(Based on information retrieved on-line by Celeste Welch)
1852 – Charles Lefranc, a Frenchman who
moved to San Francisco in 1850, founds the nation’s first winery in the
– Charles Lefranc dies after being run over by a team of horses. His
son-in-law, Paul Masson, continues to run the winery.
– Paul Masson, sells Almaden Winery to a group headed by Charles M.
Jones to concentrate on his own Paul Masson Winery in Saratoga.
– Almaden Winery sold again to Louis Benoist who commissions
famed landscape architect, Thomas Church, to design a garden around the
winery. Benoist introduces popular new wines, such as Grenache Rose,
but faces serious financial troubles in the 1960s due to expensive
tastes – he owned seven houses and a yacht.
– National Distillers buys the winery and expands production from 1.5
million cases a year to a high of 13 million cases in 1981. National
also moves Almaden’s headquarters from San Francisco to a new $900,000
facility on Blossom Hill Road where the winery was founded.
– Heublein, Inc. buys Almaden Vineyards. The price paid by Heublein for
the winery property is reported to be about $17 million. Winery
property, 55 acres south of Blossom Hill Road is put on the market.
Heublein moves its wine-making operations to Madera, north of Fresno.
1987 – Dividend Development Corp. buys Almaden Vineyards property
from Heublein. Price rumored to be $25 million. Commercial development
is contemplated. Many neighbors complain.
1989 – Dividend Development Corp. submits winning bid of $1.2
million per acre for 9 acres at the former Vineland School site next to
– Fire destroys most of what was left of Almaden Winery. The blaze was
touched off when a cutting torch for dismantling piping in one of the
buildings ignited a wall. The fire quickly spread through the empty
wine cellars. More than 80 firefighters and 15 pieces of equipment
bring the fire under control after three hours.
– Hayman Homes buys the Vineland School site for $1 million per
acre after Dividend Development drops its option to purchase the
property. Dividend rumored to be in financial difficulty.
– New Cities Development Group buys winery property from Dividend, plans
housing project which will “feature restoration of the original winery
building, as part of a community park.”
1994 – Public grand opening at Vintage at the Almaden Winery.
Five decorated model homes open for tours. The developer, New Cities
Development Group of Monterey, “will set aside a three-acre site on the
property that will include the rose garden of one of the winery’s former
owners, Louis Benoist, and the remaining winery buildings to be used as
a civic park at a later date.”
– All homes on Almaden Winery property completed. Neighborhood consists
of Vintage and Tresor, built by New Cities, and Vineland, built by
Hayman. New Cities fails to restore park as stated in promotional
literature. Neighborhood residents meet with San Jose Councilwoman Pat
Dando to discuss plans for restoring the park and old winery. City of
San Jose now owns two-thirds of park property and is negotiating with
New Cities to buy the remaining section. Park is adopted by the Almaden
Winery Neighborhood Association (AWNA).
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