago, and maybe that's the
reason they had it, but certainly Palomino didn't have any place in
the Napa Valley 15 years ago or even 15 years before then.
IX DEVELOPMENT OF BOTRYTISED SEMILLON WINE
Teiser: Now that Mrs. Nightingale is with us, let's get to the Botrytis.
MSN: [addressing his wife] I'll tell you what. Why don't you sit over
here the microphone's right here. I've got to go out for a couple
of minutes. Ruth can question you on the Botrytis and you can give
her your side of the story. All right?
AAN: I'll do my best.
MSN: I could talk to these people all night, Alice.
[Mr. Nightingale leaves]
Teiser: How did the idea of the botrytised wine occur? Whose idea was it?
AAN: Dr. Klayton Nelson and Dr. Maynard Amerine over at UC Davis
suggested it. They happened to be personal friends of ours. At
the time that we started our work on Botrytis there were no
naturally sweet Sauterne-type wines like the famous Chateau
d'Yquem of France made in California. All of the sweet or medium-
sweet Sauterne-types in California at the time were made by using
either a sweet blending wine or a grape concentrate. There was no
naturally sweet Sauterne-type wine. So they suggested that maybe
it (Botrytised) could be done in California.
The first thing we did was go out in the vineyard and spray,
hoping that we could accomplish it there.
Teiser: How did you know what to spray? Where did you begin?
AAN: I went up to Davis for about six weeks and worked with Dr. Nelson,
whom we lovingly call Hank. He taught me all I needed to know as
far as transferring single spores of Botrytis, what to look for,
what it looked like because I didn't have the remotest idea of what
Botrytis cinerea looked like.
At time of second interview
March 10, 1987
Myron S. Nightingale
At time of second interview
March 10, 1987
Necessary Climatic Conditions
Teiser: Where do the original spores come from?
AAN: They come from the vineyard.
Teiser: They exist?
AAN: Yes, but only under the right climatic conditions. In California
we do not have the right climatic conditions for them to grow to
the extent that you can make a true botrytised wine from the
vineyard, except in certain areas and when we have a real wet year.
Teiser: Sometimes they get out of hand and cause spoilage, do they not?
AAN: True, if it goes too far. If the Botrytis is in a vineyard and
you don't pick those grapes soon enough, then you get what we call
bunch rot; the whole bunch just goes to rot and shatters.
Early Laboratory Experiments at Davis
I got my first culture of the fungus from [UC] Davis because
Dr. Nelson had been working with the preservation of table grapes in
cold storage. If Botrytis gets started in there, why, you can
imagine what happens. They lose everything. So he had been
working with it quite some time and that's the reason I went up and
worked with him in his lab.
We experimented for about six weeks until we finally came up
with the method that I now use. I've improved it over the years
and changed a lot of things. But basically it's still the same
method that we used in 1956.
Experiments at Cresta Blanca: Perfecting the Technique
We lived at the Cresta Blanca winery in Livermore when we started
this work, and I was in and out of the lab a lot. When they first
started the work, I wasn't involved. They were having a big
problem. They were trying to grow it on aluminum pizza plates,
putting it through an innoculation chamber, where you put your
hands in rubber gloves, and covering it with squares of just plain
windowpane glass. The only places they had to grow it were shelves
in a U shape around the room. The only light was just above.
AAN: They weren't having any luck; it was turning sterile, or mutant
stage, just the color of white paper. I don't know where I got
the idea, but I suggested to Myron, "Well, maybe it needs more light
to grow. Maybe it needs oxygen." So they broke match sticks and
propped up the glass plates, and then they got contamination. So
that's the reason I went to Davis. Myron called Dr. Nelson up at
Davis and said, "Alice has a couple of ideas, what do you think?"
He said, "Well, if you can convince your company to send her up
here for a few weeks, why, maybe we can work something out'." That's
how I got started.
Teiser: How did it work in actual winemaking practice? What were the steps?
AAN: I started out, every season, with a single spore transfer into tubes
of nutrient media, which I make with grape juice, water, and agar.
It takes ten to fourteen days at 65 to 68 Fahrenheit for one spore
to fill that test tube completely with growth. It sends out mycelium
and spores form on them, and then they send out more mycelium and
the little branches, until it fills the tube.
Once those tubes are full, I have one litre offset neck
culture bottles that I put the same nutrient media in. The neck is
covered with a cotton and gauze filter disk fastened with a rubber
band. It keeps out contamination and it also gives me the opportu
nity to innoculate right through that. It allows in oxygen which
the spore needs to grow.
I take about five of those tubes for, say, a hundred bottles
that I'm going to innoculate and, under sterile conditions, I wash
those spores off of those tubes into a flask of sterile water.
Then I have a hypodermic syringe with an uptake that I drop into
this flask to innoculate those hundred bottles. It takes another
ten to fourteen days for those bottles to become fully mature.
Once those are mature, I don't have to worry too much about
contamination. (Up to that point, you really have to worry about
contamination.) I just literally pull off those disks over the
neck and use a vacuum pump. A lot of this equipment I have to make
myself because there's none available. I have a series of three
flasks that I use for traps, and I have to spiral the glass tubing
so that I get a cyclone action throwing the spores down to the
bottom of the flask. Otherwise it's just like talcum powder: they
go poof right into the air.
The flasks are connected by tygon tubing to a little vacuum
wand, which I make out of glass tubing. I go in and just vacuum
the spores off the surface of the bottle. Then I weigh and stopper
the dry spores, and put them in the refrigerator at 43, and hold
them until the grapes are picked.
Once the grapes are picked, I take the dry spores and mix them with
water and a wetting agent to help hold them in suspension you have
to keep stirring it constantly. We then spray the grapes, which
are put on trays of 1/4" hardware cloth supported by a frame of
2" X 2"s when they are placed.
Does the timing of your whole operation depend particularly on the
ripeness of the grapes?
Well, we want the grapes at 23 to 24 degrees Brix when they're
Can you hold your material until they reach that?
Yes, I've held it for years.
E xp e riments with Freezing the Spores
I've been experimenting since 1980 since we've been doing it here
at Beringer with freezing the spores on agar. If you freeze the
dried spores, they don't seem to come back to life well enough, but
if you freeze them in the tubes or in the bottle on the agar, it
seems to work very well. I've been using those from year to year,
keeping some of the single spore tubes frozen. Then I have those
to start my next batch of spores.
[Mr. Nightingale returns]
Botrytis and Grape Varieties
Teiser: When you started this at Cresta Blanca, what grapes were you using?
