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by Fred McMillin
The Father of the Brides!
June 1, 1863
It happened exactly 137 years ago today. For the California wine scene, this was the wedding of the century. The father of the brides was Sonoma's first commercial winemaker and had provided the first wine vines ever planted in the Napa Valley. The father of the grooms owned the largest vineyard in California and had one of those sons trained to make champagne. Needless to say, bubbly was served at the reception after the double wedding. Two daughters of the most powerful man in northern California, General Mariano Vallejo, had married two sons of the flamboyant vintner Count Agoston Haraszthy. About the brides...
Natalia Veneranda Vallejo (Mrs. Attila Haraszthy)
In view of General Vallejo's stature, Natalia had no shortage of suitors. For example, a direct descendant of Daniel Boone had made a fortune in the gold mines and General Vallejo indicated he would not object to having a rich son-in-law. After meeting the Kentucky backwoodsman, she wrote her father:
To make a long story short, the successful suitor, Attila Haraszthy kissed her hand instead of pumping it...After the marriage, their first home was in one of her father-in-law's vineyards. Her stationery bore the home's name, "Champagne."
Jovita Francisca Vallejo (Mrs. Arpad Haraszthy)
Champagne played an even more important role in Jovita's marriage. Arpad had spent four years in France, furthering his civil engineering education and then study Champagne production in Epernay. Both his dad and his new father-in-law encouraged his subsequent work with California bubbly. Author Madie Emparan tells us, "General Vallejo had been receiving prizes for his [still] wines and champagne, but, in 1863, in deference to his new son-in-law, he did not enter his champagne in the fairs." So, Arpad exhibited what would later be named Eclipse and won First Prize.
Eclipse was a famous 18th-century race horse, whose success he hoped to emulate, and did. He became the state's first consistently-successful fizz producer. One of his secrets involved dissolving a small amount of rock-candy in aged white wine to add to his winner; he had seen the technique in France. Thus, from France we get our...
Champagne of the Day
This is the best bubbly my tasters have sipped so far this year...whatta gift!
Forensic anthropologist Dr. Linus Hollis: "Toast, aged bouquet, rich."
About Arpad's Eclipse sparkler, he even took some to his sister, Ida, when she gave birth to twin sons in San Francisco. She was lucky to be there. Some two decades earlier, she was riding in an oxcart through hostile Indian territory toward California. A Comanche chief was so taken by the beautiful 6-year-old that he offered Col. Haraszthy four squaws and two ponies for the child. The Count must have used all the diplomacy he had learned in Hungary, because, without giving up Ida, he was allowed to creak on west. Whew!
This page created June 2000