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“I wish I had a time machine!” : The rare Bordeaux and German offerings of MacArthur Beverages during Thanksgiving 1978

November 26, 2014 2 comments

In yesterday’s post “Certain opinionated turkeys disdain red wines on Thanksgiving Day”: A history of Thanksgiving wine recommendations from the 1930s through 1970s  you will find little hint of the rich wine offerings available in Washington, DC, during the 1970’s.  Towards the end of the 1970’s Washington, DC, had fully transitioned from being a liquor city to a wine city.  People were not just purchasing wine they were consuming it.  Statistics revealed that from lunch through dinner the Washington area was consuming wine on a daily basis at the rate of one and a half bottles per second in 1977.[1]  This rate was considered only the beginning of the wine boom.  To support such a boom a “new breed of wine merchant” had developed and those at MacArthur Liquors were considered the “prototype”.[1]

Addy Bassin of MacArthur Liquors, now MacArthur Beverages, considered himself “the father of the wine mania”.  The massive sales of wine were being fueled by a customer base supported by the two wealthiest counties in the country.  To meet the demand Addy Bassin not only bought wine from domestic merchants but also from negociants and auctions in Europe.  Addy Bassin was one of the largest buyers at both the Christie’s of London wine auctions and the Heublein Premier National Auction of Rare Wines in America.  In London alone, Addy Bassin had purchased over $1 million dollars of wine at auction in a two year period.  Christie’s even reserved #33 as Addy Bassin’s bidding number because he wore it on his high school football jersey.  Outside of Christie’s Addy Bassin would maintain a suite in a fine hotel where he met wine brokers every two hours for three days in a row.  He was not buying indiscriminately, Ruth Bassin noted, “If I don’t like them, he won’t buy them.”

"A WINE SALE". November 6, 1978.  Image used with the permission of MacArthur Beverages.

“A WINE SALE”. November 6, 1978. Image used with the permission of MacArthur Beverages.

The wines at MacArthur Liquors ranged from Californian jug wine through nearly two century old Bordeaux.  There was a customer base at all price points.  At the record breaking end, Addy Bassin purchased a jeroboam of 1929 Chateau Mouton-Rothschild for $10,000 at the Heublein auction in New Orleans during 1977.[3]  The client who ultimately purchased the wine allowed it to be displayed in a glass case at the store.  That price was shattered just a few months later when Addy Bassin purchased an 1806 Chateau Lafite for $14,450 at Christie’s of London.[4]

Addy Bassin did not advertise any specific Thanksgiving day wine recommendations.  He did however, run a wine sale in November 1978 packed full of rare and old Bordeaux as well as a breadth of German wines selected by Elliott Staren.[5]  The German wines offered were from the “twin great years” of 1975 and 1976.  The Bordeaux selections spanned 170 years with vintages primarily from the 20th century but also from the 19th century reaching back to 1806.  On the list appears the famous Jeroboam of 1928 Chateau Mouton-Rothschild at only a $1 markup.  Take a detailed look at the wine list and you get a glimpse at how well people could drink for Thanksgiving in Washington, DC.  What did the Bassins drink from this list?  For the Thanksgiving of 1980 the Bassin’s turkey and brisket were accompanied by 1959 Chateau Haut Brion.[6]


[0] Title quote from Phil Bernstein, MacArthur Beverages.
[1] “A Bubblier Import Market For America’s New Breed” By William Rice The Washington Post (1974-Current file); Feb 15, 1976; ProQuest Historical Newspapers: The Washington Post (1877-1997) pg. 143
[2] “THE WINE MERCHANTS” By Donnel Nunes The Washington Post (1974-Current file); Oct 16, 1977; ProQuest Historical Newspapers: The Washington Post (1877-1997) pg. 339
[3] “Don’t Drop That Bottle, It Could Cost You $10,000” By William Rice The Washington Post (1974-Current file); Sep 22, 1977; ProQuest Historical Newspapers: The Washington Post (1877-1997) pg. B11
[4] “A Record-Breaking Bottle of Claret” The Washington Post (1974-Current file); Sep 30, 1977; ProQuest Historical Newspapers: The Washington Post (1877-1997) pg. C10
[5] Display Ad 14 — No Title The Washington Post (1974-Current file); Nov 6, 1978; ProQuest Historical Newspapers: The Washington Post (1877-1997) pg. A15.  Image used with the permission of MacArthur Beverages.
[6] “For the Main Course” The Washington Post (1974-Current file); Nov 23, 1980;  ProQuest Historical Newspapers: The Washington Post (1877-1997) pg. L8

