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University of California Berkeley 

Regional Oral History Office University of California 

The Bancroft Library Berkeley, California 

The Wine Spectator California Winemen Oral History Series 

Alfred Fromm 

With an Introduction by 
Leon D. Adams 

An Interview Conducted by 

Ruth Teiser 

in 1984 

Copyright (c) 1984 by The Regents of the University of California 


All uses of this manuscript are covered by a legal 
agreement between the University of California and 
Alfred Fromm dated October 2, 1984. 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 at Berkeley. 

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

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

Alfred Fromm, "Marketing California Wine 
and Brandy," an oral history conducted 
1984 by Ruth Teiser, Regional Oral History 
Office, The Bancroft Library, University 
of California, 1984. 

Copy No. 

CONTENTS Alfred Fromm 


INTRODUCTION by Leon D. Adams iv 


I GERMANY 1905-1936 1 

The Firm of N. Fromm 1 

Apprenticeship and Studies, 1920-1924 2 

Selling Wine for N. Fromm, 1924-1936 2 

First Travels in the United States 3 


Partnership in Picker-Linz, New York 8 

Association with the Christian Brothers, 1937-1983 10 

Joining Efforts With The Brothers 10 

Beginning to Market Christian Brothers Wines 11 

The World War II Years 14 

American Wine in the Latter 1940s 15 

Entering the Brandy Market, 1943 16 

Creating an Advanced Still 19 

Agreement with Seagram's, 1954 20 

Business Principles 21 

Fromm and Sichel, Successors to Picker-Linz, 1945 22 

Association with Paul Masson 24 

President, 1944-1955 24 

Planting Vineyards in the Salinas Valley 26 

Association With the Christian Brothers, Continued 28 

Selling Christian Brothers Wines 28 

The Vie-Del Company 29 

St. Regis Vineyards 30 

Growth of Christian Brothers 30 

The California Brandy Business 32 

Styles of Brandy 34 

Sale of Fromm and Sichel to the Christian Brothers, 1983 36 

Key Men at Christian Brothers 37 

The Wine Museum of San Francisco, 1974-1984 38 

Industry Organizations 42 


Biographical Information 45 

Alfred Fromm, Who's Who in America. 1982-1983 46 

"100 million empty glasses," a 1957 speech by Alfred Fromm 47 

Purchase of Fromm & Sichel by Mont La Salle Vineyards, 
September, 1983 



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 California Scholarship Foundation. The selection of those 
to be interviewed is made by a committee consisting of James D. Hart, director 
of The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley; John A. De Luca, 
president of the Wine Institute, the statewide winery organization; Maynard 
A. Amerine, Emeritus Professor of Viticulture and Enology, University of 
California, Davis; the chairman of the board of directors of the Wine 
Institute, who is elected annually; Ruth Teiser, series project director, and 
Marvin R. Shanken, trustee of The Wine Spectator California Scholarship 

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

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

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


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

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 


Interviews Completed by 1984 

Leon D. Adams Revitalizing the California Wine Industry 1974 

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

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

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 

Alfred Fromm Marketing California Wine and Brandy 1984 

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

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

Louis M. Martini and Louis P. Martini Winemakers of the Napa Valley 1973 

Louis P. Martini A Family Winery and the California Wine Industry 1984 

Otto E. Meyer California Premium Wines and Brandy 1973 

Harold P. Olmo Plant Genetics and New Grape Varieties 1976 

Antonio Perelli-Minetti A Life in Wine Making 1975 

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

Jefferson E. Peyser The Law and the California Wine Industry 1974 

Lucius Powers The Fresno Area and the California Wine Industry 1974 

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

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

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

Andre" Tchelistchef f Grapes, Wine, and Ecology 1983 

Brother Timothy The Christian Brothers as Winemakers 1974 

Ernest A. Wente Wine Making in the Livermore Valley 1971 

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



Alfred Fromm's interview is a fascinating narrative of 
the contributions by an emigre German expert in premium wine 
marketing to the post-Repeal advancement of California's grape 
and wine industry. Historians of the industry and of its 
important by-product brandy will find explanations in his 
interview of some hithertoo little-understood aspects of the 
industry's progress since the late 1930's. 

What his modest recital does not fully explain, is the 
part played by the late Samuel Bronfman, who headed the 
worldwide Seagram wine and spirits empire, in enabling Fromm 
and his associates to build Paul Masson Vineyards and The 
Christian Brothers into major factors in the industry. 

In 1943 during the Second World War, when the U.S. 
government restricted whiskey production, Bronfman had 
Seagrams purchase the Mt. Tivy winery in the San Joaquin 
Valley, and also the then-small Masson mountain winery in 
Saratoga, from Martin Ray. Bronfman's purpose was to market 
brandy made at Mt. Tivy under the premium-quality name of Paul 
Masson. When that plan was dropped, Seagrams sold Mt. Tivy to 
The Christian Brothers, and part ownership of the Paul Masson 
vineyard and winery to the partnership of Fromm and Franz Sichel. 

I have known Alfred Fromm since 1938, when, while still 
residing in New York, he first visited me and my then- 
associates at the Wine Institute offices in San Francisco. I 
later met his father and his brother Norman, and was privileged 
to witness each stage of their achievement, with brother-in- 
law Otto Meyer, in building Paul Masson into one of the 
nation's leading wineries. Visiting Brother John and Brother 
Timothy at the Brothers' winery in Napa County, I also 
observed the renaming, inspired by Fromm, of their wines from 
"Mont La Salle" to "The Christian Brothers." Brother John 
shared Fromm's long-held view that wines of different years 
should be blended in order to provide consumers with uniform 
flavor year after year. This is why the Brothers and Paul 
Masson Vineyards resisted for many years and until quite 
recently, the trend toward vintage labeling of premium 
California wines. 

The Christian Brothers Wine Museum (The Wine Museum of 
San Francisco), established in 1974 by Alfred Fromm, was an 
unselfish effort to acquaint Americans with the noble cultural 

history of wine. He made valiant efforts to preserve the 
Museum until 1984, when, after the sale of Fromm and Sichel, 
Seagrams decided to move the Museum to their headquarters 
in Ontario, Canada. 

Leon D. Adams 

Author of The Wines of America 
27 August 1984 
Sausalito, California 


Alfred Fromm was interviewed on two successive mornings, 
May 3 and May 4, 1984, at his office at 655 Beach Street in 
San Francisco, shortly before the building was taken over by 
Seagrams, which, as he explained in the interview, had pur 
chased it the previous year. Final conferences on the 
interview and the photographs to illustrate it were held in 
his new office at 655 Montgomery Street in San Francisco. 

Mr. Fromm's characteristic mildness and firmness are 
reflected in the interviews. A courtly man with the manners 
as well as the speech rhythms of his native land, he spoke 
with deliberation but without hesitation. His life as a 
highly successful salesman of wines and brandy in the United 
States was built upon the principles instilled in him during 
his early years with his family firm in Germany, principles 
which he articulated in the interview. 

Leaving Germany during the Hitler regime, he chose the 
United States because of the freedom here, as he explained, 
and that freedom, combined with his diligence and marketing 
ability, created his success. Together with Franz Sichel, 
whom he had known in Germany and met again in the United 
States through Samuel Bronfman of Seagrams, he created the 
firm of Fromm and Sichel in 1945 as successor to Picker-Linz, 
through which he had represented The Christian Brothers since 
1937. His part in the history of the development of The 
Christian Brothers' wines and brandy is told here, as well as 
the part played by his brother-in-law, Otto Meyer. Their 
part in the rehabilitation of the Paul Masson winery is also 
discussed here. It was during their leadership of Masson 
that the development of the Salinas Valley as a vineyard 
district began, when Masson and Mirassou, both looking for 
land beyond Santa Clara County, joined forces to investigate 
the potentialities of Monterey County. 


The initial interview transcript required little 
editing. Mr. Fromm corrected some minor errors and added a 
number of dates from his records. He preferred the spelling 
Seagram's, with an apostrophe. 

Related oral history interviews in this series are those 
completed in 1973, and Brother Timothy, THE CHRISTIAN 
BROTHERS AS WINEMAKERS, completed in 1974. 

Ruth Teiser 

10 September 1984 

Regional Oral History Office 

486 The Bancroft Library 

University of California at Berkeley 

I GERMANY 1905-1936 
[Interview 1: May 3, 1984] ## 

The Firm of N. Fromm 

Fromm: The firm of N. Fromm was started by my great-grandfather, Nathan 
Fromm. He was a schoolteacher in a small wine village, and I'm 
told I didn't know him that he had eleven children. The salary 
of a schoolteacher in those days was really minimal, and there 
never was enough money to feed and clothe the children and buy 
them shoes. So my great-grandfather then started to help some of 
the winegrowers in this small wine village and advised them how to 
make better wines as he was a more educated man, and he taught them 
about sanitation and so on. 

As a result these vintners came up with a better product. 
They were not very flush with money either, and they paid him very 
often by giving him some wine as his fee. 

So then he started to sell the wine and gradually built up a 
little business. And after some years my great-grandfather decided 
he should go into the wine business because he could not make a 
living as a teacher, that he would buy the wines from those 
vintners he knew in the Franconia district of Germany. It became 
after a little while quite a nice business. He traveled within 
Bavaria (because the Franconia wine district is in Bavaria). He 
died, I understand, when he was in his sixties, and then my 
grandfather took over. 

By that time the family was already in the wine business. My 
grandfather, Josef Fromm, developed the business further. He died 
very young, when he was in his early forties, and I did not know him 
either. Then my father, Max Fromm, who was thirteen years old when 
his father died, took over and left school, because someone had to 
make a living. He was an unusually capable man and developed later 


Fromm: on into one of the best-known wine tasters in Germany, and became 

then an adviser to the government, and over the years made the firm 
of N. Fromm one of the leading firms in Germany. 

The firm was at that time in Kitzingen on the River Main where 
there were very many small wine firms, but our firm of N. Fromm was 
the largest there. 

Apprenticeship and Studies. 1920-1924 

Fromm: When I was fifteen years old I had graduated from middle high 

school. I was apprenticed to a large wine firm, Feist and Reinach, 
in Bingen-on-the-Rhine, and I served a three-year apprenticeship. 
And, as it was in those days, my father had to pay for my education 
at this wine firm. But you really learned the wine business right 
from the ground up, starting with the vineyards and moving into the 
cellars. You learn an awful lot between fifteen and eighteen that 
you don't learn later on. If you are an apprentice in Germany, you 
are not nothing; you are less than nothing. [laughs] 

But it was very good training. In the winter you had to 
be in the office at six o'clock in the morning and stoking the fire 
for the office, and later on at eleven o'clock go out and get the 
sausages and the bread for the people for their second breakfast. 
But I really learned the wine business. 

The owner of the firm where I was apprenticed was one of the 
outstanding men in the wine industry. His name was Joseph Guembel. 
After I was there for two years, he took me into the wine tasting 
room. There was every day a wine tasting between twelve and one. 
I arranged the glasses and made notes for him, and then he said, 
"Try this," and "Try that." I learned from Herr Guembel how to 
taste and evaluate wine. He started to like me, and I was very 
much interested. In fact, I never wanted to be in any other 
business since I was a young kid, than the wine business. And I 
learned an awful lot. When I was eighteen years old, I thought I 
knew a great deal about German wine. But you know, when you are 
very young you don't know how many things you don't know. 

Selling Wine for IL_ Fromm. 1924-1936 

Fromm: So after I was through with my apprenticeship I went to the 

Weinbau-Schule, which was an agricultural college in Geisenheim, 


Fromm: which in those days was the leading viticultural school in Germany, 
and stayed there for about a year, taking various courses in wine 
chemistry, wine treatment, and so on. 

After that by that time I was nineteen years old I joined 
our firm in Kitzingen. My father then insisted that after I had 
worked another year in the cellars that I go out and be conversant 
with the selling business of wine, because the marketing of wine 
was always a problem for everyone. 

So I started to travel extensively in Germany when I was 
twenty, twenty-one, twenty-two years old, and I worked very, very 
hard. My father insisted that I only call on new customers. I was 
paid commission, but only half of what regular salesmen were paid, 
because that was a German educational idea, that a son during his 
learning period should not make as much as everyone else, but I 
made good money anyhow. [laughing] 

When I was twenty-three, twenty-four years, I had already in 
my travels six or eight young men with me whom I trained and who 
became good salesmen afterwards. 

Teiser: To whom did you sell? 
Fromm: We sold mostly to consumers. 
Teiser: Direct? 

Fromm: Direct. The wine business in those days in Germany was that way. 
You called on consumers, and it was a tough job because very many 
people didn't want to see you. But somehow I managed to do quite 

In 1924 our firm started to go into the export business, and I 
traveled very extensively then in the export business and became 
director of exports when I was twenty-five years of age. I 
traveled in England, in Belgium, in Holland, and particularly up in 
the northern states, in Denmark, Sweden, Finland, and Norway. 

'irst Travels in the United States 

Fromm: We were advised by our American agents that Prohibition would be 

repealed in the United States, which finally took place on December 
5, 1933. As I was the oldest son, I was sent here to build a 
market. (I had a younger brother who was in the business, too, 

Fromm: Paul, who's now in the import wine business in Chicago) On 

December 4, I arrived in New York, and I never have seen such 

Teiser: Would you describe it? 

Fromm: I never had been in such a large city as New York City. The people 
were all celebrating, and there were a lot of people who were drunk 
because it was the first time they could buy legally alcohol. On 
the other hand, the Depression was still on, and the repeal of 
Prohibition gave the people a great moral lift. They felt things 
would get better, so they took it as a good omen that times would 
improve, which fortunately they did. But in those days there was a 
tremendous amount of unemployment and very great hardships to which 
most of the people were not accustomed. 