AAN: Semillon, only Semillon.
Teiser: What are you using here now?
AAN: We're using Semillon and Sauvignon blanc.
Teiser: Do you think that makes a better wine?
AAN: We've kept it separate, I think, until after fermentation. In '81,
I guess it was, we started to blend half and half.
MSN: Eighty-four was all blended, but we lost that. The '85, we
blended both varieties.
Teiser: Do you do that on principle, or because of certain years or certain
MSN: It's just a basic arbitrary formula we've come up with. We feel
the Semillon and the Sauvignon blanc are very compatible as grape
varieties. This is what has been done in some of the famous
chateaus in Europe.
Teiser: Well, it's apparently a great success.
Natural Incidence of Botrytis
Teiser: Since then, there have been higher incidence of Botrytis occurring
naturally at the proper level in the vineyards, have there not?
MSN: Well, I'll tell you what happened, if you pardon me for a second.
When we started this work, people were not as conscious, I don't
think, about the Botrytis. A mold was a mold and rot was rot. As
Dr. [A. Dinsmoor] Webb at the University has said more than once,
maybe we didn't look far enough for the true Botrytis in the vine
yards. Maybe it took something like this work here that we have
done to trigger a better look. We do know that it does not occur
every year, the same as it doesn't occur every year in Europe*. We
have found it in some very surprising places, even including
But we didn't look hard enough. For example, nobody ever
probably really took a look at the Central Coast counties, the
Monterey area. Some nice botrytised wines have come out of there.
There have been some nice ones to come out of this area. Maybe we
didn't look hard enough or it was ignored. The only unfortunate
thing is that a lot of people have taken advantage of the word
"Botrytis" and tacked it onto labels where probably the only
Botrytis that the grapes ever saw or felt was that they were in this
winery here or somebody's winery, and a truck of grapes went down
the highway there that has some Botrytis on it.
That's another extreme: people not knowing about Botrytis, and
a lot of them still don't know about it, or what to expect or how
it grows, so when they see a shriveled grape they automatically say
*To produce sweet wines.
"Ah, Botrytis." Well, all you've got there is a raisin,
[laughter] But there's been some very fine botrytised wines made
in this state.
Blowing our own horn on this thing, Alice can pretty much
duplicate year in and year out. She has the spores ready which she
sprays on the fruit when the fruit's ready. After two weeks, they
are pressed and I crush and press the grapes and make the wine out
of them. This is the main advantage of it. Of course, it's a very
expensive way of going about it. It's been used primarily as a
public relations tool because to make enough to supply the fifty
states, I'd need another Nestle mountain of gold, probably, to do
it. The cost is prohibitive.
First Volume Produced at Cresta Blanca
When you first brought it out, as you mentioned earlier, it got
into the Congressional Record.
As I remember, there was an event put on around its release at the
That's right, at the Trade Center. Senator Kuchel was there. That
had to be in 1959, because '59 was the first bottling that we put out,
In fact, that bottle you've got over at the house is a '59,
Yes, it's one of the originals, with your signature on the back
That bottle has to be a '59 because we came out with it and Tony
Kahman was our marketing man then. Later, he went to work for the
Wine Institute. He is really the guy that helped the most with
botrytised wine for Cresta Blanca. He recognized a potential in
this thing as a PR tool.
I don't know, when a woman wakes you up at two o'clock in the
morning and wants to talk about Botrytis I don't know
You're supposed to have all the answers.
Grand Cru's Botrytised Gewilr ztraminer
MSN: You might tell her that we use some of the original equipment,
AAN: Yes, as a matter of fact, we're using the original trays that we
sprayed the grapes on at Cresta Blanca. Grand Cru bought them and
I went over and helped Bob [Robert L.] Magnani to do it one year.
This was before we started it here. In fact, the first year that
he decided to try to do it, he did not use the method that I do
with single sporing and so forth. He just did what we call a wash:
washing the spores off the bottle. And he was using Gewurtztraminer,
which is the grape that he had mostly and was his favorite grape.
Some people liked it, but it didn't sell too well. The main
problem there is that Gewurtztraminer is too spicey in contrast to
the one and only flavor that you get from Botrytis. I think that
was the reason.
But, anyway, after he gave it up we bought the trays from
him. This year we're going to get new trays.
Public Relations Efforts
AAN: It's a very expensive process. Like Myron was saying, we've
used it mainly here as a PR tool. Up until the flood last February,
I had a slide presentation that I used and gave lectures here and
there. It showed all of my laboratory work from the beginning,
starting with the single spore in the tubes to the picking of the
grapes, and so forth. Right on through the process of the infection,
how it takes effect during the period of ten to fourteen days, and
up to the pressing of the grapes and the juice going into the
container. Then, of course, Myron takes over and makes the wine.
Teiser: What happened in the flood?
AAN: Oh, we lost everything.
X THE CALIFORNIA WINE INDUSTRY IN THE 1980S
[Interview 3: March 10, 1987]////
Nestle 's Involvement in Self -Education about Wines
Jacobson: When Nestle first came in, you said they obviously didn't know
much about the wine industry and they gave you lots of room to do
as you saw fit. Did they try to educate themselves about the wine
industry ever, or did they always just stay out of it?
MSN: I think they were very much interested in educating themselves about
it. Three or four of the boys high up in the Nestle'' corporation
spent time at Davis, not attending classes but doing a lot of
auditing and talking to professors in the Department of Viticulture
and Enology. Also, in attempting to get better acquainted with wine
and to expose me and some of my associates to the wine industry
world-wide, they even promoted a trip to Europe. For a week or ten
days, we were traveling around Europe, visiting wineries in France
and then Germany.
I was there with them and in those areas where they were a
little gray, I tried to explain to them actually what was going on
to the best of my knowledge. Of course, there were some things that
some of the people were doing over there that I didn't understand,
also. I knew the general theory of most of it anyway. But they
were very much interested in getting in and seeing what really goes
on in the winery, from the grape itself out to the front door.
Nestle 's Investments in Wine Research
MSN: Another thing that they did when they came in the wine business was
to bring in engineers, chemists, and biochemists who worked with me,
One fellow, for example, spent a lot of time on the aging of wines
MSN: in wood. Another one spent a lot of time on centrifuging: the
separation of juice from some of the grape solids. This man was
right out of the research laboratory at Marysville, Ohio, which was
the Central Research Laboratory in the United States for the Nestle
company. They did a lot of work for us regarding use of wood, for
example, red oak, white oak, pine, beechwood, etc.
