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"Sullivan Fun"

  by Fred McMillin



"Twenty years ago my father asked me for the title of an encylopedic handbook [of California wine] . Suprised to hear that there was no such book available, he has been encouraging me ever since to produce one...Based on 30 years of research, it took three years to write it."

...Charles L. Sullivan, A Companion to California Wine, An Encyclopedia of Wine and Winemaking from the Mission Period to the Present.



FIRE IN THE LAB!—The University of California, Berkeley, was founded in Oakland in 1868 and moved to Berkeley five years later. Its Agriculture Department became very critical of many of the commercial California wines, leading to a running battle with the vintners' STATE VITICULTURAL COMMISSION. The University won and in 1895 the legislature abolished the Commission, giving its functions to the school. Two years later the wine lab was destroyed by fire, and Berkeley soon dropped its wine work.(There's more to the story.)

Steele FIRE IN THE BELLY!—If nominations were taken for California's greatest winemaker since the 1970s, Jedediah Tecumseh Steele (his father was a historian) would be in the first rank. He is specifically a master with Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Zinfandel.

BONDED BUNGLING—There are over 5,000 bonded U.S.A. wineries. Naturally, Bonded Winery #20 went into business before Bonded #200. WHOA! Not necessarily. Here's the deal. Before Prohibition the practice started of requiring wineries to post bond to make sure they would pay the taxes due the federal government for wine produced. Each winery was assigned a number. Then, during Prohibition (1920-1933) not only were wineries destroyed, but the bonding records went down the tubes, too. After Prohibition, wineries were supposed to be able to claim their old numbers. However, with no reliable records, a number of the more recent wineries mysteriously acquired VERY LOW numbers.



If I could own but one book about California wine, this would be it.



Back to that U. Of Cal. laboratory fire in 1897, some 10 years later a skilled artist from the Midwest was invited to become head of the Art Department. He visited the campus and turned down the offer because he felt conditions were a bit robust for his wife and daughter. Our home is full of his art, since the artist was my grandfather and his daughter was my mother.


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