I went to our agents, Picker-Linz importers in New York, and 
worked with them because none of the partners in the firm had 
anything to do with wine before. They had ran other businesses, 
and I was the only one who knew something about wine. And then I 
traveled very extensively throughout the United States. I had a 
little Ford car and I went from one end to the other, from north to 
south, from east to west. I think I have been in every city of 
fifty or a hundred thousand at that time existing in the United 

It was very, very difficult then because American people were 
not used to drink wine, and it was mostly an upper class that knew 
a little about wine, that had traveled to Europe before. But I 
managed to sell quite a bit and built a net of distributors. 

The most interesting experience I had was when I went in 
January of 1934 to Los Angeles, because I had heard there were many 
movie stars who made a tremendous amount of money, and there were 
no licenses yet at that time. I had some connections to Mr. Carl 
Laemmle, who was head of Universal Pictures, and he gave me some 
recommendations. I called on some of the big movie stars, and I 
was amazed how well they received me. They gave me very nice 
orders for expensive wines. In those days we had those fabulous 
1921 wines. You could get sixty or ninety dollars a case for 
ninety dollars you got a Schloss Johannisberg '21 Auslese, and it 
was a tremendous price. 

Then I wanted to call on William Randolph Hearst. I called 
him from my hotel in Los Angeles. He didn't talk to me, and his 
secretary told me they would come back to me and let me know if Mr. 
Hearst could see me. What I didn't know was that they were 

Fromm: checking up on me, who I was, because, the idea that someone could 
think I might be a gangster or bootlegger never occurred to me. 

Teiser: Let me interrupt you. You said somebody could be a gangster. 

There was a good deal of opprobrium, was there not, about any wine 
man, that carried over from Prohibition? 

Fromm: Yes. 

Teiser: Did you feel it? 

Fromm: Yes, I did, and I was very much upset by it, because when people 

talked about wine, they said we are in the booze business, and that 
hurt my feelings very much, because the wine business in Europe was 
always a highly respected business and really had nothing to do 
with hard liquor. I hardly knew any hard liquor. When I came to 
this country for the first time I tasted American whiskey and 
Scotch whiskey because I never before had an opportunity to do 
that. At home we had some German brandy that was always considered 
good for your health, and you drank it once in a while. But as 
children we never got any hard liquor. But we always got a little 
wine with dinner. So I grew up with wine, and I must say until 
today I am seventy-nine years old I have drunk wine every day. I 
don't touch anything during the day, but I have half a bottle of 
wine for my dinner, and I consider this better than vitamins or 

When I called on Mr. Hearst, he gave me orders for some 
rare, immensely expensive wine, the very finest that was made in 
Germany. Hesitatingly, I said to Mr. Hearst, "You know, Mr. 
Hearst, that wine sells for three hundred dollars a case." I 
have never seen or tasted anything like it since then. 

Teiser: What was it? 

Fromm: Nineteen eleven Steinberger Kabinett. Trockenbeerenauslese from the 
Prussian domain in Eberbach. It was marked "Jahrhundert Wein" by 
the Prussian government and it really was. 

Then I offered him some other very outstanding 1920 and 1921 
Rheingau wines and Franconia wines, and he gave me an order for 
thirty cases or so. It amounted to over five thousand dollars, 
which in those days was an enormous amount of money. 

Teiser: Where did you meet him? 

Fromm: Mr. Hearst visited with us when he was in Bad Nauheim, a very well 
known health spa. There was a Profesor Groedel whom he consulted, 

Fromm: and then after he felt better he wanted to make a few excursions, 
and he came to Bingen, which was not very far, and visited our 
winery and said to my father, "When your son comes over to America, 
have him call on me." Of course, we took this for a regular 
invitation and didn't know that this was often just a polite saying 
like "Let us have lunch together sometime." 

Teiser: Where here did you meet him? In San Francisco? 

Fromm: No. I was invited to San Simeon. He sent his plane. I was 

received by Marion Davies, who was a very charming and nice lady. 
I was a young, inexperienced man, and she was very kind to me. I 
was introduced to a lot of people, many of them famous movie 
stars, and other big people but I never had heard their names 
before, so it didn't make any difference. [laughing] But in those 
days a young European, who was in the wine business, was something 
new for better educated people, or people who had traveled widely. 
So apparently I filled the bill. 

Teiser: Did you go to San Simeon other times also? 
Fromm: No. 

I got some other recommendations from them. Some of the most 
famous movie stars gave me very nice orders. In those days if you 
paid for a case of wine fifty, sixty or ninety dollars, it was a 
big price. So I sent these orders to Germany, and I spent 
altogether six months in the United States and then went back. 

Teiser: Were you in Northern California? 

Fromm: Yes. 

Teiser: Did people in San Francisco buy the same way? 

Fromm: Being more conservative, they didn't buy this way, but I called on 
Mr. Paul Verdier, who was the president and owner, I believe, of 
the City of Paris. A Frenchman. Quite well known, quite well 
versed in wines. He gave me a very nice order. 

We did some good business in the U.S.A. and actually between 
1933 and 1936 my own sales amounted to almost 26 percent of the 
wine imports from Germany. Of course, the total business was small 
in those days, but they were all good wines, because I could see 
right from the beginning that the only chance German wines would 
have would be to sell the very best, and address myself to a 
special group of consumers; it was not for the average man who 
didn't drink wine and drank whiskey or beer. 

Teiser: That certainly gave you a good idea of the United States, then. 
Fromm: Yes. 

Teiser: At that time did you like it well enough to think you might ever 
come back here? 

Fromm: The fact is at that time the Nazis were already in power, and our 
family is Jewish, so it was always a consideration: should one 
stay, could one stay in Germany or not? After my first visit to 
the United States I made up my mind this is the place I wanted to 
live. I had traveled in England, and I liked it very much there. 
But I loved the freedom here and the chances offered. If you did 
the right thing, you really were on your own, something which to a 
German was entirely new. 

So I came back by the middle of 1934 to Germany, and I was 
traveling in the European countries for the export of our wines, 
where we did quite well. I think we sold to about forty foreign 
countries altogether, our German wines. 

The next year again I went to America and spent again in '35 
and '36 six months each year traveling and completing a net of 
distributors. I got acquainted with a lot of very good people. 
They were very kind to me, and I really felt it was the place I 
wanted to live. 


Partnersip in Picker-Linz. New 

Fromm: By 1936 the Nazi situation looked very threatening, and I decided 
that we had to get out of Germany. I was the first one of our 
family to come to the United States. I got married in 1936 to a 
girl that I had courted since she was sixteen years old, Uanna 
Gruenbaum. We are married now forty-eight years and we are still 
very happy. 

Teiser: You came to New York first? 

Fromm: Yes. We came to New York. Then the firm of Picker-Linz, who were 
our agents, offered me a small partnership. It was a very small 
firm. And we came with almost nothing because we couldn't take 
anything out of Germany. They let us take out some furniture and 
our clothes and some personal belongings, but no money. 

So I became a partner in this firm with a minimum investment 
of maybe a thousand or two thousand dollars advanced by my wife, 
and this is the way we started here in this country. 

I went for Picker-Linz to Europe quite a few times in the 
following years, in '36, "37, as they were in the imported wine 
business. And I traveled extensively in Europe in the wine 
countries, in France, Italy, Spain, and so on. 

Teiser: Buying for them? 

Fromm: Buying the wine, because I was the only one who was qualified to do 

Teiser: Were the wines shipped in bulk or were they bottled? 
Fromm: We only bought bottled goods. 

\lfred Fromm in 1936, the year he came 
to the United States. 

Alfred Fromm at an interview conference, 
July 19, 1984. 

Fromm: But I could see the preparation for war of the Nazis. I saw the 

underground bunkers in Germany, and I saw in the Ruhr, which was a 
heavy industrial part of Germany, the armaments they produced. I 
could see that this would lead to a war. I told my partners that 
one day we will be completely cut off from our foreign sources, 
that wines cannot be shipped anymore, and that if we wanted to 
remain in this business, we'd better make sure we find an American 
source of supply. 

Many people didn't believe that there was a war coming. My 
partners were skeptical, too, but they said, "Well, if you are so 
convinced, why don't you go to California and see what you can do?" 

I just want to show you how I got into the California wine 

Teiser: That's a missing link that I had not known. 

Fromm: So in the middle of 1937 I came to California. At that time there 
were just a few wineries, and I looked around and called on every 
winery in California to see what could be done. 

Teiser: What was your impression? You had been to wineries all over the 
world what did you think of the California wine industry at that 
time from that survey you made? 

Fromm: The industry as such in those days hardly did exist. The aftermath 
of Prohibition was still very much in evidence. There were many 
vineyards with the wrong kind of grapes. The equipment in the 
wineries was very old because there was no money to replace it. 
The winery buildings were very old. There was really nothing there 
to be particularly attractive. Most of the wineries that I called 
on said, "Well, we would be glad to give you the agency, but you 
must put some money in," and this was something that we didn't 

Teiser: Let me take you back again. You had a sudden view of something 
that most people saw developing. What were the outstanding 
wineries among those that you visited? 

Fromm: There was Beaulieu. There was [Louis M.] Martini. There was Wente 
[Bros.]. And there was Martin Ray, who had the Paul Masson winery. 
There were maybe four or five premium wineries that made quite 
acceptable wine. 

Teiser: Was there a quality relationship to the fine wines of Europe? 


Fromm: No, absolutely not. However, as I traveled so extensively in 
California, and particularly in the Napa Valley, and as I knew 
something about vineyards and saw the soil and the various 
scientific reports that had been made, I had the feeling that if 
this was handled properly, we can make in California a wine that 
ultimately could be world class. I was a young man, but of course 
when you are young you are enthusiastic and optimistic. I felt it 
could be done. 

Association with the Christian Brothers. 1937-1983 

Joining Efforts with the Brothers 

Fromm: So in my travels I came to the Christian Brothers in Napa. The 

Christian Brothers at that time were in financial difficulties. As 
you know, they are a religious order of the Catholic church, and 
they had built monasteries and some colleges like St. Mary's 
College, during the heyday of the boom, and then when the 
Depression started they couldn't pay their bonds any more, and they 
were in some sort of bankruptcy, like today we have Chapter 11 or 
something like that. 

So I called on them. There was Brother John, who was the head 
of the winery, who was a few years younger than I, and Brother 
Timothy, who was probably two years younger than I, and the three 
of us, we put our heads together and we said, "Well, we have to do 
something," because the only way the Brothers could get out of 
their financial difficulty was to sell some wines. 


Inasmuch as they were not bootleggers, they had accumulated an 
inventory of old wines which they did use for sacramental wine. 
This inventory was among the best in California. 

So we put our heads together and we were good partners, 
because they had no money and we had no money [laughing]. But we 
all were young, and I felt we had to make a success, otherwise we 
wouldn't eat, because many more members of my family had arrived in 
the U.S. without hardly any money. 

Teiser: Did you consider an association with any other wineries before 


Fromm: No, I really didn't. None really appealed to me as much as 

Christian Brothers, and one reason for it was, too, that I had a 
great feeling for the integrity of religious organizations in the 
wine business, because in Germany, particularly on the Moselle, 
some of the finest vineyards are in the hands of religious organi 
zations, and also in Franconia. In the Rheingau the church always 
had very important holdings of some of the very finest vineyards. 
That was one reason why I thought it might be a good thing to 
inspire confidence in the consumer. Even so, I was connected with 
Christian Brothers for 46 years and we never mentioned the religious 
angle, because it's a poor way to sell. If you ask a Catholic to 
buy Christian Brothers wine because it's made by a Catholic order, 
it's a poor way to do business. So this never in any way came into 

So in 1938 I spent about four months at Mont La Salle 
vineyards in Napa up where the monastery is. I slept in the 
bishop's room but I always had to get up very early because at 
five-thirty one of the Brothers came through all the corridors 
with a bell and said get up for mass. And breakfast was at six- 
thirty. If you were not there at six-thirty there was 
no breakfast because they did not run a hotel [laughing]. 

But I got up early, and Brother John, Brother Timothy and I 
went into the winery and we took a sample of every barrel, a few 
hundred small and larger, we tasted the wines, and we made some 
blends. At that time there were no varietal wines, so we blended a 
burgundy and a sauterne, some Riesling, and a few wines of this 
sort. Then by late fall of 1938 we were ready to go to into the 

Beginning to Market Christian Brothers Wines 

Fromm: The wines were considered in those days premium wines. (They 

wouldn't be considered so today, but after all this was 1938, 46 
years ago). We developed a unique label. In fact my wife, who is 
more artistically inclined than I, first drew it up with lipstick. 
We thought a Christian Brothers label in the shape of a triptych 
would be the right label, and we had it printed by a printer who 
helped us a little, because money was so scarce that we really had 
to save every penny, and we did a lot of the work ourselves. 
Brother John and Brother Timothy worked in the winery and I worked 
in it too, so it was really a joint undertaking. 


Fromm: When we started out to sell the wine, first in New York and then in 
some other places 

Teiser: Through Picker-Linz? 

Fromm: Through Picker-Linz as exclusive agents for the Brothers it was 
very hard to sell California wines. There were really only two 
lines of American wine available that made some claim to quality 
and that had wider distribution that the few premium wineries in 
California. They were Taylor, New York, and Christian Brothers. 
Those two lines were the two lines that were in almost every 
store in New York and in many other states. 