They also helped us out with a lot of things as far as
equipment was concerned. I mean, they had the engineers and they
had this huge library of information from their food plants all
over the world. It's one of the largest producers of food in the
universe. So there was a lot of information there which was
beneficial to us.
Educating Nestle about California Wines
MSN: At the same time, we were feeding them information about wines and
acquainting these people with different grape varieties. I made
several trips east in the formative years of this company after
Nestle* took it over to do this very thing, to show them that there
were differences in California wine.
You have to remember one thing: the Nestle Corporation is a
foreign corporation, very much oriented for the imports, for the
French wines and German wines. That was their background. So they
were judging by what they did in Europe and the way the wines tasted
over there. It took a long time to convince them that we had our
product that we made from our grapes, and the French had theirs
that they make. However, the pattern is still there to the extent
that we still make use of enologists from France which the Nestle''
Corporation sends over here to advise us, or help us, in our
So you say, "Now that's kind of contradictory." But in a
sense it isn't, because it comes back to what I mentioned in an
earlier interview. There are so many California labels today, the
competition is so rough out there, that if there's just one little
thing that we could pick up that would make our wine more desirable
than yours, we're going to jump onto that. That's the way the Nestle'
Teiser: They offer advice, but don't insist?
MSN: That's right.
Knowledge of Winemaking in the Big Corporations
It strikes me that there must be a contrast between them and the
earlier round of national spirits companies that came into the wine
industry, who didn't understand the wine business and wanted to
tell rather than learn.
This is true because they were looking at it from the straight
alcohol point of view, as I call it. It was a commodity to sell.
Most of them had come out of the spirits field and they thought,
"Well, this is the way we sell the spirits, this is the way we make
them. We know what the people like." Actually, all it amounted to
was a continuation of old-time methods and procedures in wine types:
the Sauternes, the burgundy, the ports, the sherries, the muscatels,
or whatever you want. Because, as you know, back in those days
there was a great preponderance of dessert wines.
Contrast that with somebody like the Nestle" people or other
big corporations that have come into this industry since those days.
They are more interested in things like, What makes a Chardonnay
more appealing to the consumer? What is the difference between a
barrel-fermented and a non-barrel-fermented Chardonnay? Forty
years ago those people didn't give a hoot.
I've heard stories about national companies requesting that a winery
send them, say, two thousand cases of a particular vintage, not
understanding that wine isn't produced the way spirits are. Is
I think a lot of that was occurring in the early days of some of
these big companies. One I know of was running wine in the back
door, and it was going out the front door by the gallons to such an
extent that it was far more than the yield from the grapes or the
area from which it was supposed to be coming. I'm talking
specifically about Cresta Blanca.
I know and was told when I went to Cresta Blanca in '53 that a
lot of wines in the past had come in that winery, not just from the
Livermore Valley, but also from around Elk Grove.
I guess there's a lot of people who assume the holier-than-thou
attitude on a lot of these things, but there's been a lot of
monkeyshines that have gone on in the industry.
Movement of Wine in Bulk
Teiser: I think one thing the public doesn't understand, and maybe the
industry doesn't want to explain either, is that as a matter of
fact a fair amount of wine passes from winery to winery.
MSN: Yes, that's quite true. There's an awful lot of exchange. I was
going to say that it's more prevalent among wineries in the Central
Valley, but that isn't true because there's an awful lot of that
going on in the North Coast and Central Coast. The reason for it
is simply that some wineries don't have a market for their product,
or haven't established one, and they can't sell it. There's
nobody out there with a big horn screaming at the people.
We've bought an awful lot of White Zinfandel and we've bought
an awful lot of Pinot noir from North Coast wineries. We can't put
them out in the estate bottle, but we can put it out under a Napa
Valley or North Coast label because we process it and handle it.
There's an awful lot of that going on. You can't go down the
road and know that each bottle you buy out there is wine representing
that individual winery. It may seem that way because of the
workings of a winery, but you could not get on the podium and swear
that this wine came out of X winery, period. Because if you dug
into the records, you may find that some of it came from Beringer
and some of it came from Robert Mondavi.
Maintaining Continuity of Quality
Teiser: That's where the blender, or whoever is in control of bottling,
comes in, isn't it?
MSN: That's where he comes in. That's where he makes the money, and
that's where you'd better have somebody that knows what they're
doing. You're into that market so that you can have a continuity
of quality that's the key word, the continuity of quality. That's
something that I've always stressed. Some wineries will buy a little
quantity of three and four thousand gallons and put them together.
I try to shy away from that because you can get into trouble pretty
fast. If I'm dealing with your winery and your winery, and making
a blend, and I've got five thousand gallons and I need another ten
of such a wine, I'd prefer to buy that in maybe a four -and -a -six
thousand -gallon quantity because you can get a better representation.
Teiser: Consistency in quality is one of the things that the Gallos have
told a lot of their people.
MSN: That's the whole thing.
Teiser: I don't suppose they invented it, but .
MSN: They've done a good job at it with their dry wines, I'll tell you
that. They put out some bummers the same as the rest of us, but I
think those people have done a fantastic job. Absolutely fantastic
considering the volume of wine that they handle. When you think of
the hundreds of millions of gallons.
The Wine Industry: A Risky Business
Teiser: Has it ever occurred to you to have a vineyard of your own, or a
MSN: I never had any desire for that. I guess maybe I didn't have the
nerve to do it . I came into the wine business when I saw a lot of
growers going to the bank every other day trying to renew their
loan. I saw a lot of winery failures, and quite frankly, I just
never had the guts to get into that sort of thing. I had a couple
opportunities, but I backed out of it.
But some people feel the risk is worth it. That has been
said by people that have money and people that don't have money.
A lot of people have gone out here and established little wineries
and struggled along, and finally made a go of it. They'll never
get rich. They might make expenses, some of them. On the other
hand, you have people that have come out of the city, or wherever
it may be, with a lot of money, and built a big home, built a
winery just to have their name on the place. You know, if you've
got it, why not flaunt it. Maybe that's your attitude.
Teiser: Was it Andre Tchelistchef f who said the way to make a small fortune
in the wine industry is to start with a large fortune?
MSN: Yes, and he's 100.1 percent right.
[Mr. Nightingale gets a pamphlet]
Teiser: This is titled "California Wine Outlook." It is a Bank of America
September 1973 publication.
MSN: There's some very interesting reading in there.
Teiser: Its over-optimism was one of the factors, however, in the oversupply
of wine, wasn't it?
