The Makers of American Wine: A Record of Two Hundred Years

By Thomas Pinney | Go to book overview

FIVE
Andrea Sbarboro
THE ITALIANS ARE COMING

MOST AMERICANS, IF THEY THINK ABOUT IT ALL, are likely to think that wine making in this country has always been an Italian affair. That is understandable enough, for the dominant names in American wine since the repeal of Prohibition have been largely Italian: Gallo, Cella, Foppiano, Petri, Bisceglia, Martini, Mondavi—the list is long and impressive. But this large Italian presence in the foreground of things distorts our perspective: the fact is that there were few Italians to be found on the American winemaking scene until the end of the nineteenth century. Before that, the odds were that any man growing grapes and making wine was French, or Mexican, or English, or most likely of all, German. And that is understandable too, since Italian immigration into the United States did not amount to much until the nineteenth century was well along. There had been a few Italians among the early pioneers: Philip Mazzei in eighteenth-century Virginia, and the anonymous Italians who took part in the failed wine-growing colony of New Smyrna, Florida, also in the eighteenth century. But of course they did not succeed in producing any wine.

A change began in the decade of the 1880s, when there were substantial numbers of Italians in this country; California had some seven thousand, and of those it was estimated that five thousand were living in the San Francisco Bay Area. A good many of these went into wine growing through the offices of Andrea Sbarboro, grocer and banker of San Francisco.


HORATIO ALGER, TAKE NOTE

When, toward the end of 1910, Andrea Sbarboro sat down to write his life story, he had a perfectly clear notion of what that story meant: it was the clas-

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