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West Dry Creek Road

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On the west side of the valley, the earliest winemaker was Georges Bloch, an Alsatian who arrived in San Francisco in 1853 where he became a well-known chef of the Poodle Dog Restaurant. In 1869 he bought 160 acres above West Dry Creek Road, about two miles above the Westside Road intersection. There he planted a 14-acre vineyard of Zinfandel and Mission grapes. Two years later, a partnership was formed with Alexandre Colson, a native of France and son of a vineyardist. The partners planted 40 acres to grapes, built the Dry Creek Winery (Bloch & Colson Winery), the first commercial winery in Dry Creek Valley and the second in Sonoma County, where they were making wine by 1872 (Peninou 1998:162). (A more detailed account of the Bloch & Colson Winery, which burned in 1904, may be found in Heintz 1985:4-7).

In 1879, just north of the junction of West Dry Creek Road and Westside Road, Virginian John Paxton, a wealthy mining engineer from San Francisco, purchased property and began building his Madrona Knoll Ranch (Madrona Manor). In 1887, deciding that winemaking was a good investment, Paxton commenced construction of his stone winery (321 West Dry Creek Road), just north of his large Victorian residence, and planted 90 acres to grapes, primarily Zinfandel. In addition to his own acreage, he evidently also purchased grapes from neighbors. A man of means, he hired Handen W. McIntyre, known for designing the Inglenook and Greystone (Christian Brothers, now the California Culinary Academy) wineries in the Napa Valley to design his new plant Constructed of local stone and built into the hillside, the walls were reportedly four feet wide at the base and two at the top. Grapes were delivered to the top of the facility, and gravity used to move them through the operation. With an original capacity of 75,000 gallons, by 1904 it was reported to have shipped 100,000 to San Francisco buyers. Unfortunately, the 1906 San Francisco earthquake so damaged the walls that the building eventually had to be demolished (Florence 1993:37-38; Peninou 1998:163).

Immediately to the north (435 West Dry Creek Road), in 1885, Bostonian Everett Wise purchased 260 acres adjoining Paxton, paying $23,000 for the property at the peak of the boom. Two years later he was broke, but had vines in the ground. In 1893 the winery reported 20,000 gallons of oak cooperage, and 30,000 gallons of redwood, with 4,000 gallons on hand. Wise died in 1891, and his widow, the former Marion McAllister of San Francisco, hired a manager, but disposed of it after a few years. From 1910 until Prohibition, the winery was operated by William Passalacqua (Peninou 1998:165). Retaining one of the few extant early Dry Creek winery buildings, it is now known as Everett Ridge Winery.

To the north of Paxton and Wise was the property of another prominent San Francisco family, that of Frederick Woodworth. In 1888 Woodworth set out 40 acres of vines, including some choice varieties, and built a stone winery. Vintages averaged 50,000 gallons, and winemaking continued until 1895 when he returned to San Francisco to practice law and sold the land to the Paxtons (Peninou 1988:165-166).

In 1877, up the valley and northwest of Colson, Peter Holst, a Dane from Schleswig-Holstein, purchased 160 acres of hillside land with a small 10-acre vineyard planted by Nathan C. Gilbert, the former owner. Holst expanded the vineyard to 35 acres in 1884 and began producing wine, 30,000 to 50,000 gallons annually. Holst, with assistance from his sons, Charles and George, gradually replanted his original vines with Riesling, Cabernet, and other superior vines with resistant rootstock. The winery operated until Prohibition (Peninou 1998:166).

During the 1880s boom years and 1890s, Bloch, Holst, and the Colsons provided a home for  the grapes of those growers who didn’t have their own wineries. Among these were two Virginians, Daniel W. Prows and his brother Sylvester, with a total of 45 acres in vines. Next north was the 35-acre vineyard of John S. Tucker, a Healdsburg capitalist. The 35 acres planted by George T. Miller, a native of North Carolina, were located just to the north. Continuing up the valley, at the confluence of Wine and Dry creeks, was the Mission and Zinfandel vineyard of Frenchman Nicolas Petitdidier. Up the hillside was the 15-acre vineyard of Amos M. Baker, a Canadian who had settled in the valley in 1866, raising cattle, growing grapes, and serving as justice of the peace (Peninou 1998:166-167).

Louis Jaffe opened his winery in 1888, at the end of the paved portion of Wine Creek Road, producing the valley’s first kosher wines. In 1890 he was reported to have shipped 30,000 gallons of Riesling to New York. Jaffe died shortly thereafter and his winery was closed and sold at auction in 1905 (Florence 1993:38-39).

Five miles above the Baker and Petitididier vineyards, at the end of West Dry Creek Road and traversed by Fall Creek, was the vineyard of Frederick Patronak (also spelled Patronek, Patronack), a native of Croatia. In the mid-1880s, Patronak purchased a portion of the James S. and George Kimsey Bell ranch. The Bells, from Missouri, had begun general farming on their ranch, planting 35 acres to Zinfandel. After his purchase of the property, Patronak built a winery and produced several vintages in excess of 100,000 gallons. In 1902 he shipped 140,000 gallons of wine to Italian Swiss Colony at Asti. He enlarged his property in 1905, purchasing two additional ranches, the winery of Robert Borner, and the 75-acre vineyard and small winery of C.H. Schmittger, a German from Hanover. Patronak then became the largest vintner in Dry Creek Valley, producing 260,000 gallons a year. Patronak later closed the winery and became winemaker for the Cloverdale Wine Company, leaving the Bell vineyard to his son George, who produced wine until Prohibition. Nearby was the vineyard of William B. Whitney, a Healdsburg pharmacist and native of Maine (Florence 1993:41; Peninou 1998:167).

Farther to the north, on Rockpile Road in Upper Dry Creek Valley and now under the waters of Lake Sonoma, was the small vineyard of Svente Parker “S.P.” Hallengren, a native of Sweden. Primarily a sheep and cattle raiser, Parker also planted Zinfandel and some Mataro, and during the 1880s was known as one of Dry Creek’s most distinguished winemakers and viticulturalists. After his death in 1896, his sons Lind and Lloyd enlarged the vineyard to about 110 acres and, in 1905, built a new 10,000 gallon winery, producing wine until Prohibition (Florence 1993:3-33, Peninou 1998:168).

At the northernmost end of the valley, about a mile above Hallengren, Nicolai and Johan Thomsen, natives of Schleswig-Holstein, purchased property, planted a vineyard, and built a winery in the early 1880s. There they made both red and white wines, producing about 30,000 gallons annually, and operating until Prohibition (Peninou 1998:168).