MSN: Yes, that's right. That's exactly right. They made some
projections, and Myron Nightingale went down to the bank and he
borrowed a hell of a lot of money. Then he went to another expert
and asked what kind of grapes he should plant, and he planted the
grapes. But the expert he went to, to find out where to plant them,
gave him the wrong dope, so he planted them in the wrong place. An
awful lot of that's gone on.
This [report] is something I've always kept. When somebody
starts yelling at me about wine, I haul that out and throw it at
Teiser: Wells Fargo published another in much the same tenor.
MSN: Well, don't misunderstand me. I don't mean to be a pessimist about
this business, and I guess that's what I sound like, because it's
been my lifeblood for over forty years. I've had a good living on
it. I've raised my family, I've done a lot of nice things, I've
lived comfortably. I wouldn't trade it for anything. All I'm
saying is that it takes a hell of a lot of money and a lot of guts
to go into the wine business. If you can do that and suffer through
it, maybe you might get there, but I wouldn't want to start in the
wine business under-capitalized in today's market. Or even fifteen
or twenty years ago!
Teiser: Joe Heitz, I guess, did about that, twenty-five years ago.
MSN: That's right, and he did a lot of personal hype. In all due respect
to Mr. Heitz, that's what it takes.
XI WORK AS BERINGER CONSULTANT, 1983-PRESENT
Teiser: I should ask you now to explain a little more about what your
activities have been since your so-called retirement.
MSN: I guess they've been pretty much the same as they were before. I
don't have the active participation that I once had. My
responsibilities are a lot smaller. In fact, I do pretty much as
I please. If they need me for something, why, I'm here to help them.
If they don't need me, then they don't come to me and I don't go
looking for trouble not at this stage of the game, I don't.
Teiser: Do you taste?
MSN: Yes, I taste regularly. I enjoy doing that, but to me, that isn't
work. I taste any amount I want to, when I want to. If they're
having a tasting in the back room over there and they invite me to
participate in that tasting, then I go. Sometimes I don't go; it
depends on the tasting, what they're trying to do or find out.
Besides that I oversee some of the brands a little bit and the
buying of outside wines, which I look at and have files on and make
recommendations on to the company. Of course, they have their own
winemaster, Ed Sbragia, and then they have Dave Schlottman, who is
his assistant. I confer with them on wines that they're buying or
should be buying. They'll bring wines in to me and say, "What do
you think of this?" as far as quality is concerned or price or
whatever for what we're trying to do.
We have actually three lines now. We have the Beringer line,
then we have this Napa Ridge line, and the Los Hermanos. So we
can't possible grow all the grapes for that. Los Hermanos, as I've
told you, is primarily San Joaquin Valley, and Napa Ridge is all
North Coast, but 90 percent of those wines are bought. I participate
in that program quite a bit, and the public relations trips once in
You didn't go to the Monterey Wine Festival just now, did you?
No, I did not. But I do pretty much as I please. [laughs] It's
a nice set-up.
Teiser: Maybe you earned it.
Evaluation of Career with Beringer
1 feel that I have put in some time. I feel that I have made a
few contributions to the company. I get a great deal of satisfaction
when I look around me and realize what I had the first day I walked
in this place. I was really scared. God, I was scared even at that
age. But I was in it, and it's just like you doing something,
"Well, I got myself in here and now I've got to work myself out of
it." Or you take the easy alternative and say, "Forget it." But
I guess I've got enough German blood in me that's stubborn enough
to say, "Okay, look, I've accepted this challenge and, by God, I'm
going to do it." That's what I tried to do.
Oh, I stubbed my toe a few times; we all do. But what a life
it's been here for me! I mean, when I look back at what Beringer
has done for me and what the Nestle' people have done for me, and
compared to my former employer, there's no comparison. Absolutely
no comparison. In fact, I tell you quite honestly, when I first
came to Beringer in '71 after working for Schenley for eighteen
years, I really didn't know how to act the first six months because
I was so used to having ten people on my back and actually working
under a cloud of fear all the time. That's what it was. Schenley
is probably the greatest high-pressure machine that I ever worked
for in my life. You were constantly under vigilence in a sense.
Or, at least, you felt that way.
But you had big responsibilities?
Yes, I had some big responsibilities, but I don't think their
treatment of a lot of their employees was conducive to growth in
the wine industry.
Is it your feeling that other large companies today have that same
I think that pressure exists in some of those other companies today,
particularly a couple of the big distillers. Some of these other
companies, regardless of what they are, came in this business
during the last twenty years and they're gone now. Some of those
MSN: plants have had two or three owners since. I don't know what
we did to the Nestle people, but they came in here and they stuck
Teiser: Maybe you gave them good wine.
MSN: That might have something to do with it.
XII INDUSTRY ACTIVITIES
Technical Advisory Committee
Teiser: I'd like to ask you about your industry activities. You were
chairman of the Technical Advisory Committee of the Wine Institute.
That was a very active committee, was it not?
MSN: Oh, yes. The Wine Institute Technical Advisory Committee in its
original form forty-some years ago was a sounding board for the
industry. They met about every two or three months. Everything
from metals in wines to protein to waste disposal to fill heights,
you name it, came up in those meetings. Everybody got a chance to
sound off. The committee meetings were usually held in the city of
San Francisco, till they started moving around in later years.
It was a very influential committee in that it covered so
many subjects that were of interest to a young industry. Just
think how long Prohibition had been out the window: not too very
long. I mean, in the forties we were still having problems with
copper and iron in the wineries, how to get rid of those metals in
the wine. What was the best method of transferring wine? Was it
aluminum pipes, stainless steel, or, if you were rich and had a
mountain of gold, pyrex glass? The committee was influential, not
that it came down and said, "This is the way it's gotta be, bing,
bing, bing." But here was a real source of a lot of information.
I was actually sorry to see the bust-up of the committee in
its original form.
Teiser: Let me ask you if the late Hugh Cook was involved in it.
MSN: Oh, yes, very much so.
Teiser: He's kind of forgotten now.
He was a real bird dog when it came to getting things done and
getting things into committee. He was a very important man in the
Wine Institute. Dan Turrentine, who was later to become chairman
of the Wine Advisory Board, was succeeded by Hugh Cook. I don't
know how many years Hugh Cook ran the Technical Advisory Committee,
because he's the one who organized the programs. He would call
people, "Will you give a paper on this and will you do this?"
He was the one who held that committee together.
Hugh not only did that. He was involved in a lot of other
committees of the Wine Institute, but he was a hell of a good man
on the Technical Advisory Committee.
Did the Technical Advisory Committee go from informal comments to
Was it always papers from the beginning?
