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Nine Places Preserving the History of American Wine

The cellar at Baker Bird

The cellar at Baker-Bird Winery in Augusta, Kentucky/Photo by Bronze Photography

From coast to coast, the United States has a rich agrarian history, and wine plays a central role in that. Some Native communities produced fruit wines and ciders, and European colonists and missionaries planted vineyards for economic and religious purposes. Commercial cultivation of the vine magnified this scope, as vineyards and wineries popped up eventually in all 50 states.

Of course, the wine industry has changed wildly these days, but many wineries maintain and conserve elements of historical value. Here are nine U.S. wineries that valiantly preserve their history.

Wente Vineyards

Livermore, California

Historically known as Wente Brothers, this iconic winery got its start in 1883, when Carl H. Wente planted 47 acres of vineyards. The Wente family was integral in strengthening the California wine industry, and the winery is included on the California Historical Landmarks registry. The operation is now under the guidance of Karl Wente, who represents the family’s fifth generation at the helm. His stewardship makes this the state’s oldest continuously operating, family-owned winery.

Historical photo of Schramsberg
Schramsberg House/Photo courtesy of Schramsberg

Schramsberg

Calistoga, California

Founded by Jacob Schram in 1862, California recognizes Schramsberg as the home of Napa Valley’s first hillside winery. The original house and winery have been expertly preserved. A series of photographs illustrates the relevance of this winery, like the moment that glasses of the winery’s Blanc de Blancs were raised for President Richard Nixon’s 1972 “Toast to Peace” with China’s Premier Zhou Enlai.

Barboursville Vineyards

Barboursville, Virginia

In Virginia’s Monticello American Viticultural Area (AVA), Barboursville Vineyards is the site the former home of Gov. James Barbour, designed by his neighbor, Thomas Jefferson. The estate was revived by Gianni Zonin in the 1970s, and is now under the care of Luca Paschina, who serves as its manager and winemaker. Guests can visit Library 1821, which houses a letter by President John Quincy Adams that appointed Barbour as Secretary of War, as well as antique china owned by Barbour family ancestors.

Beringer

St. Helena, California

Beringer Brothers, as it was known, has run continuously since 1876, a span which included a federal license to make sacramental wine during Prohibition. The estate is recognized as a Historic District on the National Register of Historic Places. Hundreds of feet of traditional wine caves were created by Chinese immigrant workers in the late 1880s. A distinctive gravity flow winery and the centerpiece Rhine House represent a slice of California wine history.

Charles Krug Winery

St. Helena, California

According to the National Register of Historic Places, “the Charles Krug Winery and surrounding vineyards are living reminders of a man and his accomplishments, which form an integral part of the cultural and commercial heritage of California.” The designation recognizes the work of Krug, who produced the first commercial wine in Napa County in 1858. Charles Krug Winery is the oldest operating winery in Napa Valley. Since 1943, the estate has been owned by the Mondavi family, which ties in many generations of California winemaking expertise.

The exterior of Baker-Bird
Baker-Bird Winery in Augusta, Kentucky/Photo by Bronze Photography

Baker-Bird Winery

Augusta, Kentucky

Located in northern Kentucky near the Ohio border, Baker-Bird Winery is the only winery to have survived a Civil War battle. Letters indicate that citizens and soldiers sought refuge on the property during that time. Dating to the 1850s, the winery building, which includes a hand-dug cellar carved into the hillside, is on the National Registry of Historic Places. The vineyards and its surroundings are also recognized for their historical significance.

Buena Vista Winery

Sonoma, California

The winery and vineyards of Buena Vista are included on the National Register of Historic Places. They harken back to the work of “Count” Agoston Haraszthy, the so-called “father of California wine.” Haraszthy voyaged to Europe in 1861 and gathered 100,000 grapevine cuttings, which he brought back across the Atlantic Ocean on a sailboat in order to populate California vineyards. Now under the direction of Boisset Family Estates, George Webber welcomes visitors, taking on the role of “The Count” to show off the historic wine caves, artifacts and photograph collection.

Long-distance shot of house with vineyards
Mary’s House at Gundlach Bundschu/Photo courtesy of Gundlach Bundschu Winery

Gundlach Bundschu Winery

Sonoma, California

Gundlach Bundschu Winery is still owned and operated by the founder’s heirs, today helmed by Jeff Bundschu, who represents the sixth generation to lead the winery. The historic Rhinefarm vineyards date to 1858 and, after multiple shifts in ownership and purposes, are now a contiguous estate vineyard. The family business survived through the San Francisco earthquake and fire of 1906, where the winery once stood, as well as Prohibition, where 130 acres of Rhinefarm were used for the cultivation of “juice grapes.”

Sobon Estate Vineyard (formerly D’Agostini Winery)

Plymouth, California

In 1856, Swiss immigrant Adam Uhlinger began to build D’Agostini Winery in Amador County, now recognized as one of the oldest in the state. It also appears on the registry of California State Historic Places. The winery and vineyards were purchased by Leon and Shirley Sobon in 1989, and are home to historical Zinfandel plantings.

7/1/2020
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Nine Places Preserving the History of American Wine