University of California Berkeley
University of California Bancroft Library/Berkeley
Regional Oral History Office
Ernest A. Wente
WINE MAKING IN THE LIVERMORE VALLEY
With an Introduction by
Maynard A. Amerlne
An Interview Conducted by
1971 by The Regents of the University of California
Srneet i. tfnt vith his grand 8 one Phillip (left)
and Srlc (right) and hla son Earl L. Vnt, 1954.
Photograph by Slltabth 7andr*ark.
All uses of this manuscript are covered by a legal
agreement between the Regents of the University of
California and Ernest A. Wente, dated 10 December, 1970.
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 at Berkeley. No part of the
manuscript may be quoted for publication without the written
permission of the Director of The Bancroft Library of the
University of California at Berkeley.
Requests for permission to quote for publication
should be addressed to the Regional Oral History Office,
^86 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 Ernest A. Wente requires that he be notified
of the request and allowed thirty days in which to respond.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
INTRODUCTION BY HAYNARD A. AMERINE iii
INTERVIEW HISTORY v
EARLY YEARS OF THE WENTE VINEYARD 1
CARL H. WENTE AND HIS CONTEMPORARIES 8
WINE MSN OF 1915 AND 1939 15
PRE-PROHIBITION DAYS 23
VINEYARD PROBLEMS AND SOLUTIONS 31
WINES BEFORE PROHIBITION AND AFTER 36
PROFITS AND LOSSES 4-1
TECHNIQUES AND TASTES ^5
HERMAN L. WENTE AND THE WENTE FAMILY 50
THE PROHIBITION PERIOD 60
FACTORS AFFECTING THE EARLY REPEAL YEARS 63
THE PRORATE AND BURKE CRITCHFISLD 69
ECONOMIC TRENDS 71
DISTRIBUTION AND SALES ?6
RECENT ADVANCES 80
GROWING GOOD WINE GRAPES 83
(For Wines and Grapes see page 96)
The California Wine Industry Oral History Series, a
project of the Regional Oral History Office, was initiated
in 1969* the year noted as the bicentenary of continuous
wine making in this state. It was undertaken through the
action and with the financing of the Wine Advisory Board,
and under the direction of University of California faculty
and staff advisors at Berkeley and Davis.
The purpose of the series is to record and preserve
information on California grape growing and wine making that
has existed only in the memories of wine men. In some cases
their recollections go back to the early years of this
century, before Prohibition. These recollections are of
parti cular value because the Prohibition period saw the
disruption of not only the industry itself but also the
orderly recording and preservation of records of its
activities. Little has been written about the industry from
late in the last century until Repeal. There is a real
paucity of information on the Prohibition years (1920-1933),
although some wine making did continue under supervision of
the Prohibition Department. The material in this series on
that period, as well as the discussion of the remarkable
development of the wine industry in subsequent years (as
yet treated analytically in few writings) will be of aid to
historians. Of particular value is the fact that frequently
several individuals have discussed the same subjects and
events or expressed opinions on the same ideas, each from
his own point of view.
Research underlying the interviews has been conducted
principally in. the University libraries at Berkeley and
Davis, the California State Library, and in the library of
the Wine Institute, which has made its collection of in
many cases unique materials readily available for the
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.
California Wine Industry
Oral History Series
1 March 1971
Regional Oral History Office
i486 The Bancroft Library
University of California, Berkeley
Ernest A, Wente was born on his father s ranch at
Livermore in 1890. He attended local schools and the newly-
established University Farm of the University of California
at Davis, Prom graduation until now he has lived and farmed
The themes of particular interest are those that concern
his father and the pre -Prohibit ion and Prohibition period, the
growth of Wente Bros, wines since Repeal, and his own concerns
with the problems of producing high quality wine grapes and
Carl H. Wente, Ernest s father, appears here as a hard
working and forward-looking man. The original Wente vineyard,
from 1883, appears to have been planted, in the main, with
good varieties. This was made into sound wine and sold in
bulk. Ernest Wente makes the useful point that at least four
of the wines which got prizes at the 1915 fair originally came
from his father s winery. He also recalls some "very, very
lovely wines" from the pre-Prohibition period. Ernest Wente s
recollections of early Livermore and San Francisco friends of
his family are particularly valuable. The Wentes associations
with the Napa and Sonoma Wine Company and with Beaulieu are
The growth of Wente Bros, as a wine bottle label and not
a bulk -wine producer started after Repeal. Ernest and his
brother, Herman, were responsible for this development. He
also gives his brother Herman credit for helping to organize
the Wine Institute after Repeal. He recalls this as a slow
growth. However, it is of Interest to note that Wente Bros,
received one of the two Grand Prix at the Golden Gate
International Exposition in 1939*
Throughout Ernest Wente s memoirs there are numerous
indications of his abiding and basic interest in farming. The
phylloxera problem before Prohibition and the virus problem
after 1950 are well remembered. There is much Information on
cattle and grain growing. He is particularly clear about not
over-cropping grapes, about the need of irrigation, about
certified grape stocks and a number of other details of
viticulture that escape many people. We are also indebted to
him for revealing details of what he thinks about the quality
of a number of varieties of grapes.
He also gives a number of details about wine making
which help to explain the success of Wente Bros, wines: care
of cooperage, value of stainless steel tanks, control of
temperature, filtration, labels, corks, etc.
We find from these memoirs, what all those who have been
associated with him already know, that Ernest Wente is a warm
hunan being, proud of his associates and modest about his
Maynard A. Amerine
Professor, Viticulture and Enology
101 Wickson Hall
University of California at Davis
The interview with Ernest A. Wente was conducted in three
sessions on April 18, April 21, and May 13, 1969, in Mr.
Wente *s office at the Wente Bros, winery, which is located
among the fields and vineyards southeast of the town of
Livermore. A quietly vigorous man of 79, Mr. Wente postponed
one planned session because a pump had broken and he was out
in the fields repairing it.
In the years since Repeal, a good deal has been written
in the trade and general press about the Wente family winery.
A suggested interview outline based upon published articles
and some additional manuscript material was sent to Mr. Wente
early in April, 19&9- Although it was not followed chronologi
cally, all the subjects in it were discussed, the sequence
being determined in part by the interviewee s thought associa
tions, in part by the interviewer s questions.
The Initial transcript of the tapes, with some corrections
by the interviewer, was sent to Mr. Wente on February 5t 1970.
He made further corrections and a few deletions, added certain
details, and checked over the entire text with the interviewer
on February 24. Some further details, such as the first names
of people mentioned, were added through correspondence during
the final editing.
Mr. Wente spoke thoughtfully and with directness, often
with humor, and always with the warmth and modesty mentioned
in Dr. Maynard A. Amerlne s introduction.
27 January 1971
486 The Bancroft Library
University of California at Berkeley
(Interview #1 - April 18, 1969)
EARLY YEARS OP THE WENTE VINEYARD
Teisen You said that you were one of the first students
at the University of California at Davis.
Wente: Yes, actually I was the second student ever enrolled
Teiser: What year was that?
Wente: 1908. We didn t have any buildings at all except
Just the creamery and the old tank house. We roomed
downtown. I stayed at the hotel and later got a
room with Bill Grieve, one of the natives up there,
and stayed there for a year and a half with him.
Then they had the dormitory put up and the next
semester I stayed in the dormitory.
There were only five of us students the first
semester and we had nine profs. [Laughter] The
next semester there were 35 students but we still
had the nine profs. So we lived with the profs and
had a lot of chance of absorbing a lot of their
knowledge. We actually lived downtown at the hotel,
and we traveled around quite a bit with the
professors. Some of them commuted from Berkeley,
but some of them stayed right there at Davis. Three
or four of them stayed at the hotel with us.
Teiser : You did all your work in animal husbandry...
Wente: And agronomy. That s all they had was agronomy and
animal husbandry. They had no viticulture or
Wente: horticulture department until later. But they did
have good soils men there and exceptionally good
animal husbandry people, and Dr. Earing*,
veterinarian, who the veterinary building is named
after, Haring Hall up there. He was the veterinarian
I took work under.
Teiser: What sort of a man was he personally?
Wente: Dr. Haring?
Teiser: Yes. It s hard to find personal descriptions of
Wente: Dr. Haring was a very modest sort of a fellow, if
you can visualize Dr. Cruess, he was on Dr. Cruess
type a little taller, a little thinner but very
reticent. He didn t shove himself forward. Just
very much on the order of Bill Cruess.
Teiser: Who else did you work with?
Wente: Well, later on of course with the viticulture
department and this is what you d like to know
about, I guess, more than animal husbandry.
Teiser: All of these things are of interest. I understand
that you have continued an interest in animal
husbandry, have you not? Haven t you been a cattle
Wente: Yes. I still am. Still have a couple hundred head
of cows. And they came in mighty handy when
Prohibition came into effect.
Teiser: Let s go back. Let me start by asking you when you
Wente: Well, I was born in 1890, July the 9th, 1890.
Teiser: Right here?
Wente: In this 50 acre plot here.
Teiser: So you at the time of Prohibition were...
*Clarence M. Haring, D.V.M.
Wcnte: I was 28.
Telser: Let s go even further back then, If you wouldn t
mind. I d like to know as much as you can recall,
and as much as you know from family tradition, of
the history of your family in the United States.
Wente: Well, my father* came from the northern part of
Germany. He came from the province of Hanover. He
was an animal husbandry man rather than viticulture,
and, oh, he left Germany along in the latter *60*s
or ?0 s, 18?0, somewhere along in that period. Had
a couple of half-brothers who had settled in Illinois
or Minnesota or somewhere along in there, but he
couldn t locate them when he got over here, so he
drifted out to Kansas and finally landed In California
and went up to Lake County and worked for Dr. [Charles]
Adams in Adams Springs for a number of years.
Teiser: What did he do there?
Wente: Oh, a laborer. Built fences and what have you. And
then he came down from the hill and worked for...
Speaking of the hill, he had to go over the St.
Helena Mountain to get back to Napa. At that time
I guess there was only one road in and out, and it
was a toll road too. You had to pay toll to come in,
in that portion of Lake County anyway.
Then he went to work for Charles Krug** and he
worked down for Charles Krug for a few years and
became Charles Krug s cellar boss or cellar man.
That s where he learned enology, the making of wines.
Teiser: He must have learned fast!
Wente: Yes, well, those days you had to be pretty active
and have a strong back and [be] willing to work,
rather than have a lot of education and have every
body else do the work for you such as we re doing
[laughter]. It just didn t work out that way in the
*Carl Heinrich Wente; born August 19, 1851, died
April 10, 193^.
**Napa County wine grower.
Went e :
W ente :
Anyway, my mother had a sister that was married
to a Belgian by the name of Gutzwelller can you spell
that? [spells it] and she met my father in St.
What was her maiden name?
Trautwein.* So that s the reason why I guess we were
indoctrinated with wine [laughter]. Well she came
from the southern part of Europe, near the Black
Forest or in that neighborhood, a little village by
the name of Lonsheim. And, her folks made wine and
what have you. And so she was quite familiar with
viticulture from that angle of it. And then, when
they married, they came down here in 1883 and bought
this tract of land which we re sitting on here the
50 acres which we speak of as the "home place."
There were two other people somehow involved in that,
Yes. There was a Dr. George Bernard, who originated
this 50 acres. And C. H. Wente, my father, and Dr.
Louis Busch, and a man by the name of [Herman] Oterson,
they each bought a third interest and took over from
It was already planted?
No, just part of it. Just about 20 acres was planted.
There was no winery on the premises either. So there
wasn t too much here. They didn t have any money so
they had to start from scratch.
What was the 20 acres planted to?
Did you ever hear
Oh, yes. I can remember it very well what it was
planted to. Zinfandel, principally. Some Charbono
and some Colombard and Mataro. Are you familiar with
all these varieties?
Teiser: Most of them...
Barbara Trautwein. She was born on July 9, i860,
married Carl H. Wente in 1883, and died in Livermore
on April 19,
Wente: And there was some Grey Riesling which he was very
unhappy about, singularly. And he, after a few years
undertook to graft them over to White Riesling, and
during the interim the Schween family in Pleasanton
were planting some grapes, and they came and got some
cuttings off of these Grey Re 1 si ing and planted them
down on the Vineyard Avenue road there in Pleasanton,
and did very well with them. And after Repeal, when
Herman and I started to plant vines again, I went
down to get some cuttings from Mr. Will Schween and
he said, "Well, well, well I The old Grey Riesling
are going back home I" That s how we got back into
the Grey Riesling business.
Teiser: This brings up the whole subject which I won t
interrupt you with now but perhaps we can go back to
it the changes in tastes in variety and types of
wine which you must certainly have observed. So your
father and his two partners then planted the whole 50
Wente: Yes, ma am.
Teiser: And what did they put in besides...
Wente: Oh, they put in some Semillon and some Burger and
some Sauvignon blanc and some Colombard commonly
called today Sauvignon vert Instead of the French
Colombard as we know the Colombard today. There was
some difference of opinion as to varieties in the
early days, and we called Sauvignon vert, Colombard,
and they had another name for the French Colombard.
Some called it a White Riesling.
Teiser: I wanted to ask you where the cuttings came from.
Wente: Well, the Sauvignon here came from Mr. [Louis] Mel
over here, who got them directly from Sauternes,
France, from the oh, my memory isn t as good as it
used to be.
Teiser: Chateau d Yquem?
Wente: Chateau d Yquem, that s right. Later on, the owner
of Cha teau d Yquem oh, right after Repeal visited
us here, Marquis de [Lur] Saluces. I spent several
days with him, taking him around, and he was very
inquisitive. Wanted to know all about winds and so
forth and the culture of grapes and whether we had
Wente: wind damage and why we planted straight varieties
Instead of blending them as they do in Prance in the
vineyards. And we gave him some samples.
Herman brought In seven samples of continuous
vintages of Sauvignon blanc, and he was very much
surprised upon the evenness of these wines, how
nearly alike they were year after year. And he
passed the remark, he said, "You cannot do this in
Prance. I did not say, however," he said, "that we
do not have some vintages that are probably better
than you are showing me, but you cannot do this in
Prance, have them as even as you are showing me
here." That was the Marquis de [Lur] Saluces, the
owner of the Chateau d Yquem, the vineyards. And he
wrote in our guest book out there, "I am glad to find
my children doing so well in California."
Teiser: CLaughter] Were many of the other vines that your
father put in imported?
Wente: Yes, along about that time, oh, 1912 or f 13, there
was a Frenchman who was hired by the University by
the name of Bonnet; you ve probably heard of Bonnet.*
He was one of the best authorities (I thought, anyway)
of varieties in California at that time. Knew his
varieties better than anyone, and I was taking some
work at Davis then, and he was just a greenhorn
Frenchman. He was a rather peculiar man. He had
sort of a nasal twang which he was very sensitive
about. He wasn t too happy about being an instructor,
because the fellows more or less made fun over him
and he was pretty sensitive about it.
However, I was his great friend since I had come
from a vineyard family. And so he had a brother that
was superintendant of Montpelier Nursery over in
Montpelier, Prance, and I brought him home here to
visit several times, and he talked my father into
ordering some vines from Montpelier Nursery. So we
got quite a shipment of vines from Montpelier. They
were Ugni blanc, for one what we call Ugni blanc.
Mr. Clarence Wetmore had the same variety and he
called them Saint-Emlllon. They came from another
*Leon 0. Bonnet. He was a 1909 graduate of the
National School of Agriculture, Montpelier, Prance.
Wente: part of France. So you can see the confusion when
you are talking about varieties, which I referred to
in discussing the Colombard and the Sauvlgnon vert.
And there were a number of other varieties that
we got, just don t come to my mind right now, which
we got through Mr. Bonnet.
Teiser: Did you get any varieties from Germany?
Wente: No ma am, we did not. But they originated over in
Alsace-Lorraine like these Grey Hlesling. They re
actually an Alsatian variety rather than a German
variety. No one else had bottled under the name of
Grey Reisling except Wente, and then when [after] we
started it, it s been used quite a lot.
Teiser: Because it was good?
Wente: Well, we think it is. However, as a grape varietal,
it s not outstandingly good. It s a very staple
variety and something that you do not tire of. It s
not nearly as fragrant as a Sauvlgnon blanc or some
of these other finer French varieties our Chardonnay,
which we are bottling. But, you could drink it every
day and not tire of it, you know, and after all, when
you are in the business of making wine and selling
it, you want something that the customer could use
every day and not Just for Sundays. [Laughter]
Wente: So that s our stronghold, our Grey Hlesling, at the
present time. Singularly, we were considered a
sauterne district in the early days, along in the
early days of Mr. Charles Wetmore who likened our
Livermore Valley very much to the Bordeaux section of
France where the saut ernes grew, and Semi lions do
exceptionally well here in this valley the hours and
units of the heat are Just about right. We were
considered a sauterne district rather than a Riesling
district, and long after Repeal we were using the
Riesling for display at the Fair at Sacramento and
received many prizes for it awards.
Dr. [A. J.] Wlnkler was In here one day and he
said, "You fellows shouldn t be growing these
Riesling varieties, you re a little too warm here,
you re a sauterne district rather than a Riesling
The Wente Vineyard about 1898 (above) and in
1934 (below) . Photographs courtesy of the
Wine Institute and Wente Bros.
Wente Family, 1893. Photograph courtesy of
The old Wente winery and family home, 1934.
Photograph courtesy of Wente Bros.
district." And I passed the remark back to him.
"Wink," I said, "we seem to do pretty well at the
Fair, and they re selling well." And he says, "Yes,
if you weren t such good winemakers you wouldn t do
so well." And I said, "Well, gee, first you got to
have the varieties." He says, "Yes, you ve learned
to live with these varieties and you learned how to
handle them." He says, "The whole secret, I think,
that you re doing is picking them at the right time
and not letting them get too much heat."
And I think he s right in that respect. You do
have to watch it very closely so they don t get too
full-bodied ripe because then they will have too
much flavor and the total acids would be low and
they ll be rather bland rather than have the acidity
that we like in a Riesling.
Before Prohibition, you made only white
No, I wouldn t say that. We made a lot of red wines,
Yes, in the early days [there] was a lot of common
varieties of red planted in the Livermore Valley.
However, it went off as bulk wines.
Did you make some here?
GAEL H. WENTE AND HIS CONTEMPORARIES
Wente: My father made a lot of Zinfandel, Just vin
ordinaire , and sold it by the hundreds of thousands
of gallons. Yes, indeed. Then, of course, he
specialized on whites, but that was by far the
minority of his crush. His big crush was the vin
ordinaire . of which he probably Just swapped dollars.
He told me one time that if he could Just make two
and one-half a ton, he was keeping his dollars
together and keeping his men occupied so he could
make some money off of the varietals. And it s
probably true, too! When you ve got a group of men
around and you re Just working on some little varietal,
Wente: you just can t operate. You just simply have to have
more for them to do,
Telser: When was the winery built? When did you start making
Wente: Well, he started when he first came here along in
1883, 84. He just had a little, small operation.
