The material is presented “as is” from the first draft of the manuscript that became the book Ambitious Brew. In a few places I added one or two words in brackets — [like this] — for clarification. The excerpt is long, so I’m breaking itinto manageable bits and posting those bits over the next few days.
Where food went, drink followed.
Since the end of prohibition, the nation’s wine had consisted of cheap, generic jug drinks that leaned toward the sweet. That changed during the sixties, in part because of people like Robert Mondavi, a member of an long-established California wine-making family. He first visited Europe in 1962 where he tasted explored vineyards and local vintages and experienced a “revelation” about what wines could be. (*12) In early 1966, Mondavi opened his own winery with the goal of creating excellent but affordable wines and teaching Americans that wine could and should be part of a quality life.
He was not alone. In the second half of the sixties, dozens of small wineries opened in the United States, the first wave of what would become a flood of “boutique” wineries in the 1970s. The revolution in wine also followed another, less conventional route: tens of thousands of Americans–as many as 200,000 by 1969–began making their own wines at home.
Patrick Baker was one of them. Baker, a chemist by trade, fell into the hobby after he planted grapevines as a way to conceal a fence he’d built in his backyard. Grapes. Chemistry. Homemade wine. (*13) At first he ordered supplies from shops in England and from the American agent of a British company located in Minneapolis, but in the late sixties, he began operating a mail order supply business out of his basement.
Stanley Anderson cashed in, too. Anderson, a Canadian, owned Wine-Art Sales, a chain of homebrew supply stores.He licensed his first American shop in 1969. By late 1970, there were thirty Wine-Art stores in the U. S., six of them in California and seven in New York, and the rest scattered more or less randomly from coast to coast: two each in Washington, Oregon, and Iowa, the rest scattered from Colorado and Oklahoma to Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, and Georgia.
*12: Paul Lukacs, American Vintage: The Rise of American Wine (New York: Houghton Mifflin, 2000), p. 149.
*13: Information about Patrick Baker from interview with Maureen Ogle, March 31, 2005.