Home > History of Wine > “Thanksgiving Cheer is assured when To-Kalon Wines are served”: The To-Kalon Thanksgiving wine advertisements in Washington, DC

“Thanksgiving Cheer is assured when To-Kalon Wines are served”: The To-Kalon Thanksgiving wine advertisements in Washington, DC


The historic To Kalon Vineyard was recently described by the Wall Street Journal as “unquestionably” the greatest holding of Napa grape grower Andy Beckstoffer.  The vineyards was first planted on land purchased by Henry Walker Crabb in 1868 and is today owned by Robert Mondavi, Andy Beckstoffer, UC Davis, and Opus One.   When Henry W. Crabb sought to expand his presence on the east coast during the 1880s, he established a retail store in Washington, DC.  For over two decades this store advertised its wines for the Thanksgiving holiday.

To-Kalon Wine Co. was a block up from the Willard Hotel. Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington, DC. Jackson, William Henry. c1902. Library of Congress.

To-Kalon Wine Co. was a block up from the Willard Hotel. Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington, DC. Jackson, William Henry. c1902. Library of Congress.

Henry Walker Crabb founded the To Kalon Vineyard of Oakville, California on land he purchased in 1868. He once explained how the name is Greek for “highest beauty, or the highest good” but his intentions were “to make it mean the boss vineyard.” [1]  Henry W. Crabb quickly achieved a high reputation in Washington, DC, for by 1889 his wines were enjoyed “in the most aristocratic circles”.  To help supply the thirst of the federal city his wines could be purchased at the To-Kalon California Wine Vaults since 1885.[2]  The only retail store was located at 614 14th Street NW with the underground storage vaults at 27th and K St NW. [3]  These underground vaults were claimed to be the largest east of the Rockies with a capacity for 250,000 gallons of wine.  This is the equivalent to nearly 1.3 million bottles of wine.  It was in these vaults that the wine was stored in wood casks until it was “fresh bottled” for delivery.

Map #23 from Baist's real estate atlas of surveys of Washington, District of Columbia. 1913. Library of Congress.

Map #23 from Baist’s real estate atlas of surveys of Washington, District of Columbia. 1913. Library of Congress.

The store briefly took the name Pohndorff & Co after the proprietor Frederico Pohndorff.[4]  In 1890 the interest of Frederico Pohndorff was bought out by the son-in-law of Henry W. Crabb and the firm name changed to the To-Kalon Wine Company.[5] The new management brought added capital and expected increased business.  These new partners were described as “energetic young men”.[6]  They must have set right to work for within the month it was reported that sales were “large”.[7]  These sales must have been substantial given the immense storage capacity of the underground vaults where a dozen men worked to supply the three dispatch teams.   One advertisement from 1890 listed an inventory of 100,000 gallons of wine or over 500,000 bottles worth.[8]  Under this new management the store advertised their wines for Thanksgiving to the city.

Date: Saturday, November 10, 1894  Paper: Evening Star (Washington (DC), DC)   Page: 3. Genealogy Bank.

Date: Saturday, November 10, 1894 Paper: Evening Star (Washington (DC), DC) Page: 3. Genealogy Bank.

The earliest advertisement I could find dates to November 24, 1890.  It is a simple title followed by five lines of text giving notice for “American wines for American tables for Thanksgiving dinner.”[9]   Other early advertisements were not just for drinking wine but also for cooking wine, noting the brandies and sherries were “Pure – always reliable.” [10]   For Thanksgiving 1893 an advertisement included “’Thanksgiving’ Hints” that would form the basis for future recommendations.[11]  The Golden Gate Claret was recommended to “wash the turkey down” with the Red and White Ready-made Punch the “proper caper” for an evening reception.  The brandy was “for mince pies.”  With advertisements titled “Hurrah for Thanksgiving and Mince=Meat Pies!” the To-Kalon brandy was recommend to lend a “delicious aromatic flavor” and even a “spicy twang”.[12]  It was also recommended for plum pudding and fruit cake.[13]

Date: Friday, November 21, 1902  Paper: Evening Star (Washington (DC), DC)   Page: 4. Genealogy Bank.

Date: Friday, November 21, 1902 Paper: Evening Star (Washington (DC), DC) Page: 4. Genealogy Bank.