Yes, informal papers. Nothing like the articles that appear in the
American Society of Enology journal or anything like that. Just
primarily informal comments.
As problems came up, people gave papers on them?
Yes. Maybe I'd call on you to give a paper on tartrate deposition
in wines, or on whether you should chill wine and how you should
chill it. It may be a two- or three-page paper, but they were a
lot of generalities and information that you could take home.
Did you discuss them in the meetings?
Oh, yes. We had some very interesting discussions on occasion.
Offshoots of the Technical Advisory Committee meeting in its
original form are the regional meetings of various wine chemists'
groups, which are still in existence. They have one here in the
Napa Valley, and I'm sure there's one at least or two in the
San Joaquin Valley. There used to be one in Lodi, one in the
Fresno area. A lot of those studies were similar to the discussions
that went on in the Technical Advisory Committee. Those were
informal meetings, usually preceded by a dinner, and then the
chairman would say, "Well, we got so-and-so here to discuss such-
and-such for us." It might be somebody from a paper company,
Zellerbach, or it might be somebody from a chemical company. Those
meetings were good.
Were you active in other aspects of the Wine Institute?
MSN: Not an awful lot. TAG was the main thing. In fact, I'm still a
member of the TAG in its present form. I was a member of the
Exhibits Committee for a long time. I was never chairman of that
American Society of Enologists (ASEV)
Teiser: You were then active in the ASE, now the ASEV, the American
Society for Enology and Viticulture?
MSN: I was a member of the Enology Committee or Viticulture Committee,
and we tasted new grape varieties being developed by Professor
[Harold P.] Olmo over at Davis. I did a lot of that work for
several years with committee members. It was very interesting
because you had crosses of Cabernet and Grenache, and some other
things that Olmo dreamed up. Some of them are in use today,
particularly down in San Joaquin Valley.
MSN: One thing I've always been sorry about was that I never went
to the charter meeting in '49 or '50 at the Hotel Wolf in Stockton.
But one thing I have to cling on to is 'that Charles Holden, who
was the founder of the American Society of Enologists, came up to
Cloverdale, prior to that meeting, when I was working for Italian
Swiss Colony. I remember very distinctly his particular visit,
because we went out in my kitchen and we sat there in that kitchen.
I don't remember whether we had wine or brandy, or whether we had
anything. The important thing to remember is that a lot of the
basics that went into the founding of the American Society of
Enologists were done right up there in that kitchen in Cloverdale.
That's something that I shall never forget.
When Charles Holden left my house, I says, "Well, I'll be
there. Ir Unfortunately, the man I was working for at the Italian
Swiss Colony the day of that meeting was in Stockton, and he
decided that I should stay there and take care of business rather
than running around at some crazy meeting. You would know the name
if I mentioned it, but for the sake of this discussion I won't
Then about 1953-54, I got into the ASE as, among other things,
treasurer. I was treasurer for several years. All that amounted
to in those days was sending out notices on the annual dues,
which I think was $10 or $15 a year. Of course, now it's $45 a
year. Everything goes up. Then in '61 or '62,1 was president.
What was going on when you were president? Anything special?
I don't remember anything really outstanding. What I do remember
about those early ASE meetings was the family atmosphere about
them, because they were very small get-togethers. They were
really enlarged Technical Advisory Committee meetings. Some of the
first ones were held over at Davis, and they had just a few
exhibits, maybe a filter and a pump in the hallway of the enology
building. Then there were the lectures on the campus. It was a
very small operation, but a good operation.
I remember one year we had a convention up at Hoberg's when I
was president. We had somewhere between three and five hundred
people. Boy, I'm telling you, we thought we had arrived!
What's happened since? Does the president go on being active?
No, what happens is you start through the chairs as a second
vice-president. His job primarily is arranging for exhibits.
Then the first vice-president's job is arranging for papers. The
president's job, of course, is general management of the organization.
In those days, and I don't think it's a policy any longer,
following your year as president of the organization, many would
serve a year as chairman of the policy committee, sort of an
advisory board to the president, which had three or four people.
I was chairman of that for a year.
Research and Promotional Activities
MSN: After that, my connections with the society were not in official
positions. I did a lot of work for the society on a lot of different
Teiser: Research, you mean?
Some of it was research, but basically it was organizing: attempting
to get people to come to the meetings and promoting the society.
We have now over two thousand people who come to those conventions.
Where before you met people down in the lobby and you knew
everybody that was there, today you walk into the lobby and it's
a fight over who got what room and why didn't I get that room and
that sort of thing. [laughs]
You have massive exhibits, don't you?
Oh, yes. They charge quite a fee for those exhibits, but the money
goes for a good cause. The society has come an awful long ways.
I mean, we didn't even have a budget to work on when it came to
putting on a reception for the president in those early years. We
just didn't have the reception. I had a reception up at Hoberg's
when I was the president. I threw it myself in a little room.
There were twenty-five people. Now the president has a great big
We contribute a lot of money to scholarships and other areas.
This American Vineyard Foundation, they contribute money to that.
Teiser: They have an ongoing publication.
MSN: Oh, yes, they have a journal which has gotten world-wide notoriety.
Name Change to Include Viticulture
Teiser: They say they changed the name to include viticulture, but didn't
the organization itself always include viticulture?
MSN: In the very early years it was a lot more enology than it was
viticulture. There were very few papers on viticulture. Then, as
it went on and became older, the tide turned the other way to
where there's a preponderance now of viticulture. Some of the
viticulturists in this society said, "We want some recognition here,
too, and we want a magazine that we can publish our viticulture
articles in that's recognized." So, all of a sudden a few years
back, they changed the name to the American Society for Enology and
ASEV Merit Award
They gave me my plaque last year for which I'm very proud. I
waited a long time for that.
It's an award of merit, is it not?
Yes, it's a merit award.
They give one a year?
Yes. I don't know who won it this year. I haven't seen any
announcements on it yet.
I was about to ask you about the changes since you entered the
industry. I think you've explained them as you've gone along, so
I think I've asked all the questions I can think of. How about
Just ask me why I'm not a millionaire. [laughter]
Establishing Principles of Quality in Winemaking
Jacobson: How would you assess your major contributions to Beringer?
My major contributions to Beringer would be that I established a
winery with respect. By that, I mean it was the rebirth of a winery
that at one time had a fine name in the Napa Valley. If you go
down and look at the wine menus at the Palace Hotel in 1897 or '98,
I think you'll find testimony there as to where Beringer has been.