Teiser: I have been told that wine drinkers in New York were used to the 
taste of European wines so that they had to get accustomed to 
California wines. Is that correct? 

Fromm: It is correct to some extent. Those were wine drinkers, and it 

took us quite a few years before we really got to the consumer that 
was used to European wines, because at that time we hadn't got 
American people yet to drink table wine. They drank sweet wine, 
port and sherry, also because it was the cheapest form of fortified 
alcohol. The tax on fortified wine was much lower than it was on 
distilled spirits. But we were quite successful in a small way, 
and we then extended the business into New Jersey, into the middle 
West, into Chicago and California. I traveled very extensively 
six, seven months a year calling on distributors, traveling as a 
salesman, because we were in fact missionary men. Most of the 
wholesalers said there was no chance to do anything in the wine 
business anyway, "Why do you waste your time here?" I answered, 
"Give it a chance and you will be surprised." 

So the business grew in a small way, and we opened up maybe 25 
states within two or three years, and then in 1941 World War II 
broke out. 

Teiser: Did you before World War II establish a pricing policy that was 

Fromm: Yes. Our wines were all priced at the same level. In New York it 
was one dollar a bottle, which was then a very high price because 
you could buy a lot of California wine for 35 to 40 cents. One 
dollar a bottle. We had this price throughout the country; we only 
had one price. This was also new. We had only one label. The 
only change in the label was the name of the wine. 

Then we did something else. We found out that an educational 
campaign had to be started, because otherwise people just wouldn't 
buy any wine. We needed people to sell wine. Our wine wholesalers 


Fronnn: just didn't care because a case of whiskey was selling for three or 
four times as much, and the commission was much higher than on 
wine. And the people just didn't know wine. It was really a 
wasteland, America, as far as wine was concerned. 

I still was optimistic. I always felt that it would come, 
because the American people are very flexible, and if something new 
comes up that is good they take to it. I think what has been done 
in California in the last fifty years has taken Europe 250 years. 
The American people, if they have faith in something, the money is 
available, the people are available, the market is right there, and 
it is just a question how to sell it. So our problem in the first 
few years of the firm was to train salesmen of distributors. 

Teiser: At that time, didn't Cresta Blanca have some reputation on the East 

Fromm: Yes. In a small way. 

Teiser: Was it priced below Christian Brothers? 

Fromm: I don't think so, but it was not large. Later on it was taken over 
by Schenley and it became a mass producer. 

Teiser: Italian Swiss Colony was on a lower level 

Fromm: On a lower level. Gallo was in the business but was not yet as 

important at that time. Italian Swiss was very much larger. But 
most of the wines in those days were shipped from California in 
tank cars, and if the wine did not ferment on the trip and the tank 
car did not blow up on the way, it was considered acceptable wine. 
It was 90 percent sweet wine. It was bottled by the distributor, 
very often under his own label, and not very frequently under the 
label of the winery. This was a radical change that took place a 
few years later. Then wineries promoted their own brands, like 
Italian Swiss and Gallo and Roma and others. 

Teiser: But Christian Brothers was shipping everything in bottles all the 

Fromm: All bottled at the monastery. We never shipped anything in bulk. 

Teiser: Did you consciously adopt the standardized label and the single 

price, and shipping everything in bottles as a good merchandising 

Fromm: Yes. 

Teiser: Because it surely was. 


Fromm: It was. And what was new was that we had what we called missionary 
men, a few but as many as the firm could pay for, to help the 
distributor to train some salesmen so that we would sell some wine. 
I talked to thousands of salesmen during those years. If we went 
to a large distributor who had, say 75 or 100 salesmen and three or 
five were interested in wine, we were already lucky. I think we 
were the first to adopt uniform label, uniform pricing, and had 
missionary men that were paid by us and helped the wholesaler in 
the fullest sense to sell wine, to train him to sell wine. And 
that really paid off very handsomely for us. We were the first 
ones to do that. Those steps resulted not from great smartness but 
from necessity. 

Teiser: [laughing] It sounds like a well thought out plan. 

Fromm: Well, we had to do it. I always believed that if you are in this 
business you have to go to the stores; you have to call on the 
people who buy the wine, not go to the wholesaler and leave it up 
to him, because if you do generally nothing happens. But if you 
talk to the people direct and rather extensively, and call on 
restaurants in the evening And we worked extremely hard, twelve 
hour days. But of course we were young and we wanted to make a 

The World War II Years 

Fromm: In the meantime I brought out [of Germany] all my family. We were 
seven children, and they had children. We were four brothers and 
three sisters. 

Teiser: Your father came too? 

Fromm: Yes, but he came very much later, because he didn't think that the 
Nazis could mean him. He was the last one to leave because he was 
such a well known and highly regarded man, had a very important 
title from the German government, "Kommerzein Rat," only given to 
people who have made an outstanding success and contribution to the 
country. So he felt that he was safe from the Nazi terror, but 
unfortunately he was not. 

So I brought out all these people, and we are one of the very 
few large Jewish families that live all in the United States where 
we have our roots today. Most Jewish families were dispersed all 
over the world. It is a very fortunate thing for us. 


Fromm: When the war broke out, very quickly the shipments from Europe 

stopped. We were the only California winery that was ready with a 
certain quantity of good wines sweet wines and some table wines. 
We became very succesful during the years, let's say, from 1941 to 
1945. Our business increased rapidly. We went into every state of 
the union. 

We didn't do any advertising because there was no money for 
advertising, and in those days the wine business was a small 
business basically, but the firm made fairly good money. All of 
the partners had a good salary. I drew only $25 or $50 a week out 
of a total yearly salary of $10,000, but the difference was never 
paid out until many years later. We needed every penny in our 
developing wine business. In the beginning we had no credit. 
Nobody knew us and we couldn't get any money from the bank in those 
days because the firm was too small. 

But we did between 1941 and 1945 what would have taken us 
fifteen years of normal development, so the war situation 
accelerated our business to a very considerable extent. 

American Wine in the Latter 1940s 

Fromm: In 1945 there still was no real California wine business or 

American wine business. There was a poll made by Elmer Roper, who 
interviewed 5,000 people in America at random to find out what they 
thought about wine and what they thought the industry could do. 
The result was, according to the survey, 90 percent of the wine was 
bought by bums who wanted to buy cheap alcohol; 6 or 7 percent was 
used by ethnic groups like Italians and others and foreign born 
people. And maybe 3 percent was purchased by people who knew 
already a little bit about wine. But as far as table wine was 
concerned, the business was almost non-existent. 

In 1945 and up to 1950-1955, it was very difficult to get any 
good hotel or restaurant to list any California wine. We made great 
efforts in this respect, and finally we got some wines listed. I 
had a lot of connections with the finest stores in the country 
through my earlier sales of imported wines, and they said, "Well, 
Alfred, if you insist, we will buy five cases," but then they 
languished some place in the corner and nothing ever happened. 
There just was no demand in the finer stores for California 
wines. And if a hotel or a good restaurant listed one or two 
California wines, one white and one red, one burgundy and one 
sauterne, then we felt we were quite successful. 


Fromm: The wine business did not exist in the sense we know it today. 

However, the large wineries eventually found out if they 
wanted to make a success and earn enough money to improve the 
vineyards and the plants and whatever was necessary to conduct a 
proper wine business, that they had to make some money and that 
they had to sell their own brands. This is when Gallo, Roma, 
Italian Swiss, and some of the others started to sell wine under 
the wineries' own labels. And this is really the start of their 
brands and marketing. 

They sold maybe 90 percent sweet wines, fortified wines, 
because their type of customer was less used to table wines than 
our customers were, which were already a step higher. So this 
business increased, and by 1960-1965 you could see some more 
optimistic developments. People had some faith that the wine 
business could be developed in the United States. 

Entering the Brandy Market, 1943 

Fromm: Our wine business grew consistently, and what was particularly 

successful for Christian Brothers was that we went into the brandy 
business in 1940, and by 1943, when we had enough inventory, we 
were able to come out with a very acceptable American brandy. At 
that time many people thought it should be called American cognac, 
which I opposed very much because we have to stand on our own, and 
if you have to borrow the foreign names, it's not good business in 
the end. 

However, we came out with a clean, good product that was 
entirely different from French cognacs, which were 99 percent of 
the brandy category imported into America. We came out with a 
product that was much lighter, less high in fusel oil and in 
aldehydes than imported brandies, and was particularly fashioned to 
mix well with other things like vermouth or whatever mixed drinks 
were made in those days. Because I could see in my wide travels, 
in so many restaurants and hotels and bars, that mixed drinks were 
the big thing, and people rarely drank straight brandy. If they 
did they bought cognac, but this was not a bar item. It was sold 
in the finer stores and in the good hotels and restaurants as an 
after-dinner drink. But I felt very strongly that brandy had a 
place in the American way of life, particularly in spirits, because 
it is such a versatile drink and it mixes with almost everything 
and had to become a bar item. 


Teiser: In the development of the brandy at Christian Brothers, who tasted 
and who decided what? 

Fronnn: Otto Meyer, who is my brother-in-law he married my late sister he 
was in the brandy business in Germany. His family was in it for 
generations, too. He knew a great deal about it, and he helped the 
Brothers tremendously by advising us about the best way to blend a 
brandy that was different from foreign brandy and that was more 
eligible for use in mixed drinks. It was a lighter brandy and a 
more palatable brandy. You know, French cognacs very often have 
that soapy taste, which is very good for someone who likes it, but 
the average person in America didn't like it. You see, in those 
days, don't forget, people were a lot less sophisticated in 
drinking than they are today. 

Teiser: As I remember Christian Brothers brandy when it first came on the 
market, it was rather sweeter than it is now. 

Fromm: Yes. In those days sweetness was one thing that people were 

looking for. It was not really sweetness in a sense but it was 
softer and mellower. Then later on when people got more 
sophisticated and really appreciated fine spirits, the Christian 
Brothers reduced the level of sweetness considerably. 

At that time, when we came out with Christian Brothers brandy, 
the inventories of French cognacs in America were almost 
nonexistent, and this became an instant success. 

Teiser: How were you making it? Were you using pot stills? 

Fromm: We didn't use pot stills for about three years, because we didn't 
have the pot stills. When I say we I mean the Christian Brothers. 
We didn't have a pot still in the beginning, but we picked out the 
brandies very, very carefully from a large pool, and Otto Meyer 
did really an outstanding job. Our brandy was far superior to 
anything that was on the market and had an instant success. 

Teiser: This was from the prorate pool? 

Fromm: Yes. We went throught the whole pool, Otto and I. I think we must 
have tasted probably six or seven hundred samples of brandy, which 
was no pleasure. But we picked out those maybe fifteen, twenty 
lots which were clean, which were nice, and which had some bouquet, 
and then Otto made some blends. We came out with some brandy that 
was a highly successful product and far superior in quality to 
anything which was on the market. 

Teiser: Then you started using pot stills? 


Fromrn: Yes. Then the Brothers saw that pot-still brandy was a heavier, 
richer brandy. It had to be aged between six to ten years to 
really attain its full quality. You cannot use it as young as 
regular brandy. 

Teiser: The brandy made in a column still? 

Fromm: Yes, the column-still brandy. It's pretty well at the proper age 
when it's four years old. But by blending in ten to fifteen 
percent of pot-still brandy, it gave our brandy that quality that 
didn't exist before. 

So we sold to every state in the union. We could have sold 
more brandy if we had had the inventory. 

Teiser: Were you making that at Mont La Salle? 
Fromm: No, it was made at Mt. Tivy. 
Teiser: Oh, you'd bought Mt. Tivy by then. 

Fromm: Yes, the Christian Brothers bought Mt. Tivy from Seagram's. 

Seagram's owned it at the time. We arranged that the Christian 
Brothers could buy it at some very favorable terms of payment. On 
each case that was shipped they paid a few pennies to Seagram's, 
and after six or seven years the winery was paid off. 

Teiser: That put you in a Thompson Seedless area, I assume. 

Fromm: Yes. 

Teiser: So that you had a good source of supply. 

Fromm: Thompson Seedless makes good brandy. It makes a very neutral 

brandy, and that is desirable, but in order to get more taste and 
flavor into the brandy, we felt very strongly that we needed some 
pot-still brandy. That's what got us into the pot stills, because 
it's much more flavorful and gives you more substance. Because 
you had blended whiskeys which were very light and didn't have much 
taste, and vodka came into the market, and to me this was always 
something that I never could understand why people drink anything 
that had no taste and no smell and no nothing and was just ordinary 
alcohol. But it became very successful, and there was a trend to 
lighter drinks. The heavy bourbon drinkers gradually disappeared 
and people wanted lighter drinks. 

Teiser: Did you use some marketing strategy on that? As I remember, the 
bottle was a distinctive shape. 


Fromm: Yes, it was a nice bottle that we developed and a nice label, but 
nothing really fancy because we always felt that the money had to 
be spent on the product and not on the package. So we had a nice, 
clean, good package, and the package has hardly ever been changed. 
There was a slight improvement in the label but the package 
basically is still the same. 

Teiser: It's distinctive. 

Fromm: Yes, because it's a recognized package and the bottle shape has 
been copied by many others. 

Creating an Advanced Still 

Fromm: So the brandy business then became very large, made large revenue 
for us. And then the Brothers put in a special large continuous 
still down there, which was entirely different from the stills that 
existed in California, because the California brandy stills are 
generally high-proof stills, and we wanted a still with more 
plates. A much finer product could be developed. 