Teiser: Yes. This wine business, the history of it, is
rather unique. Most of these wineries were started
or operated by people that did it for a hobby. This
was not true with the Wente family. They didn t
have any money and he had seven children to feed,
and as he said, he had to make money out of it to
feed the kids [laughter]. But you could think
back or I can of the many, many operations that
were operated by wealthy people in the early days,
more so than there are today. However, there are
many of them coming into it today that like to do
this because they think it s a lot of fun.
Teiser: I can think of Captain Gustave Niebaum, but who else?
Wente: Well, Captain Niebaum was one of them, and in
ULvermore here, with which I am more familiar, there
was Julius Paul Smith who created the Olivina.
Planted olives and vines and had a trade name of
Olivina. And it was a very famous wine at the time.
Mr. Smith made his millions out of Death Valley
borax Twenty Mule Team borax and when he got enough
so he thought he could retire, he came to Livermore
and bought 2300 acres and started to plant grapes.
That was one of the most famous operations in the
And then we had another operation neighbor of
his by the name of [Alexander] Duvall, an old
Frenchman. He made his money out of building rail
roads in Peru over the Andes and came here and built
up a chateau.** He had a regular chateau with a
church and everything else on it, and wound up very
sad. He had one daughter, and he tried to keep her
very religious, and on the place that way, and she
was very unhappy and she finally ran away and went
*Some papers of the Olivina Winery are in the Bancroft
Library manuscript collection
**He named it Chateau Bellevue.
Wente: to Chicago and he vowed he d never see her again
which he never did. Even on his deathbed. He never
saw his daughter again. He was a determined old
Frenchman. I can remember him very well stocky
little old rascal I
Teiser: Was his wine good?
Wente: Very good, yes. And he had a good crew of men
working for him too. Later worked for us, and
around, and I knew them all pretty well.
Teiser: Were Smith s wines good?
Wente: Yes, fine. He made some champagnes that were
exceptionally good. Haven t you ever seen the
brochures on Olivina? By golly, I ve got them
around here somewhere. You know, there s a young
fellow here by the name of Gibson* who was writing
his thesis for his doctor s degree at Davis and he
was interested in wines and he came down here half a
dozen times and he sat and talked with me and
gathered history. I ve got his thesis here a copy
of it. He really put a lot of time in on it, and
then he made some maps of the Livermore Valley here.
I could sit here and talk to you all day and it
wouldn t explain half of what this map would. And
this map here shows you the amount of vineyards that
was here in the early days. He showed the contour,
he shows where Cresta Blanca is, and Ruby Hill.
Teiser: What s happened to Ruby Hill now is it operating?
Wente: Yes, it s operating, but Ernest Perrario, who s an
old Italian, he s right around 90 years old. And
he works every day very hard at it. He doesn t
make very good wines, but he operates the place.
Now there was a lot of other quite well-to-do
people around here. There was Dr. [Joseph] Altschul
who created a vineyard** up there on the hill. He was
a doctor out of Chicago that came to Livermore here
Gibson, David J., The Development of the Livermore
Valley Wine District, University of California,
Davis, M.A. thesis, 1969.
**The Vienna Vineyard.
Wente: and created a vineyard behind Cresta Blanca there.
Telseri But your family was In It because It was the way
your father liked, I guess, to make a living.
Wente: Well, It was something he started to work at, and of
course If you have a family. . .
Telser: I suppose it gave all of you boys something to do,
didn t it?
Wente: I guess it did. According to his theory [laughter]
according to his theory, why, work made life sweet.
Now it all depends on how you work. Brother Carl*
didn t care to go out in a field with a hoe handle,
so he got himself a job that was different. But I
was still hoeing weeds, and still here hoeing weeds,
and father s theory was that boys get into trouble
if they were idle. And work was good for the soul
and it was good to make citizens out of you, and I
don t know that he had a point far as that s concerned,
All we knew was work.
Telser: All three of you boys turned out, you might say,
rather well. Maybe he did have a point. [Laughter]
Wente: Oh, yes. He was kind of a hard master, a hard task
master. Very good to us, saw that we were well
taken care of. I can still remember when I wanted
to go to Davis, he says, "I don t know whether the
college deal is good for you or not." He says, "All
I had was a third grade education. I ve raised my
family and fed them. And Colonel Edwards* dean of
math at the University of California, he came here
in the 80 s and he bought 200 acres and he started
a farm and lost it lost half of it by foreclosure
ta the bank, and I bought it from the bank. Now he
was dean of math and had a college education, and I
only had a third grade education. I don t know
whether college education is good for you or not."
*Carl F. Wente.
**George C. Edwards. He was for many years
commandant of the cadets at the University in
Berkeley as well as professor of mathematics.
Wente: Its got some sense to that too, you know. I
maintain that an education is very valuable to you
if you ll utilize it the right way. But if you
just want to sit down and play, you d probably be
better off without it. I think learning how to work
is more important than an education, number one.
Number two comes the education, but if you haven t
the ambition to work all the education in the world
can Just make you that much worse, I think.
Teiser: Your father gradually then added to his acreage?
Wente: Yes, yes. He added quite a little, and Prohibition
came along and that took the heart out of him, and
he said, "I m all through." He said, "Now you boys
want to operate, you may."
Teiser: How many acres did you have at the time of Prohibition?
Wente: You mean of grapes?
Wente: You see, we were kind of dual operators. He was too.
He still was of the same frame of mind that I was,
that never put all your eggs in one basket. He
said, "You might drop your basket." And Prohibition
taught us that too there s no question about that.
[Laughter] So, we dropped our basket as far as grapes
are concerned but we kept on operating in livestock,
cattle and hogs, and owned sheep and what have you,
and raised barley, which we went right on ahead and
Teiser: But how many acres did you have in grapes?
Wente: About 200 acres In grapes about that time. Herman
and I gradually, and my son Karl, we gradually
increased this to about 800 acres here a little
more in grapes.
Teiser: Let me ask one thing more about your father s days.
I believe it was the younger Louis Martini* who
mentioned that his grandfather and grandmother were
friends of your parents? Is that right?
Wente: Yes. I can remember Louis grandfather** very well.
He had a little place down here at Pleasanton on
*Louis P. Martini.
Wente: the hill. This was along about 1912 to the time
Prohibition went into effect. Then he started to
sell off his equipment and was going back to Italy.
Telser: He was making wine?
Wente: Yes, he was making wine. However, I don f t think
this was his entire business. He was a merchant in
San Francisco at the commission markets, who did
something of that order in San Francisco, and he
came here on weekends and had this place, and later
spent all of his time here. He was a very jovial
little Italian. ..uh, quite different than his son.
I m not speaking of Junior, I m speaking of Louis
Senior, Louis [M.] Martini, who s high-powered, high
strung. Well, my father bought his crusher when the
old gentleman left for Europe, and Louis Just came
back from Italy. Then he went over to Italy to the
university, and I don t think his father was happy.
He had big ideas, I think, and his father thought,
"Well, gee, he d better save what he had and go back
to the old country! " [Laughter] This is my idea.
And so Louis was on his own, and did tremendously
I can remember during World War II we had a
meeting in San Francisco, and Louis and I were having
lunch together, and Louis says, "I m worried. I m
worried that I don t hear from my folks any more."
He said, "All communications have been shut off and
I ve been trying to send them money and I don t know
whether they received it or not." And he said, "I
wish I knew some way to contact them." Well, Paul
Tarpey was there. You remember Paul Tarpey? Paul
Tarpey was a wine broker and operator on vines down
the Valley. Paul says, "Louis, have you tried the
Church?" "Yes," he says, "I have. But," he says,
"I don t get anywhere." Paul says, "While you re
eating lunch, let me go out and try." So he went
out and in about an hour he came back, and he said,
"Louis, it s all fixed." He said, "Within two days
you ll get all the word from your folks." And I
said to Paul, "How d you do this?" Well, he said,
"I knew, if you re going to reach him through the
Church you had to be a good Catholic. I m Catholic
but I m not a working Catholic, and I knew that I
had to get somebody that was a working Catholic. I
worked at the Examiner for many years and," he said,
"I knew one of the chief man at the Examiner who s
a good working Catholic who had all the contacts
right to the hierarchy In Rome." And he said, "I
went to him with the story and he Just put his
wheels into motion." He said, "This is how it
worked. So," he said, "I will find out for Louis
all about his folks." And the word came back in a
few days that his folks were all right and that he
could send his money through the Church and reach
Paul was quite a publicity man and he really
was quite a boy. He was the first captain of the
Stanford team that played in the Rose Bowl.
Oh he was!
[Laughter] He says, "While we lost, I was still the
first captain." [Laughter]
You mentioned Charles A. Wetmore. Do you remember
Yeah, oh very well. Charles Wetmore was one of the
first graduates of the University of California.
And he was a newspaper writer, and very much interested
in wine. And he got the appointment politically to
go to Europe to find out about varieties and study
viticulture. Came back and started Cresta Blanca.
But he wasn t a very good businessman, and his brother
Clarence [J. Wetmore] was a better businessman and
took over and he d got some capital from [Charles E.]
Bowen, so they called it Wetmore-Bowen. That was the
origination of Cresta Blanca.
What were the two men like personally the Wetmore
Well, Charles was a very near-sighted man. You d
think he d be looking out the room and he d be
looking right straight at you. Very Jovial and
smart as all get out. He knew chemistry and he just...
But he loved champagne too well, I think this was one
of his great faults. But Clarence did a tremendous
Job on promoting Cresta Blanca.
Teiser: What sort of a person was Clarence?
Went e :
Clarence was also a first graduate of the University
of California. But he married some money too, which
helps. [Laughter] And a very nice fellow, very
fine man. He wasn t as big in stature as Charles,
but he was calmer and thought things out, I think,
in a more business-like manner than Charles who was
very jovial and liked to play a little bit.
Charles came over here and was a great tutor to
my father on making sauternes. He used to come over
here and spend weeks with my father teaching him
how to make the sweet sauternes, and the chemistry
of wines, and so forth. That was after he was out
of Cresta Blanca, and he didn t have much of a source
What happened to Cresta Blanca after?
subsequent history of it?
What was the
Well, when Prohibition went into effect, Mr. Wetmore
was well to do that is Clarence Wetmore and he had
a salesman by the name of Johnson, who sold champagne.
L[ucien] B. Johnson. And he ran it more or less during
Prohibition, Just to keep it alive, and then after
Repeal he sold it to Schenley Schenley Industries.
What other of the early winemakers did your family
know and you know?
Wente : Well, I guess they knew them all.
WINE MEN OF 1915 AND 1939
Wente: Did you ever see the picture of the wine group at
the 1915 Fair? Now, this is the 1915 group of
vintners, and there s the Palace of Fine Arts.
Teiser: This was taken July 12, 1915 at the Fair. The
Panama Pacific International Exposition at San
Francisco. The International Congress of Viticulture.*
Wente: Yes. Well, this is Mr. Clarence Wetmore.
Photograph by Cardinell-Vincent Company.
Telser: Oh, down in the first row with a boutonniere.
Wente: And this is Mr., Mr. champagne maker down in Los
Gatos Paul Masson. This is Mr. [Secondo] Guasti
from way down South.
Teiser: With a black moustache?
Wente : Black moustache. Uh, this I ll have to Jump
around a little bit because this was a delegate
from one of the foreign countries, and some of
these others were too. So I do not know them all,
but going along here, this was Mr. [Louis] Mel.
Teiser: With the white beard.
Wente: With the white beard. And he was our neighbor.
Teiser: He was a wine grower too.
Wente s Yes. His wife was a cousin or second cousin to the
Chateau d Yquem people.
And, well this man s up from Napa way. These
are all Napa boys. And this is Horatio Stoll; he
was secretary of the Grape Association,* they called
it then, and later it became the Wine Institute.
Teiser: He s on the right hand end.
Wente: Yes. He s a Sacramento boy.
And as we come down the line here, this one was
over from Napa way, and I ll try and take both lines
as I come: that s brother Herman.
Teiser: Standing up there with a black sweater on, in the
Wente: Yes. We go down the line here. I think this is one
of the Rossis, [in] the black suit. One of the
Rossis has a bow tie back there in the background.
* California Grape Growers Association. See page 6?.
That s the fiossis.* And this is Professor [George]
Husmann. He was head of the viticulture branch of
the U.S. Department of Agriculture at that time.
Black moustache and about the center middle row.
And this is Ed [Edgar M.] Sheehan of the Sacramento
Valley vineyard, Cordova Vineyards [at Perkins],
He was one of the first presidents of the Wine Grape
He s in the middle row with a kind of President
Hoover collar on.
Yes. This is Carl Bundschu no, Gundlach this is
Mr. [Jacob] Gundlach and this is Mr. Bundschu over
here. The two of them look rather alike and they
were partners. Gundlach -Bundschu. And this fellow
was over out of Solano County.
The fellow with the big beard?
Yes. Very gruff sort of a fellow,
And that s me,
The very top row, second from the right.
Prom the right. And this is Professor [Frederic T.]
Bloletti. Little old Dr. Bioletti.
He s at the top row to the left, with his hat in his
hand. What was he like? Was he an excitable little
He was a bluff little guy, really. [Laughter] Yeah,
I d say he s an excitable little fellow. He was
quite a showman like he s Just showing off there.
Most very small men are that way, aren t they?
This fellow here is a brother to this Husmann,
over here where I showed you Mr. Husmann of the
Viticulture Department. This is his brother. This
is Fred. Now we re coming along here and I don t
*Edmund A. and Robert D. Rossi, the twin sons of
Pietro C. Rossi, of Italian Swiss Colony.
Wente: know this one, but this is Mr. [Emil C.] Priber.
Teiser: Fourth from the left end, standing white beard.
Wente: He was the president of the Napa & Sonoma Wine
Company. And, this is Mr. [Edwin A.] Grau.
Teiser: Next one to the left. Little white beard.
Wente: Grau and [Edwin P.] Werner were great friends of my
father. They created Los Amigos Vineyard over here
Teiser: Oh, yesl
Wente: Now, this man was working with my father with Charles
Teiser: Mr. Werner?
Wente: No. Mr. Grau. And Mr. Werner is not here. He
wasn t able to come. Mr. Werner was superintendant
of the Greys tone Winery in St. Helena. And Mr.
Werner lived in that little cottage right alongside
of the Greystone. Still there the last time I was
up there, the little cottage, and that s where Mr.
Werner lived, and my father used to go over and
visit with him all the time. That s how he got
acquainted, around St. Helena. They were great
friends, Grau and Werner. And this is my father
Teiser: Oh, he s standing on the left end.
Teiser: He looks like your brother Carl a good deal, doesn t
Wente: Very much. And this is Mr. [Prank A.] Busse. He
was working for the Napa & Sonoma Wine Company as a
superintendant and salesman.
Teiser: Second line.
Wente: And so when this man Priber wanted to sell Napa &
Sonoma Wine Company, he came to my father, who had
the money to put up, and Busse didn t have the money,
and so the two of them entered into an agreement to
Wente: buy the Napa & Sonoma Wine Company. My father
became president of the Napa & Sonoma Wine Company;
then Mr. Busse ran the works. Often when Prohibition
came, why he, my father, said to Busse, "You ve
worked hard and we ve made a lot of money out of
this thing. I m going to give you this inventory
and all the wine and everything for the cost of the
inventory, and you take the labels and everything
and capitalize on it as best you can. 11 So that was
the end of Napa & Sonoma as far as my father was
concerned.* He just washed everything right out.
And he turned around to us boys and he said,
"Now I m going to put a price on your ranches here,
and you get first chance to buy them if you want to
buy them, and I ll take your notes on them but put
them down cheap, and if you don t want to buy them
I m going to sell to somebody else." He said, "I ve
found out in my lifetime that I can divide a dollar
evenly so the family has no quarrels, but I can t
divide a piece of property evenly. There will always
be a family feud. So," he said, "this piece of land
is worth so much. This peice of land is worth so
much. Now you were here with me all these years and
you have number one choice." So I picked where I m
living, on that piece of land. Herman picked this
one across the street. So then we created Wente
Brothers . ** [Laughter]
Teiser: Oh, that s the story. I couldn t figure out why,
when your father lived so many years longer, you
came along and created Wente Brothers. What year was
Wente i Well, we created Wente Brothers fictlclously we never
incorporated or anything in 1918, right when
Prohibition went into effect. So Herman went into
the [World War I] service, and I stayed here and ran
the ranches until he got back. Now, we re getting
away from my story. Now, then, this [showing grout)
portrait] was the 1939 fair.***
Teiser: [reading] "Sixth Annual Conference, Wine Industry
*See also pages 64-65.
**See also pages 53-55-
***Golden Gate International Exposition.
Telser: and Related Interests, Treasure Island, June 5th,
Wente: As far as I know there f s only one man alive that s
in both these pictures and that s me. Unless it s
Ed Rossi. This is Harry Caddow. He was with the
Wine Institute. And this is L[ucien] B. Johnson who
bought Cresta Blanca, and Mr. [Clarence] Wetmore,
this is he, here, in the front row. But I m back in
here somewhere, if you can find me. But Herman was
in it too, here.
Teiser: He s on the left standing next to someone with a
Wente: That was Brother one of the Jesuits. Here s
Georges de Latour.
Teiser: Oh yes, front row. (That reminds me to ask you
about your association with the Beaulieu Vineyard
during Prohibition. )
Wente: That s where I am.
Teiser: Oh there you are. I see.
Wente: Dr. [A. J.] Winkler. The other two doctors from
Davis. I can t think of their names the one with
very thick glasses and oh golly, I know them like
I know. . .
Teiser: Not Dr. Amerine?
Wente: Amerine should be there somewhere.
Teiser: That s a good looking group of men, isn t it?
Wente: For a bunch of wlnos, they look pretty good, don t
I m quite proud of the fact that I m the only
one that s in both of these pictures, unless it
would be Ed Rossi. Here s Ed Rossi, here.
Teiser: Oh! Almost in the center, in the light suit, to
the right of a woman. Yes. I spoke to his son the
other day to ask how he was, because we want to
Interview him too. He said that he was getting along
Teiser: all right and he thought in a few weeks he d be well
enough to be Interviewed.
Wente: Oh? He s no older than I am.
Teiser: Well, he was hit by an automobile. In some freak
Wente: You asked about de Latour and Beaulleu. We sold
wines to Mr. de Latour for years. My father used to
sell him wine.
Teiser: In bulk?
Wente: In bulk, yes. Saut ernes. We never bottled here
before Prohibition. We bottled in Napa & Sonoma,
but we never bottled Wente wines here.
Teiser: There was no Wente label used?
Wente: There was no Wente label used. My father at the
1915 Pair, he said, "I m probably the proudest man
here at this fair because I ve won four gold medals
all on the white wines. I ve won four gold medals
and none of them were in my name." [Laughter] Wine
that he sold to Napa & Sonoma, to Beaulieu, to
Gundlach-Bundschu, and one or two others. They all
presented them at the fair and they all won gold
medals. But Pops didn t have a thing to say about
Teiser: I think I read somewhere that during Prohibition
most of your wine went to...
Wente: We had one customer during Prohibition 1918 or 20
to Repeal and that was Beaulieu Vineyard. We made
them their sweet sauternes for altar purposes.
