1855 Wine Industry Revisited

image of Wine GrapesThe wine industry in El Dorado County developed immediately following the discovery of gold in Coloma. During the early gold rush days the mining communities of the county were pressed to create their own food and spirits.

Lack of transportation, except horse-drawn wagons over primitive roads, dictated the need to develop vineyards and wineries close to the early mining settlements. Early El Dorado history shows that the wine industry was firmly established as early as 1855. Of the 8,000 acres of cultivated agricultural lands, about 3,000 acres were planted with wine grapes. The wine grape industry continued to flourish throughout the late 1800's with 4,300 acres recorded in 1898. Around the early 1900's a general decline in county population caused many of these early vineyards to be abandoned.

During the 1920's, prohibition and the accompanying demand for grapes for home wine making again stimulated the county's wine industry. Historical data indicates that wine grape acreage peaked at approximately 5,000 acres during this time. Poor wine prices after repeal of prohibition coupled with grape phylloxera forced a general decline of grape acreage during the 1930's. Low grape prices at the end of World War II forced the abandonment of the remaining vineyards and only a few acres of grapes were recorded in the county by 1950.

A resurgence in appreciation for fine table wines stimulated a statewide search for new growing areas capable of producing top quality wines. Several trial plantings were established in El Dorado County by 1965. By studying the experimental vineyards, it was determined that the area's topography, soils and climate could support the production of quality wine grapes. Wine grape acreage increased from just 11 acres in the early 1960's to over 1700 acres in 2001.

image of 2001 Crop CoverThe 2001 El Dorado County Crop Report cover photo depicts the Boeger Winery tasting room. The vineyard and winery sit on an 1850's ranch and winery homesteaded by the Fossati-Lombardo family. During prohibition, the original winery was allowed to continue to produce wine for the local churches and the family. In fact, if you look at the door to the tasting room, you will see the Federal stamp that served as the license to distill during that time. The house, cellar, and distillery are still in use today. Boeger Winery opened in 1974, the first post-prohibition winery in El Dorado County.

Source:
2001 Crop Report, cover photo by Carolyn Fox

To view the current Crop Report ... [click here

image of Chart of Wine Grape Prices 1990-2000Interesting info published in last years' crop report! (2000) ...
Increase in El Dorado County Wine Grape Price 1990-2000

Links to more El Dorado County wine resources: