History of the Land
FIRST CAME SONOMA
The afternoon breeze blows in from the Bay like clockwork. It surely greeted the young Lt. Mariano G. Vallejo as he passed through on June, 1834, on his way to secularize the Mission San Francisco Solano de Sonoma, last and north most of the 21 California missions. Vallejo established the town of Sonoma that was for many years, socially and politically superior to Yerba Buena, the little town 50 miles south now called San Francisco...
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The land on which Larson Family Winery now sits, was once the Embarcadero--the farthest navigable point up Sonoma Creek from the San Francisco Bay, and the bustling gateway to Sonoma Valley. Where the grapes now ripen, small water vessels landed European visitors as early as 1823. Passengers and freight traveling from San Francisco Bay transferred here to horse- and ox-drawn wagons for the ride to the Sonoma Plaza.
Beginning in 1847, steamboats docked here and turned around for the voyage back to San Francisco. It was a steamboat captain named Stoffen, who built the Civil War-era farmhouse, now the yellow house that faces the Tasting Room, A Captain's House.
In 1877 our family began farming in Sonoma (Watt Ranch, on what is now Broadway). Then in 1899 Tom Larson's great grandparents bought the original 120-acre ranch (and Captain's House) for dairy and livestock, the Millerick Ranch, that is now home to Larson Family Winery.
The Tom's grandfather and uncle (the Millerick brothers) went on to raise rodeo stock, horses used in Hollywood Westerns, polo ponies and work horses. In 1910 they began a race horse training center that ran for over 40 years. Many celebrated horses — even Seabiscuit! — visited our ranch. Tom's uncle Buster Millerick was inducted into the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame for his major racing wins as a trainer. Heck he's even got his own Wikipedia page.
FROM RODEOS TO WINE...
From 1929 to the early 1950's, the Sonoma Rodeo was the largest and longest-running rodeo in the Bay Area. It was produced by the Millerick Brothers and held on the Millerick Ranch. Our tasting barn is the original rodeo barn. There was also a Wild West Show. The rodeo was the event of the year in Sonoma. As many as 10,000 people filled the stands and dined on beef roasted in underground pits. Each year the rodeo began with a "trail drive" -- right down the highway and into the arena came a string of 50 bucking horses, all carrying the Millerick's famous Circle M brand. World champion and hall of fame cowboys competed, but the locals held their own; one year Sonoma's own vintner August Sebastiani won a roping trophy.
In 1977, Tom and his father Bob planted the first 3-acre block of Chardonnay vines to make home wine. It turned out to be pretty good growing. Our region, the Carneros American Viticultural Area (AVA) is ranked one of the world's top viticulture areas. Gradually the 40 acres of grapes produced more wine than the family could drink – and Tom coined our slogan, “We drink what we can, and sell the rest!” In 1988 Tom earned his degree in fermentation science from the University of California at Davis and the winery was founded that same year.
Today we farm over 500 acres of grapes and produce 10,000 cases of wine. We like selling exclusively through our wine club and tasting room. Though we don't do it for the awards, we keep get'in them, so we're proud of what we're serving you. Growing and making wine have been our favorite things ever since 1977.
Cheers! Come up and see us soon,
The Larson Family