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Full text of "Making wine in California, 1944-1987 : oral history transcript / 1987"

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 

in 1987 



Copyright 1988 by The Regents of the University of California 



S.F. CHRONICLE 
Monday, November 28, 1988 

Myron Nightingale 

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 
ley. 

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 
in 1971. 

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 
ters. 

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 
1985 



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 
follows : 

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 

PREFACE i 

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 

Grafting 54 



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 

INDEX 83 



PREFACE 



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



ii 



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



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



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



iii 



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 
Industry 1971 

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

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

John B. 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 
197 4~~ 

Amandus N. Kasimatis. A Career in California Viticulture 1988 

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

Louis M. Martini and Louis P. Martini, Wine Making in the Napa Valley 
1973 

Louis P. Martini, A Family Winery and the California Wine Industry 
1987" 

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 



iv 



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 
1976 

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

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

Elie C. Skofis. California Wine and Brandy Maker 1988 

Andre Teh el ist chef f. Grapes. Wine, and Ecology 1983 

Brother Timothy. The Christian Brothers as Wine Makers 1974 

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

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



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 



December 1987 

St. Helena, California 



vi 



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 
good friend." 

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. 

Ruth Teiser 
Interviewer -Editor 



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 



BIOGRAPHICAL INFORMATION 
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viii 

BIOGRAPHICAL INFORMATION 
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Your full name 

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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 
kid. 

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. 



Early Interests 

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 
walking into. 

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 
do." 



College Education 

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 



MSN: 



Teiser: 

MSN: 



Teiser: 



MSN: 



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 
considered essentials? 

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 
eventually. 

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 
and water. 

I worked there, in the middle of the San Joaquin Valley, until 
1942. 



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 
plant . 

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 
to him. 

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 
eighties. 



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, 
Berkeley, 1967. 



10 



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 
thinker . 

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 



MSN: 



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. 



11 



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 
thirteen percent. 

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. 



12 



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 
there, probably. 

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. 



13 



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 
then. 



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. 



14 



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 



MSN: 



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 



15 



MSN: 



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? 
[laughter] 



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. 
Unquote. [laughter] 

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? 



16 



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 
the grassroots. 

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 
forgotten. 



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? 



17 



MSN: 



Teiser: 

MSN: 



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 
know. 



Teiser: 



Thompson Seedless? 



18 



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 
non-existant . 

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 
B-L-A-N-C-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? 



19 



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 



20 



MSN: 



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 
your whiskey." 



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 
production? 

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 



21 



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 
accomplished something. 



22 



MSN: 



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 



Teiser: 

MSN: 

Teiser: 

MSN: 

Teiser: 

MSN: 



Teiser: 

MSN: 



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? 

No. 

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." 



23 



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 
course. 



24 



V ITALIAN SWISS COLONY, 1949-1953 



The Move to Asti 



Teiser: How did you happen to switch to Italian Swiss Colony, or was it 
switching? 

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 
Shewan-Jones . 

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. 



25 



Key Personnel: Paul Heck, Ed Prati, and the P.ossis 



Teiser: 

MSN: 



Teiser: 

MSN: 

Teiser: 

MSN: 



Teiser: 

MSN: 



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. 



They still 



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? 



*1954. 



26 



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, 
very honest. 



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 
at Clovis. 

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 
wine industry. 



27 



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 
marketing. 

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 




Winemaster Myron 
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 
Nightingale. 



Sketches by Beringer Vineyards 



28 



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 
the world. 



Bartolomeo Coppo 

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. 



29 



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 
computer system. 

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, 
work, families. 



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 
even feel. 

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. 



30 



MSN: 



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 
the record. 

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. 



Teiser: 

MSN: 



Underground Tanks 



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. 



31 



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 
clean. 

[brief interruption] 

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. 



32 



VI SCHENLEY INDUSTRIES, 1953-1971 



Joining Cresta Blanca 



Teiser: 

MSN: 



Teiser; 



MSN: 



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? 
expertise? 



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. 



