1920 – 1933 Prohibition

After the setbacks of the phylloxera outbreak the Napa Valley and Sonoma Wine Country were quick to rebound. By the turn of the century the California wine country was going strong and the quality of Californian wine was steadily improving. There were between 600 – 700 wineries statewide and California vineyard acreage was on the rise. Then in 1920, true disaster struck when the 18th amendment to the US constitution was passed prohibiting the manufacture, sale and distribution of alcohol.

Whereas phylloxera had been a set back that the California wine industry was quick to rebound from, Prohibition would prove to be far more devastating.

Almost all the wineries in California closed their doors between 1920 and 1933. The few that were able to remain open did so by producing “medicinal” wines and wines for religious ceremony. People were still allowed to make wine at home for personal use (there were 200 gallons of wine per year allowed for each adult male in the household) and the demand for wine grapes particularly on the East Coast remained high. For this reason wine grape production remained consistent even as commercial winemaking all but disappeared in the California wine country.

 

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