100 Years of Covering the Wine Industry

As the North American wine industry grew and evolved, so did Wines & Vines

by Tina Vierra
The cover of the first edition of Wines & Vines magazine, which at that time in 1919 was called California Grape Grower.

When Horatio P. Stoll debuted his California Grape Grower in 1919 on Geary Street in San Francisco, Prohibition loomed. On the first page of that first issue, grapegrowers were urged, “Don’t dig up your vines! A permanent market must be developed for every wine grape grown in California!” A detailed Summary of the National Prohibition Enforcement Law, effective Jan. 16, 1920, was published.

Stoll, who had worked for the Wine and Wool Register paper, which folded under Prohibition, described the formation of an association of grapegrowers to keep the grape industry alive. E.M. Sheehan of the State Viticultural Board talked up alternative uses for the 400,000 tons of grapes produced annually in California. By June 1920, he would be president of the new 350-member Grape Growers Exchange.

Farming advice for vineyard issues in the 1920s came from the University Farm at Davis, Calif., and other experts and ran side by side with articles and homemaker recipes for how to make juices, sodas, jellies and compotes. WearEver Company advertised aluminum steam-jacketed kettles sold to Welch’s and others to make their grape juices. Asti’s Italian Swiss Colony advertised pasteurized and frozen grapes, juices and concentrates, while Stoll and his writers told growers how to move their grapes to markets out of state and overseas by rail and sea.

Celebrating a Century

In 2019, Wines & Vines celebrates its 100th year of publication. This article is part of a commemorative section of a Collector’s Edition of the magazine that will be released in January to celebrate the centennial year.



By 1930, the pages of California Grape Grower showed the frustration of an industry that hoped Prohibition would be short-lived, with cartoons mocking Prohibition enforcement commissioners as the new criminals. The FDR administration passed the Farm Relief Act, and the CGG pages advised and cautioned growers on how to make use of these new government assistance funds.

In Tulare County, a new grapevine decline problem was noted by a man named Newton B. Pierce and, as it spread, was given the name “California vine disease.” The condition would later be renamed Pierce’s disease.

At last, in 1933, Prohibition was repealed, and the pages of California Grape Grower rang with the good news. In 1935, Stoll renamed the publication Wines & Vines. The Golden Gate International Exposition at Treasure Island hosted the largest display of vintners since 1915, featuring such notable producers as L.M. Martini, Wente, Korbel, Cribari, Beaulieu, Beringer and Inglenook.

Grape prices rose to $19.75 per ton, going up 33% per year in the 1930s as wine production rose once more. The Wine Institute was founded in 1934 to advocate for the wine industry, and the Wine Advisory Board launched in 1939 to further promote the industry. The first directory of the grape and wine industry appeared in December issues of Wines & Vines starting in 1938, and statistical tracking of the industry became more detailed and frequent in the magazine’s reporting.

Science came to winemaking in the 1930s and 1940s and stayed for good. Maynard Amerine at the University of California, Davis began writing for Wines & Vines on topics such as distillation, color extraction and sterile filtration. Andre Tchelistcheff (then a research chemist at Napa Valley Research Laboratory) and Bard Suverkrop of Beaulieu Vineyard wrote a definitive primer for readers on the do’s and don’ts of malolactic fermentation.

On the farm side, viticulture became less anecdotal and more scientifically methodical. By the 1940s, A.J. Winkler was identifying new grape varieties, educating readers about soils, climate and regional variation and the use and effects of fertilizers. Harold P. Olmo was working on breeding programs and launching Ruby Cabernet, Calzin and other strong breed crosses. Phylloxera was emerging, and breeders were working on nematode-resistant stocks.

During the war years, wine production dipped by half as the government required grapes to be dried for raisins and shipped to feed troops. Wines & Vines reported how some producers were bringing base material such as molasses into their empty production facilities to produce any alcohol beverage they could manage to sell.

1950s and 1960s
In 1950, the American Society of Enologists (ASE and today the ASEV) was founded, with Charles Holden of Peralta Winery elected president and Wines & Vines technical editor Walter Richert as its first secretary and treasurer. Louis R. Gomberg, attorney and the industry’s first full-time statistician and market analyst, wrote his first column in the magazine.

Olmo and UC Davis released new grape varieties like Rubired, Royalty, Flora and Helena and planned for a range of Muscats next. Growers and researchers were fighting Drosophila. The Wine Advisory Board was fueling the postwar boom with articles and advertising promoting the health benefits of wine, recapped in 1959 for Wines & Vines by Dr. Milton Silverman. The Medical Friends of Wine studies found that wine was full of vitamins, a nice liver and kidney stimulant, aided insulin in the control of diabetes and was full of “unknown compounds requiring further study” that seemed to aid in tissue repair and convalescence.

By the late 1950s, wine production was continuing its growth, with 145 million gallons on the market (compared to wartime lows of 50 million gallons), though dessert wines were giving way to drier table wines, and states other than California were entering the market. On its 50th anniversary in 1969, longtime editor and publisher Irving Marcus sold Wines & Vines to editor

Philip Hiaring, and the Hiaring family would produce the magazine for the next 33 years.
Some frequent subjects of coverage included harvest procedures like the use of 2-ton containers to deliver to crush pads, quality inspection, sugar testing, filtration and sanitation practices from many leading wineries.

The 1970s were boom years for wine, and the notion of “wine tourism” began to take hold. The Wine Advisory Board was disbanded in 1975, and producers wondered how to market their wines without that guiding force. Leon Adams published his groundbreaking book “The Wines of America” in 1973 and wrote in the magazine about “changing the language of wine.”