33 



MSN: 



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 
to Fresno. 



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, 
Greystone. 

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- 
of-bailing-wire effort. 

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. 



34 



MSN: 



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. 



35 



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. 



Delano Plant 



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. 



36 



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 
Beringer . 



37 



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 



38 



MSN: 



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 



MSN: 

Teiser : 

MSN: 

Teiser: 

MSN: 

Teiser: 

MSN: 



Peter Jurgens , who was the ex-president of Almaden vineyards, quite 
a wine promoter, was the president then. He had just come to work 
for Nestle. 



I think the sale was actually 



Nestle had just bought Beringer? 

Yes, they had bought it in '70. 
consummated in January of '71. 

January 11. 



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 



39 



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 
bought it. 

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? 



40 



MSN: 



Teiser: 

MSN: 

Teiser: 

MSN: 
Teiser: 

MSN: 



Teiser: 

MSN: 



Teiser : 

MSN: 



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? 

Oh, sure. 

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 
Valley land. 

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 
business people. 



41 



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? 



42 



MSN: 



Teiser: 

MSN: 

Teiser: 

MSN: 

Teiser: 

MSN: 



Teiser: 

MSN: 



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? 

Yes. 

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. 



Vineyard Plantings 



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 



43 



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 
market demand. 

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 
million gallons. 



Los Hermanos Label 



MSN: 



Teiser: 
MSN: 



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 



44 



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 
for sale. 

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. 



45 



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. 



46 



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. 



Teiser: 



MSN: 



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 
winemaker . 

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? 



Herman Wente 



Teiser: 



Where did you come into contact with Herman Wente? 



47 



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, 



48 



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 



49 



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. 



50 



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? 



51 



MSN: 



Teiser: 
MSN: 



Teiser: 

MSN: 



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! 

#1 

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 



MSN: 



Teiser: 
MSN: 



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. 



52 



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 
stainless steel. 

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). 



53 



Grape Varieties 



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 
type. 

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 
people do. 

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 



54 



MSN: 



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 
dot. 

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 
difference. 



Grafting 



Teiser: Have you done grafting over T-budding? 

MSN: Yes. 

Teiser: Does it take in one year? 

MSN: Yes, that's right. 

Teiser: Does it work well? 

MSN: Yes, it works pretty good. 



55 



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? 

MSN: Yes. 

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. 



56 



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. 




Alice Nightingale 
At time of second interview 

March 10, 1987 




Myron S. Nightingale 
At time of second interview 

March 10, 1987 



57 



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 



AAN: 



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 



AAN: 



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. 



58 



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. 



59 



AAN: 



Teiser: 

AAN: 

Teiser: 

AAN: 



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? 

4 

Well, we want the grapes at 23 to 24 degrees Brix when they're 
picked. 

Can you hold your material until they reach that? 
Yes, I've held it for years. 



E xp e riments with Freezing the Spores 



AAN: 



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. 



60 



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 
grapes? 

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? 

AAN: Yes. 

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 
Argentina. 

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. 



61 



MSN: 



"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 



Teiser: 

MSN: 
Teiser: 

MSN: 



AAN: 



MSN: 



MSN: 



AAN: 



When you first brought it out, as you mentioned earlier, it got 
into the Congressional Record. 

Yes. 

As I remember, there was an event put on around its release at the 
Ferry Building. 

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, 
isn't it? 

Yes, it's one of the originals, with your signature on the back 
label. 

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. 

H 

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. 



62 



Grand Cru's Botrytised Gewilr ztraminer 



MSN: You might tell her that we use some of the original equipment, 
Alice. 

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. 



63 



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 



64 



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 
winemaking . 

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' 
people operate. 

Teiser: They offer advice, but don't insist? 
MSN: That's right. 



65 



Knowledge of Winemaking in the Big Corporations 



Teiser: 



MSN: 



Teiser: 



MSN: 



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 
that ? 

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. 



66 



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. 



67 



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 
winery? 

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? 



68 



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 
them. 

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. 



