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California Brandy

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(Note: Information Originally Published In 1955 - Presented For Historical Perspective!)


Almaden Vineyards, Los Gatos, Santa Clara County. This winery introduced a few years ago its Almaden Centennial brandy, so named in commemoration of the fact that the winery was founded in 1852. It is a straight, 84 proof brandy of high quality, four years old.

Beringer Bros., Inc., St. Helena, Napa County

The featured brandy and a very popular one is the straight Beringer Brandy, 84 proof, varying in age from ii to iq years old. All brandies marketed are produced at the Beringer wineries, including a straight, 84 proof, 7 years old, and a bottled-in-bond, ioo proof, 7-year and older brandy. The last two products are not always available.

California Growers Wineries, Cutler, Tulare County.

Two fine brandies are produced by this concern, a straight, 5-to 6-year-old brandy and a blended type, both Sq proof and marketed under the California Growers brand.

California Wine Association, San Francisco.

This famous company produces its well-known brandies at Lodi, San Joaquin County. Under the A. R. Morrow brand, named in honor of the man who was the guiding spirit of the concern for many years and a dominating figure in the California wine industry, a bonded, roo proof brandy is marketed, 6 to 7 years old, an outstanding product, and one of the finest straight brandies produced in the state.

Equally fine in the blended class is the company's 84 proof brandy, marketed under both the A. R. Morrow and Aristocrat brands.

The Christian Brothers (Mont La Salle Vineyards), Napa, Napa County.

Headquarters for the production of the Mont La Salle Vineyards brandy production by The Christian Brothers is conducted at Reedley, Fresno County. The Christian Brothers brandy, probably the most familiar one in the country, is of the blended type, 84 proof, and very fine indeed at its best.

Cucamonga Valley Wine Company, Ontario, San Bernardino County.

Giovanni Vai, who founded this enterprise with the advent of Repeal in 1933, produces a straight 6-year-old brandy, 84 proof, under the G. V. Grape Brandy label.

East-Side Winery, Lodi, San Joaquin County.

Two outstanding brandies are produced by this well-known concern and are marketed under the Royal Host brand. The one is a 6-year-old straight brandy and the other a blend, both 84 proof. They rate among the very finest in their respective classes.

Ellena Brothers, Etiwanda, San Bernardino County.

A fine Cucamonga brandy is featured at this winery. It is a straight brandy, 5 to 6 years old, 84 proof, marketed under the Regina Pure Cucamonga Grape Brandy label.

An 8-year-old straight, 84 proof Cucamonga brandy has also been produced under the Ellena brand.

Glen Ellen Winery and Distillery, Inc., Glen Ellen, Sonoma County. This winery produces Sonoma County brandies which are well worthy of mention. They are straight brandies, 84 and go proof, marketed under the Glen Hills brand.

Italian Swiss Colony, Asti, Sonoma County:

This famous old company, now owned by the Petri interests, purchased the Hartley and Lejon brands from National Distillers in 1954. The brandies marketed under those labels are produced for the greater part at the Shewan-Jones plant at Clovis, Fresno County.

The Hartley brand is used for the straight brandy, which is a very fine quality. It is 84 proof and from 5 to 6 years old. A bonded, roo proof brandy has also been produced under that label.

Lejon brandy is a blended type, 84 proof, and also rates high. It is called after that famous figure in the wine industry, Lee Jones, who founded the Shewan-Jones enterprise shortly after Repeal.

Paul Masson Vineyards, Saratoga, Santa Clara County.

This winery markets a brandy of high quality under the Masson brand. It is a light-bodied blend of straight brandies, 84 proof.

Napa and Sonoma Wine Company (Castler Cellars), Sonoma, Sonoma County.

Paul Rossigneux markets a delicate brandy of great distinction under his Oro Fino (Fine Gold) brand. It is a blended type, 84 proof.

Padre Vineyards Company, Cucamonga, San Bernardino County. Two well-known Cucamonga brandies are produced and marketed by this winery. A straight brandy, 4 and 5 years old, carries the Vai Bros. Old Reserve label and a blended type is available under the Padre 3 Star brand. Both are 84 proof.

Petri Wineries, Escalon, San Joaquin County.

Two brandies are produced by Petri Wineries, operating name of the Allied Grape Growers co-operative. They are marketed by the Petri Wine Company of San Francisco.

The Petri Brandy is a blended type of fine quality, 84 proof. A grape pomace brandy is also produced, the only one of its type made commercially in California as far as the Guide is aware. Petri Grappa Brandy is white in color, 4 years old, and 100 proof.

Schenley Industries, Inc. (Roma Wine Company), Fresno, Fresno County.