I established, hopefully, basic principles of quality, basic
principles for continuing the quality. I hate to keep coming back
to that, but I feel very strongly about it. I don't think it's
enough to make a good wine one year. I don't think it's enough to
make a good wine two years, or five years, or ten years. I want to
make a good wine as long as I can and as consistent as I can. I
think that's not unique to me. A lot of the other younger winemakers
have adopted that philosophy.
Because if you are to taste wines today, a block say of white
wine, regardless of the type, compared to those same wines 25 years
ago, you'd find a tremendous difference. You don't have those
peaks and valleys in quality.
MSN: So, summarizing, I would have to say that my strongest contribution
has been applying good strong basic winemaking principles that will
assure, hopefully, the quality of Beringer wines for a long time to
come. I think that's it in a nutshell. I don't think I'll ever
make an Opus One, but that's something else again. [laughs]
Teiser: We're about to have more released now.
MSN: You know, we laugh about those things, but let's give the man his
just dues. I have the highest respect for Robert Mondavi.' I'm
sure that he may have some opinions about me, and I'm sure that I
have some personal opinions about him, too, but he and I are in the
same business along with a lot of other people, and I think he's
done a hell of a good job. Not only for the Robert Mondavi people,
but he's done a good job for bringing attention to the California
I get a bit irritated with some individuals in this industry
for some of their hype, but I'll close by saying what Barnum
said: "There's one born every minute." [laughter]
Transcriber: Anne Schofield
Final Typist: L. G. Dunlap
Interview 1: February 24, 1987 1
tape 1, side A 1
tape 1, side B 11
tape 2, side A 21
Interview 2: March 3, 1987 30
tape 2, side B 30
tape 3, side A 41
tape 3, side B 51
tape 4, side A 61
Interview 3: March 10, 1987 63
tape 5, side A 63
tape 5, side B 73
THE NAPA REGISTER
April 19, 1984
Long road for winemaker,
of help from wife
By STAN VAUGHN
Register Stall Writer
ST" HELENA After 40 years in
the business, winemaker Myron
Nightingale is finally getting the
industry recognition he deserves for
producing fine California wines. But
to Alice Nightingale, his wife of
nearly 43 years, there's never been
any doubt about his talent.
The two have been true partners
through the years, whether it's been
keeping late hours at a winery
during harvest time, raising their
three sons, experimenting in new
winemaking techniques or sitting on
a houseboat trying to hook a trout.
The Nightingales are a team.
Myron Nightingale took the job as
winemaster at Bennger Vineyards
in 1971 and. after re-estat)lishing the
winery as one of the premier pro
ducers in the Napa Valley, he has
retired and taken the title of wine-
master emeritus. That doesn't
mean, however, that he is slowing
Myron graduated from UC Berke
ley in 1941 with a degree in bacter
iology He and .-Thee met and mar
ried in Lindsay while he was work
ing in an olive plant. From there
they moved to Southern California,
where Myron worked making citrus
concentrates for the British and
It was in 1944 that he became a
winemaker, going to work in Lodi
for the Shewan and Jones winery.
He moved to Asti in 1949, working as
a wine chemist for Italian Swiss
Colony, and in 1953 the Nightingales
moved to Livermore and the Cresta
Blanca Wine Co. Then it was a move
to Fresno in the early 1960s and
almost back to Lodi when the oppor
tunity at Beringer came along.
"The late Harry SfV'SJi'hn wiv
president of Wine Institute at the'
lime, steered me toward Beringer
Brothers." Myron recalled one re
cent afternoon. Nestle, the giant
Swiss food products company, had
(Continued on F3 2)
"NIGHTINGALE" is Beringer's
name for the botrytlied Semillon
wine that Winemafter Myron
Nightingale and nil wife, Alice,
have been producing at the St.
Helena winery since I960. The
Nightingales have worked hand-in-
hand on the project for many yean,
starting in the 1950s when Myron
worked for the Cresta Blanca win
ery in Livermore. The wine, made
in the style of a French Sauterne. is
produced in very limited quantities.
One of Nightingale'] early effort!
with the wine, while at Cresta
Blanca, was picked ahead of the
famed Chateau d'Yquem. (Register
photo by Bob McKennei
Rare birds of valley wine industry
I Continued from Page 1)
jus: purchased Bennger and, after
one interview. Myron was hired.
"It was kind of a dream come true
for both of us because we always
wanted to move up here to the Napa
Valley." said Myron. "We had a lot
of friends up here."
The opportunities that have been
presented to me here at Bennger
over the last 13 years have, in a
sense, really been undreamed of.
For the first time in all the years I
had been in this business. I really
got the tools i wanted to work with.
Stainless steel, refrigeration.
French oak barrels, those sorts of
Of course, there was a time when
Myron thought he had made a mis
take in taking the job.
"When Alice and I first came
here, we walked into the lab and I
took one look at the setup and
thought: 'Nightingale, you really
blew it this time, because things
had. for one reason or another, gone
"Basically, what Nestle bought
was a small vineyard, which we
have now enlarged considerably, up
over 2,000 acres, a beautiful place
and a label they felt could be
brought back to the prestige it once
had." said Myron
"So, that has been the goal, my
goal, these past 13 years, to re
establish again the prestige of Ber-
inger. And, I think we have done it,"
he said with pride. ' I think we have
made some inroads in quality and
have made some people stand up
and take notice.
"1 told them when I first came
here it would take me about 10 years
to turn the corner, really turn the
corner, and that's just about what It
took We had to get rid of a lot of old
wine, a lot of old equipment and put
in new equipment and a helluva lot
of hard work." Myron said.
It was in 1980. he believes, "that
our wines had come into full bloom,
and we ve made improvements in
other areas since then."
It was that year that Myron re
leased his first "Private Reserves,"
a 1977 Lemmon Ranch Cabernet
bauvignon and a 1978 Chardonnay.
Both received gold medals at the
Orange County Fair that year. A
long list of gold medals has been
awarded Beringer wines since, and
in 1983 Myron was honored with the
President s Award by the Los Ange
les County Fair. The award reads:
"To Myron S. Nightingale for hi*
incalcuable contributions to Califor
nia and her wines."
It was also in 1980 that Myron and
Alice were able to revive some
research they had started a years
before while at Cresta Blanca, mak
ing a botrytized sermllon a sau-
"We started on the work in 1956-57
and the first bottling occured In
1959. The significance is that, prior
to that, California sautemes, so-
called sauternes, you don't even see
them on the market now, that label
has disappeared, was that as far as
sweet sautemes in California prior
to that time had all been made by
taking dry white wine, adding some
sort of a concentrate and making
them sweet." explained Myron.
