by Jan Moran
During my research visit to Napa Valley for The Winemakers, I heard some amazing stories about how winery owners survived Prohibition. Some entrepreneurial vintners secured contracts to supply sacramental wine to religious orders, while others produced wine for medicinal purpose. Still others produced grapes and sold those to families to make wine at home in small quantities, which was legal.
Not surprisingly, it’s said that quite a few people either found religion or became ill during this time. Wine was often prescribed for heart disease, anemia, high blood pressure, tuberculosis, pneumonia, and even old age.
Some physicians believed wine aided digestion and increased energy levels. The usual dose was one-ounce every two to three hours for adults; for children, the dose was halved.
All in the Name of Research
In order to capture the flavor of Napa and the wine-making industry for The Winemakers, I cruised up the coast of California and made the rounds in Napa Valley. I stopped in the Stags Leap district, then wound up to Mount Veeder, Mount Howell, and St. Helena, reveling in the scenic rows of vineyards that surrounded me.
High on a mountain top I visited with old school friends MaryAnn and Larry Tsai, co-founders of the highly collected Moone-Tsai wines, which are blended by Philippe Melka from France. A true artist, he is ranked in the top ten winemakers world-wide.
Later, I had the pleasure of meeting and talking with one of the industry’s legends, Mike Grgich, Grgich Hills co-founder. After we spoke at length, he invited me to a beautiful winemaker’s dinner at the Meritage Resort to celebrate his ninetieth birthday. In 1976, Mike was awarded top honors for his Chateau Montelena Chardonnay at the Paris Tasting, which was quite an extraordinary feat for a California vintner. (Pour a glass and watch the movie Bottle Shock.) This also served as inspiration for The Winemakers.
Throughout the next week, I had incredible visits at the Hess Collection, Grgich Hills, Chimney Rock, and Caldwell Vineyards, among others, and heard quite a few fascinating stories at each stop.
The Roaring Twenties
During my visit to Napa, one vintner recalled a Prohibition-era story about a milk truck that made regular stops at vineyards, then delivered it’s ‘milk’ to select clients in San Francisco.
Indeed, the Roaring Twenties kept on roaring. In fact, when I lived in Beverly Hills, it was common to find homes in the area with basements that had once been private speak-easies.
So tonight, when you pour that glass of wine, raise your glass to those vintners and entrepreneurs who carried on the industry. And I hope you enjoy reading The Winemakers.
Hello, new friends! I’m Jan, and I write sweeping 20th century historical novels with strong, stylish, resilient heroines set in 1920s to 1950s in places such as Paris and Tuscany (The Winemakers and Scent of Triumph). I also write a fun contemporary series called Love, California about four best friends; it’s like Sex and the City on the west coast, with smart women, great clothes, and travel to Spain, Ireland, and France.
A few of my favorite things include a good cup of coffee, dark chocolate, traveling anywhere, and a warm sunny beach. I’m originally from Austin, Texas, and a trace of a drawl still survives to this day, although I have lived in Southern California with my family for years. I’m passionate about ideas, writing, and entrepreneurship, which is why my creative-at-heart characters always seem to be starting or running their own business. History fascinates me, as does the perfect cheesecake. I love to hear from readers, and welcome your comments. You can often find me on social media (when I really ought to be writing). Try looking on Twitter @janmoran, or come say hello on my blog, which you can find on www.janmoran.com. Cheers, and happy reading!