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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!)

SAN BENITO COUNTY

Valliant Vineyards, Hollister

Two separate hillside vineyard complexes form the Valliant Vineyards of today. The one, and the more historical, is located in the so-called "Vineyard District" valley and the other in the Cienega, or Grass, Valley. The two neighboring valleys are situated some ten miles southwest of the city of Hollister in the picturesque Gavilan (Sparrow Hawk) Mountain Range which separates the Salinas and the San Joaquin valleys. Both the Cienega and the "Vineyard District" vineyards, be it noted, are planted to vinifera vines growing on their own roots, no phylloxera ever having penetrated into the region.

The "Vineyard District" was first planted to vines by Theophile Vache, surnamed Vaca, a Frenchman who cleared the chaparral brush and trees in 1849 or earlier and started what were to become famous vineyards. William Palmtag, a German immigrant who became mayor of Hollister, where he also owned a bank, acquired the property in 1883 and greatly extended the vineyards, importing choice European varieties. He established a winery and his Palmtag Mountain Vineyard wines won many prizes at national and international wine competitions.

During the first decade of the twentieth century Captain Jules Jacques St. Hubert and his partner, John Dickinson, formerly a Chicago grain broker, bought out Palmtag and incorporated as the San Benito Vineyards and increased the vineyard acreage in the surrounding mountains. After about five years Captain St. Hubert, the wine maker, left and Dickinson continued to operate the enterprise until Prohibition forced the winery to close down. The property then passed through various hands until the advent of Repeal, when Edwin Valliant, Sr., took it over and began operating the old winery. The Valliant family, with E. P. Hickman as partner, revived the tradition of producing fine-quality table wines. The Valliant brand was retained when the Hiram Walker interests purchased the property in 1943 to assure a continuous supply of fine California wines for their subsidiary, W. A. Taylor & Company, the wellknown New York importing firm and the present operators of Valliant Vineyards.

The story of the Cienega, or Grass, Valley vineyards was quite different. In rqo8 Professor Bioletti, the great viticulturist and enologist of the University of California, interested Dr. Harold Ohrwall, a San Francisco physician, in developing an experimental vineyard in this area, considered exceptionally well suited to the production of fine table wines. Bioletti's association with the enterprise lasted only a couple of years, but the Ohrwall family operated the winery and vineyards continuously until their acquisition, in 1944, by W. A. Taylor & Company and the Hiram Walker interests. Dr. Ohrwall's son, John P. Ohrwall, a graduate of the University of California, who has been associated with the Cienega Valley property all his life, is now the manager for both vineyard ranches.

The winery, which has been completely rebuilt, is located on the "Vineyard District" property and contains cool cellars, oak and redwood cooperage, and modern and efficient equipment to produce the best wines from the grapes of this famous locality. Production manager Lloyd A. Searing and A. G. Hoelscher, who has had long experience in the quality-wine field (he and his brothers formerly marketed the well-known I. De Turk wines), zealously guard the development of the Valliant wines.

While white table wines are the specialty, some red table wines and first-class vermouths are also produced, all marketed under the Valliant brand.

Table wines: WHITE: Riesling (for which the vineyards are perhaps the best known), Johannisberg Riesling (a wine for which this winery has been famous and which will be available again), Rhine Wine, Dry Sauterne, Sauterne, and Chablis; Vin Rose;

RED: Cabernet, Burgundy, and Claret.

Aperitif and Dessert wines: Palomino Dry Sherry and Cream Sherry, Ruby Port; Dry and Sweet Vermouth (produced from the special formulas of the well-known wine maker and chemist Charles Altair of Carmel-by-the-Sea).