Good Morning Gentle Readers,
By all accounts the swallows returned today to Mission San Juan Capistrano and the town of its namesake, which was once the center of life in Orange County Ca. Few locals know it, but Dana Point, named for Richard Henry Dana, was once called San Juan Point.
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.
Several years ago Zin was designated as the official California Historic Grape and while Zinfandel has a long and storied history, TWC says the Mission Grape is truly California's Heritage Grape.
Aside from the birds of fame and the shadowy, largely unknown tale of the Mission grape, San Juan Capistrano gave birth to the legend of Zorro with The Curse of Capistrano first serialized in 1919 and ultimately leading to a string of feature films.
The legend may have been inspired by the life of William Lamport, an Irish noble who immigrated to then-colonial Mexico and took the name Guillen Lombardo. His sympathies lay with the mestizos and the native indian populace. A supporter of the Mexican independence movement, his name turned up frequently on the King of Spain's enemies list.
Eventually imprisoned as an enemy of the crown, he escaped in a very Zorro-esque manner later spending many evenings leaving his mark and anti-Spain graffiti on the walls of Mexico City's buildings.
A dashing ladies man, his myriad affairs included many married senoritas as well as their daughters. Ultimately he was imprisoned after he was caught bedding the wife of the Spanish Viceroy of Mexico. The sentence? Seven years in prison followed by burning at the stake (Dude, that is harsh). As the bonfire was lit it is said that Senor Lombardo broke free of his bonds and strangled himself before the flames could consume him, thus denying his captors the pleasure of his suffering.
Photo Credits: TWC