So we went to Seagram's, and Mr. Samuel Bronfman, the one who 
developed Seagram's and the largest owner of the Seagram's company, 
became a good friend of ours, and we asked him for some advice, 
since he was an outstanding expert in spirits. He said to Franz 
Sichel*, my partner, and to me, "There is only one way you can do 
it. We will give you our best technical people from Louisville, 
our still people, who build their own stills, and they will tell 
you how it should be done." Then we had the right advisers how to 
build stills, and the Christian Brothers stills today still are the 
only stills of this kind in the United States. 

Teiser: What did this type of still do that other brandy stills don't do? 

Fromm: Well, it was a much more sophisticated still than any still existing 
until today in California. It had a lot of improvements that the 
whiskey people had worked out over many years for their products, 
which of course was a big business and a lot of money was spent by 
them on research. So we were the beneficiary of that and had a 
brandy still that made cleaner brandy and brandy that did not have 

*For an account of the formation of Fromm and Sichel, successors to 
Picker-Linz, see pages 22-23. 


Fromm: as much fusel oil and aldehydes as other brandies produced here. 

Actually, we were very anxious that the Christian Brothers produce 
for our sales a brandy that was lighter, softer, and would lend 
itself particularly for blending in mixed drinks. 

Teiser: Does a more sophisticated still "recognize" more sensitively the 

factors in the brandy as it's being made and separate them out? Is 
that ? 

Fromm: Yes, that's exactly what happens. It gaves us the means to double 
distill the brandy and clean up any impurities. 

So it was not all accidental that the brandy was successful. 
It took a lot of planning and thinking. But as I have so often 
said, the marvelous thing in America is that if you talk to the 
right people they will advise you honestly and give you advice that 
you couldn't buy for money. That happened to us. 

As the brandy business developed further, we had of course to 
borrow money for inventory at the Bank of America. The Bank of 
America was very good to us. Very shortly after we started, we got 
our first credit because we needed to make more brandy and at that 
time you couldn't get any money in New York on brandy because the 
banks in New York said, "We will loan on whiskey, but we don't loan 
on brandy; we don't know it." So we went to the Bank of America; 
who gave us the first credit, and were very good to us, and I have 
worked with them since then and never been with any other bank 
either for the firm or personally. 

Agreement with Seagram's, 1954 

Fromm:. However, the business ran away, and millions were needed to really 
build the inventory, because at that time we sold already six or 
seven hundred thousand cases per year of brandy. Your brandy, 
let's say, is an average five years old, including the pot still, so 
if you sell five hundred thousand cases you have to make two 
million cases or two and a half million cases in order to have the 
inventory at the same level and not even figuring on any increase. 
So that took an enormous amount of money. So again my partner 
Franz Sichel and I went to Samuel Bronfman, who was a very good 
friend of ours. (I have his picture here on the wall; I'll show it 
to you later) And we said, "What should we do?" 

So he said, "Well, Seagram's will buy a 70 percent interest in 
your firm if you want us to. However, on the condition that Franz 
Sichel and you remain partners at a sizable share. Because," Mr. 


Fromm: Bronfman said to us, "I believe that the most money can be made if 
you have partners who are financially very much interested in the 
firm." I said, "Sam, I do not want to work on a salary regardless 
of what the amount is. I have never worked on a salary. When I 
was young I worked on commission and I just don't work on a 
salary." He said, "Well, we want you as a partner for that reason. 
We don't want a man just on salary." 

So Seagram's bought 70 percent. However, the understanding 
with Seagram's was and they kept this until last October, 1983, 
when the firm was sold back to the Christian Brothers that this 
was run as a completely autonomous business. 

After Franz Sichel died, in 1967, I was president and chief 
executive officer. I moved in 1941 to California from New York 
because it was important that a partner of the firm would be here 
in daily contact with the Christian Brothers, the winery, in 
California. We moved in '41 to California, and the business 
developed very well and made money every year except in 1947, when 
the Christian Brothers and we had a large inventory of wine and 
then the price controls were dropped, and wine went from $1.20 
(sweet wine) to about thirty or forty cents. But that was the only 
year we lost some money, because we had a large expensive 
inventory. Otherwise we made some money every year. 

Business Principles 

Fromm: I have, in those many years that I have been with Picker-Linz as a 

partner and then with Fromm and Sichel, never have taken a penny out 
of the firm except my salary and a bonus, because I wanted to 
increase my stake in the firm, which I have done this way. So this 
is one of the good things I can say about the German method of 
running a business. 

As I mentioned, we started in the export business of Christian 
Brothers wine and brandy. We were one of the better known 
exporters. We shipped to about sixty foreign countries. And the 
nice thing was that we got a lot of re-orders. See, when you get 
your first order and you don't get a re-order within six months, 
then the wine doesn't move. But it worked out quite well. We sold 
for less money in the export business than we sold in America. We 
had one price. Nobody could get a different price from us. It was 
an absolute principle. There was no discount; there was no under- 
the-table business. I never found it necessary to bribe anyone or 
to pay off someone. That's just no way to do business. 


Fromm: In all these years that I'm in business in America, I found out you 
don't have to be a mental giant, but you have to have certain 
principles by which you stick, and this is honesty, and that you 
know what you are doing and that you know the field in which you 
are working. And if people trust you and that's why I like it so 
much in America if people trust you, you really have no problems. 

Another principle I always worked with is only to deal with 
the best people, because if you are not so smart yourself and you 
deal with sharpies, you mostly get the short end. If you deal with 
honorable and first-class people you do all right. Sometimes 
people asked me, "Alfred, how come you have so many good 
distributors in the country?" I said, "Well, for a very simple 
reason. Because they're people I could talk to, who trusted me, 
and they're people who would pay us right away." We needed the 
money right away because in a firm like ours that had developed 
that fast there was never enough money, because all the money had 
to go into the inventory. 

Teiser: This arrangement with the Christian Brothers group and your group, 
was there a parallel in the United States at all for such a 

Fromm: I don't think so. 
Teiser: It was unique? 

Fromm: Yes. And as the Brothers often said to me, which pleased me very 
much, before they made the contract with us they dealt with some 
people in the East, and they said, "You know Alfred, since we were 
dealing with a Jewish firm, we never had a better deal. You are 
honest, you are men of integrity." I said, "Well, it's no more 
than good business to be honest and have integrity." I have told 
this to hundreds and hundreds of young men who have worked for us. 
It was a principle that applied to anyone who worked in the firm. 
So many of the young people, particularly today, think if you are 
successful in business that you must have some tricks or that you 
have some crooked ways of making money. I always tell them, "If 
ever anyone told you this, they didn't tell you the right thing." 

Fromm and Sichel, Successor to Picker-Linz, 1945 

Teiser: When did Picker-Linz become Fromm and Sichel? 

Fromm: Nineteen forty-five, on January 1. I associated myself as a 

partner with Franz Sichel, who comes from the wine firm of Sichel- 


Fromm: in-Mainz. He was ten years older then I am, a very good wine man, 
and a very fine person. We were partners for almost twenty-five 
years and never had one cross word. So it was a very happy 
relationship. He knew I was more adventurous than he was and more 
active and younger, so he let me handle things without interfer 
ence. We talked every Sunday for an hour or an hour and a half on 
the telephone, discussed everything that was going on, and then we 
made our decisions right then and there. That worked out very 

I had already bought out all my other partners. And Franz 
Sichel joined me in 1945. I needed a large credit in the Bank of 
America. And just to give you an illustration of how things were 
in those days, I got a three-year credit at 1 3/4 percent interest 
per year. Those were different times and it was a very good rate. 
But one of the top men in the Bank of America who liked me quite a 
bit, had complete trust in me. He said, "Alfred, the fact that you 
are so anxious to get the lowest rate of interest only people who 
want to pay want the low rate. The ones who don't want to pay, 
they don't care what we charge them." 

Teiser: Do you want to name him? 

Fromm: Fred Ferroggiaro. He was an executive vice-president of the Bank 
of America and chairman of the finance committee. A really old- 
style banker. 

Instead of three years, after one and a half years I was able 
to pay off my loan at the bank. That was one of the happy days of 
my life. I had a lot of deferred salary coming that I hadn't 
drawn, so I drew that, and the taxes were low in those days. So I 
paid off the bank. Franz Sichel borrowed, too, in the Bank of 
America, and Seagram's had to deduce that I didn't need any help 
from them. They knew me in the bank and I didn't need any 
guarantees or anything. But they didn't know Franz Sichel, so he 
borrowed in the bank, too, with Seagram's backing, and that was 
paid off a little later. It was always a very excellent relation 
ship of trust that we had with the Bank of America. 

In those days the bank was a lot smaller, and there was much 
more of a personal relationship. I mean, I had many good friends 
most of the presidents of the Bank of America have been personal 
friends of mine because they liked to talk to a small businessman, 
too, get his ideas and suggestions. 

Sam Armacost, the new president of the bank, I know him well. 
He's a personal friend. But if you want something, if you go to 
Sam Armacost you are being turned over to someone else, because the 


Fromm: man has so many responsibilities, 
forty years ago. 

It's not the same as it was 

Fromm: In 1950 Seagram's became a partner in Fromm and Sichel. The 

partnership consisted 70 percent of Seagram's and 30 percent was 
owned by Franz Sichel and myself. 

As I told you, we were completely autonomous. Seagram's was 
always available when we wanted advice, but we never came to them 
and said, "This is a problem and that's a problem." We said, 
"Here, this is the problem; that's what we expect to do. Do you 
have a better solution?" They always said, "Go ahead and do what 
you described." 

You know, as I so often say, the good Lord had his hand over 
us. That you have to work hard, that you have to be honorable, 
have integrity, that you know your business that's only 50 
percent. But the other 50 percent is being there at the right 
time, getting together with the right people. And some people say 
that's good luck, that's good fortune; I say it was a good hand 
that was over us. In all those years. And I'm very grateful for 

Association with Paul Masson 

President, 1944-1955 

Teiser: There was quite an overlap, was there not, with your interest in 
Paul Masson? 

Fromm: Yes. Paul Masson was owned by Seagram's. They didn't do anything 
with it. It was very small. They bought it from Martin Ray. It 
was a premium winery, had some very, very good wines there. But 
they had no sales organization. One day the head of Seagram's 
called Franz Sichel and me and said, "We would like you to take it 
off our hands." We said, "We'll be glad to do it, but we will pay 
you only as we sell the inventory, because we cannot afford to 
invest additional money and we don't want to borrow any more 
money." They said, "Fine, do that." 

Then I became president of Paul Masson, and I spent quite some 
time down there. At that time my father was already here, and he 
tasted every barrel of wine, and he was really an outstanding 


Fromm: taster. And we put a small quantity of wine into the market at 

that time at, I think, $36 a case, which was an unheard of price. 
They had some beautiful wines there. That business developed very 
quickly. The purchase price to Seagram's was paid off within two 

Teiser: You were president from '44 to '55. 

Fromm: Yes. I ran the business in addition to our business here for 

Christian Brothers, and we did very well with it, but there was a 
limit how far we could grow because the inventory did not exist, 
and the winery up in the hills in Saratoga was very, very small. 
So we did a few things up there, like Music in the Vineyards, 
started by my late brother Norman. You have heard about Music in 
the Vineyards? It's already in its twentieth year at Paul Masson. 
Open-air concerts. We founded that, and it has been done now by 
other wineries, and the nice thing is if you do something right, 
other people will do it, too. But it always takes someone to stick 
his neck out and try to do it. 

So we developed this firm, and then we could see there was 
quite a chance in Paul Masson as a premium winery, as they were 
only in the table wine business at that time. Otto Meyer, who was 
with me in the firm, was asked to take over management of Paul 
Masson and run it, and he became president and ran it quite suc 

Teiser: Let me take you back if I may. As I remember, at the time that you 
took it over, the winery wasn't very much and it had little vine 
yard land. Is that right? 

Fromm: It had a few hundred acres of top-grade vineyards up on the hill, 
but the production was extremely small. We replanted quite a few 
vineyards, and then in the early 1960s we bought a lot of new 
vineyard land down near Salinas because there just was no land 
available in Santa Clara County, as you know, with the development 
of the whole Silicon Valley, at a price where you could afford to 
have a vineyard. So we went down there and we planted about 1500 

Teiser: In the meantime, did you have others making wine for you? 

Fromm: Yes. We got some wines from Mirassou and from some other people 

down there. They made it under contract for us. Then we built the 
winery in Saratoga. That was at that time quite an undertaking. 
And the champagne business was developed, the wine business was 
developed. And then in Soledad another winery and crushing plant 
was built. 


Fromm: When Otto went to Paul Masson, there was some sort of jealously 

between the Christian Brothers and Paul Masson, even though we ran 
it separately and never had any difficulty in our mind to separate 
those two and do the right thing for both. But the Brothers felt 
maybe that I would spend more time on it, so we split it off and 
made it a completely separate operation. 

Teiser: For both of them. 

Fromm: by Picker-Linz first, and then by Fromm and Sichel. So we split 
it up and they had their own organization. 

Teiser: Masson was no longer distributed by your firm? 

Fromm: No. They built their own organization and became quite big in the 
meantime. They went more and more into production of large 
quantities of wine. They now have another plant in the San Joaquin 
Valley. But at that time when Otto and I were in charge, we really 
ran it as a premium wine business, as a top-quality producer. 

Planting Vineyards in the Salinas Valley 

Teiser: When you bought the acreage in the Salinas Valley, was that a big 
decision? Were you part of that decision? 

