A Historic Brand with a Rich History
Almaden, a product of Canandaigua Wine Company, Inc.,a subsidiary of Canandaigua Brands, Inc.,is a historic brand known for its high quality wines. The brand's rich heritage can be traced to Etienne Theé, an émigré from Bordeaux, France, who founded Almaden Vineyards, near Los Gatos, CA, in 1852. Almaden Vineyards was named after a nearby quicksilver mine. Under the direction of his son-in-law, Charles LeFranc, the vineyards and winery gained national and international recognition. Charles LeFranc was one of the first winemakers to bring superior vinifera grape cuttings from Europe and plant them in California. The Almaden Vineyards business was continued by LeFranc's son, Henry, and his son-in-law, Paul Masson, who later left to start his own winery.
After Prohibition, Louis Benoist, from San Francisco, took over control of the winery, and along with Frank Schoonmaker, a nationally recognized wine authority and wine marketer, expanded distribution of Almaden Wines throughout the United States. Frank Schoonmaker, along with Oliver Goulet, Winemaker and Champagne Master, developed a line of extremely successful wines made using grapes from the San Joaquin Valley and called them Almaden Mountain Wines. The Mountain Wines were bottled in Almaden's famous "teardrop" shaped bottle. At Schoonmaker's suggestion, Goulet developed Almaden Grenache Rose, the first popular pink wine in the United States.
In 1951, Almaden underwent a merger with Madrone Vineyards, which was owned by Lucky Lager Company, to expand its product offerings to include generics and sweet wines. Later in the year, the Lefranc Corporation, the original owner of Almaden, regained full control of the brand. Foreseeing the demand for varietal wines, beginning in 1958 Almaden Vineyards developed the largest varietal wine vineyard in the world at Paicines, California. In 1962, another winemaker had to be brought on board to supply the huge demand for Mountain and generic wines. In 1967, Almaden Vineyards was sold to National Distributors, which kept it until 1987 when Heublein acquired it. Heublein moved the packaging of all Almaden Wines to the Mission Bell Winery in Madera, California. In the early 1980's, Almaden was one of the first American Wineries to introduce bag in the box packaging. Finally, in August of 1994, Canandaigua Wine Company, Inc., acquired Almaden Vineyards. Today, Almaden has developed a reputation for offering a wide selection of top quality wines for all occasions.