“Certain opinionated turkeys disdain red wines on Thanksgiving Day”: A history of Thanksgiving wine recommendations from the 1930s through 1970s

November 25, 2014 3 comments

I decided to look at the history of Thanksgiving wine recommendations after waves of wine lists appeared in my email, were published on blogs and in newspapers.  My sources include the newspaper archives of both ProQuest and Genealogy Bank.  Despite widespread searches the majority of the articles recommending Thanksgiving wines appear to have been published in the Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, and The Washington Post. It turns out that the broad recommendation of wine for Thanksgiving was not always the case.

What a beautiful turkey. 1950. Image from Classic Film. Flickr.

What a beautiful turkey. 1950. Image from Classic Film. Flickr.

The repeal of Prohibition on December 5, 1933, meant that Thanksgiving narrowly remained dry that year.  In fact the Alcoholic Beverage Board of New York state worked that Thanksgiving Day to make sure no one would be deprived of a legal drink upon repeal.[1]  For the first legally wet Thanksgiving of 1934, merchants did advertise wine and liquor for the holiday season.  These advertisements were more about the availability of liquor and wine as in the Hearns’ “Million Dollar” sale in New York where they suggested “Let’s make this Thanksgiving a happy event.”[2]  In Washington, DC, the Livingston Market listed “Pure California Wines” as part of its Thanksgiving specials.[3]  In this post I move away from advertisements to survey newspaper articles that recommended specific types of wines for Thanksgiving.  The period of interest starts with Repeal in 1933 through the establishment of regular newspaper wine columns in the 1970s.

With the repeal of Prohibition in 1933, the subsequent demand for both domestic and imported wines put the market through a state of great change.  It was reported that more than 100,000 tons of grapes rotted on the vines during the 1932 crop in California but the entire crop of 1933 was sold.[4]  There were but few recommendations for Thanksgiving wine during the 1930s.  In one example, Phylis Belmont of the Los Angeles Times responded to a reader’s letter to suggest a “nice dry sherry” served at room temperature to go with the soup.[5]  For the turkey she suggested a “haut sauterne” or a Madeira which she felt was “much neglected these days.”  The Washington Post food editor Alice Clayton visited Colonial Williamsburg to gather her holiday suggestions for 1938.[6]  She felt there might be a revival of interest in 18th century food so she suggested a period menu to be accompanied by Madeira.

This brief period of resurgence in wine was soon to be tempered by the outbreak of World War II.  Overseas the Third Army took a break from their foxholes in France to spend Thanksgiving in a shelled out village eating turkey and drinking wine found in a nearby cellar.[7]   Back home the White House followed with simple menus served without wine.  War time difficulties meant that European wines could not be easily imported.  Martha Ellyn in her “Platter Chatter” for The Washington Post noted that as a result the American industry had “rallied to the wine cause” in 1940.[8]  To accompany her menu for a Thanksgiving dinner she suggested “mellow sherry” and “crystal clear champagne” from New York State.

WINE CHANGES WAR DISHES INTO "FOOD FOR KINGS". 11/08/1943. URL: http://gogd.tjs-labs.com/show-picture?id=1136924164&size=FULL

WINE CHANGES WAR DISHES INTO “FOOD FOR KINGS”. 11/08/1943. URL: http://gogd.tjs-labs.com/show-picture?id=1136924164&size=FULL

The domestic wine industry soon took a hit right before Thanksgiving of 1942.  The U.S. Government requisitioned 300 of the 900 special tankers used to transport Californian wine to the east coast.[9]  In addition, all grapes suitable for the production of raisins could no longer be used to produce wine.  Domestic port, sherry, and muscatel wines were produced from these grapes.  It was these sweet wines that were the largest selling type since Repeal.  European and other domestic grape varieties were still allowed to be pressed for wine.   There were still significant stocks of wine in warehouses and at stores so turkey dinners were not a loss for an accompaniment.

