In popular culture, beer and whiskey are the traditional drinks of the Old West. I have yet to see a western movie where the grizzled cowboy bellies up to the bar and asks the barkeep to recommend a nice bottle of wine – perhaps something French – that would pair well with venison and biscuits.
But wine was popular too on the western frontier and often promoted by establishments as a mark of quality and distinction. In Prescott, the numerous saloons and merchants advertising in the Weekly Arizona Miner frequently enticed readers with the popular refrain of “Wine, Liquor, and Cigars.”
Located on Gurley Street, the Arizona Brewery and Saloon started offering “Imported Wines” as early as 1868, but they were soon followed by the Montezuma, the Oriental, Kearney’s Sample Room, and many others.
Even then California was a major wine producer and dominated much of the western trade, but French wine (or at least, wine with French labels) was popular too.
Early California wine was usually made from Zinfandel or Mission grapes and the business was controlled by a handful of large companies (or “wine houses”) with little of today’s concern for the specific source vineyard or individual wine-maker. Wine drinkers typically ordered either a bottle of…
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