[The above image was taken at Foppiano Vineyards, as agents emptied the winery of its wine contents into the creek alongside Old Redwood Winery.]

Today is the Platinum Celebration for end of Prohibition (December 5, 1933 to December 5, 2008), referred to as the “Noble Experiment.”

The 18th Amendment to the United States Constitution prohibited the manufacture, sale, and/or transportation of liquor, which was passed by Congress in 1917.

In 1933, President F.D. Roosevelt was elected and Congress passed the 21st Amendment on February 20, 1933, which repealed the 18th Amendment. The 21st Amendment was then ratified by the states, thereby taking effect on December 5, 1933.

According to Albany Education, “Prohibition as undertaken to reduce crime and corruption, solve social problems, reduce the tax burden created by prisons and poorhouses, and improve health and hygiene in America. The results of that experiment clearly indicate that it was a miserable failure on all counts. The evidence affirms sound economic theory, which predicts that prohibition of mutually beneficial exchanges is doomed to failure.”

And according to Wikipedia, “It was written to become effective one year after its ratification by the states. The amendment outlawed only the manufacture, sale, and transport of liquor, not the possession of alcohol for personal use. It didn’t make buying liquor from bootleggers (people who produced alcohol illegally) a crime. To carry out the intent of the amendment, Congress passed the National Prohibition Act, better known as the Volstead Act. The Volstead Act allowed supplies of alcohol to be produced and transported for scientific and other commercial purposes. It also defined intoxicating liquor as any beverage containing more than 0.5 percent alcohol. It could have set the permissible level higher to allow the production, transportation, and sale of beer, but it did not. Prohibition took effect in 1920.”

Many wine companies went into the business of selling vitis vinifera grapes bricks to home winemakers that carried a warning: Do not add yeast or fermentation will result. Also attached to the brick, as the story goes, that it carried a packet of yeast.

Gone were the days of the railroad cars – like the above Foppiano Linoel miniature – that carried wine juice prior to Prohibition around the United States.

[Q] So, who legally produced wine during this dry spell, and can have the distinction of saying that they’ve been in business producing wine for as many years as they claim? [Remember – if it wasn’t legal, they’re not on the books as continuously producing wine… It’s a technicality that would only be able to stand up in a court of law, I know. My family’s legacy is riddled with lawyers, so you know I’ve got the DNA; consequently, technicalities are important on my home court.]

[A] Very, very few wineries… The ones in red have survived. The ones in black (members of the Catholic Church) are gone forever.

  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. St. Stanislaus Novitiate, St. Louis, Missouri (1898)
  6. Beaulieu Vineyards, Napa Valley (1900 to present)
  7. San Antonio Winery, Los Angeles, CA (1917 to present)

This is all pretty sobering as to what a group of teetotallers were able to accomplish. Today’s world is so much more complex that it would take something even more extreme to have this return… Like the US being overtaken by Middle East bankers, who then own the US and tell us, “No more wine.” That said, I’m hoping for China to do that, if and when that has to happen, because China at least has a wine program.

Happy Ratification Day… What favorite wine are you going to be celebrating with?