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by Fred McMillin
for June 1, 2000

 

The Father of the Brides!


June 1, 1863

It happened exactly 137 years ago today. For the California wine scene, this was the wedding of the century. The father of the brides was Sonoma's first commercial winemaker and had provided the first wine vines ever planted in the Napa Valley. The father of the grooms owned the largest vineyard in California and had one of those sons trained to make champagne. Needless to say, bubbly was served at the reception after the double wedding. Two daughters of the most powerful man in northern California, General Mariano Vallejo, had married two sons of the flamboyant vintner Count Agoston Haraszthy. About the brides...


Natalia Veneranda Vallejo (Mrs. Attila Haraszthy)

In view of General Vallejo's stature, Natalia had no shortage of suitors. For example, a direct descendant of Daniel Boone had made a fortune in the gold mines and General Vallejo indicated he would not object to having a rich son-in-law. After meeting the Kentucky backwoodsman, she wrote her father:

    Well Papa, Mr. Swift is young, handsome and very rich, but there is something wanting in him. He is so awkward, and so speechless as not to let a single word escape from his lips as he calls on young ladies. He doesn't know how to speak or even shake hands. Papa, he pumps instead of shakes...I am astonished at you; the idea that I could take a fancy to him. No Papa, I am General Vallejo's daughter and I think I will have a better choice than that.

To make a long story short, the successful suitor, Attila Haraszthy kissed her hand instead of pumping it...After the marriage, their first home was in one of her father-in-law's vineyards. Her stationery bore the home's name, "Champagne."

Old Clicquot Bottles

Old Clicquot Bottles.


Jovita Francisca Vallejo (Mrs. Arpad Haraszthy)

Champagne played an even more important role in Jovita's marriage. Arpad had spent four years in France, furthering his civil engineering education and then study Champagne production in Epernay. Both his dad and his new father-in-law encouraged his subsequent work with California bubbly. Author Madie Emparan tells us, "General Vallejo had been receiving prizes for his [still] wines and champagne, but, in 1863, in deference to his new son-in-law, he did not enter his champagne in the fairs." So, Arpad exhibited what would later be named Eclipse and won First Prize.

Eclipse was a famous 18th-century race horse, whose success he hoped to emulate, and did. He became the state's first consistently-successful fizz producer. One of his secrets involved dissolving a small amount of rock-candy in aged white wine to add to his winner; he had seen the technique in France. Thus, from France we get our...


Champagne of the Day

This is the best bubbly my tasters have sipped so far this year...whatta gift!

  • 1988 Veuve Clicquot Reserve Rosé.

  • Panel comments:
      Bridge pro Skip Hanson: "Toast, vanilla, very dry"
      Forensic anthropologist Dr. Linus Hollis: "Toast, aged bouquet, rich."

  • Another Father of the Bride: The Veuve (widow) Clicquot's father was no lightweight, either. When he gave her away, he was mayor of the Champagne capital, Reims.

  • Vintage—The 1988 may be hard to find, but the press is just as enthusiastic about the next Reserve rosés.

  • Rating—SUPERB!

  • Price—$65 range


    Postscript

    About Arpad's Eclipse sparkler, he even took some to his sister, Ida, when she gave birth to twin sons in San Francisco. She was lucky to be there. Some two decades earlier, she was riding in an oxcart through hostile Indian territory toward California. A Comanche chief was so taken by the beautiful 6-year-old that he offered Col. Haraszthy four squaws and two ponies for the child. The Count must have used all the diplomacy he had learned in Hungary, because, without giving up Ida, he was allowed to creak on west. Whew!

     
    About the Writer

    Fred McMillin, a veteran wine writer, has taught wine history for 30 years on three continents. He currently teaches wine courses at San Francisco State and San Francisco City College. In 1995, the Academy of Wine Communications honored Fred with one of only 22 Certificates of Commendation awarded to American wine writers.

     
     


    This page created June 2000

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