September 27, 2021

SMH

Santa Maria History

Judith Dale: The history of wine and its arrival in Santa Barbara County | Local News

Some relatives of mine from Kansas are planning a visit this fall that includes wine tasting and learning about the local wine industry. I admit that although I have been wine tasting many times, I am no expert on wine. In fact, I realized how little I knew about wine — its history, the science of making it, the different varieties and its contribution to our local economy.

So as not to seem ignorant when family visits, I did a little research. And what I found was fascinating. I hope you enjoy it, too.

The origins of wine predate written history. It is thought that early humans collected and stored berries as they liked their sweet flavor. After a few days, with no refrigeration, juice at the bottom of a container would begin to ferment. A low-alcohol “wine” would be produced. People soon realized when they drank this, they felt different and “had a good time.” Soon, they began to ferment wild berries and grapes intentionally, and the humble beginnings of winemaking began.

Between 10,000 and 8000 B.C., people began to change from hunter-gathers to living in agricultural communities. Grains were the first crops, but orchards and vineyards soon followed. The invention of pottery allowed wine to be made and stored. The earliest evidence of purposeful winemaking is around 6000 B.C. in the Caucasus region of the Middle East in the country of Georgia. After that, wine production spread to other areas such as Iran and Greek Macedonia. Archeologists have found the remnants of crushed grapes at the Greek Macedonia site dating back to 4500 B.C., which shows organized wine production.

The Greeks are credited with being the first to look at wine as more than a “cottage industry.” They planted vineyards in prime locations attempting to produce quality wine and exported it around the Mediterranean. Dionysus was the Greek god of wine and merriment. In Greece, there was an entire month of festivities during the grape harvest.

The Romans picked up where the Greeks left off. Wine was an essential part of the Roman diet, and winemaking became a specific business. The Roman Empire was vast, and as they built civilizations around Europe, they brought their industries with them, including olive oil and wine. As a result, the great vineyards of Spain, France, Germany and Italy owe their origins to the Romans. Romans made a science out of winemaking and wrote down the importance of vineyard site selection, vessel types and types of grapevines to plant to make the best wines.

After the Roman Empire collapsed and Europe was in the Dark Ages, the Roman Catholic Church took over the wine traditions. Gardening and crop production was significant in monasteries, and grapevines were an important crop. Wine was an integral part of the monks’ life and Christian worship traditions. The impact the monks had on our understanding of viticulture is vast. The evolution of wine as a product is often a process of trial and error — even today. The ancient monks put in hundreds of years of groundwork, learning the difference in soils, the effect of the sun, grape varieties, etc. The fact that they could read and write meant that this information was recorded and passed on for future generations to improve upon.

European grapevine varieties were brought to Mexico by the Spanish conquistadores in the 1500s to provide wine for the Catholic Holy Eucharist. Vines were planted at the Spanish missions. In 1779, Father Junipero Serra supervised six peasant farmers (campesinos) to plant the first vineyard in Alta California at Mission San Juan Capistrano in Orange County. The vineyard consisted of 2,000 grapevines. He then established eight other California missions; hence, he has been called the “Father of California Wine.”

One of the oldest vineyards in California was the San Jose vineyard in the Santa Barbara area between what is now Goleta and San Marcos Pass. Mission Santa Barbara had three vineyards: Mission Canyon, La Cieneguita and San Jose.






Santa Barbara County has seven AVA areas: Alisos Canyon, Ballard Canyon, Central Coast, Happy Canyon of Santa Barbara, Los Olivos District, Santa Maria Valley, Santa Ynez Valley and Santa Rita Hills.




The San Jose vineyard was named for the San Jose creek that ran along its eastern border. By 1845, the San Jose vineyard had over 2,200 vines and 100 fruit trees. The grapes were used not only to make wine but also raisins. Legend has it that the first building in Goleta was the adobe built by Chumash laborers on the San Jose Vineyard somewhere between 1804 and 1834.

