August 31, 1814: On this day, Admiral Arthur Phillip died. Grapevines were brought to Australia by Captain Arthur Phillip’s First Fleet in 1788. The first grapes, which were planted at Parramatta River near Sydney, New South Wales, perished sadly before any wine was made due to neglect and disease, but by 1791 Phillip had planted three acres of vines there. It took a while for Australian wine to get going, but eventually, there was enough to ship by boat to England. Australia started to be referred to as “John Bull’s Vineyard.”
August 31, 1842: On this day, the man who would come to be known as Gustave Niebaum was born with the name Gustaf Ferdinand Nybom, in Helsinki, Finland. He was a distinguished sea captain and an influential figure in Alaska, and changed his name to Gustave Niebaum after building his wealth through the fur trade. He was obsessed with Bordeaux wines and wanted to develop his first winery in France. However, his wife objected due to long sea voyages, so he settled for Napa Valley and founded the Inglenook estate.
August 31, 1930: On this day, Leonard “Len” Paul Evans was born in England. He was wine expert based in Australia who wrote about wines for the common people. For years, he authored a wine column for The Australian Women’s Weekly, in which he discussed numerous wines, most of which were fairly priced, in an open, jargon-free style. He also was a talented blind taster, and he popularized blind wine tastings as a competitive sport. He is regarded as one of the most influential figures in the history of Australia’s wine culture. He passed away on August 17th, 2006.
August 31, 1987: Ozark Highlands AVA was established in the state of Missouri. It is one of the driest wine regions in Missouri, and its viticulture began in the late 1800s by Italian immigrants who moved to the area.
August 31, 2002: On this day, Bernard Laxer, founder of the grand award—winning Bern’s Steak House, died. Since it first opened in 1956, Bern’s Steak House has grown to become a Tampa landmark, known for its dry-aged steaks, a unique method of delivering a superior dining experience, and vast wine list. When the program initially began, this restaurant was one of the first to obtain the Grand Award. Laxer, a New Yorker by birth and upbringing, served in the Army Air Corps as an airman during World War II before enrolling at New York University, where he earned a degree in advertising. They established Bern and Gert’s Little Midway, a modest luncheonette, in 1953, a few years after he and his wife, Gertrude, settled in Tampa. In 1956, they moved, buying Bern’s new location in a strip mall on Howard Avenue. (According to the legend, they altered the name because they were strapped for cash; all they needed to purchase was an “s” because they could salvage letters from the Beer Haven sign that already existed.) They grew their eatery over time by acquiring neighboring companies. Today, Bern’s has eight dining rooms with a capacity for 350 guests, a comprehensive menu that includes information on everything from the servers’ thorough training program to the nuances of ordering your steak cut, and a 6,500-item wine list (with more than 200 available by the glass). More than 400,000 bottles of wine are currently kept at the restaurant and in surrounding warehouses, which the establishment claims to be the largest wine cellar in the country.
August 31, 2021: On this day, the movie A Wonderful Kingdom was released. The documentary follows the actions of winemakers and vineyard hands in the Douro Valley of Portugal, with no exposition or interviews. It is intended as a meditative tribute to one of the oldest wine traditions in the world, and the harvest it treasures every year.
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