My forthcoming book, Tangled Vines, focuses on the largest crime involving wine in history: an arson fire that destroyed 4.5 million bottles of wine worth $250 million.
The book also traces the life one of the bottles lost in the fire. It was made in 1875 in a vineyard in Rancho Cucamonga in southern California by my great-great grandfather, Isaias Hellman.
I did a lot of research on the history of California wine for my book and found some fun things.
Here are five little-known facts about California wine:
1) The Franciscan fathers were the first to plant grapes in California. Father Junipero Serra wrote to his bosses in Baja California in the late 18th century and asked that they ship grapevines north. The grapes were planted at Mission San Juan Capistrano near Los Angeles. They were named Mission grapes and became the primary grape used for making wine throughout the 1880s, even though the wine they produced was flat and bland. Historians think the first harvest in California was in 1782.