Fromm: Yes. It was a decision that gave me many sleepless nights because 
we didn't know how well a vineyard would do. We were the first 
ones to do that. And after that Mirassou came in, and after that 
Wente came in. But we were the pioneers. We were the first ones. 
Masson bought acreage in 1960, Mirassou in 1961, and in 1962 their 
first commercial plantings were made. 

What we found out later was that the white grapes down there 
were absolutely excellent but the red grapes needed something else. 
Red grapes there are not as good as the grapes in Napa or Sonoma. 
We planted only the best varietal grapes. Then later on the red 
grapes were mostly grafted over to white grapes like Johannisberg 
Riesling and Chardonnays and Semillon and Sauvignon blanc. 

Teiser: You planted the vines on their own roots? 

Fromm: No, they were all grafted on American rootstock. 

Teiser: Originally? 

Fromm: Yes. Even so, it's no phylloxera yet down there but it's coming 


Teiser: Then the Masson vineyards there won't be affected? 

Fromm: Yes, they can still be affected; even a grafted vineyard can be 

affected to some extent by phylloxera in a small way. But it's a 
danger, you know if you have pests in a certain territory you 
never know how far it can go. Some of the chemicals that we used 
before in spraying the vineyards are outlawed and the new ones are 
less effective today, so we were very, very careful on that. 

Teiser: Did you work with the university on various plantings for Paul 

Fromm: Every vineyard has been plotted and planned by UC Davis. They were 
absolutley marvelous. They sent their groups down there; they made 
the surveys and they made us plots of the various soil conditions 
and all that, and we followed strictly their advice, and it turned 
out very well. They are the best people in the world. I have been 
around in my life, and I really can say that. 

Teiser: Who there did you work with mainly? 

Fromm: There are quite a few people, mainly, Dr. [A.J.] Winkler. We also 
talked a great deal to Dr. [Maynard A.] Amerine, and to Dr. [Emil] 
Mrak. Dr. Winkler was really in charge at that time. He sent 
students down, and it was a good experience for them, and it helped 
us and hardly cost us anything. It's a marvelous service. And as 
I have often said, the California wine industry would not be where 
it is today if it wasn't for Davis, because they are really the 
tops in wine-making techniques and all that. They developed a 
combination of modern American technology and European traditions, 
which is what makes a good mixture. 

Teiser: In the rehabilitation of both Christian Brothers and Paul Masson, 
did you draw on your knowledge of European wineries to select 
equipment for these wineries? 

Fromm: We advised the Brothers, we helped the Brothers to get the best 
equipment. We gave them the names and we put them in touch with 
the various people. But in the meantine, the Brothers had 
developed their own staff of really good people, so that was not so 
much necessary any more. But we always consulted with each other 
and worked very closely together. Unfortunately, Brother John 
died very early, and there were a few successors who were not as 
well versed in the wine business as Brother John was, who really 
grew up with it, the same as I. 

Teiser: Was champagne an important product for Paul Masson all along? 


Fromm: Yes, it was. Champagne was the main product of Paul Masson, but 

with the chances that we all saw in the wine business, we felt that 
the wine business had to be developed and came very fast, and that 
made it necessary then to build the new plant and to put the 
vineyards in. And then Masson had a lot of contracts with other 
vineyardists down in Monterey County, so the grapes were then 
available. They were the first ones to put in a large vineyard, 
and as I told you, then Mirassou and Wente followed afterwards. 
There are good grapes from there. 

Association With the Christian Brothers Continued 

Selling Christian Brothers Wines 

Teiser: One thing that you said yesterday that I was thinking about you 

said that when you started working with the Christian Brothers, you 
decided that it was necessary to educate Americans about wine 
drinking. How did you undertake that? 

Fromm: Well, the first thing was that we had what we called missionary men 
that called on our wholesalers and distributors and tried to 
educate the salesmen so that they, in turn, would talk to the 
retailers. In addition to that, we talked to a lot of wine 
writers. There were not too many in those days, and they were all 
new in the business and I was able to give them some helpful 
information. It was amazing how much good will I found as far as 
education of wine is concerned, because it's a very pleasant sub 

Teiser: Another thing occurred to me: When you were tasting with the 

Christian Brothers, were you trying to create a wine that was not 
European, and not like previous California wines? What was your 

Fromm: Our aim in tasting all the wines was to blend together the wines 
which were most suitable for this purpose because the Christian 
Brothers, and in particular, Brother John, Brother Timothy and I, 
felt that we should come out with a product that was on a quality 
level but at the same time, would appeal to the American taste. 
And that meant, among the red wines that the wine should not have 
excess tannin, that the wine had a certain softness to it. As you 
know, particularly for a neophyte in drinking wine, the scale of 
taste generally goes from sweet to dry. As I said to you 

Gathered for a 1967 meeting in Montreal, left to right: Brother 
Gregory of Mont La Salle; Samuel Bronfman, head of Seagrams; 
Brother Charles Henry, first American Superior General of the 
Christian Brothers; Alfred Fromm. 

At the Christian Brothers' Greystone winery, late 1970s, 
left to Tight: Brother Gregory, Alfred Fromm, unidentified 
person, Brother Timothy, Walter Neihoff of Botsford Ketchum 


Fromm: yesterday, America was really a wasteland in those days as far as 
wine is concerned. We had to come out with something that would 
appeal to the consumer but at the same time was on a very much 
higher quality level then the California wines that were in the 
market and were mostly shipped in tank cars from California and 
were bottled and sold at very low prices. 

The Vie-Del Company 

Teiser: I don't know where it fits in, but I want to ask you about the Vie- 
Del Company. Was it connected with either Christian Brothers or 
Paul Masson? 

Fromm: No, it was not. However, Vie-Del supplied blending sherry to 

Seagram's, and we were talking to Jim Riddell and Mike Nury, who at 
that time were running the Vie-Del Company. It was a very small 
firm at that time, and we built, later on, brandy warehouses at 
Vie-Del to store the brandy produced by the Christian Brothers. 
Under our contract with the Christian Brothers only brandy produced 
by the Christian Brothers could be sold under the Christian 
Brothers label. This was in effect in all those years. 

So we had our brandy warehouses there, and Vie-Del supplied to 
Seagram's blending sherry, and we became very friendly. It took 
considerably more money than Vie-Del at that time had of their own 
to build the brandy warehouses, and their credit with the banks was 
not very well established. So Fromm and Sichel purchased the 
majority of the Vie-Del shares. We also got an option on the 
balance of the Vie-Del shares, and after the death of Mr. [James] 
Riddell all his shares would have to be purchased by us. So Mr. 
Riddell knew that there was a market for his share in the business. 
He did die some years later [in 1973]. And Mr. Nury 
acquired from us some of the shares at a very advantageous payment 
schedule, because he is an extremely capable man and has made a 
great success of the Vie-Del Company. I was a partner in the Vie- 
Del Company, too, but when I sold my shares to Seagram's in August 
of 1983, they acquired Fromm and Sichel's shares in Vie-Del, too, 
and own something like 87 percent of the Vie-Del Company, and Mike 
Nury owns roughly 13 percent. 


St. Regis Vineyards 

Teiser: I think I read that in 1939 you bought some vineyard land in 

California, maybe it was a small amount, and I think I noticed that 
from time to time you had invested in other vineyard land. Is that 

Fromm: No, our firm did not invest in vineyard land as early as that, but 
we did later on. It must have been about 1975 that we founded the 
firm St. Regis Vineyards, that was a subsidiary of Fromm and 
Sichel, that acquired 350 acres of first-class vineyard land in Napa 
Valley in order to produce additional top varietal grapes that the 
Christian Brothers needed. The Christian Brothers did not want to 
put their money in or were not able to put their money in for those 
additional vineyards so we financed it, and then as the vineyards 
produced grapes, we turned the grapes over to the Christian 

St. Regis Vineyards still has this land under long-term 
leases. It's right on the highway and near St. Helena and then 
further up in the hills. 

Growth of the Christian Brothers 

Teiser: Over the years, then, since you have known and worked with 

Christian Brothers, it's really developed considerably, has it not? 

Fromm: Yes, it has developed to one of the leading wineries in the premium 
business. It's not a boutique winery, it's a medium-sized winery 
and sales were something like a million and a half cases of brandy 
and between a million and a half and two million cases of wine. So 
it's not a small winery. 

Teiser: And it's grown physically, also? 

Fromm: Yes, very much so. The Christian Brothers built additional facili 
ties in the Napa Valley and they purchased, quite a few years ago, 
the Greystone Cellars in Napa Valley. They purchased the Bisceglia 
winery in Fresno. They built a big warehouse near St. Helena. 
They put in additional vineyards of their own because it was 
needed. They have invested quite some money in their facilities, 
and we generally helped them in doing it. The Brothers own 
approximately 1400 acres in Napa Valley. 

Teiser: I read about Greystone being possibly not earthquake-proof. 


Fronnn: Yes. Well, they will make a lot of seismic investigations now 

to find out. That building looks like a fortress, and it has big 
stone walls and all that, but it is earthquake country there, and 
there is a certain danger, and it is such a popular place for 
visitors to visit. I know there are sometimes a few hundred people 
there, and God forbid you had something collapse. It could be 
really catastrophic. Greystone was built in 1889, and of course 
in those days one did not know how one could build better 
earthquake-proof buildings. It is a beautiful place and a great 
tourist attraction. 

Teiser: The Christian Brothers champagne cellars are on the southern edge 
of St. Helena 

Fromm: Yes. 

Teiser: Can you say something about that? 

Fromm: Well, we asked the Brothers to produce champagne, and then they put 
in the Charmat process because in many tastings we found out that 
we could make a more even-bodied champagne and stabilize the 
quality. It's made in small tanks and they really have put out 
a product that is very well accepted by the trade and by the 
consumer because it is a very good champagne. It was made at 
Greystone but now, of course, they have to relocate this and put it 
where they have the big warehouse and storage capacity in St. 

Teiser: They were not making the methode champenoise champagne at Grey- 

Fromm: No, it was all Charmat process champagne. Yes. They were making 
it there at Greystone at first, and it was well aged there on the 
upper floor where the champagne facilities were, and there was a 
lot of room. We put the bottles aside for aging, and after some 
time it was a really good product. 

Teiser: The South St. Helena Charmat process facility itself was quite 
advanced, was it not, when they built it later? 

Fromm: Yes. Brother Timothy and some of his assistants had been to France 
and to Germany and talked to a lot of people. And then we all 
decided that the Charmat process for Christian Brothers would be a 
better process than a bottle-fermented methode champenoise because, 
as I said, we would have a more even quality product. 


The California Brandy Business 

Teiser: Have Christian Brothers' sales increased or have they hit a 

Fromm: Well, in the last few years, brandy sales were rather flat. They 
increased every year by maybe thirty or fifty thousand cases and 
there was a certain plateau. The Brandy Advisory Board, which 
unfortunately is being discontinued, was able to promote brandy in 
a way that a private firm could not do legally. On the other 
hand, the brandy business is one of the businesses in hard liquor 
that is more stable and has not receded; in fact the total 
consumption of brandy has increased. 

Teiser: The Brandy Advisory Board was started in 1972 


Fromm: Yes. At that time the president of our firm, Jack Welsch, was 

instrumental in establishing the Brandy Advisory Board. And all 
the brandy producers were members of it, and there was a certain 
assessment on each gallon of brandy produced. 

Teiser: It was a California state marketing organization? 

Fromm: Marketing order, yes, it was. 

Teiser: Has it accomplished what it set out to do? 

Fromm: We think it has, yes. 

Teiser: Why is it being let go now, then? 

Fromm: Well, there is a very large factor the Gallos. And apparently Mr. 
[Ernest] Gallo felt that if he spends the money on production that 
he supplies to the Advisory Board on assessment, he could get more 
for his money. However, now they're changing because, for the 
first time, Gallo seems to be willing to cooperate with the 
vintners, with the producers, to have a joint order for wine. This 
is quite a change in his attitude. The Gallos are farsighted 

Teiser: The rise of brandy sales by Gallo, which has been overtaking 
Christian Brothers 

Fromm: It has overtaken to a very small extent, and right now sales of 

Gallo and Christian Brothers are about equal, but Gallo brandy is 
selling for a much lower price than Christian Brothers in 
general, and they give very large discounts. They are a privately 
held firm and I think a very profitable firm, and they can well 


Fromm: afford to do that. They have the enormous scale of size. Gallo is 
the lowest-cost producer of any winery in the United States. So 
they spend considerable money, but generally their brandy sells for 
less than Christian Brothers'. They do not use any pot-still 
brandy in their blend. That's a good part of it, so we think it 
will always be neck and neck, the competition between Gallo and 
Christian Brothers. 

Teiser: The implication in Gallo's effort is that brandy can have a larger 
market than it has. Do you believe that? 

Fromm: Yes, I definitely believe that. 
Teiser: Where would it come from? 

Fromm: Well, brandy has a lot of versatility and can be used in very many 
ways. We are getting away more and more from trying to sell to the 
public brandy in a snifter because there is a different way of 
using brandy. Brandy is a very nice and soft drink. It is a very 
agreeable drink. It is made from grapes, so it has all the advan 
tages in the public eye. A very good brandy is really a very good 
drink. As people get away more and more from harsher whiskeys, the 
brandy business has increased and will further increase the same as 
the business in cordials has tremendously increased in the United 
States imported cordials and American produced cordials. And 
they're being consumed mostly by the younger people. 

Teiser: Then the brandy market could expand at the expense of whiskey or 
vodka or 

Fromm: Yes, well, the whiskey business is receding and I think brandy can 
take some of it. Brandy is only a small part, about 4 1/2 to 5 
percent of the consumption of spirits. We feel that progress will 
be slow but there will be progress every year and it is quite 
possible that brandy will ultimately have maybe a market share of 8 
to 10 percent of the spirit consumption. 