Before, my father used to sell it to them in bulk,
in barrels, and I can remember it so well. Mr. de
Latour was also a poor man, didn t have any money.
He started from scratch. And he d come down here
and he d take samples and my father said, "Well,
Georges, there isn t much use to be showing samples
to you. I can t sell you any more wine. You owe me
*The interview with Edmund A. Rossi was subsequently
Wente: for two years now. And I have to pay my men. I
can t sell you any more wine."
"I will tell you something, Mr. Wente," he said.
"My business Is with the Church. They are slow
paying but they are good." So Pops would weaken
and give Georges de Latour some wine. [Laughter]
So when Prohibition came, and of course he was
the only one in the state probably who was selling
any altar wines at the time to speak of, so he had
the big trade thenj, and we made him 30,000
gallons of sweet Semillon or sweet sauterne each
year, Herman and I did. Herman principally, because
I was busy farming. And we had no trouble at all
as far as selling and collect ing i By that time, he
Just ran on top and they did a nice Job.
The Beaulieu Vineyards were kind of a sad
situation. The boy never was very strong or healthy,
which Mr. de Latour was very, very upset over and
very sad about. The girl took it over and she
married. Now it s in the hands of the Sullivans,
I think pretty much. And they re going on all right.
They re very fine people, but they could have done
as well as the Wentes if they had some sons to carry
it on. Not that they didn t do as well as the Wentes,
but they had the upper hand on the whole thing after
Repeal because they were the label. They were right
in the driver s seat when Repeal came.
Teiser: And were they not fairly well financed by then?
Wente: Oh yes, no problems at all.
Well, it came to the point where, along about
19 2 6- 2?, the Alcohol Tax Unit wouldn t give you a
permit to transfer wines from one bonded winery to
the other, if you did not use it for blending. So
Mr. de Latour was beside himself. He couldn t buy
our wines, without he took them up to their vineyards
and blended them. And this you can t do with the
sweet sauternes because they were sweetened a little
bit and they would ferment immediately, and he was
beside himself. And he said, "Well, you re not doing
anything with your bond. Why don t you transfer it
over to Beaulieu Vineyards? And then we can carry on
and we will give it back to you after Repeal, if and
when it comes."
Teiser: You were bonded all this time?
Wente: We were bounded all this time. We were making bonded
wine. We had to in order to make wine for Beaulieu
Vineyards. And so we didn t have any other
customers what would you do? [Laughter] So we
became Beaulieu Vineyards Bonded Winery Number 898
or whatever our number is, for seven or eight years.
So then we could ship, or Beaulieu Vineyards could
ship wines from this bonded winery directly to its
agency all over the United States, Chicago and
different parts; we d Just load the barrels in cars
at his direction and send them on. So we were
Beaulieu Vineyards for a number of years Just in the
eyes of the tax people.* They paid us by the gallon.
Teiser: And you Just made that one wine?
Wente: We Just made that one wine.
Teiser: It was not a fortified wine?
Wente: No, ma am.
Teiser: I thought most sacramental wines were.
Wente: Yes, but the sweet sauternes were not. They were
sweetened; we arrested the fermentation at about two
degrees Balling and under 14 per cent alcohol.
Teiser: Let me go back to your education and your brothers .
Did you all have duties in the winery?
Wente: Oh, it was kind of a family run institution, yes.
Teiser: This 1893 picture, I think it has been reproduced a
good many times. It is delightful with the whole
family and the barrels and the Oriental rug!
*See also pages 65-66.
Wente: [Laughter] That was mother f s idea the Oriental rug.
Teiser: You didn t keep the Oriental rug there every day?
Wente: Oh, heavens, not
Teiser: Would you identify these people in this...
Wente: Ah, yes, I can identify them all.
Teiser: Would you start on the left side?
Wente: That s me.
Teiser: You re on the left.
Wente: That s Carl over here.
Teiser: ...on the right. And then who s second from left?
Wente: That s sister Carolyn.
Teiser: And third from left...
Wente: That s mother and Herman.
Teiser: The baby is Herman?
Wente: Herman. And father and sister May and Carl. There
was only five of us at that time. Then sister Frieda
and Hilma came later.
Teiser: If it was in front of the winery, how did the barrels
happen to be out there in such a nice arrangement?
Wente: Well, they were kept there for shipping. We shipped
in these puncheons then, always.
Teiser: The ones to the right and the left. How many gallons
would they hold?
Wente: A hundred and eighty gallons, in that neighborhood,
160 to 180. They were puncheons.
Teiser: And what about the upright barrel?
Wente: This barrel? That was the breakdown or 50 gallon
barrel. And this was a 50 gallon barrel here. This
was the bulk shipment when my father sold the
vintage each year to, oh, Gundlach-Bundschu, or to
Italian Swiss Colony or what have you who bought it.
Lachman & Jacob! was the principal buyer at that
The principal buyer of your wine?
They were the principal buyers, yes. Of the bulk
wine, not the finer wines. The finer wines went to
the small groups of bottlers such as Napa & Sonoma
and Gundlach-Bundschu and people like that who
Did Gundlach-Bundschu or Lachman & Jacob! make any
of their own wines, or did they Just bottle?
Lachman & Jacob! , no; they were just merchants.
They had a vineyard up at Sonoma. They did make a
few wines, but principally bought their wines.
You may have seen in Herb Caen s column in the San
Francisco Chronicle that somebody unearthed some
information about A. Finke s Widow, and there s
been some interest in the firm.
My father sold A. Pinke s Widow right along. We
have some books that my father kept since he
started, showing who he sold to and prices he got.
Who was A. Pinke s widow?
Are you aware of her
No, that s Just a name principally, as far as I was
concerned. I helped barrel it up a lot of times and
made the shipment to A. Pinke s Widow, but my father
did the traveling. In those days you had to go by
train in the morning to San Francisco. There was a
local train that left here about six- thirty, and
came home about five o clock at night. That was
the only transportation we had. We didn t have any
automobiles. Then he bought his first automobile in
1906. I ve been driving an automobile since 1906.
That s quite a long time, too. I still have a
driver s license and have never gone to the hospital
yet on account of an automobile accident. I ve had
Wente: a few little bumps but never hurt. This is a long
time and I guess it must total millions [of miles];
I don t know, I haven t any idea.
Teiser: Your father then had to go to the city frequently?
My father, as you see [in the 1893 photograph]
had a cane. He hurt his hip. He tipped over a
. load of hay right up on the hill here when I was
six months old, so my mother tells me, and broke
his hip. And up until that point why he Just worked,
worked, worked. Had a good head but he never used
it so much. He Just felt that he had to earn a
living by hard work. And then when he got crippled
up, why then, he used to tell me, "I had six kids
to feed and I had to make a living for them. So,"
he said, "I started contracting and pruning and
planting vines and hired a lot of men and rode
around in a horse and buggy." Couldn t walk, so he
rode around in a horse and buggy and superintended
it. His wine making the same way. In those days
you could hire good men. You couldn t do that today
[laughter]. I can tell you that I
[Albert Kirkman brings in books.]
Kirk, didn t you?
You did meet
Teiser: No, I didn t.
Wente: Mr. Kirkman s been with us since Repeal, along with
the hostess , Adele [Kruger] , along with Bruno
[Canzianl] the winemaker. They all came to work
with Herman and me right after Repeal and they re
Come over here and sit down. [Looking at
father s account books.] Some of these old figures
aren t so good. This is 189**-. This is a chart of
our middle block of grapes, and this is what he
received in pounds from it. But this book goes on
and on and on. I ll Just give you a quick look.
Napa-Sonoma Wine and Brandy Company. Later they
*See page 52.
Wente: called it Napa & Sonoma Wine Company, "In 1895
settled to satisfaction," father says here. [Laughter]
Teiser: Must have had a hard time getting that! [Laughter}
Wente: Well, it does say the discount, and so forth. Didn t
amount to much as far as dollars is concerned, but
that s just one item. I ll Just turn over that
quickly so... There s quite a history right in this
little old book here. "Sweet must" This [looking
at another book] was his blend book rather than his
sales book. This is where he made his blends.
Teiser: Oh, made records of his blends. I see.
Wente* And Herman and I used it many, many times, too.
Teiser: Followed his blends?
Wente: Yes. Napa & Sonoma Wine Company that is what he
used in blending. He blended up six, seven thousand
gallons for Napa & Sonoma Wine Company, haut sauterne,
see. And this is what he used in it. It showed five
tenths above Balling, used six cans of tannin for
Teiser: And the grapes?
Wente: He used sauterne that s Semlllon nd the Colombard
and the Golden Chasselas and the Polle blanche and
the sweet Colombard he blended in, and Neuchatel.
And there were ^3 parts here you see, he used 15
Teiser: They used to make a Golden Chasselas wine, didn t
Teiser: Was it any good?
Wente: No. The Neuchatel was a Swiss type of wine.
This [book] is getting pretty well worn out,
isn t it? Now we ll go to one of the other books
and see what he sold. He wrote pretty well, don t
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Page from Carl H. Wente s Account Book
Telser: I should say sol Your brother Carl had a good
bookkeeper to come up to, didn t he? Wasn t he for
a time the bookkeeper?
Wente: For a while, yes.
This is Gundlach & Company here thousand
gallons of Charbono.
Teiser: [Reading] Arpad Haraszthy and Company in 1889.
Wente: [W. P.] Bartlett and [George B.] Crane. I m looking
here for Timothy Hayes that s a neighbor over here.
H. B. Wagoner. H. B. Wagoner ran a winery downtown
here. Pisher Packing Company. [Turning pages]
Haraszthy, 1892. Haraszthy was supposed to receive
most credit for bringing over these grapes from
Europe, you know.
Teiser: Yes, the father of Arpad was it not?
Wente: That s what they say. I wasn t there... [Laughter]
There s Lachman; Franz and Fuchs, l^th Street,
Oakland. James Concannon. He sold wine to Goncannon,
then too. Overland Transfer & Freight, Haraszthy
again. [More page turning] A. Flnke s Widow s
around here, somewhere, 1886.
Teiser: Your father really had a beautiful hand.
Wente: A very methodical man. You know, he came up the hard
way, really. I mean he got cripped up, and then as
time went on he became very prominent in local
affairs, and they started a bank downtown here and
he became president of that, too. You knew that, I
Teiser: Yes, I think I did and I m glad to have it on the
Wente: And Carl and I, as I tried to tell you, were here
hoeing weeds one day, and Carl was sitting over by
the fence, and I said, "Gee, we re never going to
get any weeds hoed if you sit over there. Pops is
going to be mad with us." And he said, "Well, I ve
got to get a job that pays more money than this!"
[Laughter] He got himself a job in the bank. That
was more to his liking.
Went e :
Well, I guess it was a good enough choice. [Laughter]
He did all right for himself. [Laughter] Yes,
indeed, he did all right.
[Turning pages of book] Here s Lachman & Jacob! now.
Bertin & Lepori. They were a very famous company or
outfit. Napa & Sonoma Wine Company, 1906. Italian
Swiss Colony. Union Wine Company. The Winedale
My son [Karl] is somewhat on the order of my
father, you know; he s always busy, busy, busy. He
never quits. Ciocca-Lombardi. Here s Oterson.
This was my father s partner, you know, that I talked
to you about. Chauche & Bon. Alta Vista Wine
Company. There were a lot of old firms in San
Francisco. Chevalier & Company. Ghaix & Bernard,
1900. William Hoelscher. Did you know the
Hoelschers? They ran I. De Turk.* They were very
I m coming near the end of my tape,
back and continue?
Could I come
Well, do you think I have that much information?
Yes, yes. I want to go back and begin, really, with
your going to college and your brother Herman s
education, and carry forward in some little more
detail on that.
Well, brother Herman went to U.C. My wife was a
U.C. graduate. Karl s a Stanford [graduate] so we
went to the Stanford football games when he was at
Stanford; we didn t know which side to root for.
[Laughter] Whether we should be true to Cal or root
for Stanford! Now his son, by the way we received
notice yesterday that he is accepted at Stanford
Karl s oldest boy. So he s going to Stanford next
I wanted Karl to go to Davis. Bight when he
was a little fellow he used to go around with me in
the ranch all the time. His mother tried to tell him
*As successors to Isaac De Turk.
Wente: he d better prepare himself In high school for
education in college: "But you ve got to make up
your mind what you want to do." And he says, "I
know what I want to do." He says, "I m going to be
a farmer like my father. I ve got my mind made up
to that already." So that s the way he went.
Well, I tried to get him to go to Davis, then.
No, he wanted to go to Stanford anyway. He went to
Stanford, and when he got through I said, "Well, you
ought to go up to Davis to take at least six months,
and why don t you go up and see Dr. Winkler? 11 And
Joe Concannon* was a graduate of Notre Dame , and the
two of them were the same age. They went to high
school here together and so they decided, on my
pressure, that they d go up and see Dr. Winkler and
see if they couldn t take six months of post-grad
work in viticulture. They got up to Davis, and
Winkler was giving them a bad time. He really gave
them a terrible time, I guess, because he said,
"Hell, you fellows both come here from the best
quality wineries in the state, and you went to
Stanford and you went to Notre Dame, and now you
come here and you expect me to educate you in six
months." [Laughter] And he had a point too! He
was pretty bitter and outspoken about it.
So, when Karl came home, I said, "Well, I
suppose you re all set to go to Davis." He says,
"I wouldn t go there for all the money in the world."
He says, "The way he treated me I" [Laughter] So
that settled going to Davis that was his post
graduate he took it all in one dayl [Laughter]
* Joseph Concannon, Jr.
(Interview #2 - April 21, 1969)
VINEYARD PROBLEMS AND SOLUTIONS
tfente; I d like to go back over the history of grape
industry here in California a little bit, as I
remember from the time my father got into it here
iri Livermore the date I was born. Of course I
can t remember the first immature years of my life,
but I can remember from 1896 on quite vividly.
We lived I mean we as children ran around
here and worked with it and helped him with every
thing he did. It was a family organization. And
of course, as the vines were planted here in
California, they all were planted on their own
roots the vinlfers, the European varieties, and
the phylloxera came. Of course, you can get the
history of the phylloxera in all the record books
what it did to California. But they grew very
prolific here, all on virgin soil to begin with,
and everybody and his brother planted vines and it
wasn t too long, by the year 1900 we had a gutted
market on grapes, and Just awfully depressed, up to
the point where they were selling for six dollars
per ton. And wine bulkwise I can remember my
father taking these grapes in at six dollars per ton,
and didn t want them because he didn t feel that he
could make any money, but the growers all had these
grapes and so he offered to take them in as best he
could with what cooperage he had, and was selling
wine for six and one-half cents again. So you see,
there wasn t very much spread, and it went this way
for quite a while. But phylloxera Mother Nature
takes care of things pretty well phylloxera came
along and thinned out all these vineyards, and they
had to start from scratch again like they did in
Prance, by using the American rootstock which was
resistant to the little root louse.
And then the vintners needed help and so the
Department of Agriculture, the United States
Department of Agriculture, devised the branch called
Wente: the Viticulture Department , which put in these
experimental plots. The main one was at Oakvllle
near Rutherford. It s still in operation by the
University of California now, by Davis. There was
another plot there were four in the state right
here where we are sitting, the site of this office.
Had over a hundred varieties of rootstock, and they
did not do any grafting here but they did plant over
a hundred American rootstocks here to see which
would be the most phylloxera-resistant, and the most
Teiser: What period was this?
Wente: This was from 190*4- til Prohibition came in in 1918,
when it went out of existence and the Department of
Viticulture went out at the same time.
Teiser: Where were the other plantings?
Wente: One was down at Fresno and the other was over at
Lodl. Those two went out of existence earlier, but
this one remained in until Prohibition came in, when
the department went out. We looked at that [1915
fair] picture and I showed you Mr. Hussman who was
head of that department at that time. One of his
workers and I worked with him in this plot, here as
a boy, when I was 16 along about was George Hecke.
He later became head of the Department of Agriculture
here in California, if you remember back and I guess
you can remember back when they had the foot and
mouth infection here in California in 192^. Mr.
Hecke was the head of the Department of Agriculture
for the State of California at that time, when they
killed all the cows and we were In this infected
area here. Since it started in Contra Costa County
we were quarantined, and all the cattle that showed
any sign of infection of hoof and mouth were destroyed.
The state payed for them, and Mr. Hecke at that time
was head of the department.
We talked the other day about me being at Davis,
and he at that time had a piece of land at Woodland,
and I used to ride my bicycle I had a bicycle at
Davis I used to ride my bicycle from Davis Farm up
to see Mr. Hecke. Used to visit back and forth with
him. It was kind of my second home when I was at
Davis. I used to go over to see Mr. Hecke. He has
Wente: since passed away. But he became very prominent
during the hoof and mouth disease. He had much
opposition to what he was doing but he eradicated
the hoof and mouth and saved the state of California
a great deal of misery by going out and killing all
four-footed animals cloven hoofed animals subject
to hoof and mouth. Hogs and deer and every thing else
that was in the infected area. Even went over to
the Sierras and killed all the wild deer. And he
became very unpopular, but he did a tremendous Job.
Teiser: And we ve never had it seriously here since?
Wente: We ve never had a serious outbreak here since, and
they ve watched it very closely. It s something
that our trained technicians and veterinarians have
never seen. It was Just by chance the county
veterninarian in Alameda County recognized it down
at Richmond, and it started from there. It was
brought in from off the boats with foreign swill
that was fed to the hogs over there, and started
this infection, and it got pretty widespread before
they knew what it was all about. Well, so much for
that. Then it went on. After Repeal, we then
became infected with viruses.
Teiser: The vineyards.
Wente: The vineyards, of course. And we didn t know how to
control it, and the University at that time was our
only place to go and they, we felt, were not doing
too good of a Job for us, and they were doing a
tremendous Job as far as enology was concerned as
far as wineries were concerned but outside is where
we were dying. And we, Wine Institute, put enough
pressure on them til we now are getting somewhere
to learn how to cope with the viruses.
The viruses are now hosted by the nematode,
which is the carrying factor of the viruses and the
spreading factor, and the University now is doing us
a good Job. But we were all for, at a time, trying
to feel that perhaps we d have to go to the United
States Department of Agriculture and ask for them to
help us again such as they did during the phylloxera
Teiser: When did the viruses start affecting the Industry
generally and this vineyard?
Wente: Oh, along when we first became aware that there
was something wrong other than phylloxera about 15
years ago. It s only been In the last 15 or 20 years
that it f s grown gradually worse, up to the point
where now we are very conscious of it and how to
We sterilize all ground we call it sterilization.
We inject a detergent which kills the nematodes, as
near as we can, before we plant. We destroy the
nematodes which is the carrying factor of the virus
and then we seem to get off to a better start with
our new plantings. This only happens on the old
second planting and third plantings. We don t have
that much trouble with virgin ground, on new plantings
on virgin ground.
Teiser: Incidentally, have you done any plantings not on
native rootstock, as I think Almaden has and some
Wente: Yes, we have, and lost them again by phylloxera, as
well as the virus. And now we re re-planting again.
Teiser: Really! What area was this?
Wente: Right in here, right across the street from here,
and also down this other way. After Repeal, in
order to get back in production again quickly, we
went to their own roots rather than to spend the time
Teiser: Which means grafting?
