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Catalog number 1997.2.1672
Object Name Clipping, Newspaper
Date 1950
Description TITLE: RIPTIDES SUBTITLE: The Vines of Almaden AUTHOR: By Robert O'Brien PUBLISHER: [C. 1950] Part II
ETIENNE THEE, the French Forty-niner who helped to plant the vineyard on the banks of Guadalupe creek, south of San Jose, died, and Charles Lefranc, his partner and son-in-law - he had married Etienne's daughter Adele in 1857 - carried on.
There had been changes.
In the flourishing metropolis that had replaced the frontier San Francisco of the Gold Rush, the enterprising Lefranc saw the luxurious homes rise along the crest of Rincon Hill, and sampled, in restaurants that would not have been out of place on the boulevards of Paris, delicacies of French cuisine, prepared by French-chefs.
He realized that here was a new market for the grapes of Almaden, not as after-dinner fruit, but as wine, wine whose elegance and style would reflect the spirit of good living that was becoming a part of the San Francisco and California tradition.
So he and Thee had built their winery, and lined its adobe-walled cellars with great oaken casks that, like their imported vines, rounded the Horn from France in the holds of three- and four-masted sailing ships.
By 1880; the vines from the Rhone country and Burgundy and Champagne and the Rhineland were growing across more than 130 of the Santa Clara acres, and before the end of this decade, Lefranc's vineyard ranked with the best in the valley and all the West, and was producing 100,000 gallons a year.
As time passed Lefranc's continental taste for frictions living expressed itself in the landscaping of the grounds about the shuttered ranch house and in the hospitality that he extended to friends and travelers who stopped on their way north or south, to visit him and Mrs. Lefranc.
Many of them were en route to the famous New Almaden quicksilver mine, high on the ridge a few miles to the south, and it is said, that such noted figures as Admiral Farragut, commandant of the Mare Island Navy Yard; General Sherman, General Halleck, builder of San Francisco's Montgomery Block and New Almaden's adobe Case Grande, and even U. S. Grant himself sunned themselves on, the terrace in front of the house, looked out over the Guadalupe arroyo across the valley to the dark eminence of Loma Prieta, and toasted, with Lefranc's best, the Santa Clara valley, "Garden of the World."
Lefranc short, rotund and genial, immaculately dressed, and with a heavy Parisian mustache and pointed beard - twinkled about them like an old-world diplomat, filling their glasses, bringing smiles to their faces with whimsical anecdotes, indicating with pride and enthusiasm his olive trees that were flourishing along the terrace, the oleanders that bloomed by the porch, the pepper trees whose young branches drooped gracefully be-side the broad courtyard between the house and the winery.
It all came suddenly to an end for Charles Lefranc one autumn day, almost within the shade of those very trees. As he stood near the winery, supervising. the unloading of grapes from a two-horse spring wagon, a crate slipped from a workman's hands, struck a wagon wheel and crashed to the ground.
The frightened horses bolted forward, reared, and sent a dozen more crates spilling into the courtyard. Lefranc dashed in front of them, shouting and waving his cane. The next instant he fell before their flashing hoofs. When they picked him up, he was dead.
Lefranc's life had been filled with ease and pleasant living, with the slow maturing of grapes and the roll of the seasons, and it was strange, the valley people said, that he should die so violently.
But years later, in 1909, his only son, Henry, and Henry's wife and their little daughter, approached an electric trolley crossing in their runabout. It was three o'clock on a sunny afternoon, and only a few miles from the vineyard.
Henry drove on to the crossing and the trolley struck the automobile and crumpled it to scrap with a crash that was heard a mile away. The little girl, thrown clear, was un- harmed - and an orphan. Both her parents had been instantly killed.
Wednesday: Almaden Today
Cataloged by Boudreault, Art