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 Filed as : Regional SpotlightCalifornia

The California Wine Rush

Jan 24, 2012
The California Wine Rush
How the discovery of gold shaped the state’s wine industry

liquid_gold_400California’s history — or should we say its soil — is filled with riches. Today marks the 164th anniversary of James Wilson Marshall’s gold discovery at Sutter’s Mill in Coloma Valley, near Sacramento.

You probably learned about Marshall’s momentous find in grade school. What you may not know is how the subsequent Gold Rush shaped the future of California wine.

The promise of amber wealth caused California’s population to skyrocket from 14,000 to half a million people in just one year, according to the Wine Institute. As European immigrants with a taste for wine filled the state, they planted more than 100 grape varieties.

Their vineyard trials proved fruitful. California’s sunshine allowed grapes to fully ripen. And there was money to be made.

In 1859, with a nod from the California legislature, wine grape growers were offered a four-year taxation exemption on new vineyards. Three years later, there were eight million grape vines planted in the state and more than half a million gallons of wine were being made. The rush was now for liquid gold.

What will you drink to commemorate the California Gold Rush? Share it below.

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