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Livermore-Contra - Notable Wineries By District And Region

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


Los Amigos Vineyards, Mission San Jose Edward P. Werner and Edwin A. Grau were the founders of this once-famous vineyard, now the victim of encroaching real estate development. Werner was a Bavarian who married his girl against his parents' wishes and Grau was from Austria, the son of a winegrower. The two met in California, where Werner became cellar master for the Gallegos family near Mission San Jose and Grau was with Salazar, who operated the Los Cerritos Cellar in that town. Together they purchased from the Gallegos family a beautiful hill site, commanding a sweeping view of the surrounding countryside and of San Francisco Bay. They established their vineyards in 1888 and named their property "Los Amigos" in honor of their close friendship.

The Los Amigos wines attained a national and international fame and were produced by Werner and Grau until the advent of Prohibition, which forced the winery to close down. They kept the vineyard, however, and sold the grapes. Neither of the amigos lived to see the coming of Repeal and after the death of Mrs. Werner the estate passed into various hands. Not till Robert S. Mayock bought it in 1936 did Los Amigos and its wines come into their own once again.

Bob Mayock, an attorney and realtor of Beverly Hills, California, had for long been interested in good wines. In Southern California he had been in the wine business, selecting fine wines and selling them, but he wanted to get in the producing end of it. Once the owner of Los Amigos, he replanted the vineyards to Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot noir and successfully revived the great tradition set by the founders. In this he was ably assisted by his wife, Ann Mayock, who continued to operate Los Amigos and its vineyards for some years after he passed away in 1945.

Now that new housing developments have invaded the privacy of Los Amigos, its vineyards are no more, but the winery continues to operate and the Los Amigos brand is still on the market with the well-known Sherry Sack, a first-class dry and very pale sherry of the Amontillado type, blended and aged at the winery.

Ann Mayock is enthusiastically aided in her enterprise by her children as far as their other duties allow them to do so. Sally Ann, a graduate of Mills College and now Mrs. Hollis Hartley, studied wine chemistry, worked in the winery, and has often acted as hostess at Los Amigos. Douglas, the elder son, helps in the business as much as his operatic career permits, while Robert Stoney, Jr., now of the Marine Corps, will probably return to the wine business after he has completed his service.

Besides the Sherry Sack, which will continue to be produced, a few choice table wines are still available under the Los Amigos label, be it in small quantities soon to be exhausted. Gone are the older vintages of Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Noir, the Grenache Rose of 1944, the very special Black Pinot from Pinot Meunier grapes, the Tawny Port, to be found only in some prize cellar perhaps and now collectors' rarities, but still on the market are the Cabernet Sauvignon 1945, the Pinot Noir blend of 1949-195o, and the Riesling 1946 (from Johannisberg Riesling and Franken Riesling grapes).

Weibel Champagne Vineyards, Mission San Jose A relative newcomer to the California wine industry, Weibel Champagne Vineyards, founded in 1939, is an up and coming concern, producing high-quality table, sparkling, aperitif, and dessert wines which have established an excellent reputation for themselves. The best proof is that they not only market their wines for the public but also supply many a winery. It is a family enterprise, owned and operated by Rudolph Emile Weibel, Sr., and his son Frederick E. Weibel, Jr., natives of Munsingen, canton of Bern, Switzerland.

Rudolph Weibel, Sr., had been engaged in the wine and champagne business in Switzerland and France since 1904 and came to this country in 1934 as an importer of wines and brandies. He traveled all over the United States and when he came to California, observed its climate and soil, the fine wine grapes which could be grown, and the quality of the wines which could be producedcomparing them type by type and bottle by bottle with those of the old country-he made up his mind to immigrate to the United States and devote himself in California to the production of the finest wines he could produce. Sampling of the Beaulieu Vineyard wines was an important factor in his final decision. And so he The Northern Coastal Region 141 came to this country for good in 1936, accompanied by his son Frederick, better known as Fred.

Production of high-quality champagne was always the main ambition of the Weibels and for that reason the enterprise was called as it is, a name to which they have done full justice.

The Weibels first settled in San Francisco, making champagne from purchased wines while looking for a suitable vineyard property and winery. This they found in their ranch near Mission San Jose and Warm Springs. Their holdings are part of the old Rancho del Agua Caliente and of the once-famous ranch of Josiah Stanford, brother of Leland Stanford, railroad builder, governor, senator, founder of Stanford University, and a great California wine pioneer. Leland Stanford purchased a square mile of land at Warm Springs back in 1869 and soon afterwards his brother Josiah planted a large acreage of vines there and constructed both a winery and distillery. For a number of years a flourishing wine business was conducted in Warm Springs and large quantities of wine labeled "Stanford" were sold. Leland Stanford then deeded the Warm Springs vineyard to his brother and, encouraged by Josiah's success in wine making, embarked on his vast winegrowing project at Vina, in Tehama County, which was to become the largest vineyard in the world for the time, an enterprise which lasted well into the twentieth century.

The Weibels purchased their ranch in 1945 and devoted the next three years to replanting the vineyards and modernizing the winery. Rudolph and his son Fred are partners in the firm, the latter being also the wine maker.

The following wines are produced and marketed under the Weibel brand:

Sparkling wines (bottle-fermented) : Grand Cru Select Champagne Brut (the specialty champagne of the house, from Pinot Chardonnay grapes), Grand Cru Pink Champagne, and Grand Cru Champagne Rouge (from a blend of Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon); Weibel Champagne: Brut, Extra-Sec (medium dry), Sec, Pink, and Sparkling Burgundy;

Sparkling wines (bulk process) : Two specialty wines are the Sparkling Malvasia (one of the very few if not the only one produced in the state) and the Sparkling Muscat.

Note: Bulk-process champagnes, excellent in their class, are marketed under a number of various brands such as Chateau du Chevalier, Chateau Lafayette, Chateau Alameda, and Chateau Louis d'Or. They are all of the same quality and include Brut, Demi-Sec, and Sweet types as well as Pink Champagne and Sparkling Burgundy.

Table wines: WHITE: Pinot Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc, Haut Sauterne, Grey Riesling, Dry Semillon, Dry Sauterne, and Chablis;

RED: Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, Burgundy, and Claret;

ROSE: Grenache Rose and Vin Rose;

Aperitif and Dessert wines: Sherries: featured are the Solera flor Sherries, the Cocktail (dry), the Golden (medium), and the Cream (sweet); regular sherries include Pale Dry, Cream Sherry, and Sweet Sherry;

Black Muscatel (also marketed as Black Muscat and as Cream of Black Muscat, and a top-flight specialty dessert wine), Ruby Port, and Tawny Port, Muscatel;

Vermouth, Dry and Sweet; an herb-flavored white aperitif wine of the Dubonnet Blonde type and an aperitif called "Compare-It," of the Italian Campari type.