Historic Livermore Valley
Livermore Valley is no newcomer to vineyards and winemaking. Those far-ranging Spanish missionaries planted wine grapes here as early as 1760. When California pioneers and settlers moved in, in the early 1800s, they continued the vineyard-planting tradition. Robert Livermore, who gave his name to the valley, was among the first commercial grape growers. Other historic families like the Wetmores, Wentes and Concannons followed suit, and by the end of the 19th century, Livermore Valley was the leading California wine producer. And it was one of the best: a Livermore Valley Sauvignon Blanc, produced by Cresta Blanca Winery, captured the coveted gold medal for excellence at the Paris Exposition of 1889. Sacré bleu!
Innovative, quality-driven wineries, numbering almost 50, thrived in the valley until the onset of Prohibition in 1919. For wineries elsewhere in California, and indeed, throughout the United States, Prohibition was a death sentence to almost all of them. Unable to sell wine, most wineries converted their vineyards to other agricultural uses, and a profound neglect of the art and science of winemaking fell on the land.
By the time Prohibition was repealed, in 1933, the country was in the grips of the Great Depression, and fine wine was hardly among the perceived necessities of life during those years. Following on the heels of the Depression came World War II. While it is true that many American soldiers first tasted good wine in Europe during their tours of duty there, a national interest in fine wine was not really reborn until the 1960s, when a prosperous middle class began traveling to Europe in significant numbers and were there initiated into the pleasures of good food and fine wine. They returned home with the desire to enjoy similar pleasures in the United States. It is not coincidental that Julia Child and Robert Mondavi both began their famous careers in food and wine in the 1960s.