California has a long and rich history of wine making. The wine industry marked its beginning in 1769, when the first grape vines were planted at Mission San Diego, by the Franciscan missionary Father Junipero Serra. This black-skinned grape variety, which was called Mission grape, played a significant role in California wine production until 1880.
In 1833, the first documented imported European wine vine of California was planted in Los Angeles by a French winemaker Jean-Louis Vignes. Later in the 1850s and '60s, Agoston Harazsthy – a Hungarian soldier and merchant – imported original vine cuttings from around 165 European vineyards. Altogether, he introduced 300 different grape varietals in California.
Harazsthy made the most outstanding contribution to the development of the wine industry, which made him known as the "founder of California Wine Industry." He founded the Buena Vista Winery, which can still be seen at Sonoma. Great efforts were made in promoting vine planting through North California. Moreover, he introduced the idea of non-irrigated vineyards and also constructed many caves for wine cellaring.
During the 1890s, most of the European vines were destroyed due to the attack of
Phylloxera – a destructive root louse. The attempts taken to eradicate the pest were mostly unsuccessful. Finally, Thomas V. Munson – who was regarded as the "father of Texas viticulture" – fostered the idea of grafting European wine vines onto American rootstocks.
California wine industry faced a major declination due to National Prohibition (1920 – 1933). The major portion of the industry, which initially had up to 713 bonded wineries, was wiped out during the prohibition. By the end of 1933, California wine industry managed to revive gradually. The common grape varieties of the time were Thompson seedless, Emperor, and Flame Tokay.
Today, the California wine industry is one among the finest in the world. It shares to around 90% of total US wine production. The industry boasts approximately 2,445 wineries, which produce more than 500 million gallons of wines every year. Chardonnay is the largest grown variety, followed by Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and White Zinfandel.