Good Morning Gentle Readers,
On All Saints Day 1776 Mission San Juan Capistrano was founded for the second and final time by Fr Serra. It is also instructive to note that although the Portola expedition named the area after Mary Magdalene, the name that stuck was Arroyo de la Quema and Cañada del Incendio and the Anglicized: Wildfire Hollow***.
Of singular importance, Mission San Juan Capistrano represents the dawn of California's wine culture. The first vineyards in Alta California were planted here.
Mission Grapes were crushed in this adobe vat by young Juaneno (Acagchemem) Indian men whose legs and feet were carefully washed beforehand and who wore freshly laundered clothing. Once crushed, the juice flowed into an adobe vat (tank?) in an adjacent room for fermentation.
Anchored off San Juan Capistrano in 1825, Captain John Hall recorded in the ship's log that.....
Good wine can be procured from the Friars, both white wine and red, the latter being of fine flavor.
Mission grapes (Criolla) were of uncertain origin, but recent DNA testing has linked the Mission grape to the Listan Prieta grape of Castile Spain, which is now largely extinct as a result of phylloxera outbreaks of the 19th century.
The Padres made both red and white wine. Keep in mind that red wine is red because the skins are left to ferment which produces both the red color and many of the flavors associated with red wine. Clearest example of that is Champagne, a white sparkling wine, most often made from red Pinot Noir grapes. You know, Miles fave. The boys in the wool smocks and Huarache Sandals produced dry wines, sweet wines (bleahhhhh!), brandy, and a fortified dessert wine called Angelica.
In the end, although the Mission grapevine is a heavy producer, by the mid-1800's it was supplanted by Zinfandel, a much better wine grape, which some consider native to California (it isn't).
A couple of years ago there was a movement afoot to designate Zin as the official California Historic Grape or something like that. Didn't go over with the Cabernet set in Napa too well. While Zinfandel has a long and storied history, TWC says, the Mission Grape is truly California's Heritage Grape.
***Sidebar: TWC drove on the 241 through the fire zone yesterday. I'm already cynical but I was still shocked to see thirteen miles of blackened hillsides, crispy avocado orchards where a third to half the trees were dead, and scorched earth where the fire was miraculously halted at cinder block walls separating condo and commercial developments from open land.
The 241 is six freeway lanes with a median the length of a football field. The Devil Winds blew the holocaust across it like it was the sidewalk in front of your house.
Ruins of the Great Stone Church
TWC 🍷Photo Credit (unless otherwise noted): ©TWC, all rights reserved