Tag Archives: California wine industry

#tbt Los Angeles and the history of California #wine

17 Sep

Happy Throwback Thursday, darlings! This little-known snippet of Los Angeles history is for all of you California wine lovers out there. I first posted this piece three years ago, and I was beyond thrilled to get a comment from a relative of Jean-Louis Vignes, as well as from a gent who had just finished a book about L.A.’s place in the history of California’s wine industry. Speaking of throwbacks, raise a glass and join me in an off-key rendition of “I Love L.A.” (with apologies to Randy Newman). 

For better or for worse, Los Angeles has spawned the Barbie doll, the film industry, the Cobb Salad, and yours truly. As L.A. celebrates its 231st birthday today, it’s worth noting that Los Angeles, not Napa or Sonoma, gave birth to the California wine industry.

VINES

Angelenos who have taken high school French will know that ‘vignes’ is the French word for vines. As Señorita Vino recently learned, Jean-Louis Vignes was the aptly named French immigrant who planted European grape varieties a stone’s throw from downtown Los Angeles in 1831. He called his vineyard El Aliso, and present-day Aliso and Vignes streets are named for Vignes’ contribution to Los Angeles history.

LA's first vineyards were planted a stone's throw from Union Station.

LA’s first vineyards were planted a stone’s throw from Union Station.

While Vignes was the first in California to plant a commercial vineyard, the Spanish missionaries were the first to grow grapes in California. Father Junipero Serra is credited by some sources as having planted the first vineyard in California at Mission San Diego de Alcalá around 1770. These grapes were of the Mission variety and used to make sacramental wine.

Not satisfied with the quality of wine made from Mission grapes, Vignes, a native of Bordeaux, France, imported two of his native region’s more prominent grape varieties, Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc. A barrel maker by trade, Vignes aged his wines in barrels made from trees grown in L.A.’s San Bernardino Mountains.

BARRELS By 1849, the Gold Rush had caused a population boom in Northern California, and the Napa and Sonoma Valleys became the hub of California winemaking. Which brings us (at warp speed) to today.

A toast 24 floors above L.A.'s 110 Freeway, two miles south of where Vignes planted his first vines.

A toast 24 floors above L.A.’s 110 Freeway, two miles south of where Vignes planted his first vines.

Join me in raising a glass to celebrate 231 years since the founding of the City of Angels, birthplace of the tortilla chip, the French Dip, and California’s wine industry. ¡Salud!

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A winery that honors veterans

12 Nov

When Josh Laine returned to Livermore, California in 2007 after serving in the Marines in Iraq, he knew he wanted a job that required hands-on work. His girlfriend at the time worked for a winery and  introduced him to the agricultural side of the wine business. This is how Valor Winery was born.

“I didn’t know anything about wine,” Laine says. “I didn’t even really know how it was made,” he laughs. But this didn’t stop him from buying an acre of land and investing $15,000 into the business, all in one year. It didn’t take too long for him to figure out he needed help.

“Some of the Marines I served with weren’t doing too well with their lives,” Laine recalls. “I wanted to help them as a way to keep my own life from going down a bad path, so I asked them to help me plant vines and clean equipment.”

Soon, the wives and girlfriends of the veterans began telling Laine that their partners seemed less angry at home. Also, vineyard work proved to be so physically demanding that some of the men were able to sleep more restfully and experience fewer war-related nightmares.

Josh Laine works the vines at Valor Winery.

Today, Valor Winery employs more than 50 veterans who do anything from marketing and sales to mapping out new vineyards, maintaining the vines and providing IT support. “So  many veterans are coming back now [from overseas],” notes Laine. “For some of them, this is a pit-stop and they work here for a few months. We help them move on to something bigger and better. But others have been here the whole five years and love it.”

Valor Winery produced a 2010 Sauvignon Blanc,  Chardonnay,  Zinfandel and Sangiovese. The wines retail for $15 to $40. All of the proceeds go to the winery’s Vets & Vines Foundation, whose goal is to give veterans with physical and emotional limitations an opportunity to learn a trade in a supportive environment.

Besides producing “awesome wine,” Laine says that Valor Winery provides “stability and camaraderie. We’re helping veterans transition back into civilian life.”

Valor Winery is open to the public the first weekend of each month and by appointment. The wines are available in some Northern California stores and can be ordered directly from the winery by calling (925) 321-0373. Look for them on Facebook.

I dedicate this post to all of the women and men who have served our country, especially my husband, Señor Jim, who served in the U.S. Army 101st Airborne Division from 1968-1969 in Vietnam.

Los Angeles: Birthplace of California’s wine industry

4 Sep

For better or for worse, Los Angeles has spawned the Barbie doll, the film industry, the Cobb Salad, and yours truly. As L.A. celebrates its 231st birthday today, it’s worth noting that Los Angeles, not Napa or Sonoma, gave birth to the California wine industry.

Vignes, glorious vignes!

Angelenos who have taken high school French will know that ‘vignes’ is the French word for vines. As Señorita Vino recently learned, Jean-Louis Vignes was the aptly named French immigrant who planted European grape varieties a stone’s throw from downtown Los Angeles in 1831. He called his vineyard El Aliso, and present-day Aliso and Vignes streets are named for Vignes’ contribution to Los Angeles history.

California’s first commercial vineyard was planted in 1831, near L.A.’s Union Station.

While Vignes was the first in California to plant a commercial vineyard, the Spanish missionaries were the first to grow grapes in California. Father Junipero Serra is credited by some sources as having planted the first vineyard in California at Mission San Diego de Alcalá around 1770. These grapes  were of the Mission variety and used to make sacramental wine.

Not satisfied with the quality of wine made from Mission grapes, Vignes, a native of Bordeaux, France, imported two of his native region’s more prominent grape varieties, Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc. A barrel maker by trade, Vignes aged his wines in barrels made from trees grown in L.A.’s San Bernardino Mountains.

Today, wine can be aged in oak barrels or stainless steel tanks. Each method has a different effect on the aroma and flavor of the wine.

By 1849, the Gold Rush had caused a population boom in Northern California, and the Napa and Sonoma Valleys became the hub of California winemaking. Which brings us (at warp speed) to today.

Enjoying a glass of wine 24 floors above LA’s 110 Freeway, about a mile south of where Vignes planted his vineyard.

Join me in raising a glass to celebrate 231 years since the founding of the City of Angels, birthplace of the tortilla chip, the French Dip, and California’s wine industry. ¡Salud!

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