69 



XI WORK AS BERINGER CONSULTANT, 1983-PRESENT 



Winemaking Responsibilities 



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 
a while. 



Teiser: 
MSN: 



70 



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 



MSN: 



Teiser: 

MSN: 

Teiser: 
MSN: 



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 
pressure? 

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 



71 



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 
with it. 

Teiser: Maybe you gave them good wine. 

MSN: That might have something to do with it. 



72 



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. 



73 



MSN: 



Teiser: 

MSN: 
Teiser: 

MSN: 

Teiser: 

MSN: 



Teiser: 
MSN: 



II 

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 
formal papers? 

No. 

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. 



Teiser: 



Were you active in other aspects of the Wine Institute? 



74 



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 
committee. 



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. 



Charter Meeting 

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 
mention it. 



75 



Offices Held 



MSN: 



Teiser: 
MSN: 



Teiser: 

MSN: 



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 
projects. 

Teiser: Research, you mean? 



76 



MSN: 



Teiser: 
MSN: 



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 
suite. 

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 
Viticulture. 



77 



ASEV Merit Award 



MSN: 

Teiser: 

MSN: 

Teiser: 

MSN: 

Teiser: 



MSN: 



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 
you, Lisa? 

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? 



MSN: 



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. 



78 



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 
wines. 

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 



79 



TAPE GUIDE 



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 



80 



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 
down. 

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 
American governments. 



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 



81 



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 
things." 

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 
to pot. 

"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- 
terne. 

"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 
tensify. 

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 
this." 

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 
percent infection." 

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 
France. 

"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 
us." 

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 
serve.'" 

Now. just as they did in the early 

i Jiunurd oft Page Ii 



82 



(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 
one. 

"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- 
ness. 

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 
rickety catwalks." 

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 
grapes." 

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) 



83 



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, 

59-74, 77-78 

Beringer label, 42, 43, 44, 69 
Beringer family, 45 
Bioletti, Frederic, 12 
Blangsted, Sara, 6-7 
"blue fining," 52 
Botrytis, 56-62 
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 

caramel, 16 

Civilian Conservation Corps, 2-3 

Community Grape Corporation, 23 

Concannon winery, 35 

concentrate, 18-19 

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, 

49, 50 

French Colombard, 43 
Fresno mold, 11 

Gallo [E. & J. Winery], 27, 36, 39, 44 
Gambarelli & Davitto, 26 
grafting, 54-55 
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, 
39, 74 

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 



84 



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 

Vineyards 
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, 

26, 47 

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, 

74, 75 

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 

yeasts, 11 



Grape varieties mentioned in the 
interview 

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 

Palomino, 55 

Pinot noir, 53 

Sauvignon blanc, 42, 54, 59 

Semillon, 59 

Thompson Seedless, 17-18, 26, 35, 43- 

44 
Zinfandel, 22-23, 42-43, 53, 54 

Wines mentined in the interview 

Botrytized, 59-62 
Cabernet Sauvignon, 49 
chablis, 43 



85 



champagne, 16, 17 

Chardonnay, 43, 48, 50, 65 

Chateau Lejon Red and White, 17 

Chenin Blanc, 53-54 

Dubonnet, 37 

Gewurztrainer , 62 

muscatel, 17, 19, 20 

Pinot Noir, 49, 66 

port, 17, 19, 35 

Sauterne-type, 56 

Semillon, 56 

sherry, 16, 17-18, 19, 35 

vermouth, 17 

white port, 35 

White Zinfandel, 23, 43, 44, 54, 66 



Ruth Teiser 



Born in Portland, Oregon; came to the Bay 

Area in 1932 and has lived here ever since. 
Stanford University, B.A., M.A. in English; 

further graduate work in Western history. 
Newspaper and magazine writer in San Francisco 

since 1943, writing on local history and 

business and social life of the Bay Area. 
Book reviewer for the San Francisco Chronicle, 

1943-1974. 
Co-author of Winemaking in California, a 

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

History Office since 1965.