Teiser: One of the brandy mysteries, I believe, is its heavy sale in 

Fromm: The consumption of brandy in Wisconsin was for many years much 

larger than the consumption of whiskey, and nobody has found out 
the real reasons. Of course, there are a lot of European families 
there with people of European origins Germany, in 
particular who really didn't know any whiskeys, but brandy was 
always considered a medicine and very healthy and a good drink. 
But nobody has explained why the people in Wisconsin just drink 
brandy so much. They drink a shot of brandy with a glass of beer. 
A strange way for us to think of it, but that's what happens. 


Fromm: Minnesota is a large market and we have done there very 

considerable business. However, in Wisconsin the brandy business 
was strictly a price-cutting business and, while we were there for 
many years, we did not choose to give the brandy away and lose 
money on it. So a lot of cheap brandy was sold. 

Teiser: Are there imported brandies that are competitive with California 

Fromm: Well, certainly not the cognacs that sell for at least two and two 
and a half times as much, but the so-called French brandies which 
are not cognacs which are made in other parts of France from low- 
priced wines. These grapes that are used in the cognac districts 
are very expensive. There is a very limited production. So, yes, 
there are some there to give us competition. Low-price brandies 
particularly from France. And every wine-producing country in the 
world produces brandy, too. 

Teiser: Can you make brandy out of any old wine? 

Fromm: Well, you can, but you can not make good brandy out of poor wine. 
The wine has to be clean, it has to be fresh and has to be made 
from the right kind of grapes, otherwise you have no flavor. And 
if you have wine that is half-spoiled and you have so much fusel 
oil in it, it becomes almost like gasoline; it's undrinkable. 

Styles of Brandy 

Fromm: Actually, when the Christian Brothers went into the brandy 

business, there was hardly any brandy business in America. I think 
we were really the ones who put brandy on the map. There was very 
little brandy sold here. 

Teiser: The California Wine Association had A.R. Morrow brandy. 

Fromm: Yes, that was a very heavy brandy and there were some people who 
liked it, but it was not really for the American taste. I think 
Christian Brothers was the first one to find out what the American 
people would like to drink, and then we tried to fashion a good 
product and told the Brothers what we needed, and had a lot of 
tasting on that and checked it continously, and decided that pot- 
still brandy as I mentioned before was a necessary ingredient that 
would give it quality. 

Teiser: Just now there is at least one winery making pot-still brandy 
Schramsberg Vineyard, in a joint venture. 


Fromm: Yes, yes, that's together with Remy Martin who is from France. But 
pot-still brandy needs a lot more aging than continuous- still 
brandy. It will probably take quite some time before it will be on 
the market. All of the specialties can only be helpful to the 
brandy business. I always have been of the opinion that good new 
products a product that has a special interest that can be produced 
in small quantities can only help the industry. It's, you know, 
like going into a store to buy a dress. You want to look maybe at 
ten dresses before you buy. That's how most women do. So you have a 
certain variety that adds some interest to the search. 

Teiser: Is there a "boutique" brandy industry starting? 

Fromm: If there is there a boutique brandy, I think Christian Brothers had 
it by putting out X Brandy. X [Rare Reserve] had 50 percent 
pot-still brandy and 50 percent continuous still brandy and was 
made from the oldest reserves of the Brothers. The Brothers today 
have by far the largest inventory of old brandy and the largest 
inventory of brandy altogether in the United States. 

Teiser: They served it at your testimonial dinner, did they not? 

Fromm: Yes, yes they did. I think that X Brandy is something that can 
well compete with good French Cognacs. 

Teiser: I would think there would be a temptation for the same kind of 

people who have a lot of money and don't mind losing it and want to 
make fine wine to get into experimenting with pot-still brandy. 

Fromm: The brandy business is a very capital-intensive business. It takes 
a lot of money to do that. As an example, if you sell a thousand 
cases of brandy, the pot-still brandy would have to be six or eight 
years old; you would have to produce each year enough for six or 
eight thousand cases plus whatever you expect your sales increases 
will be. So it takes a tremendous amount of money. It was the 
fact that it takes so much money that led us to go to Seagram's and 
find a very secure large financial basis where there was no limit 
to how far we could extend the business. 

Teiser: I remember having been in the experimental brandy distillery at UC 
Davis. Have their studies contributed to the industry? 

Fromm: Yes, Dr. [James F.] Guymon did a very creditable job. I would 

certainly say that without the people who work in Davis, the wine 
industry and the brandy industry in California would not be what it 
is today. They have a great share, they can take a large share of 
credit for that. 


Teiser: I am told by industry members that the Data Annual summarizing each 
year's California wine and brandy statistics, was of great value to 
everyone. Would you tell about how Fromm and Sichel happened to 
undertake the job of compiling and publishing it? 

Fromm: We felt that as a public service we should give pertinent 

information to the American wine writers, trade associations, and 
others interested in this material that was not available otherwise 
to them in such a comprehensive form. We felt that at the same 
time it would build some good will for our firm. 

Sale of Fromm and Sichel to The Christian Brothers, 1983 

Teiser: To come back to recent events, Fromm and Sichel continued until 
just this last year? 

Fromm: Fromm and Sichel was sold to the Christian Brothers on October 1, 

Teiser: What part of the holdings of Fromm and Sichel went to the Christian 

Fromm: Only those holdings that they needed to run the sales business of 
their products. 

Teiser: You said that the reason for the sale 

Fromm: The issue was that the Christian Brothers were very anxious to 

combine marketing and production to synchronize that because this 
became sometimes a problem. And it had something to do, too, with 
my retirement, as I was running the firm for so many years. So we 
turned over a lot of the brandy inventories the inventories were 
all made by the Christian Brothers, but we paid for them at time of 
production because the Christian Brothers couldn't afford to keep 
brandy inventories of something like $80 million to $90 million. 

So we turned over to the Brothers the amount of brandy that 
they needed for their sales. They asked if they could continue 
with the name of Fromm and Sichel because we have a respected name 
throughout the country, which we agreed to. And they took some of 
our top people, including our general sales manager, who was with 
us for many years, Al [Allen] Nirenstein, and so we have helped 
them as much as we can and we will continue to help because we want 
to see them succeed. 


Fromm: I have a personal reason in that, too, I was for 47 years connected 
with the Christian Brothers, and the firm Fromm and Sichel has my 
name in it. I was a founder of Fromm and Sichel, and the best part 
of my business life I spent with the Christian Brothers, so I have 
a very warm feeling for the Brothers in my heart and I help them 
whenever possible. 

Teiser: Do you still work a little with them, then? 

Fromm: Well, they ask me sometimes about certain things, and they know 

that if there's any problem coming up where I can be of help, that 
I will be glad to do it and so will the Seagram's company. 

Teiser: What is the organization known as the Brandy Association of 

California with which you continue to be associated as chairman of 
the board? 

Fromm: It was until the sale of Fromm and Sichel to the Christian Brothers 
a subsidiary 100 percent owned by us. Over the years Brandy 
Association sold brandy produced by Vie-Del to other brandy 
marketers. After the sale of Fromm and Sichel, substantial 
assets, including our office building, not sold to the Christian 
Brothers were transferred to Brandy Associates, now a Division of 
Joseph E. Seagram and Sons, New York, and 100 percent owned by 
them. They have taken over certain pension matters and other 
obligations of Fromm and Sichel. 

Key Men at Christian Brothers 

Teiser: Have you tasted for them all these years? 

Fromm: Yes, we have done a lot of tasting. That was, I think, maybe one 
of my main contributions that I could make in the production in 
tasting because it was with Brother Timothy and in former years, 
Brother John. Brother John was a dynamic guy and he died, 
unfortunately, much too young and I would say, Brother John and I 
really put the business on the map. It was a very close 
cooperation and, as I think I mentioned, in the beginning neither 
the Brothers nor we had any money to speak of, so it was necessaary 
to do a lot of things together and fortunately, it did work out 
well for both parties. 

Teiser: Did the two of you sort of teach Brother Timothy? 


Fromm: Well, Brother John probably did to a large extent, but Brother 

Timothy has a very good palate. And Brother Timothy is very good 
in public relations. I mean his whole appearance. And he's a very 
kind man and a very knowledgeable man. He has been very helpful in 
the development of the business, and we have asked Brother Timothy 
very often to call on certain customers, together with some of our 
sales force, which has always been successful. 

Teiser: Are there others among the Brothers who have become experts? 

Fromm: Well, there are some and then, of course, they have some lay people 
who run the wineries and their production. There was John Hoffman 
who was in charge of production of table wines in Napa, and he is a 
brother of the late Brother John. And then down in Mt. Tivy 
winery in the San Joaquin Valley, there was Herman Archinal a very 
capable man who worked very closely with Brother John. Those 
people are not there any more. They have retired now. There are 
new people now there. They were there for many years; you know, we 
all have gotten a little bit older in the last 47 years. 

Teiser: But they haven't been able to bring up any Brothers as experts? 

Fromm: Well, I always told them how important this was, and they have some 
people, but they are not as conversant with all the new production 
techniques that are required today. So they hired some very good 
lay people. 

The Wine Museum of San Francisco. 1974-1984 

Teiser: There were other assets of Fromm and Sichel that were disposed of? 
Fromm: They were not disposed of to the Christian Brothers. 

This building here, that was owned by Fromm and Sichel, was 
sold recently and this is one of the reasons why the Wine Museum 
has to be dissolved, because it's part of this building. I built 
this building twelve years ago as headquarters for Fromm and 
Sichel, but since I sold my stock 100 percent to Seagram's, Sea 
gram's actually, now is the owner of this building. It's held by 
Fromm and Sichel, but Fromm and Sichel is owned 100 percent by 
Seagram" s. 

Teiser: So it was really Seagram's, through Fromm and Sichel, who made the 
sale to the Christian Brothers is that right? 

The Wine Museum of San Francisco, incorporating The Christian 
Brothers Collection, was opened in 1974. 

Above , Mr. and Mrs. Alfred Fromm at the opening reception, with a 
grape vine sculpture by J. B. Blunk commissioned for the museum. 
Below } the Thomas Jefferson Gallery. 


Fromm: That's correct. 

Teiser: But Seagram's held on to this building? 

Fromm: Yes. 

Teiser: There's a picture of you and several other men standing on a board 
in what looks like London after the blitz, with glasses of 
champagne. And it's the site just before construction started. 
It was clearly a very happy occasion. 

Fromm: Well, you know, this building site was really a slum, with some 
miserable schlock stores. But we bought this lot because it has 
such a marvelous location particularly for the museum, you know 
the end of the cable car line. And there's a tremendous amount of 
visitors here in this neighborhood, so we were very anxious to get 
the lot. It was very expensive in those days, but today it's 
probably worse three times as much. 

Teiser: Who designed the building? 

Fromm: Worley Wong, architect in San Francisco. 

Teiser: You must have worked very closely with him, did you? 

Fromm: Yes, we did, yes. 

Teiser: Was the wine museum conceived as part of it originally? 

Fromm: As soon as we built the building we created space for the wine 
museum and built an extra addition for it. 

Teiser: The wine museum may I ask you about it? 

Fromm: Well, I always felt that a wine museum that would deal exclusively 
with wine in the arts would be a great asset to our industry. In 
fact, the Wine Museum of San Francisco is the only museum in the 
United States that deals exclusively with wine and the arts. We 
don't show any old barrels or any big wine presses or things like 
that, but we really deal with wine in the arts. My late brother, 
Norman, and I and my wife, we collected for about forty-five years 
and got some marvelous artworks which today are almost 
unobtainable. Even if today, say, you want to spend a few million 
dollars, you couldn't get those collections together because the 
stuff just isn't available or you can buy it at some auctions one 
thing here and one thing there but it takes many years to get a 
collection together. 


Teiser: Did you buy through agents in Europe, or 

Fromm: Well, we bought through agents in Europe and people we know that 
had connections. We bought things here, and I had a very large 
collection of wine books, about a thousand wine books, some of them 
very, very rare and old, going back to almost the earliest type of 
printing, in Latin and in Italian. English wine books are, of 
course, a much later date. And I own this collection and it will 
end up at the new Seagram museum in Waterloo, Ontario, Canada, 
which was just built and will open very shortly. It is a very 
large museum for wines and spirits. Most of our collections will 
go there. 

Teiser: I'm so sorry San Francisco is losing all that. 

Fromm: Yes. It was really a labor of love. It was a special project of 
mine, but that's the way those things go, in very large companies 
decisions are being made that are very difficult to change and the 
very top management of Seagram's just didn't want to overrule them. 
They felt the Wine Museum wouldn't produce any revenue. Well, 
that's of course the wrong attitude. You know, man doesn't live by 
bread alone. 

We had in the museum every year between 100,000 and 125,000 
visitors. We were very choosy we never accepted any bus tours. 
We could have had 500,000 people a year if we had bus tours, but we 
didn't want it because a museum should be a place where you can 
leisurely browse around and really enjoy what we have, and I think 
it has created a lot of good will not only for Christian Brothers 
but for the whole industry. And I am very industry-minded. I 
always felt that what's good for the industry is good for us too. 

Teiser: Could you speak a little of Mr. Ernest Mittelberger's part in the 

Fromm: Yes. Well, when we opened the museum, Ernie Mittleberger, who had 
worked as Public Relations Director of Paul Masson and who had 
worked with me for many years before in New York when our firm was 
in New York the old Picker-Linz Company he was there with us, and 
I knew that Ernie was always very much interested in art. He was a 
real student typical German student, you know; they were very, 
very thorough. He had to know. So when we opened here, I said, 
"Ernie, I want you to take that over." 