While the claret was for the “gobbler” the sweet Muscatel and Catawba were “required to finish off the dessert”.[14]  The claret was always a recommended selection for the turkey with the inclusion of Burgundy and Extra Dry Champagne beginning in 1902.[15]  In 1904 the Sauternes turns up in the advertisements, as well as the theme that these American wines were appropriate for “Thanksgiving Feasts of all true Americans.”[16] That “American wine” was best for a “distinctively American holiday” did not limit the recommendations to include the European names of To-Kalon Sauterne, Italian-Swiss Colony Tipo Chianti, and Cresta Blanca Sparkling Burgundy.[17]

Date: Tuesday, November 24, 1903  Paper: Evening Star (Washington (DC), DC)   Page: 6. Genealogy Bank.

Date: Tuesday, November 24, 1903 Paper: Evening Star (Washington (DC), DC) Page: 6. Genealogy Bank.

Throughout the years the claret was always recommended for turkey, the sweet wines for dessert, and the brandy for mince-pie.  There is another consistent feature of these advertisements that would be familiar to many people this day.  The To-Kalon store was open late the Wednesday night before Thanksgiving as well as until Noon or 1pm the festive day itself.  Residents of the federal city could find relief in that it was never too late to get all “the liquids that you’ll require for the Thanksgiving feast.”

Date: Monday, November 27, 1911  Paper: Evening Star (Washington (DC), DC)   Page: 6 . Genealogy Bank.

Date: Monday, November 27, 1911 Paper: Evening Star (Washington (DC), DC) Page: 6 . Genealogy Bank.


[1] Wait, Frona Eunice. Wines and Vines of California. 1889. URL: http://books.google.com/books?id=vnVNAAAAYAAJ&pg=PP1#v=onepage&q&f=false
[2] Illustrated Washington: our capital, 1890. 1890. Hathi Trust. URL: http://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=wu.89073035461
[3] “Wine Fountain. Novel Proposition of Crabb, the California Wine King. It Will Constantly Pour Forth” Date: Thursday, July 10, 1890           Paper: Critic-Record (Washington (DC), DC)   Issue: 6845   Page: 1
[4] Date: Tuesday, June 18, 1889         Paper: Critic-Record (Washington (DC), DC)   Issue: 6512   Page: 4
[5] Date: Monday, May 26, 1890          Paper: Evening Star (Washington (DC), DC)   Page: 2
[6] “A New Firm” Date: Friday, June 6, 1890      Paper: Critic-Record (Washington (DC), DC)   Issue: 6817   Page: 4
[7] “To-Kalon Wine Company” Date: Monday, June 30, 1890         Paper: Critic-Record (Washington (DC), DC)   Issue: 6837   Page: 1
[8] Date: Thursday, September 21, 1893            Paper: Evening Star (Washington (DC), DC)   Page: 1
[9] Date: Monday, November 24, 1890              Paper: Evening Star (Washington (DC), DC)   Page: 8
[10] Date: Tuesday, November 24, 1891             Paper: Evening Star (Washington (DC), DC)   Page: 8. Genealogy Bank.
[11] Date: Tuesday, November 28, 1893             Paper: Evening Star (Washington (DC), DC)   Page: 3. Genealogy Bank.
[12] Date: Saturday, November 10, 1894            Paper: Evening Star (Washington (DC), DC)   Page: 3, Date: Thursday, November 22, 1894                  Paper: Evening Star (Washington (DC), DC)   Page: 3, Date: Wednesday, November 20, 1901            Paper: Evening Star (Washington (DC), DC)   Page: 4.
[13] Date: Tuesday, November 28, 1911             Paper: Evening Star (Washington (DC), DC)   Page: 8
[14] Date: Monday, November 22, 1897             Paper: Evening Star (Washington (DC), DC)   Page: 4
[15] Date: Saturday, November 22, 1902            Paper: Evening Star (Washington (DC), DC)   Page: 5
[16] Date: Tuesday, November 22, 1904             Paper: Evening Star (Washington (DC), DC)   Page: 5
[17] Date: Monday, November 25, 1907             Paper: Evening Star (Washington (DC), DC)   Page: 8

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