The fifth of December, which is or Repeal Day, gets a large amount of attention in the spirits and bar community. It is the day in 1933, when the 21st Amendment of the Constitution was adopted, which repealed the 18th amendment, which banned the transport, sale and production of alcoholic drinks and effectively ended Prohibition.

You’ve seen them. The well-dressed people drinking their beer mugs and drinks under headlines in newspapers that shout “Prohibition Comes to an End!” But while the alcohol and spirit industries prospered during Prohibition because of a vast network of speakeasies and bootleggers, Prohibition had a markedly negative and different impact for the industry of wines.

Today, it’s hard to locate a winery in the U.S. that’s older than 1933. Many of those that existed prior to Prohibition were hit hard when the 18th amendment came into force closing their doors, throwing away their barrels and allowing their the vines to wilt and die. Ironically, even though the temperance movement throughout the U.S. prior to Prohibition was extremely strong but there were also flourishing wine-producing industries in undiscovered states across the nation during the 19th and the early 20th century.

So , what could “American Wine Country” appear like if Prohibition not occurred?

America’s varied 18th-century wine areas

New York

Nowadays, California has a firm grip on what is known as the American wine industry, and has been a major winemaking industry as early in the 1870s. In the past, however it was an extremely remote area for large segments of American population. Between 1870 and 1880, New York hovered around seventh in the production of wine, in the United States, behind California, Missouri, Ohio, Illinois, Georgia and New Mexico. In 1890 it was evident that it was the Empire State had moved to second position, which is where it remained until Prohibition.

Brotherhood Winery survived Prohibition selling wine to be used in funerals. The clergy population of the region grew significantly during the 14 years.

New York even claims to be the birthplace of “America’s oldest Winery” which includes Brotherhood Winery in Washingtonville, New York. It is still operating to this day. French Huguenots, Jean Jaques, dug his first underground cellars (and fermented his first wine) in 1839. the cellars are still being used today.

The winery was able to survive Prohibition under the control under the ownership of Louis Farrell, who purchased the winery and its inventory of sacramental wines in 1921. The winery continued to offer wine for occasions of worship. The written history of Brotherhood Winery hilariously notes that the clergy population of the region grew significantly during the 14 years.

New Jersey

Another major wine-making center in the East Coast was New Jersey which saw 220,000 gallons of wine were produced by eleven wineries in the year 1900. For South Jersey, vineyards were concentrated on the towns that included Vineland as well as Egg Harbor City, the latter of which was the home of Renault Winery, one of the oldest wineries that continue to operate in the United States.

The use of a specific permit allowed the introduction of Renault Wine Tonic, a drug with an alcohol content of 22% that is sold in pharmacies. Beware not to evade the legal requirements, the label on the tonic warns the consumers “not to freeze the tonic because it will transform to alcohol, making it prohibited.”

In 1864, the winery was purchased from Louis Nicholas Renault and selling New Jersey “Champagne” by 1870, Renault Winery became the largest producer of champagne across the United States. In 1919 the winery was acquired from the D’Agostino family, and continued to operate throughout Prohibition with a permit from the government that permitted to produce sacramental wines as well as medicinal wine.

The issuance of this permit has led to the creation of Renault Wine Tonic, a pharmaceutical product that has an alcoholic content of 22% available in drug stores across the country. Be careful not to violate the laws, the label on the tonic cautioned customers “not to cool the tonic because it could transform into wine and is therefore illegal.”

The Midwest

It is possible that the regions of wine of the United States which suffered the most from Prohibition were those in the Midwest. A typical wine-drinker today may not be aware that competition vintages still exist in the Midwestern region and it’s safe say that most wine enthusiasts do not give the Midwestern wine industry the respect it deserves.

in the early 1870s Stone Hill Winery in Missouri (est. in 1847) made more than a million gallons wine annually which makes Stone Hill the second-largest winery in America.

The reality is that the winemaking is a long-running tradition that spans depth, with two of the most popular regions for growing grapes being within the vast valleys that run along the Mississippi and Missouri rivers, which stretch as far to the north of Wisconsin and westwards up to Nebraska. Wines are also found in those prairies in Illinois and the black areas of central Iowa and the bluffs of the eastern part of Kansas and the Ozarks, which are hilly.

The 1870s were the time when Stone Hill Winery in Missouri (est. in 1847) generated more than a million gallons wine annually which made it the second-largest winery in the United States. However, the growth of the wine industry in Missouri slowed at the time of Prohibition especially in Stone Hill, where their large underground cellars, which were arched, were a source of mushrooms, not wine until the year.

