The winery was named by Joe Swan when he founded it forty eight years ago. Joe came to winemaking from an unlikely background. He grew up the son ofÂ teetotaler parents (his mother was in the Women's Christian Temperance Union)Â in the farm country of North Dakota. He was an avid reader (there not being aÂ whole lot else to do), and he happened to read about wine. Not lacking forÂ imagination but definitely lacking for grapes, he nonetheless set out to makeÂ wine. Using his mother's ringer washing machine, he squeezed the juice fromÂ some rhubarb from the garden, and, in a crock he had secreted in the attic,Â proceeded to produce his first "wine".
History doesn't record the score this first effort received from the critics,Â but one can safely assume that it didn't rival his later efforts! Nonetheless,Â the beginning of a quest to become a winemaker was born.
In the intervening years, Joe was an artist. He would later say that the onlyÂ painting of significance that he did was on a famous mural painted during theÂ depression. He was paid by the WPA and his job was to paint the blades of grass!Â Joe decided that he lacked the ability to succeed as an artist and pursuedÂ another of his interests in flying. During WWII he taught flying to the Army AirÂ Corps and then took a job with Western Airlines as a pilot, a career path thatÂ he would follow until his retirement in 1974. During this time, his love affairÂ with winemaking and grape-growing never waned. He visited the enology andÂ viticulture department at UC Davis in the years immediately after the war andÂ made several friends there. While based in Salt Lake City, Utah, he madeÂ Zinfandel from locally grown grapes, a wine dubbed "Jose's Rose" by hisÂ flying buddies. Later when based in Southern California, he purchased land inÂ the Sierra foothills where he planted a small vineyard. But his real goal wasÂ to establish a small vineyard and winery where he could follow his dream, toÂ produce small lots of the world's finest wines.
Joe really believed that, when it came to grape growing and winemaking, smallÂ was beautiful. A small vineyard could be tended by one person. Small crops ledÂ to more intense, ageworthy wines. A small winery allowed you to oversee everyÂ aspect from fermentation to bottling. Joe was a perfectionist and felt that ifÂ the wine was to carry his name, then he should be personally responsible forÂ every aspect of its production.
In 1967 he purchased a small farm on Laguna Road near the town of ForestvilleÂ in the Russian River Valley of Sonoma County. The property consisted of 13 acresÂ of old Zinfandel vines, fruit trees and pasture along with several structuresÂ including an old barn and a nearly 100 year old house. In addition to theÂ physical attributes, it included an interesting history. The house once housedÂ the post office of the village of Trenton along with the general store andÂ telephone exchange.
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