January 18, 1677: On this day, Jan van Riebeeck died. Dutch navigator and colonial administrator Johan Anthoniszoon “Jan” van Riebeeck worked for the Dutch East India Company. When the Dutch East India Company arrived in Cape Town for the first time in 1652, he planted the country’s first grapes. However, the initial vines in the country were not planted to make wine but rather to prevent scurvy in sailors traveling through the Spice Route.

January 18, 1890: On this day, Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo died. He was a man who had become entangled in the currents of history. He grew up in a Mexican-controlled California as a member of an elite Mexican family. However, Vallejo appreciated the values of democracy and backed his brother’s subsequent uprising against the Mexican government. He had put down an Indian revolt at the San Jose mission before the age of 21, but he had also been excommunicated from the Catholic Church for refusing to turn over books that the Church forbade. The Mexican governor had trained him for leadership. As the chief of military operations along Mexico’s northern border, he oversaw the Sonoma mission, which marked the beginning of his love with vineyards. By 1837, Vallejo had hundreds of acres of vines thanks to several property concessions. The mission had a vineyard (as well as other agricultural lands). In California, he was the first to commercially plant grapes. The political climate changed, nevertheless, with Mexico’s retreat from California in 1848. Vallejo was held captive. He would never reclaim the money he had accumulated because his possessions had been robbed. Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo participated in the inaugural session of the California State Senate in 1852 despite being treated harshly. He concentrated on expanding the size of his Vallejo Estate, which is close to Sonoma Square.

January 18, 1927: On this day, Hermann Müller died. Hermann Müller was a Swiss botanist, physiologist of plants, oenologist, and cultivator of grapes. He adopted his home canton’s name and went by Müller-Thurgau. Müller developed the grape variety Müller-Thurgau while he was in Geisenheim as part of a breeding program that was started in 1882. It was wrongly thought to be Riesling x Silvaner for a very long period. Müller wanted to combine Silvaner’s earlier and more consistent ripening with the fragrant qualities of Riesling. Up until 1890, experimental plantations were maintained in Geisenheim, and 150 trees were moved there in 1891 to continue studies under Heinrich Schellenberg (1868–1967). The Riesling x Silvaner 1 cultivar was created in 1897 from the trials’ highest productive clone (series no. 58).

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