Wednesday, December 19, 2012

California Wine Association Records, 1894-1936

Lackman & Jacobi business card, circa 1885, California Business Ephemera Collection.

With our vast viticultural districts and varied regional climates, California is known as an exceptional place to grow wine. Lesser known, however, is that the history of the state’s early wine production is largely connected to the history of the California Wine Association (1894-1936). With this in mind, the California Historical Society is pleased to announce that the California Wine Association records have been reprocessed with a finding aid available on the Online Archive of California.

The 1890s were a turning point for viticulture in California. The State’s wine industry was in a seemingly perilous position. California’s 200,000 acres of vineyard were overproductive, the country was in the middle of a depression, and California wines were sold cheaply without much regard to quality. In 1894, in an attempt to secure favorable options from grape growers and winemakers, and to raise prices and stimulate trade, seven leading wine firms joined together to form the California Wine Association. Their action, however, had an unintended consequence: winegrowers formed their own interest groups, which, in turn, led to the wine wars of the 1890s. In order to successfully negotiate grape and wine prices, the two factions came to agree upon standards for terms such as “hill grapes” and “valley grapes,” and stabilized the quality of California wine in the process. The C.W.A. would eventually control over eighty percent of wine manufactured in the State.

The California Wine Association records chronicle this fascinating history. Bound volumes of meeting minutes contain contract negotiations and correspondence between growers and firms, and document internal conflicts within the Association, responses to Prohibition, and, finally, the litigious dissolution of the Association itself.

The new guide to the collection can be found on the Online Archive of California at

Megan Hickey Nespeco 
Library Volunteer
Post a Comment