California’s Mission Wine Made in Santa Cruz

California wine toursMission wine was made by the padres in every mission from Southern California to Northern California.

The Franciscan priests despaired of the quality of wine that was sent to them on a yearly basis, usually port, and did their best to make something more palatable.  After all, it was a lonely life, except in Monterey, and the gentlemen needed a good drink or three to get through. Oh, yes and they needed sacramental wine.  And so, they planted vineyards.

Mission grapes are similar to those grown in Chile and Spain, but it’s been a long time, and no true identification has been made of the exact kind grapes.  The Jesuits, in California before the Franciscans, brought the vines from Spain to Mexico somewhere in the mid-1500s.

By the 1620s the mission grape had also appeared in Texas and New Mexico.  The first West coast vineyard plantings were recorded in 1769 in Southern California.  By 1880 there were 4,000 acres of mission grapes in Napa Valley alone! They were somewhat bland, and had low acidity, but the upside was that the grapes were hardy.

Sure, the padres made wine for sacramental purposes. But, missions were sort of like trading posts, and they also sold their wine to travelers.  We know the wine padres made was called Angelica.

Want a special treat?  Angelica is still made by Gypsy Canyon Winery in Santa Barbara and Bonny Doon Winery in Santa Cruz.  There are only 100 acres of old mission vines left in California.

Try it.  It’s as if you are drinking living history.  In our book, that is another kind of sacrament.

Writer: Meredith Blevins, featured writer for Join her at for wine-country mysteries, classes, and the untamed west.

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