First he said to me, "Well, I don't know if I could do it, if 
I'm qualified." 

I said, "Ernie, you are qualified. You just find out what you 
have to do." And within a couple of years, it was amazing how well 

Above, Ernest Mittelberger, director of the Wine Museum of San Francisco, and 
Alfred Fromm examine a wine jar of King Solomon's time that was given to the 
museum by Teddy Kollek, mayor of Jerusalem. 

Below, at a reception given at the museum, left to right, Philip Hiaring, 
publisher of Wines and Vines; Baron Philippe de Rothschild, guest of honor; 
Alfred Fromm. 







things ran and how people came to him for information as he was 
very sound in what he was doing. Ernie and I, we planned then 
together those various exhibits in the museum which were very well 
received. We were very anxious that the museum not be used for 
propaganda and not for trying to sell something. We never sold 
anything in the museum. Yes, you could buy a few postcards for 
twenty cents or the book that Ernie wrote as co-author. 

I have a copy of it, In Celebration of Wine and Lift 
Lamb and Mr. Mittelberger. 

by Richard B. 

You probably saw the foreward that I wrote. 
Yes. I'm about to ask you to autograph it. 

There was also a second book, wasn't there, on art? 

Yes, there have been quite a few books. Some odd publishers came 
to us and wanted to reproduce a number of our artworks and they 
did, and they were always very well received, but we never in any 
way whatsoever promoted any sales of them because I felt this was 
the wrong way for a museum. A museum should be a public place and 
a place for the good of the public, and ultimately you get some 
benefits out of it, too. 

What will happen to the glass collection? 

The glass collection belongs to the Franz W. Sichel Foundation. 
Franz Sichel, as I mentioned, I think, to you yesterday, was my 
partner for almost twenty-five years. After I started to collect 
wine antiques, I finally induced Franz that he should do something 
too (this goes back now about thirty years) and he started to get 
interested in wine glasses and he had some very excellent advisers, 
true experts, because those things you have to know. He got a 
fabulous collection together and this was exhibited in our office, 
of course. Not all the glasses could be. That was one of the 
reasons we wanted to show them in the wine museum. Unfortunately, 
when we opened the museum years ago, Franz was not alive anymore, 
and then I was appointed president of the Franz Sichel Foundation, 
and we got the glasses here on loan from the Franz Sichel 
Foundation. They own the glasses. We didn't want to buy them. 
That would have been a very sizable investment. His collection is 
worth, I don't know, probably something between $600,000 and a 
million dollars. But we were very happy to see the exhibit that 
carries Franz's name, and it will go to the De Young Museum In 
Golden Gate Park here for permanent display. 


Industry Organizations 

Teiser: I wanted to ask you about the Wine Institute. Did you feel that it 
did a good job educating the consumer, a matter you spoke of 

Fromm: They did a good job while they had the means. Then they had to 
stop it, because the [Wine Advisory Board] assessments were 
discontinued, but the Wine Institute has many other important 
functions. It looks out for the industry, and almost everybody in 
the wine industry is a member of the Wine Institute. It takes care 
of all the legal matters. As you know, every state has a different 
law for alcoholic beverages, so we are not in that respect in the 
United States. And there is a federal law. There are continuous 
changes, continuous difficulties by smaller states that produce a 
little wine that want to enact preferences and tax wines higher 
from California. 

You wouldn't think such things would exist in the United 
States, but under the change in the Constitution the states really 
have the first right it follows in many ways the guidelines of the 
federal law. And then we have of course those state monopolies, 
where only the state can sell wine and liquor, and they have not 
been very helpful to the wine industry. It's a bureaucratic sys 
tem, and it's been not good for the consumer by its limited choice 
of offerings. 

Teiser: Do the same or similar regulations apply to brandy? 

Fromm: Yes. Whatever alcoholic beverages there are. 

Teiser: I believe you served on a committee of the Wine Institue. 

Fromm: Yes, I did serve on several committees years ago, but I never 

wanted to be a director of the Wine Institute because actually it 
is a producers' organization. Jack Welsch and some other people 
from our organization were directors. I felt I had more impact in 
talking through them. 

John De Luca [president of the Wine Institute] is an 
absolutely outstanding man. It is a very difficult job to balance 
the various forces. You know, after all, Gallo is the largest 
contributor to the Wine Institute. 

Teiser: Has James McManus of the Brandy Advisory Board been a help to the 
brandy industry? 


Fromm: Yes, he has. They were able to do certain advertising and tastings 
that under federal law we could not do. It has been a useful 

Teiser: Is there now going to be a voluntary brandy organization to follow 
the Brandy Advisory Board? 

Fromm: We don't know yet. There probably will. 

Teiser: Is there something more I have not thought of to ask you? 

Fromm: Well, you know what the set-up is at the Christian Brothers. The 

Mont La Salle Vineyards is owned by the De La Salle Institute. The 
Mont La Salle Vineyards is a taxpaying organization, and the De La 
Salle Institute is not. The money that the Brothers are making is 
being used for the maintenance of several of the schools, and this 
has been successful enough so that the Provincial has had enough 
money out of the business so that they never had to close down any 
of the schools. They are good educators, and any good school is 
good, regardless of what faith you are. In the end if it's taught 
with the right principles it only can do some good. 

As you probably know, I have been a regent of St. Mary's 
College for many years and was awarded an honorary degree in 1971. 
My wife and I founded the Fromm Institute for Lifelong Learning at 
the University of San Francisco ten years ago. Both my wife and I 
got an honorary degree, Doctor of Public Service, for the formation 
and funding of the Fromm Institute, because it was something new 
and needed. It has become the most successful institute of its 
kind in the United States. We educate retired people during the 
daytime at an advanced university level in an age group from fifty 
to nintey years. Students are taught exclusively by prominent 
retired professors, chosen from the University of California, Stan 
ford University, San Francisco State University, University of San 
Francisco, and others. 

Transcribers: Sam Middlebrooks and Lindy Berman 
Final Typist: Ernest Galvan 


TAPE GUIDE Alfred Fromm 

Interview 1: May 3, 1984 
tape 1, side A 
tape 1, R 
tape 2, side A 
tape 2, side R 24 

Interview 2: May 4, 1984 
tape 3, side A 
tape 3, side E 36 

Regional Oral History Office University of California 

Room 486 The Bancroft Library Berkeley, California 94720 


(Please print or write clearly) 

Your full name 

Date of birth 2- - 2- 3 " f ? S $ Place of birth 

/A/ I / v 

Father's full name 

P n / '" 

Birthplace U/\0 55 1_ AA/& n~.(rj / 

Occupation kjrfCR Q I- A / '\t(*j /~~Q .S 

Mother's full name M fyTH-( Lf\ 

Birthplace _ /- / J C // /U' /-! 
Occupation _ //-r>CMJ^S 'M:/ 

If * -f~ 
Where did you grow up ? l\ i u ^ ^ 

Present community r/ LLI. 

Education /V { ./) /) L tf" / g 

Occupation(s) K/ ///g /)/" S/ /Q // ON p 

Special interests or activities Idu-^^UcH^ -W 

t /Tl S . \~~ P'Tt-'- 


/ / / ' 

. . ^UCWVU Of .&,-; i'^^-&.. ^T- Ou,t 

J / ' / 


FROMM, ALFRED, dnibg co. exec.; b. Kitzingen. Germany. Feb. 
23, 1905; s Max and Mithildi (Mtier) F.. undent Viticuliuril Acid.. 
1920: LH.D. (hon.), St Mary's ColL, 1974; D.PuWic Servke (hon.). 
U. San Francisco; m. Hanna Cruenbaum, July 5, 1936; 
children David George. Carolynn Anne. Came to U.S., 1931, 
naturalized. 1943. Export dir. N. Fromm, Bingcn. Germany, 1924-33; 
v.p. Pickcr-Lintz Importers, Inc., N.Y.C, 1937-44; exec. v.p. Fromm 
A Sichel, Inc., N.Y.C, also San Francisco. 1944-45. pres.. 1965-73. 
chmn. bd.. chief exec, officer, 1973; dir. Joseph E. Sestjam ft Sons. 
Inc. Dir. Calif. Med Clinic for Psychotherapy. San Francisco, 1964 . 
Mem. nat council Eleanor Rooaevelt Meml. Found.. N.Y.C; trustee 
San Francisco Conservatory Music; relent St Mary's Coll.. Moral* 
v.p. Jewish Nat Fund; bd. din San Francisco Opera Assn.; founder, 
prea. Wine Mus., San Francisco. Clubr Concordia, Commonwealth 
(San Francisco). Contbr. articles prod jours. Home: 850 El Camino 
del Mar San Francisco CA 94 1 2 1 Office: 655 Beach St San Francisco 
CA 94109 

From Who's Who in America 
42nd Edition, 1982-83 


Address by Alfred Fromm, Executive Vice President, Fromm and Sichel, Inc., 
San Francisco, New York, and Chicago, World Sales Agents for 
The Christian Brothers Wines, Champagnes and Brandy, before the 
Advertising Club of San Diego, National Wine Week Luncheon, at the 
El Cortez Hotel, San Diego, October 16, 1957 

Mr. Chairman, honored guests, members and friends of the Advertising Club 
of San Diego, ladies and gentlemen: 

It is my great pleasure to bring you the warm and friendly greetings of 
California's 35,000 grape and wine growers growers who, at this very moment, 
are busily gathering in the vintage. 

For this is the peak of the harvest season, and in the hills and valleys 
of our great State, from San Diego to Eureka, from the coast to the Sierras, busy 
hands move the crop from vine to vat amid the fresh aroma of the bubbling Juice. 

And this, too, is National Wine Week set aside each year at this time 
by official State proclamation to honor one of California's most important indus 
tries and to focus public national attention upon the products of our abundant 

I am most grateful for this opportunity to speak to you of wine in the 
historic City of San Diego. It was almost at our very door step here, beside the 
Mission bearing your fair city's name, that the first wine grape vineyards were 
planted by Father Junipero Serra just 188 years ago, marking the birth of grape and 
wine culture in California. 

Wine, it has been said, is one of man's greatest gifts, bestowed by Nature 
in one of her more loving moods. To the truth of this, we of the wine industry 
most emphatically subscribe. It is sometimes difficult to be prosaic about the 
product by which we live --a product extolled in Bible and legend, in verse and 
narrative, in song and art. Yes, even completely outside of our industry there are 
tens of thousands of men and women in all of life's walks who regularly foregather 
to pay homage and tribute to the vintager's artistry. To mention but a few: 
The Wine and Food Societies, The Societies of the Medical Friends of Wine, The Wine 
Appreciation Societies, The Gourmet Societies, and many more. They form the inner, 
active circle of an ever growing public on whom the quality producers of California's 
premium wines and champagnes largely depend. They do not represent, however, the 
great American public whose attitude toward wine, we were glad to have confirmed in 
a recent study by opinion analyst Elmo Roper, is friendly and favorable. The great 
American public, Roper found, thinks of wine in most cordial receptive terms but 
they think of it as something special, to be enjoyed not just every day but chiefly 
on special occasions. 

We produce in California a wide range of good wines in different price 
classes. Coming from an old wine family in Germany myself., I can tell you with all 
my conviction that the average wine of California is consistently better than the 
average wine of Italy, France, or Germany. Too, wine is made here under more 
advanced scientific and sanitary conditions than is the case in Europe. 


I am not talking about the very small quantity of fine European vintage 
wines that are produced once in a while in good years and due to their rarity have 
to be sold at very fancy prices, but about all other European wines. This is not 
only a personal conviction but a fact that has been proven time and again in an 
extended series of blind wine tastings. People of all classes and tastes from 
layman to connoisseur have participated in these tastings, and have not only, in 
the majority of cases, failed to identify the origin of the wine as being European 
or Californian but, furthermore, the overwhelming majority have expressed their 
taste preference for California premium wines. 

We are proud and happy as .Americans of the high score California has had 
in these tastings. Most heartening to us was the average cost of the California 
wines which were subject to these tastings and which were purchased in stores through 
out the country. Their cost averaged $1.35 per bottle of wine, whereas the European 
wines cost an average of $3.57 per bottle. The average cost of the California 
premium champagnes, which scored so heavily over the champagnes of our French col 
leagues, was $5.4l compared to $8.83. 

i The growing of fine wines in California has been, and is being, spearheaded 
by the producers of premium wines. None of these is a volume producer and their 
aggregate production amounts to only about 5$ of California's total production, but 
it is a significant group indeed from the standpoint of pioneering the name of 
California as one of the world's great wine producing regions. 

However, the fact that wine has not found the place it rightfully deserves 
in the American pattern of living is not caused by economic factors. The large 
producers in California furnish to the consumer a worthwhile product at very reason 
able cost, and even the finest premium wines are within the reach of millions of 
people . 

What, then, is our problem? A few figures will give you the idea: Wine 
consumption in Western Europe varies from 15 to 30 gallons per capita annually. In 
the United States, on the other hand, the figure is only 0.9. What's more, beer 
consumption in this country is a whopping 16 gallons per capita, coffee 27 gallons, 
and even soft drinks are consumed at the rate of 12 gallons per inhabitant. In 
California the situation is, of course, much better than in the rest of the country 
for here we consume close to 3 gallons per capita annually, but even here we feel we 
have not begun to tap the potential of the market for wines. Looking again at the 
country as a whole, our best estimates tell us that 85$ of all the wine is consumed 
by roughly 15$ of the population or, conversely, that 85$ of the people consume only 
15$ of the wine. You do not need a slide rule to see what would happen if we could 
bring these 85$ who now use little or no wine to consume only as much as the remain 
ing 15#. 