A number of California brandies are produced by this large concern, all distilled at the Roma Wine Company plant in Fresno, although some of them are bottled in other states. They are merchandised by Brandy Distillers, a division of Associated Brands, a Schenley subsidiary.

The best known of the Schenley brandies is Coronet V.S.Q. (Very Special Quality), a blended brandy of high quality, 84 proof. Other brands marketed, similar or identical to Coronet, are J. Bavet, Old Monastery Brand, and Louis brandies, all blended types and 84 proof.

A bottled in bond brandy, 1OO proof, is produced and marketed under the lean Robert label, while a low-proof blended type, called Director's Choice (Roma Wine Company), has been merchandised at 80.6 proof.

L'Chayim Kosher California Grape Brandy, suitable also for sacramental purposes of the Hebrew faith, is a blended brandy, 84 proof. The word "L'Chayim" has a profound meaning, being the traditional toast to life by which friends wish one another well.

Wine Growers Guild, Lodi, San Joaquin County.

This great co-operative produces two well-known straight brandies, 84 proof, under the Ceremony brand, the 5-year-old "White Label" and the 8-year-old "Black Label." They are both delicate and dry in character and the 8-year-old is considered by many to be the finest brandy produced in California.

A fine blended brandy, 84 proof, is also produced and merchandised under the Guild label. The Guild Special Export brandy, also a blend and 84 proof, is no longer produced.

George Zaninovich, Inc., Orange Cove, Fresno County.

Some thirty miles southeast of Fresno at Orange Cove on the Tulare County line is to be found the distillery of George Zaninovich, who produces only brandy. He is the owner, president, and general manager of the enterprise, which he founded in 1937, setting up his distillery in that year in the district where he had been growing grapes since 1915.

Most of the distillery's business is in bulk sales, but some bottling is done under the Zanbro brand, the name being a contraction of Zaninovich Bros., the firm through which the company markets fresh grapes and citrus fruits.

Zanbro brandy is of the straight type, light and delicate, and is bottled at 84 or 86 proof. Best known in the Midwest under that label, this brandy deserves wider recognition.

Note: The famous Korbel & Bros. concern of Guerneville, Sonoma County, used to market a fine 8-year-old, 84 proof, straight brandy under the Korbel brand. It may still be found occasionally, but has not been produced for some years.

It will be seen that most of the better-known California brandies are distilled in the great inland valley region, notably in the Lodi and Fresno districts. Others are produced in Sonoma and Napa counties in the northern coastal region and in the Cucamonga district of San Bernardino County.

While most of the brandies listed above have won enviable awards at the California State and Los Angeles County Fairs in recent years, not all distillers send their brandies to the Fairs for competitive judgment, nor do those who send them necessarily do so every year. Awards given to California brandies are listed together with the wine awards and those who are further interested can apply for copies of the yearly awards to any office of the Wine Institute or to the Fairs themselves.

For the convenience of the readers the better-known California brandies having a national or near national distribution are listed here alphabetically, grouped according to whether they are straight or of the blended type. These then are the great names in the California brandy picture:

California straight brandies (ages will vary according to current production and are not always indicated on the labeling; nor does older age necessarily mean superior quality, as between the various straight brandies or between the straights and those of the blended type): Almaden (4 years), Beringer (ra years), Ceremony (5 and 8 years), Hartley (5 to 6 years), A. R. Morrow (bonded), Regina (5 to 6 years), Royal Host (6 years), Vai Bros. Old Reserve (q and 5 years);

California blended brandies:

Aristocrat or A. R. Morrow, Christian Brothers, Coronet V.S.Q., Guild, Lejon, Masson, Oro Fino, Padre 3 Star, Petri, Royal Host. There are numerous other brands of California brandy, many of them merchandised by bottling concerns or sold by firms throughout the country under their own labels.

Use and Service of California Brandy-As a straight brandy after dinner; in brandy old-fashioneds or in brandy on the rocks; in cocktails such as the popular sidecar, and many others; in brandy bucks, cobblers, collinses, coolers, crustas, daisies, eggnogs, fixes, fizzes, flips, highballs, hots, juleps, punches, rickeys, sangarees, scaffas, shrubs, slings, smashes, and sours; as a base for wine punches, in Tom and Jerries and in hot toddies for getting warm or to help lick a cold; in cooking and flavoring fruit salads, plum puddings, and other desserts; in Cafe Brulot, Cafe Diablo, and in hot black coffee or hot tea. Brandy is also helpful when feeling faint or suffering from shock. No household should be without a flask or bottle of good brandy.

When served after dinner any brandy worthy of the name calls for a balloon-shaped glass of the snifter type, the larger the bowl the better, in order to release the full aroma and bouquet of the brandy and to increase enjoyment of its rich and warming flavor, aptly described as the essence of wine.