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February 4, 2014 > History: Lost Vineyards of Washington Township

History: Lost Vineyards of Washington Township

By Phil Holmes

Mission San Jose produced the most wine of any Washington Township as stated in the 1893 report, Vineyards of Alameda County. There were 33 vineyards producing from more than 680 acres.

The Mission San Jose District list begins with J. J. Amaral who had six acres in his Òmountain vineyard.Ó C. J. Bond had 25 acres of bearing grapes in his upland vineyard. He also had a capacity of 32,000 gallons in oak and redwood fermenting tanks. The property was on the north side of Washington Boulevard, across from Washington College.

John BorgesÕ young vineyard was small, one acre; Barney Briscon five acres. Manuel F. Brown had nine acres and 10,000 gallons cooperage capacity. (The output of a winery is called its cooperage). Joshua Chadbourne owned eight acres of bearing grapes. He is more noted for operating the first garage between San Jose and Hayward and the first automobile agencyÑthe RamblerÑand drove the most powerful auto, a two-cylinder Autocar.

L. E. Chrantraul controlled 37 acres of bearing grapes and Hiram Davis had 13 acres. His vineyard was described as low lying so it is likely that it was near his house on the present High Street, at a lower elevation than most vineyards.

Paul DeVaux was credited with 90 acres in his upland vineyard and 50,000 gallons cooperage. Charles Shinn recognizes the DeVauax as one of the prominent wineries near the Mission. He was a close friend and neighbor of John Riehr.

The Dominican Sisters had 23 acres in bearing grapes and a cooperage capacity of over 29,000 gallons. They had taken over the Mission San Jose grape vineyard and operated it.

Antone Escobar owned a small vineyard of two acres with a cooperage capacity of 1,500 gallons. Thomas Ever also owned a small vineyard of two acres. J. A. Folger owned a large 40 acre upland vineyard. Pel Folger operated a farm south of Mission San Jose town for several years in cooperation with George W. Cook. Some maps show several properties belonging to Folger.

Professor E. W. Hilgard had 35 acres of bearing grapes. His residence was in Berkeley, but he was described by Charles Shinn as Òa great acquisition to the district.Ó He was a botanist at the University of California who helped solve problems at operating vineyards.

Charles Clarke McIver studied the wine-producing areas of California and was attracted to the Palmer vineyard. He bought the property and moved his family here from New England. He developed his land into a famous vineyard and showplace he called Linda Vista. McIver imported cuttings from the finest grape stocks in Europe. In 1893 he had 400 acres of bearing vines and 500,000 gallons of cooperage. His wines won many prizes and were served exclusively by the Pullman Palace Car Company. John D. Mattos had a mountain vineyard of eight acres and cooperage of 5,000 gallons. Manual B. Pais had a vineyard of only one acre. J. W. MussenÕs vineyard was 25 acres. The Palmdale Vineyard Co. was credited with 600 acres of bearing Vines with a cooperage capacity of 1,250,000 gallons in this list.

Don Juan Gallegos bought the Beard ranch in 1881 and started planting a 600 acre vineyard on slopes from Irvington to Mission San Jose. It was soon called the most marvelous vineyard in California. Gallegos built a huge winery at the corner of the present Osgood Road and Washington Boulevard. It was over three stories high and designed so that grapes could be unloaded at the top floor and processed down through the plant to storage vats. The plant could process 100 tons of grapes a day. It was truly a remarkable winery.

C. W. Pinkerton had 15 acres of bearing grapes, Frank Pinnero 13 acres, and four acres in a separate listing with a cooperage of 2,000 gallons. Joseph Pia had seven acres and Manuel Redrighez a small vineyard of one acre.

The Riehr family left Alsace Lorraine in 1870, just ahead of the German occupation. John Riehr had been a university professor. He worked as a court interpreter in San Francisco before he bought land here next to his friend Count DeVaux. He had a vineyard of 30 acres with cooperage capacity of 35,000 gallons. Bez is sometimes listed as another winery. Charles Bez married Rose Riehr, the daughter of John and Anna Riehr.

Los Cerritos Winery and vineyard were developed by J. A. Salazar, son-in-law of Juan Gallegos. Salazar is listed as the owner of 80 acres of bearing grapes. He produced 125,000 gallons of wine yearly, specializing in claret. Other small vineyards were owned by Antone Silver, John Silver, John Taylor and O. O. Slayton. Wm. Vargas owned four acres and G. Zall, 15. Zall had cooperage capacity of 40,000 gallons.

Los Amigos Vineyard was established by Edwin Grau and Edward Werner in 1888 on 35 acres of Gallegos land. Their land was apparently included in the Palmdale listing. Robert Mayock purchased the property in 1936, renewed the vineyard and operated under the Los Amigos name.

The Weibel Champagne Vineyard operated by Rudolph and his son, Fred, carried on the local vineyard winery tradition into modern times but local vineyards have now disappeared, lost in time.

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