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Santa Clara-Santa Cruz - Notable Wineries By District And Region

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

SANTA CLARA COUNTY SANTA CLARA VALLEY-EVERGREEN AREA

Mirassou Vineyards, San Jose

The type of operation at Mirassou Vineyards, a very special one, consists in producing varietal table wines and champagne stock of superior quality and in supplying these in bulk to other wineries. A little bottling is also done under private labeling.

The enterprise is co-owned by the brothers Edmund (Ed) A. and Norbert G. Mirassou, fourth-generation winegrowers, who are continuing the tradition started in the Santa Clara Valley by their great-grandfather Pierre Pellier in 1853.

The Pelliers were farmers from the region of La Rochelle in France. When Pierre Pellier first came to California in 1850, he realized the vast agricultural potentialities of the fruitful Santa Clara Valley. He started a nursery in what is now the heart of the city of San Jose, but soon decided that what was needed for propagation was the highest-quality European rootstock. Accordingly he went back to France, accumulated thousands of cuttings of choice vinifer-a vines, roses, and fruit trees and sailed with them for California. The voyage around Cape Horn was a long and rough one. Water gave out and many of his precious cuttings withered away. Pierre was desperate, but finally purchased all the available potatoes aboard, inserted in them the ends of his cuttings, and in this original manner saved part of his valuable stock. Included in this shipment was what is believed to have been the first French prune tree to make its way to California.

In 1862 Pierre Pellier purchased a large hillside acreage on the west side of the Santa Clara Valley, a portion of the old Rancho Yerba Buena, once granted the Chaboya family by the King of Spain. Here he planted the choicest vines from his San Jose nursery and made his first wine, the forerunner of a long and famous series of vintages.

Henrietta Pellier, Pierre's eldest daughter, married another French winegrower and immigrant, Pierre Mirassou, who was put in charge of the Pellier vineyards and winery. The eldest of their sons, Peter, became the father of the present owners of the Mirassou vineyards, while the second son, Herman, is the father of the four Mirassou brothers who operate Lone Hills Vineyards at Los Gatos.

Pierre Mirassou died while still quite young and Henrietta later married Thomas Casalegno, who continued operation of the vineyards, assisted by his three Mirassou stepsons, Peter, Herman, and John. When phylloxera attacked the vines at the turn of the century Casalegno procured some twenty thousand disease-resistant roots of the Rupestris St. George variety, which were planted in the vineyards and to which the surviving Vitis vinifera vines were grafted with success.

In 1909 the three brothers purchased the enterprise from their stepfather and formed a partnership. They expanded the vineyard acreage in Evergreen in the rolling foothills between the Santa Clara Valley and Mt. Hamilton, including the location of the present winery and of the home Peter Mirassou built for his family and where his sons were born, Norbert and Edmund.

Prohibition led to the dissolution of the partnership and to a division of the property. Peter Mirassou's share included the Evergreen tract and, although vineyards were thought to be worthless by some, Peter refused to replant to any other crop. His judgment proved sound, as grape prices soon rose, and he then began to supply Eastern markets both with grapes from his own vineyards and with those he purchased elsewhere.

The grape-growing business was continued till 1937, when Peter Mirassou informed his sons that if they desired he would back them to revive the family tradition of fine wine making. This proposal was accepted and carried out with an enthusiasm and a devotion which have continued on to the present. In 1942, when Peter Mirassou retired, Norbert and Edmund formed a co-partnership and purchased their father's interest in the business. Since then further land for the planting of choice varieties has been acquired and the winery enlarged.

Mirassou Vineyards specializes in superior-quality varietals, especially the whites. Available under the Mirassou label, with the Santa Clara appellation of origin, are the following table wines:

WHITE: White Riesling, Pinot Blanc, Sylvaner, Semillon (dry), Sauterne (dry), and Chablis;

RED: Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, and Burgundy;

ROSE: Grenache Rose.