The process the Nightingales use
is unique in the world. While other
wmemakers let natural conditions
help produce a botrytis, sometimes
called "Late Harvest," wine, the
Nightingales make theirs by hand.
Botrytis cinerea is a natural mold
on grapes which flourishes in damp
weather The spores pierce the skin
of the grapes, allowing the water to
escape, while the sugar content and
natural flavors concentrate and in
The Nightingales don't wait for
Mother Nature. Alice cultivates the
spores through! the summer
months, then when the grapes are
harvested in the fall, the spores are
mixed with water and the solution is
sprayed on the fruit. A plastic
covering then creates the proper
humidity needed and, 38 hours later,
the fruit is infected with what is
called in France "the noble mold."
"It's very tedious," Alice said,
explaining her lab work. She picks
just the right strain of spores,
working with a transfer needle with
a knife edge and a microscope that
enlarges the spores 700 times. It
takes several weeks for the spores
to grow. They are then harvested
from the culture bottles and stored
until the grape harvest.
"This occurs in the vineyards,
throughout the world," said Myron.
"I think one of the nicest ones that
has naturally occured in the vine
yards I ve seen was made by Chuck
Carpy at Freemark Abbey in 1973.
He called it Edelwine. But, it's only
in certain years that we have these
conditions of moisture and relatively
cool, dry weather afterwards, that
the fruit can become infected like
One reason that we are doing It
by this method," explained Alice,
"is that we can produce this wine
year after year, and we also get 100
percent infection, and you can't get
that in the vineyard. Also, the
bunches of grapes that we pick are
checked to make sure there are no
other infections, molds, not even
botrytis. that comes in from the
vineyard So I have perfectly sound
fruit when it is sprayed, and by this
we can get 100 percent of our
perfect strain of pbtrvtis and 100
The wine they made with this
method at Cresta Blanca was called
Premiere Semillon, and in one tast
ing it was picked over a Chateau
d Yquem. which is considered one of
the finest sauterne producers in
"It was really a breakthrough,"
Myron said of the results of that
early experimentation "What this
thing did, even more than making a
special wine, was it showed even in
that early day, the rest of the world
that we really could produce fine
wines out of California, that would
draw attention to California wines.
Beringer s botrytis semillon is
simple called "Nightingale." Alice
said after 40 years in the wine
industry, "We are very priviledged,
we feel, that they named it after
The wine retails for about S3S per
bottle, "and I'll tell you quite
frankly I won t pay S35 for a bottle
of wine." said Myron. "But if you
are in the right atmosphere, and
you've got the money to do it, you
might be tempted to try it.
"Some time. when you get the
King of England and the Queen of
Spam together, or whoever, and you
want to put on an air. you really
have, if you'll pardon my saying so.
something special there." Myron
said of the Nightingale "It's more
than something marked 'private re
Now. just as they did in the early
i Jiunurd oft Page Ii
(Continued from Pace 2i
days of their marriage. Mice and
Myron enjoy their time together
The fact that much of that time a
wine related doesn't bother either
"We've always talked business at
home. Alice said. "Unlike a lot of
my friends in the wine business. I've
never objected to shop talk at home.
because to me its a fascinating
business In fact, I've threatened
him with divorce a number of times
if he ever got out of the business,
because 1 enjoy it so much." she
said with mock threatening ster-
She has been almost as involved in
the business as her husband, but
without the formal education. Alice
married Myron right after high
school, yet her research papers on
botrytis are studied by enology stu
dents at UC Davis.
"I've always had my nose in
around the winery." Alice said,
recalling those early days in Lodi
when they actually lived in the scale
house at the winery.
"We had workers that worked all
through the night, and 1 always was
out at 2 or 3 o'clock in the morning,
taking them sandwiches and coffee,
and soforth. If we went out for an
evening, we didn t dare go to bed
before we checked all the open
fermenters. and that ment climbing
The Nightingales have come a
long way since those early days.
Myron points to the technological
changes that have come, especially
in the past 20 years, in the use of
fermentation, refrigeration, stain
less steel tanks, and the use of
French oak barrels. And. he believes
Napa Valley vintners are leading the
way in the use of technology.
"You have two things going In the
Napa Valley The first thing is the
premier grape growing area of
America is right here in the Napa
Valley Believe me. 1 think 1 can say
that with some qualification, be
cause I have worked in Sonoma,
have dealt with grapes from Sacra
mento to Bakersfield. and I have
dealt with grapes along the Central
Coast Santa Barbara. Santa
Maria, San Luis Obispo - I've dealt
with them all
Because of the reputation the
Napa Valley has for fine wine, there
has been a concentration of technol
ogy, science. There is more em
phasis on up-to-date technology here
in the Napa Valley than any other
part of the state, and I think that's
what sets us apart technology and
He's not slighting the other wine
regions of California when he neaps
praise on the Napa Valley. "The
white wines the San Joaquin Valley
is turning out today for jug wines
Beringer s Los Hermanos jug
wines come from grapes grown
between Bakersfield and Lodi) are
the best in the world."
His work schedule has been cut
back somewhat at Beringer. but he
hasn t lost his interest.
"The blowtorch is off the back of
my head." he said. "I still, for the
next two years, will be putting in a
pretty full week. I think when I
really, really relax will be the day I
no longer can go fishing.
"The wine business is my life
blood, and I want to keep active in
it. But. you have to look at the young
people coming along, because you
are no better than the man behind
you. My role will be as an advisor.
We have to give way to youth
because they will be the winemakers
of the future. That's what my boss
told me 40 years ago.
But, I'll tell you one thing. I've
still got a lot of anvils in my right
arm and, if I see a mistake, I'm
going to drop the damn thing,"
leaving little doubt that bis pride in
Beringer will not wane.
