I’ve recently been spending some time going through old pictures my parents had collected over their 52 years of marriage. Seems my parents didn’t throw anything away … I mean ANYTHING.
The photos are of family events mostly but also some from trips here and there. In among the boxes of photos were other mementos of trips my parents had taken over the years. For instance, there were many road maps because my father was a road warrior on vacation. Quite a few of the maps were from Esso gas stations which gives you a sense of when the trips occurred. In addition to the maps, there were a number of random post cards. One set of six post cards were from a winery I don’t remember visiting called Italian Swiss Colony. My parents did manage to do some things without us kids once in awhile, so …. Anyway, what’s fascinating is that the Italian Swiss Colony is definitely a part of the California wine industry’s history.
According to Wikipedia, the business was founded in 1881 by Andrea Sbarboro as an agricultural colony at Asti, California to help provide work for the many Italians who had migrated to the San Francisco area. Asti is in the Alexander Valley of Sonoma County. Initially, the members of the colony were from Ticino (a largely Italian ethnic region in Switzerland), thus giving the colony it’s moniker.
Soon after it’s founding (1887), a dip in grape prices led the colony to establish it’s own winery and begin selling it’s product first in the U.S. and then Europe, South America and Asia. Over the years the winery has changed hands – National Distillers, Petri Wine, United Vintners, Heublein, Allied Growers, Erly Industries, etc. In 2015 the winery (or it’s descendant), known at the time as Asti Winery and selling under the Souverain brand, was purchased by E&J Gallo from it’s then owner Treasury Wine Estates. Today it’s known as Chateau Souverain. Interestingly enough, the Souverain or Chateau Souverain brand dates back to the 1940’s, but the winery itself goes back to 1881 and the Italian Swiss Colony.