When you think wineries in the Hudson Valley the first winery to come to mind is Brotherhood, America’s Oldest Winery. Do you know the story behind the oldest winery in America?
In this podcast, I am joined by Bob Bedford author of “The Story of Brotherhood, America’s Oldest Winery.” The book is to be released June 14, 2014 and commemorates Brotherhood’s 175th anniversary.
The book not only tells the story of Brotherhood but has many artifacts from all the various eras. It’s fascinating to see the many different logo designs, the advertisements, the invoices and the pictures that document the years.
You will see how instrumental Brotherhood was with many practices that continue today. Also, the California tie to Brotherhood, from vineyards they owned in the Livermore area to winemakers that they hired.
It all began with a man named John Jaques a cobbler who moved to a small town called Little York with his recently widowed mother in early 1810. Little York is known today as Washingtonville, NY. He planted a few vines in his backyard and well the rest is history.
Up until the late 1800’s wines were often adulterated and doctored with drugs or foreign elements and had little regulation. Jaques produced wine that was pure and earned the reputation for a quality product. All his wines had the same message:
1839 was the first commercial vintage and construction of the underground wine cellar began, which is still in use today.
Jaques brought his three sons into the business (Oren, John Jr and Charles) and in 1858 he deeded the winery to them. Fast forward to 1886 and the last surviving son, Charles in poor health sold the winery (the plant with the vineyards, cellars, orchards and thousands of gallons of wine) to wine merchants Jesse M Emerson Sr and his son Edward Emerson.
In 1894 Emerson incorporated The Brotherhood Wine Company and received Federal Designation US Bonded Winery B.W.2. The Emerson’s expanded the vineyards, purchased a 139 acre plot and planted more vines. They began construction on a new cellar in 1893 that connected to the cellarv Jaques built. In addition they also expanded by working with various winemakers and smaller wineries in the Finger Lakes. He also was one of the founders of the American Wine Growers’ Association, an organization that was created to correct trade abuses and to keep unfriendly and unfair legislation in check. The membership included producers east of the Rocky Mountains.
In 1924 Emerson unexpectedly passes away. In 1920 he had partnered with Louis Farrell who after his death took over the business. We are in Prohibition years and Brotherhood supplied 70% of the Archdiocese of NY with wine. Louis Farrell died suddenly in August 11947 and his son Junior took over. Shortly after harvest, November 20, Junior passed away from complications after a medical procedure. He wasn’t married, had no children and left no will. The estate was now transferred to his only relatives, his three cousins Francis L Farrel and siblings Herman J Diehl Jr and Leocadie L Diehl.
It is in this era 1947-1987 that wine tourism is born. Events and parties at Brotherhood. Growing up in the area I heard all about the parties at Brotherhood. 5,000 people a day would pass through the winery on a 75 minute tour.
The 1980 recession hurt Brotherhood hard along with a 25% excise tax (ouch!) In 1987 the winery was sold to a consortium of local business partners and enter winemaster Cesar Baeza. Cesar began making wines with Amerian native varieties and select New York State grapes from five different regions. He introduced four premium varietals to the Brotherhood line, a dry Seyval Blanc, dry Chardonnay with a hint of oak, dry, full bodied Cabernet Sauvignon and a semi-dry Johannisberg Riesling all made from 100% New York Grapes
Tragedy struck the night of January 7, 1999, I remember it like it was yesterday. Brotherhood was burning. The fire devastated Brotherhood. But Cesar switched to “survival” mode and continued on.
In 2005 Cesar partnered with The Castro and Chadwick families from Chile. It is at this time the restoration of Brotherhood begins and Brotherhood is what it is today.
I realize these are pretty long show notes and it is just a brief taste of the information you will find in the podcast and the book.
The book is set to be released June 14. You can reserve a copy and purchase on the website of Flint Mine Press, the publisher of the book.
Bob, you did a fantastic job and I realize there is so much more that can be told. I enjoyed the book and looking at all the historical memorabilia throughout.
If you are in the Hudson Valley, a trip to Brotherhood is a must with a tour of the cellars where you will find many of the artifacts shown in this book on display.
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