FOR 40 YEARS, wlnef have played an Important part In the
lives of Alice and Myron Nightingale, above. Myron has been the
winemaker all that time the past 13 years at Beringer but
Alice's interest has been more than just a wifely curiosity. She
has worked side-by-side with her husband in developing a
botrytlsed Semillon wine that has been compared favorably to the
famed Sauternes of the French Chateau d'Yquem. Retiring
earlier this year, Myron it now the "Winemaster Emeritus" at
Beringer. The Nightingales are pictured above in the Beringer
lab. (Register photo by Bob McKcnzie)
INDEX -- Myron S. Nightingale
Almaden, 36, 38
American Society of Enologists, 74-76
American Society for Enology and
Viticulture, 74, 76-77
American Vineyard Foundation, 76
Amerine, Maynard A. 10, 11, 56
Appert, Nicholas, 8
Bank of America, 67-68
Harrington Hall, 3
Bear Creek Vineyard Association, 23
Beringer Vineyards, 27, 36, 38-55,
Beringer label, 42, 43, 44, 69
Beringer family, 45
Bioletti, Frederic, 12
Blangsted, Sara, 6-7
"blue fining," 52
brandy, 14, 16-17, 26
Bras, Bob, 39
Bronco Wine Company, 44
Brown, Elbert M. , 14-16, 10, 22, 24,
25, 46, 47, 48
Caddow, Harry, 15
California State Fair, 46
Camp Marvedel, 3
Civilian Conservation Corps, 2-3
Community Grape Corporation, 23
Concannon winery, 35
Cook, Hugh, 72-73
cooperage, 40, 41-42, 45
Coppo, Bartolomeo, 28-29
Coppo, Joe, 28
Coppo, Louis, 28
Crawford, CharleSj 9, 12
Cresta Blanca label, 18
Cresta Blanca winery, 32-35, 46, 47,
57-58, 61-62, 65
Cruess, William Vere, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8,
10, 11, 12, 48
Davis, Doug, 22
Davis, Jill, 22
Del Rio Winery, 23
Delicate Vineyards, 44
Duffy, Milton P. , 52
East Side Winery, 23
fermentation techniques, 11, 44, 48,
French Colombard, 43
Fresno mold, 11
Gallo [E. & J. Winery], 27, 36, 39, 44
Gambarelli & Davitto, 26
Grand Cru Vineyards, 62
Greystone winery, 33
Guild Wineries & Distilleries, 23, 27,
34, 35, 36, 37
Halperin, Ze'ev, 9
Hartley brandy, 17
Heck, Adolph, 17, 25
Heck, Paul, 17, 25
Heitz, Joseph E. , 68
Heublein, [Inc.], 25
Holden, Charles, 74
Hospice de Beaune , 9
ion exchange , 51
Italian Swiss Colony (ISC), 17, 24-31,
Johnson, Lucien, 34
Jones, Lee, 13-15, 24
Jones, R. H. , 32-33
Joslyn, Maynard A., 9-10
Jurgens, Peter, 38
Kahman, Tony, 61
Korbel [& Bros.] winery, 17, 25
Krug, Charles, Winery, 53
Lejon label, 17, 18
Lodi area, 22-23
Los Hermanos label, 42, 43, 44, 69
Magnani, Robert L. , 62
Maher, Richard L. , 39, 40, 41
Marsh, George, 4, 7, 9, 10
Martini, Louis M. , 52
Martini, Louis P. , 9, 45
McKinnon, McKay, 52
Meyer, Karl Frederick, 4
Miranda, Eugene, 3
Mission Dry Corporation, 6-7, 38
Mondavi, Peter, 48, 53
Mondavi, Robert, 78
Moone, F. Michael, 41
Mrak, Emil, 4, 9, 10, 11
Napa Ridge label, 69
National Distillers, 17, 19, 24-27, 33
Nelson, Klayton, 56-58
Nestle [SA], 27, 38, 63-65, 70-71.
See also Beringer
Nightingale, Alice A., (Mrs. Myron),
56-62 and passim
Ohanesian, Aram, 9
Olmo, Harold P. , 74
Palace Hotel, 15
Perelli-Minetti, Antonio, 29
Porter, Seton, 27
Prati, Ed, 25
Prati, Enrico, 24, 28, 29
protein stabilization, 50-51
Roma Wine Company, 23, 33, 35, 3
Rosentsiel, Lewis R. , 27, 33, 38
Rossi, Edmund A., 25
Rossi, Edmund A. , Jr., 25-26, 30, 31
Rossi, Robert, 25
Rossi, Robert, Jr., 25
Saccharomvces cerevisiae. 11
Sbarboro, Andrea, 30
Sbragia, Ed, 69
Schenley [Distilleries, Inc.], 19, 27,
32-38, 70, 71
Schlottman, Dave, 69
Seagrams , 19
Serlis, Harry, 38
Shewan, Mrs. [Jessica A. ], 13
Shewan-Jones Winery, 13, 16-19, 20-24,
Sierra Wine Company, 44
Simis, Rosalyn A. S., 30
Smith, V. R. , Olive Company, 5-6
Souverain [Cellars], 40
spoilage problems, 11
Steinhauer, Chet, 35
sulfide problems, 52
sulfur dioxide, 11, 49
Technical Advisory Committee, 32, 72,
tie-in sales, 20
Timothy, Brother, 46
Tonjum, James, 41
Turrentine, Dan, 73
University of California
Food Sciece Department, 4, 10-12
Fruit Products Division, 4, 7
University of California, Berkeley, 1,
2, 3-5, 7, 8-12, 47
University of California, Davis, 11,
12, 50, 63
Vaughn, Reese, 4, 9, 10, 11
Webb, A. Dinsmoor, 60
Wente Bros. , 33, 35
Wente, Herman, 17, 46-47
Wetmore family, 34
Wine Institute, 15, 20, 28, 32, 38,
47, 51, 61, 72-74
Wine Advisory Board, 73
Winkler, Albert J. , 11
Grape varieties mentioned in the
Cabernet Sauvignon, 42, 43, 53, 74
Chardonnay, 42, 43, 53
Chenin blanc, 42, 43, 53
Flame Tokay, 22
French Colombard, 53
Gewurztraminer , 62
Grenache , 74
Johannisberg Riesling, 35
Muacat , 54
Pinot noir, 53
Sauvignon blanc, 42, 54, 59
Thompson Seedless, 17-18, 26, 35, 43-
Zinfandel, 22-23, 42-43, 53, 54
Wines mentined in the interview
Cabernet Sauvignon, 49
champagne, 16, 17
Chardonnay, 43, 48, 50, 65
Chateau Lejon Red and White, 17
Chenin Blanc, 53-54
Gewurztrainer , 62
muscatel, 17, 19, 20
Pinot Noir, 49, 66
port, 17, 19, 35
sherry, 16, 17-18, 19, 35
white port, 35
White Zinfandel, 23, 43, 44, 54, 66
Born in Portland, Oregon; came to the Bay
Area in 1932 and has lived here ever since.
Stanford University, B.A., M.A. in English;
further graduate work in Western history.
Newspaper and magazine writer in San Francisco
since 1943, writing on local history and
business and social life of the Bay Area.
Book reviewer for the San Francisco Chronicle,
Co-author of Winemaking in California, a
An interviewer-editor in the Regional Oral
History Office since 1965.