Wines at the State Fair

Wine is big in California, produced in 4,700 wineries large and small throughout the state. The industry employs 325,000 Californians, annually generates 57.6 billion in economic activity within the state and 114 billion in revenues throughout the United States; and attracts 23.6 million tourists each year. The California Commercial Wine Competition at the State Fair, which judges winery entries to determine the best wines in the state, has been a tradition since the first fair in 1854. The Home Wine competition, limited to wines produced as a home craft, is designed to increase the skills and abilities of the amateur winemaker by delivering impartial evaluation feedback. Like breweries, local wineries appeared early. The first in Sacramento was established in the 1850s by Jacob Knauth, who planted a twenty-acre vineyard east of Sacramento city, and later a larger one across the river in Yolo County.  By 1858, he was making wine of excellent quality, and winning a state fair premium.  Unfortunately, his wine cellars were destroyed in the catastrophic 1861–62 floods. Newer wineries, established in the 1870s and later, included Gerke Winery on Eleventh Street, the California Winery at Twenty-first and R, the Pioneer Winery across the street, the Eagle Winery on Eighteenth Street, the Mazzini Winery on Third Street and the Roma Winery on Fifteenth, which produced eighty thousand gallons of wine and six thousand gallons of brandy annually at its peak. None of the city’s pioneer wineries survived Prohibition.

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