The San Jose vineyard was church property until 1853, when it was leased to an eccentric old pioneer named James McCaffrey by the archbishop of the Los Angeles Diocese. McCaffrey and his sons annually produced 8,000 gallons of the best vintage wines. The great drought of 1863-64 did not negatively affect McCaffrey as it did other farmers in the area due to San Jose Creek.

Sign up to receive headlines in your inbox!

Breaking News | Local Sports | Daily Headlines | Local Obituaries | Weather | Local Offers

By 1871, McCaffrey, who had since purchased the vineyard, expanded to over 6,000 vines and continued his successful wine operating until the mid-1890s. He became well known for his fine wines. In 1895, McCaffrey leased the winery to one of his employees, an Italian immigrant named Michele Cavaletto. In 1900, Cavaletto purchased the winery, and it flourished, selling wine to buyers throughout the United States. The Cavaletto family continued the wine operation until Prohibition began in 1919. Fortunately, Cavaletto preserved the old adobe building, which still stands today. The Cavaletto family still operates the San Jose vineyard property, but avocado trees have replaced the grapevines.

The 19th and 20th centuries were periods of significant change for the wine industry. The Industrial Revolution helped the wine industry produce on a much larger scale, especially in Europe. However, two factors hurt the European wine industry while inadvertently helping the U.S. First, in the 1860s, phylloxera, an insect native to the Americas, killed vine roots and infected European vineyards. Large swaths of European vineyards were affected and had to be destroyed.



Shepherd of the Valley Lutheran Church hosting wine and cheese community event

The event is free and open to the public. Donations will be accepted.

The solution was to replant vineyards using American rootstock, which had over thousands of years of cohabitation developed a natural resistance to the insect. The destruction was a considerable setback to European wine production. However, it did allow regions to completely start over and choose the varieties they wanted to replant. The vines selected were mainly the same varieties we now associate with classic European areas such as Burgundy, Champagne and Bordeaux.

By the early 20th century, the European wine industry was back from the phylloxera plague, only to find itself in the midst of two world wars. The vineyards Europe became battlegrounds, churned up and ruined. The countryside was devastated, millions of people were killed, and European countries struggled to recover for decades after the wars. It was a tragic period, and the European wine industry did not escape the devastation.

By the 1960s, the world had recovered from the world wars, and the wine industry flourished.

Modern winemaking equipment such as stainless steel tanks meant that clean, fresh wines became the norm. Wines no longer required people to lay them down for several years before drinking them. Supermarkets were stocking wine, so it was becoming a household beverage. In the 1970s, California wines were beginning to win prizes at international competitions. Wine education in the U.S. flourished, and the general quality of U.S. wine skyrocketed. California had the best soil, weather, sunshine and sea breeze to become the country’s leader in wine production. This brings us to wine production in Santa Barbara County.

Santa Barbara wine country

California is the leading state in the U.S. for wine production, and Santa Barbara County is a significant wine-producing county. There are 275 wineries in Santa Barbara County with seven approved American Viticultural Areas (AVA). An AVA is defined as “a delimited grape-growing region with specific geographic or climatic features that distinguish it from surrounding regions and affect how grapes are grown.” Using an AVA designation on a wine label allows vintners to describe more accurately the origin of their wines to help consumers identify the wines they may wish to purchase.






Sarloos & Sons in Los Olivos

Rows of vines twist around the golden hills at Sarloos & Sons in Los Olivos.




The fact that Santa Barbara County has seven areas shows how our topography and relationship to the ocean create our microclimates. The seven AVA areas are: Alisos Canyon, Ballard Canyon, Central Coast, Happy Canyon of Santa Barbara, Los Olivos District, Santa Maria Valley, Santa Ynez Valley and Santa Rita Hills.

Seventy different wine grape varieties are grown in the seven AVAs, encompassing 14,927 acres of vineyards. The average yield per acre is 3.36 tons, with an average price of $2,114 per ton.

