Friday, June 18, 2010

True Wine Lover 9.

More often than not when meeting people for the first time, in a wine context, folks act a little surprised when I open my mouth and a still rather strong Liverpool accent spews forth (although most Americans wouldn't recognise it as such.) Their doubting looks often betray the fact that they are somewhat sceptical as to how on earth an Englishwoman could possibly know anything about wine. Why not, when everyone else you meet in the course of an average Napa Valley day is a self-proclaimed wine expert? I sometimes wonder, would my viticulture/oenology knowledge carry more weight if I delivered it with a French, Italian or, God forbid, German accent?
Considered by many (but not by me) to be the father of Napa Valley wine, Charles Krug is oftentimes credited with the notable distinction, in Napa wine-lore, of making the first commercial wine (and building the first commercial winery.) This is simply not true: the real star of the birth of the Napa Valley wine industry was, fee-fi-fo-fum...an Englishman!
Born in Lincolnshire in 1797, after much traveling around the United States John M. Patchett was 53 years old when he arrived in Napa in 1850. He proceeded to purchase a 100 acre parcel that became known as 'Patchett's Addition' and planted a vineyard of Mission grapes - the grape variety first brought to California by Franciscan monks. In 1857, Patchett harvested and crushed enough grapes to produce 6 barrels of wine which he then sold for $2 per gallon, thus becoming the first commercial winemaker ever in the Napa Valley. Then in 1859, he solidified his position into Napa wine-history by building the first commercial winery in the Valley, a 33' x 50' stone structure located in what is now downtown Napa. German immigrant Krug began his oenological journey in Napa by making wine at Patchett's winery, eventually founding his own in 1861.
Patchett, a brewer by trade, was by the mid 1860s considered to be the preeminent vintner in the entire Napa Valley. He continued to make wine until 1870, when at age 73 he sold his business and retired. John M. Patchett passed away in 1876 and is buried in Tulocay Cemetery. This is not just some fairytale, it is historical fact. It could only possibly have been made better if Mr. Patchett had hailed from Liverpool....all the best wine experts do don't they?
Go England!

11 comments:

Do Bianchi said...

It's funny to hear that you perceive such racial profiling! seriously, growing up in California it seemed to me that the English knew more about wine than the French and in my adult life, I must say that some of the greatest palates I've ever met were British... When I first moved to NYC, I remember working on concealing my California dude speak because I was convinced that people thought I was stupid!

Do Bianchi said...

o, and yes! btw, more juicy historical tidbits about Napa origins please! :-)

Vinogirl said...

I know! Considering we single-handedly popularised Champagne and invented Claret...nudge, nudge, wink, wink! And for goodness sake, who doesn't love Hugh Johnson? Go figure!

Thud said...

Never underestimate the ingenuity of a thirsty Englishman....oh and whats that on his grave?...there will be a test.

Vinogirl said...

Am I never to be forgiven for testing my nieces and nephews on obscure factoids?

Affer said...

Isn't it now accepted that, apart from drinking loads of the stuff, the Brits actually invented the 'methode champenoise'?

Christopher Merret, je pense.

Vinogirl said...

Affer, God I wish I had your brain...Mr. Merrett did indeed pretty much invent 'dosage'...before that the French just considered it an accident of Mother Nature!

義珊 said...

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Thomas said...

Wish I could read Oriental writing...

In any case, let us not forget that the British also had a major hand in establishing the Port and Sherry industries. Plus, if it wasn't for the British appetite for alcohol (and its many kingly relationships to both Germany and France) those two countries would have had to struggle to find a close to better market in the Middle Ages and throughout the Enlightenment period.

Never sell the British short when it comes to alcohol consumption and its commercial possibilities...

In New York, the initial drivers were mostly German, but without the investment made by a few British real estate moguls after the American Revolution, we would not have had the Pulteney Estate on which the first grapevines were planted that led to commercial wine success as early as 1830.

Lord Roby said...

I thought it was the Jocks who were responsible for the rise in popularity of claret.And just what temperature is room temperature? In downtown Edinburgh the average annual temperature is 8.2 degrees(celsius) in a good year! Pass the wine mittens Vinogirl!!!

Vinogirl said...

Thomas: and...
http://vinsanity-vino.blogspot.com/2009/08/true-wine-lover-7.html

Lord Roby: Only if the Plantagenets were Scottish...
Wine mittens? I think I could market them!