Taylor Wine, New York State. 1947. Image from Classic Film. Flickr.

Taylor Wine, New York State. 1947. Image from Classic Film. Flickr.

With the end of the war and elimination of price control the Wine Institute noted that by Thanksgiving of 1946, the sales of Californian wine had reached an all-time peak.[10] The continued post-war increase in wine consumption meant that the Thanksgiving of 1950 set yet another record.[11]  That same year the per capita consumption of wine was just above 4 bottles per person per year.  The high volume of Thanksgiving and Christmas wine sales meant the holidays represented a significant part of an American’s yearly wine consumption.  It was suggested that the Federal tax of liquor at $9 per gallon versus $0.60 per gallon of sweet wine and $0.15 per gallon of table wine were encouraging consumers to switch to wine.  Approximately 75% of Thanksgiving wine sales were for sweet wine but there was also a marked increase in champagne consumption with 70% being domestically produced.

Despite the general preference for sweet wine, Thanksgiving menus and the suggested wines quickly gained complexity.  Paying deference to French wines yet noting the French did not extensively eat turkey, June Owen of The New York Times called on Sam Aaron of Sherry Wines & Spirits for Thanksgiving wine recommendations in 1956.[12]  Sam Aaron recommended a light Burgundy from the Cotes de Beaune like a Pommard, Volnay, or Savigny.  While a carafe of Beaujolais “would do very nicely” a white Montrachet or Meursault would “fit the occasion”.

In 1958 The New York Times published “A Bottle for the Bird” which may be the first article devoted exclusively to Thanksgiving wine recommendations.[13]  It contains recommendations from several wine and food experts.  Frank Schoonmaker felt red or white wine would go with turkey but it was the stuffing that controlled the decision.  Thus chestnut based stuffing should be matched with red wine and oyster stuffing matched with full-bodied and dry white wine such as Meursault or white Hermitage.  As for German wine he recommended Forster Kirchenstuck.  He also enjoyed pink champagne from California.  For red wines he picked finesse and fragrance over power.  This would include Chateau Margaux, a wine from Valpolicella, Italy, or a Gamay de Beaujolais from California.  James Beard preferred Hermitage with warm dark meat “because of its earthy roundness, offers a perfect contrast.”  For cold turkey he recommended Meursault, Pouilly Fuisse, or Mosel.  Sam Aaron reiterated his white Burgundy choices but suggested for chestnut stuffing that a claret from St. Emilion would be an excellent choice.  Michel Dreyfus suggested St. Julien, St. Emilion, Nuit St. Georges, and Chateauneuf du Pape for an unstuffed turkey.  He went sky high when there was truffle or chestnut stuffing: Chateau Lafite, Chateau Latour, Chateau Margaux, Chateau Mouton-Rothschild, Chateau Haut Brion, Corton, Romanee St Vivant, or Chambertin-Clos de Beze.

In contract to the hedonistic suggestions of The New York Times during the 1950s the Los Angeles Times focused on rules during the 1960s.  Thus in 1962 we find simple recommendations for a dry white wine such as a Sauternes or Chablis for the turkey but a red wine for the dark meat and stuffing.[14]  Champagne and sparkling Burgundy were recommended for a gala.  More importantly were the directions on how long to chill the wines, when to open them, and how to pour them such that the label was visible to the guest.  Four years later it was noted that choosing the wines for the meal could “be as much fun today as it was in Jefferson’s time.”[15]  However, the “safe” rules that had developed over centuries were a good start.  This included red wine with red meat and white wine with seafood and poultry.  Under the section “More Rules” it was suggested if you “test the safe rules” you should understand the characteristics of the wines.  The rules began to crack by 1968 for the recommendation of “authorities” was qualified by “if it suits your taste”.[16]  In what was perhaps a domestic fashion, grape varieties were mostly suggested: Cabernet Sauvignon, Gamay, Pinot Noir, Pinot Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc, Traminer, Johannisberg Riesling, Semillon, Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc, and Gewurztraminer.  Of course sparkling Burgundy was still recommended.  The following year of 1969 saw the rules thrown out the window with the “primary standards for choosing wine are your own taste and preference, despite what purists say.”[17]  A similar slew of varieties were recommended as well as transferring half-gallon bottles to “a decanter for a dressier appearance.”