Wente: Which means grafting and budding or what have you,
changing over the tops into the vinifers from the
resistant or the American rootstock. If you
remember the history of the phylloxera that destroyed
all of the vines even in Europe as well as here.
Teiser: What stock was finally used? Not Mission?
Wente: It s a native wild rootstook principally, from
Georgia and South Carolina and some of the southern
states, that we are using the resistant vines from,
Wente: rather than Mission grape. That Is a European grape
that is subject to the phylloxera. The reason for
the wild stock this phylloxera apparently is a
little microscopic root louse which lives underground
and works on the cambium layer of the plant and sucks
the life flow of the sap out of the plant and they
eventually die. But the American rootstock has lived
with this phylloxera for thousands of years and built
up an immunization by tightening up its bark to the
point where the little louse can t get in. And
this is why we are using the American rootstock.
Teiser: And your efforts to use the others have failed?
Wente i Yes, and I m afraid that those that are now using
vinifers on their own roots in new districts such
as we are going into down at Greenfield, and are
letting ourselves wide open to the infestation of
phylloxera sooner or later. I Just kind of believe
that it will hold. I ve lived with the phylloxera
so much and I ve discussed it with Dr. Winkler at
times, and he feels that from the economy of the
thing that it would be well worth the first planting
to go ahead and take that chance. But Wente did not
do this down at Greenfield. We went resistant.
However, we might be wrong. We might be awfully
wrong. We might not have it. Now this phylloxera
doesn t work in sand so much. The Lodl districts in
the San Joaquin Valley have not had that trouble;
it s only in these aluvial, tighter soils where the
phylloxera lives better and has that danger.
Teiser: And the Lodi district they plant on..?
Wente: On their own roots. Down at Fresno they plant on
their own roots.
Teiser: Around the Paicenes area in San Benito County was
where I remember hearing of the first of the recent
plantings. Have they had any phylloxera turn up
Wente: Well, I believe they have had in earlier days, but
this is where Almaden at the present time is
planting on their own roots. This is most any man s
guess, which is smart and which isn t smart.
Teiser: Is there a quality factor?
Wente: Possibly so. Not if your culture is correct. When
they re on their own roots they should be pruned
back a little more than if they re on the wild roots.
You have a flow of sap that probably does not
harmonize at the opportune time. You have a falling
of blossoms during the setting period when they re
on the wild roots, which you will not have when
they re on their own roots. So when planting on
their own roots, the policy is to really prune back
more and don t leave as many fruit buds as you would
with the non-resistant.
As far as quality is concerned, do not over-crop,
and see that you get a well-ripened fruit. With the
vinifers or the European varieties, they do not have
the tendency to go with as deep a root system as the
wild root, and therefore they cannot carry the crop
through quite as easily or as good as the resistant
WINES BEFORE PROHIBITION AND AFTER
Telser: This brings up a subject which I think that I started
to ask you about last time. I don t know how aware
you were of these things as a young man before
Prohibition. But what about the general level of
quality of wine in California before Prohibition as
compared with well, say, today?
Wente: Oh, there were some very, very lovely wines in the
early days. There really were. There was quite a
number of them.
Teisen What were the really good ones?
Wente: Well, Cresta Blanca as far as white wines were
concerned, and as far as Wente was concerned, we
didn t do any bottling here and my father I pointed
that out to you the other day came home very proud
of himself from the 1915 fair that he said, "I
won four medals and didn t exhibit the wine," that
he had sold to A. Finke s widow and William Hoelscher
and those others that all got gold medals and they
Wente: were all Wente s wines, and he said, "I, came home
with four medals but did not receive the medals."
So, this is what happened there in that
particular case, however, there were many others:
Chauche & Bon, which turned out some awfully good
red wines here in Livermore. And then we talked
about the Olivina, turned out some lovely wines here
In early days. And also the Duvalls here in
Livermore. And you go up Napa way and there were
many, many, many plants up there that turned out
lovely wines that have since fallen by the wayside
and never came back after Repeal.
Teiser: What wine types that were notably good before
Wente: They did not go into varletals as much. They went
into generics rather than the varietals, and copied
principally after the European varieties such as
sauternes and chablls hock. Hock was quite a
famous one at that time.
Teiser: What was hock?
Wente: Hock was principally a very light Rhine wine,
principally of a Burger type of a grape, and it was
used very much around the restaurants where there
was considerable consumption and the price wasn t
so high. It was a cheap Rhine wine which was very
acceptable to the trade. Lots and lots of the
restaurants in San Francisco used the hock, because
after my father became associated with Napa & Sonoma
we shipped down a lot of hock wine into Napa &
Sonoma, which was bottled and sold around the
Teiser: Are there any other wines of that kind that we no
Wente: Well, this thing changes somewhat, like women s
hats. They go into fashion and they go out again.
[Laughter] After Repeal we started vintages quite
a lot, and then they went out of style more or less,
and then we dropped a lot of our vintages and now
we re going back into them again. And I think that
as far as varletals are concerned, Wente started
them when Herman was the principle factor in that.
Wente: Along about 1936 we started out with Sauvignon blanc.
That was the first varietal wine that I can recollect
was bottled here in California, in 1936, was our
Sauvignon blanc. Then we felt that had sold very
well and we then started out with Semillon and the
Pinots, Pinot Chardonnay and Pinot blanc, and then
we had a Mourestel. We had a red wine which we
sold on the Mourestal which became very popular, but
we ve dropped it since. Then we had the Ugnl blanc
which sold very well and was very much on the order
of the old hock variety, light and acceptable, but
it wasn t too long before they started to sell it
and people didn t know how to pronounce the name.
You know, it s spelt "Ugni" and pretty soon everybody
called it "Ug-ny" instead of "You-ny," and they
really wanted to know where that "Ugny" Wente wine
was. [Laughter] So we thought we d better drop it,
so we don t bottle any more of that "Ugny" wine.
Teiser: I was talking to Mr. Horace no, it was Mr. Harry
Baccigaluppl who said he thought Mr. Lanza was the
first one to import that grape.
Wente i Well, that s what Horace thinks. I told you the
other day about Mr. Bonnet and his brother from the
Montpellier Nursery, and that my father bought a
number of varieties, and one of them was Ugnl blanc.
And that was brought in in 1912. That was long
before Horace Lanza ever came into the picture of
wines. Then Horace Lanza went into it in a big way
down south and started out, and he called it I don t
know if he calls it Ugni blanc or not, but Mr.
Wetmore brought some in from Europe, and they called
it Saint-Emilion and didn t call it the Ugni blanc.
It goes under three different names. I forget the
other one [Trebbiano] but Saint-Emilion comes to me
very quickly, and the Ugni blanc. Wetmore called it
Saint-Emilion, and I ve looked at his vines a number
of times and I m sure that they are the same variety.
Teiser: Yes, in Dr. Amerlne and Dr. Winkler s booklet,
California Wine Grapes* they are given as the same.
And they weren t recommended .
*Amerine, M.A. and Winkler, A.J., California Wine
Grapes . University of California Agricultural
Experiment Station Bulletin ?9*S 1963.
tfente: This is right. A lot of things can happen to even
a poorer variety. You can make a fairly decent
wine I don t say a good wine out of a Thompson
Seedless if you don t overbear it, and bring it
down so it has a chance to mature, to use it for a
wine purpose, and not hope to get 15 or 20 tons to
the acre out of it. But you can get four or five
tons to the acre out of a Thompson Seedless, which
will give you a much superior wine than you could
make out of it with a 15 ton crop. However, I
wouldn t recommend it, because you can do so much
better with the Ugnl blanc, and get four or five
tons to the acre, and you can do much better from
the Chenin blanc than you can from the Ugni blanc
by getting four or five tons to the acre, and you
can do better yet by going to the Pinot blanc or
the Pinot Chardonnay, so that it would be silly to
try to start in with something that has a basic
poorness to begin with to make a good quality thing
when you know very well that you can reach up to the
top and get something better. It s Just that simple,
I think. However, you shouldn t condemn it entirely.
Even the old Mission grapes that the Fathers
brought in here went back to the history of
viticulture. There s no doubt that Robert Livermore
brought in grapes into the Livermore Valley here
along in the 1830 s when he first came into Livermore
here and planted grapes, and the old Padres brought
them in the early days, and principally all the
Mission varieties that were of Spanish origin. It
has no great quality asset at all. It s Just the
vin ordinaire. And then when we started in
production here, we went into these better varieties.
You can do so much better with a Zinfandel or a
Garignane or some of these others, and then you get
into the Pinots and the red wines, and the Pinot
noirs and the Beaujolals, Gamay Beaujolais, you can
do so much better than you could with the Zinfandel
or the Mataro or the Carignane.
Telsers Was there much wine made from Mission grapes Just
Wente: In the early days there was quite a little, but in
the latter days they were pulled out very much,
Teiser: About 1900, say?
Wente: About 1900 there was quite a lot of Mission grown.
Yes, they are a heavy producer and a very vigorous
grower, and you can get a lot of production of
Teiser: Had they pretty well disappeared by 1918?
Vfente: Yes, yes. They were used very little for wine
purposes by that time.
Teiser: Are any used now?
Wente: I don t know of any that s being used at the present
Teiser : You were saying that there were some very good wines
produced before Prohibition. It s hard to ask you
to even consider all California wines taken together,
because they certainly vary, but would you say that
the general quality of wines is higher now than it
Wente: No, I don t think so. I would say that then there
was not so very much blends made down in the
interior valley. They were all principally grown
in the coastal valleys like Sonoma and Napa and
Livermore and Santa Clara, and those valleys, and
there were all wine varieties. Thompson Seedless
was unheard of in my youth, and around 1900 somebody
came along with the Thompson Seedless and propagated
it and it went like wild-fire as far as the wineries
in the [Central] Valley were concerned. And it is
very profitable too, as far as that goes. You ve
got a three-way route to go, whereas with wine grapes
you ve only got one route to go. They can go for
table or raisins or wine. And you can t do this with
Zlnfandel and you can t do it with Pinots.
PHOPITS AND LOSSES
Wente: We tried some Semillons and Sauvignon blancs for
eastern shipment when Prohibition went into effect,
and we Just didn t get to first base. They were
too tender, too thin skinned, and by the time they
reached the New York market, why they were full of
mold and they Just didn t hold up. And we didn t
know how to pack them either. We probably didn t
handle them correctly. But they were a mess. We
took nothing but red ink. Wereas the old Alicante
had a tough hide, and the home winemaker bought the
Alicante and Thompson Seedless, which were all good
shippers, and blended the two together and made
himself some home-made wine.
Teiser: Someone was telling me that he shipped Zinfandel
grapes East during Prohibition.
Wente: We shipped a lot of Zinfandel here, too. We learned
how to pack them and we did quite well, but not as
well as we did with the Al leant es. As soon as we
could change over, we went the Alicante route, as
fast as we could, for shipment.
Teiser: Did you ship a good deal during Prohibition?
Wente: We shipped a good deal, and it was amazing the amount
of money we received for the first few years of it.
Then we started to receive red ink along, about 1928
when the markets were glutted and there were so many
carloads in the eastern market. California at that
time, as I remember rolled at least a hundred
thousand carloads of grapes to eastern markets alone.
Teiser: A year?
Wente: A year. And that s a lot of grapes. If you figure
twenty tons for the carload, that means quite a lot
of grapes are rolling into one market. And buyers
used to buy from us direct, and after that when the
grapes became plentiful they would buy only on option
markets, and it got so we were getting nothing but
red ink. So we quit, and I stayed with my cattle
and made an honest to goodness cow man out of me.
[Laughter] 1 could at least sell a few of their
Wente: hides out here in Livermore.
Teiser: In the years before 1928 had people seen that the
grape business was lucrative and come in and planted
Wente: That, and it also had something that no other
industry has. Rich people came into it as a hobby
and loved to grow grapes and so forth.
Teiser: In the 20 s?
Wente: Yes. It s very intriguing there s no question about
that more than any other department of agriculture
or anything that you can grow. I don t know of any
body or any industry that has more people of hobby
Teiser: It sounds so easy.
Wente: It does sound easy. [Laughter] But it is interesting
to grow something and see what you can make out of
it in the ultimate. It really is. It s also very
interesting to grow out a good calf and see how well
it will grow up and what it looks like and then to
have it killed and see how it cuts up into sausages.
[Laughter] It s Just about as intriguing as growing
grapes, however. And livestock and wine making are
where these rich people really had hobbies.
I ve had a lot of fun but I had to eat out of
it. Most of these fellows made their money on the
stock market or some other way, but I didn t know
enough to do that. I made it the hard way. [Laughter]
I only went at it in a small way too, compared to
some of them.
Teiser: It looks as if it has been worth it anyway.
Wente: Well, I m now 79 years old and I ve done very well.
Teiser: It apparently preserves youth...
Wente: Oh, I think that anybody that would want to preserve
their youth, and if they have a good body to begin
with, they can exercise enough and watch their diet
a little bit. It doesn t make too much difference
whether you re working in an office, or even if you re
Wentei in a prison and live in an eight-foot room. I
believe that I would have to have my exercise. I d
Jump around and turn hand springs in that eight-foot
room in order to get my exercise, because I know that
I feel better when I get my exercise don t you?
Teiser: Yes, I certainly do.
Wente: I think this is the way the Lord made you. I guess
that s the way it should be done, anyway. I m of that
opinion. Just because I ve lived to be 79, it isn t
because I ve been drinking good wine all the time.
It s because I ve gotten enough exercise growing it,
Teiser: I m trying to contrast the period before Prohibition
with the period following Prohibition, and I think
you answered some questions. But the distribution
of California wines was in quite a different pattern
was it than today?
Wente: Yes, this was very true. All commodities were.
Lack of transportation. ..we didn t have any trucking
facilities. Everything had to go via railroad or
water. And those that catered to the markets were
in the specified cities where they were selling
their merchandise, because they couldn t truck it
or get It over. Even those wines that we shipped
to Oakland were bottled in Oakland and sold in
Oakland. And my father shipped to San Francisco;
that was bottled in San Francisco. Unless it went
to the big distributors like Lachman & Jacoby. Then
they again must have shipped it all over the world
in barrels and so forth, and it was bottled in their
respective cities where they sold it, and was catered
to the trade. Today we re bottling it here and it
goes in the bottle all over the world, because your
transportation is simple and what have you, and our
methods of doing business is different.
You ve got to remember that life wasn t as
simple as far as business was concerned in the early
days. People didn t trust each other like you do
now. We ship wine over to Australia or somewhere,
and no sight-draft bill of lading attached to the
bill at all. We wait until they receive their
billing and then await their checks.
Wente: In the early days that just wasn t true. You
couldn t do this. You just simply had to collect
before it was shipped. You worked on a closer
margin, too. Things worked on a very close margin.
I think I discussed with you the other day about my
father talking about it. He made two and a half a
ton on the time that he crushed the grapes until he
delivered the wine at the depot at Livermore in
puncheons, and he was doing all right.
Well, today, we can t even open the winery here
without having about a fifteen to twenty dollar
spread to take care of the taxes and the Insurance
and the bonds and everything else that goes with it,
before we dare say, "Well, we re ready to crush."
Well, he didn t have any bonds, he didn t have
any taxes to pay, no Social Security, no unemployment
[payments]. If a man wanted to leave, he Just pulled
a checkbook out of his pocket and said, "O.K., Joe,
I ll give you a check." And the man he had to account
with was his banker, that he didn t overdraw his
account. And if he did that the banker would stop
him pretty quick. So that was the only bookkeeping
he had to do. And he didn t have any income tax, no
bond indebtedness, no tax on the wines and nothing.
Everything was free-flowing.
I wouldn t dare go out here in the field and
ask one of these Mexicans to quit without he d have
to come to the office and hand in his Social Security
number and everything else. It d take the girl a
half hour to make out his check. Good Lord, Just
think of the time consumed, the cost of those things
alone which government compels us to do. And its
all right it s a good form of life we re living in.
But nevertheless everything s so damned high that
it Just brings up the cost of all things, and this
is the way she is.
Right now a man has a Social Security number
and withholding and everything else that goes with
it. It just takes a lot of time. Three people work
in this office. One and one-half of them are working
for the government. They re not working for Wente
but they re on Wente s payroll, and somebody s got
to pay for it. Then the buyer of the commodity the
one that we have to charge for it.... I learned a
long time ago that you had to have more come in the
Wente: back door than goes out the front door, or pretty
soon you close the front door. [Laughter]
Teiser: Well, considering the amount of inflation, I wonder
if a bottle of your wine sells for much more now
that it did before Prohibition really. Considering
the decreased value of money. Since you didn t
bottle it before you don t have figures, but I wonder
if a comparable bottle costs so much more.
Wente: I think, if you went to dinner in San Francisco,
Fisherman s Wharf, before Prohibition you could get
a moderately good bottle, a fifth of wine, for about
six bits. Today they charge you around two dollars,
two and a half.
Teiser: Well, considering wages, I wonder if that s such an
increase. In the meantime perhaps your industry has
kept Itself in efficient order and kept the price
quite reasonable compared to the total cost of living.
Wente: I think we probably have, but our costs well, they re
TECHNIQUES AND TASTES
Wente: We don t have any spoilage any more. We re so much
better equipped than my father was in his day
running his place so much better equipped. When I
stop to think of how many people he had trying to
crush these grapes by hand, and hauling the grapes
in via horses, and handling them three, four, five
times before they got into the crusher. And then
he had no cooling facilities, and they had to get
into the tank and shovel out the pomace, and all the
pumping. Before he had electricity here he had to
pump all the tanks by one of the old hand-pushing
pumps and that all took manpower, and of course
manpower in those days was cheap. But we re doing
so much better a Job than he could possibly do, with
this modern machinery, because of our cooling
facilities and everything. If we watch it we don t
have any spoilage here at all.
Teisen According to Dr. [William V.] Cruess, there was a
very high percentage of spoilage in the early days.
Wentei Yes, yes this is right. And you could thank a lot
of this [improvement] to Dr. Cruess and a few more
of the good, smart technicians.
Teiser: What did you do with your spoiled wine?
Wente: Distillery. It went at half a cent a point of
alcohol. In other words, If you had 12 per cent
wine it was worth half a cent per point, or six
cents a gallon, and that s about what it s worth
today. There isn t much difference. So we watch
very closely. We don t have anything to go to the
distillery around. We call it D. M. distilling
material. And so we don t have anything but the
lees go to the distillery.
Now, if you re in the sweet wine business, this
is fine. Like in the interior valley, if you have
a distillery attached to your winery. We have a
tremendous amount of waste here. We just press our
good white grapes we work so hard to get good
quality press them and don t press them too hard.
Then take the pomace out immediately and scatter it
out. We re probably throwing away three, four,
five dollars a ton, Just every ton we bring in here,
Just get rid of it , whereas we could wash it and make
some of the finest cognacs out of It. But you d
have to have a bonded man here and a bonded distillery
and everything that goes with it. The value would
be so small that it wouldn t pay us.
Now, over in the [central] valley they wash
their pomace. They don t even press. They
disintegrate it and send it right through the
distillery and get what they can off of the high
proof. And they make sweet wines out of it.
