On All Saints Day 1776 Mission San Juan Capistrano was founded for the second and final time by Father Junipero Serra. Of singular importance, Mission San Juan Capistrano represents the dawn of California's wine culture. It wasn't Napa, Lodi, or Cucamonga that witnessed the first cultivation of the vine in Alta California.
Adobe Crushing Vat
Mission Grapes were crushed in the above 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 were a versatile bunch and 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 insists that the Mission Grape truly is California's Heritage Grape.
Fountain & Gardens at Mission San Juan Capistrano
Ruins of the Great Stone Church
TWC 🍷Photo Credit (unless otherwise noted): ©TWC, all rights reserved