by Fred McMillin
for May 20, 1999

 

One For The Mayor


Prologue

In Sonoma County, on former Berkeley mayor Wallace Johnson's 800-acre Redwood Ranch, is his revolutionary Field Stone Winery...What is revolutionary is the lack of either a grape crusher or grape press in the winery.

...Leon Adams, The Wines of America, 2nd Edition


Wallace Johnson Milestones

The Johnson family moved from Sweden to Iowa, where Wallace was born.

He attended Cal Tech and graduated in mechanical engineering.

Highly creative, the future mayor of Berkeley generated a fortune with his Upright Company's portable aluminum scaffolding equipment.

1956—Having accumulated some small change, Johnson buys a magnificent cattle ranch in the Alexander Valley.

1965—Observing that grapes were one of the few California crops not picked mechanically, he invented the Upright Mechanical Grape Harvester. Soon they were picking grapes in nine countries both north and south of the equator. Meanwhile, he had planted his own 130-acre vineyard, and was still thinking.

Field Stone Winery 1977—He completes his winery, and has invented a field crusher and press for white wine grapes. He explains that the juice reaches the winery with all of its fresh grape fragrance, that otherwise is quickly lost.

The next challenge was to improve the harvesting of red-wine grapes. How did it turn out? The creative Wallace Johnson was driving home in 1979 when he suffered a massive stroke, and died at age 66. The wine industry had lost a mechanical genius.

His daughter and son-in-law, Katrina and John Staten, sadly took over the operation, and tonight I toast Wallace with their most distinctive wine, which my panel just voted Best of Tasting. Here 'tis.


Wine of the Day

1995 Field Stone Reserve Petite Sirah
Field Stone Winery & Vineyard, Healdsburg, CA
The Vines—They were planted on the property in eighteen ninety four, over 100 years ago.
Rating—Critic Remington Norman, author of Rhone Renaissance, says Field Stone's is one of the finest Petites produced. Master of Wine Ronn Wiegand calls them superstars. They are rich and full-bodied. My picky panel just gave the '95 an EXCELLENT.
Contact—Dr. Roger Hull, (800) 54-GRAPE, FAX (707) 433-2231
Cost—$20 range.


Postscript

About the name, Wallace excavated a tunnel to contain his winery. In the process they encountered many field stones which have been incorporated into the entrance facade (see sketch). Hence, the name Field Stone.

Note:—For more about the winery, see the April 22, 1998 WineDay titled, " It Took 20 Years."

 
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.

 
 

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