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The Earliest History of Grape Growing in Suisun Valley

[Image courtesy of Gary Mangels]

Mae Fisher Purcell wrote for the Eighteenth Anniversary Edition And All County Chamber of Commerce Atlas of Solano County, Information-Section 4-1935, in a story entitled, “Claus Mangels Renowned Solano Winery and Notable Estate is Beauty Spot of Suisun Valley:

When Omar Khayyam, poet-tentmaker, wrote in his immortal Rubalyat the lines… “I oft times wonder what the vintners buy one half so precious as the stuff they sell,” the Persian bard must have had a prophetic vision that some day in a distant land a man named Mangels would produced a vintage fit for the gods.

It’s fitting to mention the very first grape growing to begin in Solano County, in order to have an overall perspective for its relationship to Suisun Valley, as it began in neighboring Green Valley:

[Image courtesy of Gary Mangels of Arnold Penoui, March 5, 1937]

  • 1858 ~ An Austrian native John Votypke started to grow grapes in Green Valley. His vineyard property was located at the foot of the valley peaks, know as Twin Sisters. By 1863, he began to also make wine.
  • 1860 ~ Brothers Henry and Claus Schultz planted a vineyard in the same rich valley, and also started a winery, C. Schultz & Co., operating it for about 20 years.

[Image courtesy: Gary Mangels of the Mangels home in 1937]

  • 1866 ~ Louis Mangels arrived in New York City from Germany, immigrating with his parents.
    • Immediately left for the West Coast by way of Panama, arriving on June 22, 1866.
    • During the next ten years, he studied and saved enough money to buy 240 acres of land.
    • At that time, the view from the ranch allowed Louis and his family to look straight to San Pablo Bay, on a clear day.
    • 1877 ~ Claus Mangels was born to Mr. & Mrs. Louis Mangels.
  • 1880 ~ Louis Mangels, who already had 240 acres of vines in Suisun Valley, bought the Schultz brothers’ business, stock, cooperage, and equipment.
  • 1893 ~ Louis Mangels built his first wine cellar, which was to become Solano Winery (Bonded Winery #42).
    • Louis planted more vineyards.
    • Also had a lease for 153 acres with a Bonzi vineyard at Monticello, in Napa County.
  • 1905 ~ Claus Mangels married Cecelia Rohwer.
  • 1906 ~ Mangels winery had grown to produce 500,000 gallons of wine a year.
  • 1910 ~ Mangels brought his two oldest sons into a business partnership with him, naming the company Mangels & Sons.
  • 1920 ~ Prohibition hit the US. It is a very little known fact that Mangels & Sons was one of the very few wineries to be allowed to produce wine for the government. A lot of the tonnage was shipped to the East Coast to large eastern markets.

The list gathered to date, with much research going into it over the years.

  1. Beringer Brothers, Napa Valley (1876 to present)
  2. Christian Brothers, Napa Valley (1882 to 1989)
  3. Concannon Vineyards, Livermore Valley (1883 to present)
  4. Sacred Heart Novitiate Winery, Los Gatos, CA (1888 to 1986)
  5. Solano Winery, Green Valley, Solano County (1893 to early 1950s)
  6. St. Stanislaus Novitiate, St. Louis, Missouri (1898)
  7. Beaulieu Vineyards, Napa Valley (1900 to present)
  8. San Antonio Winery, Los Angeles, CA (1917 to present)

Back to the Suisun Valley Historical Time Line

  • 1921 ~ Claus Mangels became sole proprietor. When it became unprofitable to ship grapes to the East Coast, a partnership with the Colonial Grape Products Company was formed. This entity became known as the Solano Grape Products Company.
  • 1932 ~ The Solano Grape Products Company was incorporated under the name of Solano Winery.

[Image courtesy of Gary Mangels of Packy Glassoff, March 5, 1937]

  • 1933 ~ With the repeal of Prohibition, the Solano wine cellar was well stocked with many products, including both aged (fortified) sweet and dry wines.
    • The building and cooperage were rented from Claus Mangels.
    • Wine sales were brisk, most especially the Solano Winery “house” brand. This led to the selection of its own name, which became “Chief Solano.” (See previous blog entry for Chief Solano, or click here.) Other successful brands were:
      • Cordelia
      • Solano
      • C. R. Mangels
    • 1935 ~ By now the market for the Mangels wines had spread over the nation and foreign lands.
    • 1936 ~ Claus Mangels purchased the stock formerly held by the Colonial Grape Products Company, which gave him 97 percent of the stock held in the company.
    • 1937 ~ Solano Winery now produces 350,000 gallons of wine a year, crushing nearly all of the grapes in Suisun Valley.
      • Grapes grown:
        • Burgundy
        • Mataro
        • Pinot
        • Cabernet
      • Dry wines made:
        • Sauternes
        • Chablis
        • Riesling
        • Barbera
        • Claret
        • Zinfandel
        • Burgundy
        • Mataro
        • Pinot
        • Cabernet
      • Fine sweet wines:
        • Sherry (150,000 gallons a year)
        • Port
        • Muscatel
        • Angelica
        • Tokay
    • 1943 ~ Claus Mangels sells the recently renovated Solano Winery property, and about eight acres of land, to a partner Horace O. Lanza.
      • Claus maintained his home, vineyards, and other property. Current production was between 450,000 and 500,000 gallons of wine a year.
      • Horace O. Lanza was an official of the California Grape Products Company of San Francisco, and was a business partner for six years during prohibition.
    • By 1950 ~ According to Gary Mangels, the winery was no longer in operation.

This blog posting has been made possible through the generous sharing of Gary Mangels, Mangels Vineyards. The information to follow has been taken from the following sources:

  • Solano Republican, Eighteenth Anniversary Edition And All County Chamber of Commerce Atlas of Solano County, Information-Section 4-1935
  • Wines & Vines, July 1937
  • The Solano Republican, Thursday, February 4, 1943


3 Responsesto “The Earliest History of Grape Growing in Suisun Valley”

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  4. Proud to have met this family thru my work on the European Grape Vine Moth project. Lovely people, treasured land!

    I will be drinking Suisun Valley Wines from now on!

  5. Jo Diaz says:

    Hi, Kellie,

    Thanks for your comment. I’ve been on vacation, but am returning, and so pleased to see you here.

  6. John says:

    hey, nice blog…really like it and added to bookmarks. keep up with good work

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