California Wine, All the Time | Poppy & Quail Blog

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A History of California Wine

May 29, 2018

Wine is both rich in taste and history. Looking at California, the first vines were planted as far back as the late 1700s. These first vineyards were produced by a group of missionaries, who used the wine for religious purposes. The commercial wine industry was not far behind and took off in the mid to late 1800s, thanks to a small group of European emigrants.

Vineyards and the Early Years of Wine
Jean Louis Vignes opened the very first commercial winery in California in 1833. William Wolfskill quickly followed suit and came to own over 145 acres of vineyards in Los Angeles and Southern California by the late 1830s.

In 1859, the Los Angeles wine industry continued to skyrocket after the city agreed that the land used for planting grapes should be tax-free. In addition to Los Angeles, Rancho Cucamonga and Santa Ana vines were planted in 1838.

The California Wine Association
The 20th century was a time of growth for wine. More than 200,000 acres of vines were planted in California. This, however, proved to be too much for America to consume. Overproduction and lack of thought to quality or grape varietals led to the creation of the California Wine Association in 1894.

The California Wine Association was a trade group aimed to raise prices and demand. In response, other wine trade groups quickly formed. This led to the wine wars of the 1890s. Wine quality began to improve, which helped foster demand.


The Start of Single Vineyard Wines
Starting in the 1970s, growers, winemakers and avid consumers became aware of the best vineyards. However, very few bottles were sold and marketed as vineyard specific during the early years of wine. By contrast, consumers purchased wines based on the name of the owner, not the vineyard. Joe Rochioli of Rochioli Vineyards and Steve Kistler of Kistler Vineyards began producing single vineyard wines in Sonoma County. In addition, wineries in the Central Coast also started bottling more single vineyard designated wines.

The Introduction of AVAs
As time went on, the uniqueness of the terroirs and soils amongst the different vineyards became more recognized. As a response, American Viticultural Areas (AVAs) were created in 1983. As of 2018, there are 135 recognized different AVAs in California.

With close to 4,000 wineries now in California, the demand for wine has never been greater!


Here are some California Wines we think you’ll love: 

Fetzer 50th Anniversary
Cabernet Sauvignon

Bonterra The Roost

Jekel Pinot Noir