By the late 1890’s, a section of the rocky hillside was planted to grapes by the Kramm family. Access to the mountain vineyard was by horseback on the Old Wells Fargo Road to Santa Rosa. In the 1930’s, down in the canyon, overlooking the North fork of Sulphur Creek, there lived a silent movie star who had built a little log cabin filled with twig and bark furniture that he had made for his refuge. This gentleman had played macho roles in silent movies, only to be relegated to “has been” status when “talkies” made their appearance in America due to his unfortunate squeaky voice. He spent the rest of his days here, living as a hermit.
After World War II, Al Menasco, an inventor, barnstorming pilot, and aviation pioneer, bought the property.
Al’s best friend, Clark Gable, visited frequently. There are stories of the two carousing on the property riding the tractors with whiskey sours in hand and target practicing with the sound of gun shots into the evening. When Clark married Kay Spreckels, Al Menasco was the best man and the newlyweds spent their honeymoon on the property. Al’s flying adventures are well documented and his aeronautical memorabilia are now in the Smithsonian’s Air and Space Museum.
Al had a sincere interest in wine as well and became a pioneer in developing new vineyard practices. He experimented with different types of vineyard spacing and planted a dozen varieties of grapes in different soil types and micro climates on the property. He kept meticulous records to discover the optimum growing conditions for these varietals.
Michael and Alexandra Marston were part of a consortium that bought the property in 1969, with many of the original vineyards from the turn of the century still in production. Michael and Alexandra ultimately bought the total property in 1976 and have energetically maintained and enhanced the property since.