Luckily, there were a handful of wineries in the region that were able to survive. A family owned Baxter’s Vineyards, the oldest winery in Illinois was operating from the tiny city located in Nauvoo in the year 1857. The business was booming, and earned them awards awarded by the Illinois State Board of Agriculture in 1876 as well as 1877, 1877, and 1879. The company was previously known by the nickname Baxter Brothers (and Emile Baxter and Sons prior to 1895) They could maintain their vineyard through Prohibition by shipping over 120 rail cars that contained grapes for northern market, such as Chicago and Chicago, while the production of wine was restricted to consumption by family members.

Meier’s Wine Cellars located in Cincinnati was a place where you could taste two sides in the wine industry, to say. It was founded in 1895 as an unassuming business that made grape juice, Meier’s didn’t start making and selling wines until close to 1900 following an acquisition of land situated in Silverton, Ohio. When Prohibition was introduced and they went back to making juices, gaining special appreciation for the bubbly Catawba Grape Juice (that continues to be sold today) The company then introduced wine in 1933.

Texas along with The South

Further south, just the handful of 19th-century wineries are still operating in once bustling wine regions. Fifth generation-owned Post Familie Vineyards in Altus, Arkansas has been around since 1880. It is believed that it survived Prohibition due to the Jacob Post’s daughter-in law Katherine who served wine along with food at restaurants that were popular during Prohibition.

The location is Del Rio, Texas, Val Verde Winery has grown grapes and made wine since 1883. It was founded by Italian immigrants who settled in Del Rio, the family of Qualia depended on their history and ties to their Catholic church to run their business during Prohibition through the sale of grapes and obtaining a permit to produce sacramental wines.

North Carolina, South Carolina, Alabama and notably, Virginia where was the home to the Monticello Wine Company in Charlottesville (at time, the biggest winery located in the South) All had flourishing wine production industries, which were completely demolished by Prohibition. It is impossible to imagine how these wine regions could look like today if they not been suppressed.


This leads our attention to California. It is not surprising that California is the place where the majority of pre-Prohibition wineries are still in operation.

Strangely, Prohibition appeared to benefit California well, at the very least with regard to sales of grapes. Californian grape farmers adhered to the Volstead Act that allowed the legal production of “fruit juices” (a also known as an alcohol) within the home, which resulted in the demand for fresh, unpasteurized grapes all over the world. Before the onset of Prohibition in 1919, California had about 300,000 acres of vineyards, but by 1927, the amount of land had nearly doubled, and the volume of grapes increased by 125 percent. The need for grapes was a factor in keeping the vineyards going, California wineries had to be creative to survive during the dark times of Prohibition.

Beringer continued to earn money via the purchase of “wine bricks” that contained concentrated grape juice. Consumers could mix with water and then ferment with the help of the instructions printed on the packaging , which disguised as a cautionary note on the best ways to stop the product from changing into wine.

Wente Vineyards in Livermore, California was established in 1883 was bonded throughout Prohibition through the sale of their white wine of the Saunternes style in a different California winery called Beaulieu Vineyard (est. 1900) located in Rutherford. Beaulieu was known for romanticizing his Catholic church, which is why, like the other California wineries that went under during Prohibition the business of Bealieu grew fourfold thanks to the sales of sacramental wines.

As well as embracing the sacramental wine craze, Beringer (est. 1876) made money via the purchase of “wine bricks.” They were legal bricks made of concentrate grape juice which buyers could mix with water and then ferment simply by adhering to the instructions on the label that disguised as a cautionary note on the best ways to stop the product from becoming wine.

Concannon Vineyard (est. 1883), Bernardo Winery in San Diego (est. 1889) and San Antonio Winery in Los Angeles (est. 1917) both survived due to sacramental sales of wine and sacramental wine sales. But, San Antonio Winery seems to be the sole winery which was granted permission from the Archdiocese of Los Angeles to produce wine for use in ceremonies and continues to make Sacramental wines even today.

But the most famous story goes to Pope Valley Winery. It was founded in 1897 as an Burgundy Winery & Olive Oil Factory by Swiss farmer Ed Haus Ed’s son Sam was introduced to an unnamed younger man who was from Chicago during his military service at the beginning of the 1900s. Because of the Chicago connection and the Chicago connection, the Haus family started to sell and transport wine via a horse cart to Napa which was then transferred to a train for Chicago for consumption in the speakeasies of Al Capone and brothels at the height of Prohibition. The illegal transactions were kept from the public eye and the winery was believed to have stopped production in Prohibition and nobody was able to determine how they managed to “reopen” within a short period of time following the repeal.