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Sonoma-Mendocino - Notable Wineries By District And Region

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


The Santa Rosa Creek, after which the valley is named, empties its waters eventually in the Russian River. The city of Santa Rosa is where the Luther Burbank home is to be found. The famed botanist and horticulturist, who was also greatly interested in viticulture, lies buried beneath the cedar of Lebanon in the garden of the park.

Fountaingrove Vineyard, Santa Rosa The romantic estate of Fountaingrove was established in 1873 by Thomas Lake Harris, preacher, philosopher, and charmer. He was the founder of the "Brotherhood of the New Life," which mixed religion, business, and love in a strange manner. His utopia attracted numerous and devoted followers, the more important of whom became so-called "pivotal figures." These included wealthy and attractive ladies, such as Lady Oliphant and Jane Lee Waring, "Dovie" to the prophet. Viticulture had been among the brotherhood's pursuits at Lake Keuka, New York, where public criticism had forced the colony's removal. Pivotals there included such men as Jacob Moore, originator of the Diamond grape, and Dr. John Hyde, expert on the Missouri Riesling. Konoye Nagasawa, a Japanese said to be of Samurai descent and who had met Harris while on a preaching tour in England, was the prophet's factotum and was to become the true creator of Fountaingrove Vineyard.

After the colony's exit from the Finger Lake district in New York, a new "Cosmos" was sought and was found in Sonoma, proved land for successful winegrowing. A few miles north of Santa Rosa, overlooking the beautiful valley from a hillside, a mansion was built in a grove near a spring. Vineyards were planted by the heavenly abode and Fountaingrove came into being. Harris orated while Nagasawa took down the golden words of the prophet, published by Dr. Hyde in the Fountaingrove Press. In their spare time Nagasawa and Hyde would cultivate the vines with great diligence. Before long the vintages of Fountaingrove achieved a national reputation. Harris had a keen eye also for business. An outlet was established in New York and Lady Oliphant set up Fountaingrove agencies in London, Liverpool, and Glasgow.

Soon new storms raged about the brotherhood. There were "betrayals," lawsuits, and much unfavorable publicity in the papers. The appearance of "Dovie" Waring in Turkish garb, complete with pipe, did not enhance the colony's reputation in the neighborhood. Other pivotals resented being ordered about by Miss Waring like slaves. Harris's young daughter took poison and died. Once again departure was the only course open to the prophet. After a hasty marriage to Jane Waring, Harris left Fountaingrove, for good. He sold most of his holdings, but kept an interest in the New York shop, continuing to discourse on the heavenliness of the Fountaingrove wines and the desirability of their prompt sale.

At Santa Rosa, Nagasawa took complete charge and after the final departure of Harris for celestial spheres he bought up all outstanding claims to the estate. Fountaingrove became his.

Nagasawa won the respect of all. He became friends with Luther Burbank, whose gardens were close by, and with the great Bioletti, viticulturist of the University of California. Then there was the library, rich in volumes written by Harris or owned by him and augmented by Herbert Spencer's collection which Nagasawa had brought over from London.

For nearly sixty years Nagasawa devoted himself to Fountaingrove and its wines. In 1934 he died, eighty years old, a great Californian and a great gentleman. A few years later the estate was purchased by Errol McBoyle, who continued Fountaingrove's tradition for fine wines. After his death in 1949 the estate passed to his widow, who later married Siegfried Bechhold. Jane Waring, it may be noted, was a painter of talent, and portraits she made of Thomas Lake Harris, which are considered outstanding, adorn the Bechhold home at Fountaingrove. As late as 1951 Fountaingrove wines won numerous awards at the California fairs. Then it was decided, for economic reasons, to pull up the vineyards and convert the land to pasture. Fountaingrove became a cattle ranch and the winery entered a dormant period. Some of the Fountaingrove table wines and champagnes, once famous, may still be found here and there, but wine is no longer produced at what is now the "Fountaingrove Ranch:"

Martini & Prati Wines, Inc., Santa Rosa Some eight miles northwest of Santa Rosa, near Forestville, lies the extensive Martini and Prati Vine Hill winery, operated by Elmo Martini and Edward Prati.

The Martini family have been in the wine business in Santa Rosa since the eighteen seventies. Raphaele Martini bought the present winery and vineyards shortly after the turn of the century, the enterprise being expanded at various times and later operated by his sons. In 1943 the property was purchased by the Hiram Walker interests, owners of W. A. Taylor and Company, but in 195o the winery and vineyards reverted back to Elmo Martini, in partnership with Enrico Prati of Italian Swiss Colony fame and with the latter's son Edward. Enrico Prati passed away in 1952 and Elmo Martini is now president of the company, while Edward Prati, who also owns vineyards of his own, is secretary-treasurer.

Martini and Prati are producers of quality table wines, including Zinfandel, Burgundy, and Claret in the reds, and Sauterne, Chablis, Vermouth, both dry and sweet, is also produced, while dessert wines are purchased and aged before marketing. Martini & Prati is the brand under which the wines are sold to the public.

Santa Rosa Winery, Santa Rosa A small winery and family concern, owned and operated by C. B. Meda, born in San Francisco of Italian parentage. He learned the art of wine making from his father, who came from Piedmont, near Asti, and was in the wine business in Connecticut since 1893. On the latter's retirement the son took over the enterprise until the advent of prohibition.

After repeal C. B. Meda purchased the Santa Rosa winery, his main interest being to produce fine table wines and especially champagne. Sparkling wines (bottle-fermented) are the winery's specialties. They are highly rated and include Brut, Extra Dry, and Demi-Sec Champagne, from Pinot Chardonnay and other selected grapes, as well as Sparkling Burgundy, from Pinot noir and other varieties. They are marketed under the Grand Prize brand.