Gastronomic Developments in 1868:
Tobasco sauce is created on Avery Island off the Louisiana coast.
First year sales are 350 bottles at $1 each.
George M. Pullman puts the first railroad dining car into service
with menus that rival the best American hotels.
At Chateau de Lagoy in France scientists find an insect eating the
roots of grape vines. It is identified as phylloxera vastatrix
Wisely, Frenchman Jean Laurent leaves Bordeaux and starts a winery
north of St. Helena in the Napa Valley, where he makes the equivalent
of 8,000 cases his first year. Nine years later he will complete a handsome
stone winery (see photo).
1885—With fine vineyard land, Jean becomes a leading Napa vintner,
producing about 20,000 cases a year.
1938—Following Jean's death and Prohibition, a group of 17 Napa
growers revive the winery, which becomes known as "The Little Co-op."
1978—Bruce Markham, outdoor advertizing magnate, buys
the Little Co-op stone winery, while expanding its Napa
vineyard acreage. The very first Cabernet Sauvignon vintage
(1978) is a startling success, critic Anthony Dias Blue
calling it well balanced and lovely. Soon after he will
call the Chardonnay "stunning."
startup was helped by veteran Italian Inglenook winemaker Al Del Bondio,
who provided not only equipment contacts but also a general manager,
his son, U.C.-Davis grad Bryan Del Bondio, age 22!
1988—Markham wines are great but the sales aren't. Critic James
Laube says the Cabernet is one of the rare "undiscovered" values in
the Napa Valley. That was changed in a hurry. Japan's largest winemaker,
Merican, bought Markham for $8 million, and started pumping nearly twice
that amount into improvements. Bryan Del Bondio
was made president, and sales took off.
1998—Sales have increased 600% in six years. In the U.S.A., sales
of nine different wines are up to 125,000 cases per year. In addition
to all the accolades for the Cabs, in recent years the Chardonnay,
the Merlot and the Sauvignon Blanc have each been awarded Best
of the Year for that grape.
Somewhere, Jean Laurent is smiling.