Winemaking in California has never been an unsupervised industry. The first vines were brought to the Pacific shores by Cortez. When the ruthless conqueror of Mexico failed to find gold he decided to develop the country as an enormous vineyard. He commanded every landowner to plant, every year for five years, 1,000 vines for every 100 Indians living on his land. Years later Spain sent her high priests of civilization into the barren wilderness of Baja, California, with the understood provision that wines would be made for sacramental purposes at their mission outposts.
In 1769 Padre Junipero Serra, the beloved Franciscan, established his first mission in Alta California—Mission San Diego de Alcala. He brought vine cuttings with him, vines which originally came from Spain. They were set out around the new mission and as they flourished, more cuttings were planted in San Gabriel where sun and soil proved even more fruitful for the vines. The gnarled, twisted trunk of the first vine planted at San Gabriel still bears its annual harvest of Mission grapes. This single species planted along El Camino Real by the Franciscan priests, by its abundant yield, established California as a vine land.
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