The annual economic value of the harvested grapes is $106,078,716. The yearly economic impact of wine for Santa Barbara County is $1.7 billion. In addition, the wine industry provides 9,158 full-time equivalent jobs.

Well, enough statistics. The main thing is to enjoy our beautiful county and its excellent wines. I hope this brief history gives you a little “taste,” or our history helps you enjoy our wines even more.


Patio wine tastings and good food — a winning combo | Kathy Marcks Hardesty



Judith Dale: Wildfires in Santa Barbara County, 2016 to 2019

So far we are good in Santa Barbara County, but until the first major rain, we are still in danger as our last major fires were during the months of November (Cave Fire) and December (Thomas Fire).



Judith Dale: Wildfires in Santa Barbara County, 2008 to 2015

With over 4 million acres having burned so far this year in California, we have not had any major fires in Santa Barbara County. But with all the hot weather we have had and no rain in months, we are still in danger.



Judith Dale: Wildfires in Santa Barbara County, 1985 to 2007

Due to arson or carelessness, 430,088 acres and 701 structures burned in these fires spanning 22 years.



Judith Dale: Wildfires in Santa Barbara County, 1955 to 1979

We have the perfect setting for fires: thousands of acres of wilderness with rugged terrain and few roads; rainy winter weather that allows grass and brush to grow, followed by months of hot, dry weather; prevailing winds as well as sundowner winds; and people, who are the cause of most fires.



Judith Dale: Vandenberg Air Force Base – Into the future, a look at the past

This new Space Force opens the way for Vandenberg to become a spaceport that can launch not only military missiles and satellites, but private and commercial projects as well.



Judith Dale: La Purisima Mission has rich and turbulent history

La Purisima Mission is the 11th of the 21 missions founded in California.



Judith Dale: W.W. Hollister – Goleta Valley's forefather

At one time, Hollister and his partners, the Dibblee Brothers, owned all the land between Refugio Beach and Point Conception. They owned all the land grants around Point Concepcion, the Ortega family’s Refugio Grant, the La Purisima Mission lands and the San Julian Ranch.



Judith Dale: William Benjamin Foxen -- A Santa Barbara County Pioneer

What do Foxen Canyon Road in Los Olivos, the community of Sisquoc, the American army capturing the Santa Barbara Presidio in 1846, an elementary school and the Foxen Vineyard and Winery all have in common?



Judith Dale: Las Cruses – The forgotten crossroads

Las Cruses was a small community that no longer exists, but it has an important history. 



Judith Dale: History of the Gaviota Pass

La Gaviota means seagull in Spanish.



Judith Dale: Los Padres National Forest in your backyard

The forest contributes nearly $103.4 million annual revenue to local businesses who gain from people visiting from all over the nation to hike, bike and camp in our mountains. 



Judith Dale: The mighty Santa Ynez River

We often overlook and take for granted the importance of the river to our past development and more importantly to our future development and quality of life.



Judith Dale: 1920s Solvang - Becoming Danish Capital of America

This is the bookend article to looking back at Buellton during the decade of the 1920s. This article looks at the establishment of Solvang during that same time.



Judith Dale: What was Buellton like during the 1920s?

Judith Dale discusses the two major events in the 1920s that set the groundwork for what the city of Buellton is today.



Judith Dale: Looking back 100 years – the 1920s

Judith Dale looks back to 1920, offering a timeline of progress the U.S. has made over the last 100 years. In most areas such as life expectancy, industry, technology, and position in the world, the U.S. has come a long way. However, many of the social/cultural challenges the country faced in the 1920s, are still with us today.



Judith Dale: Old Mission Santa Inés celebrates 215 years

This month marks the 215th year anniversary of the Old Mission Santa Inés, established in September of 1804. The mission was officially named …

Former mayor of Buellton, Judith Dale built her career in education and continues to serve the local community as Santa Barbara County 3rd District representative to the Library Advisory Board and board member of the Santa Ynez Valley Cottage Hospital Foundation. She can be reached at [email protected]