Saturday, June 26, 2010

A Wine Tour of the Italian Swiss Colony

Our home in the wine country is located in Asti, home of the Italian Swiss Colony, which was founded in 1881.
The original winery is still here, although it is now called Cellar 8. It was closed for over 20 years and reopened the same time we bought our house just up the hill.

Recently, I found this old jug with the original label at an antique store.
It is a reminder of the history and rich heritage of Asti, California.

I remember the television commercials of the little swiss winemaker. At one time, this winery was the second most visited destination in California, next to Disneyland!

Whenever we have guests, we take them here for a tour. This wall is original, circa late 1800's.

I took my daughter and her boyfriend here a few weeks ago for a tour. They are interested in the local history of our area and found the winery and grounds as fascinating as I do.

Inside the lovely tasting room, you can see the original stenciling on the beams, Swiss style. There is also a great gift shop here.

An original sign on the wall. "Mellowed in Redwood!"

A little history:

The origin of Italian Swiss Colony is in great part the story of Andrea Sbarboro, who came to San Francisco from Italy in the early eighteen fifties as a youngster to work in his brother's grocery store. Twenty years later, by working hard and saving, he bought his own store and turned builder and financier.

In 1881 he founded the Italian Swiss Agricultural Colony with the purpose of aiding Italian and Swiss immigrants to settle in their new land. Many of these were vineyardists by trade and a 1500-acre tract was chosen in Sonoma County, suitable for the planting of vines. The land was named Asti after the town of that name in Piedmont, Italy. Each immigrant was provided with room, board, and wages, in return for which a contribution was expected toward building up an equity in the land and eventually becoming an independent farmer.

What I find fascinating is this villa that Andrea Sbarboro built in 1902. He called it Villa Pompeii. I was recently given permission by the caretakers to visit this deserted home. It is sad to see it in such a state of decay.

Upon entering through the portico, you can see the entry is actually a breezeway with a living room on the right, dining room on the left and master bedroom above.

After walking through the portico, you enter the courtyard. Bedrooms are on the left, the kitchen on the right. It's a very unique design layout.

Surrounding the home are many rock structures. This one is a shelter for eating al fresco.
Notice how the whole structure was built in the shape of an old wine cask.

There are also many small structures as well. They were built as "meditation chambers."

Or perhaps to escape the heat during the summer.

The train stopped here! Mr. Sbarboro brought his friends here from San Francisco on weekends and entertained many dignitaries too.

Ashley in the vineyard.

This is the road from the winery to Villa Pompeii. It is a gorgeous allee with the date palms dating back over a 100 years.

The "kids" loved the special tour. We were lucky to have been given permission. Apparently, no one gets to tour the old home for insurance reasons.

Another old Italian Swiss Colony wine label.

This is a vintage commercial from the 1960's for Italian Swiss Colony. It will take you back--if you are as old as I am!

This is a recently produced video about the history of this wonderful old winery. I hope you can take the time to watch it--it's quite good!

I'm linking up to Susan at A Southern Daydreamer for Outdoor Wednesday!
Thanks Susan for hosting!


Twitter Delicious Facebook Digg Stumbleupon Favorites More