From "Facts About Champagne and Other Sparkling Wines", 1879.
In California the manufacture of sparkling wines is carried on with
considerable success, and at the Vienna Exhibition the Buena Vista
Vinicultural Society of San Francisco was awarded a medal for progress
for the excellent samples it sent there.
The society was originally
organised by Colonel Haraszthy, the pioneer in recent times of
Californian viticulture. It commenced manufacturing sparkling wines with
the assistance of experienced workmen from Epernay and Ay; but the
endeavours, extending over some three or four years, were attended with
but indifferent success, very few cuvées proving of fair quality,
whilst with the majority the wine had to be emptied from the bottles and
distilled into brandy. The son of Colonel Haraszthy subsequently
succeeded, in conjunction with Mr. Isidor Landsberger, of San Francisco,
in discovering the cause of these failures, and for ten years past the
wine has been constantly improving in quality owing to the increased use
of foreign grapes, which yield a vin brut with a delicate bouquet
and flavour approaching in character to the finer champagnes.
is perfectly pure, no flavouring extracts or spirit being employed in
the composition of the liqueur, which, is composed merely of sugar-candy
dissolved in fine old wine. A French connoisseur pronounces
sparkling Sonoma to be the best of American sparkling wines, “clean and
fresh, tasting, with the flavour of a middle-class Ay growth, as well as
remarkably light and delicate, and possessed of considerable
effervescence.” The Sonoma valley vineyards produce the lightest wines
of all the Californian growths, some
of the white varieties indicating merely 15° of proof spirit, and the
red ones no more than 17½°.
The vintage takes place towards the end of October, and the grapes
are gathered by Chinese laborers, who will each pick his 12 to 14 cwt. of grapes
a day for the wage of a dollar. Light wooden boxes are used for holding
the grapes, which are stripped from their stalks on their arrival at the
press-house, and then partially crushed by a couple of revolving
rollers. An inclined platform beneath receives them, and after the
expressed juice has been run off into cask they are removed to the
press, and the must subsequently extracted is added to that forced out
by the rollers. When white wine is being made from black grapes the
pressure is less continuous, and the must is of course separated at once
from the skins.
The fermentation, which is violent for some ten or
twelve hours, ceases in about a fortnight, providing a temperature of
from 70° to 75° Fahr. is maintained in the vaults. The wine is racked at
the new year, and again before the blending and bottling of it in the
The Californian sparkling wines not only find a market in the eastern
States, but are sent across the Pacific to the Sandwich Islands, Japan,
China, and even to wine-producing Australia, which has not yet succeeded
in producing sparkling wines of its own.
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