Mass Production of Wine

Following the French Revolution, most French wine production was privatized in the early 1800s. When the Hudson’s Bay Company was founded in 1824, it quickly became the population center of the West until San Francisco surpassed it in the late 1840s gold rush. Hundreds of people lived in the Company’s Fort Vancouver.

Dr. John McLoughlin built Fort Vancouver, a Hudson’s Bay Co., Inc. (HBC)fur-trade post, about 150 kilometers inland on the north bank of the Columbia River, 8 kilometers above the mouth of the Willamette, in 1825. He decided it would be a good place to start a farm and grow food for the fort’s residents. The soil was fertile, and the ground was flat on the north bank of the Columbia River was selected. Later, in 1829, the location was changed to be closer to the Columbia, about two kilometers west of the old fort.

Sketch of Fort Vancouver 1853, HBC heritage

Figure 0.1 Sketch of Fort Vancouver 1853, HBC heritage.

Grapes and apples were among the first fruits planted. All these events happened by chance. While attending a party in London, England, the head of the Hudson’s Bay Company, George Simpson, had placed grape and apple seeds in his vest pocket. He discovered them while visiting Fort Vancouver a few months later. He handed the dried-up seeds to McLoughlin, who planted them to check if they would sprout, and they succeeded. The rest is history.

Later, some of the settlers who traveled the Oregon Trail in covered wagons brought grape cuttings to start vineyards for their homesteads. For instance, Henderson Luelling nursed his cuttings from Iowa to Oregon’s Willamette Valley. He established a nursery there and shared cuttings with others who wanted to try growing grapes on their lands. Gradually, other people in the Puget Sound region established nurseries to grow grapes and apples to share with other immigrants.

The first register of liquor being transferred to North America was a package of French brandy sent in 1692; there is a record of Scotch whisky that was shipped in 1701 and rum in 1775. By the mid-1890s, HBC had established a wholesale business in Winnipeg, Vancouver, and Victoria. They sold various brands of Liquor, tea, coffee, cigarettes and tobacco, and confectionery. From 1925 to 1976, Hudson’s Bay Co., Inc. was a US wholesale subsidiary that sold liquor and many other products to the American market.

Furthermore, HBC also produced and sold liquor on its label. It had a full line of spirits at one point, including scotch, rye, brandy, rum, and gin. The most famous HBC brands included:

  • Scotch – Best Procurable, FOB (Fine Old Blend), Royal Charter, 1670
  • Brandy – 3 Star, Special, 50 Years Old, Royal Charter, 1670
  • Rum (Jamaica, Demerara, and Ye Old Hudson’s Bay) 
  • Gin (Triple Distilled)

More Reads:

Ancient Wine- The Search for the Origins of Viniculture (Princeton Science Library, 66) Wine Production and Quality