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Depression & Slumber

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During the 1930s Depression, prunes continued to be the major crop in the valley, but no one got rich. After 1933, the wineries continued to produce generic wines, sold in bulk. The wines were basically all the same, a red and a white, usually blended from the field crops. Some wineries, however, began selling directly to customers, who filled their containers on site, from the barrel, or in wine shops and restaurants in San Francisco.

Nevertheless, by 1937, four new wineries had been started: Frank Bella, Norton & Buchignani, E. Oneto, and Alberto Rafanelli, Italians all. Buchignani evidently started his 100,000-gallon winery about 1933, selling to the Pellingrini Bros. in San Francisco,  but closed in 1940 (8312 Dry Creek Road). The Oneto Winery was located at 970 West Dry Creek Road, where Emilia and Ernesto had 30 acres of grapes, 20 in Zinfandel and 10 in Sauvignon Vert, selling primarily in the Bay Area.

Alberto Rafanelli opened his winery about 1935 next to Healdsburg High School, producing California Claret, a generic name for the standard blend of Zinfandel, Carignane, and Petite Sirah. His white, a Chablis, consisted of French Colombard, Burger, and Golden Chasselas. His wines were all sold in bulk until the late 1940s, when he began selling in gallon jugs. After the high school expansion took the winery, his son Americo reopened the winery in 1972 at 4685 West Dry Creek Road.

At the cessation of hostilities after World War II, during which period little activity ensued in the wine industry, only four of the 10 wineries operating before the war were operating: Frei Bros., Pedroncelli, Healdsburg Wine Co., and Rafanelli, which closed in 1952 (Florence 1993:64-66), but has recently reopened.

As stated by wine historian William Heintz in his study of the Zinfandel grape in Dry Creek Valley, while discussing the difficulty of locating anecdotal material on raising the grape:

One of the reasons for this conclusion is that Dry Creek farmers and vineyardists prior to Prohibition, even prior to the 1950s, were quiet, rural gentlemen with few concerns beyond raising their families and making a reasonable living off the land. Only the unusual individual, with a personal achievement drive and ego above average, would seek publicity for his grapes or wine quality (Heintz 1985:55).

In the valley only John Paxton, Davenport Cozzens, and Charles Thomsen sought some notoriety, although D.D. Phillips was elected President of the United Vineyard Proprietors Company in 1876 (Heintz 1985:56).