Actually, we as an industry have been hard at work to develop a larger 
market for wine in this country. We are critical of ourselves though, and engage in 
continuous self examination as to what we can do. The problem of increased con 
sumption has been tackled on seven broad fronts, as follows: 

First, we developed several new wine types that have found high public 
favor, particularly with people who seldom had used wine before. Outstanding among 
these new types are the mellow red wines often called "Vino", and the gay, colorful 
Rose's whose popularity is increasing rapidly. 

Second, we took wine out of the category of a commodity and began to create 
wine brand consciousness. This was done by greatly intensifying our efforts in the 
areas of merchandising and advertising. 

- 2 - 


Third, we stepped up industry trade educational work with store keepers and 
clerks, restauranteurs and waiters, and our distributors and their salesmen. The 
Wine Institute and the Wine Advisory Board have contributed importantly to the 
success of this phase of the program. 

Fourth, we broadened and extended industry public relations work with 
consumers. The Wine Institute's Study Course -- in which I would urge all of you 
to enroll has been of significant value in communicating facts about wine to the 
public. Recently the public relations firm of Hill and Khowlton has been retained 
by the Industry to assist in developing public interest in our wines, particularly 
with people who mold public opinion. 

Fifth, we have undertaken many new research projects in such diverse fields 
as wine economics, consumer taste preferences, consumer attitudes, the great benefits 
of wine in the field of medicine, and numerous others. These have helped materially 
to improve our understanding of the industry and some of this research may one day 
open up whole new vistas of wine as an integral part of the American way of life. 
At this point, it is befitting to express the Industry's gratitude to the University 
of California for its unselfish devotion and high standards of achievement in many 
of these research projects. 

Sixth, and most important of all, we intensified our work in quality 
improvement in all phases. Large acreages of improved grape varieties were planted 
to produce finer wines. Lessons learned from intensive research were applied to the 
handling of grapes, crushing and fermentation. Larger and larger inventories of 
wines were set aside for aging each year to create a solid foundation of improved 
quality on which to build the increased sales we confidently expect. 

And, finally, we invested many millions of dollars in wine production, aging 
and bottling facilities and equipment that are the most modern to be found anywhere 
in the world. All of these things were done and, for that matter, are continuing 
to be done to bring the consumer the best possible product we are capable of 
producing. Truly, it can be said that California wines in all price classes today 
are of distinctly higher quality than ever before in history. 

These efforts have paid off handsomely, particularly in three products of 
the wine industry Champagne, Vermouth and Brandy. 

Sales of California champagne have risen 150$ in the last 10 years, compared 
to about 35$ for table wines and less than 10$ for dessert wines. The reasons for 
this remarkable growth are quite clear. We have improved our quality tremendously, 
heightened the attractiveness of our packaging, developed strong point-of-sale 
techniques and kept prices at moderate levels. 

While California champagnes were tripling in volume, imports increased less 
than half as much during these past ten years. People discovered that California 
champagne quality is second to none in the world including the choicest imports 
selling at double or more the California champagne price. Today, American champagnes 
outsell the foreign product almost three to one and the spread is widening. 

Much the same thing has happened with Vermouth. Right after Repeal in 1933* 
and for years thereafter, France and Italy supplied practically all the United States 
Vermouth demand. Now the pattern is changing rapidly. California vermouth sales 
have more than doubled in the past ten years and are fast catching up with the import 
volume. The American public has learned just as they learned with champagne 
that the California product is tops in the vermouth field and twice as good a buy as 
the import. 

- 3 - 


So, too, with California brandy. Only even more so, "because the California 
product now sells at two and one-half times the rate of foreign brandy. Here is a 
shining example of quality improvement, merchandising and brand development paying 
off. California brandy is achieving fast-growing recognition as the most versatile, 
the most pleasing of all spirit beverages. Patiently aged for years under United 
States Government supervision, California brandy is enjoying the greatest market 
advances in its long history and the outlook is for more of the same. 

You will now have realized that we are faced with an inherent paradox: on 
the one hand we are proud of the association of wine in the minds of the public as 
a contribution to better living. Yet, on the other hand, we must fit wine into the 
picture of hamburger, apple pie, and the general pattern of everyday American living. 
Ladies and gentlemen, the necessity of resolving this paradox is what we as an 
industry bring before you. And it is only you who can work with us on this job. 
To do this we must, through you, communicate to the American public the good and 
simple facts about wine. We must convey the fact that wine is a food beverage, to 
be enjoyed with other foods, or Just by itself, and for its own goodness. It must 
help to motivate the millions of people who are friendly toward wine to emerge from 
their apathy, and to discover wine's pleasures. 

In which direction should our advertising be channeled? 

Today, there are uncounted millions of younger people the newly marrieds, 
the thirty and forty-year olds women especially who know little or nothing 
about wine. Many of them yearn to know, or would if their attention were directed 
to the virtues of wine. 

Wine's most important place, however, is in the home, on the family table. 
Its pleasurable and temperate use will set the pattern for the generation now 
growing up and a civilized approach to wine when they become adults. In this area, 
more than in any other, the future of the wine industry rests. 

Effective advertising can help sell a worthy product or service. And wine 
is no exception. At this point you are in a key position for you are the connecting 
link between our industry, ready and anxious to serve the public, and a public 
enjoying an unsurpassed standard of living, with more leisure time than ever in 
which to enjoy the good things of life. 

We realize that advertising alone cannot solve our problems but it must 
carry a very important share of the common effort. 

I think I speak for all of us in the wine industry in saying that we today 
have a very different idea of the relationship between advertising and our work. 
Whereas only a few years ago, an advertising agency meant to us only an intermediary, 
we realize today the many other vital services that the advertising profession 
offers us and we gratefully avail ourselves of them. 

We now work closely with the advertising agency of the Wine Advisory Board, 
Roy Durstine Co., and the agencies for our respective brands in all matters concern 
ing merchandising, such as packaging, the development of trade marks, point of pur 
chase material, promotional literature, etc., and even production has often been 
influenced considerably by the advertising profession who is in daily touch with the 
consumer, his needs, and his preferences. 

Last year when I had the pleasure of speaking during National Wine Week to 
the Advertising Club of Los Angeles, I stuck my neck out in predicting a 100$ in 
crease in wine consumption within the following five years. I am happy to say a year 
later that my head is still on my shoulders, and it is my hope to keep it there for 
the next four years. There is no telling how far the wine business can go in this 
country, and I believe that you and we together will succeed in fashioning the key 
to unlock the cabinets and shelves throughout the Nation, behind which 100 Million 
Empty Glasses stand ready to be filled with the good wine of our own State. 
Thank you very much. 

1882 CENTENNIAL 1982 


For further information contact: Ron Batori 

Director of Public Relations 
Mont La Salle Vineyards 
(707) 226-5566 

NAPA, CALIFORNIA, September 22, 1983. . . Brother David 
Brennan, F.S.C., President and Chairman of the Board of Mont 
La Salle Vineyards has announced an agreement to acquire for 
an undisclosed sum certain business assets of Fromm & Sichel, 
Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Joseph E. Seagram & Sons, 
Inc., related to the distribution of THE CHRISTIAN BROTHERS 
brandy and wines as well as the facilities for the aging and 
bottling of brandy. 

The acquisition is being made by a newly formed company 
in which the majority of common stock is to be owned by 
senior management of Mont La Salle Vineyards and the newly 
formed company, and the balance by Mont La Salle Vineyards, 
producers of THE CHRISTIAN BROTHERS brandy and wine. In 
making this announcement, Brother David said, 

"The new company, which will retain the name 
Fromm & Sichel, Inc., will provide the foundation 
for growth in the marketing and sales of THE 
CHRISTIAN BROTHERS brandy and wine. 

more. . . 



Page 2. 

Brother David has also announced that R. Paul Toeppen is 
Chairman of the Board of Directors and Chief Executive Officer 
of the new company. Allen M. Nirenstein will be appointed 
Executive Vice President /Sales. 

Brother David added, 

"Importantly, the firm of Albert E. Killeen 
& Associates, Inc. has been retained to direct 
the structuring and implementation of marketing, 
sales, merchandising, promotional and advertising 
plans, and the development and positioning of new 

Albert E. Killeen, President of the firm that bears 
his name, was formerly Vice Chairman of THE COCA 
COLA COMPANY, and President and Chief Executive 

In concluding, Brother David said, 

"The formation of the new company, along with new 
senior management at the winery and significant 
capital improvements currently in progress, provide 
a strong foundation for the resurgence and position 
for growth of THE CHRISTIAN BROTHERS brandy and 
wines. " 



A. R. Morrow (label) brandy, 34 

Amerine, Maynard A., 27 

Archinal, Herman, 38 

Armacost, Sam, 23 

Bank of America, 20, 23 

Beaulieu Vineyard, 9 

Bisceglia winery, Fresno, 30 

brandy, 5, 16-20, 32-35, 36, 42 

Brandy Advisory Board, 32, 42 

Brandy Association of California, 37 

Bronfman, Samuel, iv, 19, 20-21 

California Wine Association, 34 

Christian Brothers labels, iv, 11, 12, 13, 14, 19 

Christian Brothers, 10-43 

City of Paris department store, 6 

Cresta Blanca wines, 13 

Davies, Marion, 6 

De La Salle Institute, 43 

De Luca, John, 42 

de Young Museum, 41 

Distillers Corporation-Seagrams Limited. See Seagrams 

Feist and Reinach, Bingen-on-the Rhine, 2 

Ferroggiaro, Fred, 23 

Franz W. Sichel Foundation, 41 

Fromm and Sichel, 19, 21, 22-24, 26, 29-42 passim 

Fromm Institute for Lifelong Learning, 43 

Fromm, Hanna Gruenbaum (Mrs. Alfred), 8, 39, 43 

Fromm, Max Jr. (father of Alfred Fromm), 1-3, 24-25 

Fromm, Max Sr. , iv, 1 

Fromm, N. company, Kitzingen, Germany, 1-3 

Fromm , Nathan , 1 

Fromm, Norman, iv, 25 ,39 

Fromm, Paul, 4 

Gallo, Ernest, 32 

Gallo, [E. & J.] winery, 13, 16, 32-33 

German wine industry, 1-7, 11 

Greystone Cellars, 30-31 

Guembel, Joseph, 2 

Guymon, James F., 35 

Hearst, William Randolph, 4-6 

Hoffman, John, 38 

In Celebration of Wine and Life, 41 

Italian Swiss Colony wines, 13, 16 

Jews under Nazi regime, 14 

John, Brother, iv, 10, 11, 27, 28, 37, 38 

Joseph E. Seagram and Sons. See Seagrams 

Laemmle, Carl, 4 

Lamb, Richard B., 41 


Martini, Louis M. , winery, 9 

Masson, Paul, [Vineyards] iv, 9, 24-28, 29, 40 

McManus, James, 42-43 

Meyer, Otto, iv, 17. 25, 26 

Mirassou [Vineyards], 25, 26, 28 

Mittelberger, Ernest, 40-41 

Mont La Salle Vineyards. See Christian Brothers 

Mt. Tivy, iv, 18, 38 

Mrak, Emil, 27 

"Music in the Vineyards," 25 

Napa Valley, 10, 30 

Nazi regime in Germany, 7, 8, 9, 14 

Nirenstein, Allen (Al; , 36 

Nury, Mike, 29 

phylloxera, 26-27 

Picker-Linz, 4, 8-9, 12, 19, 21-23, 26, 40 

prices for wine, 12-13, 14, 21, 25 

Prohibition, 3-4, 5, 9 

prorate, 16 

Ray, Martin, 9, 24 

Remy Martin [et Cie.], 35 

Riddell, James, 29 

Roma [Wine Company], 13, 16 

Roper, Elmer, poll, 15 

Salinas Valley, 25, 26-28 

Schenley Distillers, 13 

Schramsberg Vineyard, 34-35 

Seagrams [Distillers Corporation-Seagrams Limited and 

subsidiaries], iv, 18, 19, 20-21, 23, 24, 25, 

29, 35, 37, 38-39, 40 

Sichel, Franz, 19, 20, 21, 22-23, 24, 41 
St. Mary's College, 10, 43 
St. Regis Vineyards, 30 
stills, 17-20 ' 

Taylor Wine Company, New York, 12 
Timothy, Brother, iv, 10, 11, 28, 31, 37-38 
University of California, Davis, 27, 35 
University of San Francisco, 43 
Verdier, Paul, 6 
Vie-Del Company, 29, 37 
Weinbau-Schule, Geisenheim, 2-3 
Welsch, Jack, 32, 42 
Wente Bros. , 9, 28 
Wine Advisory Board, 42 
Wine Institute, 42 

Wine Museum of San Francisco, iv, 38 
Winkler, Albert J. , 27 
Wong, Worley, 39 
World War II years, 12, 14-15 



burgundy, 11, 15 

champagne, 25, 27-28, 31 

Johannisberg Riesling, 4, 26 

port, 12 

Riesling, 11 

sauterne, 11, 15 

Schloss Johannisberg [Riesling] 1921 Auslese, 4 

sherry, 12 

Steinberger Kabinet Trockenbeerenauslese, 1911, 5 


Chardonnay, 26 
Sauvignon blanc, 26 
Semillon, 26 
Thompson Seedless, 18 


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, 

Co-author of Winemaking in California, a 

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

History Office since 1965.