Teiser t You make two dessert wines now?
Wente: We make the Chateau we call it now the Chateau
Semillon. We are dropping the Chateau Wente. We
feel we have too many varieties. We re Just calling
it Chateau Semillon. It s surprising. We talked
about change of style. These wines have changed
somewhat too. Our Chateaus were our biggest sellers
here. Now, they re way down. They re way down and
they stand pretty static. And we make a lovely
Chateau, Just a lovely Chateau. And it doesn t
When were they your biggest seller?
Oh, before Prohibition we shipped a lot of Chateau
d Yquem. We called it Chateau d Yquem then. And
we shipped a lot if it to Napa & Sonoma Wine Company.
It was the principal wine that my father won the
four prizes at the gold medals at the 1915 fair
[laughter] of which he was so proud. He was Just
raving about how he got more gold medals than anybody
Well, it is not in the category of fortified wines?
No, no. Fortified wine is over 14 per cent. We re
still in the dry wine class. They change at 14
per cent alcohol between the sweet wines and the dry
wines. While we make a sweet Semillon, a sweet wine,
we re classifed in the Alcohol Tax Unit s eyes as a
dry wine because we re under 14 per cent. And they
classify us as that for the reasons that it bears a
16 cent per gallon tax under 14 per cent alcohol,
and anything over 14 per cent bears a 32 cent tax.
So you see they classify sweet wines as a J2 cent
A number of people have commented upon the fact that
immediately after Repeal, Americans seemed to favor
sweet wines, and there has been a drift to table
wines. What did you do?
We sold no fortified wines of any kind. But our
method of operation here people didn t know how to
drink wines, let s say. By and large, [during]
Prohibition, they all drank hard liquor and highballs
and fruit Juices and what have you. So when we tried
to convert them into wine drinking we started them
off with the Chateau or sweet Semillon and then to
the haute sauteme and then to the dry sauterne, and
pretty soon they learned to drink these dry wines.
And they were our biggest sellers at that time,
these sweeter ones. And now the younger people that
come and visit us, even though they re Just in their
Wente: teens or getting Into their maturity, Just 21 years
old, all ask for the dry wines, which they didn t
do In the early days. Now whether or not they have
been taught to drink along the line, the change has
come nevertheless, and they re asking for these dry
dinner wines. And the market is growing so rapidly
that I doubt the quality wineries, at the rate of
growth it s going, will be able to supply them with
We re running a nursery as well as running a
vineyard here, and we sold this year (off of this
little certified nursery down there) 1,300,000 sticks
to be planted vines. All the way from Washington
down to Arizona. And, if you can try to visualize
it, it takes ^-50 of these sticks vines to the acre.
And you divide that into 1,300,000. That all came
off of this one little plot of ours. And this is
probably a very small percentage of actually what
was planted. This is probably only five per cent of
the plants that went in. The rest have been gotten
somewhere else. So you can just run that through
your mind, how many acres are going into this grape
We re going into another depressed feeling like
I was telling you about in the nineteen hundreds
where we really ran into trouble the wine industry
did, and my father did and the rest of them were
Just beside themselves, what to do next. Everybody
had grapes and no market for wines because it was
just a flooded market. There was a depression on in
the early nineties there was a depression on and
nobody had any money. Remember, this is a luxury
commodity and the people during the depression
they ve got to buy food and shoes for their kids
before they buy our wine.
Teiser: People get used to drinking wine with their meals.
I wonder how quickly they drop it.
Wente: Well, If you don t have money, you re going to drop
it, aren t you?
Teiser: Maybe you re going to drink cheaper wine.
Wente: Well, even then. The people who are hurt are the
low Income people rather than the high income people.
tfente: High income people that are really talcing care of
themselves will be able to take care of themselves
as far as their personal habits are concerned. But
the low income people are always running from day to
day. And the depression really affects them more
than it does the high Income people, so the vln
ordinaire maker s going to feel it probably worse
than the quality industry.
Teiser: In the meantime, the vin ordinaire people are trying
to upgrade their products too, aren t they?
Wente: This is right, and this is all right, too, as far
as we re concerned. I think that on my trip over
to Europe some years ago, I felt then that the
California vin ordinaire was so superior to the
European vin ordinaire that there was no comparison.
Teiser: I ve Just been in Italy, drinking just the carafe wine
most of the time, and our very inexpensive wine is
Wente: This is right. And I don t know if it s true of the
quality, but I know it s true of the quality that
they send over here to the states principally. When
you re over there you can get some awfully fine
quality wines. But some of it s Just too bad to
drink. I d rather have a cup of coffee. When I was
over there, I d rather have a cup of coffee.
[Laughter] One of the reasons for that is the poor
handling. They d bring it in in barrels or half-
barrels and they d siphon off of that barrel until
it s all gone, and then it s refilled and it s not
properly washed and the volatile acids are climbing
because they don t take care of it properly. They
must make some pretty good vin ordinaire wines over
there, same as they do here. Except I think probably
they wash their pomace too, and rework it, whereas
we throw it away. Even large operators here don t
wash their pomace and turn it back into plquette, as
the Italian calls it. Our vln ordinaire people high-
proof it and run it through the distillery and use
it for fortifying material, and that s one of the
reasons why we are having better vin ordinaire wines
Any other questions I can help you with now?
Teiser: Yes, lots I [Laughter] We are nowhere near through.
C.H. Wente> founder of Wente Bros.,
Livermore, Alameda County, California,
Photograph courtesy of Wine Institute.
Ernest A. Wente and Herman Wente, 1960.
Photograph courtesy of Wente Bros.
Herman Wente, 1956. Photograph by
Mercer courtesy of the Wine Institute,
Ernest A. Wente, 1946. Photograph by
Ronald Partridge courtesy of the Wente
Wente: Well, fire away!
HEBMAN L. WENTE AND THE WENTE FAMILY
I ll go back then now to something we were talking
about earlier, your account of your and your brother s
early years. What years did you go to Davis?
I was up at Davis in 1908, before they had a regular
class ut> there.
Until 1912. I didn t go every semester, but I
there whenever I could.
And your brother Herman, he was younger than you?
And he went through the local schools here, did he?
Yes, he went to the local high school here. I went
two years to the local high school, and then I left
and then I went to Davis. He finished high school
here and went to U.C.
I see. And he studied enology, did he?
Oh, somewhat. He worked under I think Dr. Cruess;
I m not positive of that, but it seems to me I can
remember Dr. Cruess talking about having Herman in
And what years was he there?
He graduated in 1915 You see the plaque over here?
The 1915 class gave him that plaque. That s a
picture of the 1915 class. They used to come out
here and visit him every year, that same group. When
Herman passed away, they sent this plaque up here.
And so I put it up here in Herman s office. This
was Herman s office, when I occupied that one of Karl s,
Wente: We call that the "farm office," and this is the
"winery office" here.
Teiser: Let me read this onto the tape: "To Herman Wente,
a loyal Californian and a staunch friend, this
memorial is dedicated by his classmates of 1915,"
and then a list of names. The Wine Institute
presented another plaque, did it not, which is
outside. There are photographs of that.
Could you outline your brother s career? I
know it has been written about but perhaps you can
explain it in a little different way.
Wente: Well, of course, Herman was a more friendly type
than I. He loved people. I love outdoors. I never
felt as much at ease in a group of people as Herman
did, and so he did the public relationship and the
promotional work for us and I did the agricultural
work, which I would rather do. So it worked out very
nicely. Other than that I can t tell you much more
about him except that he was probably one of the
most popular fellows around the Bohemian Club and so
forth, of which he was a staunch member along with
brother Carl. And I will say this the times I was
down there, everybody seemed to think that Herman was
more popular than brother Carl [ laughter] and anybody
that can hold that distinction was doing pretty well
for himself, I thought.
Brother Carl thinks so too. He tells about
the time when he went back to Washington, when he
was president of the Bank [of America] on some
financial matters, and he went into the Treasury
Department and was laying down his proposition before
the group, and one of the fellows spoke up and said,
"Are you any relation to these fellows who make this
good wine?" [Laughter] It s usually the other way
around. When I go up to the city, why it s, "Oh,
are you a brother to Carl? Is your brother Carl
Wente, president of the Bank of America?" But this
time it was the other way around, and it pleased him
very much. And it was done by Herman; it wasn t
done by me.
Teiser: Was he particularly interested in the technique of
Wente: Yes, he was pretty much interested In the technique
of wine making and also the varietal grapes to put
into the making of the better wines, yes. And he
watched over the blends very carefully, which we
now do collectively. Herman used to do this pretty
much along with Bruno.
Bruno by the way, Bruno Canziani is our
winemaker, along with Prank Garbini. Bruno s
father worked with me years and years ago, and when
Bruno graduated from high school, his father asked
me if I could find a place for Bruno, and I said,
"Pine." And he is here yet. He came here in 193^,
along with Mr. Kirkman. He s my neighbor boy over
there. And also, Adele, the hostess here. They all
came the same year.
Teiser: You were starting to tell me last time their names.
Adele *s name is...?
Teiser : And Mr. Kirkman *s first name?
Wente: Albert. He s taken charge of the office and Adele
has taken charge of the well, she was our forelady
when we were bottling by hand. And she took care of
all of the girls. We had twelve girls putting labels
on. Now we do it all machinery-wise and so we made
her our hostess, so she s been our hostess and takes
people around here on guided tours.
Teiser: When did you put in automatic bottling equipment?
Wente: Oh, semi-automatic about eight years ago. Fully
automatic here five years ago.
Teiser: So you took care of the field and your brother took
care of the technology and the marketing...
Wente: The sales. Now, I started to tell you that he took
care of the blending and so forth, which we now do
collectively, Karl and I and Bruno and Prank Garbini,
and we have a young fellow starting out here who is
going to take my place one of these days. I m
backing away from this just as quick as I can. His
father and I used to work together driving mules for
my father along in 1906. And he s working here with
Wente: us, now. He s been here three years. He s a
graduate of Fresno State. His name Is Robert Detjens.
Very capable young man. And you re going to hear a
lot about him as time goes on. He s going to be our
understudy to Karl around here, as Kirk and 1
Teiser: Your brother died in...
Teiser: *6l.* By then your son Karl had come in and was
well-established in the business?
Wente: Yes. So Instead of being "Wente Brothers," it s
"Wente and Sons." He has two sons now who we hope
will be Wente Brothers again one of these days. So
we were rather loath of changing our label brand
there over from Wente Brothers. We are trying to
Imtxress "Wente Wines." We are constantly advertising
"Wente Wines," "Wente Wines," instead of "Wente
Brothers." And even though he s got a pair of
brothers coming up, we are still working on "Wente
Wines" and maybe we ll change our corporation s
name to Wente Wines instead of Wente Brothers.
Whether it s smart or not, I don t know, but this is
what we re doing at the present time we re calling
it "Wente Wines" owned by Wente Brothers, Incorporated,
Telser: Are there any other boys in that same generation as
your sons sons? Did your sisters have grandchildren
who are interested in this business at all?
Wente: Well, I have one sister [Hilma] who is married to a
chap by the name of [Edwin E.] Hagemann who owns
this piece of vineyard land over here that Almadem
is now leasing. He has a son, but he s a tomato
farmer and vegetables, and that sort of thing.
Teiser: Not interested in wine?
Herman L. Wente was born November 4, 1892, at the
family home on the winery property and died In
Boston, while undergoing medical treatment, on April
He s a big operator, really. He s something like
me, I guess. He Just can t help it but he likes
heavy lifting. I guess that s a bad fault to have.
So there s Just your son s two sons, really.
Well they re the only ones who have any interest in
this thing, anyway. You see, Herman and I owned
this thing entirely. Brother Carl was out entirely
when father disbanded C. H. Wente, Incorporated,
which was the family corporation and then quit and
divided everything up and sold us, and gave each one
so much money, and then he valued everything down to
a dollar basis. He was a great dollar man [Laughter]
He said he could divide a dollar right down to the
penny but he couldn t divide a piece of property
down that thin. Somebody s going to be very unhappy.
So he said, "I m going to divide it all down to
dollars while I m alive," and I think that s about
as sound a philosophy as a father can possibly use.
You have no family troubles at all. If anybody felt
that they were badly treated they had nothing to say
about it because this is the way Pops set it up.
He lived to see the end of Prohibition, didn t he?
Yes, yes. He had a tremendous head on him. He really
was quite an outstanding individual for a man of that
education. I bear on that fact, education. Heck,
he was about as well educated as they come, but he
never got any further than the third grade. But he
was constantly reading. He could recite the bible,
by golly, verbatim, and he d Just read, read, read,
all the time. He was pretty well educated, and he
could talk about the chemical analysis of wines and
he was pretty well versed on it and knew what he was
Did he advise you and your brother when you took
Oh, yes. Yes. Of course, there was nothing much to
advise then. Prohibition came into effect then.
That s when you went into making wines that you
distributed through Beaulieu...
Wente: Oh, yes. But then Herman had that all pretty well
in hand without any technical advice.
Teiser: Did your father remain Interested in your...
Wente: He lived right over in the old home, here. He
remained here until he died. He kept a life interest
in the old family home, and when he died, he left it
for mother to have a life interest in the home. She
lived in the house there, and we watched over her,
and when she died we tore down the house. Bruno
moved in it first, and then we tore it down on
account of the fire hazard and danger to the plant.
Rebuilt it and built it further back.
Teiser: Was your father pleased at the way you and your
brother handled the winery?
Wente: Well, I think he should be, although he never was a
very expressive man. He thinks praise was about as
big a folly as you could possibly do, you know.
[Laughter] You could always do better. Didn t I
tell you he always had little phrases about little
things, like this:
There were two fellows climbing a hill
and they got awfully tired, and when they
got halfway up the hill one of them was
crying to beat the band. When they got near
the top, he started laughing and seemed
to be very happy. Then when he got up on
top he sat down and cried again. Now why
did he sit down and cry? Because he saw
another hill ahead of him that was higher
than the hill he Just climbed, so don t
ever think that you are on top at any time.
There s always another hill ahead of you.
[Laughter] That was his philosophy. I think it
was pretty good, too.
Teiser: It seems to be the way life is arranged.
Wente: That s the way life is arranged. You think you re
there, but you re never there, so he sat down and
Letter from Herman Wente to Wine Institute in reply to a request
for biographical information. 1941.
Growers & Producer*
HAC .......... IDA.
M. L. W CNTK
tletiln ---- rtxxic (M.-lfrlL
fi Copy to ..
JEP IM ........
|CU Dlr. Service...
I " - - -
; R(M> to
Teiser: I once had a very interesting little conversation
with your brother Carl, and I know that he s proud
of the way the two of you handled the winery. He
was kind of bragging about it. One of the things
he mentioned that you had done so well was keep up
your cooperage all during Prohibition.
Wente: Well, of course, this is right. We were dead ducks
otherwise. Most of these wineries went into a
terrible, terrible state after Repeal, when they
started to re-use the old wineries again. They got
full of mold and full of acids and full of tourne,
which is a bacteria. Host of the cooperage in
California was full of tourne . This bacteria grew
during the quiet period of non-usage. But we kept
ours active and watched it very carefully so when
Repeal came, when most of these other wineries were
having such a tremendous amount of trouble, getting
reorganized, using their cooperage over again a
little carelessly, maybe, not cleaning them properly,
and not soaking them full of water and not changing
the water a dozen times or more and putting sulfur
in them and what have you and, well, acids too, as far
as that s concerned, to kill the tourne .
They got their wines infected and when they
were shipped to the East, why California received
one of the worst reputations. Bum stuff. And it
wasn t so much that the wines when they were made
were bad, but they were in this badly infected
cooperage and it was shipped back there and it Just
was terrible. By the time it reached there the total
volatile acids were high, and it was full of bacteria
and the Eastern market wouldn t absorb it, and of
course the European wines came in and took over. It
took a long time to overcome that. It took a long
Teiser: I never knew that.
Wente: This is one of the reasons for it. Even the old
plants took many years to get re-cooperated. Now
they re swell.
Now today we re using stainless steel cooperage.
I probably won t live to see the day, but you
probably will or your children, my children, grand
children will, when most of this wooden cooperage
will be dispensed with entirely, and with stainless
steel there is no seepage. And they say that these
wines need wood and oxygen. True, they do, but you
can do it with other methods than letting them seep
through wood. You can do it by proper handling.
It s so much simpler and easier to make wine than it
was when I was a boy the way my father handled it.
Couldn t help himself.
I can remember when we went to bed with candles
here. We had no central heating in the house, and
we grew eucalyptus tree wood for power. And this
held true for cooking for the men for the heating
of the houses. And we used coal oil lamps, and in
the wineries we used candles. We had no electricity
at all. We used nothing but candles throughout the
winery. Whenever you walked around in there, you
had to walk around with candles.
This was 1904 when we first got electricity
here. In 1896 my father got a gasoline engine here
and he thought he was In heaven. He got a big
gasoline engine. And then when he got it here he
couldn t run the darn thing because it was so
complicated. So he hired a little man by the name of
West. The West family out of Stockton. He was an
engineer and he used to come over here during vintage
season and sit there in that chair I can remember
him as a little kid see old Mr. West sitting there,
just sitting there reading a book. He was keeping
that engine running. That s all that my father
wanted. We had a big central shaft where he took
all his power for his presses and his pumps off of
it with belts.
But that was so crude and so obsolete even then.
Now we have a motor in every piece of equipment.
You don t have this great central power in the center.
How did your father filter wine,
filtering was done then?
What kind of
By hand. Pumped all the wine up in the tower of
the winery by hand and let it run down through the
Wente: filter by gravity.
Teiser: What kind of filters did you use?
Wente: Paper pulp. Every morning we d wash the paper pulp
out in the filter washer. And this is about as
crude and as dangerous of infection as it could
possibly be, but we d keep washing and washing;
take one hour to wash the filter. But you didn t
do as much filtering as we do now.
We did more clarification. By clarifying, by
putting in tannin, by putting in gelatin, that sort
of thing. We were constantly throwing down the
deposits by clarification methods. We got a lot of
these clarification methods from Europe, and I was
reading the other day about one of their biggest
Russian trades for their carp I believe it s carp.
One of their fish. The air container that the fish
has in its body so they can float. And they scraped
these air balloons and sold it to Europe for
clarification of their fine wines. And I was
talking to my wife about this, and I said, "Now Bess,
how come? 11 "Well," she said, "that s nothing but
gelatin. It s a gelatin out of the fish."
My wife used to teach chemistry. It s an
Interesting thing, when we started here, Herman s
wife kept the books in 193^ and my wife did the
Teiser: I ve been told that in that earlier period there
was not so much premium put upon a brilliant look
Wente: That is right, too. You expected to buy a bottle
of wine if it had a crust inside of it, why, you
felt better about it. The deposits would go out
to the sides of the bottle cream of tartar so
the tartrates would settle on the outside of the
bottle. Today we can t do this. The American is
a very "eye" buyer. I ll put it this way: You go
into the store, and these stores that don t display
their merchandise well on the shelf, you Just don t
buy it. You just go to one that does. You wouldn t
buy a bottle of wine on the shelf today that wasn t
Went e :
The buyer used to have to decant the wine then?