In 1970 the Los Angeles Times asked UCLA lawyer and wine instructor Nathan Chroman for Thanksgiving suggestions.[18]  He felt a traditionalist would serve chilled sherry or for more sophistication, a Madeira.  This marked a turning point in the Thanksgiving recommendations of the Los Angeles Times for Nathan Chroman began writing for the paper in 1971.  His first Thanksgiving column led off with a charge for Bordeaux.  Noting the heavy vintage dependence he proceeded to detail each vintage between 1967 and 1945.  His all red wine suggestions must have attracted negative feedback because he published a second set of recommendations two weeks later.  His article begins with “Certain opinionated turkeys disdain red wines on Thanksgiving Day” then suggests Chardonnay from California and Chablis from France.  He provided an overview of production differences, recent vintages, and rankings.  For the casual drop-in guest that will only eat cookies, nuts, and fruit he recommended sweeter wines such as from Mosel, Rhine, and Sauternes.

Gallo, Grenache Rose. 1960.  Image from it's better than bad. Flickr.

Gallo, Grenache Rose. 1960. Image from it’s better than bad. Flickr.

While Nathan Chroman was sure to review California Burgundy[19] he informed his readers of the wide range of wines suitable for the holiday meal.  He noted selections available from Spain, Chile, Australia, Argentina, Israel, Portugal, South Africa, Mexico, Canada, Austria, Switzerland, Russia, China, and domestically from Oregon, Washington, New York, and Pennsylvania.[20]  He felt that if you taste through some of these wines early on then you could decide what to serve to your guests.  For most articles Nathan Chroman recommended specific wines such as the 1969 Chappellet, Cabernet Sauvignon[21], 1972 Mayacamas, Late Harvest Zinfandel[22],  and 1968 Hanzell, Pinot Noir.[23] Nathan Chroman took a sharp change in 1976 when he recommended nothing but Sherry with Thanksgiving turkey.[24]  He countered those who might think he had “gone bonkers” by noting the Spanish and English would think him “both civilized and sane.”  Ignoring the American taste for Bristol Cream Sherry he recommended those of Tio Pepe, La Ina, Duff Gordon, and Gonzalez Byas with a Manzanilla particularly for the turkey.

The Washington Post and the New York Times were largely silent during the 1960s but began to make Thanksgiving wine suggestions in the 1970s.  This was due to the writings of Frank Prial at The New York Times and William Rice at The Washington Post.  Frank Prial felt that “A meal is good when the wine flows freely.”[25]  He was less concerned with specific wines, rather that there was enough wine to serve and that it was chosen based on previously tasting it.  He felt the wine selections available in America were the best in the world.[26]  This included imported wine and the ever increasing quality of domestic wines from California and New York.  He suggested that if the bounty was overwhelming than a slightly chilled Beaujolais would work well.

William Rice felt the Thanksgiving meal was one with no wine rules and that you should serve “the wine that is closest to your heart, or closest to a price that suits your pocketbook.”[27]  The sheer diversity of dishes, from acidic cranberries to heavily spiced stuffing, meant that no one wine could match.  That stated he personally preferred a slightly chilled Beaujolais, Gewurztraminer from Alsace, and even red wine from St. Julien.  For large groups he recommended the half-gallon and gallon sizes of Californian wines.  He took time to comment on the fad for sparkling Burgundy which he felt was of poor quality.  For William Rice “once a year” was “once too often”.  In 1978 William Rice was still against that “far-out choice of some wine fanciers”, sparkling Burgundy.[28]  He found the Ste. Michelle rose from Washington “more satisfactory.”  The following year he even recommended several nearby wines from Maryland and Virginia: Montbray, Boordy, Provenza, and Meredyth.[29]

