by Fred McMillin
for January 8, 1999

 

Winery of the Week

How to Start a Winery


Prologue

"In 1860 Charles Krug married Caroline Bale, daughter of an Englishman."

...Napa Historical Society, Charles Krug Winery

"Caroline Bale, one of the most beautiful women in the Napa Valley, was the daughter of the English physician, Dr. E.T. Bale, landowner and solid citizen."

...Vintage Magazine


The Rest of the Story

Idyllic tale...Charles Krug starts his winery on 20 acres of land from his bride's dowry. How did she come to own the site of the Napa Valley's first commercial winery?

1837—E.T. emerges dripping from the ocean on the shore at Monterey, California. It is not Spielberg's Extra Terrestrial being. Rather, it is the ship's surgeon, E.T. Bale., one of the few survivors of the foundering H.M.S. Harriet.

In those days in the California capital, you could not get a second medical opinion...in fact you could not even get a first, since there was no doctor in the house! Enthusiastically embraced by the community and General Mariano Vallejo, he rapidly became Surgeon General of the Mexican Army and groom of General Vallejo's niece, Maria Soberanes. But there's a darker side. Hold on tight.

Wine Press
The press Charles Krug used to make Napa Valley's first commerical wines, a cider press loaned to him by the "Father of California Viticulture, Count Agoston Haraszthy".
A peer notices that Dr. Bale "takes doses much different from what he prescribes." His bar bills and falsehoods became the talk of the town, leading to his spending eight days in the "juzgado." The scene shifts to Sonoma. Captain Salvador Vallejo is upset by Dr. Bale calling him a liar and has the physician publically flogged. Bale organized a posse, rode into town, and took two shots at Salvador, one grazing his chest. Bale was back in jail! Wounding of his brother was too much for General Vallejo. He banished Bale to the 17,700-acre Napa land grant he had given E.T. earlier; Maria and their daughter went along. The discovery of gold led Dr. Bale to the Sierra Foothills. He caught a fever and died. He was 38.

The Widow Bale invited a young Sonoma winemaker to help around the ranch. He married Caroline the day after Christmas in 1860, a month after the U.S.A. had elected a new president, Abraham Lincoln. The next year he starts the Krug winery. The legendary Count Harazthy has loaned him a small cider press, so Charles uses mechanical crushing for his pioneering wines. The press still is displayed at the winery (see photo).

If you want to see how the mechanical presses are doing at the Krug Winery today, try the '96 Reserve Sangiovese...genuinely pleasing with veal, ham, smoked turkey...(707) 967-2200...$16.

 
About the Writer

Fred McMillin, a veteran wine writer, has taught wine history for 30 years on three continents. He currently teaches wine courses at San Francisco State and San Francisco City College. In 1995, the Academy of Wine Communications honored Fred with one of only 22 Certificates of Commendation awarded to American wine writers.

 

WineDay Annex

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Welcome to WineDay, the electronic Gourmet Guide's daily update. Monday through Thursday, WineDay presents a wine profile. Then on Fridays we present the Winery of the Week to take you through the weekend.

 

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