Very carefully, yes. This Is one of the things
that brother Herman complained always about.
Decanting very carefully. Buy these crusted wines
if you can get them, and be careful and decant
them and don t shake them. Put them in a decanter,
He had three or four of them in his home where he
decanted his wines very carefully.
I don t think that buyers now know about it?
No. We re selling them here, though, of course.
We call them "pourers" rather than "decanters."
Put the bottle on the shelf in that little
decanter and you can tip It then and pour it out
Even if it s not necessary now.
you do some clarification?
Oh, yes, we do some clarification now, but nothing
like we used to. We have better clarification
material too, and we have machinery that works.
We have these big filters that we mix up our
f literate. Our filtering and our caring for wines
is so much better. It s a pleasure to work with
it compared to the other.
Another thing: our economic situation. Still
in my father s day you had to work with a close
margin in everything you did. So us fellows that
worked on the ranch here, on a nice day like this,
we d be out plowing the vineyards. If it rained,
we came in and started to pump wine and filter
wines, and we didn t keep a crew of men the way we
are doing here in the winery today.
I d like to ask you next time something about the
Prohibition period and Hepeal.
(Interview #3 - May 13, 1969)
THE PROHIBITION PERIOD
Teiser: It s hard to get information at this late date on
the Prohibition period and on how wine got into
illegal channels. Were there people in the
industry, of respectability, who were on the
borderline of bootlegging?
Wente: Well, there were some doing it, and we did not.
I ll be frank about it: we did not. I was
brought up our family was brought up to obey the
law. And therefore, when Prohibition came, our
father said, "This is not for me. I m quitting.
So you fellows can do as you feel like with the
ranches." But he impressed it on us that we were
to stay legitimate and we did. I went to farming,
as I told you.
Teiser: What I really was perhaps leading up to was: was
it possible for people who made wine to find that
when the wine got beyond their control it went
into illegal channels? Did this happen, and was
it a difficulty for a wine grower not to control
his output in this way?
Wente: Oh, this happened more on the Eastern markets which
we didn t know too much about. I think I told you
that we sold to Beaulieu Vineyards, and then he
shipped it on to those agencies in Chicago and
undoubtedly a lot of that got into illegal channels.
I don t know. I don t know whether Mr. de Latour
knew whether or not it did as long as he got
clearance from the government and was given an O.K.
I can t see that he could be responsible. It s no
more responsible than the man who is growing barley
and sells his barley, and he doesn t believe in
alcohol beverages, and the barley is sold to the
brewery. And they make beer out of it. Well, how
are you going to stop the poor old farmer who really
and truly doesn t want his product to go into alcohol
Wente: and yet it s being sold and used for that purpose
in spite of him and all he may do and expect to do.
This has happened with us with the grape* We
sold lots of grapes Just a ton here and a ton
there to the Italians who I am quite sure made
more than their allowable 200 gallons, and that was
none of my business.
Teiser: Yes, this is what I wondered how far the grape
grower and winemaker could control it and even felt
it necessary. . .
Wente: How are you going to control anything, no more than
you can control peoples* habits? How are you going
to stop people from sniffing glue? HOW are you
going to stop people from smoking marijuana when
anybody anybody can get a few seeds of hemp and
grow marijuana and smoke it. I don t know how
you re going to stop it. This LSD, that s something
else again. That s a chemical compound that s put
together. Now I guess somehow you probably could
control that. But I don t see how you re going to
control marijuana when anybody with any intelligence
knows what it is. I ve got it growing in my bird
seed yard there the marijuana seed, hemp seed and
the leaves growing there, and we think nothing of
it. We Just walk right by it. Now, if I wanted to
culture it, there would be no problem. I could get
some more seed and Just grow marijuana in my back
yard. Really, this is true. I don t see how you
can stop people from buying grapes and making alcohol,
with natural fermentation. Whether it s been treated
with sugar they can do this with most any fruits.
I fail to see how the government can actually
expect of course when you get into distilling
material, this is different now. This is when you
come really down to running a still. Then the
government should probably step in. But I fail to
see how it could possibly control people s habits.
Teiser: It didn t.
Wente: It didn t, no. And, I think, maybe all our morale
respect for law has broken down, partly from this
laxity during that period. Don t you think so
Teiser: I suppose.
Wente: Coining back to grapes again. We sold grapes to the
scavenger boys in San Francisco through the
warehouse company who sold them their hay. They
would ask where they could get grapes and I would
go down and make arrangements to sell them grapes
and deliver them on a Friday to these four or five
different houses, and they would work over these
grapes, and that was quite an outlet for us for
our cheaper varieties. We couldn t sell the fancy
varieties like the Semillon or the Sauvignon blancs
to these people. These were Italians who loved
red wine and we sold Zinfandel, Carignane and that
sort of variety.
Then we put an ad in the French paper in San
Francisco that we had the Semillon grapes for sale,
so much per ton, F.O.B. Livermore, and we sold any
number of tons to French people we got through the
little advertisement in the French newspaper. We
contacted one a butcher, who was a very prominent
Frenchman in the French colony in San Francisco.
And he sold [for] us more white grapes around San
Francisco, but he had no way of delivering them so
we finally offered to deliver them. So we delivered
grapes all around San Francisco and even sold them
barrels. And then they went from there.
Teiser: So, there were plenty of people just making their
Wente: Why sure. Because they were allowed 200 gallons,
you know, and they were making that allowance.
So, that was during Prohibition. Now, how d
we get back into this thing again? This is what
you d like to know? Well, it was inevitable. I
think anyone with a little common sense along about
the latter part of the twenties 28, 29, and 30
could see that sooner or later this thing was going
to come back because people were sick and tired of
the bootlegging that was going on. The alcoholism
was getting worse. Skid How was running wild in
San Francisco. And I think the morale of the people
was getting lower and lower and finally Roosevelt
ran on a platform and this is the principal thing
that elected him, too, I think, more than the
Wente: Depression poor Mr. Hoover took the attitude that
it was a noble experiment. He was by far a more
capable president than any man we ever had, and
yet he d fool around and try to carry on this "noble
experiment." But then, we prepared ourselves and
got our cooperage together, and we had quite an
inventory of wine which we were allowed to make
before Repeal came.
Teiser: When you could start making wine again?
Wente: We could make it as long as we were under bond. We
were allowed to make as much as we felt like, but
we couldn t sell it. We were all under bond. If
you had a legitimate buyer and there were some
legitimate buyers, you know we didn t have any.
But [Louis M.] Martini, he operated out of Selma
then, down below Fresno, and he had all the Upper
State New York people with legitimate buyers for
his products. But we didn t have any just Mr.
de Latour, and I think we went over that the last
time we talked.
FACTORS AFFECTING THE EARLY REPEAL YEARS
Teiser: So by the time Repeal came along, you had built up
some stocks of aged wines?
Teiser: Did you and your brother decide you were going to
market it, you were going to do this and do that,
or did you feel your way along as the situation
Wente: Well, we were still in the Depression. Everything
was depressed and people didn t have money to buy
wines, let s face it. So we didn t sell a great
deal and besides that, why, California wines in the
East had an awful bad reputation. I think we went
over that the last time. Why, I think we discussed
that the cooperage being spoiled, by lying empty so
long and the tourne , the bacteria growth that came
Wente: into it, and by Improper treating the cooperage
became infected and the wines were bad and the
yeast was just bad, most of it.*
Teiser: Did you at first sell some wines in bulk?
Wente: Oh yes, we sold quite a little in bulk. We sold a
lot to Cresta Blanca and Mr. LCucien] B. Johnson.
We discussed Cresta Blanca, did we not the ownership
of it changed from Wetmore to the Johnsons, and
LCucien] B. Johnson bought considerable amount of
wines. And we sold wine to Beaulieu and a lot of
people who had a reputation bottlers. And we sold
some back to Mr. [Prank A.] Busse, who was my
father s former partner. If you remember we discussed
what became of the Napa & Sonoma Wine Company. My
father was president of the Napa & Sonoma Wine
I might just refresh our memory about that.
Along about the early nineteen hundreds we were
malting sauternes my father was. And he had a good
outlet with the Napa & Sonoma Wine Company which
was run at that time by Mr. [Emil C.] Priber. Mr.
Priber was a rather elderly gentleman and he had
Mr. Busse working for him as his superintendant .
And, Mr. Priber wanted to sell his interest in Napa
& Sonoma Wine Company so my father bought it, and
he took in Mr. Busse and one or two other salesmen
as stockholders and part owners, but father retained
51 per cent of the stock and became president of
the Napa & Sonoma Wine Company. So we called it
Napa and Sonoma and Livermore on the labels. We
didn t feature Wente at all Just Napa & Sonoma Wine
Teiser: Let me make sure I understood you. Did the label
read then for a time: "Napa and Sonoma and Livermore? 11
Wente: We featured Napa & Sonoma Wine Company; Napa, Sonoma
and Livermore as the three locations. We didn t
change the name of the company. And it was my
father s request that they did this, that they
wanted to feature Livermore, but they were doing so
*See also page 56.
Wente: well with Napa & Sonoma Wine Company, and so it was
not a mandatory deal. Anyhow, Mr. Busse remained
manager for the Napa & Sonoma Wine Company until
Prohibition came and my father I think we went over
that my father said, "Now, look, we ve made a lot
of money out of this, Prank. I m going to sell you
this inventory at cost, give you time enough to sell
it before the deadline of Prohibition goes into
effect. You keep the labels and trade rights and
everything that Napa & Sonoma may have, and it s
yours. All I m asking for is the money out of the
So, when Repeal came, why Mr. Busse came back
to Herman and I and wanted us to go back into it
again. And we elected to eventually get started
into Wente Brothers and start bottling and labeling
under our own name rather than Napa & Sonoma. We
sold him some wines, however.
Teiser: Had they been operating during Prohibition?
Wente: No, they didn t.
Teiser: Had they held over any stocks?
Wente: Nothing. They had to start in all fresh with
cooperage and tanks and what have you.
Teiser: Did you bottle and label under your own name Just
Wente: We started in 1934. We started not Immediately
after Repeal. We were under Mr. de Latour s bond yet,
I think we went into that, did we?
Wente: Well, it was the Alcohol Tax Unit people, along
about 1926, said to Mr. de Latour, "You re buying
these finished wines from Wente. You re not using
them for blending and it s against the law. You
cannot buy it as a blending material."
So Mr. de Latour was beside himself what to do.
He said, "We have to discontinue buying your wines;
we can t use them for blending because they re a
Wente: finished product. Will you consider turning your
bond over to Beaulieu Vineyards and calling them
"Beaulieu Vineyards 11?"
So Herman and I discussed that at great length
and we finally decided we would, with the proviso
that if Repeal came he would immediately return our
bond to us.
Well, Mr. de Latour was rather reluctant to do
this in a hurry. He wanted to hold onto us as long
as he could and he asked us to go in partnership
with him and operate it as a part of Beaulieu
Vineyards, which we declined to do.
We felt that we go on our own, and so we did.
It took a long time to get established. During
that period, wines were so bad through the East
that California shipped, and had a bad reputation.
It took quite a long while to overcome it.
Even your authorities like Frank Schoonmaker,
who criticized wines in general and California wines
very severely, we sent him a few cases of wine and
told him (it was our first contact with Prank
Schoonmaker) that he was mistaken if he called all
California wines bad, that California did make a few
good wines and we were herewith sending him some via
express, and taste them. And he was very much
surprised, and he came on out here, and that is how
we became acquainted with Frank Schoonmaker,
Teiser: Maybe that was the beginning of the California
material in American Wines,* that he and Tom Marvel
Wente: That s right. He and Marvel were partners at that
time, and also in the distribution of wines. Frank
Schoonmaker & Company, Tom Marvel had an interest
Teiser: That book must have done a great deal for the general
status of California wines.
*New York: Duell, Sloan and Pearce,
Wente: It changed the atmosphere quite a little. It really
did. He had for a salesman, [Alexis] Li chine. He
was one of Schoonmaker s salesmen. He went out on
Teiser: That s interesting that you should have had that
part in the general building up of the reputation
of California wine.
Wente: This is right. And then of course John Daniel [Jr.]
and Herman worked very faithfully towards forming
the Wine Institute. My father and the early timers.
Mr. Ed Sheean. He was from Sacramento; he was
president of what they called the California Grape
Growers Association that was formed to enlighten
people what Prohibition would do to the vineyards.
My father was the treasurer and was instrumental in
raising the money to fight Prohibition. This dates
way back to 1906 or 08 and 10 when we had the
possibilities of the country going dry. It was
constantly being fought. And they had speakers on
the road talking on the evils of Prohibition, what
it would do, and they had signs made and I think I
have a picture of it yet here somewhere. We had a
sign on the vineyard there: "Prohibition will
destroy these vineyards." [It was] painted on a
big sign, and [they] set this all over the country.
And they spent a lot of time and money, and
Horatio Stoll was their secretary. He was a native
of Sacramento and his father owned a harness shop
in Sacramento. Mr. Sheehan what s the name of that
vineyard east of Sacramento? He was the super intendant
of that. Out towards Mills. Right in the foothills.
Cordova Vineyards. Those hills there, they grew a
lot of grapes in there, and now it s all city. Mr.
Sheehan was president of the Association. My father
was treasurer. Horatio Stoll was the secretary.
And Horatio Stoll put out a little publication. He
didn t call it California Vines at that time.* Later
he changed it over to California Wines and Vines and
then he sold it and retired. It was Horatio Stoll
who started Wines and Vines. It was from the nucleus
of the California Grape Growers Association.
*Horatio P. Stoll started the California Grape Grower
Wente: Herman, Mr. [A. H.] Morrow, John Daniel and a
few others formed the Wine Institute. And it was
rather difficult for them because the big source
of income was derived from the amount of gallonage
you produced. And these little wineries like
Inglenook and Wente were Just a small factor.
Teiser: Well, didn t Mr. Morrow represent a fair number of
gallons at the time?
Wente: Yes. However, his organization* was a co-op and
not an individual operator. The larger wineries
Just let Herman and John Daniel take over as much
as possible, capitalized on the little quality
wineries. All the big advertisements were built
right around the nucleus of Cresta Blanca and
Inglenook and Krug and what have you. It was less
than ten wineries that received most of the
advertising, and they didn t pay in one tenth of
the money. But it grew.
Teiser: You were thoroughly convinced of the need for such
an association I guess?
Wente: Oh yes, sure, because it was an educational program
principally. People had forgotten about wines.
They really had. They were used to bootleg stuff
and all this sort of thing and they didn t know
anything about wines. The love for wines died
principally with the older people. And I think
it s come back remarkably well in the last few
Teiser: I wonder if some of the interest in wine didn t
come from the young people who since the time of
World War II were travelling in Europe and
drinking it there.
Wente: The war veterans First World War veterans learned
how to drink wine over there. They really got all
the best wines they possibly could over there.
They learned all the outlets of all the better wines
over there, and they got away from the vin ordinaire
and they got to be quite wine connoisseurs . And it
*Pruit Industries, Ltd.
Wente: was a big factor also. But it didn t turn, even
then, like it has in these last few years. Why,
I don f t know. Why is it that these young people
are coming here visiting us? They Just come here
in flocks and droves. Some of them hippie types,
but most of them are not. Most of them are Just
good wine lovers, nice people. Getting away from
the hard liquors.
Teiser: When did you start, then, bottling your own wines?
Wente: 193*4- .
Teiser: And did you start with Just a few and increase the
amount that you bottled?
Wente: Sure. That was all we could do. Didn t have much
money, but we had a lot of wine. [laughter] And
Mr. Wetmore said, "Don t get disheartened. You can
figure it will take 20 years at least to build up a
good, reputable, honest-to-goodness label. In two
years you can knock it to pot, but it will take you
20 years to build it up, so go slow. Take it easy
and work at it and work at it, and see if you can
keep the quality in the glass."
So Herman and I worked along in that direction.
Herman spent a great deal of his time with the Wine
Institute doing the promotional work, in educational
work, copywriting with Caddow and his group of people
that they had at the Wine Institute. Leon Adams did
quite a Job at that time, which was rather sad in
the end, but he really did a lot of work for them.
He s a little strong opinionated, you know. [Laughter]
THE PRORATE AND BURKE CRITCHPIELD
Teiser: I don t suppose you were in any position where you
needed involvement in the prorate program.
Wente: We had very little to do with prorate, except this:
the Bank of America was a big factor. The Bank of
irfente: America had Mr. Crltchfleld* as a vice-president.
Burke Critchfield was an agronomy professor In the
state of Minnesota, I guess at the University of
Minnesota, and the Bank of America hired him as a
vice-president for their agriculture. So he came
out here and this big factor of surplus grapes came
up. Bank of America was very heavily involved.
My brother Carl was instrumental in hiring
Mr. Critchfield, along with A. P. [Glannini]. They
realized that they had to do something to save their
investments or loans to the vineyards, so then they
asked the government to create the prorate. They
would loan Mr. Critchfield to the prorate administra
tion to put this thing over, which they did.
But Mr. Critchfield never went back to the bank
again after that. He s a great friend of mine. I
visit him all the time. He s living in St. Helena
now. He s retired. I am amazed that the man s
alive. He worked so hard on the prorate deal that
he Just was running around in circles. He didn t
even know his name. This is a fact.
He had meetings in Fresno, he had meetings all
over and these fellows organized, getting these
growers together, and he had a meeting at the Fresno
Hotel and so he flew down to Fresno and he got in a
cab to go the the hotel and he was so fatigued and
his mind was so fatigued that he didn t know his
name. So he couldn t tell the cab driver. He knew
he had some kind of a meeting somewhere, so he said,
"Well, drive me around. I ll gather my senses in
a little bit." And they drove around two hours in
the cab before he could remember what he came to
Fresno for. So he missed the meeting. And he s
alive yet. He has one of these trip-hammer minds,
Teiser: I know that people considered him an important
factor In the industry.
Wentet Yes, he really has a lot of ingenuity and a lot of
ambition. After you talk to him a minute you ll
*Burke Critchfield was subsequently Interviewed
in this series.
Wente: understand what I am trying to say. He s the kind
of a fellow "I ve got an idea." He d come over and
punch you "I ve got an idea." His ideas were way
ahead of me, so fast he frightens you.
The other critical time in the wine industry was in
the early sixties when they established the set-
aside, was it not?
This I don t know. Oh, yes, you mean here the I960
set-aside. Yes, but it wasn t but what the industry
could work it out itself. It was then a case of
balancing. You know, any business, I don t care
what it is, it s got to be balanced. Because if
you load up your house beyond its ability to hold,
you can t take in any more. Now this is what you
go through with any agriculture.
This is the sad part about agriculture. They
grow crops. Maybe they have balance against them.
Maybe they haven t enough crops to satisfy the
demand. Then prices go sky high. The next year
you plant so doggoned much wheat that it runs out
of your ears. Now the automobile people, they can
just manufacture so many automobiles, turn the key:
we can t sell any more, and this it it. No spoilage.
People that are working in it are out of a Job but
we in agriculture, we haven t any control over it.
