Friday, July 25, 2014

Ramona, The Mother Vine: A Trip to San Gabriel Mission and the Roots of California's Wine Industry

California's rich wine history lies beneath the surface in southern California's landscape today, but it reveals itself to travelers willing to seek it out.

I've made a 10 day research trip to discover the roots of California's first wine grape growing and wine making, which has led me to the Mother Vine - Ramona, a 250 year old grape vine planted in the San Gabriel Mission courtyard.

Visitors to the San Gabriel Mission can see the vine, along with the winery next to it. It's easy to miss  Ramona, so be sure to look for it beside the winery where its tendrils extend hundreds of yards, covering a large arbor.

This particular vine is said to date back to 1774.  Historians date the introduction of the grape vine to California to a shipment that arrived in San Juan Capistrano a short time before this date. However, it was at San Gabriel that vines truly flourished, along with other crops (in part, due to the availability of irrigated water from Pasadena and San Marino). More than 8 acres of Mission wine grapes were cultivated here. (The vineyards are now settled areas with no remaining traces of their former agricultural use).

San Gabriel Mission, Michael Hart illustration 
The vines at San Gabriel were widely used for cuttings that established southern California's wine industry, which grew to be the American powerhouse producing region in the 1830's-1870's.


  1. Amazing. Thank you. Sitting under the vine right now.

  2. Is the vine still alive today? It's amazing how this vine grow that big!

  3. I am here. Wow. Am wondering the varietal? No one seems to know.