The post Prohibition recommendations of wine for Thanksgiving reflect the increasing diversity in imported wine and the development of vineyards throughout the country.  Wine recommendations were difficult unless there was focus on matching a specific part of the Thanksgiving meal.   If there are any consistent trends it appears that chilled Beaujolais was a fallback for any meal, Californian jug wines were great for large gatherings, and love it or hate it, sparkling Burgundy was always lurking.  Robert Lawrence Balzer wrote specifically about bringing respect to what he described as one of the most “tarnished ladies” of the wine trade.[30]  He felt that to openly recommend sparkling Burgundy in 1969 flew “in the face of a silent conspiracy of wine snobbery”.  He found that “some pretty poor stuff” palmed off from France had ruined its reputation.  In truth there were excellent French and Californian versions that made Thanksgiving festive.  For Robert Lawrence Balzer the most basic reason for serving sparkling Burgundy is that the bubbles cut the heavy gravy to make it lighter thus “making the whole meal taste better.”  And I thought it was about the stuffing.


[1] MULROONEY BOARD GETS NO HOLIDAY: Works on Thanksgiving Day So That No …New York Times (1923-Current file); Dec 1, 1933; ProQuest Historical Newspapers: The New York Times (1851-2010) pg. 10
[2] Display Ad 13 — No Title New York Times (1923-Current file); Nov 22, 1934; ProQuest Historical Newspapers: The New York Times (1851-2010) pg. 13
[3] Display Ad 5 — No Title The Washington Post (1923-1954); Nov 23, 1934;  ProQuest Historical Newspapers: The Washington Post (1877-1997) pg. 6
[4] OPENNG OF WNE MARKET ENDS GRAPE SURPLUSES: Entire State Crop of 1933 …Hall, Chapin. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File); Feb 8, 1934; ProQuest Historical Newspapers: Los Angeles Times (1881-1990) A2
[5] What to Do About Redecorating Bedroom Belmont, Phylis Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File); Nov 28, 1937; ProQuest Historical Newspapers: Los Angeles Times (1881-1990) pg. D13
[6] Williamsburg Menu Suggests Holiday Feasting: Hearty Meal Of Older Day … By Alice Clayton. The Post Food Editor. The Washington Post (1923-1954); Nov 22, 1938; ProQuest
[7] HOT TURKEY CHEERS THIRD ARMY SQUAD: Men Leave Muddy Foxholes for Amazing Meal, Topped By GENE CURRIVAN By Wireless to THE NEW YORK TIMES. New York Times (1923-Current file); Nov 24, 1944; ProQuest Historical Newspapers: The New York Times (1851-2010) pg. 16
[8] Martha Ellyn’s: Platter Chatter An All-American Meal From Wine to Dessert The Washington Post (1923-1954); Nov 12, 1940; ProQuest Historical Newspapers: The Washington Post (1877-1997) pg. 13
[9] Vintners’ Woes: Grapes Go to War as Raisins; Wine Tank Cars Haul Oil; … Wall Street Journal (1923 – Current file); Nov 20, 1942; ProQuest Historical Newspapers: The Wall Street Journal (1889-1996) pg. 1
[10] DECONTROL BLAMED FOR LIQUOR SLUMP: Dealers Report 30 to 40% Dip in … New York Times (1923-Current file); Nov 22, 1946; ProQuest Historical Newspapers: The New York Times (1851-2010) pg. 41
[11] TABLE WINE SALES IN RECORD VOLUME: Pre-Thanksgiving Purchases …New York Times (1923-Current file); Nov 23, 1950; ProQuest Historical Newspapers: The New York Times (1851-2010) pg. 67
[12] Food: With the Turkey: Wine Should Be Light Table One –Nut Stuffing Suggested for Bird By JUNE OWEN New York Times (1923-Current file); Nov 20, 1956; ProQuest Historical Newspapers: The New York Times (1851- 2010) pg. 60
[13] A Bottle for the Bird New York Times (1923-Current file); Nov 23, 1958; ProQuest Historical Newspapers: The New York Times (1851-2010) pg. SM66