In 1976, the now-famous Judgment of Paris tasting took place, but at Wines & Vines the impact didn’t show until a few paragraphs from George Taber appeared in Time magazine, and wine sales statistics began to jingle some bells a year or two later.

That year, the magazine’s main focus was Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms regulation disputes and the disputes between the United Farm Workers, led by Cesar Chavez, and E. & J. Gallo Winery. The total grape harvest reached 4.74 million tons in 1979. During these years, many reports focused on the in- crease of mechanical harvesting in Australia and North America, and whether it affected wine quality.

In the winery, Wines & Vines covered a lot of ground in the 1970s. Leon Peters of Valley Foundry (founded in the 1880s and seen in the pages of the magazine every year of its publication) said that the biggest moves forward in that decade were stainless steel tanks, screw conveyors and better sanitary practices. The magazine’s monthly Technical section covered concrete floors, better pipes and drains, wastewater systems and other fittings of modern winery facilities.

Vincent Petrucci, a gifted teacher at then-Fresno State College since 1948, obtained funding in 1974 (the majority of it from Gallo, Valley Foundry and the Petrucci family), broke ground in 1977 and opened the Fresno State University Viticulture Research Center and Library in 1979. He would lead as director there until 1994.

The 1980s were a quieter decade. Grape prices rose to $2,000 per ton from the most desirable vineyards, and growers were focused on practices such as deficit irrigation and new drip systems. In the winery, the magazine covered oxygen scavengers in the packaging process, leading to study and adjustment in bottling practices. Yeast strain development multiplied, and winemakers enthusiastically tried new ones. Cellar managers upgraded processing equipment and piping systems. Tasting rooms opened in large numbers, and winery sales teams tried to figure out how to monetize them.

From 1987 to 1994, phylloxera dominated the attention of vineyard managers, and it showed in the pages of the magazine. Replanting from the insufficiently resistant AxR1 rootstocks to new ones that could hold off the new Type B strain was wide- spread. Rhonda Smith — who remains the University of California advisor in Sonoma County, Calif. — wrote a 1994 recap that ended with the bright side. “The silver lining to all of this replanting,” she wrote, “is that it has led to the use of new and better trellis systems, more thoughtful vine orientation and architecture and planting densities.”

In 1994, the legendary Andre? Tchelistcheff died, and Petrucci retired as head of the viticulture and enology program he helped build at Fresno State.

Wine marketers in the 1990s pondered how to bring aboard the new “Generation X” as consumers. Wineries such as Wente broke ground in marketing to China. The Wine Institute stepped up its lobbying efforts in Washington, D.C., with President John Deluca and colleagues fighting tax increases on wine that the Clinton administration wanted to use to fund its planned programs. I joined Wines & Vines in the early 1990s, as did our current president and publisher, Chet Klingensmith.

Winemaker Richard G. “Dick” Peterson (the father of critically acclaimed winemaker Heidi Peterson Barrett), began a regular column answering winemaking questions with a very frank, highly informative and often funny style. Larry Walker, who had a great eye for talent, wrote several of the magazine’s feature profiles on the most talented up-and-coming or well-established winemakers; Richard Paul Hinkle and Dan Berger offered industry outlooks; and Al Cribari, whose family wine company was featured in some of Wines & Vines’ earliest is- sues, looked back each month at a slice of wine industry history.

In 2002, Philip E. Hiaring (son of Philip Hiaring and editor for many years) died, and the family sold the publication to Wine Communications Group. Correspondents in Europe and Asia joined the staff as overseas markets for wine expanded. The company also acquired and incorporated the publication Wine East, headed by Linda Jones McKee and Hudson Cattell, which was focused on the grape and wine industry east of the Rockies.

Global warming began to appear in the pages of Wines & Vines, and writers began to cover such topics as sustainable and organic growing techniques, climate shifts, biodiesel, solar, recycling and lightweight glass. Legal skirmishes over appellations and labeling continued with government agencies. The word “millennials” entered the marketing lexicon.

In 2004, with the resources brought by Wine Communications Group, the company launched the Wines Vines Analytics division, hiring researchers and a team to digitize the industry data that had been part of the magazine’s coverage for decades. When the recession hit in 2008, Jim Gordon (coming from previous posts at Wine Spectator and other publications) was editor and oversaw coverage of industrywide worry about sales declines and the rise of bulk and less expensive wines from high-volume producers. When the economic recovery began to unfold, consumption began to rise again, and the industry bounced back.

In 2013, Don Neel sold his publication of 30 years, Practical Winery & Vineyard, to Wine Communications Group and came aboard to publish his technical content inside Wines & Vines.

The Gomberg-Fredrikson Reports joined the family of publications in 2016. Started by Lou Gomberg back in 1948, continued with Jon and Eileen Fredrikson for more than 30 years, the leading statistical reports added a wealth of information about pricing and wine sales into wholesale channels to our Wines Vines Analytics portfolio.

In August 2018, Wine Communications Group announced Wines & Vines would merge into the pages of Wine Business Monthly, while the Wines Vines Analytics division would launch a new digital publication called Wine Analytics Report. The new report will feature industry data, news and commentary while Wines Vines Analytics and Gomberg-Fredrikson will expand and focus on database marketing services, pricing analysis and distributor marketing services.

Tina Vierra is the associate publisher of Wines & Vines magazine.  

Posted on 12.29.2018 - 23:25:47 PST
Well done Wines and Vines, for recording history as it happened in the American grape and wine sector. Well written Tina.

Richard Smart

Posted on 12.27.2018 - 15:53:32 PST
Thanks Tina-
Well done. Lots of memories and a lot of future left...
Doug Manning

Posted on 12.28.2018 - 10:44:14 PST
Thanks for this great synopsis, Tina.

Cliff Ohmart