Illegal Vines

The headline below is from a front-page article in the Escondido Times-Advocate’s edition of Saturday, October 9, 1920:

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Prohibition had gone into effect in January 1920, transforming the growing of grapes, which had been part of San Diego County’s agricultural scene going back at least to the days of the Spanish Missions, into a crime.

“Several thousand gallons of mash in vats ranging in size from 500 to 1,200 gallon capacity, hundreds of gallons of wine and five tons of grapes were seized in three raids made in and near Escondido by federal and county officers Wednesday evening,” began the article, which went on to say that “The haul at the trio of wineries is the most extensive raid yet made in this county and brings the number of places raided around Escondido to a total of five during the last few weeks.”

The law allowed for a certain amount of winemaking for individual family consumption and for the making of “sacramental” wine for religious purposes. A number of San Diego winegrowers utilized those exemptions to try to survive.

However, only four San Diego County wineries survived after the repeal of Prohibition in 1933, according to Richard Carrico’s 2016 book, Of Wine on the Lees Well Refined:A History of Wine and Wineries of San Diego County.

Winemaking thankfully made a comeback here. As of 2019, there were over 150 commercial wineries in the county, according to the San Diego County Vintners Association.

To that the History Seeker can only say: Cheers!


2 thoughts on “Illegal Vines

  1. I wonder which were the trio of wineries that were raided, and wether or not they survived after Prohibition was repealed.

    • The wineries were described as belonging to Peter Mogeto, Joseph Bucola and Joseph Rica. I looked into census and other sources for more data on them. I found nothing for Mogeto. Bucola was listed in the 1920 US Census as owner of a “general farm” but by the 1930 census he had moved to Los Angeles where he listed his occupation as a shoe repairer. Rica was listed as renting a “general farm” in 1920. In 1930 he is listed as a wage-worker pruning trees in a vineyard, but by 1940, while still working as a pruner in the Escondido area, he listed his employer as a “citrus packing house.”
      Carrico’s book lists the four local wineries that “survived the dry years” as “Bernardo, Granchetti, Topi (Einer)” and Ferrara…”
      Thanks for your interest. Anyone else who might have some info on this era is welcome to chime in.

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