“Wines & Vines of California” by Frona Eunice Wait: Out of Print

The Bourn and Wise Cellar. Later to become Christian Brothers Winery (1950), and eventually, CIA Greystone (1995).

Originally published as a large pamphlet in 1889, “Wines & Vines of California” offers a decent trip back in time for the California wine geek (although I do stress the word “geek”). I will admit, I found certain parts of the text interesting, but it’s definitely not the type of book that’s geared toward cover-to-cover reading: For one thing, large sections of the text are dedicated to exhaustive lists of grape growers, scores upon scores of names that have very little meaning today, save for just a few. Other sections of “Wines & Vines” address Prohibition, a moot argument if there ever was one (my real criticism is that author Frona Eunice Wait spouts the same points as the other Wets of the day, rendering her “Temperance” chapter a bit quaint, if not mundane). On a more positive note, the best passages of “Wines & Vines” lend terrific insight into California’s early wine-making techniques, both good and bad; the chapter on “How to Drink Wine” — guest-written by Arpad Haraszthy — remains surprisingly relevant today; and the fantastic line-drawings capture the era beautifully, if nothing else.

Click on any thumbnail for the full-screen, hi-res image.

• • •

The facility at Oakville’s legendary To Kalon (no longer a wine label per se, but still one of Napa’s top vineyards).

• • •

The Inglenook Vineyard. Later to become Niebaum-Coppola, then Rubicon, and now Inglenook once again, apparently.

When it comes to names, Francis Ford Coppola can’t seem to make up his mind, but I do like his most recent nod to tradition — although his flagship wine will still be called Rubicon. Confused?

• • •

When’s the last time you enjoyed a nice glass of St. Macaire? That’s right. Probably never.

• • •

839-849 Folsom Street, San Francisco.

This drawing of the American Champagne Company accompanies a section in “Wines & Vines” that vaguely alludes to the Reihlen Method of Champagne production, which I had never heard of. Amazingly, the best explanation I found was this New York Times article from 1890 and this issue of “Current Literature” from 1889. I guess this “American Champagne” (based upon German techniques, no less) never quite caught on. I suspect the building itself was leveled in the 1906 quake, but that’s just a guess (it’s certainly not there now).

4 comments to “Wines & Vines of California” by Frona Eunice Wait: Out of Print

  • Where did you find this? GREG

  • Thirsty Reader

    The Bay Area’s used bookstores tend to blur together, but I believe I found it at Pegasus Books in Berkeley.

  • chambolle

    Did you locate the 1973 Howell-North reprint or an original copy of the 1889 publication, of which I believe there were only 500 copies printed? The reprint is available, the original I’ve not seen on offer.

  • Thirsty Reader

    Oops, I guess I made that sound a bit misleading. My apologies. I definitely have the 1973 reprint with the foreword by Maynard Amerine.

    Only 500 copies of the original? Sounds impossibly scarce these days…

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