[14] Wine Adds Elegance to Gala Feast Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File); Nov 15, 1962; ProQuest Historical Newspapers: Los Angeles Times (1881-1990) pg. D17
[15] Thanksgiving Wine Selections Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File); Nov 17, 1966; ProQuest Historical Newspapers: Los Angeles Times (1881-1990) pg. H28
[16] Thanksgiving Wine Steward Has It Made Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File); Nov 21, 1968; ProQuest Historical Newspapers: Los Angeles Times (1881-1990) pg. R24
[17] Buy Wine Now for Holiday Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File); Nov 20, 1969; ProQuest Historical Newspapers: Los Angeles Times (1881-1990) pg. H32
[18] Factors in Choice of Wines Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File); Nov 19, 1970; ProQuest Historical Newspapers: Los Angeles Times (1881-1990) pg. L32
[19] TURKEY TEAMMATES: Multiple Wine Companions CHROMAN, NATHAN Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File); Nov 16, 1972; ProQuest Historical Newspapers: Los Angeles Times (1881-1990) pg. G21
[20] BEST SELECTION: Shopping Early for Holiday Wine CHROMAN, NATHAN Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File); Oct 4, 1973; ProQuest Historical Newspapers: Los Angeles Times (1881-1990) pg. E10
[21] Red Wines to Serve With Turkey: TURKEY WINES CHROMAN, NATHAN Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File); Nov 19, 1973; ProQuest Historical Newspapers: Los Angeles Times (1881-1990) pg. F4
[22] Give Thanks for Zinfandel CHROMAN, NATHAN Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File); Nov 21, 1974; ProQuest Historical Newspapers: Los Angeles Times (1881-1990) pg. M12
[23] Wines to Team With Turkey CHROMAN, NATHAN Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File); Oct 9, 1975; ProQuest Historical Newspapers: Los Angeles Times (1881-1990) pg. M26
[24] There’s a Sherry in Your Future–on Nov. 25, to Name the Date CHROMAN, NATHAN Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File); Nov 18, 1976; ProQuest Historical Newspapers: Los Angeles Times (1881-1990) pg. J40
[25]Wine Talk Prial, Frank J New York Times (1923-Current file); Nov 16, 1977;  ProQuest Historical Newspapers: The New York Times (1851-2010) pg. C16
[26] Wine Talk Prial, Frank New York Times (1923-Current file); Nov 23, 1977;  ProQuest Historical Newspapers: The New York Times (1851-2010) pg. 44
[27] The Right Wine Rice, William The Washington Post (1974-Current file); Nov 18, 1976; ProQuest Historical Newspapers: The Washington Post (1877-1997) pg. E24
[28] But What Wine Goes With Turkey Rice, William The Washington Post (1974-Current file); Nov 20, 1978; ProQuest Historical Newspapers: The Washington Post (1877-1997) pg. E14.
[29] Choosing The Wine For The Feast Rice, William The Washington Post (1974-Current file); Nov 18, 1979; ProQuest Historical Newspapers: The Washington Post (1877-1997) pg. F6.
[30] THE WINE CONNOISSEUR Balzer, Robert Lawrence Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File); Nov 23, 1969; ProQuest Historical Newspapers: Los Angeles Times (1881-1990) pg. 48

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

November 24, 2014 Leave a comment

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

Gold Seal Champagne For the Thanksgiving Dinner. 1912.

November 21, 2014 Leave a comment
Gold Seal Champagne For the Thanksgiving Dinner. 1912. [1]

Gold Seal Champagne For the Thanksgiving Dinner. 1912. [1]


[1] Theatre Magazine, Volumes 15-16. 1912. URL: http://books.google.com/books?id=NwBEAQAAIAAJ&pg=PR23#v=onepage&q&f=false