One Grape at a Time
When the Spanish settlers first arrived in Los Angeles, they found native grapes growing in abundance. They already knew from their experience in northern Baja, Mexico, where the same native grape also grew, that it was not suitable for making wine. But they took the vigor of the vines as a promising indicator that their own winemaking grapes would thrive. This promise was fulfilled in spectacular fashion and soon there were vineyards growing everywhere — in the foothills, in the flatlands and along the L.A. river, all the way down to Long Beach.
Los Angeles quickly became the epi-center of winemaking in California, a distinction it held for over a century. But during this period of rapid cultural and economic change, the native grape and the Spanish grape hybridized with each other. It is not known if this hybridization occurred naturally or was the result of human ingenuity. But the creation of the grape was auspicious for it provided abundant fruit and shade and became a favorite among gardeners and landscapers throughout the region.
While it was not used to make wine, the native grape was part of the Tongva's foodways
The Tongva also used the vines for construction, along with tule and willow
The Tongva had their
own native grape precolonization
St. Junipero Serra
brings Mission grape cuttings
and wine to Alta California
First vintage of Los Angeles
wine produced by San
Lugo plants the first documented secular vineyard in L.A.
French winemaker Jean-Louis Vignes comes to Los Angeles
500 AD -1769
1821 - 1848
1769 - 1821
Popularization of the Hybrid Mission grape as the wine industry grows to meet the demand of thirsty 49ers
1848 - today
Intercontinental Railroad reaches Los Angeles marking the beginning of the end of L.A. winemaking
Plant the Vine is a public-history project started in 2016 to promote the planting of interpretive vineyards and grape gardens in neighborhoods of the city where vineyards once grew. These vineyards, called 'interpretive' because through them we can interpret history, will connect Los Angeles communities to the city's early history, and 'pre-' history, as seen through its winemaking and Indigenous past.
In 2019, the members of the Willowbrook Community Garden, located at 121st Street and Avalon Avenue, planted the first vineyard . The historic Rancho de Philo Winery in the Cucamonga Valley, 50 miles east of L.A., donated 12 Mission vines, which the members of the Garden planted, spacing them eight feet apart, without wires, as was the traditional method of the era.
In 2021, Plant the Vine developed a proposal to install a larger and more centrally located vineyard in the Los Angeles State Historic Park. This vineyard will be called a grape garden because it will add two other local, historically significant and interrelated grapes — the native Desert Wild grape and the 19th century hybrid of the Desert Wild and the Mission, the Hybrid Mission grape.
Through the planting of these three grapes — the Desert Wild, the Mission and the Hybrid Mission — the Interpretive Grape Garden in the Los Angeles State Historic Park will trace a broader and more complete span of early L.A. history and a more inclusive interpretation.
Plant the Vine advances a broader and more complete understanding of early L.A. history as seen through the prism of its viticultural and Indigenous past. By encouraging the planting of community grape gardens in parts of the city where vineyards once grew, Plant the Vine will catalyze change in the way communities see the city, and see their role in shaping its future.
Key to our mission is the establishment of an accessible, centrally located Interpretive Grape Garden in the Los Angeles State Historic Park, which will function as a learning hub, with educational and cultural labs developed to explore a variety of topics including place history, public art, viticulture and ethnobiology. Plant the Vine will offer scholarships to promising students from underserved communities as well as a leg-up to those interested in working in the $57 billion California wine industry.