We ve tried awfully hard, through the Farm Bureau
and through the government to control. I remember
raising hogs. I raised hogs for three and one-half
cents a pound. I raised barley for 32 cents and
worked hard to do it. I mean not like you re doing
today; you get on these self-propelled harvesters
and you can go right along and have a radio going.
We did it with a pitchfork in the hard way. And the
thing that always griped me, it would Just take the
heart out of you, after you ve worked so hard for
it and then you could only sell it for 35 cents.
And the merchant that was buying it from you would
sell you the sacks for 15 cents to contain one hundred
pounds of barley. Well, that was all right, but on
top of that he d deduct three-quarters of a pound
of your barley because the weight of your sack was
three-quarters of a pound, and this took the heart
out of me. I didn t mind paying the 15 cents, but
when he took the three-quarters of a pound for the
weight of the sack for which I paid 15 cents for...
this was irony [laughter].
Well, the grape business, grape growing has safety
valves in a sense, in raisins on the one hand and
brandy on the other. That makes it a little
different, doesn t it, from grain?
Yes, somewhat. But one thing about wine, you can
put it in the tank and it isn t going to spoil
immediately. Now growing vegetables, you re just
out of luck. You have a few weeks you go into cold
storage and you ve got to go out again, but if we
can put it in the tank and we do have a glutted
market, maybe the holdover til next year will not
be so malicious and the holdover will balance off.
Now this is fine when you re growing a commodity
like that, provided you re tied in with a manufacturer
that s running a winery or processing plant. But
just to grow fruit for a cannery and not have any
interest in the cannery, I don t want any part of
it. Just to grow grapes for a winery, I don t
believe I d be very much interested in it. I d
rather ride around the hills on a saddle horse and
not have people to pay wages to.
A marginal wlnemaker can t hold his wine, can he?
No, he s got to move on. He s got to be out taking
care of the next crop.
Has that caused a good deal of attrition?
lots of wineries gone out of business?
Well, probably so. They ve gone into this co-op
deal more and more. Maybe that s good. I don t
know. To my way of thinking, a co-op is a first step
in socialism. And socialism is a first step to
communism. When I was a boy, socialism was a bad
word. Today it s not such a bad word. You become
socialist, then you become indoctrinated a little
bit with communism. It doesn t sound half as bad
Wente: to me as it did some years ago, does it to you?
Teiser: No, and cooperative doesn t sound at all bad to me.
Wente: This is a first step, this transition of revolution
of handling commodities.
Teiser: There s government financing available for
cooperatives, isn t there, that s not available
to you for instance?
Wente: Yes, tax-wise it s a big break. They are not
getting the break they were here eight or ten years
ago. They were getting a terrific break eight or
ten years ago. Today they are paying somewhat of
a tax load, but not as much as an independent I
don t think.
Teiser: The cooperatives have been more the large not the
fine wine producers, haven t they?
rfente: Well, no. Well, the Italian Swiss Colony are the
co-op that s formed California Vintners, whatever
they call themselves, that s taken over Inglenook...
Teiser: United Vintners?
Wente: United Vintners is the word I was trying to find.
They ve taken over Inglenook as their brand. But
the large distilleries have taken over Cresta
Blanca, Schenley s has. And National Distillers
has now taken over Almaden, and Paul Masson has
gone with the other distillers, and so we re sitting
out here kind of on the limb. We don t know whether
we ll go with the distilleries. ..[laughter].
Teiser: Well, there was a period when the large distilleries
bought wineries and then they sold them, wasn t
Wente: This was again you re coming back to the early days
when grain was scarce and the distillers were
denied the right to use corn for alcohol, or any
cereal for alcohol, so they immediately came out to
California and bought all of the wine Inventory
within three months. They bought 50 per cent of
California wine inventory, and they held it to
convert over to neutral spirits for them. Then grain,
Wente: after a year or so, was released again for distilling
material. They were not too happy with the spirits
of grapes for their whiskeys and so they started to
bottle wines or sold the wineries. The National
Distilleries owned the Italian Swiss Colony at one
time and they sold it, and now they are back in and
Teiser: Well, I guess there s a whole trend toward these
bigger and bigger combinations.
Wente: Yes. Now this is not only in people or organizations
that are processing food, this is happening with
everything. I don f t know whether it s good or bad
for the country. I ve always felt there comes a
time in everyone s life when they like something of
their own. It might Just be an automobile or a
pencil or something else, but It s mine, and I think
we have a happier citizenship with a little country
corner grocery store than we do with a large
distributing store such as Safeway today, where all
you can hope to be is a manager of one of the stores,
and this holds true with banks, this holds true it
won t be long with the wine industry and distillers
and what have you. We re all getting so that we
just well, it s a form of communism, isn t it?
Later the government will take them.
Teiser: Well, I hadn t looked forward that far.
Wente: I think this is what you ll eventually see. I won t
see it, but my grandchildren probably will. They ll
be operating this place for government. Now you
take a Ford plant, for instance; they created the
Ford Foundation and then hold the voting stock of
the Ford plant for another family s lifetime, but
sooner or later they ll lose it. And this is what s
going to happen to Wente Brothers; this is what is
going to happen to the rest of them as time goes on.
Teiser: So far, has there been any experience in the
California wine industry in which a small winery,
when it was bought by a large company, has continued
making really excellent wines?
Wente: Well, there was a good demonstration of it out here
at Cresta Blanca. Over the last 30 years they were
making excellent wines. Management comes in from
Wente: the sales side of it and they had good men, they
had good wine people. They had Harold Berg and
people like that that are really excellent. But
they take the heart out of them. The management s
back in New York, and they get a wire that Sauvignon
blanc is good, ship us a carload. Well, hell s
bells, you ve only got one little tank of it, and
how are you going to do it? Well, the next wire
comes: you re fired, you can t produce; well, we ll
give it to somebody that can. And so this is the
way this thing works.
Now, Harold had a terrific interest in that
place. He Just would have loved to have stayed
there and made good wines. But, gee, they knock
the props right out from under you, and the next
thing you know you re here out in the street. All
your love for wines doesn t do you a bit of good.
If you haven t got a personal interest in this thing,
you can t keep on making good wines. You ve got to
have a personal interest in it, I think.
Teiser: People say, and this ties in with what you ve Just
said, that Eastern distillery people don t understand
wine making at all, but maybe some of them will learn,
Wente: Well, people can go to school and learn how to do it.
Sure, this is what Harold Berg did, and then he got
himself a job with Cresta Blanoa, and he had hoped
that he would make good wines, which he did, and
the result is he s back at the university* and quite
satisfied with his position and we re all very happy
to see him there as far as that s concerned because
we think he s a good man. He was an awfully good
man out here too. But, gee whiz, you Just can t do
a damned thing when management tells you ve got to
ship me two carloads of 196? Sauvignon blanc and
you only made one carload.
*As Professor of Enology, University of California,
DISTRIBUTION AND SALES
Teiser: This leads us into something else that I ve been
interested in. The system of distribution for wine,
now I suppose in your father s day it was direct
from the winery?
Wente: Oh, we had large wholesalers. California Wine
Association, of which Mr. Morrow was the chemist.
Teiser: Did you sell wine to the California Wine Association?
Wente: Yes. And Lachman [A] Jacoby. And a lot of the
bigger there were any number of large distributors
of wines in San Francisco.
Teiser: But you had no firm commitment with any of them,
you just sold them as any other customers?
Wente: Just like you do your cattle today. Sell to Armour,
Swift s, or.... I guess I told you my father always
had little sayings about [things that] always had a
little moral to them. I tell Karl I have little
moral stories, too. One of the ones I like to tell
Karl is: it s got to operate; if it doesn t
operate, why you ve got to do something about it.
I said, it s no different than the Swede working
down the street, and he was drunk and the Salvation
Army fellow came along and tried to convert him and
told him to work for Jesus, work for Jesus, and the
Swede finally got tired of it and he said, "Well,
I m working for Johnny Thompson. Johnny Thompson
pay me a dollar an hour. Jesus pay me $1.25 and I
work for Jesus."
So that s the way this thing works. We re way
wrong with our whole set-up in this world, valueing
things. There ought to be units of labor, or units
of something that values should be placed on instead
of the dollar. You know you d quit your job
tomorrow and go over to another job if you can get
ten cents more somewhere else. This is the way it
works. That is, if you have stability and everything
else that goes with it. I know I we were talking
about sales. I sell to California Wine Association.
Wente: California Wine Association pays me a half cent
more than Lachman & Jacob! , I sell to California
Wine Association. If Lachman & Jacobl pays me a
half cent more than California Wine Association, I
sell to them. So this is a cold, cold world. It s
all based around that damned dollar. [Laughter]
Teiser: Since Repeal, the distribution system has entirely
changed, has it not?
Wente: You mean with wines? Yes. A lot of that enters
into our transportation system is different. The
city has moved to the country. Before the country
always moved to the city. Nobody in the country did
anything without it was dictated from the policy of
the city. They had no way of moving their wines in,
only on railroads. You wouldn t bottle out here in
the country; couldn t get the glass out, and what
have you. Now we have these rapid transits and we
have these good highways and these immense big trucks
that come right out here. We don t have to be on a
railroad siding. While before, a winery was no good
unless it was on a railroad siding. Today, why it
doesn t mean anything. We can take the railroad and
bring it to the winery.
We re having trouble right now. This sounds
kind of again Jumping, but it s taking too long for
us to get our product to New York. See, we ship
with Martini or Korbel or three or four wineries
when the customer can t use a whole carload of Wente
so he takes half a carload of Martini. Well, we
start a car at Martini s and it stops here for
loading. It takes a week, pretty near, to get that
car down here, and then it fools around here and
is switched around again, and it takes two to three
weeks to get a car to New York this way, when piggy
back it ought to go through in five days. We re
working on that right now, to see if we can t get
piggy-back service. We had a carload that was lost.
We loaded a full carload of Wente wines here three
weeks ago, and we demanded heating service in it
because the carload before got caught with some
damage with cold, so the heating was on and nobody
watched over it and the damned car burned up and so
we lost it that way, and the other one before we lost
it with cold stability.
Teiser: So, piggy -back you think is the answer?
Wente: Well, it goes through fast. Nobody cares any more.
It used to be the railroads watched over you, too.
Golly,, you could come out here as an immigrant girl
from Europe and they d put a tag on you and the
conductor would watch over you and see that you
were delivered. My mother came that way from
Germany. She had a tag tied to her, and when she
got on the train, the conductor watched over her
and saw that she was delivered to her uncle out in
Oakland. She used to talk about this.
Teiser: When you ship this way with the other wineries, are
you still selling direct from the winery to the
Wente: We, Wente Brothers and Martini have primary
distributors. We have two. We have Parrott &
Company west of the Rockies. We have "21" Brands
east of the Rockies. They are our primary distributors,
They service the wholesaler.
Teiser: And with these you have definite long-range
arrangements? It isn t like selling either to
Lachman & Jacobl or...
Wente: These are all finished products, with our labels on.
When we sold to Lachman & Jacob! or to Ciocca-
Lombardi, it lost all its identity and we bottled
under their label. It didn t have any name on it
at all. It was so much wheat in a sack.
Teiser: So this kind of distribution came in with your
bottling your own?
Wente: Right. And this is what Mr. Wetmore said, It would
take you 20 years to build up a brand. Versus two
years to destroy it. That s Just exactly what
Schenley did with Cresta Blanca.
Teiser: Do you have a contractual arrangement with "21"
Brands? You re tied to them pretty much?
Wente: Not necessarily tied to them. We have more or less
of an agreement.
Teiser: Is this not the pattern of the good winemakers?
Wente: No. We will say that some of the wineries,
Concannon s for instance, they are selling to
wholesalers; they do not have primary distributors.
They sell to a wholesaler in Los Angeles... [and
others elsewhere]. But everything that we ship
from here we bill to Parrot t & Company or we bill
"21" Brands. Even though it s delivered here in
Livermore. The liquor distributor here in Livermore
comes out and picks it up, but it s billed to
Parrot t & Company; Parrot t & Company bills them. I
can go fishing and I don t need to worry about
collections. This little distributor could go
broke and this would set you back quite a lot. They
do our advertising, what little advertising we do
some ourselves but they take care of principally
all the servicing of the wholesalers and advertising
and see that they are properly handled.
Teiser: How did you have your present label made?
Wente: Well, that s a long story. We worked on that with
Schoonmaker some first, and then we worked on it
with different artists, and then we worked on it
some. We worked through Schmidt Lithograph. Their
artists worked on some of our labels.
Teiser: So you Just worked and worked at it?
Wente: That s about it.
Teiser: It s a very attractive label. Isn t there a
different color on the...
Wente: You know, I like some of our old labels the best.
But even the cases, we changed the color of the
outside. Again, people like a change for some
reason or other. This is a funny thing, you know.
Now this Wente Blanc de blanc wine. Out of
curiosity everybody s trying it, and if we didn t
do this we d probably start falling backward. You re
competing against yourself, but that s a lot of fun
too. It s the old, old thought: if you stand still
you soon start to go backward. And I guess that s
true. That s what they told us when we went to
Teiser: Going further into these different changes, are
wines aged longer now than they were?
Wente: No. Our white wines a shorter period. The red
wines, yes; we re aging longer in glass than we did.
We age them in wood up to where we think they ve
reached their peak, then we put them in glass and
let them lay in glass for a few years. But our
white wines, we like to get them off young and fresh.
I think it s proving too that this can be done.
This old, old theory that wine gets better with age
is being exploded awfully fast. This holds true
with only some varieties, like the Cabernet Sauvignon
and Pinot noir, but you also have a lot of spoilage
by holding them over. You have bum corks and what
have you, and leaky bottles here and there, and your
loss is great. The corks we re getting today aren t
as good as they used to be.
Teiser: I was about to ask you about the corks before
Prohibition and now.
Wente: We ve worked and worked and worked on this thing.
We had good corks right after Repeal.
Teiser: Where were they coming from?
Wente: Prom Prance and Portugal and Algeria. And then we
were getting much better corks than they were over
in Europe. We were in better financial position.
But as Germany got stronger and France got stronger
financially, they got the selection of the good
corks. We didn t get them, and so we kind of sat
around and wondered what to do next. We paid as
high as two cents and three cents a cork that was
supposed to be extra first, and then we Just decided
we d either have to go screw caps or something else
so we came to this polyethylene deal.
Teiser: You are coming to that now?
Wente: No. This was ten years ago. We did come to this
[showing a plastic cork], and we wanted it so you
Wente: could put a corkscrew In it and pull It like a cork
screw. You see this is designed so that you put it
in and it comes level and you wouldn t notice the
difference but what it s a cork. We started out
with five rings at first, and we came down to nine
rings finally, and then we thought we had it made.
We spent a thousand dollars on the mold and what
have you, and then we started to bottle a few cases
here, and every time a cork salesman came in we
said, "This will probably be your last order for us
because you re giving us such Junky corks that we
can t afford to use them any more. We re going into
polyethylene." Then they d say, "Give us a try
once more, give us a try once more." So we got
better corks then for a while. So there s a
Teiser: Was it practical?
Wente: Yes, it will work.
Teiser: Can you get a corkscrew into it?
Wente: Yes. Prom here.
Teiser: Oh, in this end.
Wente: Yes, this compresses as it goes into the bottle.
We ve got some wines that have been laying out
there ten years [with the elastic corks] and still
Teiser: Maybe you have an ace -in- the -hole then.
Wente: Well, you know, competition is the life of trade.
Teiser: There are some corks that are liminated, are there?
Wente: Yes, that s champagnes. We don t use them.
Teiser: I ve even seen something that looked like pressed
cork board, made of little granules of cork.
Wente: Well, sure. Cork is one of your principal materials
for insulation. Before they ground up glass, all
your refrigerators were cork and all your insulated
cold rooms were done with cork.
Teiser: It seems to me I ve seen some of that material used
In wine corks.
Wente: Well, there s nothing wrong, I don t think. We ll
eventually come to screw caps.
Teiser: It ll make It a lot easier for a woman to open a
Wente: Amazing. We re selling quite a lot of wines now at
the airlines. And the American Airlines demands
screw caps so the stewardess doesn t have to pull
corks. And besides that she s got the closure right
with her all the time. If she doesn t use up the
bottle, she just closes it up for the next flight
and it doesn t spoil on her so rapidly.
Teiser: How about aging it? Can you age wine...
Wente: Well, no. This is the sad part of it. You have
to have corks pretty much for these red wines.
With the younger white wines it works out very well.
This Le Blanc de blanc has never been in wood. I
guess I told you this. What we re selling now,
Le Blanc de blanc, was made last October. With the
proper installation, we ve learned that we can make
these wines, keep the flavor of the grape, if we
can handle them young. We d lost it before, because
we had to stabilize it in wood and lay it away, and
by that time we d lose some of the flavors, and now
this Le Blanc de blanc will go right out of the
steel tanks into glass tanks into the bottle through
two or three filterations of careful filtrations
to take out the yeast and then we stabilize it in a
cold room cold tank.
Teiser: That is an advance in technology that I suppose no
one would have believed 30 years ago.
Wente: That s right. Thirty years ago if you were an old
wine connoisseur, you wouldn t even taste it; you d
say it can t be any good if it s that young. But
here we are with our tax structure getting worse
and worse, and they are just squeezing, squeezing,
to get you higher and higher, and I don t know
where things are going to go. It s got to come
from somewhere. Now we ve got to put our costs,
whether it s taxes or corks or what have you, back
to the consumer. The consumer has to pay this or
we ve got to go out of business. And so it s a
vicious circle you re living under today.
As you point out, though, the young people are
interested in dry wines and so they must be
willing to pay for them.
Well everybody seems to have a lot of money.
Personally I wonder where we re going to go.
can t live and borrow all your life.
GROWING GOOD WINE GRAPES
Are your yields, your per-acre yields, higher than
We re doing a better Job oulturing grapes outside,
too, than we were. We have better equipment. We
don t have as good help as we did, but we have
everything else much better; we have better tractors
and cultivators and spray materials. I had the spray
man here today. We were talking about sulphuring,
and we re using liquid sulphur instead of the dust.
You can put it on so much easier and so much evener.
As he pointed out to me, he said, "You know this
spray rig that you paid three thousand dollars for,
it s earned itself five times in the last two years
by your sulphur control." This is what he said now.
Do you believe it?
I don t know. Yes I do in a sense. I know that
it s been a good Investment. I d hate to put it
quite the way he puts it, that it s earned itself
five times over.
Do you fertilize the land in any different way than
you did in your father s day?
Not too much, no. We do a better Job of moisture
control than father did. However, we are also
depleting some of the minerals, metals, out of the
Wente: soil, the food contents. We do grow some cover
crops, used for plowing under. We do put in some
nitrogen each year. We try to keep the balance to
food value in our soils because, after all, this
is very important. In order to make anything good
you ve got to have well ripened fruit. It can t be
starved for moisture and it shouldn t be starved
for the principal plant foods like nitrogen,
phosphoric acid, and so forth.
Teiser: Did your father irrigate?
Wente: We didn t have any water to irrigate with.
Teiser: When did you start irrigating here?
