Magazine article Sunset

Tale of the Lake and Grape

Magazine article Sunset

Tale of the Lake and Grape

Article excerpt

* MIDDLETOWN, LAKE COUNTY, CALIFORNIA-In 1888, the famous British actress Lillie Langtry, who became America's first superstar, purchased a 4,200-acre ranch called Guenoc Rancho, near Middletown, to raise racehorses and grapes. Just north of Napa Valley, Lake County is home to Clear Lake, California's largest. The area has dwelt in relative obscurity since the lake's Victorian resorts and steamboats were abandoned in the 1920s.

Langtry planted hundreds of acres of grapes. She crushed 50 tons in the 1891 harvest in an attempt to make "claret of the finest quality known in the country." Langtry sold all in 1906 after marrying a wealthy Englishman who would become Baronet de Bathe (she had previously been the mistress of the future King Edward VII). But Langtry was not to be the last royal presence to own the land.

Most of the untended vines withered and died, leaving a few survivors. But those survivors fired the imagination of the ranch's owners in 1963, the Magoon family of Hawaii. Descendants of Hawaiian royalty, they agreed to trade 34 acres they owned in Honolulu for 22,000 in Lake and Napa Counties. …

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