Major Milestones during the Wine Prohibition Period

January 3, 1920: On this day, the Federal state recognized the medical values of Wine, and the United States legalized the therapeutic consumption of Wine. Many doctors and pharmacists across the country were licensed to prescribe wines. The historical records show that about eight million gallons, or sixty-four million pints, of medicinal alcohol, were prescribed by licensed medical practitioners during the first year of prohibition. Medical practitioners often prescribed more than the maximum amount permitted by the law since there were legislative gaps and inadequate enforcement.

May 12, 1920: On this day, as a result of the prohibition, an emergency, “The House of Altar Wines,” was established. A French immigrant Georges de Latour started experimenting during this period. He wanted to find out which grape varieties would produce the best wines in the climate of Rutherford. Around this time, he developed ties with the Catholic Church by beginning to offer Altar wines for dioceses located all across the United States. Georges bought Beaulieu vineyard in Nappa valley, which was acquiring grapes from the St. Joseph’s Agricultural Institute in Rutherford, a Catholic school for boys, which most definitely did not harm his cause with the archbishops. Later, the de Latours constructed a guest house for visiting priests interested in observing their altar winemaking. Father Crowley, in charge of the school, supervised the production and distribution of the altar wines.

February 22, 1922, to April 2, 1925: During this period, wine production massively increased at homes due to the discovery of wine bricks. Historical records of the prohibition times show that the number of persons making wines in their homes surged by nine. Grape producers found a potentially profitable commercial opportunity in the direct sale of ‘wine bricks’ to customers. Before being sent from California to the east coast, with a considerable population, grapes produced in several regions were crammed into these boxes and given a little compression.

August 4, 1926: On this day, de Latour made the first agreement with the Wente family to produce high-quality white Wine in their estates. Wente family had several high-quality white vines in Livermore Valley, and de Latour marketed them with his wine distribution company, “Beaulieu Vineyard Distributing Company” under federal permission. This arrangement remained in place until the prohibition was repealed. Wente produced many excellent white wines sold under the Beaulieu label in the Livermore Valley rather than Napa County. However, they were incorrectly labeled as “Sauternes” after the Sauternes district of Bordeaux.

May 23, 1927: On this day, Stafford’s Blacks Alicante label was introduced for ‘Black Grapes”. The title illustrated different grape varieties and their survival strength. The brand on the grape crates played an ethnic stereotype, which was typical on labels for other fruits and vegetables. The label was mainly used for the resilient red grape wines that could make it across the continent, and it was simpler to turn them into a palatable red than stable white grapes into a delicious red. The delicate white grapes were removed from plantations to make for sturdy red grape types, such as Alicante Bouschet and Zinfandel, producing wines with deeper colors. Due to the deep darkness, they were referred to as “black grapes.”

June 14, 1927: On this day, an Italian immigrant family,  Pedroncelli, settled in Sonoma’s Dry Creek Valley. Soon after, they acquired vast land in Dry Creek Valley and established a winery. The winery is now home to a globally renowned wine variety.

Also read: Winemaking in the United States During Prohibition

April 14, 1920, to December 5, 1933: On this day, over a hundred million dollars were invested in vines. The grape’s demands increased substantially as the grape farmers had to fulfill an additional market of home winemakers. A clause in the prohibition legislation allowed the sale of wine grapes to male heads of families to “preserve fruit” via fermentation. It was allowed for patriarchs to make up to two hundred gallons of Wine every year. The clause played a significant role in the exponential growth of the grape-producing industry. Grape prices skyrocketed in the early 1920s as the number of people producing Wine in their homes expanded. At the same time, more land was being planted with wine grapes.

Want to read more? Try out these books!

A History of Wine in America, Volume 1- From the Beginnings to Prohibition Last Call- The Rise and Fall of Prohibition

Categories: New World, This Day in Wine History | Articles, Wine and WarTags: , , , By Published On: September 13, 2022Last Updated: February 27, 2024

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