Wente: Oh, we started along in the thirties, and then we
found that our vines were going backward, and then
we analyzed the water and took it to the university
and had it analyzed, and they all said that it was
all right, didn t have any salt, no more than the
Teiser: Did the university help solve the water problem?
Wente: No. It was boron. No, the university didn t know
what boron was. And our wells were high in boron
content here, so we had to go out we spent a fortune
here on well drilling and what have you. Just put
down a hole and find it was high in boron and pull
out, and put down another one and get over into
another field and finally we got two pretty fair
wells. Then we watered from there. Now we re
getting water out of the tri-county water aqueduct.
Teiser: I see that you re using overhead sprinkers out here
now. When did you start?
Wente: Just as soon as these sprinkers were available, we
went to the overhead sprinkler system. You can t
flood irrigate this gravelly land, because it s so
uneven, and on the spots of gravel the water will
disappear immediately, and the other spots won t
receive any, so you get a good even distribution
with the overhead sprinkling system.
Teiser: What did you use before?
Wente: Well, we furrowed and ran the water in the furrow
and it wasn t very satisfactory. Now we re putting
in a sprinkling line over in Monterey County.
We re putting in ?600 sprinklers, permanent installa
tion. Fifty-six miles of underground pipe, and 260
Teiser: These are these same kind of overhead sprinklers?
Wente: Yes, but these are portable ones that you see here.
The other will be underground, the lines will be
Teiser: Have you tried fogging for heat and cold protection?
Wente: Yes, seriously thought of frost protection, but not
for heat protection. Yes, we ve given that a great
deal of thought. We haven t enough water here.
We d like to do that here. Down there we don t need
it. We re out of the frost belt.
Teiser: I m about to be out of tape. I have just a little
more to ask on what you re talking about and going
outside this valley. Could I go out and get another
tape and Just ask you a few more questions? Or are
you running out of time?
Wente: No, not exactly. How long will it take?
Teiser: Can I have twenty minutes more? I wanted to ask you,
you said irrigated land did not grow good grapes,
or something of the sort...
Wente: I d like to explain this, to the best of my ability.
We were starved at times for moisture. If we had
a good wet season, around 15 to 2^f Inches of rain,
we could have a nice, well-rounded, ripened fruit,
if we didn t crop them too heavily.
Then, when we got eight inches of rain or less,
we had a shrivelled-up, dried-up fruit which was
high in acid and didn t have any sugar because it
didn t have a chance to mature. But we irrigated
to bring moisture content up so that we d have 18
to 26 inches of water per acre and we could then
grow a nice, well-rounded fruit. And this is what
we are trying to do.
Wente: Now, you can go to the extreme by irrigating
too much and putting on a foot of water per acre
like they do in the San Joaquin Valley, down in the
lower end where they grow table grapes, to get them
a size to get the raisin grapes, ten, 15 or 20 tons
to the acre, so that they could make it profitable.
Well, we re not after tonnage, not heavy
tonnage, of course. We re after well-rounded,
ripened fruit that has a good balance and sugar-acid
ratio, and from that we can make good wines. And if
we have the well-rounded, ripened fruit, why we ll
have a variation in seasons. Some seasons will be
better than others. The way we re operating here
now, we re putting on a certain amount of moisture,
why we can control everything pretty well.
Have I explained myself?
Teiser: Yes. I noticed that some of the vines were on wires.
Is this something that you are doing now. . .
Wente: Yes we put them on wires because we re equipped
now with equipment that goes in and out in between
the rows so our cultivation is all done one way.
Before we had to cross-cultivate to take out between
the vines. But now hydraulic rams on the tractors
have in and out plows. They Just go right up to the
vine, and then the trigger hits the vine and with
that the plow hops out and as the trigger passes the
vine, the plow hops in again, right behind the vine.
It s a very interesting niece of machinery.
It s quite well designed and it s worth looking
at sometime. You ought to take some pictures to
see this come along the row, and it s plowing in the
next row to you. [Laughter]
Teiser: Does putting the vines on wires improve the grapes?
Wente: You can spread the fruit out and you can expose them
to better leafage coverage. It has a lot of
advantages. You can bring them up a little higher,
which gives you better ventilation underneath which
gives you frost protection and also mildew protection.
When the leaves drag to the ground and close off air
circulation; your mildew sperms grow very rapidly
in the closed area. If they have an air circulation
Wente: you have better mildew control. And you also have
better frost control if you have air circulation.
So we like to keep them up about 42 inches above
Teiser: Are they picked more quickly when they re on wires?
Wente: Yes, pickers like them too. The "mama ladies" can
go along and pick these grapes very easily when
they re up three feet in the air rather than to
stoop over. It s quite an advantage to a. picker.
It really is.
Teiser: When did this start?
Wente: Well, it s nothing new. We ve done this there are
two methods on the wires. We use what they call
the "cordon" method; that s taking the old wood and
putting it along the wire and then you leave the
spurs off of that. Or you can use the "cane" method,
which they are using with the Thompson Seedless,
and put new wood on the wire each year. We put the
old wood on the wire and leave it there, then we
prune the new wood off of the old wood.
Teiser: Does it make it easier to prune, then?
Wente: It makes it easier to prune. It makes it easier to
sucker. It makes an easier culture all the way
through, and gives us this added protection which I
was speaking of frost protection and circulation
of air for mildew control.
Teiser: Everything has advanced a little, hasn t it?
Wente: Yes, we re getting smarter all the time, really.
We don t know how much capacity we have or how far
we can go. [Laughter] I can remember when we went
out here and worked all day with one old mule out in
the vineyard, and then we got up to two mules, and
then got up to four mules. Then my father said,
"You sell those mules and buy a tractor and you ll
go broke." So I sold the mules and bought the
tractor, and I worked and worked and worked. And
Pop was always saying, "I told you" every time the
tractor would break down. This was when tractors
were in their infancy and you had to be a mechanic
with it, you know. You tried and tried to get it
Wente: to work. And finally they made and sold us better
Now they re so fine that they are really a
pleasure to operate. They re expensive though.
Gosh sake, the big tractors that we re using now.
We re paying sixteen, eighteen thousand dollars
apiece for them.
When I was a boy, if you have sixteen or eighteen
thousand dollars you could retire. You wouldn t have
to work any more. Now you spend it on one lousy
tractor, and you ve got dozens of them around. I
wonder sometimes how crazy one can get? [Laughter]
This is what goes through your mind. Gee whiz, if I
sold all these tractors, I could go fishing all the
time and I wouldn t need to worry about mechanics or
Teiser: When did you decide to go outside of this valley for
the first time?
Wente: Oh, we ve given this considerable thought for the
last twelve years, when Livermore started to grow
and the atomic research came in here and the
evaluations of the land became high, and it looked
like we only had a few years maybe only five years
or life here, potential life, before we were taxed
too high beyond our ability to get it off the
ground. Anything that goes beyond we talk about
the dollar again pretty vicious circle. If you
can t make it you re going to lose it so we felt
that we d better go somewhere, and so we decided we d
look around the country. We went to Healdsburg and
the Mother Lode country which we were talking about
earlier, where Mr. Sheean was superintendant up there
in Sacramento. I looked them all over. Napa and
And then we went down and looked at this country
down toward Hollister where Almaden is, and went
on over to the Salinas Valley and saw the advantages
there because they have the earth that has the
calcium formation in it and the rocks and everything
else that went with it, and so we felt that this was
Just the thing for our white grapes. So we bought
this piece of property down there.
Teiser: Do you expect to buy more outside of the area?
Wente: Not until we re crowded out of here in Livermore.
When we re crowded out of here in Livermore, then
we ll buy some more in that immediate neighborhood,
Teiser: What year did you buy that?
Wente: In 1962, 1963.
Teiser: I think you said you had some other crops planted
Wente: Not now. We got it all into grapes. Here is a
picture of the location. That s when we were first
putting it in. The one up above shows last year s
green leaves. Well, this gives you a topographical
view of it here, this canyon and behind, here, and
showing the Arroyo Seco.
Teiser: How has it proved out, so far?
Wente: Well, we re very much elated over it.
Teiser: Is the quality comparable to this?
Wente: We think so. A little different flavor. We ll
give you a little change-over, you know, a little
at a time (I m speaking of the connoisseurs) and
we ll blend the two together for a few years,
because they have a little different flavor, and
you re used to Livermore flavor now, and now we re
giving you the Blanc de blanc which Is half from
down there and half from Livermore. Maybe in two
years from now, the Le Blanc de blanc will come
three-quarters from down there, and then five years
from now it will all come from down there and you ll
never know the difference. It s something you know,
like, you start with low heeled shoes and pretty
soon you know you re up on high heeled shoes.
Teiser: Lifting the calf...
Wente: Lifting the calf over the fence.
Teiser: Are they different in ways that you can analyze?
Wente: Yes. I don t think it s as high in albumenates
down there as we are here in Livermore. We re
exceptionally high in albumens here in Livernore,
for some reason or other. It s nitrogen here I
think that gives us the albumens the flavor over
here in Livermore. We are, ourselves, a little
high in nitrogen. However, we have some of this
calcium lime formation down there which the French
maintain is the ideal soil for champagne growing.
This is what they have in Hheims, Prance. This
ground looks very much like the Bheims, Prance,
Oh, I think it s O.K., really, or I wouldn t
have done it. You take and throw a half a million
dollars into a piece of property and put it into
grapes and wires and labor and what have you, and
you say, "Well, gee whiz, five hundred thousand
dollars at seven per cent its thirty-five thousand
dollars a year and half of that Uncle Sam will take
for taxes and so that leaves me sixteen thousand.
I can fish all the year around for that,"
Teiser: This ties in with another thing I was wondering
about. Can you grow other varieties of grapes over
there than you can here and have you tried it?
Wente: We ve tried everything down there that we re
growing here. We don t know which ones yet, which
varleites, we favor the most. I think probably
it s a little cooler down there and I think we can
do a better job on the red wines down there than we
can here. However, time will tell. I m going to
give it to you slowing a mixture. One quarter
first, then a half and then three quarters. CLaughter]
Teiser: The general question I was going to ask was: How
have you decided over the years which grape grows
best in which area? This seems to me almost like
interpreting music on the violin like a virtuoso
Wente: Well, very much the same. It s a trial and error,
and you keep practicing, practicing, practicing.
This is about the whole thing. You make a cake,
for instance, you try and try and try. You get a
little more of a perfectionist with every cake you
bake. If you really work at it and eliminate all
Wente: your errors and pick up all your perfectionists,
you 1 re bound to get better. It s like playing the
piano. Eventually you can play without the music.
And with the tasting of these wines, we try and try.
We pick them at certain stages. Then we take the
tests. The sugar content the Balling test on them.
We ll take the total acid test and other tests that
go with it, and when we find we got a sugar-acid
ratio why this is it. It s Just that simple.
Teiser: Have you discarded many varieties?
Wente: Oh, sure. There are some of the commoner varieties
that came up here in the early days and we Just
oh, the country s full of them. You can go through
the history of Livermore here, and it s pitiful
some of the varieties that were planted here. They
had grapes running out of their ears. Big heavy
bearers like the old Mission, gosh, a big old clumsy
vine that grew lots of grapes and no character.
Today, Mataro and many of these others. We are not
even attempting to grow them down there. We are
picking up the Zlnfandel again, though, and then
planting it down there, to try it. We ve got some
Cabernet Sauvignon we are going to try down there.
As far as Cabernet Sauvignon here in Livermore, it s
Just too hot for it up here. We ve never had any
success making a Cabernet here in Livermore, too
great a success, although the Concannons do quite
well. We never have.
We ve done very well with our Pinot Nolr and
the Beaujolais here in Livermore, but we can do
better down there. I know darn well we can because
it s cooler down there. We have that little limestone
with us down there, too.
Teiser: Will you continue trying new things here, too?
Wente: Well, you always try something new all the time,
don t you?
INDEX - Srnest A. 7ente
Adams, Or. Charles 3
Adams , I. eon 69
Almaden 7inery 73, 7 ! 4
Alta Vista /ine Company 29
Altschul, Dr. Joseph 10-11
Arserine, Dr. Kaynard A. 20, 38
Saccigaluppi , Harry 38
BanK of America 69
Sartlett, V. P. 28
Beaulleu Vineyard 20-23, 5^, 60, 66
Berg, Earold 75
Bernard, Or. Geors-e 4-
3ertiu & Lepori 29
Bioletti, Professor Frederic T. 17
Bonnet, Leon 0. 6-7, 38
Bowen, Charles E. !
Eundschu, Carl 17
Busch, Or. Louis *!
nusse, Frank A. 6^-65
Caddow, Harry 20, 69
California Grape Grower 67
California Grape Growers Association 16, 67
California Uine Association 76
Canziani, Bruno 26, 52
Chaix 5- Bernard 29
Chateau Bellevue 9
Chateau d*Yquem 5t 6t 16
Chauche & Bon 29, 37
Chevalier & Company 29
Ciocca- Lombard i 29, 78
Concannon, James 28
Concannon, Joseph Jr. (Joe) 30
Concannon Winery 79, 91
Cordova Vineyards 17, 67
Crane, George B. 28
Cresta Blanca winery 10-11, 1^-15, 20, 36, 64, 68, 73-75. 78
Critchfield, Burke 69-70
Cruess, Dr. William V. (Bill) 2, 4-6, 50
Daniel, John Jr. 67-68
deLatour, Georees 20-22, 63, 65-66
jetjeus, Rob-ert 53
De Turk, I. 29
^uvall, Alexander 9-10, 37
Edwards, Col. George C. 11
Ferrer! o, Ernest 10
Plnkes tfidow, A. 25, 23, 36
Fisher Packing Company 28
Franz and Fuchs 28
Fruit Industries, Ltd. 63
Garbini, Frank 52
Ciannini, A. P. ?0
Gibson, David J. 10
Golden Gate International Exposition 19-20
Grau, f^d^in A. 18
Greystone Vinery 18
Grieve, Bill 1
Guasti, Secondo 16
Gundlach, Jacob 1?
Gundlach-Bundschu Co. 1?, 21, 25, 28
Haocemann, Sdwin 3. 53
Hasremann, Krs . Sdwin <?. (Hilraa Wente) 24, 53
Haras z thy, Arpal and Company 28
Harwis, Dr. Clarence ft. 2
Hayes, Timothy 28
Ilecke, George 32
Hoelscher, William 29, 36
Husinann, Fred 1?
Husraann, Professor George 1?, 32
Inc^lenook Winery 68, 73
Italian Swiss Colony 25, 29, 73-74
Johnson, Lucien B. 15, 20, 64
Kirkman, Albert 26, 52
Krug, Charles 3. 18
Krug Winery 68
Kruger, Adele 26, 52
Lachman & Jacotii 25, 28-29, 43, 76, 78
Lansa, Horace 0. 38
Lichlne, Alexis 6?
Livermore, Robert 39
Los Ami^os Vineyard 18
Lur Saluces, Marquis de 5-6
Martini, Aprostino 12-13
Fartini, Louis K. 13-14, 63, 78
Kartini, Louis P. 12
Karvel, Tom 66
I as son, Paul (Winery) 16, 73
Mel, Louis 5, 16
Montpelier Nursery (France) 6, 38
Morrow, A. R. 68, 76
Napa and Sonoma Wine Company 18-19, 21, 27, 29, 37, 47,
Na pa- Sonoma Wine and Brandy Company 26
National Distillers 73-?4
Niebaum, Captain Gustave 9
Olivina Winery 9-10, 37
Oterson, Herman 4, 29
Overland Transfer & Freight 28
Panama Pacific International Exposition 15-18
Parrott & Company 78-79
Friber, Smll C. 18, 64
Prohibition 60-63 and passim
Rossi, Edmund A. 16-17, 20-21
Rossi, Pietro C. 17
Rossi, Robert D. 16-17
Ruby Kill Winery 10
Schenley Industries 15, 73, 78
Schmidt Lithograph Co. 79
Schoonmaker, Frank 66, 79
Schween, Will 5
Sheehan, Edgar K. (Sd) 17, 67
Smith, Julius Paul 9-10
Stoll, Horatio 16, 67
Tarpey, Paul 13-14
tourne 56, 63
Trautwein, Barbara See Vente, Barbara Trautwein
"21" Brands 73-79
Union Wine Company 29
United Vintners 73
University of California at Davis 1-2, 6, 50
Vienna Vineyard 10
Viticulture Department, U.S. Dept. of Agriculture 31-32
Wagoner, H.B. 28
Wente, Barbara Trautwein (Krs. Carl H. ) 4 t 24, 78
Wente, Carl F. 11, 18, 24, 28, 51, 54, 56, 70
Wente, Carl Heinrich 3-5, 8-0, 11-13. 18-19, 21-22, 24-28,
31, 36-37, 38, 4<, 47, 54-55, 57, 64-65, 67, 76, 83, 87
Wente, Carolyn 24
Wente, Krs. Ernest A. (Bess) 58
Wente, Frieda 24
Wente, Herman L. 5-6, 12, 16, 18, 20, 22, 24, 27, 29, 37,
50-55, 59, 66-69
Wente, Mrs. Herman L. 58
Wente, Hilma See Hagemann, Mrs. Edwin E.
Wente, Karl L. 12, 29-30, 52-53
Wente , May 24
Werner, Edwin P. 18
Wetmore, Charles 7, 14-15, 69, 78
Wetraore, Clarence 6, 14-15, 20
Wetmore- 3owen Co. 14
Winedale Company 29
Wine Grape Growers Association 17
Wine Institute 16, 20, 33, 68-69
Wines and Vines 67
Winkler, Dr. A. J. 7, 20, 30, 38
Wines Mentioned in the Interview
Blanc de blanc, 79, 83, 89
Cabernet Sauvignon, 80
Chateau d Yquem, 47
Chateau Semillon, 46-47
Polle blanche, 27
Golden Chasselas, 27
Grey Riesling, 7
Pinot blanc, 38
Pinot Chardonnay, 38
Pinot noir, 80
Sauterne, 7, 21-23, 4-7, 64
Sauvignon blanc, 7, 38, 75
Semillon, 22, 38,
Ugni blanc, 38
Grape Varieties Mentioned in the Interview
Burger, 5 37
Cabrignane, 49, 62
Charbono , 4
Chenin blanc, 39
Colombard, 4, 5, 7, 27
French colombard, 5
Camay Beaujolals, 39
Grey Blesllng, 5, 7
Mataro, 4, 39, 91
Mission, 35, 39-^0, 91
Pinot blanc, 39
Pinot Chardonnay, 39
Plnot nolr, 39, 91
Salnt-Emillon, 6, 38
Sauvignon blano, 5, ^1, 62
Sauvignon vert, 5, 7
Summon, 5, 7, fcl, 62
Thompson Seedless, 39-41, 87
Ugni blanc, 6, 38-39
White filesling, 5
Zlnfandel, 4, 39-^1, 62, 91
Born in Portland, Oregon; came to the Bay Area
in 1932 and has lived here ever since.
Stanford, B. A., M. A. in English; further graduate
work in Western history.
Newspaper and magazine writer in San Francisco since
1943, writing on local history and business and
social life of the Bay Area. ,
Book reviewer for the San Francisco Chronicle