Just like with people, the story of every vineyard is unique. From selecting the perfect location to cultivating heritage vines, each story is punctuated with the distinct markers of taste offered by the glass, bottle or case. At Almaden, we take pride in the singular heritage of our vines, as well as the cultivation and techniques we’ve used to create our memorable wines over the last 158 years.
Almaden’s rich history spans nearly 16 decades. In 1852, founder Etienne Theé planted California’s first vineyards with vines from his home in France, naming it Almaden Vineyards after a local mine in the Los Gatos area. We are proud to say that California’s winemaking began here, and since then, we’ve become one of the leading winemakers in the country.
Over the first century of our history, we perfected our winemaking style, surviving through the Prohibition years of the 1920s to create the first blush wine in 1958. Called White Grenache Rosé, this blush quickly became the first popular pink wine in the United States. That same year, Almaden successfully continued its endeavors to develop the largest varietal wine vineyard in the world in Paicines, California.
Theé’s son-in-law, Charles Le Franc, took control of the winery in 1857. LeFranc was a winemaker inspired by the traditional methods of the Old World, drawing lessons and inspiration from European winemakers. Only the finest cuttings from Europe were planted under his watch, resulting in a fine product that attracted many to the superb taste of Almaden wines.
Determined to keep the vineyards in the family, LeFranc bestowed the secrets of winemaking upon his children. Eventually the winery was handed over to his son-in-law, Paul Masson, who had married Louise LeFranc. Masson kept the winery going through Prohibition by selling his grapes for juice. After a time, Masson sold the operation to Almaden Vineyard Corporation, led by Charles M. Jones in 1930.
After Jones’s death in 1940, the company was then put into the hands of Louis Benoist of San Francisco. With the help of nationally recognized wine connoisseur and writer, Frank Schoonmaker, Benoist began wide distribution of Almaden wines, quickly making them some of the most popular in the nation.
In order to further develop the potential of California’s wine region, Schoonmaker and winemaker Oliver Goulet developed a line of wines made from grapes grown in the San Joaquin Valley. Once again, Almaden set a trend, as these wines, called Almaden Mountain Wines, were packaged in signature teardrop-shaped bottles. They too gained popularity across North America.
In 2008, we replaced our large carbon-inefficient 3 and 4 liter glass bottles with our innovative vacuum sealed Bag-In-Box Wine system to ensure that our wine will stay fresh for at least six weeks after opening. In addition to offering fresh wine from the first to the last glass, this system is also better for the environment. Bag-In-Box packaging requires far less energy to produce, ship and display than the heavy glass bottles that they replace. This reduces our carbon footprint by 55%. And by not using glass bottles, we are able to offer outstanding wine at substantial savings.
Today, Almaden is part of The Wine Group and continues to produce quality wines in the traditional manner, bringing the historically rich taste of the Old World right to your table, one glass at a time.